Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Precept Seven: Never Be Jealous

Posted: November 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

This is the seventh in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

Being a warrior isn’t easy. The hours of physical training, both in the gym and on the mat leave us bruised and battered and sore. Those of us who followed this path into the military in the last 17 years found ourselves apart from our families for years at a time as we pursued the adversary to his caves. Many of us find ourselves in professions where we nightly confront the adversary on the city streets here at home.

These physical demands on the warrior are often so much easier than the mental and spiritual strengths and discipline required to pursue this path and expose one’s self to the psychological hazards. This precept also exemplifies the fact that virtue and honor, however the warrior defines that, are demanded of the warrior to an extent that the merchant and the laborer never knows.

Anyone can go to the gym, but pursuing these precepts and choosing to abandon regret and jealousy and attachment to desire require a much greater struggle than any of the physical demands made of the warrior.

To enter into this lifestyle, you have to be possessed of a certain mentality and a certain spirit. Many who follow that spirit into the Asian martial arts are exposed to Buddhism, the cradle religion for the samurai and for Musashi. Just as Musashi counseled us to abandon attachment and regret, his admonition to abandon jealousy (and more of the precepts to come) is rooted in his pursuit of the Way as a spiritual adjunct to that greater way.

Your individual spirituality may differ as does my own even though it carries a rather significant debt to my exposure to Buddhism and Hinduism. I think abandoning regret, attachment, and jealousy is best accomplished for the warrior as a spiritual exercise. That exercise has many components for me, and I’m trying to provide a more general commentary that might be of benefit to others.

Jealousy is a result, the negative of result, of comparing ourselves and our situations to what others are experiencing. The positive result is inspiration. The obligation we then incur, if we seek to follow the Way Alone as advocated by Musashi, is to transform the negative feeling of jealousy into either apathy or inspiration.

The warrior does not look at another’s success and want to take it from them and make it their own. The warrior sees in another what is possible and then seeks to build it for himself in his own life. This is inspiration and not mere jealousy.

But as I write, I am always thinking of my tribe and my adversaries aren’t always personal but are often forces and people who simple oppose my tribe and, when not eager to destroy us, are at least willing to see us destroyed.

When the tribe’s adversaries possess resources that your tribe needs, it isn’t possible to meditate, think and dispense with your need and watch your tribe perish. Looking at the oil possessed by the countries of the Middle East might make us wish we had that oil. But that oil will run out and jealousy of their position accomplishes nothing. We should instead allow that to inspire us to trade with them and develop alternatives and our own resources. It is not an excuse for war.

But what about water? As the population grows and industrialization poisons the global water supply, my tribe’s need for water might lead us into conflict with another tribe that does have sufficient water. Again, we can trade, we can negotiate. But if that fails, it is impossible to cast aside jealousy and do without water. It then becomes to necessary to cast aside jealousy and engage in conquest. But conquest is never accomplished without sacrifice much of what we hold dear. It is a trade with fate, at best.

Jealousy is a hindrance. It distracts us from our own accomplishments and impedes our relationships with others. Our obligation is then to consider these three possible alternatives: apathy, inspiration, conquest.

Start where you stand. Analyze your relationships with those who possess what you do not and begin planning for how you can match their situation and better yourself. Especially analyze how much of your jealousy is rooted in still being attached to outcomes you cannot control.

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This is the sixth in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as s dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

Let us first discard what this precept does not say. Musashi does not exhort us to impeccable moral behavior but insists that being human, we will err, we will make mistakes, we will choose the wrong action. And Musashi insists also that, when we do, we do not spend a moment in regret for the mistake made or the pain caused.

It is possible that Musashi genuinely meant we should cut and walk away. Any wrong doing, any error is unfortunate but leads only to worse and worse outcomes if we then wallow in regret. Regret is a waste of our time and pulls us from the path. We should leave others to their suffering, even if we are responsible, and proceed with our own journey.

It is possible that is exactly what Musashi meant.

That outlook does most of us no good and I am not at all certain I can embrace it.

