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Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Esaka Seigen


Esaka Seigen, 80, is regarded by many people to be the world's leading practitioner of iaido -- the art of drawing a Japanese sword. He holds the highest rank, 10th dan, is vice-president of the Zen Nihon Iaido Renmei and has been practicing the art form for 50 years. In his spare time he likes to compose haiku, do calligraphy and philosophize about life.

Esaka Seigen
Esaka Seigen RAJU THAKRAR PHOTO

Life is a series of moments. Each and every one is precious. With this mind-set, you treat any encounter with a person or thing as if it is the first, even if it isn't.

Leave some water in the ladle for others. I like this famous Zen saying, which advises that even if you are thirsty you should not drink all the water, but should share what is left with other people.

We live among acquaintances and strangers. It's important to try to get along with others and not exclude people. You will be able to achieve peace if you focus on having a harmonious frame of mind.

You ultimately have to stand on your own two feet. The essence of martial arts -- or anything -- is to become independent without relying too much on others or being affected by time or place.

I don't want to create a clone of myself. As a teacher, I'd like to train somebody so that they surpass me, otherwise there will be no progress in the art form.

There are no enemies out there. Suspicion, surprise, arrogance, laziness, etc., are all enemies that reside in your heart, which is where all our enemies exist. That is why you should not blame others when you experience these feelings.

Wherever you are, that is your dojo- (place of practice). Any place in daily life is an opportunity to work on yourself, anytime and anywhere.

Be focused but not focused. In order to see the big picture you must make sure that your perspective doesn't become too narrow. That is why it is important to keep the mind relaxed and loose.

People can only see within the scope of their own ability. This can be likened to being on the first floor of a building. If you raise your ability, you will be able to see things from a higher dimension, the second floor. It's important to think about how you can achieve this.

Wisdom is a natural ability that you receive from your parents. As you refine your wisdom, it will start to spout out like water.

Put up with things -- endurance can be a good thing. It makes a person more big-hearted. However, it is important to make sure that stress doesn't build up, by letting it out little by little, so that you don't "go off the deep end."

Practice the art of checking. In iaido, you check until the very end, to make sure that your opponent has been completely defeated. This same mind-set can be used at work to, for example, check until the very last moment to make sure that you have not made any mistakes on a certain project.

You could be a diamond in disguise. If you don't work on yourself, or "polish" your abilities, you will never be able to tell if you are a diamond or not. Even if you have good natural ability, if you don't work on it, you'll just end up being a rock.

I learn about responsibility from flowers and bonsai trees. The effects of any maintenance on them are immediately apparent, so that any laziness on my part makes them wither. I like the fact that they respond so honestly.

Bad habits don't always have to be overcome. So long as they are socially harmless, they help to make you who you are, and may ultimately serve a good purpose.

Visualize what you want. Clearly depict in your mind the ideal way you want things to be, and then devise a method that can make that a reality. The rest just involves repeating this process, ensuring that you make revisions along the way.

Put pressure on yourself. People have a tendency to take the easy way out. But if you want to achieve your goals you have to be hard on yourself to a certain degree.

Raju Thakrar practices iaido. If you are interested in this traditional martial art, please e-mail him at raju@japantimes.co.jp


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