What is Bushido?

The way of the samurai

by A. R. Basov

  • samurai art

    Bushi-Do is a Way different from all other Ways. All Ways contain the fundamental idea of self-perfection and reaching Enlightenment. Bushi-Do contains this idea, too, but utilizes a notably different methodology to accomplish this great task. Bushi-Do advocates will. Active and unbending will becomes a super method and a special type of philosophy.

    Better look slightly rude than compromise Bushido.
    – Daidōji Yūzan

    The Way of the Japanese knight spanned many centuries, which is unprecedented. Interestingly enough, even though it has become a cultural phenomenon it is not completely understood yet. In this endeavor, it is important to note that Bushi-Do grew on fertile soil infused with mystical ideas from different teachings, each one forming an integral part of the philosophy. Shinto, Taoism, Buddhism, Zen-Buddhism, and Confucianism, all added their special aesthetic to the Way of Beauty. Ancient soil richly soaked with the blood of wise heroes gave birth to a magnificent flower. One hidden from filthy souls. Its name?

    If a man does not investigate into the matters of Bushido daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death.
    Katō Kiyomasa

    Flowers grow from the ground up, but their immortal beauty comes from Heaven. The one who sees magnificent flowers hidden by the leaves finds his secret love.
    Bushi-Do is the Way for few, the Way for the strong and the brave. It is the teaching of Warriors, but there is no idea of aggression in it.
    Bushi-Do is at once the teaching for fulfilling one’s individual needs as well as those of society. Bushi-Do incorporates the harmony of individualism and service to society, but serving society, though of exceptional importance, was not the primary purpose for a samurai.
    Bushi-Do is a teaching about life and death, making it the most existential philosophy. It seems incredible how many contradictory elements are amalgamated in Bushi-Do. But this paradoxical harmony is what makes this Way profound and charming. The mysterious beauty of steel, fire, and ice – all in one...

    takeda shingen art

    When speaking of Bushido, the three qualities considered essential are Loyalty, Integrity, and Courage. When these three virtues are perfectly combined in one man, he is called a samurai of the highest quality.
    – Daidōji Yūzan

    Without direction, a person’s life is dull, an empty shell. Becoming a person of integrity and giving your life new meaning requires a spiritual foundation that continuously generates energy. Comprehending Bushi-Do does exactly this, for it is a wise and potent philosophy capable of transforming a person’s life from chaotic to brilliantly purposeful.
    People change radically, becoming organized, strong, and energetic.
    They improve physically and morally, bolstering their health and intellect.
    This confirms that the Way is the truth.

    Bushido made light of knowledge as such. It was not pursued as an end in itself, but as a means to the attainment of wisdom... Thus, knowledge was conceived as identical with its practical application in life.
    – Nitobe Inazō

    In his development, a true warrior puts the term Do in the forefront, i.e. the Way, the process of perfection.
    Unwavering spirit and a swift thrust are the concept of Bushi-Do.
    A bushi is a noble warrior, a knight.
    Do means the Way.
    Bushi-Do is the Way of a noble Warrior.
    Bushi-Do is comprehension of Truth, of Riddles of the Universe, the harmonious unity of Heaven, Earth and Man through mental and physical warrior practices.

    The way of the warrior is death. This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death. It means nothing else.
    Yamamoto Tsunetomo

    yamamoto tsunetomo art

    Death is the central point of the Bushi-Do philosophy that calls to channel all your thoughts and acts through the prism of death.

    By overcoming the idea of death, the samurai developed another view of the world. They acquired the gift of self-perfection given only to those who have overcome death in their consciousness. This is Bushi-Do.

    On the surface, the Bushi-Do Doctrine is complicated and contradictory, but in fact it has perfect integrity and furthermore it is humane.
    Someone may find, along with the things sought for, many negative or even unacceptable issues in the Teaching of the Samurai, but the only thing which even the most biased researcher will not find in Bushi-Do is weakness.

    Bushido is in being crazy to die. Fifty or more could not kill one such a man.
    – Nabeshima Naoshige

    Think: what do people lack most of all? They lack courage! If we could be more courageous, it would transform our lives. In the absence of courage, we are not able to act the way we would like to. A person deprived of courage loses dignity and self-respect and runs short of mental health.
    When there is no courage, cowardice turns up, followed by amorality, which brings breakdown and decay. The meek and the weak do not inherit the world; they contribute to its full degradation.
    Bushi-Do is the teaching of Courage, a hymn to Will and resolute Strength.

    Following the Way of the Warrior means nothing else than bringing your inner self in accord with the Way and abiding by the Law in the daily life. To bring your mind in accord with the Way means to understand the righteousness and consistency of Bushido and never yield to injustice and evil.
    – Daidōji Yūzan

    Bushi-Do took shape in times of peace and became the unique doctrine of an informed and peaceful warrior, one of power and peace in equilibrium. That is precisely why studying Bushi-Do is of great current interest. The Bushi-Do Teaching may be the ennobling moral system for modern society and allow it to reach a place of greater peace.

    A Warrior must follow the laws of goodness, love, and mercy, but – if need be – he will take up his sword and battle against the forces of evil.

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    This article contains quotes from The Samurai Series by A. R. Basov

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