Since error is unavoidable, it becomes necessary for me to find another path to avoid regret. I do recognize that being consumed by the past, whether pride or regret is detrimental to the now. In this respect, Musashi again gives us good counsel, regret is not a burden a warrior can bear for long.

Refusing to simply be heartless and never regret any mistake, I am left casting about in Musashi’s culture and life for other possibilities and I find one so drastic, so final that it is also nearly unthinkable as anything other than a clue to help us find our way.

Some samurai, when their errors were so great they felt they could never recover their reputation or their honor, would commit seppuku, or ritual suicide. Rather than issue an apology that might ring empty, their sincerity was expressed through the act of inflicting a terrible cruel death upon themselves.

While I can’t be an advocate of this either, I do see a path that can lead us away from regret without being callous to those we injure mistakenly; atonement.

When we realize we have taken an action that is not in line with our goals, we are not obligated to think of that deed as “done” while the suffering it causes remains. Simply expressing regret is meaningless. Action must be taken to set things right when it was our action that set things wrong in the first place.

This is the only course I can personally adopt in relation to this precept. Regret is an emotion without any upside. Musashi is absolutely right when he advises us to never let regret rest in our psyches for even an instant. It follows that we can be perfect, we can be callous, or we can refuse to let our mistakes remain a hindrance to ourselves or others.

Start where you stand. Pick a regret you can resolve by atoning and do so. Think of another regret that cannot be made right and simply come to terms with it.

This is the fifth in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

Musashi was a Buddhist and corresponded with some of the great names in Zen Buddhism alive in the period during which he lived. The first of the Buddha’s four noble truths is that life is hard. The second is that suffering is caused by attachment.

This is the fifth in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

Musashi was a Buddhist and corresponded with some of the great names in Zen Buddhism alive in the period during which he lived. The first of the Buddha’s four noble truths is that life is hard. The second is that suffering is caused by attachment. Most westerners see “desire” as connoting a sexual thing. For the Buddhists and Musashi, desire is simply any passionate wanting.

When Musashi wrote this precept he was living in a cave. As I write this commentary, I am living a spartan existence under the sky, having given up my apartment in order to put that money toward one of my desires. Even so, I have access to luxuries Musashi couldn’t imagine from this tablet to pre-cooked food to laundry machines.

I am also far more attached to this desire I am sacrificing for than Musashi would approve of, I think.

What does it mean that we are counseled to be detached from desire rather than simply to not desire? Even the Buddha didn’t tell his followers to never desire, only to avoid being attached. Both recognize that desire is inevitable. Human beings want things. Even the desire to attain buddhahood and live the life of a bodhisattva is a desire and a monk must find a way to remain detached from that desire.

Since desire is normal, inevitable, we must instead learn to possess that desire without attachment. That is, we must acknowledge we want something, but never allow that something to possess us even if we come to possess it. We will launch into endeavors, chase what we desire and, very often, we will fail. When we fail, we will be crippled if we find that attachment to the outcome has wounded our ego. We must instead be prepared to work and sacrifice and then walk away from the outcome if that outcome is pulling us down.

That is what “detachment from desire” means.

We must be prepared not only to walk away from failure unscarred and ready to begin again, but we must recognize that we cannot become attached even to our successes. Success is, after all, always only temporary. If you build a dream, you must fuel it, repair it where it is dented, protect it from adversaries and always be ready to walk away when preserving the dream is no longer worth the struggle required.

When I teach people to shoot, I often have to explain that the outcome is largely out of our hands. What we do control is how we stand, how we grip the weapon, how we align the sights, how we develop our sight picture, how we squeeze the trigger. We are unattached to the outcome. We do not control whether we hit the target once the round is fired. So we focus on what we do control and concentrate on what we are doing. Inevitably, when we control ourselves and handle our weapons properly, the outcome is much what we seek. But even so we must not become attached or the frustration of missing or being flushed with the pride of hitting will hinder our further efforts.

We are here now. The outcome is out of our hands.

This sounds easy for a businessman facing bankruptcy when you consider that the warrior’s outcome is either life or death. It can be difficult not to be attached to an outcome that involves your extinction and danger to your family and tribe.

