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 10th Chapter
There was a certain retainer of Ikeda Shingen's who started an argument with a man, grappled him to the ground, thrashed him soundly, and trampled on him until his companions ran up and pulled them apart. The elders conferred over this and said, "The man who was trampled should be punished." Shingen heard this and said, "A fight is something that goes to the finish. A man who forgets the Way of the Samurai and does not use his sword will be forsaken by the gods and Buddhas. As an example to subsequent retainers, both men should be crucified." The men who had pulled them apart were banished.
In Yui Shosetsu's military instructions, "The Way of the Three Ultimates," there is a passage on the character of karma.' He received an oral teaching of about eighteen chapters concerning the Greater Bravery and the Lesser Bravery. He neither wrote them down nor committed them to memory but rather forgot them completely. Then, in facing real situations, he acted on impulse and the things that he had learned became wisdom of his own. This is the character of karma.
When faced with a crisis, if one puts some spittle on his earlobe and exhales deeply through his nose, he will overcome anything at hand. This is a secret matter. Furthermore, when experiencing a rush of blood to the head, if one puts spittle on the upper part of one's ear, it will soon go away.
Tzu Ch'an was on the point of death when someone asked him how to govern the country. He replied:
There is nothing that surpasses ruling with benevolence. However, to put into practice enough benevolent governing to rule the country is difficult. To do this lukewarmly will result in neglect. If governing with benevolence is difficult, then it is best to govern strictly. To govern strictly means to be strict before things have arisen, and to do things in such a way that evil will not arise. To be strict after the evil has arisen is like laying a snare. There are few people who will make mistakes with fire after having once been burned. Of people who regard water lightly, many have been drowned.
A certain man said, "I know the shapes of Reason and of Woman." When asked about this, he replied, "Reason is four-cornered and will not move even in an extreme situation. Woman is round. One can say that she does not distinguish between good and evil or right and wrong and tum- bles into any place at all."
The basic meaning of etiquette is to be quick at both the beginning and end and tranquil in the middle. Mitani Chizaemon heard this and said, "That's just like being a kaishaku.
Fukae Angen accompanied an acquaintance of his to the priest Tesshu of Osaka, and at first said privately to the priest, "This man aspires to study Buddhism and hopes to receive your teaching. He is a man of rather high determination.''
Soon after the interview the priest said, "Angen is a man who does harm to others. He said that this man is a good man, but wherein is his goodness? There was no goodness visible to Tesshu's eyes. It is not a good idea to praise people carelessly. When praised, both wise and foolish become prideful. To praise is to do harm."
When Hotta Kaga no kami Masamori was a page to the shogun, he was so headstrong that the shogun wished to test what was at the bottom of his heart. To do this, the shogun heated a pair of tongs and placed them in the hearth. Masamori's custom was to go to the other side of the hearth, take the tongs, and greet the master. This time, when he unsuspectingly picked up the tongs, his hands were immediately turned. As he did obeisance in his usual manner, however, the shogun quickly pot up and took the tongs from him.
A certain person said, "When a castle is being surrendered, as long as there are one or two men within it who are determined to hold on, the defending forces will not be of one accord, and in the end no one will hold the castle. "In the taking of the castle, if when the man who is to receive it approaches and the one or two men who are determined to hold on to it lightly fire on him from the shadows, the man will be alarmed and the battle will be on. In such a case, even though it is unwillingly done, the castle will have to be stormed. This is called being forced to besiege a castle by those besieged."
The Buddhist priest Ryozan wrote down some generalities concerning Takanobu's battles. A certain priest saw this and criticized him, saying, "It is inappropriate for a priest to write about a military commander. No matter how successful his writing style may be, since he is not acquainted with military things, he is liable to be mistaken in understanding a famous general's mind. It is irreverent to pass on misconceptions concerning a famous general to later generations."
A certain person said, "In the Saint's mausoleum there is a poem that goes :
If in one's heart
He follows the path of sincerity,
Though he does not pray
Will not the gods protect him?
What is this path of sincerity?"
A man answered him by saying, ''You seem to like poetry. I will answer you with a poem.
As everything in this world is but a shame,
Death is the only sincerity.
It is said that becoming as a dead man in one's daily living is the following of the path of sincerity."
If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it, and trample on it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off. This was heard by the priest Gyojaku when he was in Kyoto. It is information to be treasured.
