The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 14, 2008 · 60 comments

in A Man's Life, On Virtue

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tim Clark. He blogs at Soul Shelter with novelist Mark Cunningham. Make sure to check out Tim Clark’s second book, The Swordless Samurai.

“So, boy. You wish to serve me?” Silhouetted against the blue-black sky, the horse-mounted samurai with the horned helmet towered over me like a demon as I knelt in the dirt before him. I could not see his face but there was no mistaking the authority in his growling tone, nor the hint of mockery in his question. I tried to speak and managed only a faint croak. My mouth had gone dry, as parched as a man dying of thirst. But I had to respond. My fate-and though I didn’t know it then, the fate of all of Japan-rested on my answer. Raising my head just enough to brave a glance at the demonic figure, I saw him staring at me, like a hawk poised to seize a mouse in its talons. When I managed to speak, my voice was clear and steady, and I drew courage with each syllable. “That’s correct, Lord Nobunaga,” I said. “I do.” It was a time of carnage and darkness: the Age of Wars, when the land was torn by bloodshed and the only law was the law of the sword. A peasant wandered the countryside alone, seeking his fortune, without a coin in his pocket. He longed to become the epitome of refined manhood-a samurai-but nothing in the demeanor of this five-foot tall, one-hundred-ten-pound boy could possibly have foretold the astounding destiny awaiting him. His name was Hideyoshi, and on that fateful spring evening in the year 1553, the brash young warlord Nobunaga hired him as a sandal-bearer. Driven by a relentless desire to transcend his peasant roots, Hideyoshi went on to become Nobunaga’s loyal protégé and right-hand man. Ultimately he became the supreme ruler of all Japan-the first peasant ever to rise to the absolute height of power-and unified a nation torn apart by more than a hundred years of civil strife. Hideyoshi’s true story has inspired countless novels, plays, movies-even video games-for more than four centuries. Born the weakling son of a poor farmer at a time when martial prowess or entry to the priesthood were the only ways for an ambitious commoner to escape a life of backbreaking farm toil, he rose from poverty to rule a mighty nation and command hundreds of thousands of samurai warriors. For generations of men, Hideyoshi became the ultimate underdog hero: a symbol of the possibility of reinventing oneself as a man and rising, Horatio Alger fashion, from rags to riches. Hideyoshi was driven by a burning desire to succeed as a samurai. But he differed from his contemporaries in seeking to overcome his adversaries peaceably, through negotiation and alliance building rather than through brute force. Lacking physical strength and fighting skills, he naturally chose to rely on wits rather than weapons, on strategy over swords. An unlikely samurai, indeed. Or was he?

A Brief History of the Samurai

The word samurai originally meant “one who serves,” and referred to men of noble birth assigned to guard members of the Imperial Court. This service ethic spawned the roots of samurai nobility, both social and spiritual. Over time, the nobility had trouble maintaining centralized control of the nation, and began “outsourcing” military, administrative, and tax collecting duties to former rivals who acted like regional governors. As the Imperial Court grew weaker, local governors grew more powerful. Eventually some evolved into daimyo, or feudal lords who ruled specific territories independently of the central government. In 1185 Minamoto no Yoritomo, a warlord of the eastern provinces who traced his lineage back to the imperial family, established the nation’s first military government and Japan entered its feudal period (1185-1867). The country was essentially under military rule for nearly 700 years. But the initial stability Minamoto achieved failed to bring lasting peace. Other regimes came and went, and in 1467 the national military government collapsed, plunging Japan into turmoil. Thus began the infamous Age of Wars, a bloody century of strife when local warlords fought to protect their domains and schemed to conquer rivals. By the time Japan plunged into the turbulent Age of Wars, the term samurai had come to signify armed government officials, peacekeeping officers, and professional soldiers: in short, almost anyone who carried a sword and was ready and able to exercise deadly force. The worst of these medieval Japanese warriors were little better than street thugs; the best were fiercely loyal to their masters and true to the unwritten code of chivalrous behavior known today as Bushido (usually translated as “Precepts of Knighthood” or “Way of the Warrior”). Virtuous or villainous, the samurai emerged as the colorful central figures of Japanese history: a romantic archetype akin to Europe’s medieval knights or the American cowboy of the Wild West. But the samurai changed dramatically after Hideyoshi pacified Japan. With civil society at peace, their role as professional fighters disappeared, and they became less preoccupied with martial training and more concerned with spiritual development, teaching, and the arts. By 1867, when the public wearing of swords was outlawed and the warrior class was abolished, they had evolved into what Hideyoshi had envisioned nearly three centuries earlier: swordless samurai.

