I came across this story about Tokugawa Ieyasu from the "Tokugawa jikki." For context, remember the era and how hierarchy was treated at the time - this was actually recorded by a scribe 400 years ago.
Remember the societal roles of the era, which will seem out of place compared to 2011. That's not the point of sharing it - it's the views on money, austerity, and what to prioritize that are worth learning from -
Once, Okaji-no-tsubone ordered her women to wash a white kosode [of Ieyasu] that had become smudged. The women hurt their fingers, and blood flowed from the wounds; she thought it a very cruel task. Since he did have so many clothes, she asked whether it would be all right that they would not wash them anymore, and that he would wear only new clothes. Ieyasu answered: "This is not something that you, foolish women, have to understand, but I will explain it to you, nevertheless. Come and listen."
He called a great number of the women together, and said: "The thing about which I have been most careful all my life, is not to offend the Way of Heaven. What the Way of Heaven hates most, is extravagance. Having seen all the treasure I have amassed here, in Sunpu, you no doubt think that it is much?" All of them agreed. "This is not my only treasure house," Ieyasu resumed, "I also have them in the capital, in Osaka and in Edo, all filled with gold, silver, cloth, and silk. So even if I would wear new clothes every day, what shortage could there ever arise? However, the reason why I have amassed [all this wealth] is, to dispense it at times to the people of the empire, or, by accumulating it for the future generations of my descendants, to prevent the state from ever being short of funds. Therefore, we should not waste even one robe." Although they were women, they were all [impressed by] the wisdom of his holy teaching and did obeisance to him as one does to a Buddha or a god, with the palms of the hands joined together.
Interestingly, Ieyasu generally paid and rewarded the people who were loyal to him well. But even once he was undisputed ruler of all of Japan with vast treasurehouses, he continued to be austere in his personal expenses.
"Even if I would wear new clothes every day, what shortage could there ever arise? However, the reason why I have amassed [all this wealth] is, to dispense it at times to the people of the empire, or, by accumulating it for the future generations of my descendants, to prevent the state from ever being short of funds. Therefore, we should not waste even one robe."
I respect this view tremendously, though there's a right and wrong way to do it. I've written on it in the past, particularly in "Some Differences Between Being Low Born and High Born" and "Austerity Smart and Austerity Stupid"
Opps. ignore my question above. I just saw you mention that you came across the story in the "Tokugawa jikki."
Great story of Tokugawa Ieyasu. I have never heard of this story before. Where did you get it?
I always admired Tokugawa for his generosity to his followers. It is no wonder he had retainers and men who were willing to stick with him till the very end.
It all boils down to a matter of perspective. What are we living for. What is the greater purpose and the bigger picture. When we see things in this light, it is easier for us to manage our resources accordingly. If we are not aware of the bigger picture then all our actions and choices are haphazard. How can we hope to achieve an enduring success then?
Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)
Irving the Vizier
A lot of my heroes come from the Sengoku Warring States Era of Japanese History. Here's two quotes from Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate:
"Life is like unto a long journey with a heavy burden. Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not. Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair. When ambitious desires arise in thy heart, recall the days of extremity thou has past through. Forbearance is the root of quietness and assurance forever. Look upon the wrath of the enemy. If thou knowest only what it is to conquer, and knowest not what it is like to be defeated, woe unto thee; it will fare ill with thee. Find fault with thyself rather than with others."
"The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. Patience means restraining one's inclinations. There are seven emotions: joy, anger, anxiety, adoration, grief, fear, and hate, and if a man does not give way to these he can be called patient. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience."
I think in the big picture, patience is the way forwards, the way to win. You take small actions each day towards getting what you want. But, I think it's critical to guard your time from nuisances and distractions. In micro, on the minute by minute level, I think being impatient is the better way - look to fill dead time with learning, dispense with formality and bureaucracy as quickly as possible, talk about things that matter instead of smalltalk and pleasantries, break away from organizations and people that don't respect your time. In macro, in the big picture, patience and steadiness is the way. In micro, on a day to day level, impatience is the way.
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.