At The Bridge
"Breaking the bridge between Life and Death, we encounter Spirit.
Once having stilled the Mind; what then?”
~Zen of Jo (serpent-heart)
"Having an infallible memory for foreign names and words is not what makes you a Master. Though I have read more than I can carry and forgotten more than most will ever learn; it is the distilled synthesis of this which is, ultimately, the pure form of my Budo, the Way of my being. I have respect for my teachers and the masters of old, so many there are who have helped to attain long generations after their passing. The Nameless Energy which flows through us all, this is the Spirit of our art. Better service to that itself than to many dead elders. Name one of them stand forth to disagree."
When my master spoke those words, I felt compelled to stand forth. He smiled graciously yet inquisitively. His look spoke; “Know the Man.”
(In later re-translations this is simplified for greater clarity, in accordance with the immortal creed; “Know Yourself.”)
I found in that moment that any words would be fleeting excuses invested with divinity of importance. I had wanted to say; “I do not know why I have stood forward, Master. It is not with disrespect. It seemed Right Action. That is all.” I held back from saying this, my manner spoke it for me. I held back even further from voicing a suspicion that the Spirit itself had prodded me to take the audacious step.
In this moment I detached from being controlled by Spirits now having seen how powerful a force they are upon us. In that moment I detached from myself, watching the body perform an action which my own mind had not directed it. I detached from the mind which, until that moment, had been the operator of my body with which I had assumed self-identification, now revealed as mere symbiosis with some tricky other.
I could not explain this at the time with words, it took me years of contemplation to rediscover the refined perception so as to communicate it. It most certainly was a formative experience for me, an insight into some other level of what my training had been preparing for me to achieve. And yet within the context of the moment, none of that was readily transmittable.
That is not to say it went un-noticed; everybody gathered present felt of it, and fell silent to discern and reflect upon what was occurring. The fallacy of our words as a causality and response dialogue, a relationship of minds from one step to the next within a normal codex, had dissolved. The ancient word for this is Mu.
I stepped forward into a realm of dream where associations are not always as they seem. Around me I could detect immediately which of the acolytes were merely reptilian cortex existing within projections of their own trained minds, and which were free enough of mind to see, as I now could see. In that moment I had become enlightened. Perhaps not to the same attainment as the Buddha but to a perception aside from human mainstream, one of wider, higher insight, certainly.
My master studied me, recognising what I was experiencing, seeing the change in me. He stepped aside and to my great surprise silently placed into my hand a token of transition; a sash which he had loosed fluidly from his own waist.
Inside I stammered and overcame it, forcing an assertion on the still moment. I spoke boldly: “The Nameless Spirit.” I fell to my knees before my Master even as I tied the sash around my bodies waist. Into the position to accept honourable death. It was symbolic and overly theatrical yet it spoke loudly to the other students of our dojo, loud enough to focus them to appreciate point.
My master turned his back upon me by way of releasing me from his school, respecting me as his equal and more. I stood then sat beside quietly him on my knees as he turned to face the class, placing his closed fist into his open palm and bowing toward them, time-honored gesture of peace and dismissal.
The wind returned to the trees around us and held breathes were drawn once again. We had surpassed need for words and entered a space together appropriate for doing good work in the world at large, community work. Once the students had returned to their casual sparring my Master explained to me a situation in a local town for which I was now ready. My apprenticeship was over.