The Bushido Code

Just a few decades after Japan’s warrior class was abolished, U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt raved about a newly released book entitled Bushido: The Soul of Japan. He bought five dozen copies for family and friends. In the slim volume, which went on to become an international bestseller, author Nitobe Inazo interprets the samurai code of behavior: how chivalrous men should act in their personal and professional lives.

Nitobe Inazo

Though some scholars have criticized Nitobe’s work as romanticized yearning for a non-existent age of chivalry, there’s no question that his work builds on extraordinary thousand-year-old precepts of manhood that originated in chivalrous behavior on the part of some, though certainly not all, samurai. What today’s readers may find most enlightening about Bushido is the emphasis on compassion, benevolence, and the other non-martial qualities of true manliness. Here are Bushido’s Eight Virtues as explicated by Nitobe:

I. Rectitude or Justice

Bushido refers not only to martial rectitude, but to personal rectitude: Rectitude or Justice, is the strongest virtue of Bushido. A well-known samurai defines it this way: ‘Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering; to die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right.’ Another speaks of it in the following terms: ‘Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. Without bones the head cannot rest on top of the spine, nor hands move nor feet stand. So without Rectitude neither talent nor learning can make the human frame into a samurai.’

II. Courage

Bushido distinguishes between bravery and courage: Courage is worthy of being counted among virtues only if it’s exercised in the cause of Righteousness and Rectitude. In his Analects, Confucius says: ‘Perceiving what is right and doing it not reveals a lack of Courage.’ In short, ‘Courage is doing what is right.’

III. Benevolence or Mercy

A man invested with the power to command and the power to kill was expected to demonstrate equally extraordinary powers of benevolence and mercy: Love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, are traits of Benevolence, the highest attribute of the human soul. Both Confucius and Mencius often said the highest requirement of a ruler of men is Benevolence.

IV. Politeness

Discerning the difference between obsequiousness and politeness can be difficult for casual visitors to Japan, but for a true man, courtesy is rooted in benevolence: Courtesy and good manners have been noticed by every foreign tourist as distinctive Japanese traits. But Politeness should be the expression of a benevolent regard for the feelings of others; it’s a poor virtue if it’s motivated only by a fear of offending good taste. In its highest form Politeness approaches love.

V. Honesty and Sincerity

True samurai, according to author Nitobe, disdained money, believing that “men must grudge money, for riches hinder wisdom.” Thus children of high-ranking samurai were raised to believe that talking about money showed poor taste, and that ignorance of the value of different coins showed good breeding: Bushido encouraged thrift, not for economical reasons so much as for the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to manhood, and severe simplicity was required of the warrior class … the counting machine and abacus were abhorred.

VI. Honor

Though Bushido deals with the profession of soldiering, it is equally concerned with non-martial behavior: The sense of Honor, a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth, characterized the samurai. He was born and bred to value the duties and privileges of his profession. Fear of disgrace hung like a sword over the head of every samurai … To take offense at slight provocation was ridiculed as ‘short-tempered.’ As the popular adage put it: ‘True patience means bearing the unbearable.’

VII. Loyalty

Economic reality has dealt a blow to organizational loyalty around the world. Nonetheless, true men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted: Loyalty to a superior was the most distinctive virtue of the feudal era. Personal fidelity exists among all sorts of men: a gang of pickpockets swears allegiance to its leader. But only in the code of chivalrous Honor does Loyalty assume paramount importance.

VIII. Character and Self-Control

Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute moral standard, one that transcends logic. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and bad and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion or justification, and a man should know the difference. Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior: The first objective of samurai education was to build up Character. The subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence, and dialectics were less important. Intellectual superiority was esteemed, but a samurai was essentially a man of action. No historian would argue that Hideyoshi personified the Eight Virtues of Bushido throughout his life. Like many great men, deep faults paralleled his towering gifts. Yet by choosing compassion over confrontation, and benevolence over belligerence, he demonstrated ageless qualities of manliness. Today his lessons could not be more timely.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marlon September 14, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Brilliant post. I have a question though, from what I know of samurai they are to do everything their master tells them to. Can’t this easily conflict with rectitude?

2 Andrew September 14, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Marlon: Good question! The problem here is that the masters were samurai themselves, and were thus bound to act honorably. From my limited knowledge of the samurai, I believe that they would have chosen to act honorably rather than blindly follow their master’s directions, should such a conflict ever occur.

Incidentally, great post! I only recently discovered this blog, but am certainly hooked.

3 Harrison McLeod September 14, 2008 at 10:39 pm

What a timely post. I’ve just taken up iaido (the art of drawing the sword) after several years of being out of the martial arts and I can relate to a lot of what you’ve written. Makes me feel like I’m on the right track.

Thanks for the post, I deeply appreciate it.

