The Samurai Weren’t Just Warriors, They Had a Set of Values as Well. Here Are 15 Lessons That We Can Learn From Them.
The Samurai were warriors of pre-modern Japan and became the highest-ranking social caste of the Edo Period from 1603 to 1867. Not only were they incredible warriors, but they had a set of values called bushido, “the way of the warrior”… let’s delve into 15 Life Lessons to Learn from the Samurai and begin with Bushido.
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Without further ado, let’s move on to the first lesson.
When you think of a Samurai you think of someone with the ability to end a life in one fowl swoop of a sword, but the truth is, before the ability to destroy life is to preserve it. And Samurai teaching takes this even a step further.
The Samurai from Japan are called to act with valour and carry an honour with them that allows them to see their enemy as friend in a time of peace. This kind of true compassion and universal love is what inspires the true benevolence that the Samurai life encompasses.
When paired with the right morals, courage is an extension of the high moral code of the Samurai.
In Samurai principals, it is true courage to “live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die.” This was taught from an early age as parents would teach this to children through Spartan-like training games. These promoted a spirit of daring and bearing in struggles. Nothing like today’s cottonwool kid games.
Morality in this sense isn’t necessarily a code of conduct according to a religious ideal, but rather as the power of good decision making based on reason and within a course of conduct. And most importantly to stick with your decision unwaveringly. In the Spirit of Japan, morality is described as the bone that gives firmness and stature. Without morality, talent and knowledge along can’t turn a person into a Samurai.
To a Samurai, a written contract is a waste of paper. The Samurai from Japan do not lie as this could result in being put to death because it was considered such an offense. There was no doubt in the truthfulness of the word of a Samurai, and contracts would seem to cast doubt on a Samurai’s word, so they were frowned upon. No written pledge was required for a promise to be fulfilled; anything less was considered undignified by a Samurai.
Being polite is much more than please and thank yous in Japanese culture. Politeness and respect are synonymous and are based on the Chinese Confucianism, which the Japanese Samurai adopted and preserved very well.
The basis of treating others with respect and politeness is to express the mastery of the spirit over the flesh and bring harmony with yourself and the surrounding environment.
It’s a pretty great start to living a happy life, give it a try Aluxers.
Loyalty is pretty rare in this day and age, but to the Samurai loyalty was more valuable that life itself. Life was considered cheap next to honour and fame that could be attained from upholding one’s loyalty to a righteous cause.
If a cause was considered more valuable than the life of an individual, then the Samurai had the duty of loyalty over preserving their life.
While we’re not suggesting self-sacrifice for a cause close to you, boosting your loyalty levels to stick with what you believe in, or those you love is something that is lacking in modern culture. Just showing that you’re willing to stick around when the going gets tough is enough to show your loyalty these days.
Honour is one of the most important principals in Bushido. Samurai from Japan took honour extremely seriously. If honour was lost, the only way to regain it was in the action of haragiri, a gruesome act of cutting your gut open to sacrifice yourself. And while we don’t condone that at all, there is still plenty that can be adopted through a life of honour.
Samurai, for example, didn’t believe in allowing small things provoke them. So, keeping your cool despite slow internet or traffic jams, or waiting for the next elevator is a must to live with honour the Samurai way, after all “True patience means bearing the unbearable.”
Politeness – It Costs Nothing
The final virtue of the Samurai is politeness. And Aluxers, if you’ve ever travelled to Japan, you’ll have no doubt noticed just how polite everybody is.
And being polite just for being polite’s sake is a poor virtue if triggered purely to not offend. As written by china.usc.edu, “discerning the difference between obsequiousness and politeness can be difficult for casual visitors to Japan, but for a true man, courtesy is rooted in benevolence.”
Politeness is so important in Japan that in September 2016 the Tokyo Good Manners Project was launched. Businesswire.com confirms that “with the objective of making Tokyo a more appealing city, TGMP seeks to pursue activities on a permanent basis that provide a new approach for improving the manners of Tokyo residents and tourists.”
Other than these Samurai virtues, if you want to learn more life disciplines, check out 15 Disciplines to Have in Life.
