-The Soul of Japan-
Written by Inazo Nitobe
Chapter 1 Bushido as an Ethical System
Chapter 2 Sources of Bushido
Chapter 3 Correct Judgment or Justice
Chapter 4 Courage, the Spirit of Daring and Bearing
Chapter 5 Kindness, the Feeling of Mental Pain (1)
Chapter 5 Kindness, the Feeling of Mental Pain (2)
Chapter 6 Politeness
Chapter 7 Honesty and Sincerity
Chapter 8 Honor
Chapter 9 The Duty of Loyalty
Chapter 10 The Education and the Training of a Samurai
Chapter 11 Self - Control
Chapter 12 Suicide and Revenge (1)
Chapter 12 Suicide and Revenge (2)
Chapter 13 The Sword, the Soul of the Samurai
Chapter 14 The Training and Position of Women (1)
Chapter 14 The Training and Position of Women (2)
Chapter 15 The Influence of Bushido
Chapter 16 Is Bushido Still Alive? (1)
Chapter 16 Is Bushido Still Alive? (2)
Chapter 17 The Future of Bushido (1)
Chapter 17 The Future of Bushido (2)
I was often asked my wife and other people why certain ideas and customs existed in Japan. In particular, one European man was surprised that religion is not taught in the school in Japan. He wondered how moral education was taught. I thought about my own ideas of right and wrong. I came to realize that my gteacherh was Bushido and that I could not explain the customs to my wife and others if they did not understand feudalism and Bushido. With this in mind, I wrote this book.
I use examples from European history and literature in order to aid the understanding of foreign readers. I believe deeply in the teaching of Christ, but I do not like the later methods and forms which darken those teachings. I also believe in the law written in the hearts of all people in all nations. I am well instructed in things new and old both in Japan and the rest of the world. I include foreign impressions of Japan-good and bad.
This book is more than an important message to the rest of the world. It helps in solving one of the biggest problems of our time-the unity of East and West.
Bushido as an Ethical System
Chivalry is as much a part of Japan as its national flower, the cherry blossom. It is not an old, dry, historical virtue. It is still a living object of power and beauty. While it has no shape, we know that we are under its influence. The social conditions in which it was born have long disappeared. The light of chivalry, which was a child of feudalism, still shines upon us with its moral teaching. It is a pleasure for me to think about it, as it is for some English people to think about their past knights in shining armor. It is sad and disappointing to note, however, that even some scholars do not know that chivalry ever existed anywhere at any time. Carl Marx, in his Capital, however, urged his readers to study the social and political institutions of feudalism, as it then existed in Japan. I also hope my readers will study the chivalry of present day Japan.
I do not intend to compare European and Japanese feudalism. My attempt is rather to write about the origin and sources of our chivalry, its character and teaching. I also write about its influence on the masses and the continuing permanence of that influence.
The Japanese word which I have roughly called chivalry is more than just horsemanship. Bu-shi-do literally means Military-Knight-Ways. These are the ways which fighting nobles should observe in their daily lives and follow in their work. They are the moral rules of the warrior class. From now on I would like to use the Japanese word because it is a teaching which is very unique and produces a distinct type of mind and character. So it is with some words. They are very expressive of national character. This is not just the case with some Japanese words but also other languages.
Bushido, then, is a set of moral rules which the samurai had to follow. It is an unspoken law written only in the heart of man. It was founded not by one man alone but was the result of the natural growth of centuries of military careers. Early in the 17th century there were military laws (buke hatto). They had to do mostly with marriages, castles and so on, almost nothing about moral instruction. We cannot, therefore, point to a definite time and say, gHere is where it began.h It was born in the feudal age but feudalism itself is hard to identify with a specific time.
In England the political institutions of feudalism may be said to date from the Norman Conquest (1066). In Japan we may also say that its rise was at the same time Yoritomo came to power in the 12th century. But in England we find that the social elements of feudalism go back to the period previous to William the Conqueror. The seeds of feudalism in Japan also existed long before Yoritomo.
Also, in Japan as in Europe, when feudalism formally started, the professional class of warriors naturally became widely known. These were known as samurai, meaning guards or attendants.
The Sino-Japanese word buke or bushi came into common use in Japan. The words mean gfighting knights,h who were a privileged class. Originally they must have been a rough breed whose work was fighting. They were selected in a natural way. Only the strongest survived over periods of constant war. To borrow Emersonfs phrase, they were ga rude race, all masculine, with brutish strength.h They had many advantages, great honor and heavy responsibility. Soon they felt the need of a common standard of behavior, especially since they were always fighting and belonged to different clans. They were in need of some measure by which to be judged such as fair play in fight, a primitive sense of childhood morality. Is this not the root of all military and civic virtue? The British boy had two ideals; 1) never bully a smaller boy and 2) never run away from a bigger one. This is the basis on which the greatness of England was built. The same was true of Bushido.
