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Thread: States of Mind: Mushin

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    Default States of Mind: Mushin

    I was trying to explain mushin, and it became this week's blog post. What is "mushin?" Is it really "no mind?" A few of my thoughts are at

    http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/02/...nd-mushin.html

    I'm really hoping to learn from everyone else's experience and understanding.
    Peter Boylan
    Mugendo Budogu LLC
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    Thank you Peter for a thoughtful and understandable explanation of a concept difficult to understand for us westerners.

    Could we say that Mushin is being with mind and body together as a unit in the present moment with no other thoughts of past or future?

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    Maybe its better to translate - and call it - "No Heart." As in, "no emotion."

    Nowadays I use an alternate description for mushin - I think of it purely as automatic, application of skill, free of emotional or mental baggage. Unconscious competence.

    For me (and with the understanding that all these things tend to blend in real life, anyway, which is why they are often described in such philosophical terms), much of what you are writing about in the article, Peter, I'd call zanshin - and fudoshin.
    Last edited by Hissho; 25th February 2015 at 21:55.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hissho View Post
    Maybe its better to translate - and call it - "No Heart." As in, "no emotion."

    Nowadays I use an alternate description for mushin - I think of it purely as automatic, application of skill, free of emotional or mental baggage. Unconscious competence.

    For me (and with the understanding that all these things tend to blend in real life, anyway, which is why they are often described in such philosophical terms), much of what you are writing about in the article, Peter, I'd call zanshin - and fudoshin.
    The problem I have with both "no mind" and "no heart" is each leaves half of the equation out. "No mind" leaves out emotion. "No heart" leaves out intellect. Both have to be stilled to achieve mushin in my opinion.

    I will agree that unconscious competence is an absolute requirement for achieving mushin. If you have to think about the skill you are going to employ, you're not at mushin.

    I tend to think of it as if we are describing a jewel with numerous facets. It's the same jewel, but we have names for each of the facets: mushin, zanshin, fudoshin, etc. A lot of it does blend into zanshin and fudoshin. In fact, I would say that fudoshin is impossible until you have mushin, then you can add another layer and get fudoshin. Really though, they are all facets of the mind that we are trying to describe with very clumsy words.
    Peter Boylan
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    The dichotomy, the only way to mushin is yushin.
    Ed Boyd

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    Ed,
    What's yushin? I'm not familiar with the term.
    Peter Boylan
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    Quote Originally Posted by pboylan View Post
    Ed,
    What's yushin? I'm not familiar with the term.
    Take a stab and think "have mind?" From the Chinese you xin.

    Perhaps on some level seeking a balanced equation may be us seeking a Western take on it, whereas both are included in the East Asian view?

    I like your analogy of facets - though I would posit that each facet can be known, understood, and addressed specifically in analysis and training. What we get too often is kinda sorta vaguey philosophizing language that is not at all clear, tending to obfuscate the topic. Fine from a martial arts perspective intended to develop the self, I think not so good from a perspective training for survival.

    I think a similar thing as happened with "IP" occurred here: the language and thinking of religion and philosophy and poetry being the chosen platform in East Asian culture for not only - well religion and philosophy and poetry - but also for human performance studies complicates things. But there are very specific, identifiable, even common sensical and repeatable states that the flowery language is describing that are known to those initiated into what it is supposed to mean. These were noted and passed down, maybe to only the one or two students, or earlier amongst folks that were in many cases closer to peers who shared a similar upbringing and experience base, and that has gone by the wayside down through the years.

    No time now, but I have some specifics re: this discussion that I'm eager to hear opinions on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CEB View Post
    The dichotomy, the only way to mushin is yushin.
    Ah, I think I get it. 有心 as opposed to 無心。 What threw me off is there is no 有心 as a word in Japanese. Yushin is 雄心 which is more like "heroic spirit"

    I don't think it mushin has to stand in opposition to anything. It reflects one condition of the mind, one facet of how are minds can interact with the world. There are lots of possibilities and they are not mutually exclusive. They can include each other and be much more complex and interesting than simple dichotomies.
    Peter Boylan
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    Find my Budo Blog at http://budobum.blogspot.com/

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    The word 有心 exists in Japanese, only it's pronounced ushin.

    http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/有心

    I personally don't believe ushin is necessary to have mushin, though. Ushin is more like the state of not having mushin. At least in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Reyer View Post
    The word 有心 exists in Japanese, only it's pronounced ushin.

