Milk Of Amnesia


Tonight we are going to drink the elixir of Nirvana…… Milk of amnesia!

Sensei always had a way with words. Sometimes he totally bastardised the English language and yet always found a way of using it to help us gain an insight toward a deeper philosophical point. His humour was also unique.

Someone had to get the ball rolling. “Sensei, are talking about a drink to bring about a blissful state?”


“But does not Nirvana mean enlightenment, or a state of bliss?”

“Nirvana means to put the fires out.”

“So we are to drink an elixir to put the fires out?”


“When you say drink and elixir, you don’t mean literally, you mean metaphorically?

“Yep. I mean to partake in the shared beverage of knowledge.”

“OK, so we got the first bit. Milk of amnesia, I guess is a play on words with reference to a certain indigestion remedy.”

“Spot on Grasshopper.”

“Indigestion referring to the suffering that we all encounter in life.”

“Ride on.”

“So where does the amnesia come in? Are you suggesting that we remedy the suffering in life by forgetting about it?”


“I mean if you try to ignore your sufferings, is it not a form of suppression and that means that they will come back stronger and you will only suffer more….”

“I have always told you that you are all born a 10th Dan, the study of the Martial Arts is a form of unfoldment, a form of returning to the source. In Zen, this is known as ‘seeing your original face’.”

“So where does the amnesia come in?”

“Can’t you remember?” Everyone laughed.

“Remember what?” Everyone laughed again.

“Can you remember what you were before you born?”

“Of course not.”

“Can you remember just after you were born, before you could walk and talk.”

“No…..” Now he sounded more thoughtful.

“See, you’re an amnesiac!”

“But then so is everybody.”

“Imagine that you were lying in a hospital bed, a total amnesiac, you couldn’t remember anything about who you were, your past, anything. You would have to create a new identity, new name, new thoughts, new feelings, be someone entirely different to who you really were.

Life is a bit like that, you are born into this world a bit like an amnesiac, your identity is given to you by your parents and your environment and developed from there. Now imagine someone who knows who you really are comes along and starts to whisper your real name and remind you of who you really are and you start to get glimpses of your real identity……

This is like our study, suddenly you start to get glimpses of your “original face”, spontaneous arisings of wisdom that transcend your everyday thinking mind and each time it tries to grasp on to them it is like they are disappearing around the corner……”

“So what you are saying is that there are two people inside me?”

“In a way, both of me is saying it….. (Gales of laughter)

Look, one of you is real, the other an illusion. Your assumed identity, your ego, struggles to survive, when you are still, alert and concentrated in meditation it ceases to exist, this is when you know who you really are. Your assumed identity can only exist because of your cravings and the attachments and aversions that arise from them. This is the cause of your amnesia.”

“So my Elixir of Nirvana, my Milk of Amnesia is my Martial Arts study because it quenches the fires of my cravings and my attachment or aversion to them, enabling me meet life with equanimity and so not suffer unnecessarily.”

“Or shatters the illusion we have of ourselves and enables us to “see our original face” – this is the true purpose of Martial Arts study.”

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