Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:31 pm

Astus wrote:"Does Buddhist practice have anything to offer someone - like a police officer, a soldier, a government official - whose work involves the use of force or its authorization?"

Of course, and that depends on the individual's level of interest. I don't think that Buddhism should appear as some sort of judgement of character. It is an open market. People take and use whatever they want. One can be a soldier, a banker, an office clerk or even a criminal, and at the same time Buddhist. There is no such thing as excommunication from the religion. Only monastics can lose their robes, but not the refuge they take.

Yes, I also agree, and I want to say that I made this thread just to check that samurai were not seen as the ideal Zen Buddhists.

I wasn't demonizing them. They were human like anyone else and had their virtues and talents in addition to their negative qualities.
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:00 pm

What negative qualities of samurai do you mean?
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:04 pm

Matylda wrote:What negative qualities of samurai do you mean?

aggression, cruelty, and the desire to kill some people
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:16 pm

Luke wrote:
Matylda wrote:What negative qualities of samurai do you mean?

aggression, cruelty, and the desire to kill some people


Do you really think that they were that way? How did you come to this conclusion?
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:34 pm

Matylda wrote:
Luke wrote:
Matylda wrote:What negative qualities of samurai do you mean?

aggression, cruelty, and the desire to kill some people


Do you really think that they were that way? How did you come to this conclusion?

You're right: I don't know so much about samurai. Perhaps some of my ideas are wrong, but killing people with swords isn't pretty and there was torture in medieval Japan, wasn't there?

The medieval period in most countries wasn't pretty...

And fundamentally, they were soldiers, and soldiers want to kill their enemies. Additionally, I was under the impression that the samurai would even kill people who dishonored them in small ways.

But if some of my ideas are incorrect, then please correct me.
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:15 pm

Luke wrote: You're right: I don't know so much about samurai. Perhaps some of my ideas are wrong, but killing people with swords isn't pretty and there was torture in medieval Japan, wasn't there?

The medieval period in most countries wasn't pretty...


Well as I think of torturę, so torturę was pretty much used by Japanese police forces during Tokugawa period, cutting deeply into any criminal mentality and preventing offence... whether good or bad it helped to create very peacful society in general. As for smaurai they did not emply themselves in such things... as many many other things, since the state law and also their code strictly forbade it.

Anyway last 250 years of samurai rule was rather very quiet time after long 100 year war... samurai as they came to be known in the history were reaction to extreme political etc. corruption... as for zen and samurai, well it was counteract against Japanese mikkyo/vajrayana style of the Taira family and imperial aristocracy unfortunately responsible for the corruption... simplicity, poverty and more human values were part of this strong samurai reaction which revolutionised socjety and religion as well...

Samurai meant to be a servant not only to lords, but in their view also to the society which was amazingly played in the mid of the XIX century... together with shogun who decided to step down they donated all their assets to the country and to people, thus becoming common citizens and having almost nothing to live on.

Fighting etc. was commmon to any country, as well as wars etc. it was the way humans solved their various problems and still it is... I am less afraid of any samurai then modern trooper, combat sold. or soldier of occupying forces. Even the peaceful forces of the UN could be pretty much feared by civilians as we know today.

Torture, sensless killing, theft, rape etc. were considered to be extreme crimes in samurai Japan and punishment for such behavior was severe... samurai who did it was only a criminal loosing his status. Well if it was a real samurai he would end up by committing suicide I guess...

Were they good symbol for zen buddhism? I think so, if you consider they ideals, and wish to serve selflessly society, yes then for sure yes. There is no higher sacrifice then to lay down one's own life for others.. one cannot denny it. Well, it was 800 years ago, so no worry, all those people are gone.. :)

The other great impact and interaction between samurai and zen was about 400 years ago due to historical events, this is also past... no samurais today, so there is no problem for anyone. It was just history and an interesting one...

Chan and good/bad things? :) if you study history then you know how it really was... finally mature chan was not free from political engagement. Even today...
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:41 pm

Thank you for your detailed answer, Matylda. :namaste:

Matylda wrote:Were they good symbol for zen buddhism? I think so, if you consider they ideals, and wish to serve selflessly society, yes then for sure yes.

So the peasants weren't living in terror of the samurai? Is it not true that samurai would kill peasants for not bowing to them deeply enough?

(I admit that I have seen the movie "Shogun" based on James Clavell's book too many times... lol)

You are right that I should gain more knowledge about Japanese history. Is there any book in English which you think tells the real story of the samurai?
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Nemo » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:59 pm

Didn't Samurai rely on Bushidō and were merely acquainted with Zen? Seppuku(ritual suicide), an inviolate caste system, murder of peasants for sport or simply because they were "impolite". Foremost was a life completely dedicated to warfare and murder. This does not sound like they knew anything about what the Buddha taught.
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:15 am

Luke wrote:Thank you for your detailed answer, Matylda. :namaste:

Matylda wrote:Were they good symbol for zen buddhism? I think so, if you consider they ideals, and wish to serve selflessly society, yes then for sure yes.

