Issue nº 57

1 - The art of retreat | 2 - The master and the combat | 3 - The cedar forest
4 - The way that leads to heaven | 5 - The cocoon | 6 - The intelligent servant

The art of retreat

     A warrior of the light who trusts too much in his intelligence ends up under-estimating the power of the adversary.
     One must not forget: there are moments when strength is more effective than sagacity. And when we find ourselves faced with a certain kind of violence, no brilliance, argument, intelligence or charm can prevent tragedy.
     That is why the warrior never under-estimates brute force. When it is irrationally aggressive, he retreats from the battle field until the enemy has spent his energy.
     However, let it be made quite clear: a warrior of the light is never cowardly. Flight can be an excellent art of defense but it cannot be used when there is great fear.
     In the face of any doubt, the warrior prefers to accept defeat and take care of his wounds, because he knows that if he flees he will be giving the attacker a greater power than he deserves.
     He can cure physical suffering but he will be eternally persecuted for his spiritual weakness. In some difficult and painful moments, the warrior faces a situation of disadvantage with heroism, resignation and courage.
     To achieve the necessary state of mind (since he is entering the fight at a disadvantage and may suffer a lot), the warrior has to understand exactly what can cause him harm. Okakura Kakuso comments in his book on the Japanese tea ritual:
     "We look at the evil of others because we know evil through our own behavior. We never forgive those who injure us because we believe that we would never be forgiven. We tell painful truth to our neighbor because we want to hide it from ourselves. We show our strength so that no-one can see our fragility."
     "That is why, whenever you are judging your brother, know that it you who are on trial."
     Sometimes this knowledge can prevent a fight that will only bring disadvantages. However, at other times there is no way out, only an unequal fight.
     We know we are gong to lose, but the enemy - violence - has left no other alternative but cowardice, which is of no interest to us. At this moment it is necessary to accept fate and try to bear in mind a text from the fabulous Bragavad Gita (Chapter II, 16-26):
     "Man is not born, nor does he ever die. For ever he tries to exist, he will never stop doing this, because this is eternal and permanent."
     "Just as a man casts off his old clothes and starts to wear new ones, the soul casts off the old body and takes on a new one."
     "But the soul is indestructible; spades cannot cut it down, fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, and the wind never dries it. The soul is beyond the power of all such things."
     "As man is indestructible, he is always victorious (even in his defeats), and therefore should never have regrets."

The master and the combat

     The aikidô master demanded intensive training but never allowed his pupils to compete with other martial-arts academies. They all complained among themselves but no-one ever had the nerve to bring up the subject in class.
     And then one day one of the boys dared to ask:
     - We have dedicated ourselves wholeheartedly to the study of aikidô, but we shall never know whether we are good or bad fighters because we cannot compete with anyone from outside here.
     - And may you never need to know that - was the master's answer. - He who wants to fight loses his bond with the Universe. Here we study the art of resolving conflicts, not starting them.

The cedar forest

     In 1939 the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who was posted in Lithuania during one of the most dreadful periods ever known to mankind, saved thousands of Polish Jews from the Nazi menace by granting them exit visas.
     His act of heroism was an obscure footnote in the history of the war until the survivors saved by Sugihara decided to tell their story. His courage and grandeur were soon celebrated by all, drawing the attention of the media and inspiring some authors to write books describing him as "the Japanese Schindler."
     Meanwhile the Israeli government collected the names of the saviors in order to reward them for their efforts. One of the ways in which that the Jewish state tried to show their indebtedness towards these heroes was to plant trees in homage to them. When Sugihara's courage was disclosed, the Israeli authorities planned to plant the customary cluster of cherry trees - the national tree of Japan - in his memory.
     All of a sudden an unheard-of decision was made and the order revoked. They decided that cherry trees were inadequate as a symbol of the bravery displayed by Sugihara and opted for a wood of cedars, a tree of greater vigor and with more sacred connotations for having been used in the First Temple.
     Only after the trees were planted did the authorities find out that "Sugihara" in Japanese may be written as ... cedar forest.

The path that leads to heaven

     When they asked Abbot Antonio if the path of sacrifice led to heaven, he answered:
     - There are two paths of sacrifice. The first is taken by the man who mortifies the flesh and pays penance because he believes that we are condemned. The man who follows this path feels guilty and judges himself unworthy of living happily.
     - The second path is taken by the man who, even though he knows that the world is not as perfect as we would like, prays, does penance and offers up his time and toil to improve the world around him. So he understands that the word sacrifice comes from sacro ofício, holy work. In this case the Divine Presence helps him all the time and he obtains results in heaven."

The cocoon

      The great Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis ("Zorba the Greek") tells us that once when he was a boy he noticed a cocoon stuck to a tree, with a butterfly was about to be born. He waited a while, but it was taking so long, so he decided to warm the cocoon with his breath. The butterfly finally emerged but its wings were still stuck together and it died soon afterwards.
     "I just couldn't wait for the sun to complete the necessary process of patient maturation," says Kazantzakis. "That small corpse is until this very day one of the heaviest burdens on my conscience. But that's what made me understand what a true mortal sin is: trying to force the great laws of the universe. We have to have patience, wait for the right time and then follow confidently the rhythm that God has chosen for our lives."

The intelligent servant

     When he was staying at an air base in Africa, author Saint-Exupéry passed the hat among his friends because a Moroccan servant wanted to return to his home town. He managed to collect a thousand francs.
     One of the pilots flew the servant as far as Casablanca and told the following when he came back:
     - As soon as he arrived he went to have dinner in the very best restaurant, handed out generous tips, paid for drinks all round and bought dolls for the children in his village. This man hadn't the slightest notion of economy.
     - Quite the opposite - answered Saint-Exupéry. - He knew that the best investment in the world is people. Spending in that way, he managed to win all over again the respect of his countrymen, and they will offer him a job. After all, only a winner can be so generous.

Issue nº57