An old veteran once tried to explain to me that every soldier chooses one of two roads: the road to life or the road to death. A soldier insisting that he is on the road to life, that he will survive and return home and that survival is his highest goal, will hesitate when he should act. His desire to survive puts him in greater danger as he seeks his own survival when he should be seeking victory. The road to death, however, is that course chosen by the soldier who recognizes the danger and accepts that he is already dead. Being dead, he is free to act, free to fight bravely, free to sacrifice for his comrades. With his thoughts untroubled by fear and the desire to live, he is more likely to survive and to win.

Being attached to the outcome of a life and death struggle will slow you down and get you killed.

Every warrior should accept from the outset that death is inevitable and a death pursued in the field (even though we make that fucker work for it) is better than the death that awaits us in hospitals surrounded by tired relatives forced to make terrible decisions on our behalf. I have a desire to live and to fight. I will learn to be untroubled and unattached to the outcome of that fight.

Start where you stand. On a long enough timeline, you are dead because of failure. Accept that and plan your life, the pursuit of your desires accordingly. If it isn’t worth your life, cast it away and even if it is, avoid being attached to your success or failure, ready always to rise and struggle.

“Green grass and children;

All that remains of warriors’s dreams.” -BASHO

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nd Musashi, desire is simply any passionate wanting.

When Musashi wrote this precept he was living in a cave. As I write this commentary, I am living a spartan existence under the sky, having given up my apartment in order to put that money toward one of my desires. Even so, I have access to luxuries Musashi couldn’t imagine from this tablet to pre-cooked food to laundry machines.

I am also far more attached to this desire I am sacrificing for than Musashi would approve of, I think.

What does it mean that we are counseled to be detached from desire rather than simply to not desire? Even the Buddha didn’t tell his followers to never desire, only to avoid being attached. Both recognize that desire is inevitable. Human beings want things. Even the desire to attain buddhahood and live the life of a bodhisattva is a desire and a monk must find a way to remain detached from that desire.

Since desire is normal, inevitable, we must instead learn to possess that desire without attachment. That is, we must acknowledge we want something, but never allow that something to possess us even if we come to possess it. We will launch into endeavors, chase what we desire and, very often, we will fail. When we fail, we will be crippled if we find that attachment to the outcome has wounded our ego. We must instead be prepared to work and sacrifice and then walk away from the outcome if that outcome is pulling us down.

That is what “detachment from desire” means.

We must be prepared not only to walk away from failure unscarred and ready to begin again, but we must recognize that we cannot become attached even to our successes. Success is, after all, always only temporary. If you build a dream, you must fuel it, repair it where it is dented, protect it from adversaries and always be ready to walk away when preserving the dream is no longer worth the struggle required.

When I teach people to shoot, I often have to explain that the outcome is largely out of our hands. What we do control is how we stand, how we grip the weapon, how we align the sights, how we develop our sight picture, how we squeeze the trigger. We are unattached to the outcome. We do not control whether we hit the target once the round is fired. So we focus on what we do control and concentrate on what we are doing. Inevitably, when we control ourselves and handle our weapons properly, the outcome is much what we seek. But even so we must not become attached or the frustration of missing or being flushed with the pride of hitting will hinder our further efforts.

We are here now. The outcome is out of our hands.

This sounds easy for a businessman facing bankruptcy when you consider that the warrior’s outcome is either life or death. It can be difficult not to be attached to an outcome that involves your extinction and danger to your family and tribe.

An old veteran once tried to explain to me that every soldier chooses one of two roads: the road to life or the road to death. A soldier insisting that he is on the road to life, that he will survive and return home and that survival is his highest goal, will hesitate when he should act. His desire to survive puts him in greater danger as he seeks his own survival when he should be seeking victory. The road to death, however, is that course chosen by the soldier who recognizes the danger and accepts that he is already dead. Being dead, he is free to act, free to fight bravely, free to sacrifice for his comrades. With his thoughts untroubled by fear and the desire to live, he is more likely to survive and to win.

