Cherry blossom

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Facing death

Japanese samurai used to contemplate death. This was not some morbid fixation. Admitting their own mortality forced the warriors to accept that life is a precious and fleeting gift.
They regarded the cherry blossom as a symbol of this insight. Cherry blossoms bloom for a brief period and then fall at the very height of their beauty.
To the samurai this was a melancholy reminder of death amidst life. It was an example of great beauty and sadness.
This poignant insight into life and death allowed the samurai to live their lives more fully; they realised that death could come at any moment.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms were seen to possess natural beauty and grace. The word 'beauty' does not refer simply to the appearance of the flower.
It captures the sense of dignity and strength contained within something so fragile and fleeting. This is a symbol for being human. For life itself.


'Grace' is a word seldom considered in our times. It can mean a variety of things: compassion, kindness, goodwill, elegance and beauty of movement.
For the samurai, grace meant rectitude. Rectitude can be defined as appropriate conduct; considering how your behaviour affects other people and seeking to do what is right.

Life ends

The cherry blossom is a reminder that our life will not last.
In the face of death, is there any need for pettiness, argument, callousness and cruelty? If you accept death, does that change how you live?
Nothing that we consider important will last - especially ourselves.

Tai chi

The tai chi diagram contains yin and yang. Most people see yin and yang as being opposites, but they are not. One cannot exist without the other.
They are part of the same whole; in the way that light would be meaningless without darkness.

It is not for nothing that the samurai have chosen for their truest symbol the fragile cherry blossom.
Like a petal dropping in the morning sunlight and floating serenely to earth,
so must the fearless detach himself from life, silent and inwardly unmoved.

(Eugen Herrigel)

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Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 04 May 2023