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We should not confuse the virtue of decision with that tendency which certain persons display to decide any question whatsoever without having studied it and too often without having understood it. Like all qualities, decision is only acquired after repeated acts of reflection, determining the coordination of ideas and rendering those who devote themselves to it habitually ready to understand in a moment the advantages, at the same time as they perceive the disadvantages, of the acts which they purpose to perform.

To attain this, we must take into account all the reasons indispensable for evolving decision. “These reasons,” said Yoritomo, “are always dependent on circumstances which constantly assume a new character; for it is rarely indeed that in a man’s lie the necessity for the self-same resolution makes itself felt on several occasions; even in the case in which the present emergency seems to reproduce exactly a former event, we shall find in the manner of viewing it, in the forecasting of the consequences, even in the gradual change of our feelings, a number of fine distinctions, which do not allow us to form the same opinion about it that we have in the past.” “In order to be able to discern and understand quickly to which side our decision ought to incline, in order above all to be able to sustain it, several qualities are necessary, at the head of which we should name:

Reflections or concentration

Presence of mind




Desire of justice


“Reflection, or rather concentration, is the faculty of self-recollection, of shutting ourselves far away from every thought that is not the one that should engage our attention.”

“It is force that we bear within ourselves, but which we develop to its highest degree by cultivation and application.” “It is by the habit of reflection that we succeed in reviewing very rapidly every side of a question and in weighing the pros and cons of the resolutions to be taken.”

“This habit, when it is constant, becomes a kind of mental gymnastics and allows us to range together in the twinkling of an eye the reasons which militate in favor of the conclusion, or those which should decide the abandonment of the project which is proposed to us.”

“When the balance carries it strongly to one side or the other, the decision is plainly indicated, but many cases arise in which the reasons in favor are quite as important and as numerous as those against, so that the undecided man stops to weigh them interminably.”

“The man, whom the regular practice of reflection has perfected, after having rapidly established this equilibrium, will withdraw his mind from these motives in order to summon others of a different order.”

“He will bring in question of family, of convenience, of surroundings; he will weight the consequences of acceptance against the inconvenience of refusal, and he will make up his mind in a clear fashion and one devoid of any regret.”

“Now comes in the second factor – Will.”

“It is sometimes very hard to reply by a refusal to something, which in the midst of dangerous advantages presents seductive aspects; it is painful also to undertake certain responsibilities and to bind oneself to onerous conditions.”

“But the man who is gifted with Will accepts this task with a light heart, for he knows that he is worthy of discharging it.”

“However, this faculty, that admirable origin of the forces that govern life, does not always suffice to fortify decisions. It needs in order to sustain them, to call its aid Energy, which by continuousness of effort, comes to prevent the faintness, which might affect these decisions as time goes on.

“Is there a need to insist on Impartiality, the exercise of which is indispensable when considering one’s innermost self?”

“The majority of the irresolute loves to deceive themselves by the delusions, which their imagination creates, and thus become only too often the architects of their own misfortune.”

“Or again the decision, sometimes too sudden, is dictated to them by one reason alone, which with their tacit participation, takes on such gigantic proportions that it hides all the disadvantages, which they embellish, if they are forced to perceive them, with colors, which they know to be fictitious.”

“Sincerity is also necessary with us as with others, and those who do not practice it regret sooner or later having disregarded it.”

“It is from the same principle that the Desire of justice proceeds, which should predominate in all our decisions, if we wish that they brought us no remorse.”

“Blundering selfishness can only dictate resolutions, which have no foundation in rectitude, for, sooner or later, regrets will arise for the acts that inevitably follow, and the concatenation of events will become the punishment of those who have neglected the laws of their neighbor.”

“The principal condition of decisions that leave no bitterness behind is the foreseeing of the events, which these decisions may elicit.”

“To foresee is to prevent, says an ancient maxim, and for want of foresight we often entrust ourselves to a quicksand where, in spite of every effort, we are miserably engulfed.”

“We should not confound forethought with the art of divination, although, in the eyes of the vulgar, it sometimes takes on the appearance of it.”

“Such persons, adepts in rational reflection, are so advanced in this science that deduction takes the place of second sight, and they succeed in formulating predictions which might pass for prophecies, if they did not themselves take care to explain in what manner they have come to form their judgment.”

