Wednesday, August 10, 2011

real and manufactured courage

The tale was told in a Zen center I once attended. The tale was told by a man who admired, even if he could not emulate, the way of the samurai and the code of bushido. The tale was not exactly a tale, but more a brief encouragement to the assembled Zen students ... muster your courage even in the most extreme of circumstances. The tale was this:

A samurai warrior who has not eaten for days walks down the street picking his teeth as if he has just finished a fine meal.

"How admirable. How courageous. How grounded in strong vision," the tale-teller implied. Zen students should be every bit as courageous and undeterred and stable in their efforts.

But I wondered then and no longer wonder today: Wouldn't a courageous man ask for a bit of food? It takes real courage to beg, to have nothing to give in return, to put your life in someone else's hands. There is no pretense in it. It is as hard as it is honest.

And honesty takes real balls.

1 comment:

  1. You have a point, but so did your former teacher.

    Even today and in our culture, sometimes it is just much better not to admit to weakness.

    But don't kid yourself the Japanese most likely understood what was happening to the ronin (Samurai without a "lord") and realized that sometimes these men of the warrior class needed their own idea of self respect even if it was "off" or doesn't make much sense.

    Re-watch the Seven Samurai for a variation on that story. A pivotal plot element is that the village elder sent men out to find such "hungry samurai."

    I'd like to share the "The Samurai Creed" with you snf your readers. It may or may not help with understanding where that Japanese teacher may have been coming from even if he never lived the life of the spirit of the samurai but just some of the loose threads in his fantasy of that life.

    The Samurai Creed

    I have no parents; I make the Heavens and the Earth my parents.
    I have no home; I make the Tan T'ien my home.
    I have no divine power; I make honesty my Divine Power.
    I have no means; I make Docility my means.
    I have no magic power; I make personality my Magic Power.
    I have neither life nor death; I make A Um my Life and Death.
    I have no body; I make Stoicism 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 Promptitude my Limbs.
    I have no laws; I make Self-Protection my Laws.

    I have no strategy; I make the Right to Kill and the Right to Restore Life my Strategy.
    I have no designs; I make Seizing the Opportunity by the Forelock my Designs.
    I have no miracles; I make Righteous Laws my Miracle.
    I have no principles; I make Adaptability to all circumstances my Principle.
    I have no tactics; I make Emptiness and Fullness my Tactics.

    I have no talent; I make Ready Wit my Talent.
    I have no friends; I make my Mind my Friend.
    I have no enemy; I make Incautiousness my Enemy.
    I have no armour; I make Benevolence my Armour.
    I have no castle; I make Immovable Mind my Castle.
    I have no sword; I make No Mind my Sword.

    Note: I still am not sure about the meaning of an "Um" in the line about life and death. Was it om, or "Mu" or as some suggest that composite entity that moves forward from one incarnation to the next.

    Also note: there seems to be a underlying morality, with elements of immorality, and amorality in this creed.

    Often this creed is taught along with seven principles as the essence of Bushido. The seven principle are

    1. Gi: the right decision make with equanimity, and the willingness to face the consequence of the actions resulting from that decision.

    2. Yu: bravery

    3. Jin: benevolence and compassion.

    4. Rei: right action and courtesy.

    5. Makoto: sincerity; truthfulness.

    รณ. Melyo: honor

    7. Chugo: devoted loyalty.

    Bushido spirit, when taken seriously and as an integral part of good, solid martial arts practice can have a very powerful effect.

    I often wonder if our warrior class i.e. out armed forces would be better if more bushido were incorporated. Some already bring strong bushido spirit into their careers as soliders, marines, etc.

    I imagine in it can be incorporated (or warped) into some kinds of mercenary service as well.