Musashi Miyamoto also known as Bennosuke Miyamoto was one of the greatest Japanese swordsmen who graced the 17th century. was an expert Japanese swordsman and ronin who served no master and held the record for the highest number of undefeated duels, sixty to be precise.
The Inagaki directed Samurai Trilogy starring Toshiro Mifune is based on his life.
Shortly before dying, the samurai wrote a book, The Way of Walking Alone, where he encapsulated his life philosophy and his ideals when it came to living a healthy life.
Confucian and Taoist in its essence, the book is still studied today.
We have listed 20 of the most relevant pieces from the book which are so essential that their truth still holds true today:
1. Learn to accept life as it comes
If you keep worrying about the distant future you will just succumb to more and more stress, despair and anxiety. So for the sake of your mental health, try to take life as it comes, one day at a time.
Accepting life as it unfolds will help you cope better with the daily struggles for survival.
2. Abandon obsessive pursuits for pleasure
Pleasure is best enjoyed when it arrives serendipitous. If you keep looking for it obsessively, you will invariably lose out on the joy of being happy.
With our times where every worldly pleasure is shallow, momentary and more unfulfilling, it only makes sense to not look for them. The best things in life arrive unexpected, no matter how small they are, like the chirp of a bird or a ray of sunshine through the window.
3. Do not be impulsive
Yes, following your gut can be helpful at times, but it is always best to chalk out a course of action, considering all possible consequences and sticking to it.
4. Stop obsessing over yourself
We live in a time when we spend hours and hours trying to take a perfect selfie or think of the beauty of a hill station in terms Instagram likes it will fetch. All in the pursuit of a certain online image we want to make for ourselves.
Stop doing this and you will have freed both time and space in your mind for the higher pursuits of life.
5. Never allow jealousy to run your life for you
Jealousy in any form is bound to cause obsession and obsession makes your thoughts biased and your opinions impure. It is best to not allow this negative impulse to rule you.
6. Abandon attachment to desire
This is where Musashi’s Buddhism came into play.
Any attachment can in the end lead to obsession and obsessing over any thing is the key to your ruin.
7. Never live in regret
As soon as you come to terms with the fact that things (once done) cannot be changed and that everything happens for a reason no matter how hard it is to see the reason immediately, you stop thinking about them obsessively.
Regret ruins your chances of seeing what you have gained and instead makes you focus on what you have lost.
8. Do not dwell on a sad separation
This is similar to the previous point: There are things that happen and can’t be changed like certain separations from loved ones.
Only consolation: things always get better. If not, well, you do get used to them and they stop being SO painful.
9. Do not complain
Count your blessings instead and try and be happy with your station or alternatively work harder to change it.
10. Do not let lust rule your life
Humans are sexual beings yes, but the master samurai advises one to look for the long-lasting and uplifting instead of running after fleeting pleasures.
11. Keep your options open
Keeping your mind closed to possibilities other than the one you prefer is something unwise; keeping options open instead, makes the journey to success smoother.
12. Don’t be a slave to your surroundings
Do not get attached to anything too much; be it a person or a certain way of life or a luxurious house. Life and its pleasures are fleeting and one would be wise to not obsessively chase them.
13. Learn not to be gluttonous
Musashi like his spiritual master, the Buddha advised a life of moderation; food was sustenance and should be treated like the same.
As soon as you start treating something as fundamental as food as a luxury/pleasure, you will invariably start chasing it obsessively.
14. Be minimal in your possessions
No worldly possession or asset (not even your body) is everlasting and you won’t be leaving with anything when you go either.
So again, it is best to not horde things like a glutton.
15. Do not believe things because others ask you to
Believe something only when things seem true to you… those things should satisfy your intellectual and spiritual questions.
16. Respect the gods but don’t depend on them
“God helps those who help themselves”, remember?
God(s) are but figures of guidance and inspiration; in the journey of life, one must row oneself.
17. Don’t fear death
There is another famous samurai guidebook on life called Hagakure.
It says in a very chilling turn of words: “Go into battle wishing to die and you shall come out victorious.”
In simpler terms, be aware of death as a truth and don’t fear it; as it is there is no escape from it.
18. Do not draw your sword unless you absolutely need to
Killing the defenceless and weak or attacking without reason is sin.
19. Retiring with riches is not the aim in life
If all one thought of all day were ways of leaving the game richer, then society would fail to function.
No future, no matter how prosperous is worth obsessing over.
20. Protect your honour
You are your greatest friend and honour is your armour. And when one’s honour comes into question, its defence brings out the best in a man.
We hope these help you on your way to living a better and fuller life.