Naruto and the Ninja Way

Since the later weeks in the Fall I have been using some of my free time to go back and continue watching Naruto Shippuden on Hulu. I’ve been a major fan of the Naruto franchise since it first hit the Toonami segment of Cartoon Network around 15 years ago or so, to the point where I eventually migrated to watching subtitled Japanese releases that I would find on the internet. However, considering that anime imports and subtitling was much less structured back then, one can easily reason that this had its drawbacks and websites could at times be unreliable. Eventually, I “fell off of the hamster wheel” and stopped watching, returning from time to time over the years.

A major theme featured throughout the Naruto franchise is that each character often proclaims that they have a “Nindō”, a ninja way – their rule of life, convictions that they hold above all else. Characters often verbally recall their Ninja Way when they are on the verge of or in response to a failure. As the titular character, Naruto often recalls that his nindo is “I’m not gonna run away and I never go back on my word, that is my nindō! My ninja way!”, having first formulated the earliest version of this resolve within the first few episodes of the anime and chapters of the manga, using a kunai knife to remove poison from his own wound rather than returning to his village, conceding to failure Throughout the franchise Naruto (and others) stumble at times but they still recall their nindo and make the effort to better themselves going forward.

When looking at this concept, one might see that the “Ninja Way” bears an uncanny resemblance to elements of a training rule or precept. While watching an episode that dealt with a characters Ninja Way I couldn’t help but begin to draw parallels with the “Middle Way” as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. While one will find that a number of different definitions exist for the “Middle Way”, I make reference here to the Buddha’s early teachings of moderate living, particularly when looking to the Noble Eightfold Path as a guide for ones thoughts and actions. Certainly we will stumble in our observances and need to bounce back and forth from time to time, recalling the various “spokes of the wheel” or principles that the Eightfold Path teaches but overall our resolve here to live more skillfully according to these training rules is what is most essential.

Let us all make an effort from time to time to remember that none of us are “perfect” beings, we all make mistakes. These various Buddhist concepts such as the Precepts, the Noble Eightfold Path and so on exist to help refine, not bind the practitioner. When we stumble in our efforts, let us make an effort to smile, recall our own “Nindō” or the Middle Way – and just keep going!

Namo Amida Bu.

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Image from Flickr

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