The Mountain of Knowledge

Written by Master Ramon Lawrence during training in Japan in August, 1985

During my visit to Japan in August 1985, I was involved in a discussion with Okamoto Shihan, Jishukan Honbu, in the dining room of his house at Yokosuka, regarding the “Mountain of knowledge”. The discussion was thought provoking and I have spent many hours since that day pondering over Shihan’s point that knowledge should be viewed as a mountain and that the student should choose his own path up that mountain to reach the peak. Each time I re-read this philosophical article that I wrote so many years ago, I see more behind the story and wonder how the Japanese Sensei managed to instil such provoking points of thought into my mind through general physical training with very little verbal explanation.  If senior Sensei study the points raised, and think deeply about the meanings, they will shed more light on their pathway ahead and into the minds of the individual students they teach.

I see each mountain having many paths leading to its peak. Some go around the base and very slowly climb to the peak having passed through the many villages around its base. Some rise fairly steeply and because of this encompass obstacles like sheer cliffs and precipices in its way to the peak. Some pathways are tests of physical skill to climb over them, yet some will claim victims who do not understand its dangers fully and slip into the depths of ravines and crevices on their way. Some of these may be fortunate to survive and although injured find a more suitable path to the mountain peak. Others will remain lost or disenchanted with their temporary setback and unable to conquer their fear of reaching out again for the peak. The less physical traveller may need to rely on his intellect and see the necessity to fully understand what is obstructing his pathway and therefore seek a way around the obstacle and overcome his less physical ability.

Not all travellers reach the peak and are fortunate enough to have an all-round view from the top. However, much can be gained in attempting to climb to the peak.

By walking around the mountain, and taking the slow path to its peak, will reward the traveller with an all-round view of the base of the mountain, the villages and the people who live in them, and the knowledge they have accumulated during their life on the mountain. It will give a knowledge of what holds the mountain in grandiose esteem for travellers wishing to climb to its peak. This pathway takes much time and effort, and perhaps more importantly, communication, and therefore slow in reaching the peak, but it holds more experience and knowledge of what is required to be achieved and what other pathways exist and gives the traveller the choice of effort and enjoyment at a pace he chooses.

The energetic and physical traveller may decide to climb the mountain in the shortest route. This path has many dangers awaiting the unwary traveller but can be done. It generally requires an instinct for self-preservation, and generates reluctance to rely on other travellers who cross your path or pass you along the way. Due to this self-indulgence you may miss the fact that a ‘chair-lift’ is available around the side of the mountain to help other travellers over the obstacle in their way which could have aided you. It also can be a very lonely trip. Then again, there may be no ‘chair-lift’ and your grim determination to conquer your obstacle with hard work and physical challenge may win you a lead in climbing the mountain.

To climb the mountain to its peak has an infinity of solutions. It is time related as well as dependant on physical and mental capability. There is no correct measure of these ingredients but each individual has the capacity to gain from the climb regardless of how far the path leads up the mountain. It is also the traveller’s choice to rest on the way and to regain direction and energies so that he may survive the trip to the peak.

Once having made the attempt to climb to the peak, it is also important to remember what you have learnt on the way up.  Perhaps some of this knowledge gained could be of great assistance to other traveller’s you pass on the way back down the mountain, from whatever point you reached.

People see things through different eyes and only the wise person will discover the ultimate pathway up the mountain by discovering all the pathways and talking to all the travellers and listening to their little piece of the overall jigsaw of knowledge. Only by this will you find which mountain you are climbing and where you presently are on its pathway structure.
Remember, it is always the elderly experienced traveller that tell the best stories and enjoys sharing his knowledge the most.  Perhaps he has reached the peak of his mountain of knowledge and has found a better pathway down.