Sunday, June 5, 2016

Courage and the Samurai

Were the samurai courageous?

Courage is most often defined as acting in spite of fear. Therefore, in order for an 'actor' to be courageous they must first be fearful.

I've written previously how the term 'courage' and fearless' are most often used by a third party to express their awe of another person's actions with no regard as to their inner state, that is to say if they acted even though scared. However, by definition those who are not scared are not courageous.

Courage, as Lord Moran wrote in his classic The Anatomy of Courage, is will-power. This means the intellect being used to check emotion, in this case fear. Do the samurai use will-power/intellect to check fear and therefore act on the battlefield?

The samurai train for mushin no shin, mind of no mind. It is a state in which the samurai do not experience emotion or thought and act anyway. Therefore, by definition, the samurai at least aspired to be non-courageous.

This brings into question fearlessness, which I have also written about. General Sir Peter de la Billiere in Moran's book, Colonel John M. House in his Why War? Why an Army?, and Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, winner of the VC, all state words to the effect that anyone who says they were not scared in combat is either a fool or lying.

Are the samurai fools or are they lying if mushin no shin training is successful? Is mushin no shin/fearlessness something the modern military should be aspiring to and therefore should be studied in order to teach to their trainees?