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Over the past few decades, more and more people are finding benefit in the practical application of military strategy. Books like the Art of War by Sun Tzu are even incorporated into some academic programs focusing on business and finance. The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts by Issai Chozanshi is another book that is beneficial to all who aspire to get the most out of life.
Translator William Scott Wilson has done a remarkable job with this work. Interestingly, Wilson is “recognized by The American Literary Translator’s Association (ALTA) as “today’s foremost translator of classic Samurai texts.” Mr. Wilson is also described as the world’s foremost expert on the warrior’s philosophy of Bushido,” according to a report appearing in Wikipedia. The author, Issai Chozanshi, was an eighteenth century samurai with a very deep understanding of Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, and Taoism.
The book makes brilliant use of parables and metaphors, which makes use of some of nature’s most interesting characters and the dialogue between them. The “demon” mentioned in the book’s them refers to a tengu. The book’s description reads as such:
“The “demon” in the title story refers to the mythical tengu, who guard the secrets of swordsmanship. A swordsman travels to Mt. Kurama, famous for being inhabited by tengu, and in a series of conversations he learns about mushin (no-mind), strategy, the transformation of chi, and how the path of the sword leads to the understanding of life itself.”
One of my favorite sections of the book, which illustrates its wisdom, is The Toad’s Way of the Gods, where we read:
“The Way of the Gods is to respect purity. Thus, the person who employs and celebrates the deity only prays that his own mind becomes more and more pure with the help of the influence of the deity’s power.”
The wisdom of The Demon’s Sermon of Martial Arts is beyond religious and social boundaries. It can be enjoyed by people of various backgrounds and all walks of life. Additional information, in both the book’s introduction and endnotes, provided by translator William Scott Wilson, makes this a must read for both the magician and the mystic.