Friday, March 20, 2009

The Art of Becoming Art

I am presently reading an enlightening book entitled The Way of the Warrior-Trader by Dr. Richard D. McCall and what he has to say on the Japanese ‘Way’ or ‘Do’ has a direct bearing on what we have recently seen in my posts on Non-action:

The Japanese word for Way is Do (pronounced ‘dough’), and refers to “a life path, occupation, or discipline that results in the refinement of the follower’s spirit, character, and inner composure.” In other words, it means that regardless of the task, discipline, or behaviour that is undertaken, it is literally transformed by the practitioner into an art form. Then, reciprocally, the art form transforms the practitioner into a work of art as well. (…)
You must first understand that before you can elevate your personal performance in any area, your performance must first be viewed as an art form, and that the pure objective of practicing this art is the refinement of your inner spirit and discipline and ultimately the unconditional enjoyment and appreciation of having done it as well as is currently possible. This pulls you away from the distraction of watching or wishing for the desired outcome … and puts your attention fully on the flawless execution of the act itself …

How well he puts it! I have practiced Karate and I am very familiar with the Way of the samurai but McCall’s phrase ‘the art form transforms the practitioner into a work of art as well’ hit me like an epiphany. A quote from Sogyal Rinpoche instantly came to mind:

To embody the transcendent is why we are here.

The outcome of our actions is not the point! Our actions are the point! If our performance was as perfect as training, talent, insight and unattachment to the outcome could make it, then the outcome is of no importance – it was beyond our control. What matters is that our performance was excellent and sincere. In this way we transcend all obstacles.
So our actions must become an art form, embodying our abilities, our talents, our qualities and taken to a higher, transcendent level by our benevolent, disinterested motives and our unattachment to the outcome.
“Let not the fruits of action be thy motive.” When you have one eye on the destination, you have only one eye left for the path. Buddha summed it up in one phrase:

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

Image from Wikimedia: Depiction of Nasu no Yoichi, legendary archer of the Battle of Yashima 1184. From a hanging scroll, Watanabe Museum, Tottori Prefecture, Japan


mysticdave said...

I love the last line "it is better to travel well than to arrive" words to live by:)

Alex said...

Yes indeed! What is life but a journey?

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond