Zen and The Art of Swordsmanship for Covid-19

Mirei Shigemori House, Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis
Mirei Shigemori House, rock garden Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis

I find it ironic that 10 years ago I left Colorado, my home of 38-years, to move abroad to escape the upcoming economic collapse.

Covid-19 only popped the bubble that would come down anyways at some point. It helps if your father was a WWII concentration camp survivor to expect this and prepare, as he was telling me about this moment my entire life.

The irony, too, that I would live abroad in various places, then live and travel in Japan for three years, then find myself back in the USA just in time for the collapse! Yet, now, because of studying Zen, as well as other Japanese forms of Buddhism, I realize there is nothing to do! Nothing to worry about, if you can control your mind through meditation. All is as it should be. There’s nowhere to go, except where you are! I feel calm and prepared, even as Trump tries to start a civil war. Zen has helped me more than years and years of meditation and yoga practice. You can’t escape fate, so I realize my fate is to be here to help others.

Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Japan has many remarkable mindful practices and arts to instill peace in the present moment and focus the mind. Because Japan is pure yoga; no wonder Mythologist Joseph Campbell preferred Japan over India. And no book have I found a more clear explanation of what yoga really is, than Daisetz T. Suzuki’s book Zen and Japanese Culture.

Zen and Japanese Culture by Daisetz Suzuki

Ironically again, what I thought of Bushidō, or way of the warrior and swordsmanship, would be just another violent warrior code. Yet, it is pure yoga, with ultimate peaceful goals.

Some of my favorite passages in the chapters on swordsmanship that simply and clearly instruct how to cope in a Covid-19-ravaged world.

It also gives great courage, as you realize, you just have to get your ego mind – who you think you are- out of the way and let the unconscious flow. It’s what’s in charge anyways; you only think you are. So get yourself out of the way. Luke Skywalker learned this too training top use the light saber with Yoda (yoga!) – “Feel the force.”

Most interestingly enough, when facing two paths, choose death, the code says. Because that is where your real power comes from – being so alive and aware from contemplating death upfront all the time, you are fearless and powerful. Because there is no death. There is only the continual coming and going of universal energy, of which we are all part, before and after death.

 Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis
Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis

I present one of my many favorite passages from Zen  and Japanese Culture By Daisetz T. Suzuki that explains the philosophical term of mushin 無心, the state of a mind with no-mindedness, which Suzuki translates as “being free from mind-attachment.” It’s a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything, in meditation or in action.

I hope you read it too, as it has many lessons to help us cope in this time, including Haiku, Japanese reverence for Nature, and tea!  Again, it’s pure yoga.


Ninnaji Zen Temple, Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis
Ninnaji Zen Temple, Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis

Pg 164-65

The philosophy of emptiness is in a most decided way and most intimately connected with swordsmanship. Here are a few short quotations of Yagyū 柳生氏 triple treatise on the sword. 

The mind unmoved is emptiness; when moved it works the mysterious. 

Emptiness is one-mind-ness, one-mind-ness is no-mind-ness, and it is no-mind-ness that achieves wonders.

 There are free uninhibited activities besides merely mastering the technique, which constitute the marvels of the ki (chi in Chinese.}

A passage from Daisetz. T. Suzuki's Zen and Japanese Culture about Zen and Swordsmanship can give yogic instruction to help us cope with anything -Covid-19, war, economic collapse - that may come our way.
Mirei Shigemori House, Kyoto, Japan by Sydney Solis

Give up thinking as though not giving it up. Observe the technique as though not observing. 

Have nothing left in your mind, keep it thoroughly cleansed of its contents, and then the mirror will reflect the images in their iness.

See  first with the mind, then with the eyes, and finally with the body and limbs. 

Don’t be afraid of blinking when the eye unexpectedly confronts an object. It is a natural thing.

I am moving all day and not moving at all. I am like the moon underneath the waves that ever go on rolling and rocking.

Let Yourself Go with the disease, be with it, keep company with it: this is the way to get rid of it. 

You are said to have mastered the art when the technique works through your body and limbs as if independent of your conscious mind. 

Turn yourself into a doll made of wood: it has no ego, it thinks nothing; and let the body and limbs work themselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone. This is the way to win.

Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Japan by Sydney Solis Everything is practice
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Japan by Sydney Solis


2 thoughts on “Zen and The Art of Swordsmanship for Covid-19

  1. Pingback: Two Atomic Bombs and I – The 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima | Sydney In Osaka

  2. Pingback: Experience Traditional Japanese Arts’ Meditative Effects with Maki-e 蒔絵 Lacquer Painting in Kyoto | Sydney In Osaka

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