In part one of this article I introduced you to the concept of what I refer to as the 'cult of death worship', a vein
of thought which runs as a common thread throughout many, if not all, of the worlds religions and spiritual philosophies.
In this second part I hope to elucidate the philosophical foundations of this ancient Dao (way) and how it is relevant to
martial arts and the way of the warrior.
Essentially we can start by saying that spirituality itself is inherently the way of death, of our father in heaven,
the God of the dead, as opposed to the way of mother earth, of the body and its needs and pleasures. That which is spiritual
is itself defined in distinction and opposition to that which is physical and material. The way of life is the way of the
body and the senses, the way of death is the way of that spiritual foundation which is all that is left when the body is gone.
To follow the Samuri precept, therefore, and to live as if one was already dead, is to live as if one was a purely spiritual
There are many examples throughout the ages of this cult of death worship. Christianity, for example, is based almost
entirely on the concept of death and resurrection; Jesus himself died on the cross, and this image provides a powerful image
of the self-sacrifice of renouncing the way of the body in favour of the way of spirit. The Christian God, and the God of
all the 'religions of the book' (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is the God of heaven, the realm of the dead, and Chrisitianity
has often defined itself as the polar opposite of the old pagan traditions of nature worship, goddess worship, and the way
of our mother earth, taking the image of a pagan nature god as its devil and denouncing witches, whose faith had been practiced
long before the name Satan was first mentioned, as Satanists.
Using such faith based religions as these as examples, however, makes it difficult to understand the essential principles
at the root of the cult of death worship. Instead, it will be useful to use the example of Buddhism, which is less of a religion
and more of a philosophy. In many schools of Buddhism the aspirant will practice meditations designed specifically to cultivate
a sense of disgust at and dislike for the material world. A Buddhist will meditate upon the futility of material existence
and in may cases wil use the image of a decaying corpse as an object for meditation, trying to instill in themselves the realisation
that all material things eventually lead to decay and degredation. As in most other religions the Buddhist will renounce materialism,
often taking vows of poverty and chastity. But unlike most other religions this is not done as a sign of obediance and devotion,
or an act of faith, it is done with a specific goal in mind, which can be described by a known psychological process. This
goal is 'non-attachment' and the freedom that it can bring. This same goal is described in the western mystery tradition in
the form of the 'philosophical death' which can be found in Hermetic and Alchemical texts.
To 'live as if you are dead' is to live without attachment to material things. The Buddhist and the Samuri realise that
to live according to material concerns is to live as a machine, bound to the laws of neccesity, of cause and effect (Karma).
Stimulus leading inextricably to response, caught in the web of Maya (illusion). But to live without attachment is to be truly
free - this is the way of the spirit, the way of the philosophical death. In doing so one ceases to be a product of circumstance,
and becomes the master of ones own soul and fate. Of course this is just a short article, and I cannot really do justice to
this topic, so I can only say further to this that If I have wetted your appetite then there are books in the right and column
that I have picked out as suitable for further study in relation to this. For the moment I would like to conclude this article
by looking at how all this is relevant to the Dao of the warrior and how this understanding can be used to make
your martial arts practice into a spiritual discipline.
The Dao of martial arts is intimately linked with the ideas of discipline and overcoming. In martial arts practice
the task is not to learn how to overcome an opponent, but rather how to overcome oneself. In pushing the body to its limits
and beyond them you are directly struggling against the will of the body itself. The way of non-attachment is to free onself
from the mechanical responses and automatic instincts of the body and to assert the dominion of the mind and spirit
upon it, and this is also the goal of good martial arts practice - to learn how to carry on when the body says stop,
to learn how to command the body to do things which which run counter to its habitual nature. When your body hurts, but
you carry on anyway, it is not the strength of the body which pulls you through, but the strength of the spirit. And discipline
also - to stick to a training schedule even when you really don't feel like it is an act of the spirit overcoming the material
concerns of the moment. Of course this is true of all kinds of training, not just martial arts, but it is even more relevant
to the martial artist in other ways. In martial arts one must overcome fear also, in acting according to one's training rather
than ones instinct you must overcome the most immediate and powerful of physical impulses through strength of spirit, and
in having the courage to fight in the first place, one must overcome the attachment to ones own safety and comfort. In the
fight itself, as in Buddhist training, non-attachment is the pinnacle of acheivement. This is what is known as The Art of Fighting Without Fighting
which is the subject of another page of this site.
Here are some books relevant to the subject at hand: