For decades in the West, the ancient Japanese warrior class of the samurai has inspired millions.
From developing artistry around something as brutal as mortal combat to the pursuit of efficiency in everything and the sound philosophical principles that define a samurai’s life, along with the beauty of ancient Japanese culture woven throughout all of it, we’ve found unlimited inspiration from these incredible warriors.
Admittedly, there isn’t much use for a sword-wielding warrior these days. However, the Way of the Warrior, the Samurai’s code of ethics referred to as Bushido, lives on as a useful set of principles to help you live a more balanced life.
And, it just so happens, they’re principles we could use now more than ever.
I look at the Samurai because they were the artists of their time. What I think struck me when I read Bushido is compassion. ‘If there’s no one there to help, go out and find someone to help.’ That hit me, because I try to lead my life like that.
– Tom Cruise
These are the eight principles of Bushido:
This one is sometimes referred to as justice, and it’s about striving to do the right thing. You can’t control the rest of the world, but you can seek to follow the way of righteousness in your own life.
This is about more than just doing the right thing when dealing with others, though, it also has to do with maintaining integrity when nobody’s watching.
Samurai would have made excellent Gryffindor. It’s no surprise that a warrior must be courageous, but courage is about more than just the courage to face your own death in combat. To be truly courageous means to face your life as a whole with the confidence necessary to overcome your challenges and realize happiness.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
You must seek opportunities to use your power for the greater good, understanding the pain of others and desiring to help in any way that you can.
True compassion is understanding, so we must not only understand our own place, but also the desires and wishes of others and how our actions affect those people.
When one has power, they must also know when and how to use that power wisely.
Power can easily corrupt and the ability of a Samurai to kill another human being with ease is a power that had to be wielded with great wisdom and respect. Not just for others, but for oneself, to avoid corrupting one’s soul.
There are many forms of power in the world, and virtually all of them can be used to either help or hurt. One must live their life in a way that respects others, and learn to use their power to live most effectively.
Truthfulness encompasses two different qualities: honesty and dependability.
The word of a person has great value, but the value of those words lessens over time as each lie or failed promise builds.
Seek to remain honest in how you speak so that when you speak, others know you’re not only telling the truth, but also that they can count on you following through.
Samurai treasured honor above perhaps all other qualities.
As a samurai, your honor was everything and to be dishonored was worth more than death. In fact, for a samurai, dishonor often resulted in a samurai committing what was called harakiri, or ritual suicide with a katana.
Clearly, the average person doesn’t live by such principles. However, honor is nevertheless critical to realizing your best self. Honor is a representation of who you are as a person. It is your word, your actions, and your very worth as a person all-encompassing reflected in others.
A samurai knows his place in the world. Closely aligned with truthfulness, those you care about and work with should know that they can count on you no matter what.
This kind of fierce loyalty doesn’t just help others — it helps you create unbreakable bonds because it reflects and communicates how valuable they are to you.
The final principle of the Bushido is about having the self-control to pursue and exemplify the entire code.
The first seven principles encompass all the things that are important for the samurai to follow. However, just as important is an emphasis on following the principles themselves. As poetic as the principles sound, if you don’t actually follow through with them they’re absolutely useless.
The Way of the Warrior was much less intellectual than it was action-oriented, with the expression and fulfillment of character being at the forefront. Therefore, great self-control was needed to follow through with said principles.