Quotations from the Hagakure

A while back I touched upon a famous Samurai treatise called the Hagakure. I didn’t like the book as much as hoped, but I thought there were some of the more interesting quotations I found in Book 1. All translations were done by William Scott William (who did an admirable job), and quoted from this book:

One Making Mistakes:

“When I was young, I kept a “Diary of Regret” and tried to record my mistakes day by day, but there was never a day when I didn’t have wnty or thirty entries. As there was no end to it, I gave up. Even today, when I think about the day’s affairs after goig to bed, there is never a day where I do not make some blunder in speaking or in some activity. Living without mistakes is truly impossible. But this is someting that people who live by cleverness have no inclination to think about it.” (pg. 61)

On Senility:

“Senility is when ones goes about doing only that towards which he is most inclined. One is able to suppress and hide this while is vigor is strong, bt when he weakens, the essential strong points of his nature appear and are a shame to him. This manifests itself in several forms, but there is not a man who does not get senile by the time he reaches sixty. And when one things that he will not be senile, he is already so….For myself, with that good example [of the later Master Ittei] and the feeling that dotage was overtaking me, I declined to participate at the temple on the thirteenth anniversary of Lord Mitsushige’s death, and I have decided to stay more and more indoors. One must get a clear view of what lies ahead.” (pg. 60)

On Arguing and Debate:

“For the most part, we admire our own opinions and become fond of arguing.” (pg. 43)

On True Friends:

“It is said, ‘When you would see into a person’s heart, become ill.’ When you are sick or in difficulties, many of those who were friendly or close to you in daily life with become cowards. Whenever anyone is in unhappy circumstances, you should above all inquire after them by visiting or sending some gift. And you should never in your whole life be negligent towards someone from whom you have received a favor. By sch things the consideration of others can be seen. In this world the people who will rely on others when they are in difficulties and afterwards not give them a thought are many.” (pg. 48-49)

Never stop learning:

“In one’s life, there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level he has price concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing.
“These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never things of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of price but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyū once remarked, ‘I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.’
“Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.” (pg. 32-33)

I didn’t like the constant droning by Yamamoto about the willingness to die for his master, and the complaining of older generations of samurai being “real men” compared to the younger generation. This was all just macho talk to me, but I felt that Yamamoto was sincere and his approach to self-improvement is something everyone can learn. :)

2 Comments on “Quotations from the Hagakure”

  1. cocomino says:

    I had never read Hagakure.
    But I recommend “五輪書 Gorinsho” by Musashi Miyamoto as you may know.

  2. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi Cocomino,

    I read that book a long time ago (“The Book of Five Rings” in English), but I didn’t understand it then. That was maybe 10 years ago and I didn’t understand Buddhism back then.

    Maybe I should try it again. :)

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