Produced by Paul Murray, Andrea Ball, the Online Distributed Proofreading Team and the Million Book Project/State Central Library, Hyderabad
THE SOUL OF JAPAN
INAZO NITOBÃ, A.M., Ph.D.
Author’s Edition, Revised and Enlarged 13th EDITION
TO MY BELOVED UNCLE
WHO TAUGHT ME TO REVERE THE PAST
TO ADMIRE THE DEEDS OF THE SAMURAI
THIS LITTLE BOOK
Over the mountain, which who stands upon, Is apt to doubt if it be indeed a road; While if he views it from the waste itself, Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow, Not vague, mistakable! What’s a break or two Seen from the unbroken desert either side? And then (to bring in fresh philosophy) What if the breaks themselves should prove at last The most consummate of contrivances
To train a man’s eye, teach him what is faith?”
_Bishop Blougram’s Apology_.
“There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits, which have from time to time, moved on the face of the waters, and given a predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of mankind. These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of honor.”
_Europe in the Middle Ages_.
“Chivalry is itself the poetry of life.”
_Philosophy of History_.
About ten years ago, while spending a few days under the hospitable roof of the distinguished Belgian jurist, the lamented M. de Laveleye, our conversation turned, during one of our rambles, to the subject of religion. “Do you mean to say,” asked the venerable professor, “that you have no religious instruction in your schools?” On my replying in the negative he suddenly halted in astonishment, and in a voice which I shall not easily forget, he repeated “No religion! How do you impart moral education?” The question stunned me at the time. I could give no ready answer, for the moral precepts I learned in my childhood days, were not given in schools; and not until I began to analyze the different elements that formed my notions of right and wrong, did I find that it was Bushido that breathed them into my nostrils.
The direct inception of this little book is due to the frequent queries put by my wife as to the reasons why such and such ideas and customs prevail in Japan.
In my attempts to give satisfactory replies to M. de Laveleye and to my wife, I found that without understanding Feudalism and Bushido, the moral ideas of present Japan are a sealed volume.
[Footnote 1: Pronounced _BoÃ³-shee-doh’_. In putting Japanese words and names into English, Hepburn’s rule is followed, that the vowels should be used as in European languages, and the consonants as in English.]
Taking advantage of enforced idleness on account of long illness, I put down in the order now presented to the public some of the answers given in our household conversation. They consist mainly of what I was taught and told in my youthful days, when Feudalism was still in force.
Between Lafcadio Hearn and Mrs. Hugh Fraser on one side and Sir Ernest Satow and Professor Chamberlain on the other, it is indeed discouraging to write anything Japanese in English. The only advantage I have over them is that I can assume the attitude of a personal defendant, while these distinguished writers are at best solicitors and attorneys. I have often thought,–“Had I their gift of language, I would present the cause of Japan in more eloquent terms!” But one who speaks in a borrowed tongue should be thankful if he can just make himself intelligible.
All through the discourse I have tried to illustrate whatever points I have made with parallel examples from European history and literature, believing that these will aid in bringing the subject nearer to the comprehension of foreign readers.
Should any of my allusions to religious subjects and to religious workers be thought slighting, I trust my attitude towards Christianity itself will not be questioned. It is with ecclesiastical methods and with the forms which obscure the teachings of Christ, and not with the teachings themselves, that I have little sympathy. I believe in the religion taught by Him and handed down to us in the New Testament, as well as in the law written in the heart. Further, I believe that God hath made a testament which maybe called “old” with every people and nation,–Gentile or Jew, Christian or Heathen. As to the rest of my theology, I need not impose upon the patience of the public.
In concluding this preface, I wish to express my thanks to my friend Anna C. Hartshorne for many valuable suggestions and for the characteristically Japanese design made by her for the cover of this book.
Malvern, Pa., Twelfth Month, 1899.
TO THE TENTH AND REVISED EDITION
Since its first publication in Philadelphia, more than six years ago, this little book has had an unexpected history. The Japanese reprint has passed through eight editions, the present thus being its tenth appearance in the English language. Simultaneously with this will be issued an American and English edition, through the publishing-house of Messrs. George H. Putnam’s Sons, of New York.
In the meantime, _Bushido_ has been translated into Mahratti by Mr. Dev of Khandesh, into German by FrÃ¤ulein Kaufmann of Hamburg, into Bohemian by Mr. Hora of Chicago, into Polish by the Society of Science and Life in Lemberg,–although this Polish edition has been censured by the Russian Government. It is now being rendered into Norwegian and into French. A Chinese translation is under contemplation. A Russian officer, now a prisoner in Japan, has a manuscript in Russian ready for the press. A part of the volume has been brought before the Hungarian public and a detailed review, almost amounting to a commentary, has been published in Japanese. Full scholarly notes for the help of younger students have been compiled by my friend Mr. H. Sakurai, to whom I also owe much for his aid in other ways.
I have been more than gratified to feel that my humble work has found sympathetic readers in widely separated circles, showing that the subject matter is of some interest to the world at large. Exceedingly flattering is the news that has reached me from official sources, that President Roosevelt has done it undeserved honor by reading it and distributing several dozens of copies among his friends.
In making emendations and additions for the present edition, I have largely confined them to concrete examples. I still continue to regret, as I indeed have never ceased to do, my inability to add a chapter on Filial Piety, which is considered one of the two wheels of the chariot of Japanese ethics–Loyalty being the other. My inability is due rather to my ignorance of the Western sentiment in regard to this particular virtue, than to ignorance of our own attitude towards it, and I cannot draw comparisons satisfying to my own mind. I hope one day to enlarge upon this and other topics at some length. All the subjects that are touched upon in these pages are capable of further amplification and discussion; but I do not now see my way clear to make this volume larger than it is.
This Preface would be incomplete and unjust, if I were to omit the debt I owe to my wife for her reading of the proof-sheets, for helpful suggestions, and, above all, for her constant encouragement.
Fifth Month twenty-second, 1905.
Bushido as an Ethical System
Sources of Bushido
Rectitude or Justice
Courage, the Spirit of Daring and Bearing
Benevolence, the Feeling of Distress
Veracity or Truthfulness
The Duty of Loyalty
Education and Training of a Samurai
The Institutions of Suicide and Redress
The Sword, the Soul of the Samurai
The Training and Position of Woman
The Influence of Bushido
Is Bushido Still Alive?
The Future of Bushido
BUSHIDO AS AN ETHICAL SYSTEM.
Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than its emblem, the cherry blossom; nor is it a dried-up specimen of an antique virtue preserved in the herbarium of our history. It is still a living object of power and beauty among us; and if it assumes no tangible shape or form, it not the less scents the moral atmosphere, and makes us aware that we are still under its potent spell. The conditions of society which brought it forth and nourished it have long disappeared; but as those far-off stars which once were and are not, still continue to shed their rays upon us, so the light of chivalry, which was a child of feudalism, still illuminates our moral path, surviving its mother institution. It is a pleasure to me to reflect upon this subject in the language of Burke, who uttered the well-known touching eulogy over the neglected bier of its European prototype.
It argues a sad defect of information concerning the Far East, when so erudite a scholar as Dr. George Miller did not hesitate to affirm that chivalry, or any other similar institution, has never existed either among the nations of antiquity or among the modern Orientals. Such ignorance, however, is amply excusable, as the third edition of the good Doctor’s work appeared the same year that Commodore Perry was knocking at the portals of our exclusivism. More than a decade later, about the time that our feudalism was in the last throes of existence, Carl Marx, writing his “Capital,” called the attention of his readers to the peculiar advantage of studying the social and political institutions of feudalism, as then to be seen in living form only in Japan. I would likewise invite the Western historical and ethical student to the study of chivalry in the Japan of the present.
[Footnote 2: _History Philosophically Illustrated_, (3rd Ed. 1853), Vol. II, p. 2.]
Enticing as is a historical disquisition on the comparison between European and Japanese feudalism and chivalry, it is not the purpose of this paper to enter into it at length. My attempt is rather to relate, _firstly_, the origin and sources of our chivalry; _secondly_, its character and teaching; _thirdly_, its influence among the masses; and, _fourthly_, the continuity and permanence of its influence. Of these several points, the first will be only brief and cursory, or else I should have to take my readers into the devious paths of our national history; the second will be dwelt upon at greater length, as being most likely to interest students of International Ethics and Comparative Ethology in our ways of thought and action; and the rest will be dealt with as corollaries.
The Japanese word which I have roughly rendered Chivalry, is, in the original, more expressive than Horsemanship. _Bu-shi-do_ means literally Military-Knight-Ways–the ways which fighting nobles should observe in their daily life as well as in their vocation; in a word, the “Precepts of Knighthood,” the _noblesse oblige_ of the warrior class. Having thus given its literal significance, I may be allowed henceforth to use the word in the original. The use of the original term is also advisable for this reason, that a teaching so circumscribed and unique, engendering a cast of mind and character so peculiar, so local, must wear the badge of its singularity on its face; then, some words have a national _timbre_ so expressive of race characteristics that the best of translators can do them but scant justice, not to say positive injustice and grievance. Who can improve by translation what the German “_GemÃ¼th_” signifies, or who does not feel the difference between the two words verbally so closely allied as the English _gentleman_ and the French _gentilhomme_?
Bushido, then, is the code of moral principles which the knights were required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from the pen of some well-known warrior or savant. More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more the powerful sanction of veritable deed, and of a law written on the fleshly tablets of the heart. It was founded not on the creation of one brain, however able, or on the life of a single personage, however renowned. It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career. It, perhaps, fills the same position in the history of ethics that the English Constitution does in political history; yet it has had nothing to compare with the Magna Charta or the Habeas Corpus Act. True, early in the seventeenth century Military Statutes (_BukÃ© Hatto_) were promulgated; but their thirteen short articles were taken up mostly with marriages, castles, leagues, etc., and didactic regulations were but meagerly touched upon. We cannot, therefore, point out any definite time and place and say, “Here is its fountain head.” Only as it attains consciousness in the feudal age, its origin, in respect to time, may be identified with feudalism. But feudalism itself is woven of many threads, and Bushido shares its intricate nature. As in England the political institutions of feudalism may be said to date from the Norman Conquest, so we may say that in Japan its rise was simultaneous with the ascendency of Yoritomo, late in the twelfth century. As, however, in England, we find the social elements of feudalism far back in the period previous to William the Conqueror, so, too, the germs of feudalism in Japan had been long existent before the period I have mentioned.
Again, in Japan as in Europe, when feudalism was formally inaugurated, the professional class of warriors naturally came into prominence. These were known as _samurai_, meaning literally, like the old English _cniht_ (knecht, knight), guards or attendants–resembling in character the _soldurii_ whom Caesar mentioned as existing in Aquitania, or the _comitati_, who, according to Tacitus, followed Germanic chiefs in his time; or, to take a still later parallel, the _milites medii_ that one reads about in the history of Mediaeval Europe. A Sinico-Japanese word _Bu-kÃ©_ or _Bu-shi_ (Fighting Knights) was also adopted in common use. They were a privileged class, and must originally have been a rough breed who made fighting their vocation. This class was naturally recruited, in a long period of constant warfare, from the manliest and the most adventurous, and all the while the process of elimination went on, the timid and the feeble being sorted out, and only “a rude race, all masculine, with brutish strength,” to borrow Emerson’s phrase, surviving to form families and the ranks of the _samurai_. Coming to profess great honor and great privileges, and correspondingly great responsibilities, they soon felt the need of a common standard of behavior, especially as they were always on a belligerent footing and belonged to different clans. Just as physicians limit competition among themselves by professional courtesy, just as lawyers sit in courts of honor in cases of violated etiquette, so must also warriors possess some resort for final judgment on their misdemeanors.
