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Samurai Culture

Territorial dominance and the classic strife for land ownership are common geopolitical themes extending across borders since time immemorial.  This is how the Samurai class emerged in eleventh century Japan and came to dominate the region for more than four centuries as the military elite. With vast forested and mountainous ranges occupying the many islands, only 20% has ever been agriculturally sustainable. Considering such scarcity, feudal lords appointed Samurai to defend the land as loyal servants and men of courage who pledged their steadfast honour until the call of death. 

Just as swords were considered spiritual talismans, the very act of sword making was a sacred affair. A swordsmith needed to refrain from sexual activity for three days before beginning work on a blade or during the process, and only after completing rituals of purification and prayer. The Way of the Sword (kendo) and the way of Zen were one and the same. Each Samurai wielded two weapons by his side: a long katana sword and a shorter wakizashi, both fundamental warrior accoutrements called “great and small” (daisho). The sword was seen as a rite of passage to achieving spiritual perfection (satori); a form of discipline for attaining a state of mind known as “mushin” or “no mind” in the face of an adversary. Devoid of thoughts and freed from the ego with all feelings of fear or pride cast aside, this practice allowed a natural, spontaneous unfolding of action under intense pressure. The Way of the Warrior (bushido) thus became deeply influenced by the tenants of Buddhism, Shintoism, and Zen. Based on the foregoing philosophies, great emphasis was placed on overcoming the fear of death or defeat so that each warrior may serve his master honourably and die well if required – a profound Buddhist declaration to the impermanence of life.

Wednesday, 30.11.2011
23:30 (Cet)

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