A samurai is more than a warrior; he must be a thinker, a philosopher, and a person of great character.  To that end, it falls to each of us to look to the stars in the night sky, and use our abilities, whether given by the kami or merely whim, to wonder what exists beyond.  For many years, I have squandered that gift, wasted my days and nights with trivial matters, heard only the whirl and rush of humanity, rather than the needs of my own heart.

One day, the lies that we tell ourselves must end.  For me, today is that day.

 

-          Kakita Brent

 

 

From the Journal of Kakita Brent, On the Tao of Shinsei

 

I am not Shinsei.  I do not understand one iota, one small piece of the potential that lays within myself; within each of us.  But as we all are, I am seeking out that secret, in hopes of making it my own.

-          Kakita Brent

 

The General

If the general is wise, he knows that a single man can halt an entire army.

(Brentís Commentary: Who is the general?  What is the army?  Does the Tao refer to nothing more than what the words say?  When I read this first, I thought that it was so.  Now I do not.  The army is the world, with all its challenges and trials.

Be the general.)

 

The Downfall

Sometimes the downfall of houses hinges on a fumble of the wrist.

(Brentís Commentary: Cherish every gift you have, no matter how great, no matter how small.  For everything can be destroyedÖso honor them while you can.)

 

Modesty

The higher you stand above modesty, the easier it becomes to lose your footing.

(Brentís Commentary: Pride is the truest defeat of them all.  As Hojatsu wrote, ďThe Vain Enemy is defeated by humility.Ē)

 

Being Sagacious

A sagacious general, armed with the knowledge of his enemy, will be able to act as if he knows his enemyís every thought.

(Brentís Commentary: A man once asked me, ďIf Shinsei advocated peace, then why does he so often speak of war?Ē  If you are truly looking for the truth hidden in these words, then you will see that there are many types of wars.  Shinsei was striving to defeat himself, his pride and his inner darkness.  And this battle, we all must fight.)

 

Distraction

When you are doing one thing, be concerned with that one thing and nothing else.  Distraction breeds disaster.

(Brentís Commentary: Each moment is a chance for perfection.  Do not allow yourself to lose another moment to the world around you.  Experience each part, do each thing, so that if it is your last time, you will need never do it again.)

 

Seeing

One must learn to see what is seen and to see through what others wish you to see.

(Brentís Commentary: Learn to look for the truth.  Deception takes many forms; cunning, beauty, hatred or love.  Learn to look through the veils of lies.  In the end, all things will betray you.  Your arms, your legs, and your eyes.  Do not betray yourself.)

 

Wisdom

Wisdom can be found in many places, but you must always begin at home.

(Brentís Commentary: Start this moment.  Look at one thing in a new light, think of yourself in a new way.  That is the beginning of knowing yourself.)

 

Knowing and Employing

Knowing your advantages does you no good if your enemy is able to keep you from employing them.

(Brentís Commentary: The enemy is yourself.)

 

The Way of Darkness

The way of darkness always brings great power.

The way of darkness always brings a great price.

(Brentís Commentary: Sometimes in life, we are tempted to cheat, to lie, and to abandon our honor.  If you are willing to do so, for whatever reason, then be willing to pay the price for your choiceÖwhenever that price must be paid.)

 

Crystal and Jade

ďÖfor the more corrupt the soul, the more painful it becomes to look upon the pure.  So it is with crystal and jade and the creatures of the dark lands.  Remember this, Hantei, for it will one day save your life.Ē

(Brentís Commentary: You must live, to pursue the secrets of enlightenment.  Shinsei gave us the secrets to throw back the darkness, and seek the future.)

 

Courage and the Stomach

Courage may feed a manís soul.  But it is rice that feeds his belly, and an army cannot move on courage alone.

(Brentís Commentary: Do not neglect the body, in searching for the soul.  They are connected, and must learn to walk the path side by side.)

 

The Obstacle

It takes a wise man to see an obstacle as it truly is and not as it appears to be.

(Brentís Commentary: Look upon the Imperial City; stern, mysticalÖunbreakable.  And yet they can be taken, by one who can see that they are merely stones, and nothing more.  So it is with any man, whose armor is strong, and who is himself weak.)

 

Men to Beware

Do not be wary of men who take risks with titles and lands; be wary of men who have nothing to lose.

(Brentís Commentary: The first type of men takes risks because they believe that they have the strength and the fortunes not to fail.  The second type has already lost that which they held most dearÖto such people, no consequence is great anymore.)

 

Within the Darkness

When darkness descends, a man must find allies in the shadows.

(Brentís Commentary: Know this; when darkness comes, you will see that many of your ďfriendsĒ will be unwilling to aid you.  Be able to know truly who your friends are, so that you can know them, and they you, even after the darkness comes.)

 

Knives

A wise man does not fear long knives, but knives that may only strike close.