Fair play in fight! What fertile germs of morality lie in this primitive sense of savagery and childhood. Is it not the root of all military and civic virtues? We smile (as if we had outgrown it!) at the boyish desire of the small Britisher, Tom Brown, “to leave behind him the name of a fellow who never bullied a little boy or turned his back on a big one.” And yet, who does not know that this desire is the corner-stone on which moral structures of mighty dimensions can be reared? May I not go even so far as to say that the gentlest and most peace-loving of religions endorses this aspiration? This desire of Tom’s is the basis on which the greatness of England is largely built, and it will not take us long to discover that _Bushido_ does not stand on a lesser pedestal. If fighting in itself, be it offensive or defensive, is, as Quakers rightly testify, brutal and wrong, we can still say with Lessing, “We know from what failings our virtue springs.” “Sneaks” and “cowards” are epithets of the worst opprobrium to healthy, simple natures. Childhood begins life with these notions, and knighthood also; but, as life grows larger and its relations many-sided, the early faith seeks sanction from higher authority and more rational sources for its own justification, satisfaction and development. If military interests had operated alone, without higher moral support, how far short of chivalry would the ideal of knighthood have fallen! In Europe, Christianity, interpreted with concessions convenient to chivalry, infused it nevertheless with spiritual data. “Religion, war and glory were the three souls of a perfect Christian knight,” says Lamartine. In Japan there were several
SOURCES OF BUSHIDO,
of which I may begin with Buddhism. It furnished a sense of calm trust in Fate, a quiet submission to the inevitable, that stoic composure in sight of danger or calamity, that disdain of life and friendliness with death. A foremost teacher of swordsmanship, when he saw his pupil master the utmost of his art, told him, “Beyond this my instruction must give way to Zen teaching.” “Zen” is the Japanese equivalent for the DhyÃ¢na, which “represents human effort to reach through meditation zones of thought beyond the range of verbal expression.” Its method is contemplation, and its purport, as far as I understand it, to be convinced of a principle that underlies all phenomena, and, if it can, of the Absolute itself, and thus to put oneself in harmony with this Absolute. Thus defined, the teaching was more than the dogma of a sect, and whoever attains to the perception of the Absolute raises himself above mundane things and awakes, “to a new Heaven and a new Earth.”
[Footnote 3: Ruskin was one of the most gentle-hearted and peace loving men that ever lived. Yet he believed in war with all the fervor of a worshiper of the strenuous life. “When I tell you,” he says in the _Crown of Wild Olive_, “that war is the foundation of all the arts, I mean also that it is the foundation of all the high virtues and faculties of men. It is very strange to me to discover this, and very dreadful, but I saw it to be quite an undeniable fact. * * * I found in brief, that all great nations learned their truth of word and strength of thought in war; that they were nourished in war and wasted by peace, taught by war and deceived by peace; trained by war and betrayed by peace; in a word, that they were born in war and expired in peace.”]
[Footnote 4: Lafcadio Hearn, _Exotics and Retrospectives_, p. 84.]
What Buddhism failed to give, Shintoism offered in abundance. Such loyalty to the sovereign, such reverence for ancestral memory, and such filial piety as are not taught by any other creed, were inculcated by the Shinto doctrines, imparting passivity to the otherwise arrogant character of the samurai. Shinto theology has no place for the dogma of “original sin.” On the contrary, it believes in the innate goodness and God-like purity of the human soul, adoring it as the adytum from which divine oracles are proclaimed. Everybody has observed that the Shinto shrines are conspicuously devoid of objects and instruments of worship, and that a plain mirror hung in the sanctuary forms the essential part of its furnishing. The presence of this article, is easy to explain: it typifies the human heart, which, when perfectly placid and clear, reflects the very image of the Deity. When you stand, therefore, in front of the shrine to worship, you see your own image reflected on its shining surface, and the act of worship is tantamount to the old Delphic injunction, “Know Thyself.” But self-knowledge does not imply, either in the Greek or Japanese teaching, knowledge of the physical part of man, not his anatomy or his psycho-physics; knowledge was to be of a moral kind, the introspection of our moral nature. Mommsen, comparing the Greek and the Roman, says that when the former worshiped he raised his eyes to heaven, for his prayer was contemplation, while the latter veiled his head, for his was reflection. Essentially like the Roman conception of religion, our reflection brought into prominence not so much the moral as the national consciousness of the individual. Its nature-worship endeared the country to our inmost souls, while its ancestor-worship, tracing from lineage to lineage, made the Imperial family the fountain-head of the whole nation. To us the country is more than land and soil from which to mine gold or to reap grain–it is the sacred abode of the gods, the spirits of our forefathers: to us the Emperor is more than the Arch Constable of a _Rechtsstaat_, or even the Patron of a _Culturstaat_–he is the bodily representative of Heaven on earth, blending in his person its power and its mercy. If what M. Boutmy says is true of English royalty–that it “is not only the image of authority, but the author and symbol of national unity,” as I believe it to be, doubly and trebly may this be affirmed of royalty in Japan.
[Footnote 5: _The English People_, p. 188.]
The tenets of Shintoism cover the two predominating features of the emotional life of our race–Patriotism and Loyalty. Arthur May Knapp very truly says: “In Hebrew literature it is often difficult to tell whether the writer is speaking of God or of the Commonwealth; of heaven or of Jerusalem; of the Messiah or of the nation itself.” A similar confusion may be noticed in the nomenclature of our national faith. I said confusion, because it will be so deemed by a logical intellect on account of its verbal ambiguity; still, being a framework of national instinct and race feelings, Shintoism never pretends to a systematic philosophy or a rational theology. This religion–or, is it not more correct to say, the race emotions which this religion expressed?–thoroughly imbued Bushido with loyalty to the sovereign and love of country. These acted more as impulses than as doctrines; for Shintoism, unlike the Mediaeval Christian Church, prescribed to its votaries scarcely any _credenda_, furnishing them at the same time with _agenda_ of a straightforward and simple type.
[Footnote 6: “_Feudal and Modern Japan_” Vol. I, p. 183.]
As to strictly ethical doctrines, the teachings of Confucius were the most prolific source of Bushido. His enunciation of the five moral relations between master and servant (the governing and the governed), father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, and between friend and friend, was but a confirmation of what the race instinct had recognized before his writings were introduced from China. The calm, benignant, and worldly-wise character of his politico-ethical precepts was particularly well suited to the samurai, who formed the ruling class. His aristocratic and conservative tone was well adapted to the requirements of these warrior statesmen. Next to Confucius, Mencius exercised an immense authority over Bushido. His forcible and often quite democratic theories were exceedingly taking to sympathetic natures, and they were even thought dangerous to, and subversive of, the existing social order, hence his works were for a long time under censure. Still, the words of this master mind found permanent lodgment in the heart of the samurai.
The writings of Confucius and Mencius formed the principal text-books for youths and the highest authority in discussion among the old. A mere acquaintance with the classics of these two sages was held, however, in no high esteem. A common proverb ridicules one who has only an intellectual knowledge of Confucius, as a man ever studious but ignorant of _Analects_. A typical samurai calls a literary savant a book-smelling sot. Another compares learning to an ill-smelling vegetable that must be boiled and boiled before it is fit for use. A man who has read a little smells a little pedantic, and a man who has read much smells yet more so; both are alike unpleasant. The writer meant thereby that knowledge becomes really such only when it is assimilated in the mind of the learner and shows in his character. An intellectual specialist was considered a machine. Intellect itself was considered subordinate to ethical emotion. Man and the universe were conceived to be alike spiritual and ethical. Bushido could not accept the judgment of Huxley, that the cosmic process was unmoral.
Bushido made light of knowledge as such. It was not pursued as an end in itself, but as a means to the attainment of wisdom. Hence, he who stopped short of this end was regarded no higher than a convenient machine, which could turn out poems and maxims at bidding. Thus, knowledge was conceived as identical with its practical application in life; and this Socratic doctrine found its greatest exponent in the Chinese philosopher, Wan Yang Ming, who never wearies of repeating, “To know and to act are one and the same.”
I beg leave for a moment’s digression while I am on this subject, inasmuch as some of the noblest types of _bushi_ were strongly influenced by the teachings of this sage. Western readers will easily recognize in his writings many parallels to the New Testament. Making allowance for the terms peculiar to either teaching, the passage, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” conveys a thought that may be found on almost any page of Wan Yang Ming. A Japanese disciple of his says–“The lord of heaven and earth, of all living beings, dwelling in the heart of man, becomes his mind (_Kokoro_); hence a mind is a living thing, and is ever luminous:” and again, “The spiritual light of our essential being is pure, and is not affected by the will of man. Spontaneously springing up in our mind, it shows what is right and wrong: it is then called conscience; it is even the light that proceedeth from the god of heaven.” How very much do these words sound like some passages from Isaac Pennington or other philosophic mystics! I am inclined to think that the Japanese mind, as expressed in the simple tenets of the Shinto religion, was particularly open to the reception of Yang Ming’s precepts. He carried his doctrine of the infallibility of conscience to extreme transcendentalism, attributing to it the faculty to perceive, not only the distinction between right and wrong, but also the nature of psychical facts and physical phenomena. He went as far as, if not farther than, Berkeley and Fichte, in Idealism, denying the existence of things outside of human ken. If his system had all the logical errors charged to Solipsism, it had all the efficacy of strong conviction and its moral import in developing individuality of character and equanimity of temper cannot be gainsaid.
[Footnote 7: Miwa Shissai.]
Thus, whatever the sources, the essential principles which _Bushido_ imbibed from them and assimilated to itself, were few and simple. Few and simple as these were, they were sufficient to furnish a safe conduct of life even through the unsafest days of the most unsettled period of our nation’s history. The wholesome, unsophisticated nature of our warrior ancestors derived ample food for their spirit from a sheaf of commonplace and fragmentary teachings, gleaned as it were on the highways and byways of ancient thought, and, stimulated by the demands of the age, formed from these gleanings anew and unique type of manhood. An acute French _savant_, M. de la MazeliÃ¨re, thus sums up his impressions of the sixteenth century:–“Toward the middle of the sixteenth century, all is confusion in Japan, in the government, in society, in the church. But the civil wars, the manners returning to barbarism, the necessity for each to execute justice for himself,–these formed men comparable to those Italians of the sixteenth century, in whom Taine praises ‘the vigorous initiative, the habit of sudden resolutions and desperate undertakings, the grand capacity to do and to suffer.’ In Japan as in Italy ‘the rude manners of the Middle Ages made of man a superb animal, wholly militant and wholly resistant.’ And this is why the sixteenth century displays in the highest degree the principal quality of the Japanese race, that great diversity which one finds there between minds (_esprits_) as well as between temperaments. While in India and even in China men seem to differ chiefly in degree of energy or intelligence, in Japan they differ by originality of character as well. Now, individuality is the sign of superior races and of civilizations already developed. If we make use of an expression dear to Nietzsche, we might say that in Asia, to speak of humanity is to speak of its plains; in Japan as in Europe, one represents it above all by its mountains.”
