"We must look after each other without regard for our own welfare, kill selfish desires, bravely face all enemies, and keep a stainless mind -- this is Bushido."

 Yamaoka Tesshu 

"True victory is not defeating an enemy. True victory gives love and changes the enemy's heart."

 Morihei Ueshiba, developer of Aikido

As the knights of Europe looked to the Code of Chivalry, with its emphasis on valour, wisdom, virtue and service, to guide their lives, the Japanese swordsmen of about the same time followed the code known as Bushido. The Samurai, the traditional warrior class in Japan, embraced Bushido beginning in the medieval period, a time when Zen Buddhism was growing more influential in the country. While Buddhism is inherently a peaceful religion, there is much in Zen to appeal to the Samurai. As Rick Fields says in The Code of The Warrior, "Zen meditation helps to develop discipline, stoicism, concentration, wakefulness, awareness, calm, and imperturbability, as well as other qualities useful to warriors."

So Zen was useful to the Samurai, and Bushido was useful, not just to the Samurai, but also to the ruling class, because it instilled strong virtues in a dangerous group of people. The ideals of conduct in Bushido include:

Good virtues for a bunch of guys with very sharp swords. Wouldn't we all find comfort in knowing that the armed among us were benevolent, sincere and in control of themselves?

By embracing the values of Bushido, samurai men and women could attain a solid footing in the world. They knew who they were and what they stood for. Their social behavior was generally predictable to themselves and others. At the same time, their meditation practice gave them the ability to focus their minds, see clearly, and act selflessly.


 Living in this confusing world of uncertain morals aren't we better people when we adhere to a personal code of honor that is grounded in deep inner knowledge?

This week we invite you to contemplate the meaning of Bushido and make its virtues your own. Take some time to quiet your mind. Sit quietly for several minutes. Be aware of your breathing. Attend to your posture. Perhaps let your gaze rest on a thing of beauty such as a flower blossom, a piece of pottery, or a painting. Appreciate the beauty. Let it speak to your heart. Let it help quiet your mind.

Once you have settled down for a few minutes bring to mind one of the virtues of Bushido and hold it in your mind.

See the written form of the word in your mind's eye. Hear it in your mind's ear. Feel it in your body. Repeat the word like a mantra. With each breath, think the word. After awhile, contemplate the role this value plays in your life. How could it play a greater role? Sit with the meaning of the word. Be patient. Don't rush. Utlimately, ask yourself if you are willing to dedicate yourself to this virtue. If you are, then say to yourself, "I dedicate myself to . . . (whichever virtue you are focussing on). I live in the spirit of . . . (the Virtue)."

Repeat this process for each of the virtues listed above or any others you would like to incorporate more fully in your life.


Link to Zen Mountain Monastery for a detailed explanation of the
techniques of Zen meditation.

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© 2000-2006 Tom Barrett