October 2007


Benevolence is counted as a princely value, in the Confucian value system, benevolence is usually taught to monarchs and emperors as a value is required of them.

Confucius will say” Let but a prince cultivate virtue  , People will flock to him; with people  come to him lands;  lands will bring forth for him wealth; wealth will give him the benefit of right uses,. Virtue is the root, wealth is the outcome”. “Never has there been a case of a sovereign loving benevolence, and the people not loving righteousness”

In the period of Feudalism, many feudalistic society almost became militaristic, but it is Benevolence which help to spare the people from despotism in its worst kind. It is benevolence to produce humanistic rulers who could form Paternal government, which is different from despotism. The main difference between the 2 is that people in a despotism government tend to obey reluctantly, while the people on the other side obey and submit to their rulers in proud  submission, and they are willing to give their all to the state.

Benevolence can be viewed as tender and mother-like, much in contrast with Rectitude and justice. However, the link between the 2 is that “Rectitude carried in excessive manner brings on stiffness, while benevolence without measure sinks into weakness.

Japanese tend to use the term “Bushi No Nasake” – The tenderness of a warrior, this type of mercy is not from blind impulse,  it is taken with justice in mind and backed with the power to save or kill.

Benevolence bond up in a warrior help to reduce the bloodthirsty, warlike or barbaric side of a warrior, the samurai will agree with the phrase spoken by Mencious “Benvolance brings under it sway, whatever that hinders its power, just like how water quenches the fire.” A benovalent man is always mindful to those who are suffering or are in distress. Which brings this close to sympathy.

One of the more practical depiction is this, One who is familair with Japanese art will remember seeing this painting of a priest riding backwards on a cow.The rider was once a warrior who in his day made his name a by-word of terror. In that terrible battle of Sumano-ura, (1184 A. D.) which was one of the most decisive battle in Japanese history,he overtook an enemy and in single combat had him in the clutch of his gigantic arms. Now the etiquette of war required that on such occasions no blood should be spilt, unless the weaker party proved to be a man of rank or ability equal to that of the stronger. The grim combatant would have the name of the man under him; but he refusing to make it known, his helmet was ruthlessly tom off, when the sight of a juvenile face, fair and beardless, made the astonished knight relax his hold. Helping the youth to his feet, in paternal tones he bade the stripling go: “Off, young prince, to thy mother’s side! The sword of Kumagayé shall never be tarnished by a drop of thy blood. Haste and flee o’er yon pass before thine enemies come in sight!” The young warrior refused to go and begged Kumagayé,

for the honour of both, to dispatch him on the spot. Above the hoary head of the veteran gleams the cold blade, which many a time before has sundered the chords of life, but his stout heart quails; there flashes athwart his mental eye the vision of his own boy, who this self-same day marched to the sound of bugle to try his maiden arms; the strong hand of the warrior quivers; again he begs his victim to flee for his life. Finding all his entreaties vain and hearing the approaching steps of his comrades, he exclaims: “If thou art overtaken, thou mayst fall at a more ignoble hand than mine. O thou Infinite! receive his soul!” In an instant the sword flashes in the air, and when it falls it is red with adolescent blood. When the war is ended, we find our soldier returning in triumph, but little cares he now for honour or fame; he renounces his warlike career, shaves his head, dons a priestly garb, devotes the rest of his days to holy pilgrimage, never turning his back to the West where lies the Paradise whence salvation comes and whither the sun hastes daily for his rest.

Benevolence is the root of Politeness, which i will cover on the next round

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Yesterday at church during the hymnal session we are singing the hymn “God Lead Us Along” by George Young

Out of curiosity, I did a short search on this Pastor, and here is some information on how does this hymn came into being

In 1903, a song was published by preacher George Young entitled, God Leads Us Along. In the chorus, Pastor Young revealed the catalyst for the writing of the song when he wrote these words of the refrain.

