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February 25, 2017

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A Message from Chushingura (Part 3) - A Story from Japanese History

July 21, 2018

(Read Part 2 HERE

 

Tragedy that Highlights the Folly of Our Worldly Passions

 

Asano looks down on Kira. Butchering the enemy in your mind is itself a dreadful deed.

 

March 14 was to be a very important day for Asano. The Shogun would meet with all his imperial envoys at Edo castle. All of Asanoʼs retainers, eyes full of tears, offered their opinions before their lord entered the castle.

 

“You have only three more days to exercise patience, sire!” “Please, please donʼt lose your temper, my lord.”

 

“It is very kind of you to say so,” Asano responded. “Donʼt worry about me. Kira is just a lowly person of little account. If I consider him as a human, then of course Iʼd get angry. So instead I am going to consider him like he really is — an insect. I have so many beloved supporters like you in my castle. How could I even consider replacing friends with a decrepit, old good-for-nothing Kira?”

 

Asanoʼs face began to glow bright red, and the veins in his neck began to swell. Asano, feeling his own emotion, took a deep breath.


“Sire…!”

 

 “Yes, yes. I already know. Donʼt say anymore. Letʼs carry on.” To Asano, Kira was like a bug that needed to be stepped on. It is understandable that he needed to look down on Kira in order to keep calm. But can we really call this patience or perseverance? Asano was looking down on Kira on one hand and being conceited about himself on the other. He felt he was doing everything the right way and with the utmost sincerity. Things cannot work out well for anyone with that kind of attitude.


Butchering the enemy in your mind is itself a dreadful deed. It is stated within the Law of Cause and Effect. A good seed (a good cause) will surely bring a good fruit (a good effect). A bad seed (a bad cause) will surely bring a bad fruit (a bad effect). Your own seed (your own cause) will surely bring your own fruit.


Whatever actions Kira performs, he must later receive the effects of those actions. This remains true. But Asano failed to apply the Law of Cause and Effect to himself in assessing his situation. This law of causality is universal, and so it of course applies to both Asano and Kira respectively.

 

One does not need to bring “justice” to others. What matters the most is oneʼs own actions. Of course Kira planted bad seeds. But if you get angry or become hateful as a response to Kiraʼs words and behavior, what will happen? You will only plant more bad seeds for yourself that way. What you sow, so shall you reap.


If Asano had been wise enough to think “By allowing my own furor to spark any longer, things will only get worse and worse for me,” such a tragedy would have never occurred. This is what threw both the Asano and Kira clans into the abyss of a most terrible misfortune.

 

Being unable to bear public humiliation, Asano explodes with rage. You should not scold or make a fool of someone in front of others.

 

And now the scene moves to Edo Castle. It was almost the time for the Imperial envoy to arrive at the entrance. Asano felt at a loss on where exactly to greet them.


He searched for Kira in a last-minute haste and asked, “When saluting them, should I greet them inside the entrance hall or outside?” Kira responded with a cold stare, “What are you asking for at this final stage? Do you think you can pull off such an important mission without knowing where the proper place is to greet your guests? What a pathetic restless samurai you are!”


With this parting shot, he coolly walked away. He didnʼt even take time to answer Asanoʼs question or look back. In spite of the seething anger boiling all over his body, Asano swallowed it down considering where he was and the importance of the event. At this time, Kajikawa, an emissary from the inner palace, rushed in and asked for Asano. He needed to consult with him about the things after the ceremony. Just walking in, Kira decided to call out to him.

 

“Kajikawa, if you have something important to talk about, I would like you to ask ME. Iʼve been put in much trouble with all these successive mishandlings.” Asano slowly made his way into the room, overhearing Kira. “A backwoods samurai doesnʼt have any knowledge about courtesy. What can you expect from him? Heʼs just as uncivilized as an animal.”

 

This was obvious mockery in front of numerous formally-clothed feudal lords. Asano could bear no more. He pulled out his small sword at once and attacked Kira.


“You, monster!!! I will get my revenge!”

 

 “Noooooooooooooooo!” Kira yelled as he stumbled. He fell on his face in a famous corridor of Edo Castle known as Matsu-no-roka. Then Kira quickly garnished all his energy and attempted to flee with all his might down the hall. But the second swing of Asanoʼs sword swiftly cut down into his shoulder. A red misty blood gushed from the wound. The attack was over, and Asano stood over Kira gasping from anger and adrenaline.

 

Kajiwara pushed his way through the lords and rushed over. From behind Asano, he grappled and disarmed him.

 

“Come on! Who is this?!” Asano was caught off guard from staring at Kira. “Let me go!! You have no right!”

“No, I cannot. Arenʼt you falling apart, Sir? Look at what youʼve done.”

 

“I, Asano, am not coming apart. I am a lord of thirteen thousand koku* of people!!! I would not be coming apart!”

 

This is just a quick recount of the legendary feud that ended in bloodshed and rattled Edo castle. Oh, if only we could extinguish the fire of our anger, how easy our life would be! We tend to fly off the handle at the slightest verbal or behavioral provocation. If it is bearable, then it is OK. But once it finally bursts, it becomes disaster.

 

Anger has formidable destructive power. It makes a mess out of not only our human relationships but also our whole life. We are not fully aware of its frightfulness. We should learn a lesson from Chushingura so that we never have to be the protagonist of a tragedy.

 

(To be continued)

 

Footnote:


* The koku is a Japanese unit of volume. The koku was originally defined as a quantity of rice, historically defined as enough rice to feed one person for one year. A koku of rice weighs about 150 kilograms (330 pounds).

 

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #22 | 2012, A Message from Chushingura (Part 3)

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                      The Buddhist Village Times #20

 

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