Kyuma was completely at one with his master and served him as though his own body were already dead. He was one man in a thousand.
Once there was an important meeting at his master Sakyo’s villa, and it was commanded that Kyuma commit seppuku (samurai ritual suicide). At that time in Osaka there was a tea house on the 3rd floor of a suburban residence that overlooked Sakyo’s villa. Kyuma rented this, and gathering together all the good-for-nothings in Saga, he put on a puppet show, operating one of the puppets himself, carousing and drinking all day and night. He carried on and caused a great disturbance. In instigating this disaster he valiantly thought of only his master and was resolved to committing suicide.
There is an endnote attached to this passage that says, ‘The circumstances that gave rise to this passage is unknown. It has been suggested that the samurai Kyuma was trying to cover up a crime of his master.’
I completely disagree with that endnote. This has nothing at all to do with covering up a crime. This isn’t about Kyuma at all. It’s about his master. This is about being a leader. And about the sacrifice it takes to lead. It was Albert Schweitzer who said that, ‘Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.’
I haven’t written a lot about leadership, because the samurai were there to serve. But leadership as I understand it, is getting people to want to do what you need them to do. And although we can all try the Way of Walking alone, in the end we need other people.
The master in the passage and Kyuma both knew that if Kyuma, the star pupil, was publicly asked to commit suicide…and did it…that the affect on the others would be significant. More significant than his living contribution. And this probably was a difficult decision for the master…he didn’t want to lose his best samurai. But they both knew in order to get his men to get in line and shape up, that a huge sacrifice needed to be made.
No one. And I repeat this…NO ONE NEEDS TO COMMIT SUICIDE TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE. But you may need to put yourself way out there, on the brink of failure, or humiliation, or physical exhaustion…some extreme, that’s going pop the eyes out of people’s heads. That’s going to rattle the cages. You should be so devout in your example that you never consider straying. The people you want to lead will see that determination…that resolve.
This could be in leading a company, leading a family, leading a school class…anything. If you want to get people to sacrifice for you, you better be sacrificing for them. They better see it. They better know it deep down in their souls that whatever they give you, pales in comparison to all that you give them.