In fact, the Japanese have so much theoretical knowledge that sometimes they cannot easily make a decision. Of course, if a road branches into two, it is easy to make a decision: you go either right or left. But if it branches into five roads, it is far more difficult to choose. If it branches into 17, it may take a very long time to decide. Some Japanese feel that the safest thing to do is to choose a road which already has several people on it.
But that is not really a decision: it is a sort of panic. How can the Budo spirit help to make us decisive? Let us first look at the causes of the indecisiveness. I believe that the main causes of the difficulty are lack of judgement, lack of confidence and lack of faith.
Judgement cannot be developed by reading. Reading gives us only certain facts and opinions, but it does not tell us how to judge them. For instance, books and TV may tell us many conflicting things about human mental potentialities. Some say genetic factors set absolute limits. However, look at children in India doing mental arithmetic. The teacher has a calculator, calling out some long numbers to be added, while the children are supposed to write them down.
At the end he says: ‘That’s all. Now add them’. But before he can press his ‘Add’ button, several of the children have shouted the answer. They had kept a running total in their heads. (Their technique of adding is to begin with the millions.) All the children can do this, though some are slower. To see this once makes one realize that no one can set limits to mental possibilities. One can now judge, because one has a living personal experience. ‘
Someone may say, ‘Oh, we could see that on TV’. Not so. An individual, sitting quietly in a corner, can see it happen. But a group or a TV camera would disturb the class. The children would be shy and not shout out the answer. So the group would see nothing. True, it might be rehearsed for TV, but then it would be no evidence at all: it is not a real happening but a stage show.
A traveller can get real experience when he is alone. Even just two foreigners together, talking their own language quietly, are still noticeable. The local people may adapt their behaviour, more or less. But a single person, not talking, is just a member of the public. He has read about French courtesy and he can look at the wonders of Paris. But now he can also see two Frenchmen quarreling. As one Frenchman remarked, ‘We French civilized Europe, but perhaps we did not quite finish the job on ourselves’.
To see these things, we must practise going alone. The Budo text says, ‘Do not forget the spirit of contest’. Many other texts say the same thing: ‘Be prepared at all times to fight. In the street, at a meal, even in the bath, be ready’. At these times, the bujin would often be alone. Today we do not normally have to be ready to fight, but we should be ready to be alone. It takes courage, and the old Budo texts can help to give that courage.
© Trevor Leggett