Victor Hugo awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain

Victor Hugo,  was a supreme novelist. He depicted the miseries of the poor, and awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain. But Dickens could not create the beauties that the poet Hugo could express, even in translation. When I was a boy, I found Hugo’ s Les Miserables on my father’ s bookshelves. At the age of eight, I read it again and again; I find that I know some of the details better than most French people, who have, I suppose, read it only once. (It is a classic, and most of us read our national classics only once at most.) Whether it made me more compassionate I do not know, hut it gave me an insight behind the scenes of our vaunted civilization. It also showed me that happiness does not depend on being with many people. It can be solitary. The scenes of happiness in Dickens are often set in noisy parties and groups; Victor Hugo showed serenity in lonely contemplation of an ideal. So I think I see in cases like Victor Hugo how the spirit of the nation rises up to correct some of its faults ~~ in this case …

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Do Social Service social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis

About 5,000,000 people in Britain do some form of social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis. That is about 9 per cent of the total population. In terms of man-hours, these volunteers make a contribution greater than that of all the paid staff in the social services departments of the local authorities. It has been found that the Welfare State cannot do all that is required. In many places, voluntary organizations are the only providers of, for example, youth clubs, advice centres, or preschool playgrounds. It is an interesting and important fact that more  than half these volunteers are young people under 24. Many of them spend one or two evenings a week in some form of service. Some go out in groups to do repairs and cleaning for old people living in dilapidated houses. Of course, often the work is not done with professional skill, but as one old lady said to me, ‘I know these young people have come to see me, just to see me — that’s the great thing. It doesn’t matter if the repairs are a bit rough. It is hearing their cheerful voices, and then afterwards we all have tea together — …

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One of them was a jewel

When the Shinkansen, the so-called Japanese ‘bullet train’ first came in, it was a great triumph of technology, and a national triumph also. All the kids heard about it. And they arranged to have parties of the children from the country villages so that they could ride on this train. A teacher told me about one such party, where for some reason, some oversight, it was not explained to the children that they were going to ride on the Shinkansen, of which they’d seen so many pictures and photographs. So they got on this train without seeing the engine and they were shooting along, when they saw another one on another track. The children all crowded to the side of the train, ‘Look, the Shinkansen! Look,the Shinkansen!’ And the teacher said, ‘Boys and girls, you’re in the Shinkansen. This is it! You’re in it. You don’t need to look at that one over there. Look at what you’re in.’ There’s a treasure in our own house which often we don’t see. We can say, ‘Well, how can there be?’ One of the Indian stories tells how the merchants in some of the towns (when India was the richest country in …

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Tips and icebergs

As you know, the iceberg is supposed to be ten per cent, or one per cent some people say, on the surface and the rest is hidden. My method of presentation here (it’s not the only one) is to present just a small proportion and people can find out the rest of the iceberg. In this method of teaching, a number of illustrations or stories are given, but they’re meant as, so to speak, seeds to work on. And unless they change our lives, then they’re just entertaining stories. I’m telling these stories because some of them have been helpful to me and so I have confidence in them. But it’s necessary that, like a seed, it should go into the ground. You know the parable of the sower in our Christian Bible. There’s a famous paint­ing of ‘the sower went forth to sow’ which has been adopted as the sort of crest by Iwanami, one of the most famous Japanese publishers. It shows the sower with the pan­nier of seeds and he’s just scattering them broadcast, without looking. But that’s not, in fact, the way you sow. You make a fur­row in the ground and you put the seeds …

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The Principle of Fairness

Nowadays a bully is despised very much. There has been a big change in British opinion on this question since the last century. Even as late as Kipling, at the very end of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, you can find the idea that a new recruit in the army must be bullied, persecuted and frightened till he is nearly ready to commit suicide. Only then will he be “hardened” and be a good soldier. But now the climate of opinion is quite different. We feel that a man should indeed be hardened, but hardened in combat against opponents of his own level, so that he sometimes wins and sometimes not; or else hardened in struggle with natural obstacles such as heat and cold, lack of sleep and so on. But he should not be subjected to the casual cruelty of those who are senior to him by a year or two. It is widely believed now that bullying reveals a fundamental weakness of character. There is a saying ” Every bully is a coward at heart “. This is not true in every case, but it is true of many cases. It refers specially …

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Sparks from the flint of the heart

In the last article, the case was given where something (say a garden) has been created with work and sacrifice. Then someone comes at night and deliberately destroys it. If he later admits doing it, and is asked why, he says: ‘Oh, I don’t need a reason. I just wanted a bit of fun.’ Now how is a man of Budo to react to that situation? I wrote last time how a Zen teacher said: ‘It’s no good trying desperately to forgive him a little. You have to drink that poison down, to the last drop.’ A Budo teacher said about a similar case: ‘Your personality is like a little cage; the bars are your feelings of Me and Mine. The bars are not fixed to anything; the only reason they are there is because you are hugging them to yourself. What has happened is like a crow, and it takes up a lot of space in the cage because the cage is so small. Now stop holding up those bars: throw them away. You’ll find that the crow flaps away till it’s only a speck in the blue sky. Then get on with your Judo under that blue sky.’ …

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Onshi: Revered Teacher

Onshi: there is no single word in English. Revered teacher, beloved teacher: these are not natural English phrases. The single word ’teacher’ can refer to anyone from Verrocchio who taught Leonardo da Vinci, to an irritable old lady forcing spelling into unwilling children. Master can mean the head of an Oxford College (Master of Balliol College) to a barber with one apprentice boy. Some Continental languages distinguish: they use maestro for instance to mean a master pianist or artist, who also teaches, and a quite different word for an employer. In English we borrow the Italian word Maestro with that meaning. I suppose this shows that though we have respect for art and learning and science, we do not revere them or their teachers. Recently a new word has been introduced to fill the gap, but again it is a foreign word: guru. Originally this is a Sanskrit word meaning a spiritual teacher. Literally it means heavy, and the English ’gravity’ comes from the same root. It is used now to mean a very wise adviser, not an employee. Professor Walters ‘was called Prime Minister Thatcher’s financial guru. She took his advice without question. But there is no evidence that …

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