"Sensei," I once asked my Teacher, "What does 'NINJA' mean?"
"It means human," he replied.
" Human?" I asked. " I thought it meant 'silent one' or something like that."
"The literal translation may be something like that, but being Ninja means to be a Human Being.
"And, what does that mean?" I continued.
He leaned very close and whispered to me, "It means when you have the enemy at your mercy, you don't kill him. There are lots of people, but only a few human beings. You must seek them out and cultivate them, for certainly you will need them in this life or the next."
"Is that what you meant when you told me that an enemy was merely a reflection of my Self and that if I hurt him I only hurt myself?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Then how can I know who the enemy is?"
"Because he kills without mercy or cause. A Hunter kills to eat, to survive. It is the great paradox of the universe that life feeds on life. The Hunter has a covenant with the Prey, he knows that as the animal sacrifices his life so that the Hunter may live, one day the Hunter will die and return to the Earth and nourish the soil and become grass that will grow and be eaten by other animals so that they, in their turn, may survive. The true Hunter does not slaughter the herd. He selects a few and manages the population. This is called Husbandry. Too many deer and they all starve or become diseased. The Enemy kills for power, for pleasure, for material gain that is useless on any other level of existence. This is the Lesson of the Temporal Plane. The Ninja, a Human in the act of Being on this temporal plane, knows this. So he never fights unless he means to kill. Then he brings the enemy back to life. So that he may continue his journey of self-discovery, having learned the Lesson of Humility."
"Should I then, armed with this power to kill and restore life, to penetrate anywhere unseen, and knowledge of Self, seek to enlighten those who would impose their will on others through force?"
"By using the Force against them?" He asked me.
"No." He said flatly.
"As a Ninja, you cannot use the Force to change to world to make it as YOU think it should be. Good and evil exist as naturally counter-balancing forces, they are merely two sides of the same coin, tampering with them upsets the balance of the Universe. Do not seek out evil, it is all around you and will confront you often. It is a measure of your character how you respond to it. Ninja seek only to be of service to others, to cultivate their inner nature. They are protected by the Armor of Righteousness. But, they never 'test' it, or themselves. Life is the test."
"How then," I asked, "Should I act as a Human Being?"
"Be kind. The Mood of the Warrior is waiting. Waiting for the Enemy to appear. For that is what moves his Will, and provides the opportunity to set a good example for all."
"But, how will I know if I can win?"
"The Ultimate Principle of Combat is the yield to the superior force and overcome it by its own momentum. He who strikes first sets in motion the pattern of his own destruction. Thus the Ninja uses invisibility to demonstrate the Principles of Self Defense. Never take a hit you don't have to, never strike until there is an opening, when there is an opening, strike decisively and win with one punch. This is the Way of the Masters. It requires intelligence, understanding the enemy, and your Self. Winning and losing are not important. The Ninja prevails."
"Thus, the Force can only be used to establish, maintain, or restore good order. You cannot feel it, you cannot 'test' it, but when needed, it will, manifest through you because you live in harmony with it. It is developed through the cultivation of Qi, the electromagnetic Force that flows through and around and within all things. You are part of it and it you, as are ordinary People. That is why every religion throughout the history of Man has taught the Golden Rule. Those that do not teach it are not true religions. The Enemy does not know it, yet he acts upon it without fail. Seeking to harm others demonstrates that what he wants is for someone to harm him. Just as a child seeks direction with experimental attention seeking behavior, the adult seeks attention for his self doubt and lack of confidence by seeking to use force to impose his Will. Since this cannot be done, he creates the openings, mental and physical, that permit the Ninja to prevail against him. That is the Nature of things. Thus, the Human enjoys his life, even the battles, and has no fear of failure, for he knows that all things are temporal and that what will happen in one's life is already written in the pattern of the Universe. But, he must choose to be there. Thus, Free Will and Fate act hand in hand."
"So, Sensei," I asked. "If I choose a path that takes me into harm's way, it is permissible to kill the enemy?"
"No. The Enemy kills himself, that is a choice he makes. The Ninja brings him back to a better life, or sets such an example that the Enemy realizes his own imbalance and discovers it for himself and does no harm. No man is the master of another, unless the other allows it. But, all should act for the common good, that is the nature of civilization."
"So, if I choose to be a soldier and go to war, I may encounter men of the other side who have also chosen that Path and if we fight, one of us may die. But, that is our choice?"
"What then are the causes that we are justified in fighting for?"
"There is no justification for the taking of a human life."
"What about executing a killer for his crimes?"
"The murderer justifies his actions by pointing to a litany of injustices committed against him. He feels that he is alone and powerless and that everyone is his enemy. This is not so. He makes himself the enemy of the tribe by his inappropriate response to the injustices he has endured. Life is not easy, those it cannot break it kills. Nor should one forgive crimes committed against him and continue to be victimized. If possible, he should learn from them and avoid them in the future. Nor should he be tricked into sacrificing his life for a cause or forced to fight for a prince who never risks his own life. He must be intelligent enough to know that the cause is just from his own experience. He must act to secure the common welfare of all. If he is attacked, he is justified in defending himself. The Ninja, however, knowing that he can and will prevail, uses no more Force than is needed. Executing a murderer is not justified, but it is sometimes necessary for the public good. Even a pack of wolves will drive off a mad dog. If he cannot be driven away, and find his death elsewhere, then they will kill it. The rat does not steal, the cat does not murder. Each acts according to his nature. So too, it is with Man."