Some of the most gentle-hearted of men also believe in war. For others it is the foundation of all the arts, high virtues and powers of men; war nourishes the great nations. Childhood begins with these ideas and so does knighthood, but this faith seeks its own justification, satisfaction and development. War without high moral support would fall far short of the ideals of knighthood and the samurai. One man said that religion, war and glory were the three souls of a perfect Christian knight. In Japan there were several sources of Bushido.
Sources of Bushido
One may begin with Buddhism, from which we get a sense of calm trust in Fate, a giving in to what will be. We have no fear of danger, bad luck or death. When a pupil equals his master, Zen Buddhism becomes the teacher. Zen leads one to reach levels of thought beyond words. Its method is long, quiet, deep thinking. It brings one to the realization of the basic Truth which underlies everything. Its goal is to be in harmony with that Truth. One awakens to a new heaven and a new earth.
What we could not get from Buddhism was provided by Shinto abundantly -loyalty to the Emperor, respect for onefs ancestors and devotion to onefs parents. These things balanced the arrogance of the samurai with humility. Shinto teaches that man is basically good and pure. The mirror in a Shinto shrine is for you to see yourself, the very image of the Deity. It is for you to know yourself-your moral nature. Also, the nature -worship of Shinto makes our country dear to our souls. Ancestor-worship makes the Imperial family the fountainhead of the whole nation. To us the country is more than just soil for planting. It is the holy home of the gods. To us the Emperor is the bodily representative of Heaven on earth. It is said that British royalty is not only the image of authority but also the symbol of national unity. I believe that royalty in Japan is even stronger.
The teachings of Shinto have to do with the two main points of the emotional life of the Japanese people -love of country and loyalty. Our national faith is not based on philosophy or religion but on instinctive racial feelings. These strong and deep racial emotions were totally implanted in Bushido, not so much as teachings but as impulses. Shinto therefore provided rules for doing rather than believing.
In regard to ethical instruction, the teachings of Confucius were much used for forming Bushido. The five moral relations -between and servant (lord and follower), father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, friend and friend -were well suited to the samurai, who formed the ruling class. In addition to Confucius, Mencius also had great influence on Bushido, even though some of his democratic theories were considered to be against the existing social order. Their writings formed the main textbooks for young people and were the highest authority in discussions among old people.
For the typical samurai, however, to have knowledge only was to be a fool. Book learning alone was compared to a bad -smelling vegetable that must be boiled and boiled before it can be used. Too little learning and too much learning were both unpleasant. The samurai thought that knowledge really becomes knowledge only when it is made a part of the mind of the learner and shows in his character. Intellect itself was therefore considered inferior to ethical emotion. Man and the universe both were thought to be spiritual and ethical. Bushido could not accept the judgment of Huxley -that the natural process was unmoral.
Knowledge, therefore, was not an end in itself but only a means to attaining wisdom. So anyone who stopped short of this goal was regarded as being nothing more than a machine. The true importance of knowledge was its practical application in life. This was repeated over and over by the Chinese philosopher Wan Yang Ming; gTo know and act are one and the same.h Some of the noblest of bushi were strongly influenced by him. His writings have many similarities to those in the New Testament. gSeek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be given to you.h This is a thought that may be found on almost any page of Wan Yang Ming. A Japanese disciple of his said that the lord of heaven and earth lives in the heart of man (his kokoro, mind). He is living and always shining. We know right and wrong by this, called conscience, which does not make errors. The Japanese mind, as expressed by the ideals of Shinto, was able to understand and appreciate Yang Mingfs thoughts easily.
So the thoughts from various sources comprising Bushido were few and simple. They made possible the safe conduct of life through the unsafest periods in our history. By these thoughts a new and unique type of man was formed. In the 16th century everything was confused in Japan. But there was the need for each man to do justice for himself. Those conditions made man into a superb animal -totally militant.
Correct Judgment or Justice
Here we clarify the strongest rule in the belief of the samurai. He hated most of all anything dishonest. He was ready to decide upon one kind of action or another in accordance with reason without hesitating. Die when it is right to die, fight when it is right to fight. His belief was like the bones which support the flesh and various parts of the body. Without bones one cannot be a human being. Without such a belief one could not be a samurai. Virtuous action, according to Mencius, is a straight and narrow path. Man ought to take it to regain the lost paradise.
Any name meaning mastery of leaning or art was inferior to the name Gishi (righteous man). The famous 47 Samurai (of Chushingura) are commonly known as the 47 Gishi.
In times when cheating and lies were seen so much, this manly virtue, open and honest, was a jewel without parallel. It was the twin brother of bravery in battle.
