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Hojo undō Stories Stuff

What be Justice? The Case of the Stolen Smell

This article is part of the Twenty Precepts from the Way of the Empty Hand series. (The featured image can be found on wikipedia.)

First, karate stands on the side of justice.
一、空手は義の補け
Hitotsu, karate wa, gi no tasuke

That’s nice for Karate and all, but what, exactly could Sensei Funakoshi mean by justice? And standing on the side of justice? This translation’s a little fuzzy so let’s look at the original characters. The character 義 (gi) means justice, righteousness. And 補 (tasu) means to nourish, supplement, or supply.

So is Karate nourished by justice, or is justice nourished by Karate-Do? Whatever we may find grammatically, the stands on the side of seems to work. It seems by finding this justice, we may find a lot more about Karate, and, as per usual with the niju kun, ourselves.

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Black and white photo of Gichin Funakoshi
A very serious looking Gichin Funakoshi

What is justice?

What is justice exactly? Justice, according to the Oxford dictionary, means just behaviour or treatment, specifically, the quality of being fair and reasonable. Odd that they would use the word just to be the pivotal defining characteristic for the word justice. Circular? Or is just the root word for justice? If so, the  Oxford definition for just is:

  1. Based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair
  2. (of treatment) deserved or appropriate in the circumstances
  3. (of an opinion or appraisal) well founded; justifiable

Morality, appropriateness, fairness and reasonableness are all, arguably, subjective. It smacks of the expression I know it when I see it. The expression is from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on describing hard-core pornography, where he states:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…

So it is with justice. One knows it when one sees it.

A very convenient, if not frustrating statement. What if I don’t know when I see it? How can I describe it to someone else? This is where certain types of folktales and moral parables do a great job delivering the aphorisms needed to ‘justify’ our knowing and seeing.

Which brings us, finally, to the illustrative example of Judge Ooka. Judge Ooka was a Japanese magistrate in the early 18th century. His stories always emphasize his compassion, fairness, appropriateness, and reasonableness. So appropriate! One of his most famous stories is The Case of the Stolen Smell. Below is the full story from I.G. Edmonds book, Ooka the Wise, with commentary!

Hopefully, just reading about the just justice will nudge us just a little closer to our own just justifications!

Bowl of udon noodle soup with shrimp tempura

Judge Ooka and The Case of the Stolen Smell

Now it so happened in the days of old Yedo, as Tokyo was once called, that the storytellers told marvelous tales of the wit and wisdom of His Honorable Honor, Ooka Tadasuke, Echizen-no-Kami. This famous judge never refused to hear a complaint, even if it seemed strange or unreasonable. People sometimes came to his court with the most unusual cases, but Ooka always agreed to listen. And the strangest case of all was the famous Case of the Stolen Smell.

This is the classic once upon a time in every story where the narrator tells you everything you need to know. And, as mentioned above, Judge Ooka was a real person. Ooka Tadasuke was born in 1677 and served as a samurai before becoming the magistrate of Edo (i.e., Tokyo). 

It all began when a poor student rented a room over a tempura shop—a shop where fried food could be bought. The student was a most likable young man, but the shopkeeper was a miser who suspected everyone of trying to get the better of him. One day he heard the student talking with one of his friends.

“It is sad to be so poor that one can only afford to eat plain rice,” the friend complained. “Oh,” said the student, “I have found a very satisfactory answer to the problem. I eat my rice each day while the shopkeeper downstairs fries his fish. The smell comes up, and my humble rice seems to have much more flavor. It is really the smell, you know, that makes things taste so good.”

First, this really is true about smell—the olfactory senses are much more complex than the taste buds. Second, what a great setup for the story! You have the polar opposites of the miserly shopkeeper and a likable, poor, young student.

The shopkeeper was furious. To think that someone was enjoying the smell of his fish for nothing! “Thief!” he shouted. “I demand that you pay me for the smells you have stolen.” ”A smell is a smell,” the young man replied. “Anyone can smell what he wants to. I will pay you nothing!”

And here we have the ubiquitous ‘whose property’ argument. It may sound ridiculous, but the shopkeeper did, in essence, create the smell (and pay for the tempura ingredients, the stove and cookware, and other various overhead costs).

Scarlet with rage, the shopkeeper rushed to Ooka’s court and charged the student with theft. Of course, everyone laughed at him, for how could anyone steal a smell? Ooka would surely send the man about his business. But to everyone’s astonishment, the judge agreed to hear the case.

