Saturday, 7 March 2015

Book Review: Training the Samurai Mind – A Bushido Sourcebook, by Thomas Cleary

Nice collection of essays from Japanese thinkers who lived in the last millennium on what it means to be a martial artist. Some of the ideas about God and divinity in these essays are indeed alien to the Islamic understanding but that aside what is proposed of the ideal character and virtue which one should aspire to is very much consistent with Islamic teaching. I've picked out some quotes below which stuck out for me the most:
"Kindness means the wish to relieve suffering; compassion means the wish to give happiness." (Ichijo Kaneyoshi [1402-1481])
"... there are buoyant attitudes that overcome things, and depressive attitudes overcome by things..." (Suzuki Shosan [1579-1655])
"When you manage to overcome your own mind, you overcome myriad concerns, rise above all things, and are free. When you are overcome by your own mind, you are burdened by myriad concerns, subordinate to things, unable to rise above. Mind your mind; guard it resolutely. Since it is the mind that confuses the mind, don't let your mind give in to your mind." (Suzuki Shosan [1579-1655])
"To see what is right yet fail to do it is lack of courage." (Yamaga Soko [1622-1685])
"Even if you have a plough, it's best to wait for the season." (Yamaga Soko [1622-1685])
"... when you look to the left you forget the right, and when you look to the right you forget the left. If you look at an opponent's hands, your mind inclines to the hands; if you look at his feet, your mind inclines to the feet. Once there's any imbalance, you're like an empty house. If thieves break into an empty house, since the owner's not home he can't stop them. For this reason, you should have an overall perspective, not a biased view." (Izawa Nagahide [1711-1732])
"If you fight willing to die, you'll survive; if you fight trying to survive, you'll die. If you think you'll never go home again, you will; if you hope to make it back, you won't." (Adachi Masahiro [fl. ca. 1780-1800])
"A swordsman strikes out after the other but hits home before the other." (Hirayama Heigen [1759-1828] quoting Chuang Tzu)
"I have heard of military actions that were clumsy but quick, whereas I've never seen any that were skilful yet took a long time." (Hirayama Heigen [1759-1828] quoting Sun Tzu)
"... break the enemy's soul, and his skills will become useless." (Hirayama Heigen [1759-1828])
"Wind and rain can be shut out, but cold and heat cannot be controlled, because they have no form." (Hirayama Heigen [1759-1828] quoting The Master of Huanin lessons on military strategy)
"... people lacking in loyalty and respect for parents are worthless no matter how good they may be in other respects." (Saito Totsudo [1797-1865])

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