4 Robert September 14, 2008 at 11:06 pm

The virtues exposed in this post are very valued, if a bit foggy. I found the part that said that great acts of violence should also be balanced by great acts of mercy very poignant. Such a non-western value! I find that general mercy is a bit better way to go about life.

Still, it is very nice to see a non-christian, non-white, non-western male viewpoint here on this blog, it really goes to show the wide range of ways to be a man, and how that is relative to the culture and the society and community in which you chose to live.

Great post!

5 Innocent September 15, 2008 at 5:42 am

Hello!

I am a regular reader of your splendid blog, though I have commented only once or twice. I think you are providing the world with another voice of sanity through this blog, something that seems to be in short supply these days.

This is a good article, and I’d just like to mention something you might be interested in:

Some time back, I developed an interest in Akira Kurosawa’s films and wanted to learn about Bushido. I found that the book you speak of, “Bushido: The Soul of Japan,” is available for reading online since it is in the public domain.

Here is the URL:

http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12096

Another work of literature that gives us a good picture of Bushido is a book named “Hagakure”

Here is the URL for Hagakure:

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/chabrieres/texts/hagakure.html

Happy reading!

Wishing you success in your blog,
Innocent

6 Matthew Carrick September 15, 2008 at 5:53 am

Bushido, when you just have to find a convenient method to happily enslave the little people. Works well on Chinese and Korean peasants too! Should it ever get out of hand it can be minimized with a quick application of fat man.

7 Joe Cole September 15, 2008 at 6:01 am

You do realize that Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded South Korea twice? All in an effort to conquer China?

There were some people under his rule that opposed the invasion. Powerless to do anything under the tyranny.

Won’t deny his achievement. Did some questionable **** though. Must examine him thoroughly from all angles before coming to the conclusion that this was a “great” man.

No problem with the article. I just don’t want people admiring this guy for the wrong reason.

Just throwing it out there.

8 cory huff September 15, 2008 at 6:49 am

It’s amazing to me how much the values of the samurai and Eurpoean knights match up. It’s also amazing to me that people are so willing to throw these idealized examples of chivalry under the bus.

Sure, there were probably very few individuals who fulfilled the values exemplified by their respective code of ethics, but does that make the ideal any less honorable? If more men at least tried to live by the ideals that knights and samurai espoused, the world would be a better place indeed.

9 Peter James September 15, 2008 at 7:39 am

Great post. I just did a post on the spirit of the samurai. I agree they lived a code that bred success. This code, if not taken literally, is actually a great way to live your life.

http://yinvsyang.com/the-power-of-the-samurai-spirt/261/

10 Brian Buck September 15, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Awesome post. I just discovered this blog and already enjoy the thoughtfulness of the content. I have always been fascinated by Japanese Culture and appreciate the details added.

A sign of a good blog can be traced to the readers as well. I have discovered a few great sites this morning from the comments above!

Keep up the great work!

11 Wm September 15, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Let’s see… best as I can recall

“Be Prepared”

Trustworthy
Loyal
Helpful
Friendly
Courteous
Kind
Obedient
Cheerful
Thrifty
Brave
Clean
Reverent.

On my Honor I will do my Best to do my duty to God and my Country.
To Obey the Scout Law
To Help other people at all times and to keep my self physically strong mentally awake and morally straight..

Marine Corp Leadership traits and principles

Know yourself and seek self improvement
Know your men and look out for their welfare
Insure each task is understood and supervised unto completion.
Seek responsibility and accept responsibility for your actions
(I have forgotten part as it has been a long time.)

Bearing, courage, decisiveness, dependability, endurance, enthusiasm, integrity, justice, judgment, knowledge loyalty, tact and unselfishness.

Just exactly why do you feel compelled to follow the teaching of another culture when all you have to do is look around and you will find more exacting and specific standards in your own?

W

12 Will Carpenter September 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm

An excellent post. ‘The Code,’ by whatever name you choose to call it or in whatever context you choose to place it, doesn’t vary. Living well – that is to say, living benevolently and living bravely – never goes out of style.

13 Rodney Hampton September 16, 2008 at 1:25 am

This is a great post. I was browsing through the bookstore the other day looking for a short explanation of Bushido and now I’ve found it.

14 Charlie September 16, 2008 at 4:14 am

Good post! Very thorough and I love that you provided the context by citing Nitobe specifically.

15 James September 16, 2008 at 6:07 pm

It is an excellent post. Nowadays people are not concerned in honor, rectitude nor any of the virtues mentioned in Bushido, but personally I am. I’m a bit eccentric, I try to stay at top of tech and gadgets, but I also REALLY like to do some things the old way, like shaving with a barber razor, or dress like it should be (like wearing the right suit, tie, knots, pocket square, etc.).

I am also new on this site, and I am fascinated with it, greets to all gentlemen!.

