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Hagakure: Book of the Samurai: Late Night Idle Talk

As a retainer of the Nabeshima clan, one should have the intention of studying our province's history and traditions, but provincial studies are made light of nowadays. The basic reason for this study is to understand the foundation of our clan, and to know that the clan's forefathers established its perpetuity by means of their suffering and compassion. The fact that our clan has perpetually continued in an unrivaled manner up to this very day is due to the humanity and martial valor of Master Ryuzoji Iekane, the charity and faith of Master Nabeshima Kiyohisa, and the appearance of Lord Ryuzoji Takanobu and Lord Nabeshima Naoshige and their might.

I am at a complete loss when it comes to understanding why people of this generation have forgotten these things and respect the Buddhas of other places. Neither the Shakyamuni Buddha, nor Confucius, nor Kusunoki, nor Shingen were ever retainers of the Ryuzojis or the Nabeshimas; hence it cannot be said that they are in harmony with our clan's customs. In times of war or in times of peace it would be sufficient if both the upper and lower classes would worship our ancestors and study their teachings. One worships the head of whatever clan or discipline to which he belongs. Outside learning for retainers of our clan is worthless. One may think that it is fine to study other disciplines as a diversion after his provincial studies are replete. Yet if a person has a good understanding of provincial studies, he will see that there is nothing lacking in them.

Today, if someone from another clan were to ask about the origin of the Ryuzojis and the Nabeshimas, or why the fief was transferred from the former to the latter, or if they were to ask something like, "I have heard that the Ryuzojis and the Nabeshimas are the greatest in Kyushu for deeds of martial valor, but can you tell me some of the particulars?" I suppose that the man with no knowledge of provincial studies would not be able to answer a word.

For a retainer there should be nothing other than doing his own job. For the most part people dislike their own jobs, find those of others more interesting, cause misunderstanding, and bring on utter disasters. Good models of men who performed their duty in their work are Lord Naoshige and Lord Katsushige. The retainers of those times all performed their duties. From the upper classes, men who would be of good use were searched out, while from the lower classes men desired to be useful. The minds of the two classes were of mutual accord , and the strength of the clan was secure.

In all our generations of masters there has never been a bad or foolish one, and in the end there has never been one who ranked second or third among the daimyo of Japan. It is truly a wonderful clan; this is due to the faith of its founders. Moreover, they did not send the clan's retainers to other provinces. nor did they invite men from other provinces in. Men who were made ronin were kept within the province, as were the descendants of those who were made to commit seppuku. The wonder of being born into a clan with such a deep pledge between master and servant is an inexpressible blessing, passed down through the apes, for both farmer and townsman. This goes without saying for the retainer.

The foundation of a Nabeshima samurai should be in knowing this fact; in being deeply resolved to return this blessing by being useful; in serving more and more selflessly when treated kindly by the master ; in knowing that being made a ronin or being ordered to commit seppuku are also forms of service ; and in aiming to be mindful of the clan forever, whether one is banished deep in the mountains or buried under the earth. Although it is unfitting for someone like me to say this, in dying it is my hope not to become a Buddha. Rather, my will is permeated with the resolution to help manage the affairs of the province, though I be reborn as a Nabeshima samurai seven times. One needs neither vitality nor talent. In a word, it is a matter of having the will to shoulder the clan by oneself.

How can one human being be inferior to another? In all matters of discipline, one will be useless unless he has great pride. Unless one is determined to move the clan by himself, all his discipline will come to naught. Although, like a tea kettle, it is easy for one's enthusiasm to cool, there is a way to keep this from happening. My own vows are the following:

If one dedicates these four vows to the gods and Buddhas every morning, he will have the strength of two men and will never slip backward. One must edge forward like the inchworrn, bit by bit. The gods and Buddhas, too, first started with a vow.

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