(Brentís Commentary: As the Bayushi say, ďOnly a friend can betray you.Ē)

 

More than Known

There are subtler strategies and deadlier battlefields than even I know.

(Brentís Commentary: Here the words of Shinsei are those of humility.  Every time that we are victorious, we tell ourselves that we have conquered another foe.  In truth, we should understand that there is another on the horizon who is better, and so we must prepare.

And if we seek the path of mastery, then we must do more than prepareÖwe must search out the stronger foe.)

 

One Life, One Action

When ten thousand men clash with arms and fire, it is always a single manís actions that make the difference.

(Brentís Commentary: Again, we must remember how delicate our lives are, and the peace that is won or lost is determined by such actions.  When you are the single man or woman, be certain that your honor is tempered, so that you will not fail.)

 

Courage

The only true test of courage is the last one.

(Brentís Commentary: Anyone can have the courage of battle, tempered by blood and war.  It is only in the battle with death and time, which no mere mortal samurai can win, will you ever see the truest courage, for it can be seen only in the face of certain death.)

 

Petting the Scorpion

Petting scorpions with a compassionate hand earns you only a sting.

(Brentís Commentary: Shinsei warns us to remember our situation.  Judgement must be a part of your life, when dealing with men and the beings of this world.  Remember these words, before you blindly trust someone to change their nature.)

 

Friendship

Friendship is truly tested when it is time to share the burden.

(Brentís Commentary: In life, you will meet only a handful of people who love you enough to sacrifice pieces of themselves for you.  Cherish them, and honor their choice.)

 

Desperate Measures

Desperate men employ desperate measures.

(Brentís Commentary: In war, when you believe that you know what a man in capable of, you will underestimate the desperate general.  In peace, where people restraint themselves with poise and dignity, this holds doubly true.)

 

Finding the Balance

You cannot balance the elements while you are without balance.

(Brentís Commentary: A samurai must be supple, as a reed in the wind.  In order to best serve his lord, and in turn, the people, the samurai must be able to apply himself to all tasks.  In that way, the samurai serves his place within the world of the elements, and the world of man.)

 

The Dance of the Elements

There is no understanding.  Void is all and nothing.  It is the dance of the elements.

(Brentís Commentary: There are certain things within this world which defy all attempts to understand.  Void is this.  It exists within each of us, and drives our ability to a higher plane.  You need not understand the elements; only see your place within their flow.)

 

Mind and Will

A clear mind can topple even the strongest will.

(Brentís Commentary: It is said that a strong man tries to outlast a blow, while a wise man will avoid it.  Know the limits of the body, and you gain the ability to see those same things within your adversaries.)

 

The Path

In order to choose the correct path, you must know the pitfalls that await you.

(Brentís Commentary: Before the choice is made, it is important to look at the path.  Too many brave men have died, seeing the goal, but ignorant to the road that would lead them there.)

 

The Sound of the Universe

It is the sound of purest harmony, the sound of the universe.  Make your soul sing its song, and you will find there is nothing you cannot accomplish.

(Brentís Commentary: I think that this is what Shinsei asks us to understand, to seek through the guide of his words.  Not that we must find that place at the height of the universe, but only that we understand our place within its flow.)

 

Revealing the Truth

Only the face of all that is and is not can reveal the truth.

(Brentís Commentary: A man can lie to youÖonly in the universe, the places that we do not yet understand, beyond these mortal coils, can we find the truth that we are searching for.)

 

The Way of the World

Winds blow, nations change, fortunes rise and fall; but the simple folk will always be asked to shoulder the weight.

(Brentís Commentary: We are samurai; those that make war.  But we are also the leaders of men, and so we must remember the faces of those that pay the price for our pride.)

 

Men and Deeds

Brave men may be forgotten; brave deeds never so.

(Brentís Commentary: People do not remember the faces of those that have been called brave.  But for those people that have proven their worth, with blood and sweat and sacrifice, being forgotten is an impossibility.)

 

Knowing

You need no armor, you need no sword.  You need only know that you cannot be defeated.

(Brentís Commentary: Mirumoto said, ďI do not believe that I will win.  I know I will.Ē  Mirumoto was never defeated.)

 

Destiny has no Secrets

Destiny does not believe in secrets.  When something is meant to be seen, it is obvious to all but the foolish.

(Brentís Commentary: Destiny does have one secret, I believe.  You can see the greatness in othersÖbut never in yourself.)

 

Certain Victory

When your enemy is certain that you cannot act, victory is within your reach.

(Brentís Commentary: There is one moment in any conflict, where two men move, to strike one another down.  Only there, at that one moment when you seem so close to defeat, can you carry the day.  Walk the edge of the blade, to be victorious.)

 

Two Suns

There cannot be two suns in the heavens or two Emperors on earth.

(Brentís Commentary: For each place in the universe, there is place only for one.)

