Takuan's Letter

Quoted in Zen and Japanese Culture by D.T. Suzuki

Affects Attendant on the Abiding
Stage of Ignorance

In Buddhist training, we speak of fifty-two stages, of which one is a stage where the mind attaches itself to any object it encounters. This attaching is known as tomaru, "stopping" or "abiding." The mind stops with one object instead of flowing from one object to another, as the mind acts when it follows its own nature.

In the case of swordsmanship, for instance, when the opponent tries to strike you, your eyes at once catch the movement of his sword and you may strive to follow it. But as soon as this takes place, you cease to be master of yourself and you are sure to be beaten. This is called "stopping."

No doubt you see the sword about to strike you, but do not let your mind stop there. Have no intention to counterattack him in response to his threatening move, cherish no calculating thoughts whatever. You simply perceive the opponent's move, you do not allow your mind to stop with it, you move on just as you are toward the opponent and make use of his attack by turning it on to himself. Then his sword meant to kill you will become your own and the weapon will fall on the opponent himself.

This is "no sword" in your terminology. As soon as the mind stops with an object of whatever nature — be it the opponent's sword or your own, the man himself bent on striking or the sword in his hand, the mode or the measure of the move — you cease to be master of yourself and are sure to fall victim to the enemy's sword. When you set yourself against him, your mind will be carried away by him. Therefore, do not even think of yourself. That is to say, the opposition of subject and object is to be transcended.