Random advice from a samurai

“To hate injustice and stand on righteousness is a difficult thing. Furthermore, to think that being righteous is the best one can do and to do one’s utmost to be righteous will, on the contrary, bring many mistakes. The Way is in a higher place than righteousness. This is very difficult to discover, but it is the highest wisdom. When seen from this standpoint, things like righteousness are rather shallow. If one does not understand this on his own, it cannot be known. There is a method of getting to this Way, however, even if one cannot discover it by himself. This is found in consultation with others. Even a person who has not attained this way sees others from the side. It is like the saying from the game of go: ‘He who sees from the side has eight eyes.’ The saying, ‘Thought by thought we see our own mistakes,’ also means that the highest Way is in discussion with others. Listening to the old stories and reading is for the purpose of sloughing off one’s own discrimination and attaching oneself to that of the ancients.”

*

“Narutomi Hyogo said, ‘What is called winning is defeating one’s allies. Defeating one’s allies is defeating oneself, and defeating oneself is vigorously overcoming one’s own body.

It is as though a man were in the midst of ten thousand allies but not a one were following him. If one hasn’t previously mastered his mind and body, he will not defeat the enemy.”

*

“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.”

*

“The saying, ‘The arts aid the body,’ is for samurai of other regions. For the samurai of the Nabeshima clan the arts bring ruin to the body. 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.”

*

“Hoshino Ryotetsu was the progenitor of homosexuality in our province, and although it can be said that his disciples were many, he instructed each one individually. Edayoshi Saburozaemon was a man who understood the foundation of homosexuality. Once, when accompanying his master to Edo, Ryotetsu asked Saburozaemon, ‘What have you understood of homosexuality?’

Saburozaemon replied, ‘It is something both pleasant and unpleasant.’

Ryotetsu was pleased and said, ‘You have taken great pains for some time to be able to say such a thing.’

Some years later there was a person who asked Saburozaemon the meaning of the above. He replied, ‘To lay down one’s life for another is the basic principle of homosexuality. If it is not so, it becomes a matter of shame. However, then you have nothing left to lay down for your master. It is therefore understood to be something both pleasant and unpleasant.'”

*

“Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one: ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.’ Master Ittei commented: ‘Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.'”

*

“For a samurai, a single 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 by one’s mouth.”

*

“The occurrence of mysteries is always by word of mouth.”

*

“Calculating people are contemptible. The reason for this is that calculation deals with loss and gain, and the loss and gain mind never stops. Death is considered loss and life is considered gain. Thus, death is something that such a person does not care for, and he is contemptible.

Furthermore, scholars and their like are men who with wit and speech hide their own true cowardice and greed. People often misjudge this.”

*

“If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it, and trample it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off. This was heard by priest Gyojaku when he was in Kyoto. It is information to be treasured.”

*

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.”

*

“One can understand that Lord Naoshige’s phrase, ‘A faultfinder will come to be punished by others,’ came from his compassion. His saying, ‘Principle is beyond reason,’ should also be considered compassion. He enthusiastically stated that we should taste the inexhaustible.”

My favorite Quixote

And a belated entry to the science of umbrellology:

“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get 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.”

— Yamamoto Tsunetomo (山本常朝), Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

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