Embarking on the journey of life requires more than just physical strides; it involves philosophical footsteps that shape our beliefs, decisions, and actions. Among the many guideposts that history has gifted us, the teachings of the legendary Japanese swordsman and philosopher, Miyamoto Musashi, hold a timeless relevance. In his final work, he encapsulates his life’s wisdom in a collection of principles that inspire not only martial artists and warriors but anyone who seeks a path of self-awareness and personal growth.
These principles, known collectively as the “Dokkodo” or “The Way of Walking Alone,” provide profound insights for living a life of integrity, resilience, and purpose. Let’s delve into these principles and explore how they can help us navigate our individual paths.
The Dokkodo 21 Rules:
- Accept everything just the way it is.
- Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
- Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
- Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
- Be detached from desire your whole life long.
- Do not regret what you have done.
- Never be jealous.
- Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
- Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
- Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
- In all things have no preferences.
- Be indifferent to where you live.
- Do not pursue the taste of good food.
- Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
- Do not act following customary beliefs.
- Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
- Do not fear death.
- Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
- Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
- You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.
- Never stray from the Way.
1. Accept everything just the way it is
Life is full of twists and turns, and not everything goes as planned. By accepting things as they are, we free ourselves from unnecessary suffering caused by resistance and non-acceptance. This acceptance allows us to focus on actions we can take to improve our situation.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake
While enjoying life’s pleasures is not inherently bad, dedicating our lives solely to hedonistic pursuits can distract us from our personal growth and purpose. Balance is key. We must find satisfaction in accomplishments and progress, not just ephemeral pleasures.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling
In decision-making, it’s essential to consider all factors and avoid being swayed by temporary or partial emotions. Whether it’s anger, infatuation, or fear, these emotions can cloud our judgment and lead us astray.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world
This principle encourages humility and selflessness. By thinking less about our desires and more about the world around us, we can foster empathy, and understanding, and contribute positively to the community and the world at large.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long
Desire often leads to suffering when those desires are not met. By learning to be content with what we have, we can avoid the constant cycle of desire and disappointment.
6. Do not regret what you have done
Regret keeps us chained to the past and prevents us from moving forward. Rather than regret past actions, we can learn from our mistakes and use them to grow and improve.
7. Never be jealous
Jealousy breeds negativity and discontent. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we should focus on our personal journey and accomplishments.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation
Separation is a part of life. We must learn to let go and accept that everyone has their path. This acceptance allows us to navigate relationships and loss with resilience and grace.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others
Harboring resentment or incessantly complaining solves nothing; it only fosters negativity. We should strive to solve problems and conflicts with a positive and proactive approach.
10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love
While love and lust are natural human emotions, allowing them to dictate our actions can lead to regrettable decisions. We should aim for balance and not let these emotions cloud our judgment.
11. In all things have no preferences
Having strong preferences can limit our experiences and understanding. By maintaining an open mind, we can expose ourselves to a variety of perspectives and opportunities.
12. Be indifferent to where you live
Attachment to a particular place or environment can limit our personal growth. Being adaptable and open to new experiences, regardless of location, allows us to learn and grow.
13. Do not pursue the taste of good food
This principle doesn’t discourage enjoying food but cautions against gluttony and overindulgence. Balance in diet, like in life, is important for overall health and well-being.
14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need
Holding onto unnecessary possessions can create physical and mental clutter. By regularly letting go of what we no longer need, we create space for new things and experiences in our lives.
15. Do not act following customary beliefs
Just because something is traditionally done doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. We must chart our path, even if it diverges from cultural beliefs and norms.
16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful
This principle is about avoiding over-preparation or unnecessary accumulation. Whether it’s physical items or skills, we should focus on what is truly useful and relevant to our lives and growth.
17. Do not fear death
Fear of death can paralyze us and prevent us from fully living. By accepting death as a natural part of life, we can live more freely and fearlessly.
18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age
While planning for the future is essential, excessive focus on accumulating wealth or property can distract us from enjoying the present. Living in the moment and being content with what we have is key.
19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help
This principle encourages self-reliance. While it’s okay to have faith in and respect higher powers, we should not rely on them to solve our problems. We are responsible for our actions and their consequences.
20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor
In the face of adversity, our integrity and honor should remain intact. These traits define who we are more than our physical attributes. Staying true to our values, even in challenging times, is paramount.
21. Never stray from the Way
Regardless of life’s challenges and temptations, we should remain committed to our path. Persistence and consistency are key to achieving our goals and living a life true to ourselves.
- Embrace life’s circumstances with acceptance, not resistance.
- Seek gratification beyond transient pleasures.
- Base decisions on holistic understanding, not momentary emotions.
- Prioritize humility and awareness of the larger world.
- Maintain a detached perspective towards desires.
- View past actions as lessons, not sources of regret.
- Avoid jealousy; concentrate on your unique journey.
- Handle separations with resilience and acceptance.
- Eschew resentment and habitual complaints.
- Do not let passions or affections dominate your decision-making.
- Practice openness and flexibility, avoiding rigid preferences.
- Adapt to different living environments without bias.
- Exercise moderation in the pursuit of culinary delights.
- Let go of superfluous possessions.
- Question traditional beliefs and chart your individual path.
- Limit accumulation to essentials, avoiding excess.
- Treat death as a natural part of life, not an object of fear.
- Focus on the present while maintaining prudent future planning.
- Practice self-reliance, irrespective of your faith or beliefs.
- Uphold your honor and integrity, even in adversity.
- Remain steadfast in your chosen path, regardless of obstacles.
The precepts shared by Miyamoto Musashi provide profound insights into leading a life of self-reliance, resilience, and wisdom. Each principle encourages us to move away from transitory pleasures, attachments, and biases, steering us towards self-awareness, acceptance, and integrity. By applying these timeless tenets, we can cultivate an inner equilibrium and navigate life’s intricacies with grace and fortitude. Despite the solitude suggested in “The Way of Walking Alone,” these principles encourage us to build a meaningful relationship with the world around us while upholding our unique path. Embodying Musashi’s wisdom, we discover not merely a way to ‘walk alone’ but a journey of self-discovery, growth, and ceaseless learning.
In conclusion, Miyamoto Musashi’s principles provide a guide to living life with purpose, resilience, and integrity. By applying these principles, we can navigate the journey of life with grace, courage, and self-reliance.