There is no ‘happy ending’ for the Japanese, and none in their novels and plays. Sympathy for the self-sacrificing hero, intensely suffering to live up to his obligations, is the only worthy theme. Repayment requires sublimating one's personal desires and pleasures. The pursuit of virtue is the only proper purpose in life. Happiness is a recreation in which one indulges when one can, but to dignify it as something by which the State and family should be judged is quite unthinkable. The idea that we pursue happiness as a serious goal is, to them, an amazing and immoral doctrine.
In their pursuit of virtue, the Japanese know no evil. Throughout their history the Japanese seem to have retained in some measure this incapacity to discern, or this reluctance to grapple with, the problem of evil.
Every man is a potential Buddha. The rules of virtue are not in sacred writings but in one's own enlightened and innocent soul. Why should one distrust what one finds there? One strives to clean the windows of one’s soul, and act with appropriateness on every occasion. Once any impurities are removed, man's essential goodness shines again. In the struggle we invented between Hobbes and Rousseau, the Japanese come down clearly on the side of Rousseau. Human nature is naturally good, and to be trusted. It does not fight an evil half of itself. Such a moral code is alien to them. They have no theology ‘shapen in iniquity, and in sin.’ They teach no doctrine of the Fall of Man. Their suffering is no judgment of God, and they have no categorical imperative or Golden Rule. Instead of accusing a man of being unjust, as we might, the Japanese would specify the circle of behaviour he has not lived up to. Instead of accusing him of being selfish or unkind, they would refer to the particular province within which he violated the code. Approved behaviour is relative to the circle within which it appears.
Purification in Shinto lifts the burden from the shoulders of the individual and washes it away. And this social contract, as we will see, bestowed a benevolent Japanese blessing, and a tragic Western curse.
‘The Buddha himself
Was once man like us:
We too at the end
Shall become Buddha.’