"War is merely the reflection of the chaos associated with Change. The temperature of boiling water and steam are both 100 degrees Centigrade. But, there is a difference of only a few Calories of heat that mark the threshold between them. So too, is life and death and the cycle of the Universe. Things come and go. Yin and Yang strive for Balance. When you encounter the forces of Evil, do your worst. The only thing good about a war is its ending. The sooner the better. That is why it is important to win with one punch, to strike decisively and effectively against the source of the conflict, rather than its tentacles."
"This is where the power of Invisibility comes in?" I interrogated further.
"Yes, one Human in the right place at the right time can affect the course of history, but only within the confines of the Tapestry or Life, the Web of the Universe. Not by trying to change the world single-handed, simply by tipping the balance, by making ripples upon the pond, if he but chooses to be there. This is the power of invisible action, that it is so subtle in goes unnoticed, but its effect is profound. It is said that if a man went back in time and killed a single butterfly, the entire history of the world would be different. So too, it is with every act. Ninja know this. Thus they strive to move in harmony with Nature. The wind may come from behind and assist you in your journey, it may come from the side and try to unbalance you, and it may come from the front so that you must fight it. But it does not change the Path. Nor the intent of the Seeker."
"Being able to blend in and move without notice is part of invisibility then?"
"Yes, in whatever land you may travel observe the customs and laws of the people there that you may come to know them and learn from them, and they about you. But, remember always that you are Human. That you will commit no act that will harm another person, nor by inaction will you allow harm to come to another."
"Doesn't that contradict the act of striking the enemy?"
"There are five ways to deal with violence. Being Human doesn't mean you will never be called upon to fight, nor that you shouldn't or can't enjoy fighting. What you must not enjoy is hurting people, for as sometimes pain is necessary, but you should not take pleasure in causing others pain. A Warrior is sometimes forced to kill an evil person in order to protect the innocent. He is not expected to enjoy it. He does it because it must be done. One cannot save all the stray dogs in the world, but if you save one you have accomplished much. And when the war is over, he returns to his life. A true Warrior has few opportunities to demonstrate his skill. A Hunter must hunt every day. A Farmer's work is never done."
"If a man hits you with a stick, you can endure and suffer a beating; you can run away; you can fight back and injure him; you can take the stick away from him; or you can set such an example of kindness and compassion that he is powerless to attack you before he even thinks of it. How many fights have been stopped by the appearance of a priest of any religion or a warrior with his sword in his belt who speaks a calming or commanding word? Who would strike such a man? It is not a matter of any theology, doctrine, swearing an oath, or adhering to any specific code of conduct. It is a matter of demeanor and quiet confidence and knowing what is right. This is inherent in all people, but not all become Human Beings."
"Because they have lost the relaxation of play. They have been taught and trained and conditioned to work, to suppress their creativity, to lose the joy of life and simply exist and follow blindly the whims of self-elected princes. Some are benevolent and wise and rule kingdoms of peace and prosperity. Others are sinister and cruel and rule by fear. Neither is worthwhile. Freedom is the key. Freedom to choose, even if it is the wrong choice. If you never make a mistake, you aren't doing enough. If you don't learn from them, you must try harder. The spark of greatness lives in everyone, but it is not kindled into the fire of the Will by demeaning rules and regulations. Rather by encouragement and guidance is it cultivated and allowed to flourish. Human Beings know this, thus they have the power of joyous play. Everything is fun for them, even a battle for life and death. They see work that must be done as a religious experience. To be absorbed in minute detail and pressed into the Memory like the pages of a diary. To them the boring and routine is a meditation. Every sunrise is a rebirth and every sunset a tapestry. They see the world as a child, amazed and entertained by all that occurs and is experienced. Every child is a wonder and a joy to behold, until they are turned into adults by being told what they must and may not do. If they are unfortunate, at some point they are told they must grow up and never be a child again. Usually by others who had this inflicted upon themselves previously and believed it, and can no longer relax through play themselves. But, like all things, that injunction is not absolute or permanent. Nor does a Human require permission to permit himself to play and enjoy life from time to time. When you were a child, you ran like a child, simply for the joy of doing it, and it felt good. That is the true magic, Imagination. You didn't worry about how far you went, how fast your heart was beating, what you were wearing. That takes all the fun out of it. Growing up doesn't mean you can never be child again. It just means that you must now balance that with responsibility and duty."
"Thus, if you want to make yourself feel good like that again, run as you did when you were a child. When you face the Enemy see it as an opportunity to shine, to prevail. No matter how much you practice, you can never be ready enough, practicing is just fun and healthy. When you face the Enemy you cannot anticipate his attack, you cannot know if his intent is to kill or simply unbalance you, you cannot control him at all. The only thing you can control, if you are skilled, is your Self. When he moves yield and let him be overcome by his own aggression. That is the lesson he is seeking. That is why he attacked you, however he may have come to choose to be in that place at that time, or you. Help him up and let him try again. Do this as long as it takes for him to realize the futility of it and seek another solution, even to exhaustion. In that way he learns what you already know, that all life is precious, nor can any be replaced."
"This is the Great Game of Life."
"So, if I choose not to go to the battlefield, what should I do?"
"Be ready. If the opportunity to tip the balance presents itself to you, decide then whether to intervene, knowing that you cannot fail because you are in harmony with the Universe, and choose which of the five courses you will employ at that time. You can only do what you did at any given moment, you cannot anticipate every moment to come, you must live spontaneously. If you do unto others as you would have done unto yourself and know that others, aware of it or not, are demonstrating how they wish to be treated by their actions as well, peace and harmony will prevail through courtesy. If you make, first do no harm, your Law, you will never strike the first blow and will be known as a man of peace who can fight like ten tigers, a Human in the act of Being. There is no greater rank than this."