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The Religion of the Samurai

7. Life
1. Epicureanism and Life.
There are a good many people always buoyant in spirit and mirthful in appearance as if
born optimists. There are also no fewer persons constantly crestfallen and gloomy as if
born pessimists. The former, however, may lose their buoyancy and sink deep in despair
if they are in adverse circumstances. The latter, too, may regain their brightness and grow
exultant if they are under prosperous conditions. As there is no evil however small but
may cause him to groan under it, who has his heart undisciplined, so there is no calamity
however great but may cause him to despair, who has his feelings in control. A laughing
child would cry, a crying child would laugh, without a sufficient cause. 'It can be teased
or tickled into anything.' A grown-up child is he who cannot hold sway over his passions.
He should die a slave to his heart, which is wayward and blind, if he be indulgent to it. It
is of capital importance for us to discipline the heart,[FN#209] otherwise it will discipline
us. Passions are like legs. They should be guided by the eye of reason. No wise serpent is
led by its tail, so no wise man is led by his passion. Passions that come first are often
treacherous and lead us astray. We must guard ourselves against them. In order to gratify
them there arise mean desires-the desires to please sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
These five desires are ever pursuing or, rather, driving us. We must not spend our whole
lives in pursuit of those mirage-like objects which gratify our sensual desires. When we
gratify one desire, we are silly enough to fancy that we have realized true happiness. But
one desire gratified begets another stronger and more insatiable. Thirst allayed with salt
water becomes more intense than ever.
[FN#209] Compare Gaku-do-yo-jin-shu, chap. i., and Zen-kwan-saku shin.
Shakya Muni compared an Epicurean with a dog chewing a dry bone, mistaking the
blood out of a wound in his mouth for that of the bone. The author of Mahaparinirvana-
sutra[FN#210] has a parable to the following effect: 'Once upon a time a hunter skilled in
catching monkeys alive went into the wood. He put something very sticky on the ground,
and hid himself among the bushes. By-and-by a monkey came out to see what it was, and
supposing it to be something eatable, tried to feed on it. It stuck to the poor creature's
snout so firmly that he could not shake it off. Then he attempted to tear it off with both
his paws, which also stuck to it. Thereupon he strove to kick it off with both his hind-
legs, which were caught too. Then the hunter came out, and thrusting his stick through
between the paws and hind-legs of the victim, and thus carrying it on his shoulder, went
home.' In like manner an Epicurean (the monkey), allured by the objects of sense
(something sticky), sticks to the five desires (the snout and the four limbs), and being
caught by Temptation (the hunter), loses his life of Wisdom.
[FN#210] The sutra translated by Hwui Yen and Hwui Kwan, A.D. 424-453.
 
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