|Daruma with 八方睨み Happonirami eyes, which way is zen? photo by Michael Glenn|
I grew up in the southwest United States. Where the desert sky is so big that at night you feel like you can run away from the moon. This feeling grows while driving very fast. You feel as if you are pulling away, but then you look back and the moon is following you.
In Japanese there is the phrase 八方睨み happonirami, which means staring in all directions. There are many famous paintings of dragons and phoenixes with eyes that follow the viewer.
Maybe you’ve seen a creepy picture like this. No matter where you stand it seems to be looking at you. Hatsumi Sensei has even painted Daruma this way.
But happonirami is also a way to ward off evil. By watching in all directions, you are vigilant and can see the enemy approach. How do we do this?
One key is to not look at any one thing or dwell on technique. Unfocus. One day Hatsumi Sensei told us,
“Don’t look at the attack. Don’t watch it. If you try to evade, block, and take a kamae you will be too slow. Be like stardust in the sky.”
If you go stargazing (放心状態 houshinjoutai), you become abstracted or dazed out. You lose the self and any technique along with it. Your mind can be empty and clear like the starlight.
But don’t focus on attacking or defending. Don’t let your gaze fall on any one spot. If you do, your mind becomes cloudy.
Another day Soke told us,
“You’re not looking at a specific place to kick. You’re feeling where to kick. In budo you don’t use your eyes to look at a specific place.”
In Bujinkan training and in all martial arts, there is the problem of perspective. When you study something deeply, you get too close to it. You don’t see the bigger picture that might be obvious to someone on the outside.
We have a phrase in English that says when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Or, if you hold a gun in your hand, every argument looks like a target. Someone who doesn’t have a hammer, gun, or martial arts will find a different solution that could be better.
Most fights are over something that only the combatants care about. Anybody watching the fight might just be amused. That is why the crowd gathers.
Arguments occur because people get attached to their position. Instead, don’t take any position, or you take one that allows you to see a bigger picture… Like 傍目八目 okamehachimoku, which means having the perspective of a bystander. Or, 岡目八目 okamehachimoku, that suggests you can see in all directions from the top of a hill.
Have this distance or perspective to see the big picture. For example, if you watch sports you often see more than the players do. Some people even yell at the TV because they saw an opportunity to score that the players didn’t see.
We have a ninpo gokui in our Kukishin Ryu Densho about the moon,
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
Tsukikage no itaranu sato wa nakeredomo nagamuru hito no kokoro ni zosumu.
Though the moon shines all over the world
Leaving no corner in darkness,
Only those who gaze upon the moon
Appreciate its serene light.
Make your technique soft like moonlight. Disappear like stardust. Not only will you see from a great distance above everything, but you take on the ephemeral quality of magic and nothingness.