Uncover the historical truth about Buddhist warrior monks with this informative and enlightening book.
Film, television and popular fiction have long exploited the image of the serene Buddhist monk who is master of the deadly craft of hand-to-hand combat. While these media overly romanticize the relationship between a philosophy of non-violence and the art of fighting, When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts shows this link to be nevertheless real, even natural.
Exploring the origins of Buddhism and the ethos of the Japanese samurai, university professor and martial arts practitioner Jeffrey Mann traces the close connection between the Buddhist way of compassion and the way of the warrior. This zen book serves as a basic introduction to the history, philosophy, and current practice of Zen as it relates to the Japanese martial arts. It examines the elements of Zen that have found a place in budo—the martial way—such as zazen, mushin, zanshin and fudoshin, then goes on to discuss the ethics and practice of budo as a modern sport.
Offering insights into how qualities integral to the true martial artist are interwoven with this ancient religious philosophy, this Buddhism book will help practitioners reconnect to an authentic spiritual discipline of the martial arts.
While Buddhism is famous for espousing pacifism, martial artists who draw on Zen as they practice Eastern forms of combat raise the puzzling question of how a philosophy based on ahimsa (nonharming) can influence centuries of warrior culture, particularly among the samurai of Japan. Mann, associate professor of religious studies and a longtime student of the martial arts, examines the historically tangled relationship between the practice of Zen Buddhism and the mental states cultivated by accomplished fighters in the Asian tradition. After briefly introducing Buddhism and Zen, Mann delves into the history of Zen and the martial arts in Japan; teases out the meanings of frequently used terms such as budo, bujutsu, mushin, and zanshin; argues for the benefits of practicing zazen (meditation); and examines the impact on martial arts of modern competition. He discusses the pragmatism that can lead to violence and the role of a virtue ethics in Buddhism. Mann quotes from original Japanese sources and uses ancient and contemporary examples to illustrate his points. In the end, he comes to his own conclusion as to whether the practice of martial arts can be truly called Zen. This rich and accessible introduction explores one of the more complex aspects of Buddhist culture.