Jun 22, 2011

The Code of the Samurai or the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shiesuke

I’m in the search for wisdom, and this search led me to a book called The Code of the Samurai or the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shiesuke; a book that was written about 400 years ago. Is there anything to learn from the ancient Samurai class of Japan and the code of the warrior?

Reading the little book, two things hit me hard. The first one is at the very beginning of the book. The author opens the book saying the following:

"One who is supposed to be a warrior considers it his foremost concern to keep death in mind at all times, every day and every night, from the morning of New Year's Day through the night of New Year's Eve.

As long as you keep death in mind at all times, you will also fulfill the ways of loyalty and familial duty. You will also avoid myriad evils and calamities, you will be physically sound and healthy, and you will live a long life. What is more, your character will improve and your virtue will grow."


Isn't it counter intuitive? Isn't it a beautiful piece of wisdom? Then he goes on explaining like this:

"Here are the reasons for that. All human life is likened to evening dew and morning frost, considered something quite fragile and ephemeral.

If people comfort their minds with the assumption that they will live a long time, something might happen, because they think they will have forever to do their work and look after their parents―they may fail to perform for their employers and also treat their parents thoughtlessly.

But if you realize that the life that is here today is not certain on the morrow, then when you take orders from your employer, and when you look in your parents, you will have the sense that this may be the last time―so you cannot fail to become truly attentive to your employer and your parents. This is why I say you also fulfill the paths of loyalty and familial duty when you keep death in mind.

In any case, when you forget death and become inattentive, you are not circumspect about things. You may say something offensive to someone and get into an argument. You may challenge something you might as well have ignored, and get into a quarrel.
[...] You could lose your own life, get your employer bad publicity, and cause your parents and siblings difficulties.

When you always keep death in mind, when you speak and when you reply to what other say, you understand the weight and significance of every word as a warrior by profession, so you do not engage in futile arguments. As a matter of course you do not go to dubious places even if people invite you, so there is no way for you to get into unexpected predicaments. This is why I say you will avoid myriad evils and calamities if you keep death in mind.

People of all social classes, high and low, over eat, drink too much, and indulge in their desires to an unhealthy degree, all because of forgetting about death. This puts strain on their internal organs, so they may die remarkably young, or else become sickly and invalid.

When you always keep death in mind, even if you are young and healthy, you already know how to take care of yourself. You moderate food and drink, avoid sexual addiction, and behave prudently. As a result, you are physically sound. Because you are healthy, you will live a long time.

When you assume that your stay in this world will last, various wishes occur to you, and you become very desirous. You want what others have, and cling to your own possessions, developing mercantile mentality. When you always keep death in mind, covetousness naturally weakens, and to the degree a grabby, greedy attitude logically does not occur. That is why I say your character improves.
"

It makes a lot of sense to me. We are not Samurais, but we are somehow warriors in the battle of life; and as the Samurai had an employer or master he was willing to give his life for, our master should be our dreams we fight for, the path to our fulfillment. So let's do our best today, because our life may not be certain in the morrow.

The second part that called my attention a lot is about the heart of the warrior and when this gets corrupted. The author compares the heart of the warrior to a white jacket that gets dirty with use... the heart of the warrior might get dirty with time, because of bad habits and practices. So he says:

There is a variety of detergents used for cleaning white jackets. Similarly, there are various practices that are like detergents for cleaning the heart of warriors. What are these practices? They are loyalty, duty, and courage. There is dirt that is removed by the detergent of loyalty and fidelity, and there is dirt that is removed by the detergent of faithfulness to duty. When the stain remains stubborn even after washing with loyalty and rinsing with duty, then you use the detergent of courage, and make a determined effort to scrub it clean. This is the warrior's ultimate secret of cleaning the heart.

So if in the battle of life and in the battle for the accomplishment of your dreams, you lose your way and your heart becomes dirty: you must remember to be loyal to your goals and believes, to your path; and always be dutiful with regard to them, do whatever it takes to get there. But if everything fails, when you are losing all hopes, then use courage, remembering never to give up, never. That is the warrior's ultimate secret.

Code of the samurai

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting that such good advice can come from a 400 year old warrior caste. Perhaps people change less than times do.

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