30 Days of Maxims: Miyamoto Musashi

"Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men."

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Often it is a warrior like Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584 – 1645) who is more applicable to the everyday person than a philosopher or monk. It is not that we need a more adversarial viewpoint or that Musashi gives us better insight than German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein or Taoist poet Chuang Tzu. Warriorship is philosophy delivered through a code of living—which is much easier to implement. Especially for a generation that no longer sets aside time for deep thinking, rules work better. Then it is not surprising that we are naturally drawn to the words of the warrior class. They demand we follow their code, whether we understand it or not. But it works better if we spend some time reflecting. After all, quoting Musashi is not the same as thinking like Musashi. This is bunbu ichi, the samurai concept of swordsmanship and intellect in equal accord.

Miyamoto Musashi's 30 Simple Maxims on Living

Spend one day meditating on each of Musashi's maxims and their deeper meaning. Then after 30 days, you'll know more about thinking like a warrior. (And how you come to think of warriorship will be that much different than what you thought of it on day one.)

*Note – Musashi was a lover of poetry, philosophy, and the arts. Fighting and swordsmanship are only metaphors for Musashi. Then pay special attention to what he means, not what he says. He did not write this book for other swordsmen. He wrote it for everyone else.

You must reflect well on this.
— Miyamoto Musashi
 Legendary Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune as Miyamoto Musashi

Legendary Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune as Miyamoto Musashi

Day 1

There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, richer, stronger, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.

Day 2

Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.

Day 3

If you wish to control others you must first control yourself.

Day 4

Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy.

Day 5

All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this.

Day 6

Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.

Day 7

You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.

Day 8

I dislike fixedness in both long swords and hands. Fixedness means a dead hand. Pliability is a living hand.

Day 9

You can only fight the way you practice.

Day 10

Be detached from desire your whole life long.

Day 11

Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.

Day 12

Accept everything just the way it is.

Day 13

Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
 ( Hotei - God of Fortune, Watching Cock Fighting , painted by Miyamoto Musashi)

(Hotei - God of Fortune, Watching Cock Fighting, painted by Miyamoto Musashi)

Day 14

Step by step walk the thousand-mile road.

Day 15

It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.

Day 16

From one thing, know ten thousand things.

Day 17

Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased. Even when your spirit is calm do not let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your spirit slacken. Do not let your spirit be influenced by your body, or your body be influenced by your spirit.

Day 18

In battle, if you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.

Day 19

It is difficult for large numbers of men to change position, so their movements can be easily predicted. An individual can easily change his mind, so his movements are difficult to predict. You must appreciate this.

Day 20

It is difficult to know yourself if you do not know others.

Day 21

In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.

Day 22

Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.

Day 23

The Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.

Day 24

Do not regret what is done.

Day 25

Do nothing which is of no use.

Day 26

The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy’s useful actions but allow his useless actions.

Day 27

Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.

Day 28

Enact strategy broadly, correctly, and openly. Then you will come to think of things in a wide sense and, taking the void as the Way, you will see the Way as void.

Day 29

You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.

Day 30

Get beyond love and grief: exist for the good of Man.

If 30 days of reflection has helped you, let me know.

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