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Manifest this place of holding on to nothing at all and deepen from its wisdom...
Harada Roshi

Zen and Martial Arts

Question: Why is there a positive relationship between Zen and martial arts? On the one hand  Buddhism emphasizes harmlessness and not killing as very central values. Martial arts teach fighting and killing skills. How can one understand this contradiction as a practitioner of martial arts and Zen?

Answer: This question gets asked a lot. In Zen we also have terms like "Kill yourself" and "Die!" How is that possible that peaceful Buddhism uses these terms? It is not that Zen takes these terms as a particular way of going about the path, rather we all will need to die one day. That is the truth for all of us. The greatest question we face in Buddhism is about life and death. We do not need to be taught how to live, this we know naturally and we are living already. Yet most people do not know how to die. Why should we learn how to die? Because we easily only face this question as a concept and thus there is remains some underlying fear in our mind. In our minds we keep so busy with a tomorrow, so that we do not feel this unsettledness in our mind. We all at one point in our life need to take care of someone who is old or sick, which we can devote ourselves to for a while, but if this continues for a long time, when the person becomes bedridden, then it gets harder for us to maintain our daily life. After 6 months, a year or tow, we start to wonder how much longer will this go on. And we easily get irritated and that unsettled fear about life and death keeps coming up. To learn how to deal with a situation like this, we return to the basic teaching of taking each moment, each day at a time. If we really have experienced our own life energy, then a tomorrow does not matter, neither do we think about a yesterday. Because there is only that reality of being alive now. And to understand this reality, that is Zen. To not get moved around by fears and worries, that is the realization of Zen. We are only alive right here and now. And how to react and deal with this very moment, that is what we focus on. People practising martial arts want to experience exactly this. That is why people who practise martial arts also do Zazen. All famous martial artists in the past would do zazen. To awaken to their truth of life. Zen does not really have any relationship with martial arts, yet Zen helps the martial artists to return to a fresh, pure, straight forward state of mind. It has to be seen clearly how the relation between zen and martial arts is. In this way, Zen does not support fighting. If there were any fighting at all in Zen, then it would only be a fight inside with one´s ego. Yet this fight with the ego is extremely important for martial artists, it is their key point. Since there are many practitioners of the martial arts also doing zazen, this question arises and needed to be clarified, that martial artists find support in Zen, yet not the other way around.


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