To the pervading characteristics of the men of whom M. de la MazeliÃ¨re writes, let us now address ourselves. I shall begin with
RECTITUDE OR JUSTICE,
the most cogent precept in the code of the samurai. Nothing is more loathsome to him than underhand dealings and crooked undertakings. The conception of Rectitude may be erroneous–it may be narrow. A well-known bushi defines it as a power of resolution;–“Rectitude is the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering;–to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right.” Another speaks of it in the following terms: “Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. As without bones the head cannot rest on the top of the spine, nor hands move nor feet stand, so without rectitude neither talent nor learning can make of a human frame a samurai. With it the lack of accomplishments is as nothing.” Mencius calls Benevolence man’s mind, and Rectitude or Righteousness his path. “How lamentable,” he exclaims, “is it to neglect the path and not pursue it, to lose the mind and not know to seek it again! When men’s fowls and dogs are lost, they know to seek for them again, but they lose their mind and do not know to seek for it.” Have we not here “as in a glass darkly” a parable propounded three hundred years later in another clime and by a greater Teacher, who called Himself _the Way_ of Righteousness, through whom the lost could be found? But I stray from my point. Righteousness, according to Mencius, is a straight and narrow path which a man ought to take to regain the lost paradise.
Even in the latter days of feudalism, when the long continuance of peace brought leisure into the life of the warrior class, and with it dissipations of all kinds and gentle accomplishments, the epithet _Gishi_ (a man of rectitude) was considered superior to any name that signified mastery of learning or art. The Forty-seven Faithfuls–of whom so much is made in our popular education–are known in common parlance as the Forty-seven _Gishi_.
In times when cunning artifice was liable to pass for military tact and downright falsehood for _ruse de guerre_, this manly virtue, frank and honest, was a jewel that shone the brightest and was most highly praised. Rectitude is a twin brother to Valor, another martial virtue. But before proceeding to speak of Valor, let me linger a little while on what I may term a derivation from Rectitude, which, at first deviating slightly from its original, became more and more removed from it, until its meaning was perverted in the popular acceptance. I speak of _Gi-ri_, literally the Right Reason, but which came in time to mean a vague sense of duty which public opinion expected an incumbent to fulfil. In its original and unalloyed sense, it meant duty, pure and simple,–hence, we speak of the _Giri_ we owe to parents, to superiors, to inferiors, to society at large, and so forth. In these instances _Giri_ is duty; for what else is duty than what Right Reason demands and commands us to do. Should not Right Reason be our categorical imperative?
_Giri_ primarily meant no more than duty, and I dare say its etymology was derived from the fact that in our conduct, say to our parents, though love should be the only motive, lacking that, there must be some other authority to enforce filial piety; and they formulated this authority in _Giri_. Very rightly did they formulate this authority–_Giri_–since if love does not rush to deeds of virtue, recourse must be had to man’s intellect and his reason must be quickened to convince him of the necessity of acting aright. The same is true of any other moral obligation. The instant Duty becomes onerous. Right Reason steps in to prevent our shirking it. _Giri_ thus understood is a severe taskmaster, with a birch-rod in his hand to make sluggards perform their part. It is a secondary power in ethics; as a motive it is infinitely inferior to the Christian doctrine of love, which should be _the_ law. I deem it a product of the conditions of an artificial society–of a society in which accident of birth and unmerited favour instituted class distinctions, in which the family was the social unit, in which seniority of age was of more account than superiority of talents, in which natural affections had often to succumb before arbitrary man-made customs. Because of this very artificiality, _Giri_ in time degenerated into a vague sense of propriety called up to explain this and sanction that,–as, for example, why a mother must, if need be, sacrifice all her other children in order to save the first-born; or why a daughter must sell her chastity to get funds to pay for the father’s dissipation, and the like. Starting as Right Reason, _Giri_ has, in my opinion, often stooped to casuistry. It has even degenerated into cowardly fear of censure. I might say of _Giri_ what Scott wrote of patriotism, that “as it is the fairest, so it is often the most suspicious, mask of other feelings.” Carried beyond or below Right Reason, _Giri_ became a monstrous misnomer. It harbored under its wings every sort of sophistry and hypocrisy. It might easily–have been turned into a nest of cowardice, if Bushido had not a keen and correct sense of
COURAGE, THE SPIRIT OF DARING
to the consideration of which we shall now return. Courage was scarcely deemed worthy to be counted among virtues, unless it was exercised in the cause of Righteousness. In his “Analects” Confucius defines Courage by explaining, as is often his wont, what its negative is. “Perceiving what is right,” he says, “and doing it not, argues lack of courage.” Put this epigram into a positive statement, and it runs, “Courage is doing what is right.” To run all kinds of hazards, to jeopardize one’s self, to rush into the jaws of death–these are too often identified with Valor, and in the profession of arms such rashness of conduct–what Shakespeare calls, “valor misbegot”–is unjustly applauded; but not so in the Precepts of Knighthood. Death for a cause unworthy of dying for, was called a “dog’s death.” “To rush into the thick of battle and to be slain in it,” says a Prince of Mito, “is easy enough, and the merest churl is equal to the task; but,” he continues, “it is true courage to live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die,” and yet the Prince had not even heard of the name of Plato, who defines courage as “the knowledge of things that a man should fear and that he should not fear.” A distinction which is made in the West between moral and physical courage has long been recognized among us. What samurai youth has not heard of “Great Valor” and the “Valor of a Villein?”
Valor, Fortitude, Bravery, Fearlessness, Courage, being the qualities of soul which appeal most easily to juvenile minds, and which can be trained by exercise and example, were, so to speak, the most popular virtues, early emulated among the youth. Stories of military exploits were repeated almost before boys left their mother’s breast. Does a little booby cry for any ache? The mother scolds him in this fashion: “What a coward to cry for a trifling pain! What will you do when your arm is cut off in battle? What when you are called upon to commit _harakiri_?” We all know the pathetic fortitude of a famished little boy-prince of Sendai, who in the drama is made to say to his little page, “Seest thou those tiny sparrows in the nest, how their yellow bills are opened wide, and now see! there comes their mother with worms to feed them. How eagerly and happily the little ones eat! but for a samurai, when his stomach is empty, it is a disgrace to feel hunger.” Anecdotes of fortitude and bravery abound in nursery tales, though stories of this kind are not by any means the only method of early imbuing the spirit with daring and fearlessness. Parents, with sternness sometimes verging on cruelty, set their children to tasks that called forth all the pluck that was in them. “Bears hurl their cubs down the gorge,” they said. Samurai’s sons were let down the steep valleys of hardship, and spurred to Sisyphus-like tasks. Occasional deprivation of food or exposure to cold, was considered a highly efficacious test for inuring them to endurance. Children of tender age were sent among utter strangers with some message to deliver, were made to rise before the sun, and before breakfast attend to their reading exercises, walking to their teacher with bare feet in the cold of winter; they frequently–once or twice a month, as on the festival of a god of learning,–came together in small groups and passed the night without sleep, in reading aloud by turns. Pilgrimages to all sorts of uncanny places–to execution grounds, to graveyards, to houses reputed to be haunted, were favorite pastimes of the young. In the days when decapitation was public, not only were small boys sent to witness the ghastly scene, but they were made to visit alone the place in the darkness of night and there to leave a mark of their visit on the trunkless head.
Does this ultra-Spartan system of “drilling the nerves” strike the modern pedagogist with horror and doubt–doubt whether the tendency would not be brutalizing, nipping in the bud the tender emotions of the heart? Let us see what other concepts Bushido had of Valor.
The spiritual aspect of valor is evidenced by composure–calm presence of mind. Tranquillity is courage in repose. It is a statical manifestation of valor, as daring deeds are a dynamical. A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit. In the heat of battle he remains cool; in the midst of catastrophes he keeps level his mind. Earthquakes do not shake him, he laughs at storms. We admire him as truly great, who, in the menacing presence of danger or death, retains his self-possession; who, for instance, can compose a poem under impending peril or hum a strain in the face of death. Such indulgence betraying no tremor in the writing or in the voice, is taken as an infallible index of a large nature–of what we call a capacious mind (_yoyÅ«_), which, for from being pressed or crowded, has always room for something more.
It passes current among us as a piece of authentic history, that as Åta Dokan, the great builder of the castle of Tokyo, was pierced through with a spear, his assassin, knowing the poetical predilection of his victim, accompanied his thrust with this couplet–
“Ah! how in moments like these
Our heart doth grudge the light of life;”
whereupon the expiring hero, not one whit daunted by the mortal wound in his side, added the lines–
“Had not in hours of peace,
It learned to lightly look on life.”
There is even a sportive element in a courageous nature. Things which are serious to ordinary people, may be but play to the valiant. Hence in old warfare it was not at all rare for the parties to a conflict to exchange repartee or to begin a rhetorical contest. Combat was not solely a matter of brute force; it was, as, well, an intellectual engagement.
Of such character was the battle fought on the bank of the Koromo River, late in the eleventh century. The eastern army routed, its leader, Sadato, took to flight. When the pursuing general pressed him hard and called aloud–“It is a disgrace for a warrior to show his back to the enemy,” Sadato reined his horse; upon this the conquering chief shouted an impromptu verse–
“Torn into shreds is the warp of the cloth” (_koromo_).
Scarcely had the words escaped his lips when the defeated warrior, undismayed, completed the couplet–
“Since age has worn its threads by use.”
Yoshiie, whose bow had all the while been bent, suddenly unstrung it and turned away, leaving his prospective victim to do as he pleased. When asked the reason of his strange behavior, he replied that he could not bear to put to shame one who had kept his presence of mind while hotly pursued by his enemy.