“Every man is entitled to his hour in court,” he explained. “If this man feels strongly enough about his smells to make a complaint, it is only right that I, as city magistrate, should hear the case.” He frowned at the amused spectators.

Already, we see Judge Ooka’s reasonableness when he exclaims that every man is entitled to his hour in court. He takes his job and position seriously and if he is to maintain social order, that means hearing his constituents’ complains. On another level, if the judge makes a ruling now, it may nip future perseverating, or grudge-holding, in the bud.

Gravely Ooka sat on the dais and heard the evidence. Then he delivered his verdict. “The student is obviously guilty,” he said severely. “Taking another person’s property is theft, and I cannot see that a smell is different from any other property.” The shopkeeper was delighted, but the student was horrified. He was very poor, and he owed the shopkeeper for three months’ smelling. He would surely be thrown into prison.

“How much money have you?” Ooka asked him. “Only five mon, Honorable Honor,” the boy replied. “I need that to pay my rent or I will be thrown out into the street.”

“Let me see the money,” said the judge. The young man held out his hand. Ooka nodded and told him to drop the coins from one hand to the other. The judge listened to the pleasant clink of the money and said to the shopkeeper, “You have now been paid. If you have any other complaints in the future, please bring them to the court. It is our wish that all injustices be punished and all virtue rewarded.”

“But, most Honorable Honor” the shopkeeper protested, “I did not get the money! The thief dropped it from one hand to another. See! I have nothing.” He held up his empty hands to show the judge. Ooka stared at him gravely. “It is the court’s judgment that the punishment should fit the crime. I have decided that the price of the smell of food shall be the sound of money. Justice has prevailed as usual in my court.”

What is justice? Arguably, the smell is the shopkeeper’s property. However, realizing it would set an incredibly poor precedent to allow restaurants to charge any passers-by for smelling the smells of their food, Judge Ooka delivered a most unusual, yet appropriate and reasonable, solution.

Justice via harmony

It’s always more desirable to resolve conflicts via harmony rather than power. Judge Ooka had a reputation of resolving conflicts within his court with harmony. As evidenced by The Case of the Stolen Smell, where no one was harmed and future pains were avoided. Just Judge Ooka delivered just justice. And this is why the people of Edo loved and respected him. He navigated the mores of society with compassion; therefore, his justice was imbued with compassion.

In order for the harmonious resolution of conflict to occur, and Judge Ooka to exist, there has to be some sort of social order within a stable society (even if whack rules exist—e.g., in other stories, one sees Judge Ooka address gender, age, and social inequality issues). What is justice without harmony? Hmm…

Where social order has fallen (due to corruption, nepotism, fear, etc.) and social mores are no longer respected, you see a different type of justice. Judge Ooka is replaced by, you guessed it, Batman.

’nuff said. (Yes, geek out at the Stan Lee quote, after the Frank Miller reference… whoa!)

And, The Case of the Stolen Smell by I.G. Edmonds is available in lots of libraries. Check it out.

Stay tuned dear readers…

When next we discuss the dark side of justice, the dark knight, and justice via power.

 

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Hojo undō Stuff

The Way of the Empty Hand. Twenty Precepts.

This article is part of the Twenty Precepts from the Way of the Empty Hand series.

What is the way of the empty hand? Karate-do (空手道, literally ’empty hand way’) is a simple and practical martial philosophy. This martial way seeks gentleness when it can, discipline when it’s required.

Beyond the physical training required, there are many aspects of the martial arts that deserve appreciation. The Twenty Precepts from Gichin Funakoshi are axioms for a thorough contemplation of this way of the empty hand. And, an indication of the deep thoughtfulness of this Okinawan art.

Below is a translation, transcription, and transliteration of the Twenty Precepts. As time goes by, there will be links to other articles exploring these ideas. Enjoy!

