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→→→→ vertical line TOPIC: SAMURAI
vertical line Posted on Feb.27.2007 @ 12:45PM EDT by Mushin
I am a practitioner of the Iaido martial arts, and am very involved in the life and beliefs of the samurai. I have even read many of D.T. Suzuki's books. However I am a bit confused as to the justification or rather mindset that the samurai had for practicing zen. I realize part of their ultimate goal was to surpass life and death and the duality of the two, but it seems a bit contradictory that zen does not favor the profession of deadly weapons, or the act of killing, and the fact that some samurai even ones practicing zen buddhism drank alcohol. Does anyone have an insight into the justification or rationalization the samurai had?
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Reply from HarryB
Feb.27.2007
01:49PM EDT 
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Maybe they didn't feel a need to rationalise or justify themselves?

Would you argue the point with them!? :-)

Regards,

H.

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Reply from Woodsman
Feb.27.2007
01:51PM EDT 
Email Woodsman
vertical line Choice.
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Reply from Woodsman
Feb.27.2007
02:29PM EDT 
Email Woodsman
vertical line And, poor water quality.
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Reply from HarryB
Feb.27.2007
02:35PM EDT 
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Two books spring to mind: 'The Five Rings' and 'The Unfettered Mind', both widely available and 'straight from the horse's mouth' so to speak.

From an intro to '5 Rings':

>>>>>The Way of the sword is the moral teaching of the samurai, fostered by the Confucianist philosophy which shaped the Tokugawa system, together with the native Shinto religion of Japan. The warrior courts of Japan from the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period encouraged the austre Zen study among the samurai, and Zen went hand in hand with the arts of war. In Zen the are no elaborations, it aims directly at the true nature of things. There are no ceremonies, no teachings: the prize of Zen is essentially personal. Enlightenment in Zen does not mean a change in behavior, but realisation of the nature of ordinary life. The end point is the beginning, and the great virtue is simplicity. The secret teaching of the Itto Ryu school of Kendo, Kiriotoshi, is the first technique of some hundred or so. The teaching is "Ai Uchi", meaning to cut the opponent just as he cuts you. This is the ultimate training... it is lack of anger. It means to treat your enemy as an honoured guest. It also means to abandon your life or throw away fear.

The first technique is the last, the beginner and the master behave in the same way. Knowledge is a full circle. The first of Musashi's chapter headings is Ground, for the basis of Kendo and Zen, and the last book is Void, for that understanding which can only be expressed as nothingness. The teachings of Kendo are like the fierce verbal forays to which the Zen student is subjected. Assailed with doubts and misery, his mind and spirit in a whirl, the student is gradually guided to realisation and understanding by his teacher. The Kendo student practises furiously, thousands of cuts morning and night, learning fierce techniques of horrible war, until eventually sword becomes "no sword", intention becomes "no intention", a spontaneous knowledge of every situation. The first elementary teaching becomes the highest knowledge, and the master still continues to practise this simple training, his everyday prayer.<<<<<<

A complete translation is on-line here:

http://www.samurai.com/5rings/

Regards,

H

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Reply from Lynnoh
Feb.27.2007
02:43PM EDT 
Email Lynnoh
vertical line I don't know, is the Samurai any different than say, you? why this morning doing gatha the inquiry of "is this praying?" showned up for breakfast... my question would be, "did it stay"?
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Reply from samuel
Feb.27.2007
10:04PM EDT 
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Zen is about the moment. What better way to insure that you are "in the moment" than to have a fight for your life! Nothing dies for a Zen practicioner, so thus, killing does not exist. Thus, battle between two willing combatants is not a travesty. What is a sin, the greatest, is to rob someone of their life when they did not risk it, when they are innocent and unwilling.

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Reply from 77 zen ror
Feb.27.2007
10:14PM EDT 
Email 77 zen ror
vertical line Great words SAM, THANK RORY
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Reply from Woodsman
Feb.27.2007
11:09PM EDT 
Email Woodsman
vertical line Fighting over something is fear. Unless, you don't want that last piece of toast, the birds will sing your name, out under the sun.
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Reply from lehish
Feb.28.2007
12:54AM EDT 
Email lehish
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samuel :)

 

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Reply from HarryB
Feb.28.2007
04:59AM EDT 
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Well said, Samuel.

From the last book of '5 Rings', 'The Book of Void' (emptiness, shunyata etc...)

"...In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness. "

Regards,

Harry.

