The Japanese have always closely associated the sword and the spirit, but it was in the 1600s during the Tokugawa shogunate when the techniques of swordsmanship became forever associated with the spirit of Zen. The Unfettered Mind is a book of advice on swordsmanship and the cultivation of right mind and intention, written by the 17th-century Zen master Takuan Soho (1573-1645). Takuan was a gardener, calligrapher, poet, author, adviser to samurai and shoguns, and a pivotal figure in Zen painting. He was also known for his brilliance and acerbic wit. The succinct and pointed essays in this book were written to the samurai Yagyu Munenori, who was a great swordsman and rival to the legendary Miyamoto Musashi.
In these writings Soho is concerned primarily with understanding and refining the mind—both generally and when faced with conflict. Soho illuminates the difference between the right mind and the confused mind, the nature of right-mindedness, and what makes life precious. First published in 1988, this book is considered a true classic that influenced the direction that the art of Japanese swordsmanship has taken since.
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