File:Karatedo.svg

松濤館二十訓 Shōtōkan nijū kun

First, karate-do begins and ends with bowing.
一、空手道は礼に始まり礼に終る事を忘るな
Hitotsu, karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto o wasuruna

First, there is no first strike in karate.
一、空手に先手なし
Hitotsu, karate ni sente nashi

First, karate stands on the side of justice.
一、空手は義の補け
Hitotsu, karate wa, gi no tasuke

First, first know yourself, then know others.
一、先づ自己を知れ而して他を知れ
Hitotsu, mazu onore o shire, shikashite ta o shire

First, mentality over technique.
一、技術より心術
Hitotsu, gijutsu yori shinjitsu

First, the heart must be set free.
一、心は放たん事を要す
Hitotsu, kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu

First, calamity springs from carelessness.
一、禍は懈怠に生ず
Hitotsu, wazawai wa ketai ni seizu

First, karate goes beyond the dojo.
一、道場のみの空手と思ふな
Hitotsu, dojo nomino karate to omou na

First, karate is a lifelong pursuit.
一、空手の修業は一生である
Hitotsu, karate-do no shugyo wa issho de aru

First, apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty.
一、凡ゆるものを空手化せよ其処に妙味あり
Hitotsu, ara yuru mono o karateka seyo; soko ni myomi ari

First, karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state.
一、空手は湯の如し絶えず熱度を与えざれば元の水に還る
Hitotsu, karate wa yu no gotoshi taezu netsu o ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru

First, do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.
一、勝つ考は持つな負けぬ考は必要
Hitotsu, katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo

First, make adjustments according to your opponent.
一、敵に因って轉化せよ
Hitotsu, tekki ni yotte tenka seyo

First, the outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength).
一、戦は虚実の操縦如何に在り
Hitotsu, tatakai wa kyojitsu no soju ikan ni ari

First, think of hands and feet as swords.
一、人の手足を剣と思へ
Hitotsu, hito no teashi wa ken to omoe

First, when you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies.
一、男子門を出づれば百万の敵あり
Hitotsu, danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari

First, formal stances are for beginners; later, one stands naturally.
一、構は初心者に後は自然体
Hitotsu, kamae wa shoshinsha ni ato wa shizentai

First, perform prescribed sets of techniques exactly; actual combat is another matter.
一、形は正しく実戦は別物
Hitotsu, kata wa tadashiku, jisen wa betsumono

First, do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique.
一、力の強弱体の伸縮技の緩急を忘るな
Hitotsu, chikara no kyojakutai no shinshuku waza no kankyu o wasuruna

First, be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way.
一、常に思念工夫せよ
Hitotsu, tsune ni shinen ku fu seyo

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Saraswatī

The Eternal Knot, an interpretation

“Modern Spatial Eternal Knot” is our modern eternal knot interpretation.

MODERN ETERNAL KNOT—DETAILS

“Modern Spatial Eternal Knot” is a modern take on the traditional eternal knot in Buddhist / Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. The “Modern Spatial Eternal Knot” features clean minimalist lines. It’s about simplicity—a reminder that doing with less is a good thing.

The eternal knot (endless knot) is one of the eight auspicious symbols. It has a few interpretations: the unending cycle of death and rebirth (Samsara), the dualistic nature of life, the wisdom of the Buddha, a union of wisdom and method (and wisdom and compassion), etc. The eternal knot is an old symbol, one that has existed in a number of cultures (e.g., Celtic knot, Chinese knot, etc.). But it’s as relevant today as it was way back then.

Here, the “Modern Spatial Eternal Knot” is printed on two types of paper. Select either premium photo paper or matte cotton rag paper. Epson’s Exhibition Fiber paper has a gorgeous texture (not entirely smooth, but not really textured) and produces a vivid print with a wide color gamut. It’s not glossy, but does have a satin sheen. Epson’s Hot Press smooth cotton rag is a thick paper (330 gsm) with a warmer tone. If you love the look and feel of smooth watercolor paper, this is for you! It’s not as white as the Exhibition Fiber (which is NOT super bright white) and the colors are more muted because the paper is completely matte. Both papers are gorgeous and we honestly cannot decide which one we prefer!

ABOUT THE MEDITATION ART COLLECTION

The Meditation Art collection is comprised of designs, calligraphy, and typography that serve as little reminders of practical mindfulness. Each design tells a story and when you gaze upon it, hopefully, it will bring you into the present moment. It is meant to inspire and facilitate development of awareness.

Like our other collections, the purpose of these fine art prints is to surround yourself with art and beauty. We all know life is stressful. So anything that helps you to relax and recharge is a good thing.

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Stuff

First, There is No First Strike in Karate

This article is part of the Twenty Precepts from the Way of the Empty Hand series.

First, there is no first strike in karate.