One of Matsudaira Sagami no kami's retainers went to Kyoto on a matter of debt collection and took up lodgings by renting living quarters in a townhouse. One day while standing out front watching the people go by, he heard a passer-by say, "They say that Lord Matsudaira's men are involved in a fight right now." The retainer thought, "How worrisome that some of my companions are involved in a fight. There are some men to relieve those at Edo staying here. Perhaps these are the men involved." He asked the passer-by of the location, but when he arrived out of breath, his companions had already been cut down and their adver- saries were at the point of delivering the coup de grace. He quickly let out a yell, cut the two men down, and returned to his lodgings.
This matter was made known to an official of the shogunate, and the man was called up before him and questioned. "You gave assistance in your companions' fight and thus disregarded the government's ordinance. This is true beyond a doubt, isn't it?"
The man replied, "I am from the country, and it is difficult for me to understand everything that Your Honor is saying. Would you please repeat that?"
The official got angry and said, "Is there something wrong with your ears? Didn't you abet a fight, commit bloodshed, disregard the government's ordinance, and break the law?"
The man then replied, "I have at length understood what you are saying. Although you say that I have broken the law and disregarded the government's ordinance, I have by no means done so. The reason for this is that all living things value their lives, and this goes without saying for human beings. I, especially, value my life. However, I thought that to hear a rumor that one's friends are involved in a fight and to pretend not to hear this is not to preserve the Way of the Samurai , so I ran to the place of action . To shamelessly return home after seeing my friends struck down would surely have lengthened my life, but this too would be disregarding the Way. In observing the Way, one will throw away his own precious life. Thus, in order to preserve the Way of the Samurai and not to disregard the Samurai Ordinances, I quickly threw away my life at that place. I beg that you execute me immediately."
The official was very impressed and later dismissed the matter, communicating to Lord Matsudaira, "You have a very able samurai in your service. Please treasure him."
This is among the sayings of the priest Banker. "Not to borrow the strength of another, nor to rely on one's own strength ; to cut off past and future thoughts, and not to live within the everyday mind . . . then the Great Way is right before one's eyes."
Lord Soma's family genealogy, called the Chiken marokashi, was the best in Japan. One year when his mansion suddenly caught fire and was burning to the ground, Lord Soma said, "I feel no regret about the house and all its furnishings, even if they burn to the very last piece, because they are things that can be replaced later on. I only regret that I was unable to take out the genealogy, which is my family's most precious treasure."
There was one samurai among those attending him who said, "I will go in and take it out."
Lord Soma and the others all laughed and said, "The house is already engulfed in flames. How are you going to take it out?"
Now this man had never been loquacious, nor had he been particularly useful, but being a man who did things from beginning to end, he was engaged as an attendant. At this point he said, "I have never been of use to my master because I'm so careless, but I have lived resolved that someday my life should be of use to him. This seems to be that time.'' And he leapt into the flames.
After the fire had been extinguished the master said, ''Look for his remains . What a pity!''
Looking everywhere, they found his burnt corpse in the garden adjacent to the living quarters. When they turned it over, blood flowed out of the stomach. The man had cut open his stomach and placed the genealogy inside and it was not damaged at all. From this time on it was called the "Blood Genealogy.'
According to a certain person's story, "In the tradition of the I Ching, it is a mistake to think that it is something for divination. Its essence is non-divination. This can be seen by the tact that the Chinese character 'I' is read as 'change.' Although one divines good fortune, if he does evil it will become bad fortune. And although he divines bad fortune, if he does good it will become good fortune.
"Confucius' saying, 'By setting myself to the task for many years and in the end learning change [I], I should make no big mistakes,' is not a matter of learning the I Ching. It means by studying the essence of change and conducting oneself for many years in the Way of Good, one should make no mistakes."
Hirano Gonbei was one of the Men of Seven Spears who advanced straight up the hill at the battle of Shizugadake. At a later date he was invited to become one of Lord Ieyasu's hatamoto. Once he was being entertained at Master Hosekawa's. The master said, "Master Gonbei's bravery is not a hidden matter in Japan. It is truly a shame that such a man of bravery has been placed in a low rank such as you are in now. This must be contrary to your wishes. If you were to become a retainer of mine, I would give you half the domain .''
Giving no answer at all, Gonbei suddenly pot up from his seat, went out to the veranda, stood facing the house, and urinated. Then he said, "If I were the master's retainer, it would never do to urinate from here."
