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Samurai Ethics

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.
– Imagawa Sadayo

Most people don't have firm convictions and a clear concept of what is good and bad, right and wrong. He who does not have a clear-cut understanding of goodness and evil cannot be called a samurai. A warrior must possess a profound comprehension of right and wrong.
He must distance himself from the wrong with the help of discipline and focus his efforts on right things.
– A. R. Basov, Spirit of the Warrior

Many men feel that they should act according to the time or the moment they are facing,
and thus are in confusion when something goes beyond this and some difficulty arises.
– Shiba Yoshimasa

It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.
– A Buddhist saying

It could be stated without doubt: there are qualities which make a person excellent and strong or, quite the opposite, wretched and weak. Analysis of these qualities makes all things clear.

A Warrior would not compromise his honor even for all worldly blessings.
– Daidōji Yūzan

One should always act in compliance with the code of honor. That is why a man of noble character never experiences fear or anxiety.

A Warrior would not compromise his honor even for all worldly blessings.
– Daidōji Yūzan

A samurai respects his peers, because he respects himself. The samurai considered only themselves morally pure, because their behavior was guided by the sense of duty and lofty ideals.
Only peers should be respected, in other words, only noble people who understand the code of honor and follow it; those who understand what it is all about do not need further explanations.

Morooka Hikoemon said, “A samurai's word is harder than metal.
Since I have impressed this fact upon myself, what more can the gods and Buddhas do?”
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Each aspect of human practical life plays its particular role. Even insignificant things suggest a lot. Little nothings of everyday life help a person to make his life decent or vice versa. Since ancient times all aristocratic communities without exception have elaborated certain codes of behavior for a decent person. The samurai have established a distinct behavior model, and its principles are of value for a man at all times.
Every detail of Warrior's life and behavior should comply with the spirit of Bushi-Do. There are no minor items. The whole consists of details. In every moment of life it is essential that Bushi-Do is followed. This is the idea of the Way.

You can say that I started my learning with what was given to me at birth, continued with what was natural for me to do, and completed it by trusting what was meant to be.
– Lieh-Tzu

A samurai is the man with an advanced awareness of the concordance of things. He clearly understands the hierarchy and exact position of everything in his life – from essential issues to small details. If such a clear-cut understanding is lacking, a man cannot be called a Samurai. He must continue to refine himself until he grasps this clearness.

Warriors should never be thoughtless or absent-minded. They should first think and then act.
– Shiba Yoshimasa

A warrior does not fall under the influence of logical stereotypes invented by human beings. A warrior rejects common sense, and it is supplanted by intuition and enlightenment for him. A warrior keeps his mind open. Intuition relies upon the memory of innumerable years, the memory of the Universe concentrated in the human being.
Attentively read Myiamoto Musashi! It is a must for a warrior to understand his thoughts.

Meeting with people should be a matter of quickly grasping their temperament and reacting appropriately to this person and that.
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

A samurai must never allow anyone to treat him in a disrespectful manner. A samurai must never show disrespect to others. This is the law of life to be always followed.

One should give his views only when he is asked for. One should speak his mind in a clear way, but it is impolite to persist obstinately and force his ideas on others.
There is nothing more base than for a man to lose his temper too often. No matter how angry one becomes, his first thought should be to pacify his mind and come to a clear understanding of the situation at hand.
– Shiba Yoshimasa

A samurai should always treat all living beings with kindness and care.
A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

To be a Samurai is to be polite at all times.
– Hōjō Nagauji

In medieval Japan, when samurai talked to each other, it was against custom to mention unpleasant things and woes, let alone complaints. To talk of troubles meant to be a poorly mannered person.
To complain is almost the same thing as to ask for support, given that a noble man hardly disregards someone who cries for help. Only weak people complain, whereas the strong take action. No explanation is needed for a real friend – he would understand everything without words.

