View Full Version : Mikkyo and Budo

4th March 2001, 15:06
Greetings Fellow Budoka,
I came into Koryu Bujutsu almost 6 years ago with an already existing interest in Zen Buddhism. Over the course of these years I have spent a certain amount of time doing "live-in" training at a Zen temple. I had always read that the "offical" religion of the samurai was Zen Buddhism. However, a few years back a Bujinkan Shidoshi told me that Mikkyo (he didnt specify whether Tendai or Shingon) actually had an equal if not more dominant influence on the traditional warriors of Japan. This really confused me. I always thought the simple straight forward teachings of the Zen school would be more accessable than the complex, mystical teachings of Mikkyo. What I mean is, I have a hard time seeing how visualizations, chants, and mudras would "work" on the battle field.
On the other hand I know Takamatsu Sensi practiced Mikkyo and I know that it has some place in the Ninpo arts and who wants to second quess Takamatsu Sensi? I mean, I'm sure he knew what "worked" in the world of combat!
Pehaps some fellow E-Budo members would care to take a stab at explaining the relation of Mikkyo to Budo. I study Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu so feel free to approach it from that angle as well.
I look forward to some interesting posts!
--Jesse Duran

Joseph Svinth
5th March 2001, 05:41
To my knowledge, neo-Confucianism was the most popular philosophy in Tokugawa Japan. (In theory, neither Buddhism nor Confucianism are religions; instead both are ethical philosophies.) Anyway, in Confucianism, duty is paramount. South Korea is probably the world's most Confucianist state today.

Animism also played a role, especially in the south and far north. Okinawa still has a very strong animistic tendency.

The Iga clan was reportedly heavily influenced by Tantric Buddhism. If so, this could explain some of the sexual lore associated with ninjas. (The alternative is of course the Kabuki theater.)

The only "Zen" style of swordsmanship that comes to mind is the Satsuma's Jigen-ryu. But there could be more. Although not related to swordsmanship, J.C. Cleary's books are very good on the topic of Korean Zen.

My own guess is that the swordsmen were about the same as anyone else from their community and social class. Kinda like modern martial art classes -- a Roman class probably has Catholics. A Salt Lake City class probably has Mormons. A Tel Aviv class probably has Jews. And an Alabama class probably has Southern Baptists. The reason has nothing to do with the swordsmanship or the kata, and everything to do with the demographics of the region in which the swordsmanship is taught.

In other words, the sword is, and it is the swordsman who gives it meaning beyond the metallurgical and perhaps tactical.

5th March 2001, 16:03
In Dave Lowry's book "Persimmon Wind," he provides some excellent discussion and insight into the role of Mikkyo Buddhism within the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu school and the koryu. I highly recommend it.

Paul Madory
8th March 2001, 21:51
That shidoshi may have been aware that both of the founding fathers of Japanese Zen started their religious careers as students of Tendai Mikkyo first. I don't recall if they inherited dharma transmision in Mikkyo or not (probably not).

From a lineage point of view, technically Zen traces its authenticity through Daruma and the Chinese patriarchs, etc. But from a sociological point of view, Zen's enormous popularity grew (imo) by filling in the gap between Mikkyo and the general populace.

Joseph Svinth
9th March 2001, 06:06
Don't forget that there was also a big Zen revival in Japan in the late 19th century. (Established religions were somewhat discredited, so people looked for new ones.) Anyway, it is possible that this influenced interpretations of gendai arts.

11th March 2001, 06:26
Perhaps it would be useful to note the difference between Zen in the Martial Arts, and Zen Buddhism as a religious influence among retired samurai.

Trevor Leggett provides an excellent examination of Zen training of active samurai during the Kamakura era in, _The Warrior Koans: Early Zen in Japan (London, Boston: Arkana, 1985 [ISBN: 1-85063-023-2].

The influence of Zen Buddhism among retired samurai is well noted/documented. An interesting look at this aspect can be found in the book edited, translated by Aruthur Braverman, _Warrior of Zen: The Diamond-hard Wisdom Mind of Suzuki Shosan_ (New York, Tokyo: Kodansha, 1994 [ISBN: 1-56836-031-2].