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    This is one everyone knows about. Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings.  Musashi’s final work befor passing from this world.  Originally intended to be the instruction manual for his School of two Skies, the book offers advise on dealing with multiple advisaries, stratagy and tactics, etiquite and swordplay.  Like every good Samurai, though, Musashi understood that what was taught had to go beyond those things, beyond military, beyond samurai, beyond swordsmen.  What he needed to teach people was how to be a Samurai Warrior in every aspect of life.  That people should have the same percision with a pen, or knife, or piece of wood as they do with the sword.  That etiquite was something to be followed by all people reguardless of stature and that the art of the sword was no different than the art of sculpting or writing poetry or arranging flowers.  His book is broken up into five catagories:Earth, Fire, Water, Wind and Void.  Each describing a different element of his instruction.  The shortest book is Void in that it pretains to being empty and filling again only to be empty once more.  I read this book years ago as well, just befor I read Dr. Scott Shaws book.  Even though it was writen in the early 1600’s it’s effect on the modern world can be seen every day.  For the longest time there wasn’t a serious businessman that didn’t have a copy in his office because of how it could be used to conduct effective business and stratagies that could be used in corperate opperations.  For many martial artist the Book of Five Rings is the Bible and Musashi is God himself or at least a role model for them to follow.  Musashi wasn’t a religious man, but he was a deeply spiritual man, and it shows in his writings.  The Book of Five Rings is one of the books that really got me into wanting to study the sword, and learn to use two swords at the same time.  Upon becoming Jedi I went and picked up a pocket version of the book so that I may be able to pull things from it to apply to my Jedi path and, like befor, it came through.  I would have to say that Musashi would have to be the first known Jedi in the world.  Conquering his fears, predicting the movement of his opponant, being able to forsee events and make the outcome in his favor.  It was almost as if he had something informing him of what he should do, something he was in connection with at all times.  He, of course credits it to his years of observing how people fight and knowing his enemy, but I feel there is more behind it.  Even death he faced without fear, on his feet with his sword in his hand, though he died of natural causes.  This example of superior artestry is one that should inspire everyone to follow.  Alas, only a few will, I am one who seeks to follow in the footsteps of a true master Jedi and be able one day to pass on my knowledge in a similar fashion.


    Very nice review.  The Chicago Jedi are doing a book discussion on this next week.  I’m leading the discussion, so I’m in heavy study of this book.  There’s a lot of controversial things about this book, but they are all minor issues that don’t effect the main points.  You do a good job in your review of drawing out the essence and avoiding the controversies.

    But me, I’m an academic and I get as excited by the controversies as I do the main points.  I find the title to be one of the most interesting controversies.  I feel that, “Book of Five Rings,” is a miserable translation.  The original title in Japanese is, “Go Rin (no) Sho.”  For a literal translation, “Writings on the Five Spheres,” would be closer.  The Japanese word, “rin,” can be used to refer to round things (like rings, spheres, and balls), but is often also used to refer to spheres of influence.  However, I think a better translation of how the Japanese understand the title might be, “writings on the different aspects of living and dying.”

    “Go Rin,” (the five spheres) or, “Godai,” (the five great things) is a Buddhist conceptualization of the classical elements (earth, water, fire, wind, void) that come together in various proportions to form all things.  The Japanese also frequently use the ancient Chinese 5 element system (fire, earth, metal, water, wood), but the Godai is a more Buddhist and natively Japanese system.  The Buddhist system says that things are not literally made of a combination of dirt, water, fire, etc., but rather that these things represent the observable qualities of all things.  Earth represents the solid aspects that make up the world.  Water represents the flexibility or adaptability of things and is the opposite of earth.  Fire represents the temperatures and externally released energies that exist in the world.  Wind represents the ability of things in the world to move and change.  Void may be the most interesting for Jedi, because the description of it sounds very similar to the Force.  It is an energy which cannot be seen but fills the empty spaces between the other elements and binds the universe together – it represents spirit, thought, and internal energies.

    The elements of the Godai do not form a five pointed star like the Chinese ones.  Instead they are either represented on the compass (earth=north, water=west, fire=south, wind=east, void=center) or in an ascending manner (earth is inferior to water which is inferior to fire which is inferior to wind which is inferior to void).  One of the most common ways to see these elements represented is in Gorinto (five sphere towers).  It became very popular in Japan to use a Gorinto as a grave marker to wish for the ascention of the dead person from the solidity of physical life to the pure energy of enlightenment.  Thus a native Japanese, especially in Musashi’s time, would assume a book titled Go Rin Sho was about the things that make up our lives and how to ascend to the greatest forms of being.

    The Scroll of the Void is perhaps the most difficult section of the book.  In it Musashi talks about emptiness and nothingness.  But if we instead think of these concepts of void, emptiness and nothingness as referring to the space where the Force lives or even to the Force itself, it becomes much easier to understand the whole book.  The use of the words void, emptiness, and nothingness are literal translations of a term which really is much closer to what Jedi call the Force.  For any of you that have read this book before, go back and read The Scroll of the Void again replacing words like, “void,” “emptiness,” and, “nothingness,” with, “the Force,” and let me know if it enhances your understanding (or at least gives you another way to think about the concepts presented).

    Coming back to your review, tatsutsume, it is very perceptive of you to see that Musashi had learned to access the Force and could be described as a 17th century Jedi.  I disagree with those that deify Musashi (as you mention).  In actuality he was a man just like any of us, but he was a Jedi – one of the ancient Grandmasters – and you are right to identify him as a good role model for a modern Jedi.

    Yours, through the Force,

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