I posted "Excerpts From Hagakure, Chapter 1" a while back. The book is dense with interesting ideas. Here's some more excerpts -
When an official place is extremely busy and someone comes in thoughtlessly with some business or other, often there are people who will treat him coldly and become angry. This is not good at all. At such times, the etiquette of a samurai is to calm himself and deal with the person in a good manner. To treat a person harshly is the way of middle class lackeys.
Treat people calmly and with good manners, even when they're a little careless. "To treat a person harshly is the way of middle class lackeys" - that made me laugh.
There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to pet wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.
You get wet either way in a rainstorm, but by accepting it you stay of clear mind. What a great metaphor. Accept that you'll get wet in a rainstorm - because you will either way - and go purposefully instead of rushing.
In China there was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affection for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window. It is said that he died of fright. He was probably a man who always spoke big words but acted differently when facing the real thing.
That made me laugh.
You will be tripped up by people when your resolution is lax. Moreover, if at a meeting you are distracted while another person is speaking, by your carelessness you may think that he is of your opinion and you will follow along saying, "Of course, of course," even though he is saying something that is contrary to your own feelings, and others will think that you are in agreement with him. Because of this, you should never be distracted even for an instant when meeting with others.
I noticed this one immediately after reading it. Don't say "of course" if you disagree. Stay focused and aware during conversations, and don't accidentally agree with something you disagree with.
In all cases, the person who practices an art is an artist, not a samurai, and one should have the intention of being called a samurai. When one has the conviction that even the slightest artful ability is harmful to the samurai, all the arts become useful to him. One should understand this sort of thing.
Not sure if I agree with that one, but I found it interesting.
Ordinarily, looking into the mirror and grooming oneself is sufficient for the upkeep of one's personal appearance. This is very important. Most people's personal appearance is poor because they do not look into the mirror well enough.
Training to speak properly can be done by correcting one's speech when at home.
Practice in letter writing goes to the extent of taking care in even one-line letters.
It is good if all the above contain a quiet strength. Moreover, according to what the priest Ryozan heard when he was in the Kamgala area, when one is writing a letter, he should think that the recipient will make it into a hanging scroll.
I read some analysis of Hagakure. Part of Hagakure is that your ethics are reflected externally. Thus, you can judge a man by what he puts out into the world. It's an interesting thought. Thus, the author recommends you train at home to fix your appearance, speak properly, and write your letters as if they'll be hung on the wall.
The proper manner of calligraphy is nothing other than not being careless, but in this way one's writing will simply be sluggish and stiff. One should go beyond this and depart from the norm. This principle applies to all things.
Don't be careless, but don't stiffly and sluggishly obey the norms either. In writing, and in everything.
It is said, "When you would see into a person's heart, become ill." When you are sick or in difficulties, many of those who were friendly or close to you in daily life will become cowards. Whenever anyone is in unhappy circumstances, you should above all inquire after them by visiting or sending some gift. And you should never in your whole life be negligent toward someone from whom you have received a favor.
A lot of truth there.
Lord Naoshige said, "The Way of the Samurai is in desperateness. Ten men or more cannot kill such a man. Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate.'
"In the Way of the Samurai, if one uses discrimination, he will fall behind. One needs neither loyalty nor devotion, but simply to become desperate in the Way. Loyalty and devotion are of themselves within desperation."
Upon thinking about it, I agree with this. Loyalty and devotion flow and extend naturally from having a single-minded, desperate need to fulfill a particular cause. Fill yourself with single-minded desperation to achieve what matters most to you, and the loyalty and devotion take care of themselves.
It is spiritless to think that you cannot attain to that which you have seen and heard the masters attain. The masters are men. You are also a man. If you think that you will be inferior in doing something, you will be on that road very soon.
I agree with this too. I think it's proper to read the biographies and seek to understand the greatest men of all time, and then to do work on that level - the world-changing level. They were just men. Everything they've done can be done by another.
A warrior should be careful in all things and should dislike to be the least bit worsted. Above all, if he is not careful in his choice of words he may say things like, "I'm a coward," or "At that time I'd probably run," or "How frightening," or "How painful." These are words that should not be said even in jest, on a whim, or when talking in one's sleep. If a person with understanding hears such things, he will see to the bottom of the speaker's heart.