So the peasants weren't living in terror of the samurai? Is it not true that samurai would kill peasants for not bowing to them deeply enough?

(I admit that I have seen the movie "Shogun" based on James Clavell's book too many times... lol)

You are right that I should gain more knowledge about Japanese history. Is there any book in English which you think tells the real story of the samurai?


As for the book in English, I am sorry, I have no idea :( But I think there are some good books... there is something like LAST SHOGUN published in Japan.. this one is good and keeps to real historical events...

As for the peasants... and the movie... I am really surprised that you take it so serious. Definitely some historical events were background for the book, but it is not so good to go too far with author's fantasy. Yes there was a period of slavery then as reation was zen, jodo shinshu and nichiren schools - it is from socio-political point of view. However many farmers no-samurais were much better off then samurais themselves who encountered sever poverty in many cases. An Englishman called later Miura was just granted by shogun a status and a fief, but please look at one thing, I mean look at facts not a movie... he was a foreigner, and still received so much privilage from shogun.. think about it, there was no narrow minded mentality in it from most powerful man in Japan at that time. And Tokugawa was not Toshiro Mifune who played himself not a shogun :)
Even present Tokugawa, I mean the real one, is a great character and great descendant of his family. Those people have extremely high standards and are nobody to be feared of. Anyway it would be regrettable for samurai to kill peasant, but it would be even more crazy for peasant to dishonor samurai? Why? For what reason?

Well as a matter of fact.. it is true, that some crazy peasants, I would say out of their mind would kill, or under certain conditions steal from samurais. It happened in big battlefield grounds, were people would not be dead, but hardly alive... then some poor people, or maybe crazy would come and abuse those heavily wounded etc. samurais knew about it very very well...
There was some imbalance, economic and social between classes... the peak of this imbalance would be shown in the end of shogunate when samurais became scapegoats of commoners. But there was generally big gap of ethics etc. There is a movie like LAST SAMURAI were you can see a little bit of it. And those who emerged as really reach, and with influence were not samurais :) they completely lost one can say, but the spirit of high ethics prevailed...
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:22 am

Nemo wrote:Didn't Samurai rely on Bushidō and were merely acquainted with Zen? Seppuku(ritual suicide), an inviolate caste system, murder of peasants for sport or simply because they were "impolite". Foremost was a life completely dedicated to warfare and murder. This does not sound like they knew anything about what the Buddha taught.


Mureder was strictly forbidden. As for this what Buddha taught they were often well trained in its ethics.
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:31 am

To Luke:

Dear friend, I found for you something in English

http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/bsd/bsd10.htm

read it carefully... I do not know much about English resources, however you can get a hint of real samurai things from this short piece. Then I would like to say something from myself... there is long history of zen in Japan, and this teaching brought great result to many practitioners, both monks and laymem, probably not only Japanese, but since last century also to Westerners. And each single temple in Japan is a history of samurai who did not only fight but sponsored dharma, monks, temples and people... moreover samurai in their majority were married people bringing up their own children and were family men in deep sense. It also tells a lot how samurai fostered peaceful thought according to family protection environment.

a real sotry... sometimes there was called name of certain Yasutani roshi ... so as for the story of his family, have you ever heard? They were very poor people. But it was not always so. So his grandfather or great grandafather was wealthy samurai. And in his region was a river and place for river crossing. Since there was no bridge every year people were drowned in water. Out of the pity for travlers and their terrible fate, Yasutani's ancestor used all his possession to build a long and save bridge , what ended economic fortune of the family and ever since they were very poor, but thus saving many lives.

Now. Do you have any example like this among Western buddhists who are so eager to call samurai murders, sensless sadist, killing innocent etc.? Or do you know any modern buddhists so easily bashing others, but seriously and unconditionally engaged in helping others?
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Nemo » Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:54 am

How would you explain the Ikko-ikki uprising when Buddhist monks and peasants rose up against the Samurai? Tired of the endless warfare of the samurai it was the first time in Japan's history that peasants ruled themselves.
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:59 am

Nemo wrote:How would you explain the Ikko-ikki uprising when Buddhist monks and peasants rose up against the Samurai? Tired of the endless warfare of the samurai it was the first time in Japan's history that peasants ruled themselves.


Well it was struggle between political parties represented on one side a particular sect, and daimyos of that time. Jodo Shinshu was a threat from very beginning, not only for its social ideas, those were less problematic but extreme interpretation of dharma. And it was not about Amida, but Jodo and Jodo Shinshu involvment in Tachikawa-ryu.. for this they were banned, persecuted and executed. There is nothing about peasants being slaughtered by samurai...