When the priest Daiyu from Sanshu was making a sick call at a certain place, he was told, "The man has just now died." Daiyu said, "Such a thing shouldn't have happened at this time. Didn't this occur from insufficient treatment? What a shame!''
Now the doctor happened to be there at that time and heard what was said from the other side of the shoji. He got extraordinarily angry and came out and said, "I heard Your Reverence say that the man died from insufficient treatment. Since I am a rather bungling doctor, this is probably true. I have heard that a priest embodies the power of the Buddhist Law. Let me see you bring this dead man back to life, for without such evidence Buddhism is worthless."
Daiyu was put out by this, but he felt that it would be un- pardonable for a priest to put a blemish on Buddhism, so he said, "I will indeed show you how to bring his life back by prayer. Fleas' wait a moment. I must go prepare myself," and returned to the temple. Soon he came back and sat in meditation next to the corpse. Pretty soon the dead man began to breathe and then completely revived. It is said that he lived on for another half a year. As this was something told directly to the priest Tannen, there is nothing mistaken about it.
When telling of the way he prayed, Daiyu said, "This is something not practiced in our sect, so I didn't know of any way of prayer. I simply set my heart for the sake of the Buddhist Law, returned to the temple, sharpened a short sword that had been given as an offering to the temple, and put it in my robe. Then I faced the dead man and prayed, 'If the strength of the Buddhist Law exists, come back to life immediately. ' Since I was thus committed , if he hadn't come back to life, I was resolved to the point of cutting open my stomach and dying embracing the corpse."
When Yamamoto Gorozaemon went to the priest Tetsugyu in Edo wanting to hear something about Buddhism, Tetsugyo said, "Buddhism gets rid of the discriminating mind. It is nothing more than this. I can give you an illustration in terms of the warrior. The Chinese character for ''cowardice'' is made by adding the character for "meaning" to the character radical for "mind". Now "meaning" is "discrimination, " and when a man attaches discrimination to his true mind, he becomes a coward . In the Way of the Samurai can a man be courageous when discrimination arises? I suppose you can get the idea from this."
According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird other than the one that it has first marked .
Moreover, what is called a tezuke no kubi is a head that one has taken after having made the declaration, "I will take that warrior wearing such and such armor."
In the Kiyogunkan one person said, "When facing the enemy, I feel as if I have just entered darkness. Because of this I get heavily wounded. Although you have fought with many famous men, you have never been wounded. Why is that?"
The other man answered, "When I have faced the enemy, of course it is like being in the dark. But if at that time I tranquilize my mind, it becomes like a night lit by a pale moon. If I begin my attack from that point, I feel as though I will not be wounded. " This is the situation at the moment of truth.
A rifle ball hitting the water will ricochet. It is said that if one marks it with a knife or dents it with his teeth, it will pass through the water. Moreover, when the master is hunting or some such thing, if one marks the ball with a sign, it will come in handy in case of a mishap.
When Master Owari, Master Kit and Master Mite were around the age of ten, one day Lord Ieyasu was with them in the garden and knocked down a big wasps' nest. A great number of wasps flew out, and Master Owari and Master Kit were frightened and ran away. But Master Mite picked off the wasps that were on his face, threw them away one by one, and did not run away.
Another time, when Lord Ieyasu was roasting a great number of chestnuts in a large hearth, he invited the boys to join him. When the chestnuts got sufficiently hot, they all started to pop out at once. Two of the boys were frightened and moved away. Master Mite, however, not the least bit frightened, picked up the ones that had popped out and threw them back into the hearth.
In order to study medicine Eguchi Than went to old Yoshida lchian's place in the Bancho area of Edo. At that time, there was in the neighborhood a teacher of swordsmanship, to whom he used to go for training from time to time. There was a ronin pupil there who one day came up to toan and said as a parting remark, "I am now going to realize a longcherished ambition, one I have had for many years. I am informing you of this because you have always been friendly to me." Then he walked away. Than felt uneasy about this, and when he followed him, he could see a man wearing a braided hat coming from the opposite direction.
Now the sword teacher was about eight or ten yards ahead of the ronin, and in passing by the man with the hat he soundly struck the man's scabbard with his own. When the man looked around, the ronin knocked off' the man's hat and announced in a loud voice that his purpose was revenge. With the man's attention being distracted by the confusion, he was easily cut down. A tremendous amount of congratulations came from the nearby mansions and townhouses. It is said that they even brought out money for him. This was a favorite story of Toan's.