The sorrow which overtook Antony and Octavius at the death of Brutus, has been the general experience of brave men. Kenshin, who fought for fourteen years with Shingen, when he heard of the latter’s death, wept aloud at the loss of “the best of enemies.” It was this same Kenshin who had set a noble example for all time, in his treatment of Shingen, whose provinces lay in a mountainous region quite away from the sea, and who had consequently depended upon the HÅjÅ provinces of the Tokaido for salt. The HÅjÅ prince wishing to weaken him, although not openly at war with him, had cut off from Shingen all traffic in this important article. Kenshin, hearing of his enemy’s dilemma and able to obtain his salt from the coast of his own dominions, wrote Shingen that in his opinion the HÅjÅ lord had committed a very mean act, and that although he (Kenshin) was at war with him (Shingen) he had ordered his subjects to furnish him with plenty of salt–adding, “I do not fight with salt, but with the sword,” affording more than a parallel to the words of Camillus, “We Romans do not fight with gold, but with iron.” Nietzsche spoke for the samurai heart when he wrote, “You are to be proud of your enemy; then, the success of your enemy is your success also.” Indeed valor and honor alike required that we should own as enemies in war only such as prove worthy of being friends in peace. When valor attains this height, it becomes akin to
BENEVOLENCE, THE FEELING OF
love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, which were ever recognized to be supreme virtues, the highest of all the attributes of the human soul. Benevolence was deemed a princely virtue in a twofold sense;–princely among the manifold attributes of a noble spirit; princely as particularly befitting a princely profession. We needed no Shakespeare to feel–though, perhaps, like the rest of the world, we needed him to express it–that mercy became a monarch better than his crown, that it was above his sceptered sway. How often both Confucius and Mencius repeat the highest requirement of a ruler of men to consist in benevolence. Confucius would say, “Let but a prince cultivate virtue, people will flock to him; with people will come to him lands; lands will bring forth for him wealth; wealth will give him the benefit of right uses. Virtue is the root, and wealth an outcome.” Again, “Never has there been a case of a sovereign loving benevolence, and the people not loving righteousness,” Mencius follows close at his heels and says, “Instances are on record where individuals attained to supreme power in a single state, without benevolence, but never have I heard of a whole empire falling into the hands of one who lacked this virtue.” Also,–“It is impossible that any one should become ruler of the people to whom they have not yielded the subjection of their hearts.” Both defined this indispensable requirement in a ruler by saying, “Benevolence–Benevolence is Man.” Under the rÃ©gime of feudalism, which could easily be perverted into militarism, it was to Benevolence that we owed our deliverance from despotism of the worst kind. An utter surrender of “life and limb” on the part of the governed would have left nothing for the governing but self-will, and this has for its natural consequence the growth of that absolutism so often called “oriental despotism,”–as though there were no despots of occidental history!
Let it be far from me to uphold despotism of any sort; but it is a mistake to identify feudalism with it. When Frederick the Great wrote that “Kings are the first servants of the State,” jurists thought rightly that a new era was reached in the development of freedom. Strangely coinciding in time, in the backwoods of North-western Japan, Yozan of YonÃ©zawa made exactly the same declaration, showing that feudalism was not all tyranny and oppression. A feudal prince, although unmindful of owing reciprocal obligations to his vassals, felt a higher sense of responsibility to his ancestors and to Heaven. He was a father to his subjects, whom Heaven entrusted to his care. In a sense not usually assigned to the term, Bushido accepted and corroborated paternal government–paternal also as opposed to the less interested avuncular government (Uncle Sam’s, to wit!). The difference between a despotic and a paternal government lies in this, that in the one the people obey reluctantly, while in the other they do so with “that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of exalted freedom.” The old saying is not entirely false which called the king of England the “king of devils, because of his subjects’ often insurrections against, and depositions of, their princes,” and which made the French monarch the “king of asses, because of their infinite taxes and Impositions,” but which gave the title of “the king of men” to the sovereign of Spain “because of his subjects’ willing obedience.” But enough!–
[Footnote 8: Burke, _French Revolution_.]
Virtue and absolute power may strike the Anglo-Saxon mind as terms which it is impossible to harmonize. Pobyedonostseff has clearly set before us the contrast in the foundations of English and other European communities; namely that these were organized on the basis of common interest, while that was distinguished by a strongly developed independent personality. What this Russian statesman says of the personal dependence of individuals on some social alliance and in the end of ends of the State, among the continental nations of Europe and particularly among Slavonic peoples, is doubly true of the Japanese. Hence not only is a free exercise of monarchical power not felt as heavily by us as in Europe, but it is generally moderated by parental consideration for the feelings of the people. “Absolutism,” says Bismarck, “primarily demands in the ruler impartiality, honesty, devotion to duty, energy and inward humility.” If I may be allowed to make one more quotation on this subject, I will cite from the speech of the German Emperor at Coblenz, in which he spoke of “Kingship, by the grace of God, with its heavy duties, its tremendous responsibility to the Creator alone, from which no man, no minister, no parliament, can release the monarch.”
We knew Benevolence was a tender virtue and mother-like. If upright Rectitude and stern Justice were peculiarly masculine, Mercy had the gentleness and the persuasiveness of a feminine nature. We were warned against indulging in indiscriminate charity, without seasoning it with justice and rectitude. MasamunÃ© expressed it well in his oft-quoted aphorism–“Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness; Benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness.”
Fortunately Mercy was not so rare as it was beautiful, for it is universally true that “The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring.” “_Bushi no nasakÃ©_”–the tenderness of a warrior–had a sound which appealed at once to whatever was noble in us; not that the mercy of a samurai was generically different from the mercy of any other being, but because it implied mercy where mercy was not a blind impulse, but where it recognized due regard to justice, and where mercy did not remain merely a certain state of mind, but where it was backed with power to save or kill. As economists speak of demand as being effectual or ineffectual, similarly we may call the mercy of bushi effectual, since it implied the power of acting for the good or detriment of the recipient.
Priding themselves as they did in their brute strength and privileges to turn it into account, the samurai gave full consent to what Mencius taught concerning the power of Love. “Benevolence,” he says, “brings under its sway whatever hinders its power, just as water subdues fire: they only doubt the power of water to quench flames who try to extinguish with a cupful a whole burning wagon-load of fagots.” He also says that “the feeling of distress is the root of benevolence, therefore a benevolent man is ever mindful of those who are suffering and in distress.” Thus did Mencius long anticipate Adam Smith who founds his ethical philosophy on Sympathy.
It is indeed striking how closely the code of knightly honor of one country coincides with that of others; in other words, how the much abused oriental ideas of morals find their counterparts in the noblest maxims of European literature. If the well-known lines,
Hae tibi erunt artes–pacisque imponere morem, Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos,
were shown a Japanese gentleman, he might readily accuse the Mantuan bard of plagiarizing from the literature of his own country. Benevolence to the weak, the downtrodden or the vanquished, was ever extolled as peculiarly becoming to a samurai. Lovers of Japanese art must be familiar with the representation of a priest riding backwards on a cow. The rider was once a warrior who in his day made his name a by-word of terror. In that terrible battle of Sumano-ura, (1184 A.D.), which was one of the most decisive in our history, he overtook an enemy and in single combat had him in the clutch of his gigantic arms. Now the etiquette of war required that on such occasions no blood should be spilt, unless the weaker party proved to be a man of rank or ability equal to that of the stronger. The grim combatant would have the name of the man under him; but he refusing to make it known, his helmet was ruthlessly torn off, when the sight of a juvenile face, fair and beardless, made the astonished knight relax his hold. Helping the youth to his feet, in paternal tones he bade the stripling go: “Off, young prince, to thy mother’s side! The sword of Kumagaye shall never be tarnished by a drop of thy blood. Haste and flee o’er yon pass before thy enemies come in sight!” The young warrior refused to go and begged Kumagaye, for the honor of both, to despatch him on the spot. Above the hoary head of the veteran gleams the cold blade, which many a time before has sundered the chords of life, but his stout heart quails; there flashes athwart his mental eye the vision of his own boy, who this self-same day marched to the sound of bugle to try his maiden arms; the strong hand of the warrior quivers; again he begs his victim to flee for his life. Finding all his entreaties vain and hearing the approaching steps of his comrades, he exclaims: “If thou art overtaken, thou mayest fall at a more ignoble hand than mine. O, thou Infinite! receive his soul!” In an instant the sword flashes in the air, and when it falls it is red with adolescent blood. When the war is ended, we find our soldier returning in triumph, but little cares he now for honor or fame; he renounces his warlike career, shaves his head, dons a priestly garb, devotes the rest of his days to holy pilgrimage, never turning his back to the West, where lies the Paradise whence salvation comes and whither the sun hastes daily for his rest.
Critics may point out flaws in this story, which is casuistically vulnerable. Let it be: all the same it shows that Tenderness, Pity and Love, were traits which adorned the most sanguinary exploits of the samurai. It was an old maxim among them that “It becometh not the fowler to slay the bird which takes refuge in his bosom.” This in a large measure explains why the Red Cross movement, considered peculiarly Christian, so readily found a firm footing among us. For decades before we heard of the Geneva Convention, Bakin, our greatest novelist, had familiarized us with the medical treatment of a fallen foe. In the principality of Satsuma, noted for its martial spirit and education, the custom prevailed for young men to practice music; not the blast of trumpets or the beat of drums,–“those clamorous harbingers of blood and death”–stirring us to imitate the actions of a tiger, but sad and tender melodies on the _biwa_, soothing our fiery spirits, drawing our thoughts away from scent of blood and scenes of carnage. Polybius tells us of the Constitution of Arcadia, which required all youths under thirty to practice music, in order that this gentle art might alleviate the rigors of that inclement region. It is to its influence that he attributes the absence of cruelty in that part of the Arcadian mountains.
[Footnote 9: A musical instrument, resembling the guitar.]
Nor was Satsuma the only place in Japan where gentleness was inculcated among the warrior class. A Prince of Shirakawa jots down his random thoughts, and among them is the following: “Though they come stealing to your bedside in the silent watches of the night, drive not away, but rather cherish these–the fragrance of flowers, the sound of distant bells, the insect humming of a frosty night.” And again, “Though they may wound your feelings, these three you have only to forgive, the breeze that scatters your flowers, the cloud that hides your moon, and the man who tries to pick quarrels with you.”
It was ostensibly to express, but actually to cultivate, these gentler emotions that the writing of verses was encouraged. Our poetry has therefore a strong undercurrent of pathos and tenderness. A well-known anecdote of a rustic samurai illustrates a case in point. When he was told to learn versification, and “The Warbler’s Notes” was given him for the subject of his first attempt, his fiery spirit rebelled and he _flung_ at the feet of his master this uncouth production, which ran
[Footnote 10: The uguisu or warbler, sometimes called the nightingale of Japan.]
“The brave warrior keeps apart
The ear that might listen
To the warbler’s song.”
His master, undaunted by the crude sentiment, continued to encourage the youth, until one day the music of his soul was awakened to respond to the sweet notes of the _uguisu_, and he wrote
“Stands the warrior, mailed and strong, To hear the uguisu’s song,
Warbled sweet the trees among.”
We admire and enjoy the heroic incident in KÃ¶rner’s short life, when, as he lay wounded on the battle-field, he scribbled his famous “Farewell to Life.” Incidents of a similar kind were not at all unusual in our warfare. Our pithy, epigrammatic poems were particularly well suited to the improvisation of a single sentiment. Everybody of any education was either a poet or a poetaster. Not infrequently a marching soldier might be seen to halt, take his writing utensils from his belt, and compose an ode,–and such papers were found afterward in the helmets or the breast-plates, when these were removed from their lifeless wearers.
What Christianity has done in Europe toward rousing compassion in the midst of belligerent horrors, love of music and letters has done in Japan. The cultivation of tender feelings breeds considerate regard for the sufferings of others. Modesty and complaisance, actuated by respect for others’ feelings, are at the root of
that courtesy and urbanity of manners which has been noticed by every foreign tourist as a marked Japanese trait. Politeness is a poor virtue, if it is actuated only by a fear of offending good taste, whereas it should be the outward manifestation of a sympathetic regard for the feelings of others. It also implies a due regard for the fitness of things, therefore due respect to social positions; for these latter express no plutocratic distinctions, but were originally distinctions for actual merit.
In its highest form, politeness almost approaches love. We may reverently say, politeness “suffereth long, and is kind; envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, taketh not account of evil.” Is it any wonder that Professor Dean, in speaking of the six elements of Humanity, accords to Politeness an exalted position, inasmuch as it is the ripest fruit of social intercourse?
