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Hagakure: Book of the Samurai

CHAPTER 1

Although it stands to reason that a samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are
all negligent. Consequently, if someone were to ask, "What is the true meaning of the Way of the Samurai?" the
person who would be able to answer promptly is rare. This is because it has not been established in one's mind
beforehand. From this, one's unmindfulness of the Way can be known.
Negligence is an extreme thing.
The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not
particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one's aim is to die a dog's death
is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's
aim.
We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim
and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death
and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart
right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the
Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.
A man is a good retainer to the extent that he earnestly places importance in his master. This is the highest sort of
retainer. If one is born into a prominent family that goes back for generations, it is sufficient to deeply consider the
matter of obligation to one's ancestors, to lay down one's body and mind, and to earnestly esteem one's master. It is
further good fortune if, more than this, one has wisdom and talent and can use them appropriately. But even a person
who is good for nothing and exceedingly clumsy will be a reliable retainer if only he has the determination to think
earnestly of his master. Having only wisdom and talent is the lowest tier of usefulness.
According to their nature, there are both people who have quick intelligence, and those who must withdraw and take
time to think things over. Looking into this thoroughly, if one thinks selflessly and adheres to the four vows of the
Nabeshima samurai, surprising wisdom will occur regardless of the high or low points of one's nature.'
People think that they can clear up profound matters if they consider them deeply, but they exercise perverse thoughts
and come to no good because they do their reflecting with only self-interest at the center.
It is difficult for a fool's habits to change to selflessness. In confronting a matter, however, if at first you leave it
alone, fix the four vows in your heart, exclude self-interest, and make an effort, you will not go far from your mark.
Because we do most things relying only on our own sagacity we become self-interested, turn our backs on reason, and
things do not turn out well. As seen by other people this is sordid, weak, narrow and inefficient. When one is not
capable of true intelligence, it is good to consult with someone of good sense. An advisor will fulfill the Way when he
makes a decision by selfless and frank intelligence because he is not personally involved. This way of doing things
will certainly be seen by others as being strongly rooted. It is, for example, like a large tree with many roots. One
man's intelligence is like a tree that has been simply stuck in the ground.
We learn about the sayings and deeds of the men of old in order to entrust ourselves to their wisdom and prevent

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