If there is something that cannot be accomplished without speaking, one should speak with few words, in a way that will accord well with reason. To open one's mouth indiscriminately brings shame, and there are many times when people will turn their backs on such a person.
By being impatient, matters are damaged and great works cannot be done.
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

To take part in a futile polemic is tasteless. To be a boaster, or prattle about anything and everything is the manner typical of half-wits and slanderers. A samurai should always demonstrate a laid-back manner. He must not have a big mouth.
A. R. Basov, "Spirit of the Warrior"

A warrior should not say something fainthearted even casually. He should set his mind to this beforehand. Even in trifling matters the depths of one's heart can be seen.
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

A warrior should be all out for understanding the situation not only by reasoning but also through intuition, because reasoning alone is not enough to gain an insight of a phenomenon.

A warrior always keeps his enemies in mind. To preserve his honor, a samurai should always ask himself, “Will I not shame myself in the eyes of the enemies? Will the enemies not despise me?” The enemy becomes samurai's conscience that never sleeps.
– Mishima Yukio

Retribution for evil is as necessary as recompense for virtue. The samurai who did not reward for goodness is not a samurai at all, nor may he be classified as one if he did not revenge an insult.
In the samurai ethics, revenge and gratitude are principles equal in value.
The idea of obligation (giri) and gratitude for goodness was fostered and iconized among the samurai. Not to reward for goodness was as disgraceful as to show faintheartedness.
The samurai thought that those unable to seek revenge were also unable to be grateful.
A samurai should be sensitive about questions of honor; otherwise he ceases to be a samurai.
A samurai must not even think about low matters.

The most important thing is to behave honorably at all times.
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Come to think of it, human life is limited to a set of situations in which one can decide how to behave beforehand, and it not only gives a fair advantage at the moment of action but also contributes to psychological stability and rationality. Before you take action, weigh it in your mind to determine whether it is the right choice.
If your soul is pure, if there is no evil in it and your spirit is not blurred, you will bring goodness to yourself and others.

Strive for excellence and take care of yourself. Give all your energies to it.
– Shiba Yoshimasa

A samurai does not regret what he has done because he is always convinced of his statements, aspirations, thoughts, and deeds and does everything in his power. Those who act in this way do not have to be ashamed of their performance.

The most significant life is the one lived on the basis of a personal sense of justice and the desire to see justice realized everywhere.
– Ōyama Masutatsu

Any situation is easily resolved if one does not think what is profitable and what is not, but sticks to duty.

Death is lighter than fluff; duty (giri) is heavier than a mountain.
The idea for which you are ready to die must be worth it. If the idea is not worth sacrificing a life, it is either false or insignificant.

Screenshot from the movie Patriotism (1960)

Resolution must show itself in everything. In any situation you should be a highly resolute warrior.
– Sōhō Takuan

A samurai's behavior should always be dignified – without a hint of weakness or agitation. There is only inner firmness, equilibrium, and the invariable strength of character.
When the heart of a samurai is filled with wisdom and bravery, such behavior becomes natural.

Dignity is the external manifestation of unflinching self-respect. Dignity makes a man a man.
– Mishima Yukio

A samurai should respect both himself and other people.  It does not become a samurai to speak ill of others as well as to praise them. A samurai should maintain full independence in everything. And this is the type of behavior that may be called dignified.

A man whose profession is the use of arms should think and then act upon not only his fame, but also that of his descendants. He should not scandalise his name forever by holding his one and only life too dear.
– Shiba Yoshimasa

The Way of the Samurai must be as straight and proud as a samurai's posture. His severe manners and general behavior must indicate his high position. A samurai must not talk of trifles or complain and make a fuss as is common among lesser men.

There is dignity in personal appearance. There is dignity in a calm aspect. There is dignity in a paucity of words. There is dignity in flawlessness of manners. There is dignity in solemn behavior. And there is dignity in deep insight and a clear perspective. These are all reflected on the surface. But in the end, their foundation is simplicity of thought and tautness of spirit.
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Whatever you do, do not lose yourself.
Whatever you do, aim at perfection!
A. R. Basov, Spirit of the Warrior


Quotes are taken from
the book "Samurai. Spirit of the Warrior" by A. R. Basov

avaliable as an eBook (for Windows, Android, iOS).


I will not get lost...
The North Star is shining in the darkness...
The road to Valhalla, straight like a sword, is always in front of me!

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