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The Unfettered Mind

posted Oct 3, 2011, 3:32 PM by Bruno Kawasaki   [ updated Oct 13, 2011, 6:24 PM ]

by M. Banzé

Published on September 27, 2011

'The Unfettered Mind' is a compilation of three texts written by Takuan Soho (1573-1645), a Japanese zen monk. The author approaches the combat from psychological, philosophical and spiritual points of view, leaving in the same time a portrait of the daimyos/samurais (landowners/warriors) social relationship. A free translation of the introduction (from Portuguese version) follows below:

Takuan used to merge the zen spirit to any issue that drawed his attention, e.g. caligraphy, poetry, gardening and arts in general. The art of the sword did not escape his gaze. Having lived the last days of the violent feudal war that culminated in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), Takuan was familiarized not only with the peace and elevation of the art of tea, but also with the conflicts that marked the lives of warriors and generals. [...]

Adressed to class of samurais, the three texts aim to unify the zen spirit to the sword spirit. The advices combine practical, technical and philosophical aspects of the conflit. [...]

Takuan's writings induce the individual to self-knowledge and, therefore, to the art of living. Swordsmanship as mere technique and the medidative Zen existed before long in Japan, with Zen having been firmily stablished in the end of the 12th century. These two aspects came into a real fusion under Takuan's philosophy; his opinions influenced the masters of that time and gave birth to numerous famous texts such as Heiho Kadensho by Yagyu Munemori and Gorin no Sho (The Book of the Five Rings) by Miyamoto Musashi. Although these individuals had different styles,their conclusions gather high-level intuitions and understandings, as expressed in "freedom and spontaneity" by Musashi, the "common mind unaware of rules" by Munemori or the "unfettered mind" by Takuan himself.

According to Takuan, the culmination of the Path is not death nor destruction, but enlightenment and salvation. The conflict, according to a "righteous" mind, does not only gives life, as gives it in abundance. 


  • Takuan Soho. The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master. Translated by William Scott Wilson. 
  • Takuan Soho. A Mente Liberta: Escritos de um Mestre Zen a um Mestre da EspadaEditora Cultrix, 1998.