Sunday, September 2, 2018

the honor of the samurai

During my Zen upbringing, much was sometimes made of the samurai's code of honor or "bushido."

One of the tales told to exemplify the steely will of these swordsmen was that of the samurai who had not eaten for multiple days and yet strode down the center of some Main Street, picking his teeth as if he had just finished a fine meal.

Students like me were expected to be wowed.

I was duly wowed.

And yet even then, there was a whisper of doubt. Why did this man have a need to show off?

Which takes more courage -- to pretend you are full when you are understandably hungry or to admit you are hungry and ask for a bit of food?

1 comment:

  1. Oh come on!
    Dig a little deeper.

    The old hungry samurai story comes complete with a cultural explanation.

    The story came directly from Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 movie “Seven Samurai” Starring Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, and Isao Kimora.

    It most likely gave some Japanese in the post World War II some hope and pride.

    The early part of the plot clearly shows the reason for the act. Briefly, appearing strong and well fed gave the Samurai (actually Ronin, Samurai whose Lords had been defeated) bargaining power.

    Such an attitude is often worth emulating.

    As for Bushido, it is a Code of Honor not unlike the code of honor of any warrior class. Even today the USA’s military officer training academies make some thing of ethics and honor Bushido is primarily based on Confucian ethical values but includes Zen flavored Buddhism as well.

    Like any code its application varied. Honored in myth and reality and to this day in some martial arts schools it is a useful and meaningful guiding set of principles.

    Here are Bushido's Eight Virtues as listed and explicated by Nitobe in his 1900 book, “Bushido: The Soul of Japan.”
    I. Rectitude or Justice. ...
    II. Courage. ...
    III. Benevolence or Mercy. ...
    IV. Politeness. ...
    V. Honesty and Sincerity. ...
    VI. Honor. ...
    VII. Loyalty. ...
    VIII. Character and Self-Control.

    Worthy if difficult qualities to embody.

    A Samurai’s Creed

    Anonymous, Circa 1300
    (This translation seems universally accepted.)

    I have no parents; I make the heaven and earth my mother and father.
    I have no home; I make awareness my dwelling.
    I have no life and death; I make the tides of breathing my life and death.
    I have no divine power; I make honesty my divine power.
    I have no means; I make understanding my means.
    I have no magic secrets; I make character my magic secret.
    I have no body; I make endurance my body.
    I have no eyes; I make the flash of lightning my eyes.
    I have no ears; I make sensibility my ears.
    I have no limbs; I make promptness my limbs.
    I have no strategy; I make “unshadowed by thought” my strategy
    I have no designs; I make “seizing opportunity by the forelock” my design.
    I have no miracles; I make right action my miracle.
    I have no principles; I make adaptability to all circumstances my principles.
    I have no tactics; I make emptiness and fullness my tactics.
    I have no talents; I make ready wit my talent.
    I have no friends; I make my mind my friend.
    I have no enemy; I make carelessness my enemy.
    I have no armor; I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.
    I have no castle; I make immovable mind my castle.
    I have no sword; I make absence of self my sword