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CompleteMartialArts.com - Zen and the Way of the Sword: Arming the Samurai Psyche


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Manufacturer: Oxford University Press, USA
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5Average rating of 4.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 616
EAN: 9780195092615
ISBN: 0195092619
Label: Oxford University Press, USA
Manufacturer: Oxford University Press, USA
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 288
Publication Date: 1994-11-17
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Studio: Oxford University Press, USA

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Editorial Reviews:

Zen--serene, contemplative, a discipline of meditation associated with painting, rock gardens, and flower arranging--seems an odd ingredient in the martial psyche of the Japanese samurai. "One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind...the fact that he has to die," wrote a seventeenth-century warrior. "That is his chief business." But the demands of that "business," writes Winston King, found the perfect philosophical match in the teachings of Zen Buddhism.
In Zen and the Way of the Sword, King offers a fascinating look into the mind of the samurai swordsman in a far-reaching account of the role of Zen in the thought, culture, and the martial arts of Japan's soldier elite. An esteemed scholar of Eastern religions, King deftly traces the development of Zen and discusses the personal nature of its practice, its emphasis on individual discovery and attainment. He then presents an accomplished capsule history of the samurai class, from its rise in the middle ages to formal abolition in the nineteenth century--an account filled with details of wars, political maneuvering, and cultural achievements. King also looks at the arms and vocation of the individual samurai, placing the details of armor and weapons in the context of the samurai conception of warfare. In particular, King focuses on the sword--the soul of the samurai, as it was called--describing how it was forged, the honor given famous swordsmiths, the rise of schools of swordsmanship, and breathtaking feats of the great swordsmen. Throughout, King shows how the samurai cultivated Zen, relating its teaching of a free and spontaneous mind to the experience of a warrior in individual combat, and finding philosophical strength in Zen as they prepared themselves for death. "What mind can penetrate his opponent's mind?" one authority has written. "It is a mind that has been trained and cultivated to the point of detachment with perfect freedom....His mind should reflect his opponent's mind like water reflecting the moon." In other words, a mind trained by Zen.
King goes on to trace the role of Zen in samurai life through the peaceful eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, examining the absorption of Zen into World War II psychology and broader Japanese culture. Throughout, he provides a thoughtful perspective, both sympathetic and aware of the ethical problems inherent in a school of Buddhism turned to the needs of a military class. A scholarly, absorbing account, Zen and the Way of the Sword provides fascinating insight into the samurai ethos, and the culture of Japan today.


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: swords, by jingo!
Comment: An excellent history of the role of Zen in japanese and some chinese martial arts. He traces the sword, and the Zen way through the various eras of Japanese history, including through the pacific war of the 1930s and 1940s. A very revealing expose into the Japanese spirit, and a timely one, viz a conversation I had regarding the lack of spirituality in the martial art I am presently studying (aka MMA). While some friends were horrified by this missing component, personally, I saw this as a strength. Bushido is a pretty weird way of looking at the world. Any spirituality that would inspire men to crash airplanes into battleships, or disembowel themselves to atone for making a mistake is not exactly something I can relate to. In any case, this book confirmed my prejudices. I like being a westerner.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: This ones for the scholar, not the seeker...
Comment: While an incredibly intelligent work, Zen and the way of the sword is a book of primarily scholarly merit. In that regard it is a masterpiece. For the seeker, however, it's a rather dry read with only a thin smattering of real spiritual value.
Get this one if you want to understand the development of Japan's collective consciousness. -Look elsewhere for spiritual importance.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: As Always
Comment: Another wonderful book about the Japanese Buddhist mind from a one of a kind scholar and teacher. Winston King is, as always, honest, accurate, informative, balanced, engaging, and right on target - as he was in class. If you can't learn from him, you can't learn.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A Good Book on Zen, Samurai, and Japan
Comment: Though at times this book can be tough to read, it never stops being quite fascinating. The idea of getting into the mind of the Samurai was quite interesting. The book does a nice job explaining the ideas of Zen Buddhism and their influence on Japan. I really liked the chapters linking the Samurai mentality to WWII and the Japanese military. It can be a tough read, but worth it. Also, the illustrations are great.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Nice, but stale read
Comment: This is not a bad book, by any means. I do have to admit I lost interest a few times while trying to read it because the book reads much like a text book at times. As such, however, it does have quite an insight into samurai ideaology and history of the ancient Japanese military.


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