Bushido is a unique code, a set of rules, recommendations and norms adhered to by the samurai. It was these ancient warriors who, with their military and strategic skills and passion for philosophy, eventually became the highest-ranking social caste in feudal Japan.
It is clear to us today that the samurai’s code, despite the passage of time and the different cultural context, contains many useful lessons for all of us seeking personal growth.
The seven virtues that the samurai strove to achieve were:
Gi: Righteousness. Be acutely honest in all of your actions. Understand that justice comes not from other people, but from yourself. For the samurai there were no degrees of honour and justice; there was only black and white, truth and lie. An honest person who has a pure soul must not be afraid of the truth.
Yu: Courage. Raise yourself above the crowd. Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all. A true warriors must have a heroic level of courage. Such a life is dangerous and risky, but only in this way can it be full and complete. Heroic courage is not blind — it is intelligent and strong. Replace your fear with respect and caution.
Jin: Benevolence. The key concepts here are compassion and mercy. Intensive training helped make the samurai nimble and strong. They developed powers which could, and had to be, used for the good of others. If an opportunity to do good did not arise, these warriors sought them out for themselves — and we must too.
Rei: Respect. A samurai did not need to be cruel to prove his strength. He was courteous even with his enemies. Without this quality, we are on the same level as animals. The true strength of a warrior — and of any other person — reveals itself in conflict.
Makoto: Honesty and Sincerity. If a samurai declared that he would carry out a task, he felt obligated to do it at all costs. Nothing in the world would stop him from completing his actions. He did not have to give his word; he did not have to promise. Indeed, the word of a samurai guaranteed the truthfulness of an assertion. Speaking and doing are the same action. It is noteworthy that the Japanese character for this concept consists of “speak“ (言) and ”become” (成) – in other words, “what you say is what you do”.
Meiyo: Honour. A warrior has only one judge of honour, and this is himself. Decisions that he makes reflect his true self. But there’s a message here for all of us: You cannot hide from yourself!
Chugi: Loyalty. A samurai was responsible for his actions and their consequences. He was absolutely loyal to his commander and was an example to his subordinates. Words uttered by a man are the traces he leaves behind; you can follow them wherever they lead to. So look carefully at where you are going!