We continue to explore Bushido’s major principles, concepts, and values as articulated in the classic 1899 Japanese text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe, and evaluate their applicability in today’s modern world. Bushido: The Soul of Japan is one of the first major works on samurai ethics and Japanese culture. It is considered by some to be the first collective statement of what is commonly referred to as the Seven Virtues of Bushido.
Nitobe offers for consideration seven virtues of Bushido that attempt to illustrate the philosophical values of the samurai. However, it should be recognized that there are not, in truth, seven virtues of Bushido. This is only Nitobe’s subjective articulation of samurai culture and it is little more than an artificial construct. Other academics like Nitobe or practitioners of Bushido could easily and perhaps in an equally comprehensively fashion offer four, ten, or even one-hundred virtues of Bushido. Furthermore, the seven virtues presented here are concentric. That is, each value overlaps with and is influenced by another. No single virtue of Bushido exists or can exist by itself. Remember, all systems, including Bushido, Aikido, or any other, are ultimately artificial. The holistic nature of any system of values is unlikely to be comprehensively articulated in written language. Some virtues transcend written word. Nonetheless, we will attempt to explore each thoroughly.
Benevolence or ‘Jin’ - The Forgotten Samurai Virtue
“The bravest are the tenderest; the loving are the daring.”
This next virtue of Bushido is what I consider “the forgotten virtue” because it is possibly one of the least likely virtues one might expect of a warrior. However, Chinese philosophers, Confucius and Mencius, thought Benevolence (or ‘jin’) to be the highest requirement of a ruler of men. Strange then that it should be a virtue so easily dismissed by most.
I imagine that Benevolence might have been one of Morihei Ueshiba’s (The Founder of Aikido) favorite or most valued virtues of Bushido. The way in Aikido that we consistently practice restraint in the amount of force used, in my opinion, is one demonstration of Benevolence. For when we practice Aikido, although a powerful martial art, we do not practice in a manner that leads to serious injury of our partner or uke. Of course, we are prepared and willing to exercise less restraint should a real self-defense situation require such, but, by and large, we elect to utilize as little aggression as possible.
Benevolence is a word that isn’t necessarily used by many in daily conversation. So perhaps we should define it. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines benevolence as “the disposition to do good,” or “an act of kindness.” It is also defined as “charity motivated by sympathy, understanding and generosity.” Nitobe succinctly defines Benevolence as “feeling distress for others.” However, when one conjures up their classical, bellicose notion of a samurai, Benevolence may not be the first attribute to come to mind.
A samurai’s demonstrating of Benevolence implied... (this article continues in the paperback version)
These articles have been collectively published in the two-time award-winning book: Inner Bushido - Strength Without Conflict by Castle Rock AIKIDO Dojo Cho, Sean Hannon. The book is available for purchase HERE.