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John Lindsey
28th February 2003, 01:56

Ghost Dog and Hagakure


While preparing the screenplay for our film GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI, I first discovered Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. Although I had read other texts concerning the history of samurai culture and the philosophy and preparation of samurai warriors, I wasn't yet familiar with this essential text. It immediately impressed me with its wide range of focus--from the deepest elements of zen discipline and thought to the attention to and practice of very mundane activities, all of which are treated with equal importance. I was also attracted to Hagakure's ability to embrace what first appear to be contradictions, and its tendency to illuminate its points with historical anecdotes.

Then there is the form of the book Itself, which became a secondary but equally strong inspiration. By presenting its contents in short, independent passages (each pinpointing a specific thought or idea), I was led to rethink the form of the script I was writing. On a certain level, GHOST DOG structurally mimics the form of Hagakure, but instead of each text being separated by space on the page (and accentuated by a small "monsho," or symbol) as in the book, each scene in the film is separated onscreen by a brief text--each a direct quotation from Hagakure.

Hagakure became a kind of magical discovery for me, and "hidden under its leaves" were some important gifts. It gave the character of Ghost Dog a strong factual and philosophical foundation, and at the same time offered me a structural solution to the film itself. As I became more and more familiar with its contents it has also affected my own personal philosophy, and I hope to continue to incorporate elements of Hagakure into my own life. "There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue."

Paul Taylor
12th March 2003, 02:17
Funny, when I watched Ghost Dog the statement by Huxley entered my mind. A statement that could have fallen straight from the Hagakure.

'At any given moment of history, it is the function of associations of devoted individuals to undertake tasks which clear sighted people perceive to be necessary, but which nobody else is willing to perform.'

and one from Voltaire (Via The Little Zen Companion - I am not that well read) :

'Men argue, Nature acts.'