The Spiritual Practices of the Ninja
We know little about the origins of the Ninja, the ‘children of darkness’ – mysterious shadow-warriors who maintained their eerie mist-shrouded mountain secrecy in the Iga and Koga Provinces of Japan from around 900 AD, practicing the arts of stealth and invisibility. Legends, however, tell of the Ninja warrior’s supposed descent from tengu, savage demons that were half man half crow and were able to bend the laws of nature and control the human mind.
Probably closer to the truth, according to Stephen Hayes (the first American to be accepted as a personal student of Masaaki Hatsumi, the thirty-fourth master of Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu) is that these warriors were ex-military men who fled China after the collapse of the T’ang dynasty and settled in Japan. Here they became teachers of martial arts, philosophy, and mysticism adapted from the esoteric knowledge of India and Tibet and the spiritual practices of Chinese monks and shamans.
“They expounded systems of integrated mind-body awareness, based on personal understanding of the order of the universe [and an] unconventional way of looking at situations and accomplishing things… The original Ninja were mystics, in touch with powers that we would describe as psychic today. Their ability to tune into the scheme of totality and thereby become receptive to subtle input from beyond the usual five senses was strange and terrifying…”
Their spirituality or mysticism, however, was not based on empty and impractical religious teachings but on highly advanced combat skills and practical arts of deception and warfare, where warriorship was linked to natural law. Spirituality was not regarded as an external projection onto distant deities, as our religions are in the West, but as a way to inner knowledge, self-mastery and personal power.
To arrive at their understanding, the Ninja developed a comprehensive and holistic map of the human psyche and life cycle, which linked the inner and outer worlds – the world of creativity and imagination and that of time, space and nature – to give a full picture of life and the challenges facing every warrior on his path to liberation and happiness, as well as the means of overcoming these trials. This map revolved around the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth, and the qualities of Fear, Power, Clarity and Fatigue. The map can be looked at as offering four gates that we must all step through if we want an authentic spiritual life and one that has meaning for we who we really are.
In the modern world we are still at war, looking for peace, and our personal freedoms are still constrained by people and institutions that tell us who we are, how to behave, how much power and freedom we may have – work demands, tax demands, commuter timetables, celebrity fashions… the list is endless. Spiritual warriors know these things as ‘tyrants’. They are not so different from the demands and dictates of the power-crazed emperors that led to the formation of the remote mountain communities of the Ninja rebels.
In these turbulent modern times we are at risk as much from inner tyrants – ways of being and seeing that we have internalised as we have grown up and become socialised into our culture’s way of viewing the world – as much as external tyrants in the form of terrorists and warring nations who use military force to impose their worldview upon ordinary citizens (us) who get caught in the middle of their petty ideological skirmishes.
Our inner tyrants are fixed patterns of behaviour that get in the way of our search for freedom and divert our attention from the real work of the sacred human being: to live fully the beautiful and finite lives that are given to us. They lead us inevitably into external tyranny since, if we have not dealt with our own issues we end up projecting them out onto the world where we see monsters and chaos all around us which, in our fear, we must oppose and destroy before they destroy us; or else we feel too weak to oppose such lunacy because this system and habit of war is so much bigger than us.
Magically, however, if we deal with the inner tyrants, the external ones vanish like mist. In this respect, the warrior pathway of the four gates is as relevant today as it ever was and probably px7 primal flow reviews more important than ever.
The quest of the warrior has always been to overcome the impositions of tyranny and find a unique code to live by so that he or she can harness wisdom and power and find happiness in the material world. In doing so, warriors from many different traditions and cultures have noticed that we all face four ‘enemies’ to personal freedom. These enemies can be seen as our beliefs about the world, which have been passed down to us from the tyrants around us – the leaders, power elite and self-appointed experts in our societies who have set up systems and institutions to enforce their worldview upon us. We have internalised these worldviews and while we believe that the world operates in a particular way we can never be free because we never see an alternative.
If we face these enemies, however, we find that they transform themselves naturally and easily into the allies that can help us achieve the happiness we seek. Thus, these ‘enemies’ – Fear, Power, Clarity, Fatigue – are not only the challenges that face us, they are the means to their resolution as well as the gateways we walk through in order to resolve them. We are then empowered, clearer about who we are, and able to see the truth of our lives. That, in itself, is freedom, and greater freedom always equates with