Fear and a Warrior’s Tale
This story comes from Vernon Turner’s book The Soul Sword. In feudal Japan, a tailor desired to travel to another province. Due to many bandits on the roads, he decided to dress as a samurai warrior for his protection. As soon as he arrived at his destination, he accidentally bumped into a real samurai. Angered, the samurai said, “You have dishonored me. Meet me at the edge of town at noon and we will settle this with swords.” The tailor was frightened since he was no warrior. Later, he came across a Zen Master and explained his predicament and asked for some insight.
“Do you study some discipline?” the monk asked. “I am a tailor,” he said. “How do you approach your work?” the monk questioned. The tailor spoke of how he focused on each task with singleness of mind.
“When you face your samurai today, don’t regard him as he stands before you. Instead, use your tailor’s mind to focus completely as you take off your outer coat and fold it neatly. Then tie up your sleeves to get them out of the way. When you rise, close your eyes and draw your sword straight above your head, concentrating all your energy upon this act. At the first sign of movement from your enemy, bring your sword straight down. If you feel a cool breeze on top of your head, that will be death.”
When the tailor arrived at the scene of the dual, he ignored the onlookers and his opponent. Following the monks instructions, he took off his outer coat with singleness of mind and remained focused throughout each act. Finally, he drew his sword high above his head and closed his eyes. The samurai had been watching with awe. He had never seen a warrior so meticulous about his garment or so unconcerned when facing death. He surmised that he must be in the presence of a great master. The arrogant young samurai bowed and retreated.
The tailor later told the Zen Master what had happened. The monk explained, “He saw no fear of death in you. He couldn’t sense your weakness ... and so his own fear surfaced.”
This is a wonderful story about being present--living in the moment. Through focus and action, the tailor dealt with his fear. When living in fear, we’re consumed with worst case scenarios, and this causes incapacitation or taking measures that aren’t beneficial such as denial of an issue or drinking as a way of coping. As for the samurai, fear created arrogance, a need to control, and to run away. These behaviors may be helpful to cope and survive, but they prevent personal growth. When the tailor trusted and had faith in himself, he accomplished his task. We must have faith in ourselves, but faith can only be proven by taking action and being present.
Copyright © Sho Aoyagi 2013
These articles are meant to be informative and not to be taken as advice. Every person’s situation is different and the articles may not pertain to your speciﬁc situation.
Also, before dealing with any issue with another person or before attempting to look at your own issues, it’s important to consult with an appropriate professional for guidance.