The samurai were the greatest warriors in the world. The level of integrity achieved by the Japanese during the reign of the samurai was unparalleled in history. The Shogunate and the lords of the land had very clear and explicit rules that all the people lived by. They followed these ethical standards that were the law of the land or they were strictly punished, usually with a quick but often painful death.
The Samurai hated underhanded dealings and unfair behavior. They were men who lived by a code and the foundation of that code was justice.
Morality in Japan during the samurai era regulated public behavior, it was not based on religious precepts but on strict secular tenants designed to build a special kind of harmony in Japanese society. We call this “Japanese etiquette”. This was enforced by law, by custom and by a strong sense of shame the Japanese people felt when they could not live up to these social standards. Even though modern Japan has changed and become “westernized” still the Japanese are the most moral people in the world. The lesson we can learn here is that by living by a moral code you always know the right way to act. There is no ambiguity or uncertainty about behavior. Filial piety, loyalty, honesty, obedience, discipline, perseverance and absolute integrity are critical values to live and die by. These values are what Japan as a nation was built on.
A true samurai was a very humble man, he never showed off his skills or boasted about what he could do or what he knew. His days were spent improving himself be studying calligraphy, reading, practicing the arts of sword. The Japanese tea ceremony was a way for many samurai to relax and spend time with other samurai talking and in the spring watching the cherry blossoms. Training the mind and body was extremely important for them, many samurai spent hours meditating, reflecting, doing deep breathing exercises, contemplating and practicing the art of visualization to quiet their minds and many also wrote poetry. The samurai were experts in silence and stillness this resulted in them being less reactive and able to control their emotions. Their practices taught them to be calm and at peace within themselves. Yet when it was time to act they were always ready.
The samurai had a quiet, inner confidence, they didn’t need to make themselves look good or to pretend to be something that they were not. He was a samurai and this was a position one was born into or adopted into. You could not become a samurai by joining a group, like you join a football club. Respect was very important and if a person disrespected a samurai then that person better know how to fight and to be able to kill because when the samurai drew his weapon he was not going to put it away until blood flowed from his opponent. This would usually result in the death of the opponent or the samurai himself. At the very least the opponent would be seriously wounded.
The Samurai wore hakama these had five pleats that represented five virtues.
Examples of virtues that the samurai lived by are:
Meiyo – Honor
A true Samurai lived and died for honor. The choices you make and how you carry out your responsibilities reflect who you truly are. If you disrespected a samurai by not bowing when he past you on the street this could result in your instant death. If you brush by him roughly and did not apologize this could result in a fight and death
Yuu – Bravery
The samurai were a brave people that lived each day facing difficulties and hardships and being ready at any moment to sacrifice his life for his Master, They lived life to the full by setting and living life to the highest standard.
Jin – Benevolence (Compassion)
The samurai trained hard, long and often to develop their mind, body and spirit. They were different from other men. They used their power and abilities for the good of all the people. They showed compassion to others every chance they had.
Gi – Justice
A samurai was 100% honest in his dealings with all people. If you stole something and the samurai found out about it, he would deal with it quickly and effectively. If it was your first offense he would cut off your hand. Repeat the offense again and he would decapitate you.
Chuugi – Duty / Loyalty
Loyalty was one of the most important virtues of the samurai. Loyalty to his Master meant
being willing to lay down his life at any moment if ordered to do so. This loyalty extended to his family, clan, Emperor, and country. During world war 2 the Japanese leaders evoked the samurai spirit in the people and this resulted in many people committing seppuku, The navy had kamikaze pilots, soldiers blew themselves up because in the samurai code to surrender to your enemy to escape death was the lowest act a person could make. Sacrificeing your life for the purpose of the whole was a truly noble death.
Makoto – Veracity (Complete Sincerity)
A samurai’s word was bankable. He would rather die than break a promise. If he said he would help you, then regardless of the cost he would do it, or die trying.
I lived in Japan for twenty years and the thing I love about the Japanese is the complete sincerity of the people and how they live everyday. You are what you are and there is no pretending to be anything else. Grandparents, parents and children live together. They share everything, communicate openly and they appreciate the simple things in life, like a good home cooked meal. Some delicious cake or fresh fruit or a simple cup of green tea. How someone helped someone and how that simple act of kindness showed how great that person was. Japanese people are not sarcastic they don’t say or do nasty things then hide behind an expression I was only joking.
I hope this can help you to think about the way you live your life and maybe give you some ideas to improve your life.
Until next time I wish you peace, love and success in all that you do.