I started reading "Hagakure," which was written by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716. I don't agree with everything in the book - some of the things Yamamoto-sama says sound crazy to my modern sensibilities, but there's some powerful quotes in here about bushido. Here's some I liked, with some thoughts of my own -
We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaming one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.
The first book of philosophy on bushido I read was the Budoshoshinshu. It had a significant impact on my thinking. One of the largest tenets of bushido is keeping awareness of your death in mind when you live. I try to do this, because it gives you a sense of urgency and importance.
A lot of times the principle is misunderstood - the principle is actually make preparations as if you'll live forever, but live this day that you'd be proud if it was your last. Bushido is not about being reckless. It's about keeping awareness of the end with you, and in doing so, living much more.
It's almost paradoxical - the man who is aware of his death, who relinquishes his claim on life, he lives much more fully. The man who is ignorant of his death does not live as much. Death is not something to be afraid of - it's something to be aware of. Being aware of it makes you more alive, and more effective, and more purposeful.
In response to yesterday's "Tokugawa’s Generals, and Being a Great Follower," I wrote that greatness is something you define for yourself. I asked, what's your definition of greatness, then? We can think about it. The reader clarified -
I wrote down a list of great men and realized what I meant by greatness. Glory, recognition by other human beings. From conquerors, to musical virtuosos, the great men are those that are supported by the wave of existing people. Great men are those who did something that is today recognized as valuable. Great men are those that are known by "everyone". That is how I think fame should be seen. That is how I am seeing it as of now.
Something that jumps to the eyes is that it requires other people. If you are great then at least someone must be not great. I guess being successful in life is different from being great. If living a successful life is minimally having 2 kids with more opportunities than you had and a strong family then once achieved, your are successful. Greatness I think could be seen as recognized success. Perhaps self-recognized success can make you see yourself as great...
If everyone is successful and recognize that their success and others are great, then everyone is great, hence no one is great. (or otherwise said, to my belief, the word "great" loses value as "awe-some" did) Well that is how I see it. Everyone is successful in something, not all are The Great. Where were the risk-taking warriors? As I now understand, they were fearful. Then again I suppose they had to stop someday throne or no throne. Having acquired the belief that to rebel is a bad ROI.