Another word which may have derived from Gi is Gi-ri, which means right reason but which came to mean a sense of duty. Originally it meant the Giri we owe to parents, superiors, inferiors, society, etc. Love (of parents) should be the only reason for such a feeling. If there is no love (in some other relationship), manfs reason must be the force which makes him behave in a righteous way. The same is true of any other moral obligation. As a reason for doing something, it is very much inferior to the Christian idea of love. I think it is the product of an unnatural society in which birth determines class differences, in which age (seniority) is considered more important than superior ability and so on. Because of this kind of unnatural society, Giri was used to call something evil grighth -for example, a daughter had to sell her body (virginity) in order to get money to pay for her fatherfs bad habits. Starting as Right Reason, Giri, in time, became something completely different -a misleading, incorrect word (a monster)! It was used to pretend to be right. It could have been the tool of cowards. But Bushido had a keen and correct sense of courage -the sprit of daring and how one conducts himself in all situations.
Courage, the Spirit of Daring and Bearing
To be daring means to be bold (fearless).Onefs bearing is how you conduct yourself in all situations (in peace, in danger, etc). Courage was not considered to be a virtue unless it was for Righteousness. Courage meant doing what is right. But to face danger or risk, or to die for something which is not right is foolishness, not courage. Anyone can die like a dog but true courage sighs to live when it is right to live and to die only when it is right to die.
A truly brave man is always calm, serene. He is never taken b surprise, even in the face of death. He is cool in battle, unshaken by earthquakes and laughs at storms. In extreme danger hi can write a poem, sing a song quietly to himself. These are the sings of a big spirit, a mind capable holding much (yoyu). Things which are serious to ordinary people are simply play to the brave man. He is ready to exchange witty remarks with the enemy. If the enemy is brave, he will not be put shame by the conquering warrior. The enemy could be respected and even loved. During the Sengoku period (about 1500) two famous feudal lords had been fighting each other for 14 years -Uesugi Kenshin of the Niigata area and Takeda Shingen of the Yamanashi area. When Kenshin heard of Shingenfs death, he cried aloud at the loss of gthe best of enemies.h It was this same Kenshin who had set a noble example for all time in his treatment of Shingen. Singenfs area was away from the sea and he could not get salt from another area whose lord had refused to supply him wit it. When Kenshin heard about Shingenfs problem, he decided to supply him with salt, even though they were at war. Kenshin said, gI do not fight with salt but with the sword.hBravery and honor alike require that we should have as enemies only those who are worthy of being friends in peace.
Strength of mind and body and fearless courage appeal very much to young minds. They are the qualities that young boys wanted to imitate and have as their own. Stories of military courage were well known from a very early age. A mother would become angry at her little boy if he complained about some small pain. She would say, gWhat will you do when your arm is cut off in battle? What will you do if you have to do hara-kiri?h Even when his stomach is empty, for a samurai it is a disgrace to show that he is hungry. Many such stories are told but they are not the only way of building a daring and fearless spirit. Sometimes a samuraifs son was not given food, or was made to go out in the cold to test his endurance. Very young children were made to rise before the sun, to study before breakfast, to walk to their teacherfs place with bare feet in the middle of winter, or to stay up all night without sleep.
Does this ultra-Spartan way of training the nerves shock the modern educator? Do you think these things bruised the tender emotions of the young heart? Let us see in another chapter what other concepts Bushido had of valor.
Kindness, the Feeling of Mental Pain (1)
Love, gibing freely (money, time, etc.), the feeling of tenderness for another person, sympathy and pity have always been recognized as the highest virtues of the human soul. These are the virtues worthy of a prince. Many times both Confucius and Mencius said that the highest requirement of a ruler of men is to be kind and good. Confucius said that if a prince is kind, all the people will come to him willingly; with people will come land; land will bring wealth and those riches will be used in the right way.@The virtue of kindness is the root and wealth is the fruit. If the ruler is kind, the people will love what is right. A ruler must win the hearths of the people.
During the time of feudalism, which could have developed into morally low-level militarism, we were served from unjust rule by good men. They were men who thought of themselves as the first servants of the State. Feudalism therefore did not produce unjust rulers. A feudal prince felt a high sense of duty to his ancestors and to heaven and was also a father to his subjects. Confucius taught that gwhen the prince loves what the people love, and hates what the people hate, then hi is called the parent of the people.h The ruler and the people become one.
So, in a way that we do not usually think of it, Bushido accepted and supported a fatherly type of government. It did not support that of a less interested uncle (like Uncle Sam!). The difference between an unjust and a fatherly government is that in the former case the people obey unwillingly; in the latter they obey freely, willingly and whole-heatedly. In some other countries the ruler has been called the king of devils because the princess were evil. Or he was called the king of asses because of never-ending taxes and other unjust practices. In still other countries, however, the ruler has been called the king of men because the people followed him willingly.
