Those of you that stop by regularly know I am not a martial artist, but rather more in line with the Way of the Scholar. (Or at least I try.) However, in this day of exploded media, one must pick and choose. Studying Confucianism as the Way of ancient Scholarship is not as interesting as studying the habits of mind necessary for a samurai warrior. This book contains numerous clues--and not just for warriors.
The translator took about 300 of its pieces of knowledge out of about 1300, so that we can have what he thought was the essence of the text plus some further excerpts he thought interesting. The book is not a philosophy, he explains, but rather meditations on how to live a warrior code.
The Hagakure was written after the most warlike period, at a time when administration was beginning to be prized in daily life and war was a little less important. Therefore, its pages have some nostalgia in them, reflections on how warriorship and service apply in a more secure society. The application of discipline and manners. The willingness to die for one's leader or one's cause, to sacrifice everything. What I have read so far concentrates on the refinement of the person, to make him fit for duty in its strongest sense. But it is not a lecture--far from it. It's elusive, living in the shadows of leaves. Here is one quote:
When I was young, I kept a "Diary of Regret" and tried to record my mistakes day by day, but there was never a day I did not have twenty or thirty entries. As there was no end to it, I gave up. Even today, when I think about the day's affairs after going to bed, there is never a day when I do not make some blunder in speaking or some activity. living without mistakes is truly impossible. But this is something that people who live by cleverness have no inclination to think about. (p. 61)Here is a little humor (the ardent youth and the self-castigating insomniac), and that brings perspective on performance. The main point I see is that he reviews his day and his behavior. Every morning he rises up to begin another day, with the perspective that he will try again for a human perfection--flawed, but as correct as possible. That speaks to me.
Here is another great quote, about giri*. Everyone coming out of a reflective Memorial Day will get this one.
Lord Naoshige once said, "There is nothing felt quite so deeply as giri. There are times when someone like a cousin dies and it is not a matter of shedding tears. But we may hear of someone who lived fifty or a hundred years ago, of whom we know nothing and who has no family ties with us whatsoever, and yet from a sense of giri shed tears."
This answers a question of mine, for sure. Anyway, I am enjoying the book very much. It is also a book where "taking a dip" can be as interesting as reading it from front to back. Of course as a scholar I am reading it front to back.
I recommend this text to anyone.
Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Translated by William Scott Wilson. Kodansha Press.
*Giri: a debt of gratitude, duty, justice, obligation, a sense of honor.
For those of you who wonder about absent giri today--the May muster will be tomorrow. This was a tough weekend for law enforcement so I need an extra day to be sure my muster is correct.
For the rest of the day, I am sure I will make mistakes--but instead of writing them down I think I will do my best to behave correctly in each minute, not letting past mistakes interfere with present correctness.
Have a great day, everyone! Here is a print by Hiroshige from his Views of Kyoto series. Farmers, not warriors.