Thursday, November 15, 2012

Samurai Seppuku (Past Life / Dream)

I was a young boy around 8, and I went to the Killing Fields in Edo with my father. We traveled on horseback from our village, and it was dusk by the time we arrived. Fortunately it was not too cold. The place was terrifying and smelled of death. Rather than waste resources on jails, the traditional method of dealing with criminals was to simply cut their heads off. Unfortunately the definition of "criminal" was broadly defined, so even minor infractions, or simply being on the wrong side of the right district magistrate, could lead one to this specific place.

Because of this abundance of perceived wrongdoing, it was a rite of passage for young boys around my age to accompany their father to the Killing Fields and receive their first taste of mortality. The victim was tied down, often accompanied by four guards, at a complex that required little security because the prisoners were always chained to something. I remember tall grass around the complex, there were a few trees but not many. I think the forest had mostly been cleared so that the archers could get a good shot if someone escaped, but none did.

The children were handed their father's sword, and were expected, with a great deal of pride from their father, to sever the head of the person bound before them. There was no sport in this. It was simply done, without protest.

In my case I was not only numb afterwards, my whole body vibrated / shivered for several days. The image of the neck stalk squirting blood on the ground, and that horrible smell, also lingered in my memory. I remember finding it somehow ironic that the memory lingered for the number of days that my father swelled with pride. I hated him.

Shift forward and I am dressed as a samurai, mid-20's, walking up a gravel path along a mountain. I was with 3 friends, and I had a beautiful view of the valley, with the rice fields below. Mist over the valley, warm sun. It was a happy time.

Shift forward and I am older, dressed in black robes. Perhaps in my early 50's. I have taken great care in my dress for this special occasion. I am at my master's complex. There are no guards but I have walked into a room in the center of the building. Black walls, and black pillows. Red trim. There is no sound. I fall backwards onto my large sword... which is highly symbolic, giving great dishonor to my master. I did not have any family. It was surprisingly painless.

But as I walked to my final destination, I realized that I had been set up and betrayed... yet I still had no choice in the thing I had to do. I would die anyways. So it made sense to me to die with a message, even if it brought dishonor to myself... because this really didn't matter when I was dead. After I died the servants carried away my body. And then my master killed them, even though they didn't know, so that there was no chance they could tell anyone what happened. They were surprised but this was the way. I regretted that they died as well - I was hoping this wouldn't be the case.

Note: these memories, through a dream, were triggered following my reading of Bushido: The Way of the Samurai by Tsunetomo Yamamoto.

Incidentally, I had the opportunity to see a similar Samurai armor to the one I wore in this dream at the Smithsonian Institution, in the storage facility at Suitland, Maryland.


  1. Wow. What clarity, DW, I could see this as I was reading it. Do you have a sense of what led to the final scene - or who the master was? And do you feel it relates to something going on now (besides your reading)?

  2. The events of "now" that I describe actually took place a few years ago. Back then I do not know who the master was, but I have an idea that I knew him as a teen in this lifetime. His father was very strict. And he betrayed me in this lifetime as well, it was a difficult thing to deal with but I bear him no ill will now. My recent meditation regarding these symbols somehow brought this to the surface, and it seemed like it needed to be posted... I don't know why. It does feel good to release these experiences through the act of posting them.

    I remember my mother in that lifetime, she was a beautiful woman and wore a green kimono. She sided with me and loved me but could not go against her husband.