What Samurai Philosophy Can Teach You About Modern Life Part 2

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This is the second part of our Samurai philosophy series. See Part One: What Samurai Philosophy Can Teach You About Modern Life 1 

The Samurai philosophy is composed of universal lessons and timeless truths to live by. It’s not surprising to see that they are as relevant now as they were then. But the abstruse and lengthy prose of medieval Japanese philosophers presents a challenge. Bushido or the Samurai code of moral principles, according to educator and diplomat Nitobe, consists of eight virtues. Here are four of them, explained in simple and concise concepts.

What Samurai Philosophy Can Teach You About Modern Life Part 2 Click To Tweet

If we could all learn from them, and use them as a way of life, there would be much less discord and hostility among communities and countries.

4 Virtues of the Samurai philosophy

1.  Rectitude and Justice

Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering; to die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right. – anonymous Japanese Samurai Click To Tweet


Rectitude to the Samurai is better known to us as moral integrity. It is adherence to the moral values we believe in, the foundation of which is love. Therefore, our love for others govern our fundamental behavior, even during times when that behavior goes against what is currently popular.

With rectitude, we don’t use words and deeds that demean and humiliate others. We don’t engage in underhanded dealings and crooked business practices to enrich ourselves. We avoid falsehoods, refrain from unfair criticisms, dishonesty, and other hurting actions. We are kind even to those who have hurt us, while at the same time we seek justice.

2.  Benevolence and Compassion

Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness; benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness. - Date Masamune Click To Tweet

The Samurai philosophy of benevolence, manifested as altruistic acts of kindness to those in distress, is likened to compassion in the modern-day world. Compassion is an awareness of the sufferings of another, and a deep desire to relieve that person of his suffering. More than the desire to help, compassion should go hand in hand with action.

But our kind acts to the destitute and to those who are hurting should be done mindfully. Benevolence should not be bestowed recklessly, lest we are abused by greedy and unprincipled individuals or groups

3.  Politeness

When someone is giving you his opinion, you should receive it with deep gratitude even though it is worthless. If you don’t, he will not tell you the things that he has seen and heard about you again. It is best to both give and… Click To Tweet

In the Western world, politeness does not rank as high a quality as empathy, gratitude, generosity, etc. But in Samurai philosophy, being polite is a noble virtue. It is our outward expression of our respect for the dignity of other people. Politeness is not about social etiquette, like knowing which fork to use at a guest’s dinner table. It’s about gentle behavior, about being able to maintain composure in the face of rudeness, even if the rude behavior deserves to be called out.

Politeness is not obsequiousness or sycophancy. It’s being able to exchange differing points of view with civility, without insulting or demeaning the other person. Moreover, the constant application of polite behavior in our daily lives leads to the development of a strong moral person. A calm mind, a placid temper, and a quiet demeanor lay the groundwork for ethical actions, thoughts and feelings.

4.  Courage

If you fear death, you will die. - an old Samurai saying. Click To Tweet

In Bushido, courage was essential for its Samurai warriors, In contemporary setting, it’s being afraid yet doing what we believe is right. Sometimes, what is right may also be unpopular. Physical courage when faced with a threat is bravery. Moral courage is integrity and righteousness – sticking to our values and beliefs regardless of social disapproval. It’s the perseverance to continue when we must contend with challenging circumstances.

Courage is seen in the women who spoke out against sexual harassment in a field where male power dominates, and suffered loss of jobs and image. It’s talking to your boss or quitting your job when the company’s strategies conflict with your own values. Everyday life presents a myriad of situations where your courage, or lack of it, will be put to the test.

Related reading: 10 Quotes to Give You Courage

The Samurai philosophy of courage as a virtue is necessary for our personal and professional development. It drives us to achieve our goals. It strengthens our self-confidence, and fortifies our authenticity to our own selves so that we can stick to our convictions.

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