In modern western culture, authority is mostly associated with worldly powers. Wether the powers are in the field of government or knowledge of any kind, authority in western culture is based on the acknowledgement of other people. This acknowledgement can be achieved by brute force or physical strength, or by personal achievement in a certain area of arts or science. Whatever the authority a certain person posesses may be, it has it is socially determined.
Eastern or oriental cultures have a different concept of authority, it does in fact cover the worldly part of authority as in western culture, but there's more to it. There's a spiritual side to it as well. A person who is in control of his- or herself emanates authority, that is to say because the way a person is authority comes to him or her naturally. It is the way people approach life that gives them authority.
This approach to life comes from an old spiritual tradition, the Path of the Warrior. This tradition can be found all around the world, even in western culture (for example the King arthur saga). But the tradition survived mostly in Buddhist countries. Though the tradition has a lot in common with it, it is believed to be older than Buddhism. Nevertheless Buddhism obviously had a lot of influence on it.
The 'warrior' approach to life is one of courage, not just in batlle but regarding every aspect of life. Courage in this manner has to be seen as an open-minded way of living. Through this openmindedness a person gains true authority, for he or she faces every situation without fear or personal colouration.
There are a lot of old stories that deal with this tradition. They are mostly about kings or warriors, which can be seen as symbols of a person who is in control of life and self, who in the stories show acts of great courage, wisdom and generosity towards other people. The following story, titled 'Authority', is from Japan and is a perfect illustration of this concept of authority.
The seasoned warrior, Fujiwara no Chikataka, lived in Kozuke province. Once a robber got caught in Chikataka's house and was clapped in irons on the spot. Then he slipped free somehow, and since escape was impossible he took Chikataka's little son hostage, dashed into a room, pinned the boy to the floor, and waited with his dagger poised at the child's stomach.
Chikataka was at home at the time. "He's taken the young master hostage, sir!" cried the retainer who rushed to him to report. When Chikataka saw with his own eyes how true this was, his sight dimmed and he thought all was lost. If only he could get the dagger away from the man! But the robber had the glittering blade pressed to his son's skin. "You get any closer and I'll run him through!" he snarled. It was not worth the risk, no indeed!
"Stay away!" Chikataka ordered his retainers. "Just keep an eye on him from a distance! I'll go and inform the governor." The governor was Minamoto no Yorinobu, a very old friend indeed since Chikataka's mother had been Yorinobu's wet nurse. He lived nearby. Chikataka burst in on him in a panic, blurted out the story, and wept.
Yorinobu smiled. "I understand how you feel," he said, "but this is no time for tears. You should be standing up to this fellow, never mind whether he's a man, a god, or a demon. Don't you realize you look an awfull fool, carrying on this way like a baby? He's only a little boy, you know! Let him be killed! That's the way a warrior thinks. All this tender love for wife and children just drags a man down. Being fearless means not caring about your own life or your family's. But anyway, I'll go and have a look."
With his sword at his side, Yorinobu strode off toward Chikataka's house. The robber recognized him when he looked into the room. Far from threatening him as he had Chikataka, the robber simply glowered toward the floor, poked his dagger at the boy a little harder, and made it plain that if the governor came any closer the boy (who was bawling lustily) would die.
"Well? Did you take him hostage to keep yourself alive, or do you plan to kill him?" Yoronibu asked. "Answer me!"
"How could I possibly mean to kill him, sir?" replied the robber gloomily. "But I don't want to die myself. I thought taking him might help me stay alive."
"I see. Then get rid of that dagger! You'll do that for me won't you? I don't want to see you have to kill a child. You know the kind of man I am, I'm sure. Now, drop it!" The robber thought for a moment. "Thank you, sir," he said, "I really have no choice, do I?" He threw rhe dagger across the room, lifted the boy to his feet, and let him go. The boy ran off.
Yorinobu stepped back into the garden while one of his man dragged the robber out by the collar. Chikataka assumed the governor would execute the fellow on the spot and let the dogs have his body. "Fine ," said Yorinobu. "He let his hostage go very nicely. Poverty made him steal, and he took a hostage only to survive. We needn't hold any of that against him. When I told him to release his hostage, he did. He's no fool. Let him go."
"Now then," he went on to the robber, "tell me what you need." The robber was too dissolved in tears to answer. "Give him some food," Yorinobu ordered. "He's already committed crimes, and he may end up killing someone after all. Get a good strong work horse out of the stables, put a cheap saddle on it, and bring it here." Someone went for the horse while Yorinobu sent someone else for an old bow and quiver. When the things arrived, Yorinobu put the quiver on the man's back and set him on the horse, with ten days' worth of parched rice in a bag slung from his waist. "Now get out of here!" he commanded. The man galloped away at top speed.