16 Mike September 17, 2008 at 4:30 am

I like this point of view. I have seen people pick up Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and take things literally. This speaks to the mental side of engaging your adversaries and not having to resort to less than desireable ethics or principles. Thank you for a great post!

17 SMBowen September 17, 2008 at 6:11 am

@Joe Cole:
I agree that the Japanese have done some very brutal invasions (if you didn’t know, you would be AMAZED! at some of the things they did even as recent as early 1900′s) but, really up until recent years the world as a whole has been invading countries for their land and other gains. (yes I know that is still going on; Georgia/Russia, Throughout Africa, etc…but it is not world wide like it used to be). He did great things and in current day views we look back at the invasions as ‘bad things’ and how could he do that, but in reality if you put yourself in that timeframe it would be looked at as a failure on his part.

@Wm:
I agree with the principle of what you are saying, but have 2 comments on that.
1. Where do you think most of the current American culture standards have come from? We have been a mut country from the beginning and what makes us the greatest country in the world is we took the good things from lands all over the world to build our culture.
2. If you are going to have such tunnel vision and continue to be a self licking ice cream cone you will eventually fail, which is been the main reason for a large majority of countries (also companies and people, etc.) collapsing. You have to look out to other sources of ways to do things to grow. You may look at other ways of doing things and think they are absurd or the same as what we already do or great and then you get to choose to drop or adopt them.

-sm

18 Dave Dragon September 17, 2008 at 7:23 am

Yet another Great Piece, and a Great book to boot!

Ride it like you stole it

19 Larry November 2, 2008 at 7:38 am

@SMBowen – I believe every culture has their equivalent of Bushido/Marines or “The Code”. Bottom Line: Do folks follow them?

The hard part for folks is to get through all psychic-BS in order to live up to their vision of themselves. “Can they grow the f— up?”

–Larry

20 Scott November 2, 2008 at 2:05 pm

@Joe Cole

So because a man went on a failed war of nationalism, he is somehow precluded from being great? Let’s see you go from the near bottom to the near top (Absolute top in political power) of the social ladder in any society. Now do it 500 years ago when every elite will think you’re a different, more retarded species.

21 John February 4, 2009 at 6:55 am

“Can they grow the f— up?”

–Larry

Wow, there’s an ironic statement…

22 Tomas February 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Hello there.
There is something very alluring about the samurai code of bushido.
The total devotion and lojalty for a better cause, country…
I reality this were of course not the case. A samurai followed his Daimyo(lord)
There a many stories of Lords, due to shame, having comitted suicide and his loyal samurais following him by doing the same.
For the beauty of it all is that a true samurai, refusing his masters order, are ordered to commit Harakiri.
But he will not budge and rather die for his belifs. As any man should.
( I do beg forgivness for I am swedish and do not spell as well as I would like, so if I make any transgressions please, mail me and out of shame I will commit harakiri like order dictates)

23 Ryan March 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm

At first, i did not realize that this was only a blog. Now that it is in my understanding, i wish to convey my appreciation for your interest and effort to help others understand the meaning of bushido. I try my hardest to live by my own personal code of honor and chivalry.

24 Athena167 March 15, 2009 at 10:49 am

Currently I am reading Nitobe’s book and love it. Although more than likely men never followed this unwritten law, it is still a beautiful ideal, and I agree that it does not make the ideal any less honorable if men are too weak to follow it. Following such a code can only be done by a man who has the will and mental strength to do so. Unfortunately, there are few true men these days and thanks to this site, more and more boys are becoming men. Thank you for all of the posts you have made.

25 Scott Forest Pulsipher March 18, 2009 at 10:36 pm

My name is Scott Forest Pulsipher, age 22. I have read a Handful of books, and of which, i hold dear, and true to my very being. they are as Follows:

“Hagakure, the book of the Samurai”
(of which, i have obtained the following four vows:
‘today I vow:
-to never be outdone in the Way of the Samurai.
-to be of Good Use to the Master.
-to be Filial to my Parents.
-to manifest great compassion, and to act for the sake of man.
pg. 169, in the old text, there is a newer version with pictures in the front, offsetting this page amount by apprx 10-13 pages.)

“Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings”
this book, from what i remember has the quote:
‘Today is a victory over myself of yesterday. Tomorrow is my victory over lesser men.”

the “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” – “Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior” book’s by Dan Millman
(LIFE changing books…. be prepared for what you cannot prepare for.)

“Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse, a Great American Classic.
about Enlightenment, and one person’s path in search of.

I have studied… I have lived, and I have Experienced.

There are many opinions on what any given person feels to be “the right set of ‘ways’.”

