Musashi on martial practice as a ‘Way’…

The Scroll of Emptiness

…otherwise known as The Book of the Void, The Scroll of the Void, The Book of Emptiness – from the GoRin no Sho: the Book of Five Rings

This being the Scroll of Emptiness, I must now set down plainly in writing [the manner in which] Ni-To-Ichi-Ryu Martial Practice is a ‘Way’: –

The heart of what is called ’emptiness’ has [traditionally] been seen as the place where there is nothing, [and as] a thing that is not known [in the way that other things are known]. [Well,] of course emptiness is where there is nothing! [But] to know the place of “there is” while also knowing the place of “there is nothing”, that indeed is emptiness.

In the world at large, there is a mistaken view that sees the state of mind where you do not discriminate as emptiness. This is not true emptiness, it is the common, confused heart [that we all share]. And in the case of those studying our particular Way of martial practice, working diligently at the Way of becoming a bushi: when you are still at the stage of not knowing the techniques of your teacher, at the stage where you have not [yet] encountered emptiness, where there are many things that to you are delusion, and very many times when you don’t know what to do, then it is the case that while you may talk about this as ’emptiness’, you have not yet arrived at the state that is true emptiness.

On the other hand, a bushi who works forthrightly at acquiring our martial Way, and who works responsibly at those ancillary arts [that are part of our Way] and who does [everything that is part of] the Way of a bushi – who is not in the least in the dark [about anything], and who is not in a state of having a deluded mind – who morning after morning, hour after hour, shows not the slightest sign of laziness, polishing the two minds of heart and intellect, and sharpening the two modes of seeing: intuition and eyesight: for whom there is nothing that is not clear, and who has, indeed, reached that state where the clouds of delusion have been dispelled, it is the case that he should certainly come to know true emptiness.

[But] during the time that you do not [yet] know true emptiness, [if] you do not follow Buddha-Dharma, [if] you do not follow the [established] laws of the world, while you may think that you are reliably on the ‘Way’ – while you may think that you are doing things well – at the time that you are looking to follow the direct, [intuitive] ‘Way’ of your own heart, while measuring yourself against the great ruler of the world: because you are drawn by your own hearts, and because your eyes are warped, it is definitely the case that you will have turned away from the true Way.

[On the other hand,] knowing how your own mind works, making the place of making-straight your foundation, making a true, sincere heart your Way, applying martial practice in the broadest possible manner, uprightly and clearly, taking care to think in an expansive manner: if you make emptiness your Way, [then there is a place where finally] you [will] see your Way as emptiness:

Emptiness is where there is good and where there is no evil,

and Wisdom exists,

and Truth exists,

and The Way exists,

and the [true nature of the] Mind is emptiness.


– – – the last book of the Gorin no Sho  (1645),

written by Musashi a week before his death…

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