While thus extolling Politeness, far be it from me to put it in the front rank of virtues. If we analyze it, we shall find it correlated with other virtues of a higher order; for what virtue stands alone? While–or rather because–it was exalted as peculiar to the profession of arms, and as such esteemed in a degree higher than its deserts, there came into existence its counterfeits. Confucius himself has repeatedly taught that external appurtenances are as little a part of propriety as sounds are of music.
When propriety was elevated to the _sine qua non_ of social intercourse, it was only to be expected that an elaborate system of etiquette should come into vogue to train youth in correct social behavior. How one must bow in accosting others, how he must walk and sit, were taught and learned with utmost care. Table manners grew to be a science. Tea serving and drinking were raised to a ceremony. A man of education is, of course, expected to be master of all these. Very fitly does Mr. Veblen, in his interesting book, call decorum “a product and an exponent of the leisure-class life.”
[Footnote 11: _Theory of the Leisure Class_, N.Y. 1899, p. 46.]
I have heard slighting remarks made by Europeans upon our elaborate discipline of politeness. It has been criticized as absorbing too much of our thought and in so far a folly to observe strict obedience to it. I admit that there may be unnecessary niceties in ceremonious etiquette, but whether it partakes as much of folly as the adherence to ever-changing fashions of the West, is a question not very clear to my mind. Even fashions I do not consider solely as freaks of vanity; on the contrary, I look upon these as a ceaseless search of the human mind for the beautiful. Much less do I consider elaborate ceremony as altogether trivial; for it denotes the result of long observation as to the most appropriate method of achieving a certain result. If there is anything to do, there is certainly a best way to do it, and the best way is both the most economical and the most graceful. Mr. Spencer defines grace as the most economical manner of motion. The tea ceremony presents certain definite ways of manipulating a bowl, a spoon, a napkin, etc. To a novice it looks tedious. But one soon discovers that the way prescribed is, after all, the most saving of time and labor; in other words, the most economical use of force,–hence, according to Spencer’s dictum, the most graceful.
The spiritual significance of social decorum,–or, I might say, to borrow from the vocabulary of the “Philosophy of Clothes,” the spiritual discipline of which etiquette and ceremony are mere outward garments,–is out of all proportion to what their appearance warrants us in believing. I might follow the example of Mr. Spencer and trace in our ceremonial institutions their origins and the moral motives that gave rise to them; but that is not what I shall endeavor to do in this book. It is the moral training involved in strict observance of propriety, that I wish to emphasize.
I have said that etiquette was elaborated into the finest niceties, so much so that different schools advocating different systems, came into existence. But they all united in the ultimate essential, and this was put by a great exponent of the best known school of etiquette, the Ogasawara, in the following terms: “The end of all etiquette is to so cultivate your mind that even when you are quietly seated, not the roughest ruffian can dare make onset on your person.” It means, in other words, that by constant exercise in correct manners, one brings all the parts and faculties of his body into perfect order and into such harmony with itself and its environment as to express the mastery of spirit over the flesh. What a new and deep significance the French word _biensÃ¨ance_ comes thus to contain!
[Footnote 12: Etymologically _well-seatedness_.]
If the premise is true that gracefulness means economy of force, then it follows as a logical sequence that a constant practice of graceful deportment must bring with it a reserve and storage of force. Fine manners, therefore, mean power in repose. When the barbarian Gauls, during the sack of Rome, burst into the assembled Senate and dared pull the beards of the venerable Fathers, we think the old gentlemen were to blame, inasmuch as they lacked dignity and strength of manners. Is lofty spiritual attainment really possible through etiquette? Why not?–All roads lead to Rome!
As an example of how the simplest thing can be made into an art and then become spiritual culture, I may take _Cha-no-yu_, the tea ceremony. Tea-sipping as a fine art! Why should it not be? In the children drawing pictures on the sand, or in the savage carving on a rock, was the promise of a Raphael or a Michael Angelo. How much more is the drinking of a beverage, which began with the transcendental contemplation of a Hindoo anchorite, entitled to develop into a handmaid of Religion and Morality? That calmness of mind, that serenity of temper, that composure and quietness of demeanor, which are the first essentials of _Cha-no-yu_ are without doubt the first conditions of right thinking and right feeling. The scrupulous cleanliness of the little room, shut off from sight and sound of the madding crowd, is in itself conducive to direct one’s thoughts from the world. The bare interior does not engross one’s attention like the innumerable pictures and bric-a-brac of a Western parlor; the presence of _kakemono_ calls our attention more to grace of design than to beauty of color. The utmost refinement of taste is the object aimed at; whereas anything like display is banished with religious horror. The very fact that it was invented by a contemplative recluse, in a time when wars and the rumors of wars were incessant, is well calculated to show that this institution was more than a pastime. Before entering the quiet precincts of the tea-room, the company assembling to partake of the ceremony laid aside, together with their swords, the ferocity of the battle-field or the cares of government, there to find peace and friendship.
[Footnote 13: Hanging scrolls, which may be either paintings or ideograms, used for decorative purposes.]
_Cha-no-yu_ is more than a ceremony–it is a fine art; it is poetry, with articulate gestures for rhythm: it is a _modus operandi_ of soul discipline. Its greatest value lies in this last phase. Not infrequently the other phases preponderated in the mind of its votaries, but that does not prove that its essence was not of a spiritual nature.
Politeness will be a great acquisition, if it does no more than impart grace to manners; but its function does not stop here. For propriety, springing as it does from motives of benevolence and modesty, and actuated by tender feelings toward the sensibilities of others, is ever a graceful expression of sympathy. Its requirement is that we should weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. Such didactic requirement, when reduced into small every-day details of life, expresses itself in little acts scarcely noticeable, or, if noticed, is, as one missionary lady of twenty years’ residence once said to me, “awfully funny.” You are out in the hot glaring sun with no shade over you; a Japanese acquaintance passes by; you accost him, and instantly his hat is off–well, that is perfectly natural, but the “awfully funny” performance is, that all the while he talks with you his parasol is down and he stands in the glaring sun also. How foolish!–Yes, exactly so, provided the motive were less than this: “You are in the sun; I sympathize with you; I would willingly take you under my parasol if it were large enough, or if we were familiarly acquainted; as I cannot shade you, I will share your discomforts.” Little acts of this kind, equally or more amusing, are not mere gestures or conventionalities. They are the “bodying forth” of thoughtful feelings for the comfort of others.
Another “awfully funny” custom is dictated by our canons of Politeness; but many superficial writers on Japan, have dismissed it by simply attributing it to the general topsy-turvyness of the nation. Every foreigner who has observed it will confess the awkwardness he felt in making proper reply upon the occasion. In America, when you make a gift, you sing its praises to the recipient; in Japan we depreciate or slander it. The underlying idea with you is, “This is a nice gift: if it were not nice I would not dare give it to you; for it will be an insult to give you anything but what is nice.” In contrast to this, our logic runs: “You are a nice person, and no gift is nice enough for you. You will not accept anything I can lay at your feet except as a token of my good will; so accept this, not for its intrinsic value, but as a token. It will be an insult to your worth to call the best gift good enough for you.” Place the two ideas side by side; and we see that the ultimate idea is one and the same. Neither is “awfully funny.” The American speaks of the material which makes the gift; the Japanese speaks of the spirit which prompts the gift.
It is perverse reasoning to conclude, because our sense of propriety shows itself in all the smallest ramifications of our deportment, to take the least important of them and uphold it as the type, and pass judgment upon the principle itself. Which is more important, to eat or to observe rules of propriety about eating? A Chinese sage answers, “If you take a case where the eating is all-important, and the observing the rules of propriety is of little importance, and compare them together, why merely say that the eating is of the more importance?” “Metal is heavier than feathers,” but does that saying have reference to a single clasp of metal and a wagon-load of feathers? Take a piece of wood a foot thick and raise it above the pinnacle of a temple, none would call it taller than the temple. To the question, “Which is the more important, to tell the truth or to be polite?” the Japanese are said to give an answer diametrically opposite to what the American will say,–but I forbear any comment until I come to speak of
VERACITY OR TRUTHFULNESS,
without which Politeness is a farce and a show. “Propriety carried beyond right bounds,” says MasamunÃ©, “becomes a lie.” An ancient poet has outdone Polonius in the advice he gives: “To thyself be faithful: if in thy heart thou strayest not from truth, without prayer of thine the Gods will keep thee whole.” The apotheosis of Sincerity to which Tsu-tsu gives expression in the _Doctrine of the Mean_, attributes to it transcendental powers, almost identifying them with the Divine. “Sincerity is the end and the beginning of all things; without Sincerity there would be nothing.” He then dwells with eloquence on its far-reaching and long enduring nature, its power to produce changes without movement and by its mere presence to accomplish its purpose without effort. From the Chinese ideogram for Sincerity, which is a combination of “Word” and “Perfect,” one is tempted to draw a parallel between it and the Neo-Platonic doctrine of _Logos_–to such height does the sage soar in his unwonted mystic flight.
Lying or equivocation were deemed equally cowardly. The bushi held that his high social position demanded a loftier standard of veracity than that of the tradesman and peasant. _Bushi no ichi-gon_–the word of a samurai or in exact German equivalent _ein Ritterwort_–was sufficient guaranty of the truthfulness of an assertion. His word carried such weight with it that promises were generally made and fulfilled without a written pledge, which would have been deemed quite beneath his dignity. Many thrilling anecdotes were told of those who atoned by death for _ni-gon_, a double tongue.
The regard for veracity was so high that, unlike the generality of Christians who persistently violate the plain commands of the Teacher not to swear, the best of samurai looked upon an oath as derogatory to their honor. I am well aware that they did swear by different deities or upon their swords; but never has swearing degenerated into wanton form and irreverent interjection. To emphasize our words a practice of literally sealing with blood was sometimes resorted to. For the explanation of such a practice, I need only refer my readers to Goethe’s Faust.
A recent American writer is responsible for this statement, that if you ask an ordinary Japanese which is better, to tell a falsehood or be impolite, he will not hesitate to answer “to tell a falsehood!” Dr. Peery is partly right and partly wrong; right in that an ordinary Japanese, even a samurai, may answer in the way ascribed to him, but wrong in attributing too much weight to the term he translates “falsehood.” This word (in Japanese _uso_) is employed to denote anything which is not a truth (_makoto_) or fact (_honto_). Lowell tells us that Wordsworth could not distinguish between truth and fact, and an ordinary Japanese is in this respect as good as Wordsworth. Ask a Japanese, or even an American of any refinement, to tell you whether he dislikes you or whether he is sick at his stomach, and he will not hesitate long to tell falsehoods and answer, “I like you much,” or, “I am quite well, thank you.” To sacrifice truth merely for the sake of politeness was regarded as an “empty form” (_kyo-rei_) and “deception by sweet words,” and was never justified.
[Footnote 14: Peery, _The Gist of Japan_, p. 86.]
I own I am speaking now of the Bushido idea of veracity; but it may not be amiss to devote a few words to our commercial integrity, of which I have heard much complaint in foreign books and journals. A loose business morality has indeed been the worst blot on our national reputation; but before abusing it or hastily condemning the whole race for it, let us calmly study it and we shall be rewarded with consolation for the future.
