Nature’s wonders disclose many profound truths. Cherry blossoms, or Sakura in Japanese, are one of her most eloquent marvels. As these ethereal blooms begin to flower once again this spring, we might consider the wisdom they embody, especially in these self-centered times.
Whether you are one of the millions of people who have thronged to the cherry blossom festivals in far-flung places like Washington, DC, Vancouver, and Tokyo or witnessed the blossoming and snowy fall of these exquisite flowers from a tree in your own backyard, you have probably been moved by their fleeting splendor. If we look deeper at the transcendence these blossoms evoke, we begin to understand the Sakura spirit that has captivated and inspired hearts since ancient times.
Cherry blossoms have had a particularly telling impact on the hearts of the Japanese. Sakura are the Japanese national flower and are engraved on 100-yen coins. They have come to symbolize the country as a whole because they embody Isagiyosa, a universal virtue that has been the mainstay of Japanese culture for centuries. Symbolized by cherry blossoms, Isagiyosa translates as resolute composure and is bound to other virtues such as purity, bravery, loyalty, diligence, and steadiness.
Like any virtue, Isagiyosa never goes untested. However, today’s materialistic world is testing it more than ever before, so it would behoove us to contemplate the cherry blossoms this spring to see what guidance their spirit may offer.
The Spirit of Cherry Blossoms: Isagiyosa
Purity, bravery, justice, good looser, and no attachment are all English translations of Isagiyosa. In relation to cherry blossoms, Isagiyosa also connotes impermanence, grace, and knowing the good end.
Cherry blossoms are unique in that they fall from their branches while still in their full glory. Rather than cling to their lives until they whither on the bough, Sakura live a pure and brilliant, if fleeting, life before dropping gracefully to the ground in full bloom to return to the soil they came from, each petal contributing to the larger, magnificent picture- the gorgeous drifts of blossoms that move our hearts.
Likewise, Isagiyosa reminds us of the impermanence of life and that there is something larger than ourselves that we should live for. If we emulate the selflessness of cherry blossoms, we are not disavowing the sanctity of life. We are merely acknowledging that there are times when we must be willing to sacrifice our personal happiness for a greater good.
In light of the immense social and political upheaval we are currently facing, that time is now, yet too many people today are focused on fame, money, or status and concerned only for their own happiness and wellbeing. Perhaps if we look to Nature for her wisdom and take the time to contemplate the spirit of Sakura this spring, we will find the resolve to lay aside personal considerations and stand up for what we believe is pure and just, no matter the sacrifice.
In The Cherry Bushido, a new film from Japan, Shizuka, a young devotee of Kendo (a Japanese martial art of swordsmanship) and her friends invoke the spirit of Sakura to protect Japan from threat of extinction by its neighboring country. In the film, another character, Satoshi Takayama, quotes one of Japan’s most famous intellectuals, Shoin Yoshido: “You shall die for the prospect of immortality. You shall live for the prospect of great deeds.”
Serina Aramaki is the Director of Production on “The Cherry Bushido,” a film from Japan about a young Kendo (Japanese swordsmanship) devotee and group of friends who unite to protect Japan from threat of extinction by its neighboring country. “The Cherry Bushido” will be released in limited theaters in North America this March.
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