View Full Version : What is the meaning of this phrase?

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David Yap
04-17-2008, 10:13 PM

My dojo was given a Japanese calligraphy consisting of three characters 平常心, I gather that, individually, they mean plain, always, heart/mind.

As a phrase, what does it mean?

Thanks & regards

David Y

David Yap
04-17-2008, 10:19 PM
I guess it is "magnanimous mind". Am I right?

David Y

Kent Enfield
04-17-2008, 10:35 PM
I guess it is "magnanimous mind". Am I right?

It's heijōshin, which I'd translate as something like "presence of mind", "peace of mind", or perhaps "level-headedness". The "heijō" part means "normal" or "usual".

Mark Uttech
04-18-2008, 09:06 AM
"Steadfast, peaceful mind" is how I've understood it

In gassho,


jennifer paige smith
04-18-2008, 10:14 AM
ordinary mind

Josh Reyer
04-18-2008, 11:05 AM
The sense "heijoshin" is one's natural state of mind, despite whatever is happening around you. You're not scared or excited, you're not focusing on any one thing to the exclusion of everything else. You're just calm and focused, like when you're walking down the street, or brushing your teeth.

Ron Tisdale
04-18-2008, 12:46 PM
Hey Josh, how does that state differentiate from Mushin?


Peter Goldsbury
04-18-2008, 07:17 PM
As Josh implies, the characters are a combination of average, normal (平) , and common, usual, what always happens (常) .

So heijou is つね日ごろ。Normal, everyday.
Heijoushin is 普段どうりに平静である心。A calm state of mind that is one's usual state of mind.

The only other combination with I am familiar is 平常点 (heijouten), a student's average score, a score based on the overall estimation of the student's abilities.

Mushin, on the other hand, is the result of long, hard training.

Ron Tisdale
04-18-2008, 08:29 PM
Osu! Domo...


Josh Reyer
04-18-2008, 11:23 PM
Hey, Ron. I think Professor Goldsbury has largely answered your question, but let me expand.

Have you ever been doing a basic drill or kihon waza, very low intensity, and you find yourself out-thinking yourself? Maybe you're concentrating on your footwork, or where your arms are going, or the kind of energy your aite is giving you. And the more you try to "fix it", the less it works. But, you're not panicked, excited, or even frustrated, because it's just you and a buddy working out some kihon. In this kind of situation, you would have heijoshin, but not mushin. Your mind/spirit/kokoro/what-have-you is "attached" to something, and it throws your technique off.

On the other hand, perhaps you've experienced panic, or high stress, and your mind just blanks out. Maybe in an early randori, or a big test, or a life-threatening situation. Everything you learned, everything you were telling yourself before this just goes right out the window, and your body moves pretty much on its own, for good or ill. Well, now you've got mushin, but no heijoshin.

Ron Tisdale
04-19-2008, 03:47 PM
Got it! Thanks!


Keith Larman
04-19-2008, 05:13 PM
FWIW what I was told early on in sword arts was that heijoshin in context of that training is basically peace of mind. In other words, the ability to maintain an "ordinary" mind no matter what is going on. In the sword world you'll often hear it explained in an extreme context as coming to terms of the inevitability of death in a sword fight. Once you truly come to grips with the idea that death is inevitable you are able to go into the conflict with a clear, calm mind. Either you'll win or you'll lose. You know that from the onset. So you go in and do what it is you trained to do.

So a calm, clear, "ordinary" mind unaffected by the situation. Emotions fully under control. Full awareness of everything going on. And being in a mind state that allows you to do what needs to be done without the "spikes" of emotion, fear, anger, etc.

My take fwiw. And I ain't no linguist, so grain of salt and all that. ;) (In other words take Mr. Reyer and Dr. Goldsbury's comment as vastly more informed than mine.)