BUSHIDO – The Way of the Samurai
“True courage is to live when it’s right to live and die when it’s right to die.”
The emergence of samurai is not an exceptional phenomenon in the social history of the peoples of the world. The estates and castes of professional warriors existed in many states of Europe and Asia in the era of the rule of feudalism. The appearance of the warrior class in Japan was closely connected with the development of feudalism, which developed in general terms according to the same classical laws as the feudal system of Western Europe. Constant wars with the aborigines of the Japanese islands – the Ainu – led to the penetration of the Japanese from the southern and central regions of Honshu to the northeast of the country, accompanied by the seizure of Ainu land. This expansion made possible the distribution of the territory of the Ainu among the Japanese daimyo, who became the masters of the Ainu land. Strong and constant squads appeared to protect the possessions from the invasion of Ainu and the troops of other principalities, as well as to suppress peasant uprisings. In the XII century. after the victory of the coalition led by feudal lords from the Minamoto clan over another powerful group led by the Taira clan in Japan, a military dictatorship was established, in which the power in the country was in the hands of the supreme commander, the shogun. This form of government pushed the emperor, deprived of actual power, into the background and allowed the princes to more effectively exploit the peasants and other lower strata of the population, keeping them in subjection by force of arms. From that time on, samurai, by which, in a broad sense, secular feudal lords began to be implied, ranging from the large influential princes (daimyo), including the shogun himself, to minor nobles finally conquered political power, becoming the dominant power of the country. Feudal chivalry was formed and legally formalized as a hereditary and privileged class within the ruling class, being its integral part. Due to the difference in social functions and the material status of different layers of samurai, it had a complex hierarchical structure connected by the personal ministry of a vassal to a suzerain and the patronage of a prince to his servants. The most characteristic feature inherent in Japan was the large number of military-service nobility. This was due to the desire of the individual daimyo to power and superiority over the feudal princes confronting them and the need to fight in internecine strife and peasant uprisings on their own, without outside support. At certain time points in the history of Japan (XVI – XVII centuries), the estate of warriors numbered about 2 million people with their families (with servants – about 3 million), which accounted for approximately 10% of the total population of the country. In comparison, medieval knights in Western Europe, such as England and France, hardly accounted for 1–2% of the population. Here it is worth noting that the attitude of European knights and Japanese samurai to the peasants was different. In Europe during the Middle Ages, the peasant was viewed as a despicable and rude creature, but in Japan, despite the antagonism between the warrior class and the peasant masses, the oppression and exploitation of the peasantry, the farmer approached samurai in his social position, and his work in accordance with Confucianism was considered respected. In ideological terms, there was also no sharp opposition between samurai and the peasantry, which was observed in relation to artisans, merchants, actors and other lower strata of society. Therefore, it was not by chance that many peasants were honored in their old age with the right to wear a small samurai sword. On the other hand, the peasantry often focused on samurai, trying to imitate the class of warriors. In addition, the samurai differed significantly from the knighthood of European countries of the Middle Ages in economic positions, their specific ethical teachings of Bushido, religious beliefs. The rest of the samurai in general were similar to the Western European warriors. The samurai, like the knights of Europe, occupied a special place in the social structure of society, considering loyalty to the overlord as the main virtue of a warrior, and military affairs as the main and only occupation of any noble person, with disdain for work activities. Samurai, as a class, existed for more than seven centuries, and was formally canceled after 1868 (or rather, its qualitative state was changed in accordance with the spirit of the time and bourgeois transformations). Nevertheless, the samurai traditions, developed over a long time, have not disappeared. The traditional features inherent in samurai of medieval Japan were updated and transformed, becoming the basis of Japanese ideology. The word “samurai” (saburai), derived from the verb of the old Japanese language “saburahi”, has the following interpretation in the Japanese dictionary of the ancient language: “to serve a great man, a man of the highest class”; “serve the master, protect the master”. For the graphic designation of this word, the Japanese used the Chinese character, which is read as “ji”. The decomposition of this hieroglyph into compound (reen – man and si – buddhist temple) speaks about the probable use of this sign to designate the people guarding the buddhist temples and serving with them. Samurai was called in Japan a servant of a noble person serving his interests, guarding his estate, property and himself. As an example, samurai can be compared with the Scandinavian khuskarls of the 11th century, who were considered in the social organization as servants or soldiers who served only at the court of the feudal lord. In addition to this designation, the concept of a warrior, a fighter, a warrior was shown in Japanese as hieroglyphs, read as “busi” (or simply “si”), which were also taken from the Chinese script (wu and shi).
One of the consequences of the formation of the warrior class was the formulation of the specific worldview of the samurai – Bushido – the unwritten code of samurai behavior in society, which was a set of rules and norms of the “true”, “ideal” warrior. Bushido, originally interpreted as “the path of a horse and a bow,” later came to mean “the path of a samurai, a warrior” (“busi” – a warrior, a samurai; “do” – the path, teaching, method, means). In addition, the word “before” is also translated as “duty”, “morality”, which has correspondence with the classical philosophical tradition of China, where the notion “way” is a certain ethical norm (dao-de). Thus, Bushido is a “samurai morality”, “virtue”, “moral and ethical” code.
