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Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

I read Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. The book is about a sixteenth century Japanese Samurai named Miyamoto Musashi. His story has become a part of Japanese legend. The other day I found some quotes that I wrote down while reading the book. I think the quotes give the flavor of the book better than anything I could say so here they are. The book is a beautiful example of a man's struggle to break down barriers preventing him from understanding and experiencing true reality and from reaching his full potential. Everyone should read this book.

".. the human mouth is the gateway to catastrophe" (Musashi, p. 55)

"Sometimes people who are not quite right in the mind are taken by others to be geniuses" (Musashi, p.61)

"Do not attempt to oppose the way of the universe. But first make sure you know the way of the universe." (Musashi, p.663)

"Instead of wanting to be like this or that, make yourself into a silent, immovable giant. That's what the mountain is. Don't waste your time trying to impress people. If you become the sort of man people can respect, they'll respect you, without your doing anything." (Musashi, p. 680)

"It occurred to Musashi what an odd fact it was that most children could draw - and sing, for that matter - but that they forgot how to as they grew older. Perhaps the little bit of wisdom they acquired inhibited them. He himself was no exception. As a child he had often drawn pictures, this having been one of his favorite ways of overcoming loneliness. But from the age of thirteen or fourteen until he was past twenty, he gave up drawing almost entirely." (Musashi, p.839)

As in the case of other adults who have forgotten how to draw, his mind would work, but not his spirit. Intent upon drawing skillfully, he was unable to express himself naturally. (Musashi, p. 839)

Hyogo tried to rein in his emotions. Warriors had weak moments, foolish moments, like everybody else. Still, his duty, that of every samurai, was clear: to persevere until he reached a state of stoic balance. Once he had crossed the barrier of illusion, his soul would be light and free, his eyes open to the green willows around him, to every blade of grass. Love was not the only emotion capable of firing a samurai's heart. His was another world. In an age hungry for young men of talent, this was no time to be distracted by a flower along the wayside. What was important, as Hyogo saw it, was to be in the right place to ride the wave of the times. (Musashi, p.859-860)

"Musashi was kneeling silently, as though in meditation, his brush, ink box and brush pot beside him. He had already finished one painting—a heron beneath a willow tree. The paper before him now was still blank. He was considering what to draw. Or more exactly, quietly trying to put himself into the right frame of mind, for that was necessary before he could visualize the picture or know the technique he would employ.

"He saw the white paper as the great universe of nonexistence. A single stroke would give rise to existence within it. He could evoke rain or wind at will, but whatever he drew, his heart would remain in the painting forever. If his heart was tainted, the picture would be tainted; if his heart was listless, so would the picture be. If he attempted to make a show of his craftsmanship, it could not be concealed. Men's bodies fade away, but ink lives on. The image of his heart would continue to breathe after he himself was gone.

"He realized that his thoughts were holding him back. He was on the brink of entering the world of nonexistence, of letting his heart speak for itself, independent of his ego, free from the personal touch of his hand. He tried to be empty, waiting for that sublime state in which his heart could speak in unison with the universe, selfless and unhampered." (Musashi, p.958)

© 2010-2013 Stefan Hollos and Richard Hollos

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