The Way in the universe cannot be augmented or diminished. Neither can it be taken or be given away. Man must find this out for himself.
On the time scale of the history of the world, one person’s lifetime is a mere flicker of a flame. We’re born, we live, and we die. This truth places the question of existence right at the forefront of all human thought. What is the purpose of my own existence within the greater scheme of things? – Or does the finality of death make life meaningless? These questions have been contemplated since the dawn of human creation. The need to find answers to such questions is found in humankinds need to feel we have a purpose, a connection to others, and a sense of being part of something much greater than ourselves.
For most people, the answer to these questions is found through a process or journey. This journey leads us to that something that is outside the mind and the body; but brings together both – that something that links to the spirit. How we reach there is an individual choice, a choice influenced by our up bringing, education, culture, beliefs, etc.
In Japan, there is a saying, “There are many paths to the top of Mount Fuji.” It means that there are many paths in which one can seek the answers to the mysteries of life and death, however once the journey is made and the answers are brought into being there is but only one outcome – “self-realization”, “divine communion with “self” or “God””, “enlightenment” – however one chooses to express it.
Budo, of which karate is a part, has been viewed as a vehicle to partake in the journey up the mountain. It is believed that through the study of karate, one can forge their spirit through a protracted process of ceremonial practices, rigorous discipline, austere training and behaving in a manner that inspires mastery of the art. The output of such practice results in character development, right relationships and ultimately enlightenment.
Character Development (Jinkaku Kansei)
Character development is the striving for the moral qualities and principles that direct a person and is manifested in words and actions. Implicit in this definition is the notion of goodness (decency, kindness, honesty, integrity and righteousness).
It is widely accepted that the fundamental nature of human beings is goodness (albeit a choice we consciously make or don’t make). Goodness is what we all desire – not poor or mediocre goodness but ideal goodness. Perfection as a term is relative to a context and the perfection of anything is in direct relation to its reason for being, therefore humans that live with a conscious determination to live by our human nature i.e., goodness and therefore fulfill our natural purpose could be said to have attained perfection of character. However, the realization of perfection is never achieved during our existence – only strived for because it is a continual process not limited to any one inconsequential activity in our lives.
A perfect character is within each of us but needs to be nurtured and brought to the surface. Character development is a transformative process strived for through the merits and power of hard work. Hard work makes a person think and as their thoughts grow deeper they attempt to understand themselves. And as new understanding is discovered it becomes embodied in the person of insight – an insight into ones identity within the realm of human nature.
A person who develops a remarkable insight into human nature acknowledges that our full human potential isn’t realized in solitude, but only in harmonization with others and uses this understanding to develop right relationships within themselves and with others cultivating a community of harmony and peace thus fulfilling the goodness inherent in human nature
Right Relationships (Wa)
Right relationships are characterized by “harmonious”, i.e. respectful and just, relationships between all of humankind and nature. Virtues such as modesty, honesty, commitment, self-discipline, perseverance, justice, and compassion are all features of right relationships and contribute to the dignity of the human person.
How we treat each other, how we organize our family and society and how we live within and make use of nature’s gifts has a cause and effect relation that directly impacts our capacity as individuals to live in harmony with each other and within nature.
If we, individually or collectively, peruse a life of indifference, vacillation, discrimination and social imbalance or abuse/misuse the gifts of nature, we will inevitably create disharmony and cause conflict – internally or within a society.
If we consistently and unreservedly strive for a right relationships, with our self, with others and with nature, we would establish, a level of compassion and selflessness; a level of ethical and moral excellence; a level of dignity and equity; and a level of serenity and calmness, that would remove distractions and present us a peaceful mind in which we could seek enlightenment.
Enlightenment lies at the heart of all of life’s questions and offers a liberating understanding of the purpose of our existence. It is an experiential consciousness involving a realization about the ultimate nature of reality. For most of us this consciousness has a profound influence on how we strive to reach our full human potential; the type of relationships we forge with each other and with nature; and ultimately the way we live our life.
Through a spiritual awakening, we come to realize that the ultimate nature of reality and the splendor of life evolve around the goodness inherent in human nature and stands out most brightly when its behavior and its splendor are seen most fully and most clearly – especially when that sight awakens joy and harmony among people.
Character development, right relationships and enlightenment are lofty goals, goals which Karate practice alone cannot achieve; however karate practice does have the potential to contribute to support the development of ones character. Its contribution is made through the long hours of practice and effort – through this, one comes to appreciate the fragility of human life and increase their power of concentration and the habit of discipline – these are important attributes to the transformative process which leads to the perfection of character.