How to Improve your Life by Learning the Bushido Code of the Samurai
What is Bushidō?
Bushidō, (Pronounced Bu – Shee – Doh) which translates as “the way (or the moral) of the warrior”, is a Japanese term describing the codified samurai way of life. Bushidō is loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry in Europe. The word Bushidō was first used in Japan during the 17th century in Kōyō Gunkan, but did not come into common usage until after the 1899 publication of Bushidō: The Soul of Japan. In this book, the famous Seven Virtues of Bushidō are put forth, namely: Rectitude (also referred to as Integrity), Respect, Heroic Courage, Honor, Compassion, Honesty and Sincerity, Duty and Loyalty. Ultimately these seven samurai virtues create an eighth virtue, Character.
Before beginning our discussion into the first of the seven virtues of Bushidō, let’s look into a quote from Bushidō: The Soul of Japan:
“What is important is to try to develop insights and wisdom rather than mere knowledge, respect for someone’s character rather than their education, and to nurture people in character development rather than helping them learn new talents.”
It is my sincere hope that through examining the Bushidō code, we can all build strong and healthy character and self-control.
Rectitude or Integrity refers to the way you carry yourself in the world. Bushidō refers not only to martial rectitude, but to personal rectitude: Rectitude or Justice, is the strongest virtue of Bushidō. How does one define rectitude? A well-known samurai explains it as the following: ‘Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without waivering.’ 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.” What this means is that without Rectitude, meaning a focused and aware method of carrying yourself in the world, you cannot make a common person into a Warrior, a Samurai. It is rectitude that your life is build upon.
A Story Illustrating Rectitude
A man on a horse suddenly came galloping down the road. It seemed as though the man had somewhere important to go. Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
What does this mean? This is a short but well-known Zen story with a powerful meaning behind it. The horse symbolizes our habits. The story explains the way we usually live, at the mercy of our old habits, habits that have been established by mindless activity.
Like an unfocused life, the horse just carries us along. It makes us run here and there and hurry everywhere, in fact, most of the time we don’t even know why we are doing what we are doing. If you stopped to ask yourself why exactly you’re running around so much, you may have an answer but it’s likely not a very good one. You’re just used to it, it’s how we’re taught to live.
We need to learn how to take back the reigns and let the horse know who is boss. You’re the boss, you’ve always been the boss, so start acting like it.
The Bottom Line
Refuse to Make Excuses. The opposite of accepting responsibility is making excuses, blaming others and becoming upset, angry and resentful toward people for what they have done to you or not done for you. Honesty starts at home and being truthful about who is in charge is the best place to get started.