After many years of sacrifice, this country preacher and his wife had saved enough money to build a home of their own. Pastor Young was handy with a hammer as well as with a Bible so, in short time, a new home was completed. The many years of low pay and thankless hours would be but faint memories now. A dream that often seemed impossible had come true. The Young’s loved their new home, but loved the Lord all the more; and because of this, they continued their ministry of traveling and sharing the good news. It was during one of these trips that disaster struck. Someone, not in favor of Pastor Young’s ministry, set fire to the family’s home while they were away. When George returned, he found a pile of ashes. All his earthly possessions were now gone. Then Pastor Young remembered the priceless things that fire cannot destroy. In his suffering, he could see God’s leading and a greater appreciation of what really counts.

 This hymn specially caught my attention, as earlier, there was a young church brother whom i was sharing something that happens in office. He asked me “Why do you run into such problems so often?”.  For a while, I wonder, perhaps it is because the other members in church are much stronger then me and can take such problems in the workplace in its stride, or perhaps it is Gods blessing that they do not encountered such funny request and ridiculous orders.

As I am pondering this, God seems to have answered me in the hymn’s chorus.  “Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, some thru the fire, but all thru the blood, some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.”

This hymn is inspired from Jn 10:1-5 which reads ” 1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Here it depicts Jesus as our shepherd who lead us to green pastures and cool waters.  I guess Gods answer to me is that, sometimes he may lead us through tough and difficult times, even though not many members of the church may understand, and some may even pass nasty comments at us. Remember that God is always the good shepherd that loves us all the way. Even if he were to lead us into the dark shadows and many sorrows, God will always give us a song to sing, until the night is over and all the day long.

God Leads Us Along by George A. Young, 1903

In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain:

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain:

Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain:

Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain:
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

I tried to find a sing a long for the hymn, but the Youtube version do not have the full hymn sung, hence I can only get this copy from a public domain website

Play the hymn here (Right Click and open a new window)

According to Confucius, a lack of courage is “Perceiving what is right, but doing it not.” A more positive way to view it is “Courage is doing what is right”, meaning to be caught in all kinds of hazard and dangers.However, these qualities will be useless if there is no clause (“Giri”). People often view death to a meaningless clause as a “dog’s death”.  One of the famous quotes about courage is from the prince of mito “It is true courage to live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die.In the old days Japanese tend to train their children in courage using a “drilling the nerves” approach. Examples of such methods are


1. Depriving them of food or exposure to cold
2. Sending them to strangers with messages to deliver
3. Witnessing public execution etc.

One could easily recall how the Spartan children are trained in the movie 300 upon hearing this.

Another aspect of courage is drawn towards composure, which is a calm presence of mind.  Such tranquility is courage in repose. A warriors mind should be ever serene, even in the heat of the battle. Nothing will actually surprise him, and he is able to keep his mind in the midst of danger.Here are some of the examples quoted in the book


a. Ota Dokan, the builder of the castle of Tokyo, manage to complete a couplet with his assassin before he died.

b. Kenshin, who fought Shingen (These are from the Sengoku or “warring states” period 1521-1573) for 14 years, did a very surprising act to his enemy. When the Hojo prince tried to weaken Shingen (whose provinces are on the mountainous region where salt is scarce) by cutting him from his supply of salt. Kenshin, upon hearing his enemy’s dilemma, and being able to get a supply of salt from his own provinces, wrote a letter to Shingen stating that in his opinion, the prince of Hojo had committed a very mean act. Although they are at war with each other, Kenshin ordered his subjects to furnish Shingen with plenty of salt, saying “I do not fight with salt, but with a sword” 

When such valor reaches its height, it becomes akin to Benevolence, which I would cover in the next entry 

 I found this copy of the song on youtube. Come to think of it, why not post the lyrics that inspired the name of this blog here? So here it goes, I believe this song is sang by Dan Hill first

Sometimes When we touch / Dan Hill

You ask me if I love you
and I choke on my reply
I’d rather hurt you honestly
than mislead you with a lie
And who am I to judge you
in what you say or do
I’m only just beginning
to see the real you

