Endangered Theses

“By nature people are similar. By training they become vastly different.” – Confucius

No matter what talents you are born with, if they are neglected, they won’t amount to much.

There is an old word “bhavana,” which is sometimes used to mean meditation. But that is a metaphor. The word is taken from farming. It means cultivation.

Cultivation changed history. Before people learned to grow food, they searched for it. Their time was spent moving and hoping. Sometimes, in some places, there was bounty. Sometimes there was famine. They kept moving and hoping and trying to live. When people learned to cultivate the land, life became more stable. They settled down. They could grow strong and stay healthy. It was a lot of work.

But with that work, purposeful and skillful, they used their will and skill to change their world. The world began to make sense. They learned about the seasons, the rain and sun, the relationship between people and the land.

People learned to grow enough to tide them over through hard times, and to sustain them while they turned their attention to other things that mattered.

Sometimes modern people forget cultivation, as a principle. We are not connected to the land, so we forget agricultural cultivation. We take it to be something external to our lives. Something other people do. 

We forget personal cultivation too. We act like heirs. Entitled. Oblivious. Expecting the results of the work of our ancestors to continue to provide abundance for us. 

In the dojo we cultivate our bodies and our minds. We train them. With skill and energy. Consistently, together. We get stronger, sharper, more focused, more alive. Untrained people do not get these results.

We do not expect that the work of past generations can be handed over to us and magically effect our lives just because we knew important people years ago.

The founders of the US, before they wrote the Constitution, saw this truth.

They saw through the lens of the European enlightenment what Confucius saw thousands of years ago; what sages in India described as “cultivation”. The founders of the US wrote for farmers and pioneers. People who lived by cultivation.

What the founders observed remains true:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Created equal, but not remaining the same, permanently, regardless of behavior, training and purpose, just by virtue of type or class. 

“The pursuit of happiness” meant to them not the pursuit of pleasure, idleness or fun. It meant pursuing the goals and paths that seem to offer the best chance at a good life. Even though that path will be different for different people. 

For them “created equal” was the starting point, with the chance to develop freely, without arbtrary restrictions imposed by a few on everyone else. That was their understanding of “freedom.”

We are free to cultivate our bodies and minds in training. If we do it honestly, consistently and skillfully, the rewards are endless.

That is how we cultivate our lives. This is how we pursue happiness. This is how we understand and put into practice the observation: 

“By nature people are similar. By training they become vastly different.” 


Post and photo copyright © 2023 Jeffrey Brooks


read True Karate Dō – 

“One of the best books I’ve read in years, inviting and compelling. 

Jeff Brooks moves effortlessly from martial arts to Buddhism to consciousness studies, self-transformation, and related fields in this wide-ranging and Illuminating study that has much to offer both novice explorers and veteran practitioners. 

A splendid achievement.”

— Philip Zaleski, Editor, The Best Spiritual Writing series 

— Co-author, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams.

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A Controversy

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