Samurai: Ascension

by A. R. Basov

  • samurai art

    When all things in life are false,
    There is only one thing true, death.
    —Yamamoto Tsunetomo,
    Hidden by the Leaves

    Spring has come, along with the festival of sakura blossoms and sun rays which grant their farewell light as the sun sets. A young, stately Samurai slowly approaches the shrine, bows, and sits down on a tatami covered with white silk. He has self-respect and his mind is peaceful. His friend sits by his left hand. The third participant of the solemn ceremony comes closer and offers the old family dagger on a white tray to his master.

    “I am asking the audience to do me an honor,” he addresses the samurai who are sitting silently; their congealed faces make them look more like statues than real men.

    The young samurai bares his chest and clutches the dagger with both hands. He takes several seconds to contemplate its shining blade. He is collecting his thoughts. All of a sudden he violently thrusts the weapon into his abdomen and slowly pushes it upwards and to the right. Not a muscle moves on his noble face, his unflinching stare expresses emptiness. Without uttering a sound, he pulls the dagger out of the tremendous wound and puts it aside.

    By an incredible force of will the Samurai takes a brush and draws characters with his blood – his death poem. Finally it’s done.
    He looks at the sky for the last time.
    What does he see in Heaven?

    The warrior bends his head forward. Immediately, his assistant leaps up and, quick as lighting, cuts off his head. A dead silence follows, then the sound of blood trickling to the floor, painting the white cloth. The soul of the Samurai has rushed to its new incarnation following his Lord’s soul in order for them to meet in a crystal flow of eternity…

    Akashi Gidayu by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
    Akashi Gidayu by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1890)

    Harakiri… Tens of thousands of warriors chose it.

    They considered it their privilege and absolute proof of valor. It was how they attained full inner freedom, transcended human capabilities and achieved superhuman consciousness and will.

    The samurai belief in the dominance of spirit over body, life, and even the instinct of self-preservation, gave them self-control and dispelled many enslaving illusions.

    “He who is capable of dying with dignity would live with dignity,” they used to say. They believed that the shorter one’s life, the more beautiful it was, because a large amount of energy and purity were saved... read further in the book

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    This is a chapter from Samurai I: Ascension

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