Archive for August, 2015

So You Want To Become A Samurai?

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Are there simple things that the Samurai did, on a day to day basis, that forged a strong mental character? 
The answer is yes. 
It seems that the actions needed to show strength weren’t that different from today’s deeds.
Daidoji Yuzan was a Samurai who lived until the ripe old age of 92. Born in 1639, he travelled around Japan and, like many people today, found that the young Samurai of his day lacked the strength of constitution that the warrior class was famous for. He felt they needed direction in living. To correct this, he started a series of essays that still exists today. His writing formed the backbone of actions that warriors looked to for guidance in a life of service that ultimately could end in their own death in battle.

His advice includes:

  • Protect your health fully
  • Be moderate in desires for food and drink.
  • Give wide berth to matters of sex (he called sex the primary deluder of men)
  • Respect your parents.
  • Rise early.
  • Practice.
  • Speak little of prowess in ability.
  • Be prudent in finances and be disciplined in savings.
  • Take care of clothing and possessions.
  • Keep in mind the desire to perform at least once in life a great meritorious deed.

Yuzan rightly so, said that, “One can distinguish with no confusion the brave man from the coward, even in times of peace and tranquility”.  

So it seems your training starts now, whilst reading this.

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“Learning is to a man as the leaves and branches are to a tree, and it should be said that he simply should not be without it.” So said Takeda Shingen, one of Japan’s best known generals who lived in the 1500’s. At age 52 he was hit by a bullet and died, but not before his legacy of knowledge had been recorded for all those who wished to see what a life of warfare had taught.

So it seems that a warrior can steel himself for battle not only by hard physical training but also by improving his academic abilities. If this logic holds, we can therefore create a life that rewards us more by following the same path. We can create happiness more easily than by just ‘trying harder’ – as our well meaning friends and relatives urge. If we research and see how others have dealt with difficulty, we find the same thing. Not only does it transport us to a higher level, we actually feel less alone. We realise that others who have come before us have also struggled (sometimes more than we have.) Our pain becomes more palatable purely through comparison with the trauma of others.

The question now becomes where do we look for guidance?

If the Samurai looked to the victors of the past, so should we. We should look to those who have left a record of actions that created a fulfilling life. Surely someone else has met with similar difficulty and has triumphed through a series of actions that will allow us to experience similar results.

The Samurai knew that attention to detail on a daily basis would lead to victory in a range of activities. They would not miss their regular training as they knew that hardening their resolve in battle came through defeating common human weaknesses. They knew that each time they didn’t attend to trivial household duties left them with the knowledge that they had chipped away at their level of discipline.

‘A nine storey tower begins with the foundation’ is a saying accredited to the ancient Samurai. In this same way, our foundation of attention to seemingly little things is the foundation upon which we build a character strong enough to withstand anxiety, panic, despondency and depression.

Quite often this can be as simple as rising earlier than normal and getting organised. It can then be improved upon by a short period of reading every day. Reading for a small period of time every day will bring about more emotional intelligence than 10 hours of last minute research when confronted with psychological pain.

At that point, it is often too late.

Rising early