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The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman    by Takuan Soho & William Scott Wilson order for
Unfettered Mind
by Takuan Soho
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2003 (1986)

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* * *   Reviewed by John Kalaidopoulos

The most difficult of the Martial Arts are the ones involving Katana (Japanese curved sword) and weapons. To pursue this art, one must be schooled thoroghly, conditioned both physically and mentally. The Katana is one of the sharpest cutting blades known to man, and there are many schools and styles, with different philosophies towards using the sword.

The samurai were all highly trained so what made the difference between life and death, between cutting someone down or being cut down? The difference lies in the mental state and preparedness of the samurai. Yagyu Munenori was known throughout Japan as the greatest swordsman of his time, holding the prestigeous title of teacher to the emperor. He was a true master. Takuan Soho, author of The Unfettered Mind, was a Zen Master of equal stature to Munenori. Having high regard for Munenori, the Zen master sought to impart his insights on Zen to the sword master. Zen and the martial arts have long been integral to one another, and the Zen philosophy as set out by Soho in these personal letters to Munenori articulates the martial art spirit as we know it today.

William Scott Wilson's translation of Takuan's letters will change your perception of what you believe is perception. Takuan's stories and Zen teachings apply not only to a master swordsman or martial artist, but to the businessman, the teacher or to anyone trying hard to focus on any particular thing. Takuan's letters to Munenori are some of the best writings on Zen that I have ever had the opportunity to read. One does not have to be an ardent Zen or Buddhist practitioner to gain from this excellent book, whose stories and poems will set you to thinking about how to apply the principles in your everyday life.

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