Japanese Buddhist Miyamoto Musashi’s 21 Rules Of Life

Japanese Buddhist Miyamoto Musashi’s 21 Rules Of Life

Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest warrior in Japanese history, synthesized a code for mastery and honor rooted in samurai tradition. His 21 rules emphasize discipline, skill refinement, and aligning action to moral purpose rather than fleeting emotion. By wholeheartedly applying Musashi’s wisdom, we channel focus similar to the storied ronin who won over 60 life-or-death duels undefeated through his peerless swordsmanship and Zen-like presence of mind.

Living by the Code of the Samurai: 21 Rules for an Honorable Life

  1. Accept Everything Just as It Is. Chaotic events, imperfect conditions, and constantly changing phenomena do not disturb the stoic samurai. He accepts reality in its rawness and then acts decisively. Mountain pools still reflect their surroundings by remaining unshaken, so the warrior mirrors conditions through non-resistance.
  2. Do Not Seek Pleasure for Its Own Sake. Frivolity and hedonism diminish purposeful action. The samurai indulges simply in life’s pleasures – good company, beauty, seasonal festivals – without attached dependency on external conditions for inner peace.
  3. Do Not Depend on Partial Feelings. Feelings inevitably oscillate – courage falters, frustration arises, and passion’s intensity ebbs and flows. Making decisions based on transient emotions breeds inconsistency—the focused warrior anchors in wisdom traditions beyond feelings’ fickleness.
  4. Think Lightly of Yourself and Deeply of the World. The samurai conducts himself with humility, selflessness, and commitment to mastery without concern for fame or legacy. He intently studies all arts, disciplines, and facets of life to expand his discernment and skillfully interface with every changing tide.
  5. Be Detached from Desire Your Whole Life Long. Clinging attachment to specific outcomes restricts possibility. Equanimity amidst intense dedication to one’s path fosters fluid responsiveness. What arises through non-doing effort often surpasses hopeful expectations.
  6. Do Not Regret What You Have Done. Dwelling on past actions clouds judgment when presence is most essential. Learn from errors without guilt’s burden. Respond wisely in the present.
  7. Never Be Jealous. Pining for another’s perceived fortune wastes vital energy better directed toward developing personal talents. Manifest your gifts without comparison. Proper rewards arise through excellence refined.
  8. Do Not Be Saddened by Separation. Inevitable loss of pain narrows minds clinging to permanence. By surrendering attachments fully, deeper meaning glimmers through all encounters, brief, precious, and fleeting.
  9. Resentment and Complaint are Inappropriate for Oneself and Others: bitterness, victim mindsets, and undue expectations project flailing helplessness. Moral action springs from self-authority and responsibility.
  10. Do Not Let Yourself Be Guided by the Feeling of Lust or Love. Passion’s turbulent waters capsize steady ships unmoored from stoic ballast. Wise masters act intentionally, whatever arises within or without.
  11. In All Things, Do Not Seek Preference. Accepting all outcomes with equanimity fosters responsiveness. Reject nothing; guide life’s flow as needed through minimal action.
  12. Be Indifferent to Where You Live. Dwell peacefully wherever fate ordains until conditions compel migration. Home remains present awareness.
  13. Do Not Pursue the Taste of Good Food. Indulge gratefully in humble fare without seeking culinary delight. Hunger nourishes the same as extravagance.
  14. Do Not Hold on to Possessions You No Longer Need. Cluttered environments reflect cluttered minds. Keep valuable essentials near; let go of all excess. Travel light through life.
  15. Do Not Act Following Customary Beliefs. Conventions make poor masters. Intuition and wisdom guide action beyond routines. Innovate; obsolete the past.
  16. Do Not Collect Weapons or Practice with Weapons Beyond What is Useful. Skill and equipment should serve civilized purposes without excess. Prepare sufficiently for life’s challenges through efficiency without becoming overarmed beyond need.
  17. Do Not Fear Death. Death awaits all under heaven. Embrace mortality and flow fearlessly towards dharma.
  18. Do not seek to possess either Goods or Possession for your old age. Future security arises from present skill and self-mastery. Attend today; tomorrow unfolds from actions taken now.
  19. Respect Buddha and the Gods Without Counting On Their Help. Revere higher powers but rely on self. Carry wisdom as staff and sword – slay demons blocking passage; cross life’s battlefield through inner power.
  20. You May Abandon Your Own Body, But You Must Preserve Your Honor. Death comes for all eventually. While alive, conduct oneself with dignity. Integrity matters most.
  21. Never Stray From the Way. The Tao nourishes those aligned with their beliefs.

Case Study: Kenji’s Path to Focus and Fulfillment

Despite his potential, Kenji, a talented yet unfocused university student, felt overwhelmed and directionless. After discovering Musashi, Kenji mindfully integrated the samurai’s wisdom into his life. He simplified possessions, disciplined his schedule, and devoted himself to studying literature and writing while training his body through archery and meditation. Kenji found purpose by aligning with his dharma rather than seeking pleasure and envy’s trappings. Now a devoted teacher, writer, and father, Kenji exemplifies Musashi’s principles through noble dedication to skill, self-mastery, and virtue.

By strictly following Musashi’s code, we channel the great swordsman’s resplendent spirit in harmonizing skill refinement with moral purpose. All undertakings become solemn training for self-mastery according to principles beyond ego. We clear space for actualizing true nobility by ridding ourselves of life’s extra trappings.

Key Takeaways

  • Accept imperfection in all circumstances while responding decisively aligned with reality’s flow state.
  • Refine mastery of chosen disciplines beyond ego through service and creative dedication.
  • Avoid superficial distractions like lust, jealousy, and possessions that erode focus from a deeper purpose.
  • Anchor in timeless wisdom traditions rather than unstable emotions or fleeting social customs.
  • Release regret, resentment, and attachment to specific outcomes; adapt flexibly while acting poised.
  • Study earnestly to expand awareness and discernment; conduct oneself with humility and selflessness.
  • Prepare soberly for life’s most significant challenges, but not dwell negatively on mortality.
  • Uphold the honor and live purposefully from this moment on as tomorrow’s foundation builds from today’s practice.


Over three centuries after his passing, Musashi’s code remains profoundly relevant for channeling our lives’ highest purpose. His tradition contrasts modern society’s shortsightedness with a call to live vigorously and intentionally towards timeless ideals rooted in mastery, self-understanding, and service. Just as Musashi ushered in Japan’s Edo period, marked by relative peace following constant warfare, applying his wisdom can offer stabilizing ballast amidst modernity’s mounting waves. Musashi shows the way for passage through life’s turbulent seas – we need only set sail undisturbed.