• James Evangelista

Living The Virtues of The Samurai


Photo by Su San Lee on Unsplash

Is it possible to live the way of the samurai in the modern world? Yes, you can. In fact, most businesses in Japan and other companies worldwide use this timeless wisdom as their code of ethics.


Bushido is an unwritten code of conduct by the samurai in the feudal era. The word Bushido comes from Japanese roots “bushi” which means “warrior” and “do” meaning path or way. If we compare this to the West, it is similar to the ideas of chivalry in medieval Europe.


Here are the principles of Bushido:


Rectitude or Justice


Rectitude is the strongest virtue of Bushido. It is about doing the right thing and making the right decision because it is morally correct.


*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.’


Courage


Courage is the act of doing what is necessary bravely. This is where fearlessness comes in. People will say that they have no fear at all but they still feel fear. They just don’t allow fear taking over their minds. A samurai faces the possibility of death in his every battle. If they allowed fear taking over them, they could easily lose focus and get killed in battle.

When applying this in modern life, we must learn to stand for ourselves. A great example is when we want to pursue our dreams. Many people, especially those close to us will stop us because of the fear of the unknown and failure. By expressing bravery and courage, we can do what is right for us. This decision will help us move forward in life.

*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. “‘Courage is doing what is right.’


Benevolence


The samurai are compassionate beings. They give alms to the poor, help those in need, and take care of their fellow man and woman. Compassion or benevolence is the first step in inner peace. Living a life without benevolence is dangerous. This can lead to a life with no direction, vision, and purpose. When you don’t love or care about yourself, it is difficult to be compassionate to your surroundings.


From what I can observe, most people lack this virtue right now. How did I notice that they lack this virtue? Most of them are playing the victim game. They keep blaming other people of the things that are happening to them. They lack accountability and responsibility, especially in their actions.


*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.


Loyalty


In the samurai culture, breaking loyalty is a disgraceful act and is punishable by death. Compare that to our society, most people are not even loyal anymore even to the people close to them. I’m sure you know people who talks behind your back. In the business world, loyalty is rare because of greed and power. Loyalty in businesses is all about sticking together to fulfill the company’s vision.


In life, loyalty means sticking to your own feelings, intuition, and TRUTH. By doing so, you become honest with yourself and learn more about yourself. Practicing loyalty will help you build trust to other people.


*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.


Respect


When you visit Japan (or when you were in Japan), you’ll notice that this virtue still exists among everyone. In fact, respectfulness and politeness of the Japanese is the first thing you’ll notice.


In our society, people lack respect because of influence, lack of perspective and fear. Politeness and respect are authentic feelings because we don’t need words to express them. Through our actions we can “touch” the feelings of other people and make their day better.

Understand: Respecting yourself leads to respecting your environment.


Honor


Having honor captivates your soul just like the samurai. Similar to courage, honor is all about your worth. Honor is doing your tasks with valor and courage.


*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.’


Honesty or Truthfulness


I have questions for you: Are you honest with yourself? Do you like to lie when you are asked a difficult question?


Here’s the harsh truth in our society right now: Most of us lie and create stories to soothe our own ego and pride. We invent these shitty stories or excuses to shy ourselves from the truth.

Speaking about the truth sounds easy, but it is hard, especially when our life is not going the way we want it to be. Becoming an authentic being allows you to respect yourself. Learn to speak your truth and express it with courage.


A great example of this is when there are gatherings with people close to us. When they ask us about something, we don’t really tell the truth. We only tell what they want to hear.


Keep in mind: It’s okay to be honest. Speaking the truth won’t harm you. In fact, becoming an honest human being is a rare trait these days. Once you become an honest person you attach yourself with reality.


*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.


Self-Control


Bushido teaches us that men and women should have a moral standard. It is our duty to pass on what we learned (good or bad) to our children whatever it takes.

To have self-control is a key to living a happy life. To know what is right from wrong, good or bad. To control yourself from decisions you’ll regret is a virtue people lack in the society right now.


Let me give you an example: As social animals, we love to go with the flow of other people. We love to do things and spend time with them even though what we are doing is wrong for us. I’m sure you can notice this with kids who “went the wrong way.” As adults, parents, or not parents, our obligation is to build the character of a young child correctly. We must be honest with them and let them know the truth.


*The first objective of samurai education was to build up Character. The subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence, and dialectics were less important.


These principles can help you improve your life. I’ve been practicing these principles and I can sense the improvement I got. These principles are timeless, use it at all costs.


*Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe

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