Wisdom of Life

Miyamoto Musashi: 50 Precepts for a Wise and Balanced Life

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

  1. Accept everything just the way it is.
  2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
  4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
  5. Get beyond love and grief: exist for the good of Man.
  6. Do nothing that is of no use
  7. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
  8. If you wish to control others you must first control yourself.
  9. It may seem difficult at first, but all things are difficult at first.
  10. Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
  11. Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men
  12. You must cultivate your wisdom and spirit. Polish your wisdom: learn public justice, distinguish between good and evil, study the Ways of different arts one by one. When you cannot be deceived by men you will have realized the wisdom of strategy.
  13. A man cannot understand the art he is studying if he only looks for the end result without taking the time to delve deeply into the reasoning of the study.
  14. It is difficult to realize the true Way just through sword-fencing. Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things.
  15. If you know the Way broadly you will see it in everything.
  16. 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. Be neither insufficiently spirited nor over spirited. An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak.
  17. Aspire to be like Mt. Fuji, with such a broad and solid foundation that the strongest earthquake cannot move you, and so tall that the greatest enterprises of common men seem insignificant from your lofty perspective. With your mind as high as Mt Fuji you can see all things clearly. And you can see all the forces that shape events; not just the things happening near to you.
  18. Do not regret what you have done.
  19. Never be jealous.
  20. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
  21. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
  22. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
  23. In all things have no preferences.
  24. Be indifferent to where you live.
  25. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
  26. Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.
  27. Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.
  28. If you are to practice the way of strategy, nothing must escape your eyes.
  29. All men are the same except for their belief in their own selves, regardless of what others may think of them.
  30. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
  31. Do not act following customary beliefs.
  32. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
  33. Efficiency and smooth progress, prudence in all matters, recognizing true courage, recognizing different levels of morale, instilling confidence, and realizing what can and cannot be reasonably expected—such are the matters on the mind of the master carpenter. The principle of martial arts is like this.
  34. The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them.
  35. Know your enemy, know his sword.
  36. If you do not control the enemy, the enemy will control you.
  37. The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy’s useful actions but allow his useless actions.
  38. The sword has to be more than a simple weapon; it has to be an answer to life’s questions.
  39. When your opponent is hurrying recklessly, you must act contrarily and keep calm. You must not be influenced by the opponent.
  40. You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.
  41. It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet.
  42. From one thing, know ten thousand things
  43. Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is.
  44. You must bend to the power of truth or live a lie.
  45. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
  46. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
  47. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.
  48. Do not fear death.
  49. Step by step walk the thousand-mile road.
  50. Never stray from the Way.

You must examine all this well.

“When your spirit is no longer foggy, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true void.


~Miyamoto Musashi, also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was a Japanese swordsman, philosopher, strategist, writer and rōnin.

Excerpts from Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Artwork by Fai Chan

Excellence Reporter 2020

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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