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Samurai And Old Age

by Alexey R. Basov

Every human being is destined to die. Whether you like it or not, old age comes.
Every passing day drains one’s strength, and it is harder and harder to resist the oncoming feebleness. It is best to die the way you wish to die.

Many warriors preferred to die young, during the spring or summer of their life, go to the gods in all their splendid glory and might.
The winter of life was not for them. They considered old age to be a shame, the evidence of a cowardly life and the evidence of the fact that a person lived escaping risk.

The samurai had a tradition of a beautiful death in a most glorious moment of life, the moment of victory and triumph…
It was a magnificent death indeed.

Among the ingrained human convictions, there is a belief that old people are always ugly, and youth is always beautiful. Wisdom of the old is always dark, and the actions of the young are always transparent. The longer people live, the worse they become. In other words, a human life is nothing but the chaotic process of movement from decline to complete death.
Mishima Yukio

The above-cited quote by Mishima Yukio reflects one of the principles of samurai aesthetics stating that the shorter the life, the more magnificent it is. This notion is especially favored by the writer, being one of the main concepts in his works. One should understand this idea, but other opinions about it are also true. One of Mishima’s friends, a Shinto priest, said a very accurate phrase about him, “He hurried too much.”
It is a profound comment. Excessive extremism in views and judgments leads to mistakes.

The following assertion seems more reasonable:
The human body ages with time, becoming weaker. But the human spirit must stay strong and young.
Like no one else, the samurai turned this principle into reality. Until the last days of their lives, they were ready to leap into the saddle and hide their hoarheads in order not to reveal their age to the enemy.

Years have no power over a samurai. He always stays true to his Way. He is not afraid of old age or the withering of the body. Oyama Masutatsu may serve as an outstanding example.
Mortally ill, he used with purpose every remaining day of his life. He gave a fine example of how to pass away in style. Through the pain he joked and smiled, sang songs and conducted last training sessions with his students for the welfare of all people.
In his farewell speech he spoke about staying true to the Way of the Samurai. Tears sparkled in the eyes of his disciples…

Oss!!!

When Yamamoto Jin'emon was eighty years old, he became ill. At one point, he seemed to be on the verge of groaning, and someone said to him, “You'll feel better if you groan. Go ahead.” But he replied, “Such is not the case. The name of Yamamoto Jin'emon is known by everyone, and I have shown up well throughout a whole lifetime. To let people hear my groaning voice in my last moments would never do.”
Yamamoto Tsunetomo

It is said that Tokunaga Kichizaemon repeatedly complained, “I've grown so old that now, even if there were to be a battle, I wouldn't be able to do anything. Still, I would like to die by galloping into the midst of the enemy and being struck down and killed. It would be a shame to do nothing more than to die in one's bed.”
Yamamoto Tsunetomo 

An old Master felt that old age started taking its toll, the energy of his life was nearing the end – he became feebler, and his thinking lost its former clarity and power. He decided not to wait for the moment when his strength would leave him completely, and cut the ties with life as a strong man would. The master gathered his closest disciples, gave them farewell instructions, and they threw a party for him until morning. At sunrise,
the Master happily went to a better world by committing seppuku.
That master in the time of his youth killed a tiger with a blow of the fist.

Living for him is like
Drifting in the current.
Dying for him is like
Going for a rest…
Jia Yi

There is no point in trying to dictate wishes to nature, but one should follow its call.

 Ueshiba Morihei
Ueshiba Morihei

If you age prematurely – you do not live the right life. A master is vigorous even when he is
eighty.

A master was asked, "Why do you live for such a long time?"
He replied, "Because with each breath, I inhale all the best that exists in this world. Exhaling, I
try to get rid of all needless things that exist inside me. Inhale the good, exhale the unneeded.
While a person is necessary for the Universe, he or she lives. Send
emanations of love to the Universe and you will get an answer. It is such happiness!"

Even though I am past seventy now, my vitality is ten times as great as when I was thirty or forty....
I find no difficulty in refraining from sleep for two, three, even seven days,
without suffering any decline in my mental powers.
Hakuin

A samurai should be learning constantly, perfecting himself, following the Way of Ascension until the last moment of his life. Even death is not an obstacle for him.


One renowned samurai said, “I am getting older, but I learn all the time!”
This is the Way!
Use every day of your life!

This is a chapter from
the book "Samurai. Spirit of the Warrior" by A. R. Basov

avaliable as an eBook (for Windows, Android, iOS) and a hardcover book (pre-order only).

 

 

 





I will not get lost...
The North Star is shining in the darkness...
The road to Valhalla, straight like a sword, is always in front of me!

Copyright 2000-2016 Alexey R. Basov, Tatiana Basova. All rights reserved.

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