But I’ll Say this, “my uncle enviously nag’s at me, referring to me as acting like a ‘know it all.’ I cannot say that I am a ‘know it all’ though I feel that within myself…
I have had magnificent examples in my life… showing my what it actually means, to be “observant, … compassionate,… loving…” — you name it… I have most likely had an example of it,… ALL making me WHO, and WHAT I am as a Human being, to this day.

Go out into the world… and find out (for your own self) what YOUR definition of what a ‘human being should be defined, act, and be’ in existence.

It is up to each of us, to help one another, you know… those people that walk by you, every day… your fellow brother or sister, elder, or toddler…

Go out of your way to do a Favor (every chance you get)….

Just recently… I have seen a massive change in the way I spend my time.

I dont really sloth around anymore… it’s like I cant Accept anything less than making sure there are no dishes in the sink,… the floor is vacumed,… or that the laundry is done… before i go and do something totally unproductive like playing games, or wander off for a walk.

By saying that (what i just said) I basically am saying, ‘search for standards that you hold for yourself… and try set them higher than what you yourself accept of yourself.’

If someone ever tells you, ‘you’re lame’ or that ‘you’re goals are meaningless…’

Pay no heed to these people.

Instead… take what they said… and set your standards that much higher, why? might you ask… well… because they just gave you something to prove to yourself. ^_^

when my uncle said that to me… I began to silence myself. I kept my comments to myself.

Because what I know that is true to myself, needs no explanation to NO other person. If it is true to myself, and what I believe is acceptable to all humanity, and or the Divine beyond, or higher powers at be… then there is no man or woman, that can sway such a belief. and if so… it would take massive planning and effort.

In any case… Be true to yourself always. Stand up for what you Believe in; and find your own personal Definitions for what these mean, and are to you:

honor
compassion
duty
service
loyalty
respect
humility
honesty
understanding
knowledge (true knowledge)

and whatever else you feel needs to be defined for you, and your own reasons.”

Your inspirational writer,

~Scott Forest Pulsipher
The Redwood Forest Owl
Leader of the Redwood Samurai

26 dean April 6, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Bushido
Fiedility towards master, lord, and father land.
respect towards parents, brothers, and sisters.
respect, and love.
attentiveness, steadiness, politeness.
prompness, always be prepared for a fight.
Modesty, and correct ettiquete formality.

Valor, courage, bravery.
Hardness, and coolness.
Patience and endurence.
Benevolence and trustworthiness.
never lose self- control.

sense of honor and justice
sincerity and straightforwardness

simplicity and purity.

For each family their was a different code of honor, conduct, or princibles. Each samurai that was improperly trained had committed most the crimes we hear about behind the hidden leaves.

27 XLb April 13, 2009 at 2:58 pm

i dont think obeying your master without question would conflict with rectitude because in feudal Japan, your master’s word made complete sense and was the right way to go no matter what. so obeying him is a matter of trust because your thought process (if you lived back then and had a master) ended with you trusting him completely.

28 Frank Ryland April 14, 2009 at 10:37 am

i have been fasinated by the bushido way since i was a small wel smaller boy, but as i grow older and more wise i come to take more about bushido and the way of the samurai, im glade this has been published and i wanted to ask a question: im a christain so this is way i ask: but before i ask i’ll explain what i beleive alittle:and by the way im doing this for a report so i’ll need an answer please: i believe that
(Bushido
christianity)

Rectitude-the way to deside
Free will that god gave us for eart

Courage
not to fear the miricals god beholds

Benevolence
god teaches us to bear with and confert each other for girfs and serimonial times

Politeness
god tells us to for give our neighbors trust passes never hold gruges and to love everyone

Honesty and sincerity
well that explains it as it says

Honor
god used the word honor thy mother thy father and thy lord

Loyalty
he wishes that the world would stay loyal to him

Carater self control
as for bushido this is most important to christains as well
before we can inherate the earth we need to have a since of charater and self control

so now the question if i switched my god with the lord of the japan land and you switch the lord of the japan land what is really the differance

i believe all religons or true and nothing is or can be wrong about them so this is not an attack

29 John April 15, 2009 at 6:13 am

Frank,

While I respect people’s right to follow their conscience in religion, to say that “all religions are true” is to say that truth does not exist. Many religions have elements in common, but where they contradict each other, only one (or perhaps, neither) can be true. It’s logic, my friend. As to which is true, that is where discourse and rhetoric have their place. It’s important to search and discuss (as in here) and disagree where we must.

Chase the truth, and when you find where you believe it to be, hold fast to it until it is proven otherwise – but continue the pursuit.

Only one religion can possibly be true.

30 Scott Forest Pulsipher April 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Frank,

I agree to an extent with John. ‘Follow your path, seek what speaks truth to your own heart, mind and soul.’