I firmly believe this - never joke about being too weak or things of that nature. The part about not mentioning being frightened or being in pain is interesting... I'm not sure I agree, since acknowledging flaws and weaknesses can help you correct them. On the other hand, don't ever just blindly complain. If you do speak of flaws, make sure it is with the intention of conquering them instead of just getting sympathy or getting it off your chest.
After I took up the attitude of a retainer, I never sat sloppily whether at home or in some other place. Neither did I speak, but if there was something that could not be done properly without words, I made an effort to settle things by putting ten words into one.
Practice like play. Also, brevity.
In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takanobu said, "If discrimination is long, it will spoil. " Lord Naoshige said, "When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.''
When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.
This is something I'm still trying to improve at. Moving faster and being more decisive.
In admonishing the master, if one is not of the proper rank to do so, it shows great loyalty to have someone who is of that rank speak and have the master correct his mistakes. To be on a footing to do this one must be on cordial terms with everyone. If one does this for his own sake, it is simply flattery. One does this, rather, in his concern to support the clan on his own.
If one will do it, it can be done.
Yamamoto Jin'emon once said that it is best for a samurai to have good retainers. Military affairs are not matters for one person alone, regardless of how useful he tries to be. Money is something that one can borrow from people, but a good man cannot suddenly be come by. One should sustain a man kindly and well from the first. And in having retainers it will not do to nourish oneself alone. If you divide what you have and feed your lower ranks, you will be able to hold good men.
Take care of people, pay and reward people well, and look out for the people in your life before money. It's easier to come into new money than to come into having good people in your life.
Being superior to others is nothing other than having people talk about your affairs and listening to their opinions. The general run of people settle for their own opinions and thus never excel. Having a discussion with a person is one step in excelling him, A certain person discussed with me the written materials at the clan office. He is better than someone like me in writing and researching. In seeking correction from others, you excel them.
"Being superior to others is nothing other than having people talk about your affairs and listening to their opinions. The general run of people settle for their own opinions and thus never excel."
To excel, look for criticism and take it.
For a samurai, a simple word is important no matter where he may be. By just one single word martial valor can be made apparent. In peaceful times words show one's bravery. In troubled times, too, one knows that by a single word his strength or cowardice can be seen. This single word is the flower of one's heart. It is not something said simply with one's mouth.
"This single word is the flower of one's heart. It is not something said simply with one's mouth." Don't be careless with words.
When discussing things with someone, it is best to speak appropriately about whatever the subject may be. No matter how good what you are saying might be, it will dampen the conversation if it is irrelevant.
This struck me an important point - don't be tangential or irrelevant, even if it's a good thing you're saying. Conclude on the important topics of discussion first, then move into other topics if there is still time and it's suitable.
If one is but secure at the foundation, he will not be pained by departure from minor details or affairs that are contrary to expectation. But in the end, the details of a matter are important. The right and wrong of one's way of doing things are found in trivial matters.
That whole excerpt is very good. "If one is but secure at the foundation, he will not be pained by departure from minor details or affairs that are contrary to expectation. But in the end, the details of a matter are important. The right and wrong of one's way of doing things are found in trivial matters."
When I was young, I kept a "Dairy of Regret" and tried to record my mistakes day by day, but there was never a day when I didn't have twenty or thirty entries. As there was no end to it, I gave up. Even today, when I think about the day's affairs after going to bed, there is never a day when I do not make some blunder in speaking or in some activity. Living without mistakes is truly impossible. But this is something that people who live by cleverness have no inclination to think about.
Master lttei said, ' 'If one were to say what it is to do good, in a single word it would be to endure suffering. Not enduring is bad without exception."
I agree with this. It's related to what I wrote in "Give me Strife and Suffering (but in manageable doses)."
I've been enjoying Hagakure. I haven't finished yet, but I've been reading other books at the same time. There's lots of wisdom in it, so I'm looking forward to going through it further.
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.
Happy new year!
I am hoping you would share your resources for your reading on Japanese history. Book titles and/or urls would be very helpful.
I got that a week ago, and I kind of sat there staring at the email. Japanese history is some of the most confusing to start to learn, because different elements of Japanese history and culture all play on and influence each other. I could run you through the military history of Japan from The Battle of Okehazama to Sekigahara to the Boshin War, from there into Dai Nippon Tekoku Era, from there into defeat and the Occupation under McArthur, and then we could do a little post-war history.