Friday, July 15, 2011


'Freedom lies in understanding yourself
from moment to moment.' - Bruce Lee.

For those as ‘old’ as myself, it doesn’t seem like 38 years since martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee returned to the ‘universal source’.

I must confess I have never been a Bruce Lee fan, as such, although he is rightly feted as the first Oriental superstar. In my ignorance I had no idea that he was wise in matters spiritual as well as physical. Of course, the two are connected, especially in disciples such as the martial arts.

In recent times I have read some of Lee’s writings on Zen, mindfulness, choiceless awareness, ‘no-mindedness’ and other spiritual topics, and it is demonstrably clear that the man had read very widely ... and deeply. He is also rightly feted as a philosopher. (He had studied, among other subjects, both philosophy and psychology at the University of Washington but he majored in drama.)

Anyone who has ever read any Krishnamurti will immediately recognise his influence on Lee’s philosophy. Here are just a few pieces from Lee’s writings on matters pertaining to the art and science of mindfulness:

A concentrated mind is not an attentive mind, but a mind that is in the state of awareness can concentrate. Awareness is never exclusive, it includes everything.

A mind must be wide open to function freely in thought.

... Discard all thoughts of reward, all hopes of praise and fears of blame ...

In almost every blog I refer to the all-important concept of ‘choiceless awareness’. It is a very special type of perception. It is, in the words of Lee, ‘simply “pure seeing,” beyond subject and object, and therefore “no seeing”.’

Lee has much to say about choiceless awareness:

To understand and live now, there must be dying to everything of yesterday. Die continually to every newly gained experience – be in a state of choiceless awareness of what is.

Not conviction, not method, but perception is the way of truth. It is a state of effortless awareness, pliable awareness, choiceless awareness.

There is no condemnation, no demand for a pattern of action in understanding. You are merely observing – just look at it and watch it.

The perceiving mind is living, moving, full of energy, and only such a mind can understand what truth is.

Choiceless awareness: non-duality and reconciliation = TOTAL understanding. The choiceless awareness of a single and undivided mind.

Lee’s sound advice is to ‘just watch choicelessly’:

Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you.

There is an awareness without choice, without any demand, an awareness in which there is no anxiety; and in that state of mind there is perception. It is the perception alone that will resolve all our problems.

So, what, exactly, is ‘choiceless awareness’ – words which come straight from Krishnamurti?

Choiceless awareness – do not condemn, do not justify. Awareness works only if it’s allowed free play without interference.

To understand, surely, there must be a state of choiceless awareness in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of the thing we are talking about in order to agree or disagree – don’t start from a conclusion above all.

Conclusions! Conclusions are beliefs. Beliefs are conclusions. A spiritually enlightened person doesn’t ‘believe’. Forget about belief-systems. Beliefs are for spiritual cripples ... for those who can’t, or won’t, think for themselves. Choose a religion or philosophy that doesn’t require you to believe anything. Life is truth, and life is forever open-ended. There are no final revelations. Listen to what Lee has to say:

An intelligent mind is an inquiring mind. It is not satisfied with explanations, with conclusions; nor is it a mind that believes. Because belief is again another form of conclusion.

We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing.

If you are interested in reading more of Lee’s remarkable wisdom, a good starting point is the reasonably inexpensive, and ever so readable, book Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living, which is edited by John Little who is the world's foremost authority on the life and works of Bruce Lee.

Finally, here is a short YouTube video on Lee which I found idiosyncratically quaint:






  1. Great post. Bruce Lee was wise indeed,

  2. One theory that is popular in South-East Asia but relatively unknown in the West is that Bruce Lee challenges Diki Zulkarnain, a silat exponent while he was in Indonesia. Although Lee won the fight, the silat fighter perceived Bruce Lee to be arrogant and had used secret mantras while fighting him, resulting in internal injuries for Bruce. The injury continues to haunt him till his sudden death due to the blows received from the fight.