Shortly before his death, the greatest Japanese swordsman wrote 21 life precepts that are worth reading!

by Shirley Marie Bradby

April 19, 2018

Shortly before his death, the greatest Japanese swordsman wrote 21 life precepts that are worth reading!

You probably do not know the name of Miyamoto Musashi, but you know that the Japanese tradition celebrates the art of skillfully using the sword. In fact, Miyamoto is still considered today the greatest swordsman that ever existed. 

His deeds are known to all the Japanese people and are often imitated, but never equaled. Furthermore, in addition to his skill in handling and killing with swords, his life and the teachings he left behind are also celebrated.

Miyamoto, in fact, spent many years of his life as a hermit, meditating on the most profound philosophical questions.

Today, we will talk about one of his most important works, the "Dokkodo (The Way of Walking Alone)", an essay containing 21 precepts that the swordsman wrote while getting rid of all his possessions as he prepared for his death, which occurred only a week later.

Miyamoto's book "The Dokkodo" presents a rigorous, honest, and ascetic vision of life, with teachings from which we can all learn and profit.



These precepts can give us direction especially in those moments when we feel disoriented and lost.

These precepts can give us direction especially in those moments when we feel disoriented and lost.


"Accept everything just the way it is.

Often our frustrations and our illnesses are traced back to the fact that we cannot accept reality, always thinking we can change things and make them take a different direction. The truth is that life happens despite our efforts to dominate the future: accepting what comes, acting accordingly, is the first step towards inner peace.  

"Do not seek pleasure for its own sake."

Human beings are constantly driven by the desire for something that, after obtaining it, leads to more craving. This continuous movement between satisfaction and dissatisfaction does not produce anything good. We should aspire to obtain something, but not for the sole pleasure of owning it. 

"Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling."

The life of many of us is a continuous pursuit of happiness --- happiness that seems unattainable. This only leads to not being aware of the present and to spending our entire existence in relation to the future. 

"Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world."

To devote too much thought and time to oneself leads paradoxically to the destruction of one's own person. Serenity is reached by finding a balance between attention for oneself and for others.

"Be detached from desire your whole life long."

In life, you should celebrate what you have, rather than desire ardently what you do not have. Focus on your assets and you will come to understand that you do not need much else. 

 "Do not regret what you have done."

Feeling bad about something that has already been done does not solve anything. However, what you can do is make sure you do not repeat the same mistake in the future. 

 "Never be jealous."

Being jealous means paying more attention to someone else's life than to your own.

Yoshitaki Tsunejiro/Wikimedia

Yoshitaki Tsunejiro/Wikimedia

"Never let yourself be saddened by a separation."

Separation is part of life, so it must be accepted just like everything else. Focus on the people around you, remembering that everything happens for a reason. 

"Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others."

These are feelings that do not contribute to mastering a situation. Feeling resentment or regret will only lead to conflicts within yourself and with other people. 

"Do not let yourself be guided by the feelings of lust or love."

Losing rationality due to a strong emotion, noble as it may be (like love), does not lead to anything beneficial. It is always good to live every moment with awareness, despite the pleasure that can be obtained by capitulating to the irrational. 

"In all things have no preferences."

Being biased will lead you to have prejudices against something that, contrary to what you may think, could lead you to happiness. In front of a choice, try to be objective and open to all possibilities. 

"Be indifferent to where you live."

We often pay too much attention to where we live. Sometimes we want to live elsewhere and sometimes we develop an attachment to one place that is too deep. Physical places have very little importance with respect to what prevails within us, without considering that in life it may become necessary to leave a place and move elsewhere. One way to be free is to feel that you belong to the world, and not to a place. 

"Do not pursue the taste of good food."

Do not choose taste, choose health. Savor and enjoy not the dish itself, but the fact that it is nourishing your body and mind. 

"Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need."

Do not become attached to things. The less you have, the more you will be happy. Make room in your life and in your home!

"Do not act following customary beliefs."

Do not do things just because that is what is commonly done. Always listen to your inner voice, the only one with which you can never be in contradiction.

"Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful."

The spirit of this precept is to not prefer the quantity of a passion (for example, the number of weapons), but the quality (choose one and concentrate on that one). 

"Do not fear death." 

We are born already knowing that we have to die. This is the destiny of a human being and accepting it will give us the possibility of living life in a completely unique way. 

"Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age."

Do not live life according to what will be, thinking about when you will be elderly. Enjoy moment after moment without confusing the present with the future. 

"Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help." 

Having faith in a Higher Power is good but counting on the help of others is wrong. 

"You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor." 

You may lose your life, but one must never lose one's honor. 

"Never stray from the way."

Even when you feel lost, you must never lose the Way, which is the path of respect, compassion, and humility.