Of all the great occupations of life, none was farther removed from the profession of arms than commerce. The merchant was placed lowest in the category of vocations,–the knight, the tiller of the soil, the mechanic, the merchant. The samurai derived his income from land and could even indulge, if he had a mind to, in amateur farming; but the counter and abacus were abhorred. We knew the wisdom of this social arrangement. Montesquieu has made it clear that the debarring of the nobility from mercantile pursuits was an admirable social policy, in that it prevented wealth from accumulating in the hands of the powerful. The separation of power and riches kept the distribution of the latter more nearly equable. Professor Dill, the author of “Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire,” has brought afresh to our mind that one cause of the decadence of the Roman Empire, was the permission given to the nobility to engage in trade, and the consequent monopoly of wealth and power by a minority of the senatorial families.
Commerce, therefore, in feudal Japan did not reach that degree of development which it would have attained under freer conditions. The obloquy attached to the calling naturally brought within its pale such as cared little for social repute. “Call one a thief and he will steal:” put a stigma on a calling and its followers adjust their morals to it, for it is natural that “the normal conscience,” as Hugh Black says, “rises to the demands made on it, and easily falls to the limit of the standard expected from it.” It is unnecessary to add that no business, commercial or otherwise, can be transacted without a code of morals. Our merchants of the feudal period had one among themselves, without which they could never have developed, as they did, such fundamental mercantile institutions as the guild, the bank, the bourse, insurance, checks, bills of exchange, etc.; but in their relations with people outside their vocation, the tradesmen lived too true to the reputation of their order.
This being the case, when the country was opened to foreign trade, only the most adventurous and unscrupulous rushed to the ports, while the respectable business houses declined for some time the repeated requests of the authorities to establish branch houses. Was Bushido powerless to stay the current of commercial dishonor? Let us see.
Those who are well acquainted with our history will remember that only a few years after our treaty ports were opened to foreign trade, feudalism was abolished, and when with it the samurai’s fiefs were taken and bonds issued to them in compensation, they were given liberty to invest them in mercantile transactions. Now you may ask, “Why could they not bring their much boasted veracity into their new business relations and so reform the old abuses?” Those who had eyes to see could not weep enough, those who had hearts to feel could not sympathize enough, with the fate of many a noble and honest samurai who signally and irrevocably failed in his new and unfamiliar field of trade and industry, through sheer lack of shrewdness in coping with his artful plebeian rival. When we know that eighty per cent. of the business houses fail in so industrial a country as America, is it any wonder that scarcely one among a hundred samurai who went into trade could succeed in his new vocation? It will be long before it will be recognized how many fortunes were wrecked in the attempt to apply Bushido ethics to business methods; but it was soon patent to every observing mind that the ways of wealth were not the ways of honor. In what respects, then, were they different?
Of the three incentives to Veracity that Lecky enumerates, viz: the industrial, the political, and the philosophical, the first was altogether lacking in Bushido. As to the second, it could develop little in a political community under a feudal system. It is in its philosophical, and as Lecky says, in its highest aspect, that Honesty attained elevated rank in our catalogue of virtues. With all my sincere regard for the high commercial integrity of the Anglo-Saxon race, when I ask for the ultimate ground, I am told that “Honesty is the best policy,” that it _pays_ to be honest. Is not this virtue, then, its own reward? If it is followed because it brings in more cash than falsehood, I am afraid Bushido would rather indulge in lies!
If Bushido rejects a doctrine of _quid pro quo_ rewards, the shrewder tradesman will readily accept it. Lecky has very truly remarked that Veracity owes its growth largely to commerce and manufacture; as Nietzsche puts it, “Honesty is the youngest of virtues”–in other words, it is the foster-child of industry, of modern industry. Without this mother, Veracity was like a blue-blood orphan whom only the most cultivated mind could adopt and nourish. Such minds were general among the samurai, but, for want of a more democratic and utilitarian foster-mother, the tender child failed to thrive. Industries advancing, Veracity will prove an easy, nay, a profitable, virtue to practice. Just think, as late as November 1880, Bismarck sent a circular to the professional consuls of the German Empire, warning them of “a lamentable lack of reliability with regard to German shipments _inter alia_, apparent both as to quality and quantity;” now-a-days we hear comparatively little of German carelessness and dishonesty in trade. In twenty years her merchants learned that in the end honesty pays. Already our merchants are finding that out. For the rest I recommend the reader to two recent writers for well-weighed judgment on this point. It is interesting to remark in this connection that integrity and honor were the surest guaranties which even a merchant debtor could present in the form of promissory notes. It was quite a usual thing to insert such clauses as these: “In default of the repayment of the sum lent to me, I shall say nothing against being ridiculed in public;” or, “In case I fail to pay you back, you may call me a fool,” and the like.
[Footnote 15: Knapp, _Feudal and Modern Japan_, Vol. I, Ch. IV. Ransome, _Japan in Transition_, Ch. VIII.]
Often have I wondered whether the Veracity of Bushido had any motive higher than courage. In the absence of any positive commandment against bearing false witness, lying was not condemned as sin, but simply denounced as weakness, and, as such, highly dishonorable. As a matter of fact, the idea of honesty is so intimately blended, and its Latin and its German etymology so identified with
that it is high time I should pause a few moments for the consideration of this feature of the Precepts of Knighthood.
The sense of honor, implying a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth, could not fail to characterize the samurai, born and bred to value the duties and privileges of their profession. Though the word ordinarily given now-a-days as the translation of Honor was not used freely, yet the idea was conveyed by such terms as _na_ (name) _men-moku_ (countenance), _guai-bun_ (outside hearing), reminding us respectively of the biblical use of “name,” of the evolution of the term “personality” from the Greek mask, and of “fame.” A good name–one’s reputation, the immortal part of one’s self, what remains being bestial–assumed as a matter of course, any infringement upon its integrity was felt as shame, and the sense of shame (_Ren-chi-shin_) was one of the earliest to be cherished in juvenile education. “You will be laughed at,” “It will disgrace you,” “Are you not ashamed?” were the last appeal to correct behavior on the part of a youthful delinquent. Such a recourse to his honor touched the most sensitive spot in the child’s heart, as though it had been nursed on honor while it was in its mother’s womb; for most truly is honor a prenatal influence, being closely bound up with strong family consciousness. “In losing the solidarity of families,” says Balzac, “society has lost the fundamental force which Montesquieu named Honor.” Indeed, the sense of shame seems to me to be the earliest indication of the moral consciousness of our race. The first and worst punishment which befell humanity in consequence of tasting “the fruit of that forbidden tree” was, to my mind, not the sorrow of childbirth, nor the thorns and thistles, but the awakening of the sense of shame. Few incidents in history excel in pathos the scene of the first mother plying with heaving breast and tremulous fingers, her crude needle on the few fig leaves which her dejected husband plucked for her. This first fruit of disobedience clings to us with a tenacity that nothing else does. All the sartorial ingenuity of mankind has not yet succeeded in sewing an apron that will efficaciously hide our sense of shame. That samurai was right who refused to compromise his character by a slight humiliation in his youth; “because,” he said, “dishonor is like a scar on a tree, which time, instead of effacing, only helps to enlarge.”
Mencius had taught centuries before, in almost the identical phrase, what Carlyle has latterly expressed,–namely, that “Shame is the soil of all Virtue, of good manners and good morals.”
The fear of disgrace was so great that if our literature lacks such eloquence as Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Norfolk, it nevertheless hung like Damocles’ sword over the head of every samurai and often assumed a morbid character. In the name of Honor, deeds were perpetrated which can find no justification in the code of Bushido. At the slightest, nay, imaginary insult, the quick-tempered braggart took offense, resorted to the use of the sword, and many an unnecessary strife was raised and many an innocent life lost. The story of a well-meaning citizen who called the attention of a bushi to a flea jumping on his back, and who was forthwith cut in two, for the simple and questionable reason that inasmuch as fleas are parasites which feed on animals, it was an unpardonable insult to identify a noble warrior with a beast–I say, stories like these are too frivolous to believe. Yet, the circulation of such stories implies three things; (1) that they were invented to overawe common people; (2) that abuses were really made of the samurai’s profession of honor; and (3) that a very strong sense of shame was developed among them. It is plainly unfair to take an abnormal case to cast blame upon the Precepts, any more than to judge of the true teaching of Christ from the fruits of religious fanaticism and extravagance–inquisitions and hypocrisy. But, as in religious monomania there is something touchingly noble, as compared with the delirium tremens of a drunkard, so in that extreme sensitiveness of the samurai about their honor do we not recognize the substratum of a genuine virtue?
The morbid excess into which the delicate code of honor was inclined to run was strongly counterbalanced by preaching magnanimity and patience. To take offense at slight provocation was ridiculed as “short-tempered.” The popular adage said: “To bear what you think you cannot bear is really to bear.” The great IyÃ©yasu left to posterity a few maxims, among which are the following:–“The life of man is like going a long distance with a heavy load upon the shoulders. Haste not. * * * * Reproach none, but be forever watchful of thine own short-comings. * * * Forbearance is the basis of length of days.” He proved in his life what he preached. A literary wit put a characteristic epigram into the mouths of three well-known personages in our history: to Nobunaga he attributed, “I will kill her, if the nightingale sings not in time;” to HidÃ©yoshi, “I will force her to sing for me;” and to IyÃ©yasu, “I will wait till she opens her lips.”
Patience and long suffering were also highly commended by Mencius. In one place he writes to this effect: “Though you denude yourself and insult me, what is that to me? You cannot defile my soul by your outrage.” Elsewhere he teaches that anger at a petty offense is unworthy a superior man, but indignation for a great cause is righteous wrath.
To what height of unmartial and unresisting meekness Bushido could reach in some of its votaries, may be seen in their utterances. Take, for instance, this saying of Ogawa: “When others speak all manner of evil things against thee, return not evil for evil, but rather reflect that thou wast not more faithful in the discharge of thy duties.” Take another of Kumazawa:–“When others blame thee, blame them not; when others are angry at thee, return not anger. Joy cometh only as Passion and Desire part.” Still another instance I may cite from Saigo, upon whose overhanging brows “shame is ashamed to sit;”–“The Way is the way of Heaven and Earth: Man’s place is to follow it: therefore make it the object of thy life to reverence Heaven. Heaven loves me and others with equal love; therefore with the love wherewith thou lovest thyself, love others. Make not Man thy partner but Heaven, and making Heaven thy partner do thy best. Never condemn others; but see to it that thou comest not short of thine own mark.” Some of those sayings remind us of Christian expostulations and show us how far in practical morality natural religion can approach the revealed. Not only did these sayings remain as utterances, but they were really embodied in acts.
It must be admitted that very few attained this sublime height of magnanimity, patience and forgiveness. It was a great pity that nothing clear and general was expressed as to what constitutes Honor, only a few enlightened minds being aware that it “from no condition rises,” but that it lies in each acting well his part: for nothing was easier than for youths to forget in the heat of action what they had learned in Mencius in their calmer moments. Said this sage, “‘Tis in every man’s mind to love honor: but little doth he dream that what is truly honorable lies within himself and not anywhere else. The honor which men confer is not good honor. Those whom ChÃ¢o the Great ennobles, he can make mean again.”
