Monday, August 07, 2006


In the West, the ability to live well is considered the best revenge. Revenge is referred to in the Bible as "an eye for an eye...". In the East, revenge is very serious business, and is a dish that is best served cold. This is a topic that gets more than its fair share of attention in certain warrior codes. If a samurai's master was murdered for whatever reason, he had to fulfill a giri (profound obligation) to even the score, and this could take years. Today, those who may have been victimized come to the martial arts to exact retribution on the next potential abuser. This is actually avenging, which is considered just and even honorable. Revenge is really an admission of pain; that to commit revenge implies bringing some sense of relief or satisfaction. My guess is that to succeed at revenge can only bring more misery.

Revenge is exclusively ego driven and desirous, and the so-called reason for it is usually blown out of proportion. Such is the nature of the ego. When aikido's Morihei Ueshiba spoke of the "enemy lurking deep within", he was obviously using this as a metaphor for the egoic mind. Vengeance of any kind always bears the fruit of karma. Even when a ronin avenged the death of a master, he was obliged to commit suicide (seppuku). Revenge is never sweet.

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Blogger Rick Matz said...

If you look in the September 2005 archives of my blog

you'll find an article on the 47 Ronin, the classic story of revenge.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Mathieu said...

Revenge is sometimes glorified. How many movies include a fighter going for revenge, his whole life bent on it...

Once it's done, what's left? Nothing. Fill your life with something that leaves a void and it's exactly what you end up with.

A void.

Cheers on another great post.

9:01 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Ah yes, the 47 Ronin. I just knew you would stop by to mention that epic tale.

For anyone interested in a good blog which discusses everything from Asian mobs to Musashi, do check out Rick Matz' site, Cook Ding's Kitchen.
Once it's done, what's left? Nothing. That really could describe so many things in life if you think about it. Revenge certainly has been the topic for many stories and legends throughout history.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

While revenge, in Eastern culture, is to "be served up cold", then how does it differentiate from justice? Yes, revenge is a means of evening out score, but could it also be, depending on how you look at it, a means of seeking justice? I think that's what at least the Biblical version of "eye for an eye" is supposed to achieve, and each culture has its different rules to achieve that. In most countries, you do a crime, you do the time or get some other punishment. Is that not revenge as well, or is that justice? I guess it depends on how fair it is, and fairness is in the eye of the beholder or the social culture's beholder, as the case may be.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question, what if justice fails should we let things go unpunished?

what if the person who committed the crimes will continue to repeat them till his dying day?

would it be ok for one to pledge his life to rid those type of people from the face of the earth?

12:31 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Justice by definition is impartial. Revenge is personal. And for the person who seeks revenge (this is key), (s)he thinks it's justice. The "eye for an eye" thing is an oft quoted line for justifying revenge. Penal codes and institutions in certain foreign countries are stll barbaric by our standards, which neither reflects justice nor revenge.
This is how vigilantism got it's start. It seems noble at first, but I think we all know where this ends up.

1:09 AM  

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