This post is motivated by an ever-present curiousity of Bushido, recent studies of Buddhism, and immediate readings of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence” by Robert Pirsig.
I’ve always been interested in religions, but for my whole intellectual life, I have been thoroughly dissatisfied with the family of doctrines of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism; all of which put such a large emphasis on faith. But what is this faith? It doesn’t seem to make sense logically, and apparently, it’s beauty is found in it’s denial of logic. The farther removed from logic this faith is, the more whole-heartedly you’re supposed to believe in it. I’ve continually tried to make returns to stories of the bible, and one time it took me straight to the story of Abraham; a man who is told by God to take his newborn son to a mountaintop and sacrifice him. The moral of the story is Abraham’s faith? Because he was willing to kill his newborn son because he was told to do so by the God he had such faith in, he is rewarded by not having his son killed? Aside from any philosophical tangents you can go on which could be interesting, I can’t believe this is preached to a people, and and afterwards they’re told to try and foster this “blind faith” in God.
With an equally powerful enthusiasm, but in the other direction, I have an avid fascination with Bushido, drawn somehow by it’s sense of honor, discipline, and self-sacrifice that seem to be inseperable from the term. There seems to be something admirable about the image of a samurai’s strength that is attributed to such concepts. But for some reason, I’ve persevered through mountains of explanations of Bushido that seem to foster the same “blind faith” that I’ve found in the story of Abraham.
A samurai (and his family) is supposed to give his life to his lord. No matter how greedy, lascivious, wrathful, or apathetic the lord is, the samurai must honor his every whim. In fact, if the lord is not happy with his servant, he may ask for the samurai, and maybe his family too, to commit ritual suicide. These warriors were taught at an early age to never question authority … not a word, look, or perceived thought. And I shudder to think how many millions upon millions of samurai in the history of Japan have been thrown to their deaths at the whims of their belligerent lords.
I’ve read many sources on “Bushido”, but unfortunately most are only far-removed impressions by enthusiastic foreigners (haha, maybe this is one you’re reading right now), but for possibly the most credible source, I’d recommend “Bushido: the Soul of Japan” by Inazo Nitobe. In this book, I found some of the gems I was looking for initially when searching for some quality in Bushido, but to be honest, it was philosophy/belief that I had to tease out with my own Reason.
In my eyes, the true samurai serves the universe.
I have a feeling that statement doesn’t communicate very much though.
As opposed to the blind faith mentioned above, the highest ideals of Bushido is in the unwavering search for Truth through “right action.”
I believe one does not inherently and consciously exhibit Truth through right action initially, but must search for this ambiguously described honesty through feeling. To have one teacher that can give it all to you may be a nice idea, as well as some in-born natural ability towards Truth … but I think they play small factors in the infinite-scale of feeling. By searching with feeling, we may not be able to label or even explain our search effectively to others, but that is not required. Instead we have a progression of events based on one’s feelings of the right direction. One’s feelings of the right direction may manifest in numerous finite things or abstract thoughts, but they all have a certain effect and orienting on each individual agent, and thusly, must be carried out as individually as the person they grace.
I think this is the core of Buddhism. I think this is the ideal of Bushido. I think this is why I shudder at sources that call for “blind faith”. And this is how I will walk my life: with as much honesty to my feeling as my actions can reflect.