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The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to a Master Swordsman

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,700 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
In a life-and-death situation of being sword-tip to sword-tip with the enemy, where should the swordsman put his mind?
This is the first question posed in the first of three essays written by a Zen master for the guidance of samurai swordsmen. Among the other questions that arise are the difference between the right mind and the confused mind, what makes life precious, the
Hardcover, 142 pages
Published January 17th 2003 by Kodansha (first published October 1st 1986)
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J.G. Keely
Universally applicable statements are not instructive. They do not inspire thought or care, but enable the continuation of ignorance. A man may comment 'this is the worst review ever' (and in my experience, probably will), and achieve nothing more with by it than biting his own tongue. It is not applicable to any statement or idea, it does not continue any discussion, it is devoid of thought. It could be cut and pasted onto any review without gaining any meaning, and without shedding a single st ...more
Apr 09, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, but difficult reading from a Westerner's perspective. Have to read parts of it several times before I understand what was being said (at surface level). This is a book to come back to at a later date when I have more experience.

One has to take into consideration that it was written by a Zen master to a sword master, two learned individuals. I am way below the experience level of the target audience.

The book is nothing about sword fighting. It is about clearing your mind, and returnin
Jan 25, 2013 David rated it liked it
Shelves: shing-yi, philosophy
This book is a collection of three short works by a 17th century Abbot from northern Japan. Each of these works is different: the first is a discussion of the right mind required for both enlightenment and perfection of the craft of sword combat, the second is a discussion on the proper mindset for both political ruler and citizen (perhaps you could call it a Machiavellian essay for Easterners), and the final portion of the book is a discussion on some old poetry.

The first part I found incredib
Jan 24, 2015 Ahsan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have-copy
A work about the spirit (aka "mind", aka "soul"). Those looking for tips on sword fighting or on improving the physical aspect of their martial arts will be disappointed, unless they are interested in learning what kind of spiritual state engenders perfection in their art.

The thing with these esoterical works is that you need to have some understanding of the topic - true understanding - to be able to read them! That is a Catch-22. So reading such works only confirms your beliefs or helps in imp
Apr 24, 2012 Cem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zen Budizmi ve savas sanatlari arasindaki zaman zaman urkutucu iliskiy en iyi sekilde anlatan kitaplardan biri Engellenemeyen Zihin. Gunumuzde Zen bariscil bir new age antin kuntini gibi algilaniyor cogunlukla malum L.Cohen bile cikti ya manastira... Halbuki bu ve bunun gibi bir baska muazzam klasik, Yukio Mishima'nin Sun and Steel'i aslinda Zen Budizminin son derece fasizan bir altyapisi oldugunu ve bu yonde kolaylikla kullanilabileceginin bir ornegi. Tabi bu Zen'i fasist yapmiyor sadece praxis ...more
A good translation of Takuan Soho's classic text on Buddhism. The book was written to bring understanding of "No Mind" to the samurai warrior. It's rather dense, and assumes familiarity with Zen Buddhism.

Chances are you're interested in this because you a) read about it in a Japanese history/culture book, or b) you heard this referenced in a Japanese work of fiction, whether anime, literature, or film. It assumes a high amount of understanding of the context and does little to lead you through
Jul 18, 2007 Finbar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: budoka
I've been wanting to read this book for a while and I am glad I did. This selection of essays makes the tie between Zen meditation and the practice of the martial arts. It is a beautiful exploration of the spiritual side of budo and a must-read for anyone who practices its principles.
Dec 03, 2008 Doc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I consider this to be essential reading. For everyone. The concepts can be a bit dense, but it's well worth the effort. Combined with A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi and The Art of War by Sun Tzu, this is part of a set that I frequently give to people.
Jul 23, 2009 H added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: martial
A frequent reread. Practical and spiritual advice from the most renowned Zen master of feudal Japan.
Jan 12, 2017 Silas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A collection of Zen Buddhist writings pertaining largely to sword fighting (though occasionally in obtuse ways), this is a fun read. If you are new to Zen or if reading Zen sayings have previously left you scratching your head, this might not be for you. Reading or listening to it will likely lead you to learn more about Zen than about sword fighting, but that doesn't much bother me. While I am a sword enthusiast, I use Zen ideas in my everyday life rather more than I fight with a sword.
Jan 17, 2017 Rokas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite difficult to read from a European's perspective. Just read Art of War two days ago, in comparison, the latter is more convenient and understandable to read. Probably significant background knowledge of Eastern philosophy is required in order to fully understand the depths of this book.
Kian Mokhbery
Oct 10, 2016 Kian Mokhbery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was exciting to think that I could get a front row seat to a deep conversation between two masters of things I have been fascinated by my whole life; zen and swordsmanship.

