Heart of a Warrior: 15 Timeless Quotes of the Samurai
Over 300 years ago, Yamamoto Tsunetomo dictated the samurai quotes and wisdom that would become the book Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.
The book is described as “a window into the samurai mind, illuminating the concept of bushido (the Way of the Warrior), which dictated how samurai were expected to behave, conduct themselves, live, and die.
While Hagakure was for many years a secret text known only to the warrior vassals of the Nabeshima clan to which the author belonged, it later came to be recognized as a classic exposition of samurai thought.” One amazing aspect of this book is the time in which it was written: long before Western influence on Japan. In Tsunetomo’s time, bushido was a code that related heavily to the Zen concept of “muga”, or the “death of the ego”.
As time went on, the Samurai way of life became less of a mystery and different interpretations of bushido were made by many people. As old as the knowledge may be, the concept of Bushido is truly timeless.
“Life is not so important when forced to choose between life and integrity.”
“If one is overly strict, his subordinates will become untrustworthy. If he over-trusts, his subordinates will become unruly.”
“Once a person has reached enlightenment in one thing, he will have an enlightened mind and understand many things.”
“I’ll give you the answer to the question “What is most important to the heart of a warrior?” The answer is, “To desire with one’s very soul every second of every day to accomplish one’s aim.”
“A warrior is worthless unless he rises above others and stands strong in the midst of a storm.”
“If you are caught unprepared by a sudden rainstorm, you should not run foolishly down the road or hide under the eves of houses. You are going to get soaked either way. Accept that from the beginning and go on your way. This way you will not be distressed by a little rain. Apply this lesson to everything.”
“You will know who your true friends are when you get sick or distressed. If one you thought was your friend keeps his distance from you during trying times then he should be considered a coward.”
“The secret to a happy marriage is this: Treat your spouse all of your life as you did when you first met and there will never be room for discord.”
“To find a retainer with a loyal heart one need look no further than the house of a warrior who is faithful to his parents. A warrior should remain committed to his parents from the depths of his soul, or else after they have passed away he will be filled with regret for what he should have done.”
“Wisdom comes from paying attention to wise people. Love comes from always striving for the good of others and placing others before oneself. Bravery is developed by simply gritting one’s teeth and with determination crashing through any barrier in one’s way without regard to the circumstances.”
“There is certainly nothing more important in life than what we do at the present moment. A person’s entire life consists of nothing more than one moment piled on top of another, over and over again. Once enlightened to this, the warrior has nothing else to worry about, because he realizes that he has only to live in the present moment with the utmost intensity.”
“A man’s life is only a vapor that vanishes in an instant. One should spend his life doing that which he enjoys. As short as life is, it is foolish to spend it doing only the things one hates.”
“If you keep your sword drawn and wield it about then no one will dare approach you and you will have no allies. But if you never draw it, it will dull and rust and people will assume that you are feeble.”
“As time passes and men age and deteriorate, set your pace to catch those ahead of you and start living healthy and you may fulfill your dreams of long servitude to your lord. When everyone excels it is hard to stand out, but as others start to decline it becomes much easier to achieve greatness.”
“Every morning a warrior should recommit himself to death. In morning meditation, see yourself killed in various ways, such as being shredded by arrows, bullets, swords, and spears, being swept away by a tidal wave, burned by fire, struck by lightening, dieing in a earthquake, falling from a great height, or succumbing to overwhelming sickness. An elder warrior said, “Once out of your front door you are surrounded by death. Once you leave your gate you are surrounded by enemies.” This saying is not merely a parable, but a way to prepare for your fate.”