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The Mountain Witch: by timothy kleinert

Excerpts from the HAGAKURE


by Yamamoto Tsunetonmo

From the 1st Chapter
From the 2nd Chapter
From the 3rd Chapter
From the 4th Chapter
From the 6th Chapter
From the 7th Chapter
From the 8th Chapter
From the 9th Chapter
From the 10th Chapter
From the 11th Chapter
Late Night Idle Talk

From the 2nd Chapter

It is said that much sake, self-pride and luxury are to be avoided by a samurai, There is no cause for anxiety when you are unhappy, but when you become a little elated, these three things become dangerous. Look at the human condition. It is unseemly for a person to become prideful and extravagant when things are going well. Therefore, it is better to have some unhappiness while one is still young, for if a person does not experience some bitterness, his disposition will not settle down. A person who becomes fatigued when unhappy is useless.

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Meeting with people should be a matter of quickly grasping their temperament and reacting appropriately to this person and that. Especially with an extremely argumentative person, after yielding considerably one should argue him down with superior logic, but without sounding harsh, and in a fashion that will allow no resentment to be left afterwards. This is a function of both the heart and words. This was an opinion given by a priest concerning personal encounters .

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Dreams are truthful manifestations. When I occasionally have dreams of dying in battle or committing seppuku, if I brace myself with courage, my frame of mind within the dream gradually changes.

This concerns the dream I had on the night of the twenty- seventh day of the fifth month.

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If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master. And if one is asked what to do beyond this, it would be to fit oneself inwardly with intelligence, humanity and courage.' The combining of these three virtues may seem unobtainable to the ordinary person, but it is easy. Intelligence is nothing more than discussing things with others. Limitless wisdom comes from this. Humanity is something done for the sake of others, simply comparing oneself with them and putting them in the fore. Courage is gritting one' s teeth ; it is simply doing that and pushing ahead, paying no attention to the circumstances. Anything that seems above these three is not necessary to be known.

As for outward aspects, there are personal appearance, one's way of speaking and calligraphy. And as all of these are daily matters, they improve by constant practice. Basically, one should perceive their nature to be one of quiet strength. If one has accomplished all these things, then he should have a knowledge of our area's history and customs. After that he may study the various arts as recreation. If you think it over, being a retainer is simple. And these days, if you observe people who are even a bit useful, you will see that they have accomplished these three outward aspects.

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A certain priest said that if one thoughtlessly crosses a river of unknown depths and shallows, he will die in its currents without ever reaching the other side or finishing his business. This is the same as when one is indiscriminately eager in being a retainer without understanding the customs of the times or the likes and dislikes of the master and, as a result, is of no use and brings ruin upon himself. To try to enter the good graces of the master is unbecoming. One should consider first stepping back and getting some understanding of the depths and shallows and then work without doing anything the master dislikes.

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If you attach a number of bags of cloves to your body, you will not be affected by inclemency or colds. Some years ago Nakano Kazuma returned to this province as a messenger by horse in the dead of winter, and though he was an old man, he was not the least bit in pain. It is said that that was because of his having used cloves. Furthermore, drinking a decoction of the feces from a dappled horse is the way to stop bleeding from an injury received by falling off a horse.

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A faultless person is one who withdraws from affairs. This must be done with strength.

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There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment .

Everyone lets the present moment slip by, then looks for it as though he thought it were somewhere else. No one seems to have noticed this fact. But grasping this firmly, one must pile experience upon experience. And once one has come to this understanding he will be a different person from that point on, though he may not always bear it in mind.

When one understands this settling into single-mindedness well, his affairs will thin out. Loyalty is also contained within this single-mindedness.

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It is said that what is called "the spirit of an ape' ' is seine- thing to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same.

For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation. This is the mistake of people who are attached to past generations. They have no understanding of this point.

On the other hand, people who only know the disposition of the present day and dislike the ways of the past are too lax.

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Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.

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The brave men of old times were for the most part rowdies. As they were of the disposition to be out running amuck, their vitality was strong and they were brave. When I had doubts about this and asked, Tsunetomo said, "It is understandable that since their vitality was strong they were generally rough and went about running amuck. These days rowdiness is nonexistent because man's vitality has weakened. Vitality has fallen behind, but man's character has improved. Valor is yet a different thing. Although men have become gentle these days because of the lack of vitality, this does not mean that they are inferior in being crazy to die. That has nothing to do with vitality."

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Concerning the military tactics of Lord Naoshige, Ushida Shoemon said that it was characteristic of his retainers to face a situation with no previous knowledge of what was to happen, and for him to freely bring everything to a finish by a single word. When he was at the point of passing from this world, he said nothing, even when his chief retainers came to see him.

