Musashi had killed his first enemy before his thirteenth birthday and every person that stood in his way thereafter. His life was an endless chase from vengeful enemies. Many manhunts were staged, forcing Musashi to hide in the forests and mountains without shelter, food, company, or hope of rescue. In spite of it all, his indomitable spirit roared, “Since you have decided to kill me, I will kill you all! Are you trying to hunt me down? I will hunt you down!”
Soon after, the man who offered the reward for Musashi’s capture was found dead lying in the mud. Jutting out of his bloody corpse was a pole with the bounty announcement pinned to it.
The fierce warrior feared no one; he attacked and disappeared like a ghost. People became afraid of his sublime, murderous obsession. Legends gradually turned him from an outcast into a sinister hero. In his personal life he remained alone, but was passionately loved by women.
Ordeals made his spirit invincible.
During his wanderings he learned to value freedom above anything else. The sky was his roof; roots and berries were his food. He felt free and worthy. Musashi learned to see the magnificence of life and became strong enough to combat anything that threated his freedom. It was also rumored that Musashi had been trained by yamabushi in seeing the ‘hidden’ side of things, even prophesizing the way his enemies would die.
He understood that a circle is formed where the beginning and end meet.
Eventually, Musashi elevated himself above life and death, beyond the trivialities of good and evil. He did not even wish to kill anymore. His determination to fight lapsed as the number of his enemies lessened.
Legend says that at the crossroad of his life, Musashi met renowned Zen preacher Soho Takuan. They talked for a long time, but were silent even longer. Takuan taught Musashi that a warrior must safeguard the well-being of the people. He was so impressed with his character that he secured a state pardon absolving Musashi of his crimes.
Being an eternal wanderer, Musashi lived alone, serving no one. He became a philosopher and painter whose works are still revered in Japan.
Reeds and Wild Geese, right side by Miyamoto Musashi | sumi-e
A few quotes by Miyamoto Musashi from A Book of Five Rings:
― The ultimate aim of all martial arts is not having to use them ―
― Do nothing that is of no use ―
― Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye ―
― Get beyond love and grief: exist for the good of Man ―
― To know ten thousand things, know one well ―
― I believe that the Way of the Warrior for the Samurai should be wholly based on things that exceed everything human ―
This is a chapter from Samurai II: Spirit of the Warrior