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Reply from HarryB
Feb.28.2007
05:14AM EDT 
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It may also be worth pointing out that buddhism did/does not have anything much like constructed western 'morality' in many places. Buddhism, as a movement and a personal way of life, was very successful in pervading many cultures and social strata because it has/had a openess and accessability... its not generally big on 'damning the wicked' or denying enlightenment, but notable exceptions to this do and have existed.

Buddhist precepts do/ have not represent a classic western style 'Ten Commandments' to the laity in general. It would be a distortion to equate the two. Overall, and to generalise, I'd say that guilt is not at all as big a thing in Eastern Buddhist traditions, and its certainly less confused with responsibility there. 

Also, the austerity and stripped-down gnarliness that could be said to be a feature of the Zen traditions was very suited to tough, martial men who could revel in its lack of bullshit and pomp after they'd adapted it to their temperament.

Regards,

Harry.

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Reply from Mushin
Feb.28.2007
10:50AM EDT 
Email Mushin
vertical line thanks you for your replys, they have all given me more insight.
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Reply from ZenTurtle
Feb.28.2007
01:17PM EDT 
vertical line Is someone who practices zen required to be a passivist?
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Reply from Woodsman
Feb.28.2007
01:23PM EDT 
Email Woodsman
vertical line Only if he's constipated. Think about it.
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Reply from -----0
Feb.28.2007
02:23PM EDT 
vertical line Samurais were obsessed with duty.
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Reply from HarryB
Feb.28.2007
02:56PM EDT 
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We could formulate value judgements on the samurai's context to the end of time given that their Zen aesthetics were so very different than our 'touchy- feely-give-me-a-hug-and-tiptoe-round-my-precious-little-ego-materialist-Zen' (TM.) in its relative cultural manifestations. We are obsessed with different things altogether (in our wisdom).

Regards,

Harry.

 

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Reply from Woodsman
Feb.28.2007
03:03PM EDT 
Email Woodsman
vertical line That's why I say it's in the water. Drinkin' thinkin'.
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Reply from Lynnoh
Feb.28.2007
05:37PM EDT 
Email Lynnoh
vertical line donuts
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Reply from Lynnoh
Feb.28.2007
05:51PM EDT 
Email Lynnoh
vertical line AND donut holes
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Reply from 77 zen ror
Feb.28.2007
06:19PM EDT 
Email 77 zen ror
vertical line  Live bye the sowerd, Die by the sowerd
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Reply from HarryB
Feb.28.2007
06:32PM EDT 
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The retired, outmoded samurai made a profound contribution to the arts, to put a creative angle on it.

Talking about donuts and holes, there's a great Japanese Shodo (calligraphy) artist selling stuff on Ebay at seriously low prices. I just got a wonderful, original enso scroll from there at a very low cost:

http://tinyurl.com/27o8jc

Regards,

Harry.

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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
05:45AM EDT 
vertical line hahahahahahahahahahaha Samurais...covers up a lot.
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Reply from ZenTurtle
Mar.01.2007
07:43AM EDT 
vertical line "The retired, outmoded samurai made a profound contribution to the arts, to put a creative angle on it."


Samurai aren't suppose to retire, they're suppose to die in battle... or seppuku. At least before the era before they started doing more community service and whatnot. Of course the samurai was well versed in things like calligraphy and poetry and of course they could sip tea with the best of them.

Bushido still beats out Chivalry anyday.


And just for fun; here's a quiz on Samurai Code Characteristics.

http://shortys-shell.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!FC387C10B15EA7DA!1333.entry
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
07:46AM EDT 
vertical line The creative face of fascism, Hollywood laps it up.
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Reply from HarryB
Mar.01.2007
08:02AM EDT 
vertical line Welcome to the real world... oh, isn't it terrible, aren't I great?

As an experiment in ethics: try surviving for long without fascism in the stark reality of a waring feudal system that's armed to the teeth.

Isn't it nice to reflect on how far we've come with our democracy... how less savage and warlike we are, how less judgmental? And of course, we're so cultural and spiritual.

Regards,

Harrry.


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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
08:03AM EDT 
vertical line And that guy, him too, he laps it up.
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Reply from HarryB
Mar.01.2007
08:15AM EDT 
vertical line Re. retirement.

That's just not the way it worked out overall. They were outlawed and their class and status was dissolved, they generally turned their hands to other things or revolted, they had to.

Time were changing, their time was gone. Of course, Japan didn't invent the once considered norm of fascism, and it didn't end with the samurai...

