Death and a Pure mind in bushido

The way of the samurai

by A. R. Berg

  • samurai skull death art

    A mind free of material desires, an absolutely tranquil mind can foresee the movements of an opponent and reach the state of being acutely alert and acting on intuition.
    – Ueshiba Morihei

    In a common state of mind, a person is distracted by hundreds of conscious and subconscious impulses making him waste time contemplating his actions. A warrior in the ‘empty consciousness’ state reacts instantly, fearlessly, making him swifter and thus victorious.

    Renouncing everything that clouds the purity of thoughts and mind is the most essential and simple rule that must be followed by a true Warrior. Impatience, disappointments, anxiety, doubts, anger, the fear of loss and hundreds of desires and passions have a tenacious hold on the minds of ordinary people and rule their behavior.
    A Warrior, seasoned by Bushido, reaches the state of pure and cold consciousness that can be compared to ice illuminated by winter sunlight.
    As if he is standing on top of a soaring metaphysical cliff while the impotent waves of human desires and ignorance rage below.

    Mental hygiene is paramount to a warrior. He cleanses his mind daily by contemplating his destiny, keeping his samurai pride pure, and barring unworthy thoughts from entering his mind.
    A warrior must rely on his stable and deep-rooted moral code when facing challenges.

    Most people do not have firm convictions regarding good and bad, right and wrong. Without a clear understanding of good and evil one cannot be a samurai. He must avoid negative forces by being disciplined and focusing his energy on positive things. A Warrior must be clear about what he needs, cast off the excess, and simply live. Once he has answered the questions of his heart, his spirit will be unwavering.

    Faith, Will, and absolute Purity create the Way of the Warrior that shines like a beam of light on a sword. If you observe the Sun in a blade’s reflection, it will seem very close. It will burn on the tip, lighting up everything around it.

    From the time one is young, he should associate with companions who are upright and not even temporarily be taken in by friends of low character.
    Just as water will conform to the shape of the vessel that contains it, so will a man follow the good and evil of his companions. That is so true.
    Imagawa Sadayo

    young samurai art

    If a warrior lacks valor, wisdom, and mercy he becomes a barbarian, because a true knight would never step on a flower or shed innocent blood.

     A warrior should be selfless in action and wholesome in thought. By purifying his mind, he cleanses himself of malicious emotions. Lifelong spiritual practice is the warrior’s path towards Purity.

    He is a Warrior who practices bravery, having eliminated fear in himself.
    The Warrior has broken free from the desire to live and the fear of death.
    The Warrior does not want to live, he simply lives.

    A samurai is born to bring about prosperity for others and must use his power towards this end. All problems should be solved according to giri – the sense of moral duty and honor.


    The man who would be a warrior considers it his most basic intention to keep death always in mind, day and night, from the time he first picks up his chopsticks in celebrating his morning meal on New Year’s Day to the evening of the last day of the year. When one constantly keeps death in mind, both loyalty and filial piety are realized, myriad evils and disasters are avoided, one is without illness and mishap, and lives out a long life. In addition, even his character is improved. Such are the many benefits of this act.
    Considering this, we generally see a man’s life as rather fleeting, like the dew in the evening or the frost of the morning. ... Being resolved that a man may be alive today but not tomorrow, one will be aware that today may be his last chance to service his lord and attend to his parents. Thus, when before his lord receiving orders or looking on his parents with thoughts that it may be for the last time, and his concern for them will be sincere. Accordingly it is said that one fulfills both loyalty and filial piety.
    – Daidōji Yūzan

    The Warrior feels the Spirit calling him to death. He even desires it, because it is the Gate to which the Way of Risk leads.
    This yearning for death is paradoxical and sublime, and all samurai refer to it. Few understand
    the source of this hidden irrational yearning. It is the secret love described by Yamamoto Tsunetomo in Hidden by the Leaves.

    A samurai should lie neither in his actions nor in his heart. A real samurai should meet death in a more tranquil state of mind than usual. This is where the difference between a samurai and common people lies.
    – Mito Mitsukuni

    You cannot rely on anything. Whatever is fake cannot last, much less be eternal. If you are attached to the form, such as the body, you will fear death. Truly real, existential things are eternal. The more you are caught up in Eternity, the less your fear of death is. A Warrior is free of hopes and fears.

    Death comes to all – the great and the small.
    Death reaches you without taking into account whether you are prepared to meet it.
    But not all people are prepared for the fact of death. If you are inclined to think that you will outlive everybody, it deceives both you and others. Death stalks you before you know it.
    When facing death, be sure that you meet it fully prepared.
    – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

    To die properly, a person should first understand how he will do so and why.
    Furthermore, he must be willing to die at any time. You cannot plan your life any further than your next breath.
    Death itself is not important for a warrior, but the determination to die from moment to moment at his own will is.

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    This article contains quotes from the Samurai Series by A. R. Berg

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