This axiom (from the Twenty Precepts for Shotokan, 松濤館二十訓 (Shōtōkan nijū kun) by Gichin Funakoshi) seems pretty self explanatory. But, like the others, it can be quite the rabbit hole…

Imagine this, a martial art with no preemptive striking?!? It doesn’t seem very logical for a fighting system to purposefully remove tactical advantages. Unless, of course, this fighting art is concerned with compassion, not advantage. The 道 (do)  in 空手道 (karate-do) means ‘the way’ and is meant to imply a  philosophical mindset, that the only conflict to be resolved is internal.

This little axiom removes the super huge element of surprise.

Don’t initiate violence, ever. No sucker punch, ever. No sneak attack… ever.

First, there is no first strike in karate.
一、空手に先手なし
Hitotsu, karate ni sente nashi

Outwardly this little bit of philosophy makes me feel very safe and friendly with the world, and everyone in it. Now, if I turn this precept inward, not initiating negativity or self-doubt, not looking for motives to start storms and strife, my life can become calm(er).

Useful stuff… Try it, it really works.

 

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Galleries

Theos Bernard ~ Hindu Philosophy pg.67

Bondage is claimed to be purely an illusion caused by incorrect knowledge of the true nature of things. .

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Stuff

Theos Bernard ~ Hindu Philosophy pg.98

The power of expression means the working of ideas, and not the mere production of vocal sound

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Theos Bernard ~ Hindu Philosophy pg.97

All these senses (indriyas) constitute the awareness and reactive responses which the Self makes to the objects that follow, the means whereby enjoyment is had, which is the will to life. Existence is the tying of these experiences together into an endless chain; life is the force that holds them.

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Theos Bernard ~ Hindu Philosophy pg.90

The Yoga system is based upon the principle that there is but one law that governs a single force which operates in all conditions of nature, manifest and unmanifest. That force is called life.

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Theos Bernard ~ Hindu Philosophy pg.86

The philosophical basis of Yoga is the Sāṁkhya. The ancient teachers (ṛṣis) have extended the laws that govern the evolution of the universe to cover the evolution of the individual, showing that the individual is but the microcosm of the macrocosm. The system as it applies to the individual is called the Yoga Philosophy. It is said that there is no knowledge equal to the Sāṁkhya and no power equal to Yoga.

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Galleries

Theos Bernard ~ Hindu Philosophy pg.vii

According to the classic schools of Hindu Philosophy, the method by which the individual can evolve himself during this life is through the practice of Yoga. This is the universal technique recommended to enable man to acquire actual insight into the true nature of things. All schools agree that until the faith is fortified with understanding, little progress can be made, for knowledge without application is like medicine that is not taken.

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Stuff

Hindu philosophy

To understand correctly Hindu Philosophy, it is paramount that one realize that the basis of all the schools is the same.

~Theos Bernard

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Hojo undō Stuff

First, Karate-Do Begins and Ends with Bowing

This article is part of the Twenty Precepts from the Way of the Empty Hand series.

In all aspects, karate-do aims for simplicity. But, let’s not confuse simple with easy. There are lots of rules. Physical rules, like correct weight distribution and placement. Mental rules, like cleanliness, courtesy, and diligence. Rules that straddle the border, like:

First, karate-do begins and ends with bowing.
一、空手道は礼に始まり礼に終る事を忘るな
Hitotsu, karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto o wasuruna
~ Gichin Funakoshi

Bow before coming into the dōjō (道場) space proper. Bow when leaving. Bow when the teacher comes on deck. Bow to your kumite partner. Bow before starting a kata, bow when finishing. Extra bowing is not usually frowned upon.

Why so much bowing?

Respect. Humility. Gratitude.

All good.

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Zen Sand Garden in Kyoto, Japan
Zen Sand Garden in Kyoto, Japan

It’s like the recitation of a mantra; it’s there to protect the sanctity of practice. Little nudges in the right direction. Little clean spots. Once a day is barely enough, so entertain small notions frequently, and make reminders often.

Beginning with a proper mindset makes the whole practice click. Distractions aside with full concentration, anything’s possible. Ending with a proper mindset sets all the goodness in place.

A simple story:

So there’s a monk, who’s traveling along and being grateful (for his practice). Some guy comes along and asks him if this grateful attitude changes anything tangible in his life. To which the monk answers:

“Not really, but it is a wonderful feeling.”

So, this little parable is something along the lines of “chop wood, carry water,” and other stories defining the worldly worth of enlightenment.

Furthermore, if the path to enlightenment isn’t enough, bowing is a good way to train balance and the abdominals.

So, grasshopper, bow in the beginning. Try to bow somewhere in the middle. And, most certainly, bow at the end.

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