Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Hagakure: Defeat at One's Own Hands

A certain swordsman in his declining years said the following:

In one's life, there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful.  At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others.  In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows.  This man has worth. In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing.

These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks he has succeeded.  He has no thoughts of pride but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyu once remarked, "I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself."

Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. William Scott Wilson, Trans. Kodansha Press. pp. 32-33.

6 comments:

Bob G. said...

Ann:
Always said we are works in progress.
As we age...we don't halt learning...we ADAPT.

When you STOP learning...you've probably stopped breathing, too.

Good stuff!

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
I liked this too! As if we progressively lose weaknesses in order to learn.

Have a great day!
Ann T.

Mrs. Bunker said...

The most important thing I've learned in life: the depth of my ignorance. Coming to understand how little I knew was somewhat harsh, but I've accepted it.

Ann T. said...

Dear Mrs. Bunker,
It does seem to require some real humility to do this. Yet it puts you in the exalted company of people like Socrates.

I am not sure, but I hope I am working on the step where I know a lot but don't feel it necessary to inform everybody of this all the time. In short to listen and not go on.

(You can giggle now.)
Thanks for stopping by. I'll do another quote from Hagakure next Tuesday, how about?

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T.
Most fascinating stuff from this book, and again it really dovetails with some profound truths in the Christian tradition. Not so much from the Bible, although our good friend Paul admonishes us to not think more highly of ourselves then we ought (Romans 12:3), but in practice the thoughtful Christian realizes that faith is far deeper then he could ever know.

I would also say the same applies to medicine and healthcare. The more you work in that field, whether it's research or patient care, the more you know how much it is that you don't know.

Looking forward to more :-)
The Observer

WF: ables

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
I think all the virtues are infinite, like faith, and yes!

So are many disciplines, including the ones you mention!

Thanks for stopping in! I am glad you are interested. We are working our way to the higher and better!

Ann T.