Stick to Your Principles and Pursue your Beliefs

A member of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly made headline news because of his incoherent crying jag at the press conference. Japan became the center of attention on the web, and for me as a Japanese, it was an embarrassing incident.

Mr. Nonomura reportedly made 195 one-day business trips last year and claimed $30,000 in expenses for them. In addition to that, he went shopping 530 times with official allowances and spent $25,000 on postal stamps between the years 2011 and 2013. I must say his act of embezzlement of public funds is jaw-dropping.

It is also reported that he failed the election four times in a row, and though he was elected the fifth time around, he was the least popular of all elected candidates. He was aspiring to the position of a local assembly member so much that one might assume that he had a strong conviction. However, now that all these misdeeds have been revealed, some might think, with much disappointment, that he became an assembly member just to misuse public funds.

During the election campaign, he must have addressed people by saying, “Please let me work for you, my constituent.” He wouldn’t have said, “Let me have free access to your tax money.” His actions proved, though, that he had other things in mind. I know it is not easy to stick to one’s principles and pursue one’s beliefs without trying to impress others, but let us be always mindful of it. Now let’s read a chapter from Unshakable Spirit.

In mid-nineteenth-century Japan, a samurai named Yamada Asaemon served the government as executioner. One day he was asked by the famous swordsman Yamaoka Tesshu whether, in all the beheadings he had done, there had ever been a time when he missed.

“I worried when I beheaded famous men like Yoshida Shoin,”* answered the executioner, “but perhaps out of pride they all held themselves rigid, so there was no difficulty. Two other times, I did have trouble.” One botched execution was that of Jirokichi the Rat, the celebrated thief who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, he said. The other was that of the famous Yoshiwara courtesan Kacho, a convicted arsonist.

Jirokichi must have accepted that after years of daring thievery, the time for atonement had come. He calmly faced west and said, “Please do it.” He looked and sounded perfectly natural.

Kacho came to the block wearing little makeup, her palms pressed together in devotion, her figure so natural that even “Decapitator Asaemon,” as he was known, could scarcely bring himself to lower the sword. Despite his expertise, he missed the spot time and again; it took him five tries to properly sever her head.

Nothing is so hard to deal with in others, it seems, as a complete lack of intention to impress.

One day the great Saigo Takamori, dressed in his general’s uniform, was climbing a steep hill with some young officers. At the same time, a coolie was struggling to pull a heavy load up the hill. The incline was so steep that he couldn’t budge the cart. Worse, the cart was on the point of slipping back down. When he saw this, without hesitation Saigo ordered his men to come help him push the cart. They all joined forces and succeeded in getting the cart to the top of the hill. The grateful coolie thanked them profusely before going on his way.

One of the young officers commented, “Some people would laugh to see a general in the army pushing a cart like that.”

“Yes,” said Saigo, “but that’s nothing to me. I never care what people say. They can say whatever they want!” Then he gave a ringing laugh.

Saigo Takamori—who later played an important role in the movement to overthrow the shogunate, and took Edo Castle without bloodshed— stuck to his principles and pursued his beliefs without trying to impress anyone, paying no attention to what others thought. That is how he was able to live up to the faith and aspirations of his countrymen and devote his life to the welfare of his country.

* 1830–59. A charismatic intellectual and revolutionary in the years leading to the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

(Unshakable Spirit, The Power of People Who Do Not Try to Impress Others)

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #43 | 2014, Stick to Your Principles and Pursue your Beliefs

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