Bruce Lee and his letters…

Any mention of Bruce Lee brings to mind a thin, reed-like but chiseled physique, a cat-like cry and a kick faster than the eye can see.

Bruce Lee was so famous, that his name became synonymous with martial arts – do you think you are Bruce Lee? was an often heard expression.

To reach a level of influence like that, with just five Hollywood movies under his belt, was phenomenal.

But like every true martial artist, a lot of his persona was philosophical. The ying and yang of a practitioner is evident in his interviews and more so in the letters that he wrote to himself. I enjoyed reading these, and am sure you will find something for yourself in it too.

Martial arts is grossly misunderstood as being all about physical power and fighting – far from it. It is a journey into the unknown, where the unknown is not external. It is within the self, and together with yog, one can reach depths within oneself that would have seemed impossible.

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of both worlds, and have made an attempt to make both a part of mine. This will hopefully continue with Rohāmrta, as he discovers what his father has to offer him…

For now, here is a glimpse into the mind of the greatest martial art showman – Bruce Lee…

Bruce Lee – letters to himself

Revered by generations as the greatest martial artist in popular culture, Lee is increasingly being recognized as the unheralded philosopher that he was, from his famous metaphor for resilience to his recently revealed unpublished writings on willpower, imagination, and confidence. But his most intently philosophical work was the personal credo statement he wrote in the final year of his life, at the age of thirty-one, as a series of letters to himself under the heading “In My Own Process.” 

Bruce laying back in chair, white shirt, grass, on set of BB, hands together, river.

Courtesy of the Bruce Lee Foundation archive)

Any attempt to write a somewhat meaningful article — or else why write it at all — on how I, Bruce Lee by name, emotionally feel or how my instinctive honest reaction toward circumstances is no easy task. Why? Because I am a changing as well as an ever-growing man. Thus what I held true a couple of months ago might not [be] the same now.

Of course, this writing can be made less demanding should I allow myself to indulge in the standard manipulating game of role playing, but my responsibility to myself disallows that… I do want to be honest, that is the least a human being can do… I have always been a martial artist by choice, an actor by profession, but above all, am actualizing myself someday to be an artist of life. Yes, there is a difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization.

Among people, a great majority don’t feel comfortable at all with the unknown — that is anything foreign that threatens their protected daily mould — so for the sake of their security, they construct chosen patterns to justify.

I have come to accept life as a process, and am satisfied that in my ever-going process, I am constantly discovering, expanding, finding the cause of my ignorance, in martial art and especially in life. In short, to be real…

I don’t believe in the manipulation game of creating a self image robot.

Surely we all admit that we are intelligent beings, though in reality we are being crammed with ready-made facts handed down to us ever since [childhood]. Some of us even went through college but something is the matter because … some of these facts are examined in the form of self-inquiry, but in most cases we accept most of these facts unexamined.


We possess a pair of eyes to help us to observe as well as to discover, yet most of us simply do not see in the true sense of the word. However, when it comes to observing faults in others, most of us are are quick to react with condemnation. But what about looking inwardly for a change? To personally examine who we really are and what we are, our merits as well as our faults — in short, to see oneself as [one] is for once and to take responsibility [for] oneself.

I am happy because I am daily growing and honestly not knowing where the limit will yet lie. To be certain, every day can be a revelation or a new discovery. However, the most satisfaction is yet to come to hear another human being say, “Hey, here is something real.”

By martial art I mean, like any art, an unrestricted expression of our individual soul… The human soul is what interests me. I live to express myself freely in creation.

An actor, a good actor that is, not the shallow stereotyped artist, is an ever-growing process of learning, expansion and constant discoveries… To be of quality in acting means … lots of painful hard work and lots of undivided dedication to practicing what one believes.

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being, a sort of “being” vs. having — that is, we do not “have” mind, we are simply mind. We are what we are.

Original – Brain Pickings – by Mary Popova