Virtue and absolute power may strike the Western mind as being out of harmony. According to Bismarck, however, absolutism demands in the ruler fairness, honesty, devotion to duty, energy and inward humility. Another German leader spoke of gKingship, by the grace of God, with its heavy duties, its great responsibility to God alone, from which no man or government can release the king.h @@ Correct judgment and justice are considered to be father-like. But kindness, mercy and a gentle heart are thought to be tender and mother-like. We were warned against being too kind without the right amount of correct judgment and justice. One man said that excessive right judgment/justice is too hard and stiff and being too kind becomes a weakness. The bravest people are daring people. Bushi no nasake (the tenderness of the warrior) appealed to that which is noble in us. It was not because the mercy of a samurai was different from the mercy of other people, but because it was a mercy which recognized due regard for justice. It was not just a state of mind but was backed with the power to save or kill.
The samurai fully supported what Mencius taught concerning the power of love. gKindness,h hi said, ginfluences anything which is in its way, just as water overcomes fire. The feeling of distress is the root of kindness, so a good man is always mindful of people who are suffering and in distress.h These noble ideas are shared by various countries.
Kindness, the Feeling of Mental Pain (2)
Kindness to the weak, the oppressed or the defeated was a virtue which was becoming to a samurai. Loves of Japanese art must be familiar with the sight of a priest riding backwards on a cow. The rider was once a warrior who was equated with terror. In that terrible battle of Sumano-ura (1184 A.D.), he overtook one of the enemy and had hold of him in his gigantic arms. The etiquette of war at that time required that, on such occasions, the defeated should not be killed unless he was of equal rank or ability to the stronger one. The conquering warrior demanded the name of the other. But the weaker man made no sound. So his helmet was torn off, which revealed a young, beardless face. The very surprised knight relaxed his hold, helped the youth to his feet and ordered him to go. gFlee, young prince, to your motherfs side! The sword of Kumagai will never be stained by your blood. Go, before your enemies come!hThe young warrior refused to go and begged Kumagai (for the honor of both of them) to kill him on the spot. His sword had taken many lives before but now he hesitates ?he canft do it. He has a vision of his own beloved son who this very day went into battle. The strong hand of the warrior shakes. Again he begs the youth to flee for his life. The young man does not move and now one can hear the approaching steps of Kumagaifs comrades. gIf they find you, your fate will be worse than that by may hand. May the gods receive your soul.h In an instant the sword flashes in the air and when it falls it is red with young blood. When the war is over, the conquering soldier returns but now, for him, honor and fame are not important. He gives up his military career, shaves his head, puts on the clothing of a priest, and devotes the remainder of his life to holy work.
This story shows that tenderness, pity and love were very much a part of the samuraifs character, even at times of bloody encounters. An old saying among the samurai was that a bird hunter must not kill one which flies to his chest for protection. This does a lot to explain why the Red Cross movement, considered to be so Christian, was quickly and strongly accepted by us. Long before we ever heard of the Geneva Convention, Bakin, our greatest novelist, had taught us about medical treatment for a fallen enemy.
In Satsuma (the western part of Kagoshima), famous for its martial spirit and education, there was a custom among young men to practice music. It was the tender sound of the biwa which took their thoughts away from war. The same kind of custom was no cruelty in that part of the country. It was the not only in Satsuma where gentleness was taught to the warrior class. A prince of Shirakawa advised us to cherish the fragrance of flowers, the sound of distant bells and the sounds of insects on a cold night. He also said that we should forgive the breeze that scatters your flowers, the cloud that hides your moon and someone who tries to fight with you.
The writing of poetry was encouraged not only to express these feelings but also to cultivate them. In our poetry, therefore, there is a strong undercurrent of pity and tenderness. The soul of the brave warrior could even be awakened to the sweet notes of the uguisu. Often a marching soldier would halt, take out writing utensils from his belt, and compose a poem. Such papers were found later in the helmets or breastplates of the lifeless writers. Compassion can be brought out in people in various ways. In Japan, among the hardened samurai, it was brought about by the love of music and poetry. This, in turn, bring out consideration for the feelings of others.
All foreign tourists have noticed that the Japanese people are very polite. Politeness is good if it shows sympathy for the feelings of other people. It should also show respect for social positions, which were originally due to actual merit, not birth. In its highest form politeness is close to love. Politeness is patient, kind, does not envy, does not praise itself, is not proud, behaves correctly and does not allow evil. One must know, however, the difference between true and false politeness.
When correct behavior became essential, it was natural that a system of etiquette should become popular. It was used to train young people how to bow, walk, sit and serve tea. Table manners became a science. Serving and drinking tea came to be a ceremony. A man of education was expected to master all of these things.
