21 Rules for Life from a Legendary Master Samurai

By Eric Brown / High Existence

"I choose to live by choice, not by chance." -- Miyamoto Musashi

In the life of a samurai swordsman, every day could be your last.

You face death constantly. Over and over and over again.

The slightest error, the smallest lapse in judgement results in lost limbs and lost lives.

It is the Way of the Warrior

There is no one who embodied and mastered this Way as well as Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi was a legendary swordsman, philosopher, military strategist, and ronin (wandering samurai). He was one of the few individuals to ever receive the designation of Kensei, the 'sword saint of Japan.'

He is famously known for his publication of the Go Rin No Sho -- 'The Book of the Five Rings' -- a guide on how to train and fight in sword combat and military strategy.

He espouses the virtues of relentless practice, merciless pragmatism, and a fiercely ascetic relationship with the external world.

For Musashi, mastery of the world was mastery of the Self.

It is a great opportunity for us then, that towards his death in the final months of his life, Musashi was compelled to put down his life wisdom into a simple guide.

Written in his pragmatic, aphoristic aesthetic, he is brief and cutting with his words.

What came of this endeavour was the Dokkodo -- The Way of Aloneness -- 21 guiding principles that any individual should live their life by.

He lived a solitary, ascetic, Monk-link existence.

For the man who is fulfilled in his mastery of his craft and his Way, little else is necessary in life. This is evident in the way he lived, the way he conducted himself, the people he surrounded himself with. He lived the ideals he conveys in this sacred text.

For those interested in following the Warriors Way, in mastering themselves and through that mastering the world, we should work to embrace and embody these principles in our daily lives.

Though on the surface these principles seem straightforward, fully integrating them into a lifestyle and way of being is the process of a lifetime. Undertaking the Herculean task of embodying these principles is a noble endeavor, one not for the faint of heart.

If you notice any resistance to what is written here, check-in with yourself and ask why that is. This practice will help you refine your own internal compass, to solidify your values and virtues, and create a set of guiding principles for your own life.

5 RingsThese principles are the Way of the Samurai.

The Way of the Warrior.

The Way of the Individual.

This is the Dokkodo -- The Way of Aloneness

  1. Accept everything just the way it is

  2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake

  3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling

  4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world

  5. Be detached from desire your whole life long

  6. Do not regret what you have done

  7. Never be jealous

  8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation

  9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself or others

  10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love

  11. In all things have no preferences

  12. Be indifferent to where you live

  13. Do not pursue the taste of good food

  14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need

  15. Do not act following customary beliefs

  16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful

  17. Do not fear death

  18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age

  19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help

  20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour

  21. Never stray from the Way

"There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself."

-- Miyamoto Musashi


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