Zen and the Ways



One morning, Abbot Ekido of the Zen temple Tentoku-in heard the dawn bell being rung, and after a little he called his attendant from the next room and asked:

‘Who is ringing the bell this morning?’ The attendant said it was a newly
entered boy. The abbot later called the boy and asked:

‘When you rang the dawn bell today, what were you thinking about? …. That was no ordinary ringing.’ Then the boy said: ‘I once heard that whatever you do, it must be service of the Buddha. I was told to meditate on the things as Buddha. So this morning I was thinking that the bell is Buddha, and that each time I rang it the Buddha’s voice was sounding out. Each time I was making a bow, and I felt I was ringing it as a worship.’

This boy later became the head of the great training temple of Eiheiji: his name was Dengo Morita.


In Japanese Zen, every activity in life, including the martial arts, is thought to be a field for practising inner control, meditation and inspiration.

They are not separate, but even the techniques influence each other. The posture of an expert at the Tea Ceremony, at Fencing, at playing the harp, are all balanced so that the player could if necessary meet an attack.

Some of the early texts showing the fascinating Zen koan riddles given by Zen masters to warriors are little known even in Japan.


Judo: the relaxed hand in a championship shows no needless tension even during a contest.


Part One: Zen – Koan Zen, Mushin, The Wave, Dragon-head snake-tail.

Part Two: Kamakura Zen – Introduction, Political background, Daikaku,

On Meditation, Sayings of Daikaku, Bukko, Outline of Bukko’s teachings.

Part Three: Kamakura Koans.

Part Four: The Ways.

Part Five: Texts of the Ways.

Part Six: Stories of the Ways

Historical Appendices and index of names and technical terms.




‘…one of the greatest contributions that Japanese Zen Buddhism is capable of making to Western culture lies in its pointing out the relationship beween Zen, the arts and daily life. For this reason Zen and the Ways is a book of profound importance.’

The Eastern Buddhist

‘Trevor Leggett’s latest book is an important addition to the literature of Zen in English. In presenting for the first time an account of the ‘warrior Zen’ as taught during the thirteenth century in Kamakura, he has given us entirely new material of exceptional rarity and interest. Of ‘warrior Zen’ virtually nothing has been known in the West, and very little in Japan since the sixteenth century…Mr. Leggett was fortunate enough to discover what appears to be the last copy of a small printed edition of…the Shonankattoroku, published in 1926, from some damp and worm-eaten woodblocks found in the Kenchoji temple. He was also percipient enough to see the importance of his discovery, and set to work at once to translate the extremly difficult Japanese in which the text was written…’

Asian Affairs

‘Of particular interest is the inclusion of the classic ‘On Meditation by the master Daikaku, one of the founders of Zen Buddhism in Japan, and also rare translations of the Kamakura koans. The great strength of Mr. Leggett’s writing is that he never loses sight of the practical implications of what the Masters have written.’

Japan Society of London

Expression of Zen inspiration in everyday activities such as writing or serving tea, and in knightly arts such as fencing, came to be highly regarded in Japanese tradition. In the end, some of them were practiced as spiritual training in themselves; they were then called “Ways.”

This book includes translations of some rare texts on Zen and the Ways. One is a sixteenth- century Zen text compiled from Kamakura temple records of the previous three centuries, giving accounts of the very first Zen interviews in Japan. It gives the actual koan “test questions” which disciples had to answer. In the koan called “Sermon,” for instance, among the tests are: How would you give a sermon to a one-month-old child? To someone screaming with pain in hell? To a foreign pirate who cannot speak your language? To Maitreya in the Tushita heaven?

Extracts are translated from the “secret scrolls” of fencing, archery, judo, and so on. These scrolls were given in feudal days to pupils when they graduated from the academy, and some of them contain profound psychological and spiritual hints, but in deliberately cryptic form. They cannot be understood without long experience as a student of a Way, and the author draws on over forty years’ experience as a student and later as a teacher of the Way called judo.
The text is accompanied by exquisite line drawings and plates.

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