Nakamura Tempū was both a spiritual giant and a significant player in the making of modern Japan. Tempū, written 天風, is composed of the characters 天, meaning “heaven,” and 風, meaning “wind,” thus giving us “heaven’s wind.” As the events of his epic story show, not only did he have the audacity to go by that name, he also had sufficient audacity to live up to it.
Sent off to war at an early age, he survived a harrowing mission behind Russian enemy lines as a spy during the Russo-Japanese War, only to contract tuberculosis and be handed down a death sentence by his doctors. In search of a cure, he travelled first to New York, where he obtained a medical degree from Columbia University, and then on to London and Paris, where he met notable intellectuals and encountered a groundswell of new ideas shaping modernity; none of this knowledge and exposure, however, provided any insight into how to overcome his disease. Then, on his journey home, providence sidetracked him to the foothills of the Himalayas and the practice of yoga under a venerable master, wherein he discovered an essential truth that not only restored him to health but also brought about a mental and spiritual transformation.
Returned to Japan, he first ascended heights of financial success as a business entrepreneur and then gave up his wealth to pursue a calling as a teacher of the principles of mind-body integration. His practical wisdom has saved lives, inspired greatness, and proven invaluable, in the wake of World War II, to the task of regenerating the spirit of a broken nation. And yet, the man, his story, and his legacy of teachings remain almost unknown outside of Japan. This book is the first of its kind to address that void.
Heaven’s Wind is based on over thirty-five years of experience with Nakamura Tempū’s teachings and over ten years of exhaustive research, including readings of Japanese source materials, conversations with people who knew and studied directly under Tempū, participation in the Tempū Society’s courses and retreats, and travel to regions that figure prominently in his story, including northeastern China and eastern Nepal.
* * *
If there is a single statement that best reflects the core principle of Tempū’s teachings, it is the following, five-seven-five-syllable haiku:
Fair weather, all’s well
Hidden under clouds, all’s well
Ever Mount Fuji
The verse is attributable to Yamaoka Tesshū, a statesman and master swordsman of the Meji Restoration period. Tempū savored quoting it and and often reproduced it calligraphically for his students.
Fair weather or foul, Mt. Fuji is unmoved. “In life, there is always something,” Tempū would say; a human existence beset, as it is, by all manner of challenges is well served to emulate Fuji’s imperturbable equanimity. And access to such equanimity is ever imminent, for it is inherent to the ground of human being and characteristic of the listening wherein can be heard the “voice of heaven”. Happiness and fulfillment, he is saying, are not objects or goals to be achieved but qualities to be expressed. Happiness and fulfillment manifest themselves as natural byproducts of a grounded and thoroughly integrated human existence, one that is “ever Mount Fuji.”
We are not to construe, however, that in invoking Fuji-like immutability Tempū is in any way advocating the abandonment of ambition or the simple acceptance of circumstances. To the contrary, his is a philosophical framework and methodology meant to elicit what it takes to prevail over obstacles. “Ever Mount Fuji” is an appeal to confront and overcome, with immutable resolve, the challenges that life inevitably throws up between us and the realization of our dreams. It is also an injunction to do so joyfully, as an expression of our vitality.
 Yamaoka Tesshū was also a masterful calligrapher, and this haiku is said to have been been composed by him directly following a spiritual awakening that transformed his work with both the sword and the brush. Tempū delighted in telling vignettes from Tesshū’s colorful history and can be viewed, in many respects, as his spiritual successor.
- Recent Readings February 12, 2019
- William Reed Analyzes Nakamura Tempū’s Calligraphy December 28, 2018
- Banishing Unhappiness December 17, 2017
- Affirmation for the Expulsion of Fear December 16, 2017
- A Handy Reminder December 15, 2017
- Diversity and Spirituality Interview October 10, 2017
- Life is Created Through Thought March 16, 2017
- Completion March 1, 2017