Be Water – The Philosophy of Bruce Lee
The first thing that strikes our mind when we think of Martial arts is a collection of self defense techniques. Only practitioners over time, realize that martial art is a way of life. One of the most influential martial artists of the 20th century is Bruce Lee. In a short lived life spanning 33 years, this philosopher inspired and taught millions all over the world on how to lead life. People who are aware of his philosophies and teachings know the importance he placed on the element water. His teaching is still very relevant today.
The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems.
– Bruce Lee.
We all know that the damage begins from our childhood. We are brought up in a routine manner making sure of the fact that we are no different from our peers. By the time we reach puberty and learn to take charge of our lives, we realize that more than learning new things, we also need to unlearn many things. The battle then begins in fighting against the set norms of our upbringing, identifying our interests and potentials, isolating them and showing courage to convert the potentials in to our psyche. On the way, we are constantly disturbed and compelled to follow a fixed pattern by mental complacency, peer pressure and set norms of our society. When one resists these challenges, he begins to lead a life Bruce Lee meant in the above statement.
Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
– Bruce Lee.
As life takes its course, we learn from our experiences. But what is learned from our experiences is colored by our prejudices and the influences of our surroundings. It is indeed hard and rare to learn a lesson as pure as a drop of fresh dew drop on the grass. Most of the time, in the name of worldly pressures and expectations, we get tempted to accept the set norms of our society as part of our own mind set., because they are readily available. And to develop a mind set of our own, we need to make an effort and engage in mental labor. We should be vigilant so as to keep from falling in to such traps.
To deal with the vicissitudes of life, mental agility and flexibility are imperative. Because, even after we learn the art of developing our own take on things, the next challenge remains of being mentally flexible enough to either modify our attitudes or completely give them up as the situations of our life demand. Here, Bruce Lee’s teachings based on the element water comes in handy. Our mind should be like a vessel, a teapot, or a bottle depending on the moments of our life and our thoughts and attitudes should be like the element water, formless itself and taking the form of the container with ease.