“It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.”
–Hagakure, and ‘Ghost Dog’s’ quote of from Hagakure.

so having quoted this, dont look for anything else, in anything; because everything that is there within it, is there.

to try to say that religion and the way of the samurai, or bushido code, or just the simple way of living, from one person to the next, is the same, well…. is in accurate.

but… “all things are connected.”

“If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one’s body and soul to his master. ”
– hagakure again,
so some things can be applied to be considered, “in relation” to something else.
so basically… in regards to religion, or belief, one can apply this above quote.

here is another from Hagakure that took me a while to understand:

“When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”

i’ve read Hagakure at least 6 times from what i can remember.

from the age of at least 4-6, i started learning more and more about the way of bushido. (even if i wasnt doing it directly).

I have my own path.

I share what I have learned, read, and things of that nature.

I am nothing more than my own opinions, and experiences.

I owe everything, to the things people, and experiences that have come and gone into my life.

when faced with a question, one should first ask it within themselves, and answer with honesty.

i’ll leave it at that for now.

~Scott Forest Pulsipher

ps: here is some contact info:

http://www.myspace.com/redwood_forest_owl

31 Harvey June 3, 2009 at 10:43 pm

There is a reason I read about the Bushido. The state of our world today could really benefeit from these ideals. But like Wm stated earlier these things are all around us. I grew up with this article of my own faith;
13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
I believe that though these things may be around us constantly, we tend to not see them in plain sight, and can more easily see those things that we perceive to be new to us, even if they are the same. My hope is that we can look for the good in all things, and eventually find that good in ourselves.

32 Michal June 10, 2009 at 8:36 am

As I searched the internet for information about Bushido kode I have found many posts, articles and comments and almost all were different. There were differnces between pronunciation, sisbols and even in number of them. As far as I knew there were 7 sibols not 8 and really this is the first time i see Politeness between them. Im writting this becouse I seriously think of having a tatoo of these simbols becouse the code and the philosophy is something I adore some time now. The problem is that there are so many differences betwen these internet articles and translations that I have to find the source. The true simbols, true meanig. I would be really greatfull if someone could help me with this.

Im not saying that this is bad post just want to know the truth. What are the sources of this artcile?

thanx wery much

Parado2x@azet.sk

33 Selina August 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Thank you so very much for what you have written. I would just like to mention that for a long time women were also Samurai. The first battle against the emperor included women heading the first front groups to attack. Movies and media choose not to include that history, but it does however exsist. Many also do not know that women were also included as gladiators. They were called Gladiatrix. Proof of this history can be found in the countries themselves. Italy has statues of the female gladiatrix and Japan is known for their many statues that bring tribute to a select few of the many female samurai that existed. The reason why they did not always exist is because of the rulers. Women fighters were always included until the time one of the rulers decided women were below men and should act accordingly. They had to submit to that attitude even though it did cut down on the number or samurai warriors available. This only happened towards the end of the samurai age however. I just wanted to include that note ~ I see these virtues as human virtues, things that we all must do, male or female in order to truly try to live an honorable life.

34 Enrico October 27, 2009 at 9:44 am

Jesus Christ summed up ‘the way’ or ‘code’ by which we should live when He said:
Mar 12:30 …and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
Mar 12:31 The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

35 Johnny the Freemason December 3, 2009 at 11:35 pm

My first (of only 2 modest) tattoo was the principles of the Bushido Code in kanji on my right arm. As a person that began study of the martial arts at the age of 8 (now 33) I believe that the Bushido combined with the Chivalric Codes of Europe’s knightly past creates a solid bedrock on which a man can build a socio-spiritual temple of gentlemanly conduct and actions upon. I finally bought my copy of the Hagakure in 1999 and read it in it’s entirely at least every other month. To this day I am able to glean new lessons for the honorable, manly, and sincere gentleman.

36 Scott Forest Pulsipher January 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

Ladies and Gentlemen… I have to urge again…

that what we learn, what we read, what we take in on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly; but more importantly,… on a “moment to moment basis,” has to be understood, that it must be made “yours.”

If you learn something about honor. “question it.” seek other forms (“Path’s” –Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings”)

If you do not, you will simply be Dim witted, and only have so much you can share with those who know nothing of the subject. But it is imperative, that you DO share what it is that you do know, when the times comes.

Branch outward. Flourish. Learn what you can, as often as you can. And Seek Perfection, in all that you do.

I recommend that, if you havent already, Pick up the book(s):

“Musashi’s Book of Five Rings.”
“Hagakure”
“Art of War” Sun Tzu
“Yojukune”
“Way of the Peaceful Warrior”
“Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior”
“Siddhartha”

these are all very good books.

Enjoy.

