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The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War - The Great Learning



Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

The Great Learning

It is said that the Great Learning is the gate of elementary learning.  Whenever you go to a house, first you go in through the gate. Therefore the gate is a sign that you have reached the house. Going through this gate, you enter the house and meet the host.
Learning is the gate to attainment of the Way.

Therefore learning is the gate, not the house. When you see the gate, do not think it is the house. You have to go through the gate to get to the house, which is inside, behind it.

Since learning is a gate, when you read books do not think this is the Way. This misconception has made many people remain ignorant of the Way no matter how much they study or how many words they know.

Even if you can read as fluently as a commentary of an ancient, if you are unaware of the principles, you cannot make the Way your own.

Nevertheless, even though this is so, it is also hard to reach theWay without learning.  It is also hard to say that someone understands the Way simply by virtue of being learned and articulate. There are some people who naturally conform to the Way without learning how.

The Great Learning speaks of consummating knowledge and perfecting things. Consummating knowledge means knowing the principles of everything that people in the world know. Perfecting things means that when you know the principle of everything thoroughly then you know everything and can do everything.
When there is nothing more you know, there is nothing you can do either. When you do not know the principle, nothing at all comes to fruition.

In all things, uncertainty exists because of not knowing. Things stick in your mind because of being in doubt.  When the principle is clarified, nothing sticks in your mind. This is called consummating knowledge and perfecting things. Since there is no longer anything sticking in your mind, all your tasks become easy to do.

For this reason, the practice of all the arts is for the purpose of clearing away what is on your mind.  In the beginning you do not know anything, so paradoxically you do not have any questions on your mind and you are obstructed by that. This makes everything difficult to do.

When what you have studied leaves your mind entirely, and practice also disappears, then, when you perform whatever art you are engaged in, you accomplish the techniques easily without being inhibited by concern over what you have learned, and yet without deviating from what you have learned. This is spontaneously conforming to learning without being consciously aware of doing so. The science of the art of war can be understood through this.

To learn all the sword strokes, the physical postures, and the focus of the eyes, to thoroughly learn all there is to learn and practice it, is the spirit of consummating knowledge. Then,when you have succeeded in learning, when everything you have learned disappears from your conscious mind and you become innocent, this is the
spirit of perfecting things.

When you have built up achievement in cultivation of learning and practice, even as your hands, feet, and body act, this does not hang on your mind. You are detached from your learning yet do not deviate from your learning. Whatever you do, your action is free.

At this time, you do not even know where your own mind is; neither the celestial devil nor outsiders can spy into your heart. The learning is for the purpose of reaching this state. Once you have learned this successfully, learning disappears.

This is the ultimate sense and the progressive transcendentalism of all the Zen arts. Forgetting learning, relinquishing mind, harmonizing without any self-conscious knowledge thereof, is the ultimate consummation of the Way.

This stage is a matter of entering from learning into no learning.

The source of the experience

The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image