Bushido is one of the most popular Japanese codes adapted by warriors and samurais. In fact, it’s more popularly known by the Japanese as the “Way of the Warrior”. This special way of life is considered sacred and is well respected not only by the Japanese culture. It focuses more on developing positive values and self discipline. It’s a code of conduct that must be followed by every Japanese warrior in his entire lifetime.
Bushido was first used during the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333), when Japan was under tumultuous civil wars. It was a code that was mostly used by the military force to learn about techniques in defeating the oppressors of the country.
In the past, Bushido wass only used by samurais and warriors, but later during the middle of 19th century, many ordinary people used it as a code of conduct and even used it as a basis for ethical teachings. This development made a huge impact on the whole Japanese culture by empowering civilians with its fundamental principles.
The Bushido Code
Now that you know what Bushido is, it’s safe to go deeper and study the real meaning of the Bushido Code. Basically, contents of the code vary from generation to generation. The earliest version of the code was modified with the integration of concepts related to Zen and Confucianism. But no matter how many generations have passed, the fundamental principles of Bushido still remain the same.
There was a time when Japan experienced a series of civil wars that destroyed the whole country. It was also during those times when the Japanese royal families started to strengthen their military force in order to protect their status in the society. Feudal Japan led to the formation of various schools teaching different kinds of war strategies. The country was in total chaos and there was no other choice but to fight against the enemies. Bushido has played a great role in ending centuries of war in the country.
It was during the Edo period (1603 – 1867) when the teachers started introducing Confucian ethics to the code. Bushido then shifted its focus on loyalty and duty. This was done to ensure that warriors stayed loyal to the families they were serving. The code taught warriors how to put their obligations first before them selves.
Bushido code also taught the warriors that one must remain obedient at all times. It means choosing to obey the commands of their superior no matter what happens. In the case that the order involves risking your life, you should do as ordered. This code has taught warriors that the royal decree is more important than their lives.
The Seven Virtues of Bushido
The Bushido code follows several virtues which guide the warriors on how they should live their lives. These virtues may be explained in terms only samurais and warriors will understand, but ordinary people can make use of them too. Modern Bushido is already used widely today by civilians who want to live a value-laden life.
To those who want to practice the code, here are the seven virtues of Bushido that will guide you all the way:
In Japanese, this word means duty or doing the right thing. This virtue teaches that you have to always stay on the right track regardless of the decision that you make in life. This means staying on the good side and avoiding the bad. This virtue focuses more on one’s duty and obligation.
As a warrior, you have to perform different duties in order to protect the families that you are serving. Even as ordinary people, there are duties that you must perform. This virtue ensures that your decisions are based on the right reasons. It teaches you to live in the most righteous way possible, whether you are a warrior or not.
It’s also through this virtue that you are taught how to develop quick and precise decision-making skills. Being able to decide quickly is one of the characteristics that must be possessed by a warrior. In the event of a war, you have to make the right decisions as quickly as possible. You need to think quickly without giving your enemies the chance to take advantage of you.
This is the second virtue taught in the Bushido code. YUUKI means courage in Japanese. No man can become a warrior without this trait. If you are not brave enough, you will not be able to protect your master with all your life. It’s a warrior’s duty to always throw his life on the line for his master.
This virtue focuses on teaching you how to stand up for the right reasons. Although obedience is highly stressed all throughout the entire code, you are still encouraged to speak for yourself and state the facts that you know of, with confidence. If you know that you are doing the right thing, then there’s really no reason for you to be afraid of anything.
YUUKI also makes sure that you follow what you believe is right. Each person is born and raised in a different manner. There were people who were born into traditional samurai families, and there were also people who are born as civilians. Whether you are a civilian or a warrior, it’s important to instill the value of righteousness at all times.
In Japanese, JIN means Benevolence or Mercy. This word holds a lot of meaning not only for warriors, but also for ordinary people as well. As a warrior, you have the duty to kill anyone who threatens the interests of your master. However, this virtue tries to teach you that you should carefully think about whether it’s really necessary to kill a person or not.
Benevolence means having the heart that knows balance between sympathy and mercy. It would be very difficult for warriors to have a soft spot for dying people. There are instances when you are left with no choice but to kill a person. By remembering this virtue, you will be able to weigh the consequences of your decision beforehand.
Just because you are a warrior doesn’t mean that you have the right to kill anybody that stands in your way. This virtue makes sure that if you ever kill a person with your blade, you are doing it for the right reasons. Otherwise, you will not be considered a true warrior, but a mere criminal.
REI literally means Respect in Japanese. One of the most important values a person should have is Respect. It means you have to pay respect and tribute to your masters and to the elders. Respecting your elders does not only apply to warriors, but also to all the ordinary people as well. Without respect, the world would be in an unimaginable chaos.
Japanese warriors followed a certain hierarchy which required them to have a certain level or degree of respect towards a person. This was also true for civilians. There’s a different degree of respect that you should give to your parents and a different one for your friends.
This virtue doesn’t only teach you to respect other people, but also to respect life as a gift. You have to respect life for you to know its real value. By respecting life, you will not easily jump into killing other people. This virtue will guide you to make the right decisions in life.
MAKOTO means honesty. A warrior needs to exercise honesty at all times, not only to his master but to his own self as well. If you are honest enough with yourself, you will be able to embrace all your strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, you will be able to have a wider understanding of the things around you.
By being an honest person, you are showing that you can be trusted. Trust is something that could not be easily given to anyone. If you want others to trust you, then you must do something to earn that trust. Being an honest person will surely help you earn the trust of your master, colleagues and the people around you.
This word means HONOR. Every warrior’s dream is to live and die with Honor. It’s one of the things that can never be taken away from you easily. If you have only done the right things, then you are considered an honorable man. Warriors who served their masters with their whole lives are examples of men living in honor.
This Japanese word means Loyalty. It means faithfulness to one’s master during his entire lifetime. This is an extremely important virtue because without it, you would not be able to survive in Feudal Japan, or even today. You should treat your comrades with loyalty because no one else can help you in times of need.
Being loyal doesn’t only apply to people, though. It could also mean remaining faithful to your duties and doing everything in your power to perform that obligation.
Indeed, the Bushido Code has impacted a lot of lives in the past and still continues to affect the lives of many people today.