 

The Way of the Tao

The Tao of Shinsei is more than clever sayings and trite wisdom; the wisdom of Shinsei contains the secrets of the Universe.

(Brentís Commentary: One of the Agasha once told me, ďShinsei did not write this.Ē  I think that perhaps this is the truthÖbut whoever did, I am sure that the Little Master is appreciative.)

 

Shadows and Light

ďWherever there is light, there must be shadow.Ē

(Brentís Commentary: Wherever there is shadow, there must be light.)

 

The Fallen Man

One must bow to offer aid to a fallen man.

(Brentís Commentary: To often we think better of ourselves, when we bring aid to the meek and poor of this Empire.  Remember also that honor is more than merely serving the right thing: it is in serving in the right way.)

 

Nobility

True nobility comes not from being superior to another man, but from being superior to your past.

(Brentís Commentary: Do not compare yourself to other people.  Improving yourself is a battle against the evils within yourself, not the virtues that other people possess.)

 

Beginning and End

The elements are not the means to an endÖthey are the beginning and the end.

(Brentís Commentary: Many people see the Tao and the elements as merely the path to enlightenment.  This is untrue; the elements, and the Tao that embraces them, have always been a part of us.

And they always shall be.)

 

The Tao and the World

As an ocean to a small stream, the leader to his people, this is the Tao to the world.

(Brentís Commentary: The ocean is the sum of the streams, the leader the sum of the peopleÖand so it is with the Tao of Shinsei.  The heart of the world.)

 

Lamentation

While others lament on what they should have done, the wise man prepares for what he should do next.

(Brentís Commentary: I have seen men make worlds in there own minds, born from the paths never taken.  If you wish to learn, to cultivate yourself, then consider these actions first, before the time comes to choose.)

 

Words

Guard your words carefully, for you own every word you speak.

(Brentís Commentary: None understand more than the Crane how words can kill.  The Scorpion know, but they refuse to understand.  Before you use the voice of man, be certain that you are willing to do with your body what you would whisper with your tongue.)

 

Following

Following a false light only leads you deeper into darkness.

(Brentís Commentary: Too often we reach for the first hand that would pull us from the darkness.  But remember before you reach out, to know the hand that would save you.)

 

Chi

Your soul Ė your life energy Ė is not bound by flesh.  It can reach where your fingers cannot.

(Brentís Commentary: Understanding chi is something that I do not understand Ė yet.  Therefore I will remain silent, until one day I find a kernel of truth.)

 

Shinsei and the Emperor

Shinsei said, ďWho binds you?Ē

The Emperor said, ďNo one binds me Ė I am the Emperor.Ē

ďA contradiction in itself,Ē said the monk with a smile.

(Brentís Commentary: The Emperor bound himself.)

 

Peace and Thunder

At times, the voice of peace must ring like Thunder.

(Brentís Commentary: Shinsei reminds us that there is a time for all things.  Peace cannot always be silent.  If we believe in peace, then it is not enough to speak of it in whispers.  We must have the strength to find the Thunder in our soul.)

 

The Black Heart

A black heart hides many secrets.  The blackest heart hides the deadliest secret of all.

(Brentís Commentary: You must understand your enemy, to defeat it.)

 

The Storyteller

We tell the tales of heroes to remind ourselves that we also can be great.

(Brentís Commentary: Be the hero, but always listen to the tales.)

 

Beauty

Appreciation of beauty is the beginning of true wisdom.

(Brentís Commentary: Notice that Shinsei said appreciation is the beginningÖpossession of beauty means nothing, and is in invitation to pride.)

 

Nature Provides

Study what the pine and cherry blossom can teach.  Man is not the only keeper of enlightenment.

(Brentís Commentary: Many are the men that say that they are searching the world for enlightenment, and yet we seek out only the opinions of our fellow man.  Our place is small in the world, and we are not a singular player.)

 

Bravery

Two men can brave what one cannot.

(Brentís Commentary: Courage is a thing that can be given to another, but that other must be willing to receive it.)

 

Stealing the Soul

You can steal a samuraiís weapon and armor, but you can never steal his honor.

(Brentís Commentary: The views of the masses, the faith and trust of other men; all this can be changed, influenced through whispers and lies.  Only true honor is beyond the touch of the whispers; it must be freely given, to be destroyed.)

 

Purity and Purpose

Those with pure purpose have the strength to never fail.

(Brentís Commentary: My purpose is perfection.  I may never achieve it, but I will never fail.)

 

Possibilities

In the beginnerís mind, there are many possibilities.  In the expertís, there are few.

(Brentís Commentary: In this sense, it is always better to be the beginner, for you shall see things never seen before.)

 

Opportunities

Wisdom comes in finding the opportunities that dilemmas provide.

(Brentís Commentary: The application of wisdom is not difficult.  The difficult part is remembering, in the grip of crisis, that the chance still exists to use it.)