KEN-ZEN-SHO: Zen Calligraphy and Painting of Yamaoka Tesshu, with a foreword by Rupert Faulkner, introductions by Sarah Moate and Alex Bennett, an essay by Terayama Tanchu and an afterword by Takemura Eiji. Bunkashi International (Kendo World Publications), 2008, 200 pp., 33 color plates, 67 b/w pictures, ¥6,000 (cloth)

Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888) was a lay Zen master famous for, among other things, his statement that swordsmanship, Zen Buddhism, and calligraphy were identical in that they aspired to a state he described as "no-mind."

His study of kenjutsu (i.e. kendo), begun at the age of 9, resulted in the style of combat now known as "no-sword," where the samurai (to which class Tesshu belonged) realizes that there is no enemy, and that a purity of style is all that is necessary. Or, as Alex Bennett has phrased it in his introduction: "The sword changed from a weapon of destruction into a tool for spiritual emancipation through ascetic training."

Likewise, zazen is not about spiritual aspiration, and calligraphy is not, primarily, about communication. "No-mind" describes a desired lack of cogitation. Things are done for themselves. Zen understanding, the brush of calligraphy, the flash of the sword are manifestations, uncontrolled, eventually intuitive.