For the most part, an insult was quickly resented and repaid by death, as we shall see later, while Honor–too often nothing higher than vain glory or worldly approbation–was prized as the _summum bonum_ of earthly existence. Fame, and not wealth or knowledge, was the goal toward which youths had to strive. Many a lad swore within himself as he crossed the threshold of his paternal home, that he would not recross it until he had made a name in the world: and many an ambitious mother refused to see her sons again unless they could “return home,” as the expression is, “caparisoned in brocade.” To shun shame or win a name, samurai boys would submit to any privations and undergo severest ordeals of bodily or mental suffering. They knew that honor won in youth grows with age. In the memorable siege of Osaka, a young son of IyÃ©yasu, in spite of his earnest entreaties to be put in the vanguard, was placed at the rear of the army. When the castle fell, he was so chagrined and wept so bitterly that an old councillor tried to console him with all the resources at his command. “Take comfort, Sire,” said he, “at thought of the long future before you. In the many years that you may live, there will come divers occasions to distinguish yourself.” The boy fixed his indignant gaze upon the man and said–“How foolishly you talk! Can ever my fourteenth year come round again?”
Life itself was thought cheap if honor and fame could be attained therewith: hence, whenever a cause presented itself which was considered dearer than life, with utmost serenity and celerity was life laid down.
Of the causes in comparison with which no life was too dear to sacrifice, was
THE DUTY OF LOYALTY,
which was the key-stone making feudal virtues a symmetrical arch. Other virtues feudal morality shares in common with other systems of ethics, with other classes of people, but this virtue–homage and fealty to a superior–is its distinctive feature. I am aware that personal fidelity is a moral adhesion existing among all sorts and conditions of men,–a gang of pickpockets owe allegiance to a Fagin; but it is only in the code of chivalrous honor that Loyalty assumes paramount importance.
In spite of Hegel’s criticism that the fidelity of feudal vassals, being an obligation to an individual and not to a Commonwealth, is a bond established on totally unjust principles, a great compatriot of his made it his boast that personal loyalty was a German virtue. Bismarck had good reason to do so, not because the _Treue_ he boasts of was the monopoly of his Fatherland or of any single nation or race, but because this favored fruit of chivalry lingers latest among the people where feudalism has lasted longest. In America where “everybody is as good as anybody else,” and, as the Irishman added, “better too,” such exalted ideas of loyalty as we feel for our sovereign may be deemed “excellent within certain bounds,” but preposterous as encouraged among us. Montesquieu complained long ago that right on one side of the Pyrenees was wrong on the other, and the recent Dreyfus trial proved the truth of his remark, save that the Pyrenees were not the sole boundary beyond which French justice finds no accord. Similarly, Loyalty as we conceive it may find few admirers elsewhere, not because our conception is wrong, but because it is, I am afraid, forgotten, and also because we carry it to a degree not reached in any other country. Griffis was quite right in stating that whereas in China Confucian ethics made obedience to parents the primary human duty, in Japan precedence was given to Loyalty. At the risk of shocking some of my good readers, I will relate of one “who could endure to follow a fall’n lord” and who thus, as Shakespeare assures, “earned a place i’ the story.”
[Footnote 16: _Philosophy of History_ (Eng. trans. by Sibree), Pt. IV, Sec. II, Ch. I.]
[Footnote 17: _Religions of Japan_.]
The story is of one of the purest characters in our history, MichizanÃ©, who, falling a victim to jealousy and calumny, is exiled from the capital. Not content with this, his unrelenting enemies are now bent upon the extinction of his family. Strict search for his son–not yet grown–reveals the fact of his being secreted in a village school kept by one Genzo, a former vassal of MichizanÃ©. When orders are dispatched to the schoolmaster to deliver the head of the juvenile offender on a certain day, his first idea is to find a suitable substitute for it. He ponders over his school-list, scrutinizes with careful eyes all the boys, as they stroll into the class-room, but none among the children born of the soil bears the least resemblance to his protÃ©gÃ©. His despair, however, is but for a moment; for, behold, a new scholar is announced–a comely boy of the same age as his master’s son, escorted by a mother of noble mien. No less conscious of the resemblance between infant lord and infant retainer, were the mother and the boy himself. In the privacy of home both had laid themselves upon the altar; the one his life,–the other her heart, yet without sign to the outer world. Unwitting of what had passed between them, it is the teacher from whom comes the suggestion.
Here, then, is the scape-goat!–The rest of the narrative may be briefly told.–On the day appointed, arrives the officer commissioned to identify and receive the head of the youth. Will he be deceived by the false head? The poor Genzo’s hand is on the hilt of the sword, ready to strike a blow either at the man or at himself, should the examination defeat his scheme. The officer takes up the gruesome object before him, goes calmly over each feature, and in a deliberate, business-like tone, pronounces it genuine.–That evening in a lonely home awaits the mother we saw in the school. Does she know the fate of her child? It is not for his return that she watches with eagerness for the opening of the wicket. Her father-in-law has been for a long time a recipient of MichizanÃ©’s bounties, but since his banishment circumstances have forced her husband to follow the service of the enemy of his family’s benefactor. He himself could not be untrue to his own cruel master; but his son could serve the cause of the grandsire’s lord. As one acquainted with the exile’s family, it was he who had been entrusted with the task of identifying the boy’s head. Now the day’s–yea, the life’s–hard work is done, he returns home and as he crosses its threshold, he accosts his wife, saying: “Rejoice, my wife, our darling son has proved of service to his lord!”
“What an atrocious story!” I hear my readers exclaim,–“Parents deliberately sacrificing their own innocent child to save the life of another man’s.” But this child was a conscious and willing victim: it is a story of vicarious death–as significant as, and not more revolting than, the story of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac. In both cases it was obedience to the call of duty, utter submission to the command of a higher voice, whether given by a visible or an invisible angel, or heard by an outward or an inward ear;–but I abstain from preaching.
The individualism of the West, which recognizes separate interests for father and son, husband and wife, necessarily brings into strong relief the duties owed by one to the other; but Bushido held that the interest of the family and of the members thereof is intact,–one and inseparable. This interest it bound up with affection–natural, instinctive, irresistible; hence, if we die for one we love with natural love (which animals themselves possess), what is that? “For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?”
In his great history, Sanyo relates in touching language the heart struggle of Shigemori concerning his father’s rebellious conduct. “If I be loyal, my father must be undone; if I obey my father, my duty to my sovereign must go amiss.” Poor Shigemori! We see him afterward praying with all his soul that kind Heaven may visit him with death, that he may be released from this world where it is hard for purity and righteousness to dwell.
Many a Shigemori has his heart torn by the conflict between duty and affection. Indeed neither Shakespeare nor the Old Testament itself contains an adequate rendering of _ko_, our conception of filial piety, and yet in such conflicts Bushido never wavered in its choice of Loyalty. Women, too, encouraged their offspring to sacrifice all for the king. Ever as resolute as Widow Windham and her illustrious consort, the samurai matron stood ready to give up her boys for the cause of Loyalty.
Since Bushido, like Aristotle and some modern sociologists, conceived the state as antedating the individual–the latter being born into the former as part and parcel thereof–he must live and die for it or for the incumbent of its legitimate authority. Readers of Crito will remember the argument with which Socrates represents the laws of the city as pleading with him on the subject of his escape. Among others he makes them (the laws, or the state) say:–“Since you were begotten and nurtured and educated under us, dare you once to say you are not our offspring and servant, you and your fathers before you!” These are words which do not impress us as any thing extraordinary; for the same thing has long been on the lips of Bushido, with this modification, that the laws and the state were represented with us by a personal being. Loyalty is an ethical outcome of this political theory.
I am not entirely ignorant of Mr. Spencer’s view according to which political obedience–Loyalty–is accredited with only a transitional function. It may be so. Sufficient unto the day is the virtue thereof. We may complacently repeat it, especially as we believe _that_ day to be a long space of time, during which, so our national anthem says, “tiny pebbles grow into mighty rocks draped with moss.” We may remember at this juncture that even among so democratic a people as the English, “the sentiment of personal fidelity to a man and his posterity which their Germanic ancestors felt for their chiefs, has,” as Monsieur Boutmy recently said, “only passed more or less into their profound loyalty to the race and blood of their princes, as evidenced in their extraordinary attachment to the dynasty.”
[Footnote 18: _Principles of Ethics_, Vol. I, Pt. II, Ch. X.]
Political subordination, Mr. Spencer predicts, will give place to loyalty to the dictates of conscience. Suppose his induction is realized–will loyalty and its concomitant instinct of reverence disappear forever? We transfer our allegiance from one master to another, without being unfaithful to either; from being subjects of a ruler that wields the temporal sceptre we become servants of the monarch who sits enthroned in the penetralia of our heart. A few years ago a very stupid controversy, started by the misguided disciples of Spencer, made havoc among the reading class of Japan. In their zeal to uphold the claim of the throne to undivided loyalty, they charged Christians with treasonable propensities in that they avow fidelity to their Lord and Master. They arrayed forth sophistical arguments without the wit of Sophists, and scholastic tortuosities minus the niceties of the Schoolmen. Little did they know that we can, in a sense, “serve two masters without holding to the one or despising the other,” “rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” Did not Socrates, all the while he unflinchingly refused to concede one iota of loyalty to his _daemon_, obey with equal fidelity and equanimity the command of his earthly master, the State? His conscience he followed, alive; his country he served, dying. Alack the day when a state grows so powerful as to demand of its citizens the dictates of their conscience!
Bushido did not require us to make our conscience the slave of any lord or king. Thomas Mowbray was a veritable spokesman for us when he said:
“Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot. My life thou shalt command, but not my shame. The one my duty owes; but my fair name, Despite of death, that lives upon my grave, To dark dishonor’s use, thou shalt not have.”
A man who sacrificed his own conscience to the capricious will or freak or fancy of a sovereign was accorded a low place in the estimate of the Precepts. Such an one was despised as _nei-shin_, a cringeling, who makes court by unscrupulous fawning or as _chÃ´-shin_, a favorite who steals his master’s affections by means of servile compliance; these two species of subjects corresponding exactly to those which Iago describes,–the one, a duteous and knee-crooking knave, doting on his own obsequious bondage, wearing out his time much like his master’s ass; the other trimm’d in forms and visages of duty, keeping yet his heart attending on himself. When a subject differed from his master, the loyal path for him to pursue was to use every available means to persuade him of his error, as Kent did to King Lear. Failing in this, let the master deal with him as he wills. In cases of this kind, it was quite a usual course for the samurai to make the last appeal to the intelligence and conscience of his lord by demonstrating the sincerity of his words with the shedding of his own blood.
Life being regarded as the means whereby to serve his master, and its ideal being set upon honor, the whole
EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF
were conducted accordingly.