“It is related that an ancient Mikado, pursued by ill fortune, assembled his soothsayers in order to obtain from them the means of averting the anger of the malignant spirits.”

“After much discussion, they agreed that the only means of attaining this was to build a temple consecrated to the gods of Evil, in order to appease them by paying them honor; this temple was to be built on a spot indicated by the magicians.”

“However, the merciless gods demanded a preliminary sacrifice; a child was to be slain and the temple to be erected on the place crimsoned by its blood.”

“After lengthy cabalistic incantations, it was decided that this child should be the first whom chance led them to meet at daybreak in the neighboring forest.”

“So the Mikado set out with the sorcerers and numerous retinues.”

“The sun had just risen over the horizon, when they saw through the branches a child walking and making a way for himself through the denseness of the thicket.”

“To seize him and lead him to the Mikado was the work of a moment; the poor child was immediately subjected to an examination by the magicians who all agreed I declaring that his blood would be agreeable to the evil gods, and he was committee to the men-at-arms, who dragged him after them, cruelly divulging to him what would be the tragic end of his captivity.”

“Neither prayers nor supplications availed to move any of these fanatics, and the party pursued its course as far as the foot of a hill that overlooked the sea.”

“Arrived at this point, the Mikado and his retinue stopped, for it had been decided to choose the flat land covering this hill for the building of the temple.”

“The soldiers began to convey thither an enormous stone, which, after serving as an altar of human sacrifice was to be the foundation of the edifice.”

“The child, seized with an anguish quite comprehensible, followed with attention all the preparations; but in proportion as he formed an explanation of the work of the men, his countenance cleared, an expression of hope lit up his face, and in a little while he asked permission to speak. Permission being granted him, he bowed three times before the Mikado and cried: ‘O great prince, do not allow the work undertaken to proceed, for the gods of the forest are opposed to it. ’”

The Mikado, who was superstitious but not wicked, looked at him sadly:

“Child,” said he, “our soothsayers have decided it thus; it is the only means of appeasing the anger of the malignant spirits whose evil influences threaten the safety of the throne, it is painful to me to sacrifice so young a life, but the welfare of my empire depends on it; resign thyself and die bravely, in order to enter the realm reserved for valorous men.”

“During this address, the child followed attentively the movements of the soldiers and all at once uttered a cry: ‘Command them to stop, great prince, for a few steps farther and the gods of the forest will destroy them. ’”

“And turning toward the densely wooded forest: ‘Gods of my childhood,’ he entreated, ‘ye who have ever protected me, give me a fresh proof of your beneficent protection by engulfing up my tormentors together with the altar on which they would sacrifice me. ’”

“Hardly had he uttered these words when, as if by magic, the soldiers who were pushing forward the heavy stone disappeared – stone and all had been drawn into the bowels of the earth by an invisible power.”

“The assemblage cried out at the miracle and hastened to cut the bonds of the captive, who was lost forthwith in the depths of the forest.”

“It had sufficed him, for saving his life, to remember that, when pasturing his goats, he had been stopped by quicksand, which, had it not been for his nimbleness and lightness, would have made him their prey.”

“To foresee that men rolling a heavy block of stone could not avoid being swallowed up, was thus easy for him, and this child accustomed to the devices of the simple, which at every moment must protect their lives, had contracted, in the solitudes of the forests, the habit of rapid decision in all that concerns this instinct of self-preservation, so highly developed in all primitive minds.”

“Threatened with immolation by men who wished to appease barbarous gods, his astuteness had forced on him the quick decision to strike awe into their minds by prophesying an event which foresight caused him to view as inevitable.”

“This is the case of many soothsayers, but it is above all that of wise men, who only undertake an enterprise after they have foreseen its difficulties.”

“Cells formed spontaneously as the result of change are too often produced by circumstances.”

“If it is difficult to foresee their nature, it is absolutely necessary to recognize them under the vague name of bad luck and to take into account their happening, in order not to be taken by surprise when they burst upon us.”

“Threatened with immolation by men who wished to appease barbarous gods, his astuteness had forced on him the quick decision to strike awe into their minds by prophesying an event which foresight caused him to view as inevitable.”

“This is the case of many soothsayers, but it is above all that of wise men, who only undertake an enterprise after they have foreseen its difficulties.”

