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四拳波羅蜜大光明 Shiken Haramistu Daikoumiyo
If you’ve ever taken a Martial Arts class at a Bujinkan Dojo, you’ve heard those three somewhat difficult Japanese words shouted at the beginning and end of class: Shiken Haramitsu Daikoumyo. These words have profound significance – but only if you understand what they mean (much less say them). Here I’m going to translate this Buddhist mantra, and the meaning behind one of the most often used phrases in Bujinkan training.
四拳 Shiken “Four Hearts”
Shiken trans. lit. means “four hearts”. What is meant by four hearts is really for aspects or perspectives toward the heart (or “having a heart”):
- Merciful; finding/having love for all things
- Sincerity; in the context of knowing right and wrong and being sincere
- Attuned; somewhat similar to the above concept, except more like acceptance of what is natural
- Dedication; having the heart to not give up – perseverance.
These four perspectives of heart are unified in this phrase to denote harmony with one-self and actions. So what does all this mean? Put simply: listen to your heart.
波羅蜜 Haramitsu ” Wave, Gauze, Sweet Nectar”
This phrase is a bit more complex, since it requires a deeper translation. Literally it means “waves, gauze, sweet nectar”. Makes sense right? Of course not. To get a better idea, let’s break down each word in the phrase:
- Wave: this is used as a metaphor for instability. You can visualize pond; when the water is still it’s flat and stable. When throw a stone into the pond it disturbs the stability by creating waves.
- Gauze: this is a metaphor for cloudiness of thought. Gauze is lightly interwoven threads that somewhat see through. Think of this like gauze wrapped around the eyes, making it difficult to see the world.
- Sweet Nectar: This is a metaphor for achieving what they refer to in Buddhism as “enlightenment”. It means the sweetness of having a clear mind.
This phrase together describes the state of enlightenment that Buddha achieved. If we string these metaphors together we have “the sweet nectar that a mind receives when we rid ourselves of the waves that place gauze around our thoughts”, or more simply “clearing our mind”.
大光明 Daikoumyo “Big Bright Light”
By far the easiest phrase to understand is Daikoumyo – “Big bright light”. This can most directly understood as enlightenment or wisdom. It also has the meaning of future and hope.
Now that we understand the meaning behind each phrase, we can interpret it as meaning “listen to your heart, clear your mind, and you will find the answers you seek.” Simple, yet profound.
It reminds me of something Soke said of the importance of a student having “kokoro” or “heart”. I also think about how he often emphasizes the importance of achieving “mu” or “no mind”; returning to zero. This reaches deeper, beyond training. We often let our thoughts, our worries, our concerns, our ego, get in the way of what we know is right- what our heart tells us. This often can make achieving that wisdom – of finding that piece of the puzzle we’re looking for, difficult to find. While I’m not a Buddhist (I don’t think I could pull off the bald-head haircut) I can appreciate that most times, I find the right answer by simply doing what I know in my heart to be right and true. And by simply understanding the “heart” of a technique, I can grasp the intended purpose behind it – to achieve that “ah-ha” moment. This is why we say this phrase in every class: to remind us that enlightenment is within ourselves; we simply need to listen to our heart.
Think of this next time you say this phrase in class, and take one more step to finding the big bright light you’re looking for.