right and wrong


Samurai of the Satsuma clan during the Boshin ...
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From the Budo Shoshinshu:

One who is a warrior should have a thorough understanding of these two qualities. If he knows how to do one and avoid the other then he will have attained to Bushido And right and wrong are nothing but good and evil, for though I would not deny that there is a slight difference between the terms, yet to act rightly and do good is difficult and is regarded as tiresome, whereas to act wrongly and do evil is easy and amusing, so that most naturally incline to the wrong or evil and tend to dislike the right and good. But to be thus unstable and make no distinction between right and wrong is contrary to reason, so that anyone who understands this distinction and yet does what is wrong is no proper samurai, but a raw and untaught person. And the cause of it is small capacity for self-control. Though this may not sound so bad, if we examine into its origin we find it arises from cowardice. That is why I maintain that it is essential for a samurai to refrain from wrong and cleave to what is right.

Now in the matter of doing right there are three degrees. For instance, if a man goes on a journey with a neighbor and his companion has a hundred ryo of gold which, in order to avoid the trouble of carrying it with him, he deposits with this man till he comes back. And he does so without telling anyone about it. Then on the journey this neighbor is taken with a sudden illness from over- eating, or apoplexy, or something of the sort, and dies of it, so that there is nobody at all who knows anything about the money. But the other out of pure sympathy and compassion and nothing else, and without a single evil thought, immediately informs the relatives and returns all the money to them. This is a man who does what is right. In the second case, suppose the man who had the money to have been one who had only a few acquaintances and was not intimate with anybody, so that no one would know about the money he had deposited and there would be none likely therefore to make inquires. And if the other was not very well off he might regard it as a lucky windfall and think it no harm to say nothing and keep it for himself. But then a sudden shame would come over him for having harbored such a polluting idea and he would put it from him at once and return the money. This is doing right on account of shame that proceeds from one’s mind. Then there is the case where somebody in his house, either one of his family or of his servants, knows about this money, and he is ashamed of what that person may think or what may be said of him in the future and so returns it. This is one who does right from shame connected with other people. But here we may wonder what he would do if nobody knew anything about it. Still, we can hardly pronounce him to be a person who, though he does not know what is right, does it.

However, generally speaking, the rule for the practice of right conduct is that first of all we should feel shame at the contempt of our family and servants, and then at the scorn of the wider circle of our acquaintances and of outsiders, and thus eschew the wrong and do right. This will then naturally become a habit and in time we shall acquire the disposition to prefer the right and dislike the wrong.

Again in the way of valor, he who is born brave will think it nothing to go into battle and come under a hot fire of arrows and bullets. Devoted to loyalty and duty he will make his body a target and press on, presenting by his splendid valor an indescribably fine example to all beholders. But on the the other hand, there may one whose knees tremble and whose heart palpitates as he wonders how he is going to manage to acquit himself decently in all this danger, but he goes on because he is ashamed to be the only one to falter under the eyes of his comrades as they advance, and because he fears loss of reputation in the future. So he hardens his resolution and presses on in no way behind the naturally valiant one. Thus, though he may be vastly inferior to the born brave, after several of these experiences he becomes used to it and finds his feet, and so eventually his courage is confirmed and he grows into a warrior by no mean inferior to the born fearless. So both in doing right and in producing valor there is no other way but a sense of shame. For if people say of wrong that it does not matter and do it, and merely laugh if they see a coward and say that it does not matter either, what means will there be of disciplining this kind of person?

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