I won't even pretend to say I understood half of what was said, but i think that's part of the excitement. Your journey until now prepared you to comprehend what you could. And 5 or 10 years from now you can come back and reread this short but moving book and see what strikes you then.

Working in my unfettered mind. A powe
Oct 29, 2011 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ish, ideas
The Unfettered Mind, a scant 100 page document written by a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman about the importance of right mindedness. Soho most likely couldn’t have envisioned his treatise would be poured over after some 400 years had past. Yet, it has been since first writing it. Westerners have devoured his work just as much as Easterners.

A quick search for the Unfettered Mind will net the potential reader many possibilities from different translations as well as many reviews. I do not have
Hilda Ellis-Davidson
Sep 22, 2016 Hilda Ellis-Davidson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, philosophy
If you are interested in Zen, then this is good place to start
Haru Kiyoka
Jul 20, 2014 Haru Kiyoka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Unfettered Mind is deceptively simple. It takes years of study to unravel it's true depth. This is because it's a collection of personal communications from one master to another, at the peak of their given practices. There is a lot the book doesn't explain because it didn't need to be explained in a dialog between these two men.

So it wasn't written as an introduction to Bushido or Zazen or as instruction for the layperson.

This book is more useful as practical mental instruction for someon
Apr 27, 2016 Catie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If your mind is diverted in any way, your actions will falter, and this can mean that you will be cut down."

"It must be said that the enlightening of one's mind depends on the depths of one's efforts."

"Correctness is in moving about anywhere."

"The word seriousness is elaborated on by the saying 'one aim with no distractions.'"

"Completely forget about the mind and you will do all things well."

"'Throw a ball into a swift current and it will never stop.'"

"Of the mind, do not be mindless."

Sep 03, 2016 Ant rated it really liked it
I've read a number of these little black books on the mind of Samurai. This is by far, to date, the most zen influenced of them all. While the others had their unspoken basis in zen, this is presenting zen first and foremost as the philosophy on which the discipline of samurai should be based. In fact it goes further than that. It may even be considered not to be addressing the samurai mind at all but mind in general, applying only the resultant actions to the work of the sword.

The book is comp
Jan 05, 2016 Rhonnel rated it it was amazing
A truly wonderful read from this great poet, artist, calligrapher, philosopher, master of the tea ceremony. Takuan is concerned primarily with understanding and refining the mind - both generally and when faced with conflict.

Bear in mind that this is definitely not a quick read. This book consists of three essays. The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom, The Clear Sound of Jewels, and Annals of the Sword Taia.

Known for his brilliance and acerbic wit; he distinguished the difference between t
Opera di riferimento per tutti coloro che ricercano la saggezza delle arti marziali, è divisa in tre parti: "la testimonianza segreta della saggezza immutabile", "il chiaro suono dei gioielli" e "annali della spada Taia".

