Sir George Sansom: History of Japan (1615-18679 wrote, For a thoughtful warrior whose life always bordered on death, there was an attraction, even a persuasion, in the belief that truth come like the flash of a sword as it cuts through the problem of existence. Any line of religious thought that helped a man understand the nature of being without arduous literary studies was likely to attracted the kind of warrior who felt that the greatest moment in life was the moment when death was nearest.


From the First Articles

1-2 Bushido is realised in the presence of death. In the case of having to choose between life and death you should choose death. There is no other reasoning. Move on with determination. To say dying without attaining ones aim is a foolish sacrifice of life is the flippant attitude of the sophisticates in the Kamigata area. In such a case it is difficult to make the right judgment. No one longs for death. We can speculate on whatever we like. But if we live without having attaining that aim, we are cowards. This is an important point and the correct path of the Samurai. When we calmly think of death morning and evening and are in despair, We are able to gain freedom in the way of the Samurai. Only then can we fulfil our duty without making mistakes in life.[1]

1-4 Some people naturally draw on their resources to reach quick decisions. Others have to think hard before deciding things. The fact of the matter is although people are born with different degrees of wisdom, be we can reach new levels if we free our ego and act upon the the four resolutions (shown on the next page). Although most people think it is possible to solve problems thinking earnestly, a judgemental based upon ego will not be of much use however hard we try. Human beings are slow in understanding and find it hard not to look at things subjectively. When faced with a problem we should set it aside and examine the four resolutions free of our egos. In this fashion we may be able to reach a good judgemental

1-6 When all your judgemental are based on your own wisdom, you tend towards selfishness and fail by straying from the right path. Your own judgments are narrow minded and have no persuasive power or growth for others. It is best to consult a wise man when a fit decision does not occur to you. A wise man is a fair judge from an objective point of view. He is passing judgemental for the benefit of others, not for his own sake. A judgemental passed using only ones own wisdom is just like thrusting a stick into the ground and expecting it to grow!

1-7 Listening to golden sayings or deeds of men of old is to learn their wisdom. This is an unselfish attitude. If you talk with others discuss these excellent well known accomplishments, dismiss your narrow minded ideas and your course of action will not be wrong.

1-9 I've been passing through this world now for a considerable long time. There are many men who cavort about and egoistically help their Lord with advice, judgments and the arts when they conveniently remember to do so. Yet, when a Lord goes into retirement or dies, there are many who turn tail on that Lord and want to win their way to another man of power. Whenever I think of them I am disgusted.

1-15 It is very important to give advice to a man to help him mend his ways. It is a compassionate and important duty. However, it is extremely difficult to comprehend how this advice should be given. It is easy to recognise the good and bad points in others. Generally it is considered a kindness in helping people with things they hate or find difficult to say. However, one impracticality is that if people do not take in this advice they will think that there is nothing they should change. The same applies when we try to create shame in others by speaking badly of them. It seems outwardly that we are just complaining about them. One must get to know the person in question. Keep after him and get him to put his trust in you. Find out what interests he has. When you write to him or before you part company, you should express concrete examples of your own faults and get him to recall to mind whether or not he has the same problems. Also positively praise his qualities. It is important that he takes in your comments like a man thirsting for water. It is difficult to give such advice. We cannot easily correct our defects and weak points as they are dyed deeply within us. I have had bitter experience of this.

Handwritten copies of the Hagakure. As the book was used by the Kamikaze during WW 2, it was ordered that all copies should be destroyed. The ones shown are surviving copies

1-17 If you can understand the main course of a matter you omit minor details. However these minor details are of great importance. You must consider the good and the bad in even trifle matters.

1-18 It is indeed ill mannered to yawn in public. When you want to yawn inconspicuously, you can stop it by stroking your head upward, or you can lick your lips with your mouth shut. Or hide it with your or your sleeve in such a way that no one will know what you are doing. It is also the same when you sneeze. You will look foolish if you are not aware of many other ways.

1-19 Jocho wrote down many things about the days activities on the previous evening. This was because he had the mental attitude to tackle things earlier than others. When he had an appointment to go somewhere, he would prepare how he was to greet people according to their position of respect after researching the matter the previous evening. The following tells about when I accompanied him to a certain persons house: You should take your hosts spouse into consideration. This is a form of peace and etiquette. When you are invited by a person of status, you should not go dull witted. When you are interviewed by such a person you should not be at a loss for words. On the contrary you should press yourself into some form of interesting conversation. In general, should not visit a person unless invited except for matters of business. To visit casually will not possess the qualification of a guest. Therefore it is important to think things over in advance in order to be pleasing. Even more importantly, it is wise to take many things into consideration at a drinking party. It is difficult to decide when you should leave a party. You should not be worn out and leave too early. In daily life, it is bad refrain from eating when there are good things set before you. It is good manners to eat after politely refusing a few times. The same manners should apply when you have been detained by unexpected circumstances.

1-24 At parties our attitude must be brave. When I observe others, their only purpose is to drink. Sake is good sake when people are careful to not to stay to long. If people are not aware of this fact they will appear to be of low-level. It seems that ones character in daily life is brought out. The banquet is in the eye of the beholder.

1-25 Once a certain man urged how to economise. This was of no use. There is a saying. A clear stream is avoided by fish. If there are weeds in the stream the fish can thrive behind them. If one overlooks certain matters or takes no notice of trivial things, the lower classes can live in contentment. This wisdom is also necessary for mans well being.

1-29 When Tsunetomo Yamamoto had Yasuburo write on a large square poetry card he said, "Write each line with the force of tearing the paper. The calligrapher teaches the good and bad points of the writing. The warrior has only to consider the better force of the word".

1-31 The young lord was reading a story in he presence of Kaion the priest. He said, Young priests, menials, everyone, come here and listen to me. There is no responsiveness if listeners are too few. The priest admired this and said, Be energetic like that in everything.

1-35 A certain priest was rarely nice to people, but he was immeasurably generous, so his big temple went well.

He once said, As am undeniably sick, I will fail if I want to manage a large temple. I make it a rule not to commit big mistakes by substituting a man to take care of things in which I consider myself to have poor ability. Two generations previous to this, the priest of this temple was so strict that none of his acolytes would follow him. He over trusted everything to them to such an extent that they became uncontrollable. The priest who keeps his affairs separate will gain the obedience of his acolytes. Taking this into consideration, he will understand all well regardless of numbers. What is more, he entirely trusts others, letting them take charge of work. When problems arise, he will answer clearly, giving correct instructions. Therefore I think management can go well.

[1] I have found the Way of the Samurai is in death relates to death as purity and to free from ones ego. We can find the same Buddhist doctrine with Musashi's words. That of Musha none-self and Muga, to be free of ones ego. The important principles associated with spiritual strength and concept. As Professor Furukawa of Tokyo University points out, "Death is portrayed as a positive part of the process of living. Hagakure is reflective of purity. There is no greater purity than to die for ones Lord. To die every morning and evening does not mean to actually die. The Hagakure points toward a living death within oneself: To be prepared for ones physical death, to take responsibility for the danger of possible death. To make the utmost of any given work or task."


Hyakutake-Watkin 1990