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Publisher's Summary

This classic samurai-era text fused Japanese swordsmanship with Zen and influenced the direction that the art has taken ever since. Written by the 17th-century Zen master Takuan Soho (1573-1645), The Unfettered Mind is a book of advice on swordsmanship and the cultivation of right mind and intention. It was written as a guide for the samurai Yagyu Munenori, who was a great swordsman and rival to the legendary Miyamoto Musashi. Takuan was a giant in the history of Zen; he was also a gardener, calligrapher, poet, author, adviser to samurai and shoguns, and a pivotal figure in Zen painting. He was known for his brilliance and acerbic wit. In these succinct and pointed essays, Takuan is concerned primarily with understanding and refining the mind - both generally and when faced with conflict. The Unfettered Mind was a major influence on the classic manifestos on swordsmanship that came after it, including Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings and Yagyu Munenori's Life-Giving Sword.

©1986, 2002 William Scott Wilson (P)2014 Audible Inc.

Featured Article: The Best Zen Audiobooks to Guide You to Enlightenment


Perhaps you’re a meditation master looking for some in-depth topics, or maybe you’re new to your zen practice and seeking guidance. Either way, these ten titles offer a comprehensive selection to begin or continue your spiritual practice. Our selection includes poems, short stories, letters, and full-length texts all brought to life in audio. They cover various schools of philosophy and religion from traditionalists to modern practitioners.

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What listeners say about The Unfettered Mind

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The Unfettered Mind of a Genius

When a legendary Zen master corresponds to a legendary master swordsman, the result cannot be anything other than special. To have these writings today, translated with care to other languages... this is truly a great treasure.

I've commented on other reviews that I study western swordfighting and incorporated martial arts, which I believe is more versatile due primarily to the nature of the weapon, but is considerably more limited mentally. The object is "I hit you, you hit the floor." The very things that make the martial arts an "art" is lost without the mental and spiritual applications that the eastern counterparts have refined to perfection. It's the difference between being a cheap thug and being a true warrior in every sense of the term. Honor and victory are in the warrior, not the weapon.

In my quest to cross-pollinate these disciplines and reap a greater reward, I discovered this audiobook. I could tell you how mind-blowing it was. I could tell you how these words opened myself to a new level of understanding and appreciation. I could even tell you how further elaboration on these concepts might water them down due to how perfectly presented they are.

But I won't. Instead, I will say that if your interests lie here, you will find exactly what you hope to find and so much more. I know I did. And I now I will listen again, because I know that such wisdom does not unfold itself in a single presentation.

38 people found this helpful

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Like Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind...

this is a warm and poetic presentation of right mind and right living. The essence of zen Buddhism

12 people found this helpful

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Just a Buddhist stream-of-consciousness

1st of all, I just want to say that the translation and the performance were excellent. However, the material was extremely tedious. It's as if the author just kept reaching into a hat and pulling out various Buddhist platitudes and then defined them in excruciating detail. I don't have a Buddhist background so most of the references didn't hold any deeper meaning for me. I'm sure the material would have stonger applications for someone well-versed in both martial arts and Buddhism, but for the more casual observer it was pretty rough.

5 people found this helpful

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Better than Art of War

Where does The Unfettered Mind rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Compared to books of similar length and type, I'd say this is perhaps my favorite.

What did you like best about this story?

It's not a story, but basically Buddhist advice. It's very concise and can be abstracted to apply to a whole host of situations; this is what I had hoped for and why I listened. In the sense of well told and contemporarily applicable abstractions, I found this better than Sun Tzu's Art of War which though more famous seems more forced to fit contemporary situations. Soho's book is more "airy" so in a sense perhaps more difficult than Art of War (which I presume is why it's less famous) yet at the same time, I found it more fruitful in helping provide new perspectives on things.

Have you listened to any of Roger Clark’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

First time I believe, but he did a solid job conveying the wisdom in a non-pretentious voice. The content was the words of the sage and thanks to Roger Clark were delivered as such.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I don't think they could, but don't let that dissuade you.

11 people found this helpful

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It is the mind itself that leads the mind astray

“When facing a single tree, if you look at a single one of its red leaves you will not see all of the others. When the eye is not set on any one leaf and you face the tree with nothing at all in mind, any number of leaves is visible to the eye without limit. But if a single leaf holds the eye, it will be as if the remaining leaves were not there.”

11 people found this helpful

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Philosophical Side of Martial Arts

The topic is so abstract that towards the end the reader is grasping for something empirical upon which to hang. It is a complete exercise of the mind of man as opposed to the brain of man. It is good in the respect that it part of classical Japanese philosophical history. Again the narrator was superb and at times was the only concrete and empirical reality keeping the reader from getting lost in the boundless world of the mind.

3 people found this helpful

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Great reading, Excellent Listening

My night at work went from chaos to peace fast, i was able to slow down and focus

6 people found this helpful

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very deep

I have read the book, hearing it was like being taught by the Zen Master himself. Enlightened

2 people found this helpful

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A classic by a true Master

A fine delivery of the material. brings the right mood to the words. Well done.

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Short but absolutely beautiful

Likely one of my favorite Zen, Dogen, Samurai, depiction of the way, books that I have listened to. Highly recommend anyone that is interested in the aforementioned genres to buy this book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Julien
  • 07-09-18

well read

insightful wisdom, good narration. would recommend this to anyone looking for balance in one's life