The word Samurai is thrown around far too freely. It evokes the esoteric imagery of the fearless warrior, principled life and honorable death. To the Japanophile or Martial Arts nerd, the word Samurai invokes a bunch of texts such as
- The book of Five Rings
- The Hagakure
- The Unfettered Mind
- The Lifegiving Sword
I want to take a step back - and set a few things right.
- The word Samurai does not mean warrior. It means "one who serves."
- You cannot become a Samurai. You are either born one or you are not. Furthermore, the Samurai were disbanded by official decree. No self respecting Samurai would dishonor his emperor's decree, in fact they would choose their harakiri over dishonor, so technically...there cannot be any more Samurai in existence today.
- Some of their arts, and many of their values, are still found in a majority of Japanese arts. Though you cannot become a Samurai, you can unravel their secrets. But the art is a seed, and only the feeding of the seed will give rise to the sapling and perhaps even a tree.
There is a lot of material on how the Samurai were disciplined, fearless, and ready to die. But what I think is more important is "how they lived".
Dying is easy. It is the living that is hard.
Regardless of what Koryu or modern invention one "belongs to," one does not serve a monarchy, shogunate, or daimyo today. So the talk of being a samurai or preparing for a warrior's death are romantic fantasies. What I propose is that if one revisits the samurai ideal from the perspective of how one lives, the ideal transforms from a romantic fantasy to the possibility of an honorable life.
The core of the Samurai ideal/seed is captured in the Code of the Bushido. In brief the Bushidō code is exemplified by seven virtues:
- Righteousness (義gi)
- Courage (勇yū)
- Benevolence (仁jin)
- Respect (礼rei)
- Sincerity (誠makoto)
- Honour (名誉meiyo)
- Loyalty (忠義chūgi)
When one applies these virtues to the intent of the Samurai, those who serve, it begs a very important question: who or what do you serve? Do you serve a symbolic emperor, Nihon/Japan (a foriegn nation for most), or the mythical stories of your chosen ryu?
Or can you choose to serve a personal calling that is far greater than yourself?
I firmly stand on ground made sacred by the blood of the latter. The Samurai ideal has the chance to survive only when you live in service towards a real and relatable cause. This living transforms a make-believe romantic fantasy into an honorable life. The romantic fantasy of the Samurai is all about entertainment and role play. Living the Samurai life is all about performing service as entrainment, education and fascination.
I have long challenged my students to to find that ideal, that calling which is far greater than themselves. And once they find it, to apply the 7 virtues with two things in mind: integrity and service. Why? Because they are personal felt experiences rooted in one's personal morphogenetic story/field.
It has taken about two years for the students in the dojo to find and announce their quests/service with total integrity. I stand in awe and heartfelt pride for what they intend to accomplish. Listed below in order of seniority are the causes they have chosen to consciously live for, over and above their day to day routine.
- Ben Thul, Sensei - regular hours at a homeless shelter
- Fernando Munoz, Sensei - initiating a community teaching program in Mexico City
- Allan Johnson - sponsoring the complete education of one child in Bolivia
- Pedro Monterrosas - financially providing for a family (not his own) in Mexico as they find their way to self sufficiency
- Angeline Sandra - committing to two medical missions every year where she will fund raise for all required medications
- Mitch Garrison and Shreyas NS - creating a portal to make esoteric and transformative teachings more accessible by the millenials
- Rosanna Griffin & Divya Navaneeth - up to 8 hrs of work at a womens shelter every month each
- Adi Kataria - this 9 year old will start with 4 hours/month helping clean up a local animal shelter
- Mahipal Lunia, Sensei - will make one Kiva contribution every month for every student keeping their promise
I would like to thank my students for taking this stand of possibility in a life driven by the Samurai ideals. In doing this they are choosing to serve something far greater than themselves, and quite possibly giving a gift that cannot be repaid, but only passed forward. I stand humbled as the next phaze of this experiment takes shape - and a new generation of "honoroable struggle" comes into "Being."
Today I felt that my students started to teach me about taking a public stance with honor. I respectfully bow to all of you!
See you on the grass and in life,
Mahipal Lunia, Sensei