To look for life
is to find death.
The thirteen organs of our living
are the thirteen organs of our dying.
Why are the organs of our life
where death enters us?
Because we hold too hard to living.
So I’ve heard
if you live in the right way,
when you cross country
you needn’t fear to meet a mad bull or a tiger;
when you’re in a battle
you needn’t fear the weapons.
The bull would find nowhere to jab its horns,
the tiger nowhere to stick its claws,
the sword nowhere for its point to go.
Why? Because there is nowhere in you
for death to enter.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hakagure contains the famous expression you may have heard, “The way of the samurai is death.” It is usually quoted in a vacuum. The full piece is worth reading but I don’t think I should quote it to you. Let me say it this way: Yamamoto was deeply concerned with success and failure, having seen both in his life. As a masterless samurai, he was trying to get the young samurai to see that it’s not winning or losing that count so much, as how you play the game.
I can’t help but intertwining those ideas with Lao Tze’s, here. He is concerned with keeping death out of the body, but for Lao Tze, death may as well be what Yamamoto was calling failure. If you live the right way, failure cannot touch you. Perhaps, failure cannot touch you because you are a great success, or perhaps it cannot touch you because you are a complete blockhead who never recognizes defeat.
I interpret this chapter as saying, in so many words, “don’t worry about it.”