Bushido, literally translated "Way of the Warrior,"
developed in Japan between the Heian and Tokugawa Ages (9th-12th century). It
was a code and way of life for Samurai, a class of warriors similar to the
medieval knights of Europe. It was influenced by Zen and Confucianism, two
different schools of thought of those periods. Bushido is not unlike the
chivalry and codes of the European knights. "It puts
emphasis on loyalty, self sacrifice, justice, sense
of shame, refined manners, purity, modesty, frugality,
martial spirit, honor and affection"
Bushido comes out of Buddhism, Zen, Confucianism, and Shintoism. The
combination of these schools of thought and religions has formed the code of
warrior values known as Bushido.
From Buddhism, Bushido gets its relationship to danger
and death. The samurai do not fear death because they believe as Buddhism
teaches, after death one will be reincarnated and may live another life here on
earth. The samurai are warriors from the time they become
samurai until their death; they have no fear of
danger. Through Zen, a school of Buddhism one can reach the ultimate
"Absolute." Zen meditation teaches one to focus and reach a level of thought
words cannot describe. Zen teaches one to "know thyself"
and do not to limit yourself. Samurai used this as a tool to drive out fear,
unsteadiness and ultimately mistakes. These things could get him killed.
Shintoism, another Japanese doctrine, gives
Bushido its loyalty and patriotism. Shintoism
includes ancestor-worship which makes the Imperial family the fountain-head of
the whole nation. It awards the emperor a god-like reverence. He is the
embodiment of Heaven on earth. With such loyalty, the samurai pledge themselves
to the emperor and their daimyo or feudal landlords, higher ranking samurai.
Shintoism also provides the backbone for patriotism to their country, Japan.
They believe the land is not merely there for their needs, "it is the sacred
abode to the gods, the spirits of their forefathers . . ." (Nitobe, 14). The
land is cared for, protected and nurtured through an intense patriotism.
Confucianism gives Bushido its beliefs in relationships with the human
world, their environment and family. Confucianism's stress on the five moral
relations between master and servant, father and son, husband and wife, older
and younger brother, and friend and friend, are what the samurai follow.
However, the samurai disagreed strongly with many of the writings of Confucius.
They believed that man should not sit and read books all day, nor shall he write
poems all day, for an intellectual specialist was considered to be a machine.
Instead, Bushido believes man
and the universe were made to be alike in both the spirit and ethics.
Along with these virtues, Bushido also holds justice,
benevolence, love, sincerity, honesty, and self-control in utmost respect.
Justice is one of the main factors in the code of the samurai. Crooked ways and
unjust actions are thought to be lowly and inhumane. Love and benevolence were
supreme virtues and princely acts. Samurai followed a specific etiquette in
every day life as well as in war. Sincerity and honesty
were as valued as their lives. Bushi no
ichi-gon, or "the word of a samurai," transcends a pact of complete faithfulness
and trust. With such pacts there was no need for a written pledge; it was
thought beneath one's dignity. The samurai also needed self-control and stoicism
to be fully honored. He
showed no sign of pain or joy. He endured all within--no
groans, no crying. He held a calmness of
behavior and composure of the mind neither of which should be bothered by
passion of any kind.
He was a true and complete
These factors which make up Bushido were few and simple. Though simple,
Bushido created a way of life that was to nourish a nation through its most
troubling times, through civil wars, despair and uncertainty.
"The wholesome unsophisticated nature of our warrior
ancestors derived ample food for their spirit from a sheaf of commonplace and
fragmentary teachings, gleaned as it were on the highways and byways of ancient
thought, and, stimulated by the demands of the age formed from these gleanings a
new and unique way of life"
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