Interlinked with kuden and taiden is shinden, the spiritual dimension that completes the means of transmission within the Bujinkan. While the processes of oral and physical transmission are readily identified, spiritual transmission is harder to discern. With its meaning often shrouded in esoteric musings that would seem to make it elusive, shinden is, rather, constantly at work cultivating our hearts.

Shinden connects our spirits and others with our thoughts, actions and intentions to complete the understanding we achieve from observing, explaining and participating in budo. This type of transmission happens gradually as we progress on our training paths with faith and perseverance. It may be accessed by consistently pushing our mental and physical limits, or it may call to us from a quiet space we had to seek long and hard through meditative practice to find. It may adopt the persona of someone we know, evinced as an inner light that draws us to them, or it may be absorbed from the legacy of those we will never meet. Regardless, it works its influence under our radars, amassing in the void and defying definition until we notice a distinct change in our hearts.

The heart of every person is unique, and a spiritual transmission will reveal itself in a different way to anyone who is open to it. It may come to us as the answer to a question we have yet to formulate, or as something that we uncover without the cognizance that it was missing. It may be a jarring realization that hits us suddenly, or it may be a subtle shift in energy that feels like it has merely tapped something we have always known on some level into consciousness. No matter the manifestation, when we feel something take hold deep inside, we are receiving shinden.

Opening ourselves to shinden invites transformation that will play out in our thoughts, actions and relations, and this will come to bear on our budo and in the way we engage with other forms of transmission. When we can trust another person to express our sentiments in words we can’t reach ourselves, and when we can communicate care and concern in our touch even though our handling is rough, we are engaged in shinden. In uncertain times like the present, maintaining faith in the training we receive, contributing to it and growing from it while so many are distanced is a testament to shinden.

In the same manner that all means of transmission are intrinsically and inextricably connected, so are all members of the Bujinkan, and it is through shared openness, trust and persistence that we experience spiritual transmission. This allows us to channel those whom we have lost or with whom we have lost touch to share a shadow of their signature styles with students who will never get to know them personally. When we feel the bearings, movements, words, beliefs, attitudes and passions of our teachers and their predecessors moving through us, it is shinden. Embracing this process with fellow buyu is what makes the heart of a dojo. We must therefore take care not to bring negative energy into our training space; rather, we must leave the burdens of the mind and bring our actions into alignment with our hearts to enact a positive influence in all that we do.

True realization of shinden is beyond description; when we can let budo speak through us, engaged holistically in body, mind and heart, we are actively engaged in the transmission. This is not easily forgotten or lost; it continues as a transformative force long after purposeful training has ended, and it transmits the heart of the Bujinkan wherever its members go. Because budo lives and grows with all of its students and practitioners, we all leave our imprints on its traditions and share the work of its continuation so that those who have long since passed from this world still speak to us. When we feel we have found our home at a dojo, that its members are an intrinsic part of ourselves and our budo, this is shinden making its presence known and we can move forward with the assurance that we are contributing the best way we can to the transmission.


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