The Sage and the Student: A Dialogue on Defense

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Values

Q: Why Should I concern myself with developing a means of defense?

A: So that you might better protect yourself and your loved ones, as well as your country.

Q: But say I am without family, or have been expatriated from my nation, what then is the reason for a means of defense?

A: To protect yourself is what remains.

Q: So, as inferred from what you say, the cause to self-defense is the defense of values, yes? To defend my family is more or less to say I value my family. To defend my country is to more or less say I value my country, likewise with my own life.

A: To defend or protect a thing is to simultaneously assert value of the thing. So if you value your life, you might consider learning how best to protect it.

Q: I do value my own life and so I shall protect it. I value my family as well, so I shall also protect them. But what am I to do if I must choose between protecting my family and protecting myself?

A: To obviate such a decision, one should first strive to acquire a means to defense that prevents such circumstances from arising. If such circumstances could not have been prevented then you must know whether you value your own life more than the lives of your family. If you value more the lives of your loved ones, then sacrifice yourself if it is certain doing so will spare them. If you value your own life more, then sacrifice your family if you can live with shame.

Q: I cherish my family more than my own life. So I will sacrifice myself in defense of them. But what if I am to choose between defending my family and my nation? What then?

A: First one must assess what is of greater value. You love your family. This means you do not wish any harm on them. But you must realize that to neglect the defense of your nation whilst it is embattled without and within is to permit a great possibility of harm to your family which might arise from such chaos. You depend on your nation for many things with which the support of your family, with love and devotion, is instituted. And so, it is wiser to bring peace to the nation with your life than it is to withdraw support from it so that you may personally protect your family. Know that great enemies will come to exist in the stead of your nation should you let it fall – and this means greater threats to the prosperity of your family.

Q: So it is wiser to defend my family than it is to defend myself, and wiser still to defend my nation than it is to defend my family?

A: If it accords well with your values.

Fear

Q: I value peace within the nation, for this peace is a benefactor to my family and myself. But what if I am embattled within? How do I keep my inner weather in order?

A: You must recognize the nature of your inner conflict.

Q: I have much fear. I fear outer conflict. I fear the death of my family. I fear my own death. What is the nature of this fear?

A: We fear as an impetus to protect life or values. Fear is functional, to a degree. It prompts us to avoid that which is perceived as a threat to our well-being. But understand that fear can become pathological, manifesting as irrational phobias which are without a functional basis. It is natural to fear the death of what you love, just as it is natural to fear your own death. However, it is not natural to be preoccupied with notions of death, though death itself is a most natural component/t to this existence. If you wish to bring cessation to this fear of death, you must examine why death frightens you. By understanding death, you will understand your fear.

Q: I fear death for it is perceived as the final end to existence. It is a passing away into non-existence…annihilation.

A: This may be so. But regardless of the reason for your fear, it may ease your suffering to realize that life is occurring whilst we ponder this notion of death. While we occupy our minds with the fear of death our tangible existence is slipping away with the sands of time. Death is not yet. But we make it seem so near as we reflect on our own impermanence. Reflection on the nature of death is good. But I advise you to contemplate it down to its essence and then let the fear go, bringing your attention to the present of your life. You also say you fear the death of your loved ones, but this fear will not serve to keep death away indefinitely. It is the nature of this universe that things are seeded with impermanence. Death will come. This is inevitable. But the while you spend worrying about the death of your family is squandering those precious moments that could be spent in focus on the joy of existence – for it is now, and death, not yet.

Enemies

Q: I thank you for your wisdom. Now I have a question concerning how best to fight my enemies. What is the greatest means to self-defense?

A: If you desire to know the superior way of self-defense, you must first learn to identify the greatest enemy. By studying the characteristics of the greatest enemy, you may learn how best to defeat it. In learning how to defeat this great enemy, you will have attained the superior method of self-defense.

Q: I see, there is wisdom even in these words venerable sage. Indeed who could contend with me once I have defeated the greatest enemy in the land? I will find this enemy and study his ways. Where do I begin my search?

A: You will do well to look within.

Q: I don’t understand. Point the way venerable sage so that I might hunt this enemy down and learn to defeat him and arise to greatness!

A: The greatest enemy is your own mind. Within the mind all enemies are created.

Q: Nonsense. I have true enemies that created themselves. They have brutalized my family. Some have stolen away my property, and the least have sought to disrepute my name. How can you insist that these enemies were my own creation?

A: Without the mind, how can you denote an enemy? Without the mind, what enemy can be observed? Without the mind, there is no enemy. To understand this is to understand that all things are without value. It is the mind that incites value. It is the mind that classifies, separates, and disparages. The mind is the source of all hatred, resentment, and enmity. Fujibayashi Yasutake admonishes that you have “an enemy and an ally nowhere else but in your own mind.” 1  Therefore I say it is most wise, in the cultivation of a superior defense, to study your own mind. When you master mind, there is no enemy that can rise against you. Natori Masazumi has written something to this effect, stating that by understanding the nature of mind you can come to subdue those who threaten your existence without weapons or armor.2 If you study your own mind, you can apprehend the motivations of your perceived enemies and manipulate the situation accordingly. What more evidence of this truth is necessary?

Q: I stand corrected. I shall study my own mind so that I might understand myself and my enemies.

Notes

  1. Cummins, A. & Minami, Y. (2013). The Book of Ninja. p.50
  2. Cummins, A. & Minami, Y. (2011).  The True Path of the Ninja. p.169-170
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