Some Europeans, however, have spoken badly about our etiquette. They say that we think about it too much and follow it too strictly. There may be some unnecessary points about ceremony. But is it any more foolish than strictly following the ever-changing fashions of the West? I think even fashions are not foolish. They simply show that human beings are always looking for something beautiful. Even more so, I do not think that ceremony is completely unimportant. It expresses the best way of achieving something, a result of long practice. The best way is the most economical and the most graceful. One man defined grace as the most economical manner of motion. The tea ceremony shows the best way to hold a bowl, a spoon, a napkin and so on. It may look boring or tiring but we soon realize that itfs the best way to save time and labor. It is therefore the most graceful.
Etiquette and ceremony are outward signs of inner spiritual discipline. I will not touch on the origins and motives of our ceremonies. But I would like to emphasize the moral training which is involved. Etiquette became very detailed, so much so that various groups had their own special way of doing things. But the essential points were all the same. The best known group, the Ogasawara, said that the purpose of all etiquette is to train the mind. So even when you are sitting quietly, not even a violent person can upset you. This means that, by constant exercise in correct manners, one brings mind and body together into perfect order and harmony with onefs environment. The spirit should always be the master of the flesh.
If what we said, that gracefulness is economy of motion, is true, then constant practice of it must bring with it a reserve of motion. Fine manners, therefore, means stored power at rest. A good example is Cha-no-yu, the tea ceremony. Sipping tea is a fine art. It began with the mystical thinking of a Hindu hermit. It brings about calmness of mind, a clear and peaceful mood, and quiet behavior. These are the first essentials of Cha-no-yu and, without doubt, the first conditions of right thinking and right feeing. The small room in which it is done is itself a great help to direct onefs thoughts away from the world. It is clean, simple and cut off from the sights and sounds of the noisy world. The simple interior does not distract onefs attention like the various and many things in a Western room. The kakemono calls our attention more to grace of design than to beauty of color. The tea ceremony was created by the hermit during a time of war and was more than just a pastime. Before entering the quiet room, the soldiers taking part in it laid aside their swords together with thoughts of battle and cares of government. In the little room they found peace and friendship.
Cha-no-yu is more than ceremony ?it is a fine art, poetry in motion. Most importantly, it is a discipline for the soul of man.
Politeness gives grace to manners. But its function does not stop there. Suitable behavior comes from goodness and is put into action by tender feelings toward other people ?a graceful expression of sympathy. It says that we should cry with those who cry and be happy with those who are happy. It is seen in the fine details of everyday life, sometimes unnoticed. For example, if you are out in the hot sum with no shade over you and a friend passes by, you stop him to say hello. He was carrying an umbrella but while he talks with you he is not holding it over his head. So now he is also in the sun, unprotected, like you. One might say, gHow foolish!h but thatfs not the point. By his action, he is saying to you that he sympathizes with you. He would take you under his umbrella if it were big enough but itfs not so he decides to share your discomfort. Even a small act like this shows thoughtful feeling.
Another Japanese custom should be mentioned. It is often misunderstood b superficial writers of Japan. In America, when you present a gift to someone, you tell the other person how nice it is. In contrast, the Japanese way of thinking is that no gift is nice enough for the person receiving it. We want the other person to accept it not because it is good or nice but only as a small symbol of our feeling. The American speaks of the material of which the gift is made; the Japanese values the spirit in which it is given.
In the same way that a book cannot be judged by its cover, a standard of behavior should not be judged by the least important of is examples or types. Which is more important, to eat or to observe rules about eating properly? Which is more important, to tell the truth or to be polite? The Japanese are said to give an answer which is completely the opposite to what an American will say. But I must withhold comment until I discuss honesty and sincerity.
Honesty and Sincerity
Without honesty and sincerity, politeness is nothing. Doing the right thing beyond the proper bounds becomes a lie. If you are true to yourself, the gods will always watch over you. Sincerity is the beginning and the end of all things.
The bushi thought that his high social position was worthy of a higher standard of truth than ordinary people. Bushi no ichi-gon (the word of a samurai) could be trusted. His word alone was enough, without anything in writhing. There are many thrilling stories about those who made the mistake of ni-gon (double talk) and paid for it by dying.
Sometimes a warrior would swear in the name of a god or upon his sword. But the regard for truth was so high that the best of samurai looked upon an oath as something beneath his honor. Truth is sometimes sacrificed for the sake of being polite. If someone dislikes you and you ask him if he dislikes you, most people will tell a lie and say gI like you very much.h But for the Japanese, this is different from uso (a lie). It was merely regarded as an empty form (kyo-rei).
I admit I am speaking now about the Bushido idea of truth. But we should also touch on the honesty of the business world, about which I have heard many complaints in foreign books and journals. It is true that loose business morals have given us a bad name but let us look at this carefully for future comfort.