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Once Lord Ieyasu gamed nothing in a battle, but in a later judgment it was said, "Ieyasu is a general of great courage. Of his retainers who died in battle, not one of them died with his back turned. They all died facing the enemy lines." Since a warrior' s daily frame of mind is manifested even after death, it is something that can bring shame to him.

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As Yasuda Ukyo said about offering up the last wine cup, only the end of things is important. One's whole life should be like this. When guests are leaving, the mood of being reluctant to say farewell is essential. If this mood is lacking, one will appear bored and the day and evening's conversation will disappear. In all dealings with people it is essential to have a fresh approach. One should constantly give the impression that he is doing something exceptional. It is said that this is possible with but a little understanding.

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Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, "Form is emptiness." That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, "Emptiness is form."' One should not think that these are two separate things .

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Uesugi Kenshin said, "I never knew about winning from beginning to end, but only about not being behind in a situation." This is interesting. A retainer will be dumbfounded if he is behind in a situation. In each and every instance one's function or responsiveness will not be shallow if he is not behind .

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One should be wary of talking on end about such subjects as learning, morality or folklore in front of elders or people of rank. It is disagreeable to listen to.

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In the Kamigata area they have a sort of tiered lunch box they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. As might be expected, this is one of my recollections of the capital [Kyoto]. The end is important in all things.

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While walking along the road together, Tsunetomo said, "Is not man like a well-operated puppet? It is a piece of dexterous workmanship that he can run, jump, leap, and even talk though there are no strings attached. Will we not be guests at next year's Ben Festival? This world is vanity indeed. People always forget this."

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It was once said to one of the young lords that "right now'' is ''at that time, '' and ''at that time'' is ''right now.'' One will miss the occasion if he thinks that these two are different. For example, if one were called before the master to explain something right away, he would most likely be perplexed. This is proof that he understands the two to be different. If, however, a person makes "right now" and "at that time" one, though he will never be an advisor to the master, still he is a retainer, and in order to be able to say something clearly, whether it be in front of the master, the elders or even the shogun at Edo Castle, it should be practiced beforehand in the corner of one's bedroom.

All things are like this. Accordingly, one should inquire into things carefully. It is the same for martial training as for official business. When one attempts to concentrate things in this manner, won't daily negligence and today's lack of resolve be understood?

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Even though one has made some blunder in governmental work, it can probably be excused by pleading clumsiness or inexperience. But what kind of excuse may be given for the failure of the men who were involved in this recent unexpected event?" Master Jin'emon always used to say, "It is enough if a warrior is simply a stalwart," and this is just such a case. If one felt that such a failure were a mortification, it would be the least he could do to cut open his stomach, rather than live on in shame with a burning in his breast and the feeling that he had no place to go, and, as his luck as a warrior had run out, he was no longer able to function quickly and had been given a bad name. But if one regretted losing his life and reasoned that he should live because such a death would be useless, then for the next five, ten or twenty years of his life, he would be pointed at from behind and covered with shame. After his death his corpse would be smeared with disgrace, his guiltless descendants would receive his dishonor for having been born in his line, his ancestors' name would be dragged down, and all the members of his family would be blemished. Such circumstances are truly regrettable.

If one has no earnest daily intention, does not consider what it is to be a warrior even in his dreams, and lives through the day idly, he can be said to be worthy of punishment.

Presumably it can be said that a man who has been cut down was lacking in ability and had run out of luck as a warrior. The man who cut him down, compelled by unavoidable circumstances and feeling that there was nothing else to be done, also put his life on the line, and thus there should be no evidence of cowardice. Being short-tempered is inappropriate, but it cannot be said that two men who face each other are cowards. In this recent event, however, the men who lived and covered themselves with shame were not true warriors .

One should every day think over and make an effort to implant in his mind the saying, "At that time is right now." It is said that it is strange indeed that anyone is able to pass through life by one means or another in negligence. Thus, the Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one's mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done.

Moreover, the influence of words is important in military affairs. It would have been best for stopping the man in this recent event, too. When the situation is too much, one may either cut the man down, or, if the man is escaping, yell something like, "Don't run I Only cowards run !" and thus, according to what the situation demands, achieve one's goals by the influence of words. There was a certain man who was said to be good at judging men's dispositions and formerly had everyone's attention, and he was able to handle such cases. This is proof that "right now" is no different from "when the time comes." The position of yokoza no yari is another example of this .* It is something that should be made one's aim beforehand.