I concetti e i profondi insegnamenti del maestro di spada (nonchè maestro del leggendario Miyamoto Musashi) e maestro Zen della scuola Rinzai, famosa per l'utilizzo dei koan, e maestro della cerimonia del te, Takuan Soho (che presumibilmente è anche l'inventore dei sottaceti!!!)
Ali Reda
Oct 27, 2015 Ali Reda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
If a man has tempered himself and arrived at this principle, he will control everything under heaven with a single sword. This means that if one disciplines himself in this way, exhaustively tempering this pure metal a thousand times over, and becomes instantly free like the quick unsheathing of a sword.
A man like this never exposes the tip of his sword. Its speed - even lightning cannot keep up with it. Its brevity - it is gone even before the quick wind of the storm.
In meeting someone like th
Mark Austin
- Most books with this rating I never finish and so don't make this list. This one I probably started speed-reading to get it over with.
- Average. Wasn't terrible, but not a lot to recommend it. Probably skimmed parts of it.
- Decent. A few good ideas, well-written passages, interesting characters, or the like.
- Good. This one had parts that inspired me, impressed me, made me laugh out loud, made me think - it got positive reactions and most of the rest of it was pretty decent too.
- Amazing.
Michael Roy
Jul 15, 2009 Michael Roy rated it really liked it
Being a (lapsed, due to injury) martial artist myself,I've always had a fascination for how the Japanese, in particular, apply many of the philosophies associated with Zen Buddhism to the martial arts - and in particular kenjutsu (swordsmanship).
This book is the classic of the genre, written by Buddhist monk Takuan Sōhō in the early 17th Century, friend and contemporary of Emperors, daimyos, shoguns, and the famous master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. It is essentially a treatise comprising three
Stefan-Iulian Matzal
Jan 29, 2016 Stefan-Iulian Matzal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: others
The best takeaway from this book is how to say a few but very effective words in order to look batshit crazy and to scare away the opposition. Method tested and working 100%.
"When the Zen priest at Kamakura, Mugaku, was captured during the disturbances in
China and was at the point of being cut down, he quoted the gatha, "With the speed of a
flash of lightning, / Cut through the spring breeze," and the soldier threw down his sword and fled".

Joking aside, this is basically a Tokugawa era collectio
Sep 10, 2007 Genocide rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Great book.. So beautiful

Buat temen2 yang pernah baca "Musashi" karangan Eiji Yoshikawa, pasti bisa tau siapa Takuan Soho. Kalo ada yang belum tau, gw kasih tau deh, he.. Beliau seorang pendeta Zen yang sangat terkenal pada masanya. Beliau seolah "angin" yang bebas bergerak dari setiap golongan di jepang. Karya-karyanya banyak mempengaruhi pola pikir dan penerapan ilmu pedang para samurai dan daimyo (tuan tanah) buku ini berisi filsafat zen, rada-rada ke agama Budha juga. Tapi mengajarkan meng
Matt Kelland
Dec 21, 2013 Matt Kelland rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Once, I would have found this book profound and inspiring. Now, I find it superficial. Statements such as "the right-thinking man will do right without thinking" don't really say much. The writer is a huge proponent of acting without thinking - instinct is all very well when you're in a sword fight, but it's not really a way to live the rest of your life. Consideration, reflection, and decision are all important.
John Zobolas
Dec 16, 2015 John Zobolas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zen
This is a SERIOUS work about the Zen philosophy and its connection to the Martial Arts in general. It is also a very difficult work to understand and it may need more than 1 or 2 readings in order to completely grasp it. It also needs a lot of "collateral" reading from other sources which plays an additive and important role for the advancement of your knowledge regarding Zen, Buddhism and Martial Art philosophy in general.
Aug 25, 2007 Nash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Martial artists and those interested in mind training.
Shelves: already-read
This is a translation of a 400 year-old book by a very cultured Zen monk, Takuan Soho, who was the contemporary with the likes of Miyamoto Musashi and another great swordman Yagyu Munenori who was then the sword teacher of the 3rd Tokugawa Shogun. If you have been to a mindfulness meditation retreat before, you'll be surprised at some timeless discovery of the mind you share with the monk and other people who have walked the same path before you.
Rahmat Romadon
May 12, 2008 Rahmat Romadon rated it it was amazing
Buku ini berisi refleksi pemikiran yg hrs dimiliki bagi semua pebeladiri, khususnya ahli pedang. Untuk memiliki pemikiran yg tidak terbelenggu memang tdk semudah yg dibayangkan, hrs diiringi oleh latihan & pemahaman yg sgt mendalam. Tp saat membaca buku ini kita akan mendapat perspektif lain dlm menekuni seni beladiri yg kita tekuni. So bener kata J. Krishnamurti : " is truth that liberates, not your effort to be free."
Kendrick Smith
Apr 30, 2016 Kendrick Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We're told that the one constant in life is change, which is also the theme that The Unfettered continually admonishes. It emphasizes the dangers of being fixated on things being a certain way and how flexibility is the mindset that one should forever have. With that being said, remember it is the tree that does not bend that breaks. Be fluid.
Dec 19, 2012 S'hi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three challenging essays of quite different elements and perspectives, yet on related themes. Each worthy of deep meditation in its own right.

A curiously timely find for myself, as I had just written something which required more depth of understanding to convey fully. This helped as a text to quote, but also as an insight to build upon my humble foundational piece.
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