Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yagyu's Answer

Peace & Serenity
I recently listened a group discussion that vilified "the militarism of society", which I took to mean the military, it's culture, and other supporting cast members that surround it.  I listened thoughtfully to the words and ideas that flowed from the participants, careful not to interject my own experiences of uniformed service so as not to damper or influence the conversation in any way.  The prevailing tone was that of liberation theology, the political theory which interprets traditional religious teachings in terms of a liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. This is to say that the participants were highly critical of government, capitalism, corporate culture, popular news media, or pretty much anything that could be widely interpreted  as adding to the disenfranchisement of the poor and suffering. 

After the talk closed I spent a day considering what I had listened to and arrived at the conclusion that the participants lacked any real, direct experience with the military, and were simply regurgitating thoughts and ideas that they had absorbed from others who had little or no direct contact either.  I feel that in many ways I should have spoken up, that I had betrayed my own experiences through my inactions.  

The obvious rebuttal is the the story of Yagyu Munenori's life-giving sword. Yagyu was a widely renowned sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns during their reign over midevel Japan.  His spiritual mentor was the Zen Buddhist priest, Takuan who assisted Yagu in the realization that a sword can both take a life as well as give one.  The life-giving sword is the idea that it is best to control an opponent by the spiritual readiness to fight rather than during an actual fight where lives will be lost.  From this idea grew the saying that we utilize today, "If you have to fight, you have already lost".  


Anonymous said...

1. Have spent most of my adult life dealing with people who have those points of view.
2. Am often more fervently anti-war than they are.
3. Opening the door may benefit you.
4. It will have no effect on them.
V/R JWest

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric

I wonder if you are referring to one of the recent Dharma talks at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate. I think Taigen's reference to the militarization of society relate to what appears to be a growing willingness of some of the more influential politicians and political commentators in our country to propose the use of military force rather casually--as just one more way to support American interests in the world, rather than a last resort. I don't think I have ever heard Taigen suggest that the leadership of the military or service members propose using military force lightly.



Eric said...


There is a difference between a "willingness" to go to war and a prudent preparation for conflict should it arise. In there is my difference with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship's philosophy of "the militarization of society".

Being a paramedic, I look at it like CPR. In other words, I hope that I never have to use the skill, but if I do I want to be able to be pretty damn proficient at it. To a "warrior", its the same thing, I hope that I never have to use those skills, but if I must, I want to be better than my opponent . The Peace guys would say that we shouldn't be teaching/learning those skills at all, which I think is ironically devoid of reality.

Taigen said...

As a "Peace guy" I will say that I completely agree that we should have a strong, well-trained military, and a prudent preparation for conflict. I highly respect professional military people and those who serve their country in the armed forces. But I believe it was Sun-tzu in the Art of War who said, to paraphrase, that the best soldier never has to fight as his strong presence itself averts conflict.
My problem is with policy-makers who inappropriately involve military operations before other options are exhausted, too often at the behest of the interests of Weapons or other large corporations. The question is how to use military force wisely and skillfully. Soldiers as well as noncombatants should not be put at risk for questionable purposes, in my opinion.

Eric said...


Firstly let me say that there is no greater advocate for peace than the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine that actually has to do the fighting. Getting shot at makes you a "Peace guy" pretty damn quickly.

I agree with much of your comment, but it appears that we are trying to arrive at the same destination by way of differing paths.

Sun-tzu and Yagyu Munenori were making the same point about preparedness begets peace.

Organizations bandy about the term "militarism", which is commonly defined as, the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests. If organizations are going to decry militarism, then by definition they are arguing that a country should maintain a weak military (it one at all) and be disinclined to use it to defend or promote the interests of its peoples. To me, this contradicts what Sun-tzu and Yagyu are arguing, e.g. peace through preparedness.