The things to be deeply considered beforehand are many. If there is someone who has killed a man in the lord's mansion and has managed to escape, as one does not know whether he may still be swinging his sword and advancing toward the room next to the lord's, he should cut the man down. Indeed, one may be blamed later in an investigation as a confederate of the killer, or as someone who had a grudge against him. But at that time one should think only of cutting the man down and not anticipate later blame.

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Even if one's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should be able to do one more action with certainty. The last moments of Nitta Yoshisada are proof of this . Had his spirit been weak, he would have fallen the moment his head was severed. Recently, there is the example of Ono Doken. These actions occurred because of simple determination. With martial valor, if one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die.

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Whether people be of high or low birth, rich or poor, old or young, enlightened or confused, they are all alike in that they will one day die. It is not that we don't know that we are going to die, but we grasp at straws. While knowing that we will die someday, we think that all the others will die before us and that we will be the last to go. Death seems a long way oft .

Is this not shallow thinking? It is worthless and is only a joke within a dream. It will not do to think in such a way and be negligent. insofar as death is always at one's door, one should make sufficient effort and act quickly.

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It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one's sleeve. It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from sleep, his complexion may be poor. At such a time it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge.

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There are times when a person gets carried away and talks on without thinking much. But this can be seen by observers when one's mind is flippant and lacking truth. After such an occasion it is best to come face to face with the truth and express it. The truth will then be arrived at in one's own heart too. Even when greeting someone lightly, one should consider the circumstances and after deliberation speak in a way that will not injure the man's feelings.

Furthermore, if there is a person who is criticizing the Way of the Samurai or one's own province, one should speak with him severely, without the least bit of ceremony. One must be resolved in advance.

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Although a person who excels in an art regards others as competitors, last year Hyodo Sachu gave up the title of Master of Renga to Yamaguchi Shochin. A praiseworthy act.

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The priest Tannen used to hang up wind-bells but said, "It's not because I like the sound. I hang them in order to know the wind conditions in the event of fire, for that is the only worry in having a large temple." When the wind blew, he himself walked about at night. Throughout his whole life the fire in his brazier was never out, and he always put a paper lantern and lighter by his pillow. He said, ' 'People are flustered during an emergency, and there is no one to quickly strike a light."

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If one makes a distinction between public places and one's sleeping quarters, or between being on the battlefield and on the tatami, when the moment comes there will not be time for making amends. There is only the matter of constant awareness. If it were not for men who demonstrate valor on the tatami, one could not find them on the battlefield either.

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Bravery and cowardice are not things that can be conjectured in times of peace. They are in different categories.

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Though it may be said that the gods dislike impurity, if one thinks a bit, he will see that he has not been negligent in his daily worship. Thus, one's previous faithfulness has been exactly for the sake of praying for good fortune in such times as when one is barbed in blood and climbing over the dead. At such a time, if it is a god that turns back when one is defiled, then one should know clearly that praying is ineffective and should worship regardless of defilement.

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At times of great trouble or disaster, one word will suffice. At times of happiness, too, one word will be enough. And when meeting or talking with others, one word will do. One should think well and then speak. This is clear and firm, and one should learn it with no doubts. It is a matter of putting forth one's whole effort and having the correct attitude previously. This is very difficult to explain but is something that everyone should work on in his heart. If a person has not learned this in his heart, it is not likely that he will understand it.

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Human life is truly a short affair. It is better to live doing the things that you like. It is foolish to live within this dream of a world seeing unpleasantness and doing only things that you do not like. But it is important never to tell this to young people as it is something that would be harmful if incorrectly understood.

Personally, I like to sleep. And I intend to appropriately confine myself more and more to my living quarters and pass my life away sleeping.

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I had a dream on the night of the twenty-eighth day of the twelfth month in the third year of Shotoku. The content of the dream changed gradually to the extent that I strengthened my will. The condition of a person is revealed by his dreams. It would be good to make companions of your dreams and to put forth effort.

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Shame and repentance are like upsetting a pot of water. When a certain friend of mine listened to the way that a man who had stolen his sword ornament confessed, he felt compassion. If one will rectify his mistakes, their traces will soon disappear.

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According to what the Buddhist priest Kaion said, a person becomes more and more prideful if he gains a little understanding because he thinks he knows his own limits and weak points. However, it is a difficult thing to truly know one's own limits and weak points.

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At a glance, every individual's own measure of dignity is manifested just as it is. There is dignity in personal appearance. There is dignity in a calm aspect. There is dignity in a paucity of words. There is dignity in flawlessness of manners. There is dignity in solemn behavior. And there is dignity in deep insight and a clear perspective.

These are all reflected on the surface. But in the end, their foundation is simplicity of thought and tautness of spirit.