Of all the great kinds of work in life, the one which was farthest from the warrior was that of the businessman. The businessman was of the lowest rank. Number one was the warrior, number two was farmer, number three was the craftsman and number four was the businessman. The samurai could farm if hi wanted to, but he hated any kind of business activity. We know the wisdom of this social arrangement because it prevented wealth from accumulating in the hands of the powerful. We also know that one cause of the fall of theman Empire was that people in power were also permitted to do business. This resulted in money and power being in the hands of a few families.
Businessman in feudal Japan, however, did not develop in that way. The disgrace attached to that kind of work attracted people who did not care much about social position. gCall a man a thief and hi will steal.h The commercial business people had a moral system among themselves. With it they developed such things as the bank, insurance, etc. but in their relations with people outside of their business, they lived up to their bad reputation. So when the country was opened to trade, only the most adventurous and those with no idea of what is right and wrong rushed to the ports. Was Bushido not able to do anything about the dishonor of the business world? Let us see.
Those who know Japanese history will remember that only a few years after some of the ports were opened to trade, feudalism came to an end. The samuraifs land was taken from them and in return they were given money. They were free to use that money for business. We would expect, then, that they would bring their values into business relations and reform the bad practices. Those who had eyes to see could not cry enough, those who had hearts to feel could not sympathize enough because many honest samurai failed in their business attempts. They failed because they lacked the skill do deceive, a skill which their rivals had mastered. We know that 80% of business attempts in America fail. So it is no wonder that only 1 in 100 samurai succeeded in business in Japan. Bushido values could not be applied to business and unbelievable amounts of money were lost. It was soon clear that the ways of wealth were not the ways of honor. But how were they different?
In Bushido there was no economic honesty because business was not a part of it. There was no political honesty because it could hardly develop under a feudal system. In Bushido there was only philosophical honesty and this was the highest kind of honesty. With all may sincere regard for the business honesty of the Anglo-Saxon race, I am told the reason is that ghonesty is the best policy.h It pays to be honest. So isnft this virtue its own reward? If it is followed because it brings in more cash than dishonesty, Ifm afraid Bushido would rather tell lies!
Truth owes its growth largely to the world of business. Honesty is the youngest of the virtues and is the child of modern industry. Honesty proved to be a profitable virtue to practice. In the early days of trade, German goods were unreliable in regard to both quality and quantity. But now we hear very little of German carelessness and dishonesty in trade. They finally learned that honesty pays and our businessmen also have found out the same thing.
Often I have wondered if the truth of Bushido had any motive higher than courage. Lying was not a sin but was called a weakness and, as such, highly dishonorable. Honesty I should pause for a few moments to consider this aspect of Knighthood.
A sense of honor had to be very much a part of the samurai character. They were educated to value the duties and privileges of the warrior class. The idea was taught to them by such words as na (name; upholding onefs name), men-moku (face ?not to lose face through shame), and gai-bun (outside hearing ?hearing abut a personfs respectability in public). Anything which damaged onefs good name was felt as shame. This sense of shame (ren-chi-shin) was one of the earliest things to be learned. gYou will be laughed at,h gIt will disgrace you,h gAre you not ashamed?h were the words used to correct bad behavior. The child felt these words strongly, as though hi had learned them in his motherfs womb. This sense of shame seems to me to be the earliest sign of moral awareness of a race. It is also closely connected with strong family feeling. The worst thing that the human race experienced very long ago was the awakening of the sense of shame. Our first sense of shame is represented by the fig leaf. With it we felt we must cover the nude body. A samurai who had experienced a slight humiliation when hi was young did not let it change his character. He felt that if it were not corrected, it might lead to worse things. The early shame made him a better person because he did not let it continue.
In every samurai the fear of disgrace was very strong, even to the point of being cruel, which was not part of Bushido. At the slightest or imagined insult, a short-tempered man would use his sword to kill. There is a story of well-meaning ordinary person who told a samurai that there was a flea on his back. There really was flea but since fleas are usually found on animals, the samurai was insulted and killed the other person. The story may have been invented just to scare people. In any case, it shows the strong sense of shame which had developed in the warriors. Such a story is an extreme case, not the norm.
This kind of cruel excess in regard to honor was strongly counterbalanced by generosity and patience. It was considered to be very bad behavior to get angry because of something small and unimportant. There was a popular saying, gTo bear what you think you cannot bear is really to bear.h The great Ieyasu gave us some good things to think about: gThe life of a man is like going a long distance with a heavy load upon the shoulders. Do not be in a hurry. Do not point out the faults of others. Be forever watchful of your own faults to be patient and endure the difficulties of the world is the secret of long life.h And he was a good example of what he said. Mencius taught us that anger because of something small is unworthy of a superior man. But anger for the sake of a great cause is just.
