Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sword Smiths, Masamune and Muramasa

There was an extraordinarily talented young pianist. He was a child prodigy. He was 15 years old. He could play piano better than anybody else around him. His skill was so prominent that he could be professional piano player right then. One day he was practicing piano with his teacher. He was playing minor romantic music. His performance was excellent. He did not make any mistake until he finished entire music. The teacher, however, was frowning. She told the boy that his she felt something missing though his skill was perfect. After the teacher had thought a while, she told the boy that stop practicing piano for a month or so. She asked the boy to find a girl friend and experience love. When the boy came back to his teacher, his performance was better than perfect and moved so many people listening.

Empathy is the one the boy needed most. Not be just limited to the world of music, the same can be found in mind training of Zen or Martial Arts. Mind training is essential. If it is without purpose of use, however, knowledge will be just a sequence of memory in our brain existing in chronological order. If we try to show knowledge without purpose, we are just showing-off. Fighting skills in Martial Arts, without mind training for proper use, are nothing different from keeping a loaded gun without safety catch on in your pocket. It will harm others and oneself, soon or later.

This is an old story of 2 sword smiths in 16th Century Japan. One is Masamune, and the other is Muramasa. Masamune built his swards only by orders. He studied customers and did not accept orders from violent people or assassins. He liked his work, but he did not like his swords to be just killing tool. His work always started, in the morning, with prayers and meditations. He always prayed God to help him to build swords, which can help people, not kill people.

Muramasa was different. He always emphasized on his talent. He could never be satisfied with his skills. He always brushed up his skills. He continued to think and make swords, which are sharp to cut almost anything. He believed swords are killing equipment after all. The sharper swords the better for him. He was trying to build swords, which can cut off bones, woods, stones, and even steels. He did not pray for God. He did not believe in any spirituality.

One day, a local king who was also a martial arts master, compared swords from these 2 sword smiths. This master held a sword putting the cutting edge up, asked his assistance to drop a paper on the edge. When he tried Muramasa first, the sword cut the paper, dropped on the sword, in half. It appeared that the paper did not even touch the edge. It was sharp. He tried Masamune next. Dropped paper landed on the cutting edge sitting there still. When this master prayed in his mind, putting his spirit into the sword, to cut the paper, without moving his arms, the sword cut the paper in half and the cut paper fell to the ground.

Today, people respect Masamune as a holly craftsman. Tokugawa Shoguns loved his swords, and kept them as their protecting spirit. Many swords smiths or craftsmen worship him and use him for their protection to be successful craftsmen. His successors inherited his name for more than 200 years. His name represents Japanese sword even in modern Japan.

On the other hand, swords by Muramasa killed several rulers in 16th and 17th centuries. They believed swords by Muramasa as cursed, haunted, and despised. Tokugawa Shogun hated Muramasa as their enemy weapon. The history shows that his swords killed both Tokugawa family people and their enemies. There are 2 swords are kept in museums, but most of Muramasa disappeared in the darkness of Japanese history. People remember Muramasa cursed and haunted. He still carries eerie title, Spooky Muramasa.

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