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.
It was influenced by Zen and Confucianism, two different schools of thought of
those periods. Bushido puts emphasis on loyalty, self sacrifice, justice, sense of shame,
refined manners, purity, modesty, frugality, martial spirit, honor and
affection (Nippon Steel Human Resources Development Co., Ltd. 329).
ORIGINS AND INFLUENCES
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
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
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" (Nitobe,
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