*bows out respectfully*

~Skattosan

37 Jarom March 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

What I find so interesting about Americans is their fascination with Eastern culture when their own heritage is filled with equally amazing sources of codes of conduct for men. Here are some excerpts from The Song of Roland in describing the Knight’s Code of Medieval Europe:
To protect the weak and defenseless
To give succor to widows and orphans (To help or provide aid)
To refrain from the wanton giving of offense (to waste your time with offenses)
To live by honor and for glory
To despise pecuniary reward (monetary reward)
To fight for the welfare of all
To guard the honor of fellow knights
To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit (to avoid or shun it)
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
To respect the honor of women
Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
Never to turn the back upon a foe

Most certainly this is not all of them. I did not include the ones about serving authority and spirituality. Although those could be argued as being good things to include, I chose to not include them to keep the list fairly short. I would recommend reading The Song of Roland some time to find out what people of your own heritage were like.

38 Savagelight May 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

cory huff chivalry and honor are thrown under the bus because the majority of todays men are mere boys. Boys with big toys. You give a boy a gun and he’ll do something stupid and immature with it because he does not have the spiritual development to understand how to use power.

Today we still have a need for spiritual development. In fact I’d say the need is greater than it has ever been. The sword has been replaced by the bullet, which has been replaced by paper money. All of these technologies are weapons, and when any of these weapons are in the wrong hands bad things will happen.

Anyway if anyone would like to read a western book to bring perspective, check out might is right by Ragnar Redbeard. http://www.scribd.com/doc/12070379/Might-is-Right-by-Ragnar-Redbeard

In my opinion Might is Right reveals the value of reason to determining right and wrong from a warriors perspective. Bushido is concerned with the spiritual development of the warrior so that the warrior can have the self control and insight to apply reason appropriately. The end of any militant action should not be to merely obtain power. To have power for the sake of having it is thuggery and that is where Might is Right gets it wrong, but to have power is to have a sword. To know when to use the sword, who to use it on, how to use it, that is what Bushido teaches and a warrior has to serve something greater than themselves. This is why having a code is essential.

The code I follow is remarkably similar to Bushido.

39 Savagelight May 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Enrico with due respect I disagree. I think it is appropriate to apply reason to determine the value of each neighbor. If your neighbor hates you and is trying to destroy you and everything you stand for, it would be unreasonable to love that neighbor. It would also be unreasonable to hate that neighbor. The reasonable thing to do is to neutralize that neighbor in a manner least destructive to that neighbors loved ones.

If somebody hates you it’s not valid to simply wait for them to hurt you. You have a natural right to self defense which is based on the law of nature, the law of the jungle, which determines the ultimate fate of all living species on earth. To put it simply, if you don’t want to die like Jesus died, you’ll have to protect yourself from being destroyed by any means necessary. I hold this belief based around the fact that the laws of nature (not the laws of heaven) govern life on earth.

40 scott August 18, 2010 at 1:35 am

where can i find the eight symbles of the bushido code to print off to get a tattoo

41 eric November 15, 2012 at 2:45 am

Very wonderful history lesson and insight into Bushido. One thing that modern historians like to omit is the fact that the Samurai were not only fierce warriors but also practiced a form of pederasty not uncommon from the Greeks. Established Samurai were expected to select and mentor and be physically/sexually involved with younger males as a form of training and initiation. The love of males was considered to be an expression of grace and the counterbalance to brutish impulses. Though some Samurai (and the Buddhist monks who also practiced pederasty), no doubt were homosexually oriented, most were not gay in the sense that we now understand gay people to be biologically inclined toward same-sex attractions. Most samurai eventually married women and sired children.

This concept of grace through submission is a very different conceptualization of masculine virtue that Americans probably find very troubling. To understand the role that homosexuality played in Japanese society and in defining masculinity, check out this book:
Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan [Paperback]
Gary Leupp (Author)

As a gay, fourth generation Japanese-American, I found this book very important as it reconciles the splits in my own self-definitions of what it means to be a man and masculine. Gay is not weak. Asian is not feminine. Gay and Asian can be as manly as manly gets -if you know your history and the way that my ancestors created a world that astonishingly was not afraid of homosexuality between men; and in fact, promoted it.

42 SiT February 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm

What does

“True samurai, according to author Nitobe, disdained money, believing that “men must grudge money, for riches hinder wisdom.” Thus children of high-ranking samurai were raised to believe that talking about money showed poor taste, and that ignorance of the value of different coins showed good breeding: Bushido encouraged thrift, not for economical reasons so much as for the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to manhood, and severe simplicity was required of the warrior class … the counting machine and abacus were abhorred.”

