Fate is in Heaven, the armor is on the breast, success is with the legs. Go to the battlefield firmly confident of victory,
and you will come home with no wounds whatever. Engage in combat fully determined to die and you will be alive; wish to survive
in the battle and you will surely meet death. When you leave the house determined not to see it again you will come home safely;
when you have any thought of returning you will not return. You may not be in the wrong to think that the world is always
subject to change, but the warrior must not entertain this way of thinking, for his fate is always determined. Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578)1
When Lord [Ryûzôji] Takanobu was at the Battle of Bungo, a messenger came from the enemy camp bearing sake and food. Takanobu
wanted to partake of this quickly, but the men at his side stopped him, saying, "Presents from the enemy are likely to be
poisoned. This is not something that a general should eat." Yamamoto Tsunetomo2
Takanobu heard them out and then said, "Even if it is poisoned,
how much of an effect would that have on things? Call the messenger here!" He then broke open the barrel right in front of
the messenger, drank three large cups of sake, offered the messenger one too, gave him a reply, and sent him back to his camp.
The warrior doesn't care if he's called a beast or a dog; the main thing
Asakura Norikage (Soteki) (1474-1552) 3
The European Prespective
The Japanese are in general of a melancholy disposition and humor. Moved by this natural inclination they thus take much
delight and pleasure in lonely and nostalgic spots, woods with shady groves, cliffs and rocky places, solitary birds, torrents
of fresh water flowing down from rocks, and in every kind of solitary thing that is imbued with nature and free from all artificiality.
All this fills their souls with the same inclination and melancholy, as well as a certain nostalgic feeling with the results
therefrom. João Rodriques (1561-1633)4
The Japanese have a high opinion of themselves because they think no other nation can compare with them as regards weapons
and valour, and so they look down on all foreigners. They greatly prize and value their arms, and prefer to have good weapons,
decorated with gold and silver, more than anything else in the world... Never in my life have I met people who rely so much
on their arms. St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)5
Their way of writing is very different from ours because they write from the top of the page down to the bottom. I asked
Paul [Anjiro] why they did not write in our way and he asked me why we did not write in their way? He explained that as the
head of a man is at the top and his feet are at the bottom, so too a man should write from top to bottom. St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)6
We learn about the sayings and deeds of the men of old in order to entrust ourselves to entrust ourselves to their wisdom
and prevent selfishness. When we throw off our own bias, follow the sayings of the ancients, and confer with other people,
matters should go well and without mishap. Lord [Nabeshima] Katsushige borrowed from the wisdom of Lord Naoshige. This is
mentioned in the Ohanashikikigaki. We should be grateful for his concern. Yamamoto Tsunetomo7
Moreover, there was a certain man who
engaged a number of his younger brothers as retainers, and whenever he visited Edo or the Kamigata area, he would have them
accompany him. As he consulted with them everyday on both private and public matters, it is said that he was without mishap.
…all samurai ought certainly apply themselves to [the study of military science]. But a bad use can be made of this
study to puff oneself up and disparage one's colleagues by a lot of high-flown but incorrect arguments that only mislead the
young and spoil their spirit. For this kind gives forth a wordy discourse that may appear to be correct and proper enough,
but actually he is striving for effect and thinking only of his own advantage, so the result is the deterioration of his character
and the loss of the real samurai spirit. This is a fault arising from a superficial study of the subject, so those who begin
it should never be satisfied to go only halfway but persevere until they understand all the secrets and only then return to
their former simplicity and live a quiet life. Daidoji Yuzan8
There is an old saying that bean sauce that smells of bean sauce is no
good and so it is with the military pedants.
Learning is to a man as the leaves and branches are to a tree, and it can be said that he should not be without it. Learning
is not only reading books, however, but is rather something that we study to integrate with our own way of life. Takeda Shingen (1521-1573)9
is born into the house of a warrior, regardless of his rank or class, first aquaints himself with a man of military feats
and achievements in loyalty, and, in listening to just one of his dictums each day, will in a month know 30 precepts. Needless
to say, if in a year he learns 300 precepts, at the end of that time he will be much the better.
Thus, a man can divide
his mind into three parts: he should throw out those thoughts that are evil, take up those ideas that are good, and become
intimate with his own wisdom… I would honor and call wise the man who penetrates this principle, though he lacks the
knowledge of a single Chinese character. As for those who are learned in other matters, I would avoid them regardless of how
deep their knowledge might be. That is how shallow and untalented this monk is.
When a man in the beginning of his life is ignorant of everything, he has no scruples, finds no obstacles, no inhibitions.
But after a while he starts to learn, and becomes timid, cautious, and begins to feel something choking in his mind, which
prevents him from going ahead as he used to before he had any learning. Learning is needed, but the point is not to become
its slave. You must be its master, so that you can use it when you want it. Yagyu Munemori (1571-1646) (as interpreted by D. T. Suzuki)10