Being attached to the outcome of a life and death struggle will slow you down and get you killed.

Every warrior should accept from the outset that death is inevitable and a death pursued in the field (even though we make that fucker work for it) is better than the death that awaits us in hospitals surrounded by tired relatives forced to make terrible decisions on our behalf. I have a desire to live and to fight. I will learn to be untroubled and unattached to the outcome of that fight.

Start where you stand. On a long enough timeline, you are dead because of failure. Accept that and plan your life, the pursuit of your desires accordingly. If it isn’t worth your life, cast it away and even if it is, avoid being attached to your success or failure, ready always to rise and struggle.

This is the fourth in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

In a thousand years, no one will remember your name.

In a thousand years, the cultures our children live in and consider themselves to be products of will bear no resemblance to the world we live in now.

That is the measure of exactly how important you are.

As warriors, our investment in training and fitness almost inevitably leads to ego and even hubris. Hubris was the name the Greeks gave to that pride that bordered on madness. We’ve all known it. It’s impossible to embrace the study of violence and not, at some point, realize you are one of the most bad ass mother fuckers on the planet.

Ego can, however, have its drawbacks.

I was nearly fifty when I picked up the sword again. During the thirty years I had not trained with that weapon, I had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and won my spurs with the most skilled cavalry squadron in the US Army. I had been a Border Patrol Agent and an Air Marshal. I was, without a doubt, the most experienced warrior on that field.

But I was slow with a sword, clumsy with my shield. It was very difficult for me to set my ego aside and learn from kids less than half my age who had never been in a real fight. I did not take myself or my prowess lightly at all and so my training suffered.

The admonition in this precept isn’t just about training. If we place ourselves at the center of our world, it becomes difficult to justify the sacrifices warriors can be called upon to make. If we place ourselves at the center of the world, it becomes difficult to not take the accidents of events personally. Taking such things personally can give rise to a perceived need to defend the ego when it is not under attack. Worse, it can add the burden of defending the ego to the already enormous burden of protecting one’s loved ones.

In short, over-involving our own ego and sense of importance always makes a task more difficult and interferes with our understanding of any given situation. When I returned to the sword, the difficulty in training seriously was created by my inability to take myself lightly. If we enter actual conflict with our thoughts on our need to protect our ego, we may find we are too distracted to respond appropriately to the situation.

This is why Musashi says to think lightly of yourself.

But we are also counseled to take the world seriously. Our footprint in history is almost certain to be a small one. Even so, our deeds impact those around us and ripple outwards whether for good or ill. While mostly ignoring the effect the world has on our ego, we must remain cognizant of the effects our deeds have on the greater world around us.

That my parents never approved of the martial course my life has taken must be examined, accepted, then pushed aside so it does not slow my hand in battle. My life can be taken lightly. But that the world draws closer to what Guillame Faye calls ‘The Convergence Of Catastrophes” guides me, it pushes me to train and to study and to teach.

My own fate is certain; I will one day die. It is the uncertain fates of my sons and the sons of my sons and, yes, their sons, that I consider more closely. What becomes of my tribe as the empire dies and the oil runs out and the weather grows more and more extreme?

The world is more important than you are and the reasons to train and struggle and fight are contained within it rather then being contained in yourself. This is why the warrior, in the end, always risks personal extinction to preserve his people or his ideals. The warrior considers himself, to a great degree, expendable. The world is not.

But most of us are not saints and buddhas. Our “worlds” might be limited by our compassion for the stranger or our affection for our own tribe. The natural environment, however, is something we all share and depend on. There is only one global water supply and poisoning water in China poisons that supply for all of us. There is only one atmosphere and poisoning the air in California poisons it for all of us.

Thinking seriously of the world has to encompass both the people we claim as ours and the natural environment.

Start where you stand. Consider where your ego is most vulnerable and how can you make it impervious so that you need no longer take yourself so seriously. Give some thought to exactly how much of the world matters to you. We live in a dying empire. What ideals do you hope to carry over from this world to what follows the convergence of catastrophes?