And sometimes when we touch
the honesty’s too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold you till I die
till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides

Romance and all it’s strategy
leaves me battling with my pride
But through all the insecurity
some tenderness survives
I’m just another writer
still trapped within my truth
A hesitant prize fighter
still trapped within my youth
And sometimes when we touch
the honesty’s too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold you till I die
till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides

At times I’d like to break you
and drive you to your knees
At times I’d like to break through
and hold you endlessly
At times I understand you
and I know how hard you try
I watched while love commands you
and I’ve watched love pass you by
At times I think we’re drifters
still searching for a friend
a brother or a sister
but then the passion flares again

And sometimes when we touch
the honesty’s too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold ya till I die
till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides
Subsides

The book tends to build one concept upon the other, the author started his work using Rectitude (Or justice) as the opening virtue.Rectitude, is the power of decided a certain course of conduct in accordance to a reason, without wavering; To die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right. This concept provides the bare structure of the warrior code. For a typical samurai warrior, he is unable to bear with underhand dealings and crooked undertaking, in my opinion the concept of right and wrong can varies from person to person, and as long as there is no particular standard of justice, anyone can decide on his path of actions according to his own reason.

As feudalism developed, when peace settled onto the civilization, the idea of rectitude are illustrated and dramatized , one of the more famous stories is the 47 gishi, or (47 Ronin). These stories are based on events that happened. For users who are interested in the story, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/47_Ronin

There is another concept called Giri, which is often mentioned with rectitude, Giri is a slight variation of rectitude. Giri directly translated is called “Right Reason”. It simple words, it is like a duty that must be performed. Examples of Giri are, what we owed to parents, to superiors, to society at large. It is Giri that is the motivating factor to steer a person towards rectitude. But one may argue that Giri can be a reason for cowardice. Only with Bushido’s emphasis on courage, prevent Giri from being the reason for Cowardice. I would be discussing Courage in the next post

As I was reading the books, I managed to draw comparison to it from the wikipedia article on bushido and the book I was readingAccording the the book I was reading, the main virtues are
1. Rectitude or Justice
2. Courage
3. Benevolence 
4. Politeness (I think its equal respect in wikipedia)
5. Veracity or truthfulness  (I think it equals honesty in wikipedia)
6. Honor
7. Loyalty 
8. Filial Piety

I will try to discuss the various virtues and what they mean, in simple words. And see if this information can be used as a source of inspiration for others. I will also try to compare these views in bushido in contrast to the Christians worldview.
 

Acamabooks delivered the book I ordered earlier in the week. The book I am currently reading is “Bushido The Soul Of Japan” by Inazo Nitobe

 I was expecting a thicker book, but to my surprise, it is only 80 Pages total. And he left out 2 of the Filial Piety and Loyalty in this book.

My initial understanding of Bushido after reading the book thus far

1. Bushido is an ethical system, not a religion. It is heavily influenced by the prevalent Asian culture that was surrounding Japan.It is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe… More frequently it is a code unspoken and unwritten… It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career.

2. Bushido main sources of influence are,
       a. Buddhism (which discusses about danger and death, thus making the samurais unafraid of dying)
       b. Zen (  A school of Buddhism which emphasis on practice and experimental wisdom, to understand oneself, which allow samurais to drive out fear and unsteadiness)
       c. Shintoism (Which emphasis on Loyalty  and patriotism)
       d. Confucianism (which discuss moral behavior, human to human relationship)

3. Bushido evolves slowly from history, as feudalism evolves, Classes of soldiers emerges, and then it became a profession. Bushido started out as the rules and regulation of how the members in the profession behaves.
EG. Doctors limit competitions among themselves by professional courteously. Fellow magicians will not reveal how the other magicians perform their tricks.  This slowly became a way for Samurais to settle their disputes in a fair and honourable level.

That’s all for the time being, I am still digesting the book
 

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