“Cells formed spontaneously as the result of chance are too often produced by circumstances.”

“If it is difficult to foresee their nature, it is absolutely necessary to recognize them under the vague name of bad luck and to take into account their happening, in order not to be taken by surprise when they burst upon us.”

In turning over a few more pages, we come upon a definition of decision, crouched in brief and concise phraseology, such as the Nippon philosophy knows how to employ when it would sum up a thought in such a manner as to impress the mind.

“Decision,” he said, “is not a spontaneous movement of the mind or of the intelligence, it is the coherent and rational choice of performing an act to the exclusion of all others which might bear a relation to the idea expressed.”

“Between the moment when the reason for the decision appears and that in which it is a question of making the resolve, all the psychic states, which separate these two periods, find place.”

“We have just enumerated them rapidly, but in order to grasp them in their integrity and to make them serve for the accomplishment of our projects maturely conceived and rapidly inaugurated, a kind of mental gymnastics is not unprofitable.”

“For example, it is well to place us in the face of imaginary resolutions and to make up our minds while striving to do so as speedily and wisely as possible.”

“It will be easy for us to measure the wisdom of our resolution, if we take as our end the events, which surround us, and if we study the delicate cases which are within reach of our knowledge.”

“It is well, on seeing arise among our friends’ circumstances of which we have no experience, to make use of them as a subject for our exercises and to say to ourselves: ‘What decision should I make if I were in his place?’”

‘I do not say, mind you, that you would know all the details of the facts in such a way that it would be possible to reason from them with certainty.”

“This method has the advantage of a check, for it allows you to verify the success of the decisions, which you have made in imaginary cases.”

“You can thus instruct yourself in this art, so difficult and nevertheless so important, for the influence which he who is accustomed to wise and prompt decisions exerts over others is always considerable.”

“Further, when some time you devote yourself to this study, you will come to make it naturally and without any effort.”

“Clearness of mental vision will develop within you to such a point that, without giving it a thought, you will come to pass a sound judgment on everything and to discern quickly what is the solution proper to each.”

“Soon the fame of your wisdom will spread abroad and the weak-willed ones will come to gather around you to ask to each.”

“For they are numerous who dare not venture alone in the paths of will – the creator of responsibilities.”

Their craven souls fear the regrets arising from a resolution of which they would have to bear the consequences, and they are like that man of whom the wise Hao-Va relates the allegorical adventure:

“A man,” he said, “had to pass through a forest in order to reach a village where he hoped to meet Fortune. He set out very early in the morning and hastened to reach as quickly as possible the outskirts of the forest.”

But when he had walked for some hours, he stopped and looked around him in indecision; the road laid out was long and monotonous; by taking a by-path across the wood he had perhaps a chance to shorten it … and he lost his way under the great trees.

“He walked on for an hour and found himself in a glade. He tried to get his bearings, but, not knowing what to do, he took a road by chance. He went more slowly, for he began to feel fatigue and became quite dejected, when he perceived that the road had brought him back quite near to the point whence he had set out.”

“He then took the opposite road, but he could not keep count of the windings that it made, so that after a long course he saw the glade again.”

“That was for him the moment of a great resolution, he gave up definitely the side roads and set out on the first road, which he had followed and which led directly to the village.”

“But the sun set behind the trees; night covered the forest with its veil, and the distracted man was obliged to interrupt his journey, now useless, for Fortune had failed to wait for him.”

“Do not laugh at this man,” cried the Shogun, “you are for the most part like him; you wander in the labyrinths of indecision instead of following the way pointed out by the will; you lose your presence of mind at the first objection; you avoid being sincere with yourselves by avowing that you heedlessly lose your way in unknown roads, and when at length you pause before a definite course, opportunity has wearied of waiting for you.”

“Despise these irresolute ones, you who aspire to become those whose influence radiates over the souls of others.”

“Be counselors with well-weighed and prompt decisions; do not stray in the by-paths of which you do not know the windings, and learn to become safe and enlightened guides for yourselves before pointing out the way to those of whom your influence has made attentive and devoted disciples.”

It seems that to add any comment to these teachings would be to risk weakening them, for these appeals burning with energy, as well as the luminous illustrations that accompany them, can serve as a rule of conduct for the people of this day as well as for the far distant disciples of Yoritomo.


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