Other people have given us great things to think about: gWhen someone speaks badly about you, do not do the same in return; rather think about what you have done wrong.h Or gWhen others blame you, do not blame them also; when they are angry at you, do not return the anger; joy comes to you only when strong feelings leave you.h Still another is gHeaven loves all men equally; you should love others in the same way that you love yourself; make Heaven your partner and do your best.h Some of these sound like Christian thoughts. They show us that natural religion is close to revealed religion. These were not only sayings but the very fiber of action.
Very few people achieved this height of generosity, patience and forgiveness. Also., only a few men realized that honor exists within each person. It was easy to forget onefs honor in the heart of action. Each man should love honor but should also remember that it is not something outside of oneself. Much of that which men call honor is not good honor. Too often the goal toward which young men strived was fame or pride in oneself. Many young men left home and vowed not to return until they had become famous and many ambitious mothers told their sons the same thing. The youngsters therefore would go through any kind of mental or physical suffering in order to achieve their goal. They wanted honor early ?at a young age. One young son of Ieyasu was placed not at the front but at the rear of the army when an attack was made on a castle. When the castle fell, he cried bitterly because he was not at the front to win honor and fame. One man told him he would have other chances in the future but he angrily replied that he would never be 14 years old again! For this, a boy would give up his life.
The Duty of Loyalty
Feudal morals have similarities with other systems of ethics but loyalty is the most special. It is the respect and duty given to onefs lord. Being faithful is a virtue which exists among all kinds of people. But it is only in chivalry that it reaches its highest importance.
Hegel thought that loyalty should be shown to people (a nation), not to one person. Bismarck thought it was a German virtue but also one of other countries. In America or feeling for loyalty cannot be appreciated because all people are thought to be equal. In the same way that justice in one country may be considered injustice in another country, loyalty as we think of it may not be admired elsewhere. This is not because our idea is wrong but because it is, Ifm afraid, forgotten. It is also because we carry it to a degree not reached in any other country. In China, to obey onefs parents was the first duty. In Japan the first duty was loyalty to onefs lord.
There is a story which may shock my readers. It is about one of the greatest characters of our history, Sugawara Michizane. He was a victim of jealousy and false charges and was forced to leave the capital. His enemies also wanted to destroy his family. They began searching for his young son. They found out that he was being secretly kept at a school in a village. The master of the school was a man called Genzo, who was a former follower and supporter of Michizane. Genzo was ordered to deliver the head of Michizanefs son on a certain day. But Genzo tried to find someone else instead. He looked carefully at all of the boys in the school but not one of them resembled Michizanefs son. But at last he found another boy who looked like Michizanefs son. On the appointed day an officer came to the school to identify and receive the head of the boy. This officerfs father had also been in the service of Michizane and the two of them knew about the situation of Michizanefs son. From the time when Michizane was forced to leave the capital, the officer was forced to be in the service of the enemy of Michizane. When he arrived at the school he identified the head as being that of Michizanefs son, but in fact the head was that of his very own son. The officer himself could not be untrue to his new and cruel master but his own son could be the way to save Michizanefs son. When the officer returned home that night he told his wife to be happy because their son had been of service to Michizane.
You may think this is a terrible story but the parents of the boy (and the boy himself) knew that he closely resembled Michizanefs son. They had decided that the young boy should be a sacrifice so it was not just Genzo who had decided his fate. It was an example of total submission to loyalty to onefs lord, much the same as Abrahamfs intended sacrifice of Isaac in the Bible.
Individual thinking in the West places importance on the separate interests of father and son, husband and wife and so on. But Bushido held that the interests of the family as one unit are the most important things. Even so, this natural feeling was below loyalty to onefs lord. There are many stories about the deep emotional struggles between loyalty to onefs family and loyalty to onefs lord. Many people would rather die than make such a difficult decision. The Japanese ko (filial piety) is very strong. But in such conflicts of the heart, loyalty to onefs lord was the higher virtue. Even mothers encouraged their sons to sacrifice everything for their load.
Bushido took the position that society or the state was here before the individual. A person must live and die for it or for its leaders. The individual is the servant of the state. Bushido shares these ideas with such great men of the past as Aristotle and Socrates. The difference is that Bushido says that society is represented by a personal being and loyalty is the ethical result of this idea.
Even among so democratic a people as the English, the feeling of personal loyalty to a man and his descendants comes from the feeling their Germanic ancestors had for their chiefs. This has now passed more or less into their loyalty to royalty.
