Master Taïkan Jyoji Part 2: “Kyudo is not reduced to archery, it is a meditation, a long journey leading to an elevation of consciousness. »

- through Henry Oudin

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Through kyudo, the "way of the bow", the Zen monk teaches practitioners to aim for more than just a target. Or how to find your inner nature without following the arrow.

What is kyudo, this Japanese martial art which would help develop letting go?

This formula of letting go is not appropriate, because if you strive to arrive at this famous letting go, it means that you are de facto in an attachment. In short, you are doing the opposite of your objective, which is to let go.

Kyudo has a practical side, because it requires a whole sequence – raising the bow, pivoting towards the target, opening the bow, etc. However, at some point, the arc must be released. We release something, and despite what we think, it's not us, but the bow that shoots the arrow. The idea being that by releasing something, you release yourself. There, we can speak of letting go, an expression which is written in Japanese by an ideogram meaning "the liberation intervenes". The way of kyudo requires a traditional ancestral technique, an art of shooting, it is not simple archery. Kyudo is not reduced to the handling of the bow and the arrow, it is a meditation, a long journey leading to a maturation of the individual, to an elevation of consciousness.

What is the part of the breath in this discipline? On this subject, you divert the quote from Descartes by saying: “I breathe, therefore I am”. Can you detail?

Breathing is life. However, we do not know how to do this primordial thing. The fact that this is automatic means that we are not aware of our breaths. We eat, we drink voluntarily; breathe, no. However, no school teaches us! Take Greece, the homeland of philosophy: none of the ancient philosophers mentioned the importance of breathing. On the other hand, in Asian spiritualities such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism or Hinduism, breathing exercises have always existed.

“Zen is liberating, but it is a tradition that is not easy. This path requires making the necessary efforts to get to smash your ego. »

Kyudo also involves paying attention to the breath, because – unlike kendo and judo which require dazzling speed – it requires a very slow sequence of movements which precisely requires working on the breath. It is a martial art that really allows to synchronize the execution of gestures and breathing.

As in the hitsuzendo (calligraphy or "Way of the Zen Brush") that you also practice, are we aiming here for the right gesture, the zanshin?

Westerners gargle about this notion without knowing what it really is. Remember that this is a gestural execution more than an intellectual knowledge. Knowing with your head what zanshin is does not allow you to arrive at zanshin. He intervenes following a series of execution of gestures in harmony with his breathing.

How does the notion of "right effort" that you teach come into play in the practice of kyudo?

Through the sequence of extremely precise gestures, kyudo develops a form of rooting in the present moment. The only moment that really exists, that we can live globally with all our being, is now! Afterwards, we move on to something else, and before, we were in something else. If you think about what you will do afterwards, you are experiencing something else, in your thoughts, in a parenthesis that does not yet exist. Finally, we can say that to be in the right effort is to be in the present moment, even if it changes all the time. It requires some practice and discipline, like kyudo, hituzendo or zazen, because effort has no meaning if you separate it from its goal, from the objective you want to achieve. It is a personal choice, a surpassing of oneself, which inevitably involves difficult times and suffering.

In 1975, your master Yamada Mumon Roshi asks you to teach in your turn, saying to you: "Now that the sword is sharpened, it will be necessary to continue to sharpen it". Did you feel ready?

I found it a bit odd that he felt my experience was deep enough for me to teach others what he had taught me, because I felt like I still had a lot of work to do. This is where he added: “We will have to continue to sharpen it”. Indeed, we first sharpen a sword and then sharpen it so that it cuts like a razor. In this case, sharpening means refining one's experience over the years.

You have been teaching Zen at La Falaise Verte for more than thirty years. Looking back, what is the fundamental message of Buddhism to you?

Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen, arrived in China in the XNUMXth century, a thousand years after the Buddha. He expressed in four lines the foundations of Zen and specified, from the first, that the only reason for which one practices Zen is to realize one's deep nature. You still have to want it! And, the fundamental point in my eyes, that it is done by zazen, that is to say sitting with your legs crossed and concentrating on your breathing. There is no zen without zazen.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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