A Letter from Philosopher Yamamoto Tsunetomo to a pupil …
“The faults of a superior person are like the sun and the moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.” The great Confucius said this, my friend, and I am telling you now because I believe that you will master the art of bushido. You see, in order to become a true Samurai, you must be mindful of your actions. Everyone has flaws and one of the greatest things that distinguishes a man from another are his habits. Aside from bad habits, all men are the same. We all have moral qualities, wisdom, compassion, and courage. However, because we are creatures of habit, we tend to drown ourselves with fears that do not exist and ignorance that plagues our very meaning.
It is because of this that I want you to discipline yourself. Do not be ignorant to the world for it is not perfect. You must always be aware of what is going on around you. I do not mean just in your surroundings either. To be aware you must know what is going on in current affairs along with what has gone on the past. History is the best way to understand your enemy and better prepare for the future. Whether or not you partake in the art of war, understanding and expecting it is the only way of the Samurai. Men are unpredictable and war is inevitable.
Do not be afraid my scholar, for this life is not one you should become attached to. I know there is a tremendous challenge in avoiding a lavish lifestyle. Material things rule men and they become attached to them, for many, it is material things that define the man. But your beautiful home can burn and your horses can be stolen. If you cling to these things, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and a false sense of emptiness. There is nothing worth losing except for your life in battle. Defending your countryman and your family to ensure a more promising future is all that this life is worth living.
Please do not get my words twisted, for I expect you to remain respectful to those around you and show loyalty by remaining truthful and wise. Always keep your word, my loyal apprentice, for the Samurai’s word is his bond, and if there is anyone that can be trusted, it will be you. It would be a waste or your life to only looking forward to ending it in battle. Like I said before about the sun and the moon, they too have faults, but when they change others will look up to them, as others will look up to you as you blossom.
Learn to balance your time correctly, pupil, and master the art of meditation. If there is anything that you should meditate on more, it is death. If you can meditate on this thought and come to terms with the end; the end will not be as frightful. You will die in peace and honor for your country. Your sons will look up to your strength and undying loyalty to keeping peace in your village and your death will be that of purpose.
Now that I have filled your mind with the duties that lie before you, I must advise you that the road is long. You are not yet a Samurai and have a long road ahead of you. Remain patient and take your time. For it is better to do something slowly than to not do it at all. Impatience causes only damage and your focus will be blurred. Pain is involved in the process of owning the art of bushido and sometimes you may become afraid and contemplate withdrawal. You must get behind your brain saying “I can’t.” and your body saying, “I don’t want to.” Once you can overcome these false feelings, you will be a step closer to becoming a true Samurai.
While the road is extremely challenging and temptations are vast, I encourage you to enjoy this short life that you roam this planet. For what would life be if you were miserable living it? Maintain your strength and never back down for any negative force. I look forward to watching you grow mentally and physically.