But in all of this let us not confuse loyalty to the lord who lives on the land and loyalty to the king who lives in our hearts. We can be faithful to both. Christians obey worldly rulers and their Load at the same time. gGive to Caesar the things that are Caesarfs and give to God the things that are Godfs.h One must follow his country and his conscience. If the state ever grows so powerful as to take away our conscience, we are doomed!
Bushido did not require us to make our conscience the slave of any lord or king. Any man who allowed that to happen had a low social standing. He was hated as a nei-shin (unreliable supporter) or cho-shin (flattering gyes-manh). When a follower differed in opinion from his master, the loyal path for him to pursue was to use every available means to persuade him of his error. If he fails, the master may do with him as he wills. In cases of this kind, it was usual for the samurai to make the last appeal to his lord by showing his sincerity with his own blood.
One served his master with his life, which was based on honor. This is how the education and training of a samurai was conducted.
The Education and Training of a Samurai
The first thing to be developed was character; of less importance was being careful in onefs activities, intelligence and logic. We touched on the value of such things as poetry, but these were accessories and not essentials of samurai training. A superior mind was highly regarded but the word Chi referred to wisdom more than knowledge. The three things which supported Bushido training were Chi (wisdom), Jin (goodness) and Yu (courage). A samurai was essentially a man of action. He was concerned with science only in regard to weapons. Religion was important only in giving him courage. Literature was mainly a pastime. Philosophy was of help in the formation of character or in regard to some military or political problem.
Studies consisted of learning how to use the sword, the bow and arrow, the spear; how to ride a horse; military tactics, jujutsu, calligraphy, ethics, literature and history. Of these, jujutsu and calligraphy were particularly important -calligraphy for its artistic value and as an indication of a personfs character; jujutsu as knowledge of onefs body for the purpose of self -defense.
We were taught not to show any emotion due to sorrow or pain. We should be polite to others by not expressing our own troubles. This became a part of our national character but this should not be misunderstood. It may be true of some people some of the time but I do not think it can ever be true of a whole nation. In this regard, to the foreign observer, we may seem hard- hearted but we are really as capable of tender emotion as any race under the sky.
In one way I think we have to feel more than others because to hold back emotion is suffering itself. Imagine children brought up in that way- does it make them stronger or more sensitive? One description of a great character is that the person shows no sign of joy or anger. Even the most natural feelings were kept under control- a father wanting to embrace his son, a husband wanting to kiss his wife. At least what one did in front of others was different from what he did in front private. There may be truth in what someone in public and beat them in private; Japanese husbands beat theirs in public and kiss them in private!
Calm behavior and a calm mind should not be disturbed by passion of any kind. I remember when, during the recent war with China, a large group of soldiers left one town. Many people went to the station to see them off. An American also went there, expecting to see loud demonstrations. The whole nation was highly excited and there were fathers, mothers, wives, and sweethearts in the crowd. But nothing happened. The people only bowed deeply in silence. You could hear a few people crying only if you listened very carefully.
In everyday life also, I know of a father who spent whole nights listening to the breathing of a sick child. He stood behind a door so that he might not be caught in such an act of parental weakness. There was also a mother who, in her last moments of life, did not send for her son so that he would not be disturbed in his studies.
Even when a man or woman feels something deeply moving in his or her soul, it is quietly controlled and is not expressed in speech. It is truly harsh to Japanese ears to hear sacred words expressing secret heart experiences. One young samurai wrote in his diary that if you have such feelings, you should not disturb them with speech. Let them work alone quietly and secretly. If we put those feelings into words, it is taken by us as a sign that they are not deep or sincere. As one Frenchman said, speech is often the art of concealing thought.
If you call on a friend in time of deepest trouble or suffering, he will always receive you laughing with red eyes or wet cheeks. If you ask him what is wrong, he may say something like gThey who meet must parth or gHe who is born must die.h But he will not say such things unless you press him. To laugh is an effort to regain balance at an unlucky time, as if to oppose the misfortune with an equally strong force.
One way of expressing our emotions, however, is through poetry. A mother who tries to comfort her broken heart imagines her dead child to have gone on a dragonfly chase. She sings softly to herself gI wonder how far he has gone today, my little hunter of the dragonfly?h I will not mention any more examples because it is difficult to express in a foreign language the feelings that have come from the bleeding human heart, drop by drop.
I hope I have to some extent shown the inner working of our minds. It often appears to be hard or a mixture of laugher and sadness, and its soundness is sometimes questioned. It has been suggested that our endurance of pain and lack of worry about death are due to having less sensitive nerves. If that is so, why? One can imagine various reasons but personally I think it is because we were originally very excitable and sensitive and we recognized the need to control ourselves.
Training in self- control, however, can easily go too far. It can have a bad effect on the soul and can make a beautiful character ugly. The ideal we should observe is to keep the mind level. The highest point of self- control is best illustrated in first of the two things we shall discuss in the next chapter.