One of the central traits that the Samurai display is that of calm. This isn’t some hocus-pocus centredness spell, but rather a strategic approach to being calm to bring out the optimal performance of a great warrior.
In the great writings of the Samurai, Adachi Masahiro, from Japan, who died in 1800, there is this pearl of wisdom that even the modern samurai like us can carry with us: “The imperturbable mind is the secret of warfare.”
So in case you forget, repeat after me: “stay chill like a Samurai.”
Prepare For the Worst
Aluxers, have you ever been asked “What’s the worst that could happen?” Yes, we know we don’t want to jinx ourselves, but the Samurai would practise something similar.
Called, “Negative Visualization” time.com explains it as “one of the main tools of ancient Stoicism and science backs it up.”
Survivors are usually those that have prepared for the worst, and when it comes around, they have an attitude of “that wasn’t so bad,” or “it wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
And the worst that could happen to a warrior was death, which wasn’t a fear for a warrior – especially if they died during a lengthy battle, so that their brave story could be retold for centuries.
But even warriors that didn’t prepare for the worst, always ensured they were prepared as you’ll see next.
A Samurai warrior would never go into battle without being fully prepared on every level; physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically.
As reported by time.com, research proves that by being prepared we reduce the fear of that situation. So, when things get tense, you already know every possible solution or outcome because you’ve mentally prepared for each scenario.
And truthfully, it benefitted the warriors to be prepared, because they gained honour by doing well in the battle or they would receive land. So, it was to their own advantage to be prepared.
Keep Expanding Your Knowledge
Fighting as a Samurai was not just about going to into battle shouting Ei! Samurai warriors were highly educated and were looked upon as royalty.
According to insidejapantours, “An ancient saying aspired to by warriors was bun bu ryo do: “the pen and sword in accord”, and it was common for Samurai to enjoy calligraphy, tea ceremony, poetry and music, and to study.”
The Samurai culture was known for their tea ceremony’s, poetry, music, art, calligraphy, rock gardens and flower arranging.
It was important to continue learning, and to continue expanding knowledge. And that lesson is one that we should continue to follow in the 21st century.
Don’t Settle For Mediocrity
Aluxers, there is a great listen available on Audible called Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo and William Scott Wilson the translator. In the book, Tsunetomo says, “Human life is truly a short affair. It is better to live doing the things that you like. It is foolish to live within this dream of a world seeing unpleasantness and doing only things that you do not like.”
What life lesson is he sharing with us?
He is telling us that we should never settle. That if we have dreams, we should pursue them. We shouldn’t simply accept our fate as is, but rather accept that life is short, so go out and make the most of it.
Be sure to listen to the book, and use our free book offer if you haven’t already. Head to alux.com/freebook.
Be Proud Of the Journey You Took To Get Where You Are Now
The fact that we’re writing about the Samurai in 2021 is testament that Japan have prevented the spirit of their warriors from dying for centuries.
Japan is proud of their warriors. There are several festivals held each year to celebrate them, there are castles that you can visit to learn about the history of the Samurai and the Samurai ideals and values from Japan have lived on.
The warriors have left behind a legacy.
So, what life lesson does that teach us Aluxers? Well, what legacy do you want to leave behind? One of a deadbeat layabout that waited for things to happen, or someone who was motivated to make a difference? You are in control of the legacy you leave behind… so choose well.
It Was These Principles That Kept Hiroo Onoda Alive
The story of Hiroo Onoda is incredible. This Japanese soldier went to fight in WWII and when he heard word that the war had ended in August 1945, he didn’t believe it thinking it was propaganda to get him down from his hiding place in the mountains of Lubang Island in the Philippines.
He hid there for 29-years and claims that the teachings of the Samurai are what kept him going. Loyalty, self-control, honour and courage.
The Samurai only left the mountain when his former commander travelled from Japan and officially released him of his duty, by order of Emperor Sh?wa in 1974.
Aluxers, do you agree or disagree these lessons are still as important today as they were all those years ago? We’d love to hear your thoughts.