The Mind of Form

I’ve recently began re-reading the Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts by Issai Chozanshi “The Hayseed Taoist”. Issai Chozanshi (1659-1741) was the pen name of Niwa Jurozaemon Tadaaki, a samurai of the Sekiyado clan. This is truly a wonderful book filled with little gems of deep meaning. One that I am particularly fond of is the tale the “Transformation of the Sparrow and the Butterfly” which offers insights into transformation. The lesson in this particular tale is that principle has no form.

In this tale we read about how the sparrow envies the butterfly, for the butterfly has transformed from a simple limiting caterpillar into a wonderfully free-flying butterfly. The sparrow is consumed with thoughts of how it expects to transform from its current free-flying state into a lonely clam, with no power of movement and forced to exist in the cold sandy filth of the ocean floor, having no eyes to see and no ears in which to hear.

The butterfly scoffs at such worries, and chides the sparrow for trying to project its current mind into its future form. The butterfly says:

The butterfly further expresses that when the sparrow metamorphoses into the clam he will only know what it means to be a clam and thus will fit in perfectly with that form.

There are many different correlations we can make with this tale. One of which is that having our minds stuck in either some future or past place is of little use. This is because we are not in those forms. These states do not allow us to apply mindfulness in life or in our practice. If we are thinking about the next attack or the next exercise or the next rep then we can not be truly present in our current form. I have discussed this in a number of training sessions that we must be able to flow from an opponent’s attack to their next. Only by not becoming stuck are we free to respond to each appropriately. When we are stuck, we will never be able to achieve Wu-hsin (No-Mind, Mushin, Wu-wei). Instead we should stay in the present moment because this is the form we are currently in, when this form passes we should flow freely to the next.

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