20 pieces of profound wisdom from the Japanese samurai

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Japan. The country of the rising sun and beautiful cherry blossoms. Here, beauty lives side by side with a strong impulse towards self-discipline; historically, sensitive poetry flourished alongside constant war.

We’ve gathered together 20 of the most profound ideas which governed the lives of the samurai, the skilful warrior-philosophers of medieval and early modern Japan. For them, perfection was the highest value. Despite the passage of time and differences in culture, we could all learn something important from their ideas.

  1. Before telling someone your opinion, consider whether they’ll be able to accept it.
  2. One should correct one’s mistakes as soon as they are made. If this is done without delay, all transgressions will quickly be forgiven.
  3. He who resorts to violence when drunk is not only reckless but also a coward.
  4. One should always avoid large amounts of alcohol, excessive pride and great luxury.
  5. To ask a question even when you know the answer is simply an act of politeness. Asking when you don’t know the answer is an absolute necessity — one should never be too proud to do so.
  6. When you encounter failures and difficulties, it is vital that you boldly and joyously keep moving forward.
  7. A person is worth nothing unless he understands the true value of the present moment.
  8. One who has not mastered both their body and their mind right from the start will never overcome the enemy.
  9. One should only accept responsibility for that which can be achieved in a single day. Every new day must be seen as an opportunity for achieving individual goals.
  10. Nothing else truly matters other than the fundamental goal set for the present moment in time. A person’s life is but a series of present moments one after another.
  11. One should always weigh up the value and confirm the truth of every word they intend to speak.
  12. Teaching makes one who is naturally intelligent even wiser. But one should never give up on those who naturally lack intelligence.
  13. We can never truly know how much our assumptions about others are true.
  14. Misfortune comes to those who complacently believe that future success is inevitable, and who therefore allow their control over their own affairs to slip from their hands. It is the greatest folly to set aside the resolution of urgent issues until tomorrow.
  15. If you find enlightenment in one area of life, eight more will become clearer in turn.
  16. Even a single spoken word is often enough to reveal a person’s strength or cowardice.
  17. What is often called generosity is in fact evidence of a deeper feeling of compassion.
  18. One should spend their whole lifetime diligently learning as much as they can. In this way you will become a more developed and fully realised human being with each passing day. The goal of total perfection has no end.
  19. One should never treat another person with rudeness if they come to you for help — even if you are busy.
  20. Be true to your beliefs and do not stray from them. Instead of exhausting yourself trying to accept many different points of view, stick to believing in what seems eternally true to you.

 

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