Yashiko was a wealthy samurai warrior in ancient Japan. He cut a fine figure; his armour and sword were of the finest workmanship. His ornaments were of the finest variety: silver, copper, gold and bronze. He lived with his wife and elderly mother in an elegant tiled house in the best quarter of the town. His wife Ayako was considered the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, and his aged mother was much celebrated for her wisdom and learning.
Life was good for Yashiko. He had a handsome salary from the emperor, regular revenue from his many properties, and a hefty stake in a porcelain trading business. But even all this wealth was not enough for a man like Yashiko. To keep from getting bored (which was uncomfortably often) the proud and greedy samurai decided to start a moneylending business for poor people.
“After all, it takes money to make money,” thought Yashiko. “You never know when a rainy day or a water flood or the wind dragons may come and wipe everything away. Life is at best uncertain. A day is bound to come when more money will be needed than what is presently being returned to me by my investments. The poor are always with us, and the poor always need money. I can charge them a high rate of interest and not have to lift a hand.
Down at the docks, Michiko, a poor fisherman, had experienced an unlucky year with his business. Regretfully, he took out a sizeable loan from Yashiko so he could feed his wife and children.
A year later, the loan had not been repaid. The proud samurai strapped on his deadly sword and strode off to find the fisherman and collect what was his due.
“I’ll show him who’s the boss,” thought Yashiko.
“One look at me and my sword and he’ll come running with the money.”
Upon seeing Yashiko marching forcefully towards him, full of his own importance, the ragged fisherman bowed humbly before the proud samurai.
“O Revered Sir! Great Samurai! Noble Warrior! It has been a very bad year again for me. I do not have sufficient funds to repay you.”
“What!” shouted Yashiko furiously. “After all this time! You scoundrel! After all the time and patience I have shown you! A whole year has gone by and you cannot even show me a single yen in repayment!
Now I am going to kill you!” Menacingly, he drew his sword.
Fearing his life was about to end, the fisherman spoke up loudly.
“BEFORE YOU KILL ME, LET ME TELL YOU THAT I HAVE JUST STARTED TO STUDY THE ART OF THE EMPTY HAND, AND THE FIRST THING THEY TAUGHT ME WAS “NEVER STRIKE IN ANGER”
The samurai was so taken aback by this statement that he freed the fisherman.
“Thank you, kind sir,’ murmured Michiko, bowing low.
Yashiko composed himself and walked away, his honour intact.
It was night when the samurai returned home, and on entering his house he saw a stream of light coming through his bedroom door. He tiptoed to the room and peered round the door; there he saw his wife in bed and lying next to her, to his horror, he saw another samurai. Drawing his sword, he was preparing to charge the stranger when the fisherman’s words came back to him, ‘If you attack, never be angry. If you’re angry, do not attack.‘
He left the room and then loudly announced his return. His wife came out to greet him,followed by his mother dressed in men’s clothing. She explained that she had dressed as a man so as to frighten away any intruders. He shivered at the thought that because of his terrible temper, he had nearly killed what he loved most in the world – his beloved wife and his adoring mother.
A year later, Yashiko went to see the poor fisherman down at the docks.
Michiko, upon seeing the samurai walking towards him, bowed humbly before him.
“It has been an excellent year’s fishing, my Lord! Please accept the money I owe you, plus interest.”
“Keep your money, dear man,” replied Yashiko gently.
“You don’t know it, but your debt was paid long ago.”
Bhagawan says on the subject of anger:
One’s anger is one’s greatest enemy and one’s calmness is one’s own protection. One’s joy is one’s heaven and one’s sorrow is one’s hell… assume silence when you are invaded by anger. Or remember the name of the Lord.
Do not try to remind yourself of things which will inflame the anger more… That will do incalculable harm. A man consumed by anger can never be free of misery. For the decline in human qualities today, pride and anger are primarily responsible.
Sanathana Sarathi Aug 1995 p 197
-Lyn Kriegler (New Zealand)