Decline and End of the Samurai History

Dancing Samurai
Dancing Samurai
by Sadahide Utagawa 1807-1873

During the Tokugawa shogunate from 1603 to 1867 (the Edo period) the country lived in peace. The samurai warrior class had basically nothing to do. Now they took other tasks, in the bureaucracy for instance.

In 1867 the last shogun resigned and the emperor was reinstalled as the formal leader of Japan. In 1871 the old feudal system and the privileges of the Japanese samurai class were officially abolished. The daimyo had to return the land to the emperor for which they received pensions by the Japanese state.

Historians estimate the percentage that belonged to the samurai class at 8 percent of the overall population of Japan. The abolishment of the samurai class caused severe social problems. Many samurai did not know how to make a living and survive. There were cases of samurai wives who sold themselves to brothels to support the family.

The Satsuma Rebellion 1876-1877

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But Samurai history had not yet ended. Many samurai were desperate with their situation and the loss of their former status. They gathered under Takamori Saigo, a samurai and statesman who had worked for the local clan leader of Satsuma in the southern region on the island of Kyushu. Saigo had served the new Meiji government well in leading positions and had carried many of the Meiji reforms. But after several years he became dissatisfied with the directions the Meiji government took. Major issues of disagreement were the far-reaching measures to abolish the old samurai privileges and the refusal to invade and occupy Korea as proposed by Saigo Takamori. He quit and gathered around his Kyushu residence an army of samurai warriors hostile towards the central imperial government.

In 1877 it came to open military conflicts. The rebels were lead by Saigo Takamori. It was a clash of brave fighters equipped with inferior weapons against a modern army with Western technology and trained in modern Western warfare. 60,000 government troops faced 20,000 rebels. After several lost battles Saigo and 300 die-hard samurai had retreated to the hills of Shiroyama near their hometown of Kagoshima. Exhausted and without ammunition and food, the last samurai knew that they had no chance. In the morning hours of September 24, 1877 the artillery shelling by the government forces began. Saigo Takamori was wounded and committed suicide in samurai tradition - the last samurai beheaded each other.

Saigo Takamori became a hero for the Japanese. The victorious government made a clever move many years later. They pardoned Saigo posthumously and honored him as a national hero.

Samurai in Modern Japan

Although samurai do not have any official status in today's modern Japan, descendants of samurai families still enjoy a high esteem among the Japanese population.


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Reply from HarryB
Mar.01.2007
08:18AM EDT 
vertical line The truth is much more interesting, tragic (for nearly all concerned) and enduring than anything Hollywood has to offer. Their infantile judgments do seem just that little bit more considered and informed than yours though... and salty popcorn is always nice.

Regards,

Harry.
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
08:26AM EDT 
vertical line Good for you. Jolly dee. Parasites can make the body sick or didn't you know that either?
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Reply from HarryB
Mar.01.2007
08:27AM EDT 
vertical line Ah, I've missed the scuttle of tiny feet. Parasites will make their living too.

Regards,

Harry.
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
08:31AM EDT 
vertical line Cut & paste something else with more lappings.
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
08:35AM EDT 
vertical line Show us your sword.
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
08:37AM EDT 
vertical line Too slow. And you lost me again. Sorry.
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Reply from HarryB
Mar.01.2007
08:38AM EDT 
vertical line You have it.

Regards,

Harry.
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
10:01AM EDT 
vertical line Just eating a samosa. (Y)our "democracy" is an illusion - it's in the nature of fascism to don divers disguises. Hey, and I've read Yamamoto's 'Hagakure' (Tanaka's translation) and for years I practiced Kyokushinkai karate where I got punched and kicked. I was punched so hard in the heart I had to give karate up. I never met a Samurai but plenty wannabe egos. I die every morning but I'm no Samurai with no Samurai in my employ. How about you?
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
10:44AM EDT 
vertical line I only ask cuz of your interest in the Master / Disciple relationship. Y'know, I lost count of the number of times I had to get up after being knocked down. Now I don't bother, counting that is.
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Reply from HarryB
Mar.01.2007
02:19PM EDT 
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Eat your samosa. My credentials are even less important than yours.

Regards,

Harry.

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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
02:25PM EDT 
vertical line Important?
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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
02:25PM EDT 
vertical line Credentials?
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Reply from free1500
Mar.01.2007
02:46PM EDT 
Email free1500
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Quote: "Show us your sword. "
.........

Show us the sword holder?

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Reply from ______
Mar.01.2007
03:09PM EDT 
vertical line It's a candle.
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Reply from ______
Mar.02.2007
02:35PM EDT 
vertical line www.shiver.tv/
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