Have to do with Honesty and Sincerity? I don’t get it…

43 El Otomi March 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm

To savagelight….Jesus is not dead.He is the way,the truth and the life…

44 Jimbob April 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm

These principals to live by are all but lost by modern society. We fail to teach our children these ways to carry themselves. The only way a person learns about honor and other principals is military service. Our schools do not teach them. If anyone is interested in reading more about living that way of life , I suggest reading “The Lakota Way” by Joseph M. Marshall 111

45 Joseph McDonald April 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Thank you for your informative article! I have been trying to live by the Bushido the best I can, your article helped inform me even more. I appreciate it, and you are very right in saying that luxuries are the downfall of manliness. Same with money and our economy. It may be tough, but anyone with the right mind and ideals can live by “The Way of the Warrior”, no matter how tough it is.

46 Ray May 7, 2013 at 2:17 am

I read several of the ” posts”, and was in awe. As a Retired U.S. Marine and veteran, having served 22 years, I CAN state, honestly and openly, that within the era I served, and the Sumari era, changes took place, BUT, some carried forward. Regardless of where a man is from, with opened heart and mind, srong belief in country, people and self ( without egotism, arrogance, self-centerism), ability to want to learn, A MAN CAN BE A TRUE AND HONEST MAN – SIMILAR TO BUSHIDO- AND LIVE A GREAT LIFE. IT IS UP TO THE MAN- HIS TEACHING HIS CHILDREN ( PROPERLY), AND BELIEVING.

47 Daniel May 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm

What book is introductory passage taken from? Or is it original?

48 Ed wolf May 18, 2013 at 11:31 pm

The sword can teach you many things different answer to the same Truth its all on how you pros eve it I have had many teaching from many different masters but the root of all foundation is same idea and to speak truth even if it kills you its better to be a man of your word than a worthless lie’r. do not just say actions with honesty show great strengths it show a truly free man and that’s what everyone else fears

49 Steve August 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm

@ Marlon

‘Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering; to die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right.’

So they were to practice loyalty, within reason.

50 Tony August 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm

As a man,a father and marital artist their is only one way I chose to live by. Bushido the way of the warrior.

51 Mat September 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Code of the Bushido defines the very soul of a samurai warrior and how he conducts himself in a time of war and peace. Japans most famous and undefeated samuraI was known as a Ronin Samurai, or “masterless one”. This great Samurai was Musashi Miyamoto. Hee devoted his life to education, as well as mastering his famous two sword fighting techniques. He was masterless Samurai and devoted his life to purity and fighting for justice, yet mastering any master of any wealon. Soon before his death, he finished The Book Of Five Rings and it became a life guide for many of Japans’ people. Tbe true way if a Ronin Samurai can be found in this book.

52 Alberto September 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm

gracias por la información.

Saludos.

53 Hasan December 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

The outlaw of carrying of swords was for civilians. The samurai were allowed to still carry their weapons. Sorry just had to put that out there.

54 kiki December 24, 2013 at 11:59 am

What are the negative attributes or aspects of Bushido though? i mean, other than committing seppuku?

55 Brendon January 2, 2014 at 11:56 pm

It would seem there are variations In Nitobe’s explanation of the code. I have come across other accounts his ‘seven’ virtues of Bushido which include the seemingly obvious virtue of ‘respect’ that these eight omit. Is there an obvious reason for this? or did he himself change his understanding and publish them differently in different books?

56 Ivan the terrible January 8, 2014 at 9:12 am

What we lack in wisdom usually comes out in our ignorance, our goal should be to dispense with our ignorance so it will increase our wisdom, I believe bushido to be a good guideline, BUT pick up a Bible it’s all in there and it’s from God not man.

57 TeeJay January 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

First time stumbling across this blog. A lot of good POV’s. Having understood the virtues of Bushido, and looking at the Samurai way of Life, I must say that it absolutely vital that every man live by a code. A code which exemplifies the way he expresses the reason for his being, and how he conducts himself towards others. Now, I have much respect for every point of view, some of which I agree with, and some I do not. Having studied the martial arts for many years, I cannot say which virtue is more important than the other, but when it comes down to the character of a man, I feel they are all imperative to advance the quality of life depending on where you are in life’s journey. I have also found that as a practicing Christian, many of these virtues are what constitute a “man of God”. I have chosen to follow the Way of Christ, having found many of the virtues of Bushido parallel that which is written in Galatians 5:22-23. and as it concludes…”against such, there is no law”. Many cultures have their own expression of these virtues, but the bottom line is… The code a man lives by is the qualities by which he shall be remembered.

58 10thmtnarty February 17, 2014 at 9:37 am

I am an Afghan veteran, and have seen extensive combat. I don’t know where it comes from, but the saying, “There is no greater glory for a warrior than to be slain in battle by a worthy adversary” is loosely based in bushido. This is how I was able to make my friends’ sacrifice mean something, and to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed by guilt at taking an enemy combatant’s life.

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