Bushido dealt with the samurai’s attitude towards the social feudal community, towards the people of a particular class, towards the state. The content of Bushido went beyond the framework of the previous traditions of the tribal society – it included the dogmas of Buddhism and Confucianism and was based on new norms of behavior. Gradually evolving, Bushido turned into a moral code of warriors, which is at the same time predominantly part of various religious teachings (Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism – the national religion of the Japanese), also became an area of philosophical knowledge, the subject of ethics. Being merged together with Eastern philosophy, Bushido had the character of practical moralizing. Samurais considered it a method of improving mental and physical hygiene. Bushido morally interpreted the philosophical world outlook as a whole and was designed to teach the samurai “correct life” in feudal Japanese society. It combined the theory of being and the study of the human psyche, resolved issues related to the concept of the essence of the individual, his role in the outside world, the meaning of life, good and evil, moral values and moral ideal. A warrior, brought up in the spirit of bushido, should have clearly recognized his moral duty, in particular his personal duties towards his overlord, should himself evaluate his actions and actions, morally condemn himself in case of wrong actions, violation of his duties and duty. Such moral self-condemnation entailed, as a rule, suicide, which was carried out according to a certain ritual by hara-kiri – opening the stomach with a small samurai sword. Thus the samurai washed away the blood of dishonor, dishonoring him. Bushido, as a way to regulate warrior’s behavior, did not directly rely on any special institutions that enforced moral standards, it was based on the strength of conviction, public opinion, example, upbringing, traditions and moral authority of individuals noted in medieval Japan. The principles of bushido were not combined into a special set of rules and were not set forth in any literary monument of feudal times, but they were reflected in the legends and stories of the past telling about the loyalty of the vassal to his feudal lord, about contempt for samurai.
In accordance with the instructions of Tokugawa Ieyasu, in the very first years after he came to power, the “Code on Samurai Clans” (“Buke se hotto”) was drawn up, which determined the norms of samurai behavior in the service and personal life. The second essay, dedicated to the chanting of dogidoes, was a hagiographic description of the exploits of Prince Takeda Shingen in twenty volumes, the authorship of which was shared by Kosaka Danjo Nobumas and Obat Kaganori. Somewhat later, the work of Daidoji Yuzana (1639 – 1730) “The Basic Foundations of Martial Arts” (“Budo syesin shu”) appeared. And finally, in 1716, 11 volumes of the book “Hidden in the Foliage” (“Hagakure”) were published, which became the “holy scripture” of the busi. This curious piece of work belonged to Yamamoto Tsunemo, a monk and, in the past, a Saga clan samurai on the southern island of Kyushu. After the death of his master, daimyo Nabeshima Naosige, whom he faithfully served for ten years, Yamamoto took the veil and spent the rest of his life compiling the dogmas of samurai honor. Bushido can not even be called a teaching in the direct sense, it is rather one of the forms of expression of feudal ideology, its basic principles and principles that have developed from generation to generation for a long time. Bushido is a special moral developed by the class of warriors who belonged to the ruling class of Japan, which was a system of attitudes, norms and assessments related to the behavior of samurai, ways of educating samurai youth, creating and strengthening certain moral qualities and attitudes. With all this, Bushido was a class morality. It served only samurai, justified all his actions and defended his interests. Clearly and quite intelligibly, the requirements of Bushido are formulated in the “Primary Fundamentals of Martial Arts” by Daidoji Yuzana:
“True courage is to live when it’s right to live and die when it’s right to die.”
Go to death with a clear awareness of what the samurai should do and what degrades his dignity.
It is necessary to weigh every word and invariably ask yourself the question whether it is true what you are going to say.
You must be moderate in food and avoid licentiousness.
In everyday affairs, remember death and keep that word in your heart.
Respect the rule of “trunk and branches.” Forgetting him means never to attain virtue, and a person who neglects the virtue of filial piety is not a samurai. Parents – a tree trunk, children – its branches.
A samurai should be not only an exemplary son, but also a loyal subject. He will not leave the master even if his vassals number is reduced from one hundred to ten and from ten to one.
In war, the samurai’s loyalty is manifested in the fact that without fear of going to the enemy arrows and spears, sacrificing life, if that requires a debt.
Loyalty, justice and courage are the three natural virtues of the samurai.
During sleep, a samurai should not lie down in the direction of the residence of the suzerain. In the direction of the master, it is not appropriate to aim either at archery or during spear exercises.
If a samurai, lying in bed, hears a conversation about his master, or is about to say something himself, he should get up and dress.
Falcon does not pick up abandoned grains, even if dying of hunger. So the samurai, wielding a toothpick, must show that he is full, even if he did not eat anything.
If a samurai happens in a war to lose a battle and he has to lay down his head, he should proudly give his name and die with a smile without humiliating haste.
Being mortally wounded, so that no means can no longer save him, the samurai should respectfully address the words of farewell to the elders of the situation and calmly breathe, obeying the inevitable.
Possessing only brute force is not worthy of the title of samurai. Not to mention the need to study science, the warrior should use leisure for exercises in poetry and comprehending the tea ceremony.
A samurai can build a modest tea pavilion near his home, where new paintings should be used – kakemono, modern modest cups and a lacquered ceramic teapot. “