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Covetousness, anger and foolishness are things to sort out well. When bad things happen in the world, if you look at them comparatively, they are not unrelated to these three things. Looking comparatively at the good things, you will see that they are not excluded from wisdom, humanity and bravery .

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This is according to what Nakano Kazuma Toshiaki said. There are people who feel that using old utensils for the Tea Ceremony is coarse, and that it is better to use new, clean utensils. There are also people who are wont to use old materials because of their lack of gaudiness. Both are mistaken. Old utensils, although they are things that are used by the humble, are also used by the higher classes because of their value. Their value is revered.

A retainer is just like this. A person rises from the humble to the higher classes because he has value. At the same time, to feel that a person of no family cannot do the same work as one of higher family, or that a man who has heretofore been only a foot soldier should not be allowed to become a leader, is entirely wrong thinking. As for a person who has risen from the humble, his value should be prized and especially respected, even more than that of a person who was born into his class.

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My father Jin'emon said that when he was young he was taken from time to time to the entrance of the Chinese settlement in order to be exposed to the atmosphere of the city and to become used to people. From the time he was five years old he was sent as family representative to various people's homes, and in order to make him strong he was made to put on a warrior's straw sandals and visit the temples of his ancestors from the time he was seven.

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It is said that one will not be able to do great works if he does not behave with some reserve towards his master, the chief retainers and elders. What is done casually and freely will not work out well. It is a matter of attitude.

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It is unfitting that one be ignorant of the history and origins of his clan and its retainers. But there are times when extensive knowledge becomes a hindrance. One should use discretion. Knowing the circumstances can be an obstruction in everyday affairs, too. One should use discretion.

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It is written that the priest Shungaku said, "In just refusing to retreat from something one gains the strength of two men." This is interesting. Something that is not done at that time and at that place will remain unfinished for a lifetime. At a time when it is difficult to complete matters with the strength of a single man, one will bring it to a conclusion with the strength of two. If one thinks about it later, he will be negligent all his life.

"Stamp quickly and pass through a wall of iron" is another interesting phrase. To quickly break in and stamp through directly is the first step of celerity. In connection with this, Hideyoshi can be thought of as the only man who has grasped solidly the chance of a lifetime since the creation of Japan.

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People who talk on and on about matters of little importance probably have some complaint in the back of their mind. But in order to be ambiguous and to hide this they repeat what they are saving over and over. To hear something like this causes doubt to arise in one's breast.

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One should be careful and not say things that are likely to cause trouble at the time. When some difficulty arises in this world, people get excited, and before one knows it the matter is on everyone's lips. This is useless. If worse comes to worse, you may become the subject of gossip, or at least you will have made enemies by saying somethinp unnecessary and will have created ill will. It is said that at such a time it is better to stay at home and think of poetry.

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To tallc about other people's affairs is a great mistake. To praise them, too, is unfttting. In any event, it is best to know your own ability well, to put forth effort in your endeavors, and to be discreet in speech.

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The heart of a virtuous person has settled down and he does not rush about at things. A person of little merit is not at peace but walks about making trouble and is in conflict with all.

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It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this.

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People with intelligence will use it to fashion things both true and false and will try to push through whatever they want with their clever reasoning. This is injury from intelligence . Nothing you do will have effect if you do not use truth.

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In affairs like law suits or even in arguments, by losing quickly one will lose in fine fashion. It is like sumo [wrestling]. If one thinks only of winning, a sordid victory will be worse than a defeat. For the most part, it becomes a squalid defeat.

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Feeling deeply the difference between oneself and others, bearing ill will and falling out with people--these things come from a heart that lacks compassion. If one wraps up everything with a heart of compassion, there will be no coming into conflict with people.

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A person who knows but a little will put on an air of knowledpe. This is a matter of inexperience. When someone knows something well, it will not be seen in his manner. This person is genteel.

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When going someplace for a talk or something similar, it is best to let the person know ahead of time, and then go. To go without knowing whether the other party is busy, or when he has some particular anxiety, is awkward. There is nothing that surpasses not going where you have not been invited. Good friends are rare. Even if someone is invited somewhere, he should use understanding. It is difficult to feel deeply the sensitivities of people other than those who go out only rarely. Fiascos at pleasure gatherings are numerous .

However, you should not be brusque towards a person who has come to visit, even if you are busy.

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It is bad to carry even a good thing too far. Even concerning things such as Buddhism, Buddhist sermons, and moral lessons, talking too much will bring harm.

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The late Jin'emon said that it is better not to bring up daughters. They are a blemish to the family name and a shame to the parents. The eldest daughter is special, but it is better to disregard the others.

