"Katsujinken" - Life Giving Sword.
To use the sword for good, a samurai never strikes in evil, but strives to use it for the benefit of the people.
...He deserves death!
it! I dare say he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not
be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all the ends...."
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
minute my joy increased... because I found myself in an extraordinary state of the most complete invulnerability, such as
I had never before experienced. Nothing at all could confuse me, annoy me or tire me. Whatever was being thought of by those
men, conversing animatedly in another corner of the room, I would regard them calmly, from a distance they could not cross."
--Vera Zasulick, after her assassination of General Trepov, governor of St. Petersburg
The sword that takes life,
the sword that gives life
The Japanese sword was never a mere ribbon of polished
and sharpened steel. In the juxtaposition of blade and scabbard, there exists an emblem of the dynamic interplay of male and
female, penetration and containment, power dependent as much upon its reserve as its expression. The sword itself was the
embodiment of the principle of law founded upon hierarchy, the ruling warriors' power rooted in their submission to a web
of obligations and loyalties to superiors, their weapons instruments of service rather than of freedom. In religious iconography,
the Taoist sword cuts through undifferentiated chaos, introducing delineation into the universe, creating darkness and light,
yin and yang, positive and negative and from this duality, the birth of the myriad forms of the universe. The Buddhist sword
is the sword that cuts through illusion, the bright cold edge of mindful consciousness which requires one to face reality
with open eyes and courageous heart.
Setsuninto (the sword that takes life) and katsujinken (the sword that gives life) are concepts which
attempt to differentiate between the use of the sword for murderous ends as opposed to its use to protect people or to preserve
the order of society.
These two phrases give rise to a variety of interpretations.
At its most naive is the idea that, having power, one can choose to use it either to hurt others or lead them from evil paths.
This is sometimes a fantasy of aikido devotees: that when attacked, the skillful practitioner, who could easily annihilate
his or her attacker, moves in such a way that not only is the attack neutralized, but the attacker realizes the error of his
ways and turns from violence. I call this naive because, even though it is sometimes possible, it presupposes that
one's attacker will always be far inferior in skill, and even more unlikely, that being humbled and even shamed by one far
superior, an attacker is likely to undergo a profound change of personality.
A second concept is that of surgical violence,
one particularly common among the Japanese right wing,whose ideology, in many ways, is closest to those of the warrior class
in pre-modern Japan. This is best shown in the phrase, "One life to save a thousand," which is used to explain various political
assassinations. In this concept, not only murder, but also inaction which allows war or other disaster to develop, would be
setsuninto. Katsujinken would be to "cut the head off the snake" so the war could not start.
Some pseudo-Buddhist scholars of the sword imagine
that there is a state of fluid perfection, called "enlightenment," in which one can act at each and every moment without reflection
or doubt, the spontaneous act being the only one suitable to that particular moment. The enlightened one, then, could cut
down an individual without murderous intention, in their intuitive all-encompassing understanding that the interpenetrating
web of universe is best served that this individual die. The slaughtered one's life is culminated and, in fact, "demands"
death at this moment to be properly fulfilled.
Whose life is preserved in katusjinken? One's own?
The enemy's? Bystanders'? Whose life is taken in setsuninto? Is this a problem only of the moment, of the two individuals
in conflict, or does it encompass all whose lives are touched by violence, by apparent evil? Is this a problem only of the
present, or does it extend into the past and future? Are the reasons an enemy resorts to violence relevant to how you will
resolve it? Are the potential results of alternative ways of resolving violence relevant to considerations of how one