    http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/有心

    I personally don't believe ushin is necessary to have mushin, though. Ushin is more like the state of not having mushin. At least in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu.
    Ah, the usage you are suggesting may be special to Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. Ushin in standard Japanese means something like "having discretion" or "having good judgement" which is certainly not the antithesis of mushin. Thanks for teaching me about this word. I missed it my first time through the dictionary.
    Peter Boylan
    Mugendo Budogu LLC
    Fine Budo Books, Videos, Clothes and Equipment Direct from Japan
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    Find my Budo Blog at http://budobum.blogspot.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by pboylan View Post
    Ah, the usage you are suggesting may be special to Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. Ushin in standard Japanese means something like "having discretion" or "having good judgement" which is certainly not the antithesis of mushin. Thanks for teaching me about this word. I missed it my first time through the dictionary.
    It's not so much special to YSR as special to Zen. Note that the definition also includes, "attachment, distraction". The Japanese dictionary includes such things as 物にとらわれた心 "a mind captured by things" and 妄念 mounen "distracting idea, irrelevant thoughts".

    Incidentally, the Goo.ne.jp Japanese dictionary sets up the Buddhist meanings as antonyms of each other. The mushin definition "mind free of all distracting thoughts (mounen)" points to ushin, while the ushin definition quoted above points back to mushin.

    Of course, inasmuch as ushin has both Zen meanings and non-Zen meanings, so does mushin. It can mean both "innocent" and "insentient". Perhaps not directly relevant to the budo/Zen/YSR concepts of mushin, but IMO highly of reference!
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Josh - thanks, it appears I definitely think of mushin in a non-standard way, though there is some overlap.

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    Since it might of interest to folks here, here's a repost of the response I gave Peter on Facebook.

    In Shinkage-ryu, mushin is intricately involved with "heijoushin" -- everyday mind. So in that sense, everyone can consistently achieve it already! The hard part, of course, is maintaining it when some guy's swinging a shinai at your head! But even that can be trained relatively quickly. My world was rocked when, mere months after joining Shinkage-ryu, Yagyu-sensei told me, "You're thinking too much. Do it with mushin." Buh-WHAAA? (I thought.) Don't I need to train for years and years before I can do that? But actually, not really. It's just a matter of not overthinking.

    IMO, the better translation of "mushin" is not "no mind", but rather "mind of no thing" (and that space after "no" is very deliberate). Thoughts flitter over the mind, but they don't stay there. As I approach my partner, I might think, "Be sure to move from the hips, getting that rear leg extension." But once I've thought it, it's gone -- having thought it, there's no need to keep thinking about it. Especially when it's time to actually do the cut! This really comes into play when I'm uchidachi, and my keiko is not just doing technique, but observing my partner, noting where they are having trouble, and what they need to fix, how I need to adjust to give them the best kind of keiko. As well as taking note what I myself need to fix! But I don't *dwell* on any of that stuff.

    As we see it, it's not conditioned response, it's not going on "autopilot" and reacting without thinking, like an amnesiac Jason Bourne, it's not being "in the zone". Good technique or bad, successful execution or no, it's a state of mind closest to our everyday state of mind, where we move and act freely without overthinking about what we are doing.

    In Shinkage-ryu, mushin is part of the process, it's not the goal. Therefore, you're always working at it. You never "get it". Once you can do it at one level, your partners take it to the next, and you have to bring that state of mind to the new level. And sometimes, an increase in technical skill can trip you up, as you get so much wherewithal to think, you end up thinking too much! So, it's something you're always working on, even though it's not something that requires years of training to attain.

    Well, that's my perspective. I hope it's of some reference. I apologize if I come off as too didactic or "one-true-way-ish". There are lots of "mushin" out there -- there's a kind of vague, cross-budo generic "mushin", and then there are definitions specific to various schools or dojo. For us, "mushin" is not one of those ephemeral concepts that everyone arrives at their own definition of; it's a precise term with a specific meaning in the Shinkage-ryu context.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Great post Josh.

    By way if clarification I do not mean autopilot- that is a BAD thing in a context where decision making is important. But when I reference mushin I mean that physical organization, technical skill, and weapons handling and manipulation require no conscious effort- if you have to think about how to move, place your foot, manipulate your weapon etc it is not only too late, but it takes up precious cognitive resources that should be attending to the overall situation and decision making that is necessary.

    In that sense I see it as specifically relating to tactics, techniques and procedures, to borrow a term. Then, fudoshin and zanshin to me address different but overlapping elements of the situation as a whole.

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    Also I would very much agree with you in that mushin is something that is always "running." Changes in technique, tactics, weapons etc require practice so that mushin is operational with that particular skill, under increasing pressure until at "live" speeds.

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