“The mind is the most powerful weapon any warrior can possess.” Sensei Yamada
Like many samurai, Sensei Yamada is a Zen Buddhist. It is his job not only to prepare the minds of Masamoto's students for battle, but also for life.
What is Zen?
Zen is a school of the religious ideals of Mahayana Buddhism. It emphasises the concept that 'ultimate truth' or satori (enlightenment or awakening) must be experienced first hand rather than pursued through study.
Zen teach the fundamental elements of Buddhist philosophy, but differs from other Buddhist schools in that it emphasises daily life practice, along with intensive periods of meditation using koan, over any philosophical explanations.
Japanese Zen teachers explain Zen Buddhism simply as a "way of life".
In Japanese, Zen sitting meditation is called 'zazen'. It is usually practised in a sitting position, such as lotus, half lotus or seiza postures, upon a zafu (round cushion) and zabuton (square padded mat).
The meditator strives to be aware of their posture, breathing and then their stream of thoughts, allowing such thoughts to arise and pass away without interference, with the ultimate goal of achieving satori (enlightenment).
Often Zen meditators will use a koan to focus their thoughts. A koan is a story or dialogue that is designed to make the practitioner think and seek an answer e.g.
“Without thinking of good or evil,
show me your original face
before your mother and father were born.”
The answer involves a transformation of perspective or consciousness. Koan are a tool to allow a student to approach enlightenment by letting go of logical thinking.