If you read carefully the history and Jodo Shinshu religious and political stand then it is much easier to understand what was going on.. one has to say clearly, Shinran denied any association with sexual pratices of Tachikawa.. but there were spectacular scandals with Honen disciples, and some Shinran followers, including his eldest son...

Ikko-ikki was purely political matter. And war was on big scale as a power struggle in fact. It was not only roblem with Jodo Shinshu but also with Tendai, Jodo etc. All those who engaged in military and political endeavor in the mids of chaos. By the way Hideyoshi, the great shogun, was himself a peasant :)
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:40 am

Matylda wrote:To Luke:
Dear friend, I found for you something in English
http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/bsd/bsd10.htm

from the webpage you mentioned:
bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring." "Bushi no nasaké"--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 recognised 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.

Was showing mercy something the samurai actually did frequently? Or was it more of a mental ideal, but which they actually showed seldomly?

Matylda wrote:And each single temple in Japan is a history of samurai who did not only fight but sponsored dharma, monks, temples and people...

Oh, very interesting! I didn't know that!

Matylda wrote:moreover samurai in their majority were married people bringing up their own children and were family men in deep sense. It also tells a lot how samurai fostered peaceful thought according to family protection environment.

But the samurai could kill their wives for very small offenses, couldn't they? Their wives and children were like their "property", right?

Matylda wrote:a real sotry... sometimes there was called name of certain Yasutani roshi ... so as for the story of his family, have you ever heard? They were very poor people. But it was not always so. So his grandfather or great grandafather was wealthy samurai. And in his region was a river and place for river crossing. Since there was no bridge every year people were drowned in water. Out of the pity for travlers and their terrible fate, Yasutani's ancestor used all his possession to build a long and save bridge , what ended economic fortune of the family and ever since they were very poor, but thus saving many lives.

A samurai building something for others and not killing! Great story! :namaste:
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:01 am

Matylda wrote:As for the peasants... and the movie... I am really surprised that you take it so serious. Definitely some historical events were background for the book, but it is not so good to go too far with author's fantasy.

I guess one of the reasons that I took that movie so seriously was that I once watched it with a Japanese woman who was teaching Japanese here in Hungary. She never made any comments about it being very historically inaccurate, but she had gone to Christian schools in Japan and sadly, it seemed that I knew more about Buddhism and ancient Japan than she did... And ironically, she knew far more about Christian holidays and Christian history than I did! lol

Matylda wrote:Those people have extremely high standards and are nobody to be feared of. Anyway it would be regrettable for samurai to kill peasant, but it would be even more crazy for peasant to dishonor samurai? Why? For what reason?

I guess I am thinking about a peasant who accidently dishonored a samurai. Would a real samurai just have automatically killed him or her? Or were there ways for the peasant to apologize which the samurai would accept (besides suicide)?
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:31 am

Bankei compares samurai to easily breaking china because their code of honour requires them to answer even the smallest disrespect as if it were a serious challenge, he also tells a story where a samurai intentionally bumped into people to call it an offence and give him reason to kill them (Waddell, p 108-109).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Are samurai good symbols of Zen Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:29 pm

Astus wrote:Bankei compares samurai to easily breaking china because their code of honour requires them to answer even the smallest disrespect as if it were a serious challenge, he also tells a story where a samurai intentionally bumped into people to call it an offence and give him reason to kill them (Waddell, p 108-109).



Better lets leave aside Japanese zen masters... since if you try once to read them you may easily see, that they criticized everyone on the earth.. for good reason by the way.. read letteres of Hakuin, he is pretty tough on peasants and their families making out of them perfect mockery... anyway Hakuin letters in Japanese sound awful, but funny and pretty alive since in letters he used VERY colloquial language. But he was unspoken expert in classical dharma language as well, and very beautiful one. So critics of any zen master have particular reason and aim.

If one is quoting one zen master it could be condradicted by many other quotations from other masters and it is easy to arrive with the whole issue ad absurdum...

What was critisized by Bankei was critisized by any sane samurai as well. And behawior like bumping into innocent people was disgusted by every samurai. It is why he criticized it... since it was an object of severe social and religious judgment. It was against any code, ethics etc. and it also happened that people who were real criminals pretended to be samurai [in fact they were not] and behaved in such perverted way. It had nothing to do with samurai in fact.

Anyway if one is persistently keeping to the idea of and image of samurai slaughtering peasants for no reason, or reason, but still slaughtering, one has to ask oneself how after almost 1000 years of samurai rule, still anyone survived on Japanese islands and how it happened that population was and is pretty dense... :D
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