The knell of the bells at the Gion temple
Echoes the impermanence of all things.
The colour of the flowers on its double-trunked tree
Reveals the truth that to flourish is to fall.
He who is proud is not so for long,
Like a passing dream on a night in spring.
He who is brave is finally destroyed,
To be no more than dust before the wind.
What is often said to be the True Way is no more than the petty sophistry of effeminates. The Way is simple and can be said thus:
Resolute acceptance of death is the Way of the Warrior.
There is no art in this.
It is often said that to die with one’s purpose unfulfilled is the shameful death of a fanatic, and a dog’s death.
To die with one’s purpose unrealised is indeed the death of a fanatic; a dog’s death.
It is not however to be despised for this reason.
To plunge headlong into battle without thought of victory or defeat is to understand that one is already dead.
Each morning upon awakening, let the true warrior meditate upon his own inevitable destruction. Let him think of being shot with arrows, struck down by plague, torn apart by wild animals, burnt in a great fire, overwhelmed and drowned by a tsunami; let him ponder the death of being crushed by rocks. For him be thoughts of a great wind smashing him to pieces in a storm. Let him too
think on being beheaded by a hated enemy. Let him fear nothing.
When one becomes as one already dead, one is a hungry ghost, implacable. Such a man will stop at nothing, and achieve anything to which he sets his mind.
Even if a samurai’s head be struck from his body, he will retain enough spirit for one last great act. Let his head fall facing the enemy, that he terrifies them even in death.
Travellers to the lands of India and the Islands tell stories that for entertainment in the marketplace, old men cause intricate shadows to be thrown upon white cloths. In this way ancient tales and crude stories are acted out for the amusement of the multitude.
It is said this life of ours is not a bit different from that dumb show.
A fanatic’s death is to throw oneself into battle uncaring.
Only in this way, be it said, does a man awaken from his dream.
Even if defeat is certain: retaliate. Do not hesitate. Neither philosophy nor pretty manners have any place in this.