The first point to observe in knightly pedagogics was to build up character, leaving in the shade the subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence and dialectics. We have seen the important part aesthetic accomplishments played in his education. Indispensable as they were to a man of culture, they were accessories rather than essentials of samurai training. Intellectual superiority was, of course, esteemed; but the word _Chi_, which was employed to denote intellectuality, meant wisdom in the first instance and placed knowledge only in a very subordinate place. The tripod that supported the framework of Bushido was said to be _Chi_, _Jin_, _Yu_, respectively Wisdom, Benevolence, and Courage. A samurai was essentially a man of action. Science was without the pale of his activity. He took advantage of it in so far as it concerned his profession of arms. Religion and theology were relegated to the priests; he concerned himself with them in so far as they helped to nourish courage. Like an English poet the samurai believed “’tis not the creed that saves the man; but it is the man that justifies the creed.” Philosophy and literature formed the chief part of his intellectual training; but even in the pursuit of these, it was not objective truth that he strove after,–literature was pursued mainly as a pastime, and philosophy as a practical aid in the formation of character, if not for the exposition of some military or political problem.
From what has been said, it will not be surprising to note that the curriculum of studies, according to the pedagogics of Bushido, consisted mainly of the following,–fencing, archery, _jiujutsu_ or _yawara_, horsemanship, the use of the spear, tactics, caligraphy, ethics, literature and history. Of these, _jiujutsu_ and caligraphy may require a few words of explanation. Great stress was laid on good writing, probably because our logograms, partaking as they do of the nature of pictures, possess artistic value, and also because chirography was accepted as indicative of one’s personal character. _Jiujutsu_ may be briefly defined as an application of anatomical knowledge to the purpose of offense or defense. It differs from wrestling, in that it does not depend upon muscular strength. It differs from other forms of attack in that it uses no weapon. Its feat consists in clutching or striking such part of the enemy’s body as will make him numb and incapable of resistance. Its object is not to kill, but to incapacitate one for action for the time being.
A subject of study which one would expect to find in military education and which is rather conspicuous by its absence in the Bushido course of instruction, is mathematics. This, however, can be readily explained in part by the fact that feudal warfare was not carried on with scientific precision. Not only that, but the whole training of the samurai was unfavorable to fostering numerical notions.
Chivalry is uneconomical; it boasts of penury. It says with Ventidius that “ambition, the soldier’s virtue, rather makes choice of loss, than gain which darkens him.” Don Quixote takes more pride in his rusty spear and skin-and-bone horse than in gold and lands, and a samurai is in hearty sympathy with his exaggerated confrÃ¨re of La Mancha. He disdains money itself,–the art of making or hoarding it. It is to him veritably filthy lucre. The hackneyed expression to describe the decadence of an age is “that the civilians loved money and the soldiers feared death.” Niggardliness of gold and of life excites as much disapprobation as their lavish use is panegyrized. “Less than all things,” says a current precept, “men must grudge money: it is by riches that wisdom is hindered.” Hence children were brought up with utter disregard of economy. It was considered bad taste to speak of it, and ignorance of the value of different coins was a token of good breeding. Knowledge of numbers was indispensable in the mustering of forces as well, as in the distribution of benefices and fiefs; but the counting of money was left to meaner hands. In many feudatories, public finance was administered by a lower kind of samurai or by priests. Every thinking bushi knew well enough that money formed the sinews of war; but he did not think of raising the appreciation of money to a virtue. It is true that thrift was enjoined by Bushido, but not for economical reasons so much as for the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to manhood, and severest simplicity was required of the warrior class, sumptuary laws being enforced in many of the clans.
We read that in ancient Rome the farmers of revenue and other financial agents were gradually raised to the rank of knights, the State thereby showing its appreciation of their service and of the importance of money itself. How closely this was connected with the luxury and avarice of the Romans may be imagined. Not so with the Precepts of Knighthood. These persisted in systematically regarding finance as something low–low as compared with moral and intellectual vocations.
Money and the love of it being thus diligently ignored, Bushido itself could long remain free from a thousand and one evils of which money is the root. This is sufficient reason for the fact that our public men have long been free from corruption; but, alas, how fast plutocracy is making its way in our time and generation!
The mental discipline which would now-a-days be chiefly aided by the study of mathematics, was supplied by literary exegesis and deontological discussions. Very few abstract subjects troubled the mind of the young, the chief aim of their education being, as I have said, decision of character. People whose minds were simply stored with information found no great admirers. Of the three services of studies that Bacon gives,–for delight, ornament, and ability,–Bushido had decided preference for the last, where their use was “in judgment and the disposition of business.” Whether it was for the disposition of public business or for the exercise of self-control, it was with a practical end in view that education was conducted. “Learning without thought,” said Confucius, “is labor lost: thought without learning is perilous.”
When character and not intelligence, when the soul and not the head, is chosen by a teacher for the material to work upon and to develop, his vocation partakes of a sacred character. “It is the parent who has borne me: it is the teacher who makes me man.” With this idea, therefore, the esteem in which one’s preceptor was held was very high. A man to evoke such confidence and respect from the young, must necessarily be endowed with superior personality without lacking erudition. He was a father to the fatherless, and an adviser to the erring. “Thy father and thy mother”–so runs our maxim–“are like heaven and earth; thy teacher and thy lord are like the sun and moon.”
The present system of paying for every sort of service was not in vogue among the adherents of Bushido. It believed in a service which can be rendered only without money and without price. Spiritual service, be it of priest or teacher, was not to be repaid in gold or silver, not because it was valueless but because it was invaluable. Here the non-arithmetical honor-instinct of Bushido taught a truer lesson than modern Political Economy; for wages and salaries can be paid only for services whose results are definite, tangible, and measurable, whereas the best service done in education,–namely, in soul development (and this includes the services of a pastor), is not definite, tangible or measurable. Being immeasurable, money, the ostensible measure of value, is of inadequate use. Usage sanctioned that pupils brought to their teachers money or goods at different seasons of the year; but these were not payments but offerings, which indeed were welcome to the recipients as they were usually men of stern calibre, boasting of honorable penury, too dignified to work with their hands and too proud to beg. They were grave personifications of high spirits undaunted by adversity. They were an embodiment of what was considered as an end of all learning, and were thus a living example of that discipline of disciplines,
which was universally required of samurai.
The discipline of fortitude on the one hand, inculcating endurance without a groan, and the teaching of politeness on the other, requiring us not to mar the pleasure or serenity of another by manifestations of our own sorrow or pain, combined to engender a stoical turn of mind, and eventually to confirm it into a national trait of apparent stoicism. I say apparent stoicism, because I do not believe that true stoicism can ever become the characteristic of a whole nation, and also because some of our national manners and customs may seem to a foreign observer hard-hearted. Yet we are really as susceptible to tender emotion as any race under the sky.
I am inclined to think that in one sense we have to feel more than others–yes, doubly more–since the very attempt to, restrain natural promptings entails suffering. Imagine boys–and girls too–brought up not to resort to the shedding of a tear or the uttering of a groan for the relief of their feelings,–and there is a physiological problem whether such effort steels their nerves or makes them more sensitive.
It was considered unmanly for a samurai to betray his emotions on his face. “He shows no sign of joy or anger,” was a phrase used in describing a strong character. The most natural affections were kept under control. A father could embrace his son only at the expense of his dignity; a husband would not kiss his wife,–no, not in the presence of other people, whatever he might do in private! There may be some truth in the remark of a witty youth when he said, “American husbands kiss their wives in public and beat them in private; Japanese husbands beat theirs in public and kiss them in private.”
Calmness of behavior, composure of mind, should not be disturbed by passion of any kind. I remember when, during the late war with China, a regiment left a certain town, a large concourse of people flocked to the station to bid farewell to the general and his army. On this occasion an American resident resorted to the place, expecting to witness loud demonstrations, as the nation itself was highly excited and there were fathers, mothers, and sweethearts of the soldiers in the crowd. The American was strangely disappointed; for as the whistle blew and the train began to move, the hats of thousands of people were silently taken off and their heads bowed in reverential farewell; no waving of handkerchiefs, no word uttered, but deep silence in which only an attentive ear could catch a few broken sobs. In domestic life, too, I know of a father who spent whole nights listening to the breathing of a sick child, standing behind the door that he might not be caught in such an act of parental weakness! I know of a mother who, in her last moments, refrained from sending for her son, that he might not be disturbed in his studies. Our history and everyday life are replete with examples of heroic matrons who can well bear comparison with some of the most touching pages of Plutarch. Among our peasantry an Ian Maclaren would be sure to find many a Marget Howe.
It is the same discipline of self-restraint which is accountable for the absence of more frequent revivals in the Christian churches of Japan. When a man or woman feels his or her soul stirred, the first instinct is to quietly suppress any indication of it. In rare instances is the tongue set free by an irresistible spirit, when we have eloquence of sincerity and fervor. It is putting a premium upon a breach of the third commandment to encourage speaking lightly of spiritual experience. It is truly jarring to Japanese ears to hear the most sacred words, the most secret heart experiences, thrown out in promiscuous audiences. “Dost thou feel the soil of thy soul stirred with tender thoughts? It is time for seeds to sprout. Disturb it not with speech; but let it work alone in quietness and secrecy,”–writes a young samurai in his diary.
To give in so many articulate words one’s inmost thoughts and feelings–notably the religious–is taken among us as an unmistakable sign that they are neither very profound nor very sincere. “Only a pomegranate is he”–so runs a popular saying–“who, when he gapes his mouth, displays the contents of his heart.”
It is not altogether perverseness of oriental minds that the instant our emotions are moved we try to guard our lips in order to hide them. Speech is very often with us, as the Frenchman defined it, “the art of concealing thought.”
Call upon a Japanese friend in time of deepest affliction and he will invariably receive you laughing, with red eyes or moist cheeks. At first you may think him hysterical. Press him for explanation and you will get a few broken commonplaces–“Human life has sorrow;” “They who meet must part;” “He that is born must die;” “It is foolish to count the years of a child that is gone, but a woman’s heart will indulge in follies;” and the like. So the noble words of a noble Hohenzollern–“Lerne zu leiden ohne Klagen”–had found many responsive minds among us, long before they were uttered.
Indeed, the Japanese have recourse to risibility whenever the frailties of human nature are put to severest test. I think we possess a better reason than Democritus himself for our Abderian tendency; for laughter with us oftenest veils an effort to regain balance of temper, when disturbed by any untoward circumstance. It is a counterpoise of sorrow or rage.
The suppression of feelings being thus steadily insisted upon, they find their safety-valve in poetical aphorism. A poet of the tenth century writes, “In Japan and China as well, humanity, when moved by sorrow, tells its bitter grief in verse.” A mother who tries to console her broken heart by fancying her departed child absent on his wonted chase after the dragon-fly, hums,
“How far to-day in chase, I wonder, Has gone my hunter of the dragon-fly!”
I refrain from quoting other examples, for I know I could do only scant justice to the pearly gems of our literature, were I to render into a foreign tongue the thoughts which were wrung drop by drop from bleeding hearts and threaded into beads of rarest value. I hope I have in a measure shown that inner working of our minds which often presents an appearance of callousness or of an hysterical mixture of laughter and dejection, and whose sanity is sometimes called in question.
It has also been suggested that our endurance of pain and indifference to death are due to less sensitive nerves. This is plausible as far as it goes. The next question is,–Why are our nerves less tightly strung? It may be our climate is not so stimulating as the American. It may be our monarchical form of government does not excite us as much as the Republic does the Frenchman. It may be that we do not read _Sartor Resartus_ as zealously as the Englishman. Personally, I believe it was our very excitability and sensitiveness which made it a necessity to recognize and enforce constant self-repression; but whatever may be the explanation, without taking into account long years of discipline in