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
One day, the lies that we tell ourselves
must end. For me, today is that
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
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.)
(Brentís Commentary: Cherish every
gift you have, no matter how great, no matter how small. For everything can be destroyedÖso honor them while you
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)
A sagacious general, armed with the
knowledge of his enemy, will be able to act as if he knows his enemyís every
(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.)
When you are doing one thing, be concerned
with that one thing and nothing else. Distraction
(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.)
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 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 your advantages does you no good
if your enemy is able to keep you from employing them.
(Brentís Commentary: The enemy is
The way of darkness always brings great
The way of darkness always brings a great
(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.)
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 may feed a manís soul.
But it is rice that feeds his belly, and an army cannot move on courage
(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.)
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.)
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.)
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
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)
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.)
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.)
The only true test of courage is the last
(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 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
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 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.)
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.)
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.)
A clear mind can topple even the strongest
(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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
Brave men may be forgotten; brave deeds
(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.)
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
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.)
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.)
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 Tao of Shinsei is more than clever
sayings and trite wisdom; the wisdom of Shinsei contains the secrets of the
(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.)
ďWherever there is light, there must be
(Brentís Commentary: Wherever there
is shadow, there must be light.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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 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.)
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 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
At times, the voice of peace must ring
(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.)
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.)
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.)
Appreciation of beauty is the beginning of
(Brentís Commentary: Notice that
Shinsei said appreciation is the beginningÖpossession of beauty means nothing,
and is in invitation to pride.)
Study what the pine and cherry blossom can
teach. Man is not the only keeper
(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.)
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
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
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.)
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
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.)