Once when the priest Ungo of Matsushima was passing through the mountains at night, he was set upon by mountain bandits. Ungo said, "I am a man of this area, not a pilgrim. I have no money at all, but you can have these clothes if you like. Please spare my life."
The bandits said, "Well, our efforts have been in vain. We don't need anything like clothes," and passed on. They had gone about two hundred yards when Ungo turned back and called to them, "I have broken the commandment against lying. In my confusion I forgot that I had one piece of silver in my moneybag. I am truly regretful I said that I had nothing at all. I have it here now, so please take it." The mountain bandits were deeply impressed, cut off their hair right there, and became his disciples.
In Edo four or five hatamoto gathered together one night for a game of go. At one point one of them got up to go to the toilet, and while he was gone an argument broke out. One man was cut down, the lights were extinguished, and the place was in an uproar. When the man came running back, he yelled, "Everybody calm down I This is really over nothing at all. Put the lamps back on and let me handle this.'' After the lamps had been relighted and everyone had calmed down, the man suddenly struck off the head of the other man involved in the argument. He then said, "My luck as a samurai having run out, I was not present at the fight. If this were seen as cowardice, I would be ordered to commit seppuku. Even if that didn't happen, I would have no excuse if it were said that I had fled to the toilet, and I would still have no recourse other than seppuku. I have done this thing because I thought I would die having cut down an adversary rather than die having shamed myself alone." When the shogun heard of this matter, he praised the man.
Once a group of ten blind masseuses were traveling together in the mountains, and when they began to pass along the top of a precipice, they all became very cautious, their legs shook, and they were in general struck with terror. Just then the leading man stumbled and fell of the cliff. Those that were left all wailed, "Ahh, ahh I How piteous!" But the masseuse who had fallen veiled up from below, "Don't be afraid. Although I fell, it was nothing. I am now rather at ease. Before falling I kept thinking 'What will I do if I fall?' and there was no end to my anxiety. But now I've settled down. If the rest of you want to be at ease, fall quickly!''
Hojo Awa no kami once gathered together his disciples in the martial arts and called in a physiognomist, who was popular in Edo at the time, to have him determine whether they were brave men or cowards. He had them see the man one by one, telling them, "If he determines 'bravery,' you should strive all the more. If it is 'cowardice,' you should strive by throwing away your life. It's something that you're born with, so there's no shame in it."
Hirose Denzaemon was then about twelve or thirteen years old. When he sat down in front of the physiognomist, he said in a bristling voice , ''if you read cowardice in me, I'll cut you down with a single blow !"
When there is something to be said, it is better if it is said right away. If it is said later, it will sound like an excuse. Moreover, it is occasionally good to really overwhelm your opponent. Also, in addition to having spoken sufficiently it is the highest sort of victory to teach your opponent some- thing that will be to his benefit. This is in accordance with the Way.
The priest Ryoi said : The samurai of old were mortified by the idea of dying in bed ; they hoped only to die on the battlefield. A priest, too, will be unable to fulfill the Way unless he is of this disposition. The man who shuts himself away and avoids the company of men is a coward. Only evil thoughts allow one to imagine that something good can be done by shutting oneself away. For even if one does some good thing by shutting himself away, he will be unable to keep the way open for future generations by promulgating the clan traditions .
Takeda Shingen's retainer, Amari Bizen no kami, was killed in action and his son, Tozo, at the age of eighteen took over his father's position as an armed horseman attached to a general. Once a certain man in his group received a deep wound, and since the blood would not clot, Tozo ordered him to drink the feces of a red-haired horse mixed with water. The wounded man said, "Life is dear to me. How can I drink horse feces?' Tozo heard this and said, "What an admirably brave warrior ! What you say is reasonable. However, the basic meaning of loyalty requires us to preserve our lives and gain victory for our master on the battlefield. Well, then, I'll drink some for you.'' Then he drank some himself and banded over the cup to the man who took the medicine gratefully and recovered.
"Hagakure" is under public domain, and as such, is presented here free to the public.
"The Mountain Witch" copyrighted 2004 by Timothy Kleinert, all rights reserved.
Illustrations copyrighted 2004 by Ethan Harper, used with permission.