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The priest Keiho related that Lord Aki once said that martial valor is a matter of becoming a fanatic. I thought that this was surprisingly in accord with my own resolve and thereafter became more and more extreme in my fanaticism.

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The late Nakano Kazuma said that the original purpose of the Tea Ceremony is to cleanse the six senses. For the eyes there are the hanging scroll and flower arrangement. For the nose there is the incense. For the ears there is the sound of the hot water. For the mouth there is the taste of the tea. And for the hands and feet there is the correctness of term. When the five senses have thus been cleansed, the mind will of itself be purified. The Tea Ceremony will cleanse the mind when the mind is clogged up. I do not depart from the heart of the Tea Ceremony for twenty-four hours a day, yet this is absolutely not a matter of tasteful living. Moreover, the tea utensils are something that should be in accord with one's social position.

In the poem, "Under the deep snows in the last village/ Last night numerous branches of plum blossomed," the opulence of the phrase "numerous branches" was changed to "a single branch." It is said that this "single branch" contains true tranquillity.

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When intimate friends, allies, or people who are indebted to you have done some wrong, you should secretly reprimand them and intervene between them and society in a good manner. You should erase a person's bad reputation and praise him as a matchless ally and one man in a thousand. If you wilt thus reprimand a person in private and with good understanding, his blemish will heal and he will become good. If you praise a person, people's hearts will change and an ill reputation will go away of itself. It is important to have the single purpose of handling all things with compassion and doing things well.

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A certain person said the following.

There are two kinds of dispositions, inward and outward, and a person who is lacking in one or the other is worthless. It is, for example, like the blade of a sword, which one should sharpen well and then put in its scabbard, periodically taking it out and knitting one's eyebrows as in an attack, wiping f the blade, and then placing it in its scabbard again .

If a person has his sword out all the time, he is habitually swinging a naked blade ; people will not approach him and he will have no allies.

If a sword is always sheathed, it will become rusty, the blade will dull, and people will think as much of its owner.

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One cannot accomplish things simply with cleverness. One must take a broad view. It will not do to make rash judgments concerning good and evil. However, one should not be sluggish. It is said that one is not truly a samurai if he does not make his decisions quickly and break right through to completion.

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Once, when a group of five or six pages were traveling to the capital together in the same boat, it happened that their boat struck a regular ship late at night. Five or six seamen from the ship leapt aboard and loudly demanded that the pages give up their boat's anchor, in accord with the seaman's code. Hearing this, the pages ran forward yelling, "The seaman's code is something for people like you! Do you think that we samurai are going to let you take equipment from a boat carrying warriors? We will cut you down and throw you into the sea to the last man !" With that, all the seamen fled back to their own ship.

At such a time, one must act like a samurai. For trifling occasions it is better to accomplish things simply by yelling. By making something more significant than it really is and missing one's chance, an affair will not be brought to a close and will be no accomplishment at all.

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A certain person who came up with a cash shortage when closing out an account book sent a letter to his section leader saying, "It is regrettable to have to commit seppuku over a matter of money. As you are my section leader, please send some funds." Since this was reasonable, the balance was provided and the matter was closed. It is said that even wrongdoings can be managed without detection.

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By being impatient, matters are damaged and great works cannot be done. If one considers something not to be a matter of time, it will be done surprisingly quickly. Times change. Think about the world fifteen years from now. It should be rather different, but if one were to look into a book of prophecies, I imagine that it would not be that different. In the passing fifteen years, not one of the useful men of today will be left. And even if men who are young now come forth, probably less than half will make it. Worth gradually wanes. For example, if there were a shortage of gold, silver would become treasure, and if there were a shortage of silver, copper would be valued. With changing times and the waning of men's capacities, one would be of suitable worth even if he put forth only slight effort. Something like fifteen years is the space of a dream. If a man but takes care of his health, in the end he will have accomplished his purpose and will be a valuable person. Certainly in a period when masters are many, one must put forth considerable effort. But at the time when the world is sliding into a decline, to excel is easy.

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To put forth great effort in correcting a person's bad habits is the way it should be done. One should be like the digger wasp. It is said that even with an adopted child, if you teach him continually so that he will resemble you, he surely will.

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If your strength is only that which comes from vitality, your words and personal conduct will appear to be in accord with the Way, and you will be praised by others. But when you question yourself about this, there will be nothing to be said. The last line of the poem that goes, "When your own heart asks," is the secret principle of all the arts. It is said that it is a good censor.

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When you are listening to the stories of accomplished men and the like, you should listen with deep sincerity, even if it's something about which you already know. If in listening to the same thing ten or twenty times it happens that you come to an unexpected understanding, that moment will be very special. Within the tedious talk of old folks are their meritorious deeds.