A mind unconscious of itself is a mind that is not at all disturbed by affects of any kind. It is the original mind and not the delusive one that is chock-full of affects. It is always flowing, never halts, nor does it turn into a solid. As it has no discrimination to make, no affective preference to follow, it fills the whole body, pervading every part of the body, and nowhere standing still. It is never like a stone or a piece of wood. It feels, it moves, it is never at rest. If it should find a resting place anywhere, it is not a mind of no-mind. A no-mind keeps nothing in it. It is also called, munen, "no-thought." Mushin and munen are synonymous.
When mushin or munen is attained, the mind moves from one object to another, flowing like a stream of water, filling every possible corner. For this reason the mind fulfills every function required of it. But when the flowing is stopped at one point, all the other points will get nothing of it, and the result will be a general stiffness and obduracy.
The wheel revolves when it is not too tightly attached to the axle. When it is too tight, it will never move on. If the mind has something in it, it stops functioning, it cannot hear, it cannot see, even when a sound enters the ears or a light flashes before the eyes. To have something in mind means that it is preoccupied and has no time for anything else. But to attempt to remove the thought already in it is to refill it with another something. The task is endless.
It is best, therefore, not to harbor anything in the mind from the start. This may be difficult, but when you go on exercising kufu toward the subject, you will after some time come to find this state of mind actualized without noticing each step of the progress. Nothing, however, can be accomplished hurriedly.
Tradition has it that Yagyu left a poem to one of his sons expressive of the secret of his school of swordsmanship.
Behind the technique, know that there
Is the spirit (ri):
It is dawning now;
Open the screen,
And lo, the moonlight is shining in!
This may sound highly mystical. The strangest thing, however, is: What has the art of swordplay - which bluntly speaking, consists in mutual killing - to do with such content as is communicated in the poem on the moon at the break of day?
In Japan, the dawn-moonlight has rich poetical associations. Yagyu's allusion to it is understandable from this angle, but what has the sword to do with poetry about the moon? What inspiration is the swordsman expected to get from viewing the moon as the day dawns? What secret is here? After going through many a tragic scene, which the man must no doubt have witnessed, with what poetic enlightenment is he expected to crown all his past experience? The author is here telling us, naturally, to have an inner light on the psychology of swordsmanship.
Yagyu the master knows that technique alone will never make a person the perfect swordplayer. He knows that the spirit (ri) or inner experience (satori) must back the art, which is gained only by deeply looking into the inmost recesses of the mind (kokoro). That is why his teacher Takuan is never tired of expanding on the doctrine of emptiness, which is the metaphysics of mushin no shin (mind of no-mind). Emptiness or no-mind-ness may appear to be something most remote from our daily experience, but we now realize how intimately it is related to the problem of life and death with which most of us nowadays remain unconcerned.
Takuan Soho was Zen monk, calligrapher, painter, poet, gardener, tea master, and perhaps, inventor of the pickle that even today retains his name. His writings were prodigious filling six volumes, and are a source of guidance and inspiration to the Japanese people today as they have been for three and a half centuries. He moved freely throughout the society of his time being advisor and confidant to both shogun and emperor.
He seems to have remained unaffected by his fame and popularity. At the approach of his death he instructed his disciples, "Bury my body in the mountain behind the temple, cover it with dirt and go home. Read no sutras, hold no ceremony. Let the monks wear their robes, eat their meals, and carry on as on normal days." At his final moment he wrote the Chinese character for yume - dream, put down his brush, and died.