We strive towards Enlightenment. There are different paths and different methods. Most martial disciplines and Zen strives towards achieving the state of enlightenment.
There is no exact way to literally translate Senshin. Roughly, it means The Enlightened Mind. In Budo, it is one of the states that martial artists strive for. In Aikido, we have the 5 Spirits of Budo: The beginner’s mind (see Shoshin), the mind without mind (see Mushin), the immovable mind (see Fudoshin), the mind of continuing alertness (see Zanshin) and we have, the enlightened mind, Senshin.
Sen is the kanji for before, ahead, precedence, future and also previous, while Shin is the kanji that could read both for mind , heart and spirit, true. But in this case, we will consider Senshin as the state of the enlightened mind.
In O’Sensei’s writings, as translated by John Stevens, he enumerates Life’s four great treasures: the energy of the sun and the moon, the breath of heaven, the breath of earth and the ebb and flow of the tide. He states that we must understand these gifts and also added that “the pure and radiant jewel of a mind” will allow us to purify the world and harmonize all hostility.
That is the aim of Senshin: The enlightened mind of the practicing budoka must be able to protect all Life and harmonize the universe.
The enlightened mind holds all life sacred, knows how one aspect of imbalance can affect another. Senshin perceives the fine webbing in the universe that connects and affects us all. Senshin strives to nurture and cultivate the spirit of compassion. It should embrace all and serve all. It is not exclusive, it is all-inclusive. Senshin is to say “Yes!” to life and love and the best of humanity.
This vision and philosophy is not particular only to Aikido or Zen. Such aspirations also exist in other world philosophies. “That the lion will lie down with the lamb” speaks of possible future harmony in the universe. That humanity seeks to find a Utopia or Eden on Earth is everyman’s goodwill wish for the world.
Senshin might be described as joyful, motherly and vast.
Joyful because it takes joy in all the phases of life, birth, growth, growing old, decaying and dying. Joy in doing the mundane things by being fully engaged that it brings forth a sense of gratefulness. Gratefulness of being alive, to look and to see as fully as possible, to listen and to hear as fully as possible, to taste and do things as fully as possible. Motherly, because it brings forth the qualities of compassion, being nurturers and giving unconditionally without any consideration that what you give, you might not receive in return; and Vast because it encompasses and understands all, what we do, who we are, what we see and experience, Not good or bad, just all of ourselves and the universe we live in.
Senshin is possible and achievable, but most probably, rare, because it is not only the mind that is enlightened but the spirit of the budoka must also be purified. Ideally, it is the warrior with a purified spirit /intention and an enlightened attitude.
Senshin gives itself away in silence, in acts of compassion, in grieving with the inconsolable, in giving generously, in forgiving even when we are wronged, because one who possesses Senshin, perceives the plight and value of Life with his heart, mind and soul.