The Hagakure: Bushido – The Way of the Warrior is the Way of Death

Review: Hagakure

Yamamoto Tsunetomo


Bushido: The Way of the Warrior is the Way of Death

I could see this book becoming easily misunderstood. It brims with warrior energy—especially beneficial for someone going through a particularly low or troubling period of their life where they need some motivation and can vicariously appreciate the struggles of others.

The simple message of the book is this: in order to master yourself you need to kill your self.

What does that mean? It doesn’t mean suicide. Far from it—in fact it is the opposite: it is a birth or a rebirthing. What we are killing is that part of ourselves which confuses our values, which puts us in tension with ourselves: the ego. In the words of Guru Prem, Tsunetomo is asking that the EGO become an AMIGO. It is TAMING THE WILD HORSE—and, subsequently, breaking her.

The style is aphoristic. That means its EASY to digest and SIMPLE to navigate. You an really pick it up anywhere and read it from that point. It is not a linear and progressing narrative. You could read it completely out of order. This is great because Tsunetomo gets right to the point.

In what follows I will share with you the most important ideas I gained from this work. SPOILER ALERTS!!!


3: GEN = Illusion. Tsunetomo says everything is illusion, life is a play – in the words of Plato: a puppet show. In Sanskrit: maya.

4: “throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never ending.” 13

5: A man who has never erred is dangerous (he doesn’t know compassion… or is waiting to break) 15

9: Victory and Defeat are meaningless. Take on the 10,000 – and fight your hardest. You will make a dent… AND: plunge recklessly into your death. This is the path to realizing all of your dreams: “a real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death” 16

19: One should take care of their appearance” – a man show live and prepare to die looking their best. This is extremely interesting considering the themes of glory, vanity, and hubris which pepper this work.

20 – “lacking in duty they will have no self respect.” Doing what we think is right is the first step towards honoring and loving ourselves. How can we respect ourselves if all we can think about is all the things we said we would do but didn’t complete?

20: it would be good to MAKE a model and to learn from [if on’e perceives one’s good points he will have a model teacher for anything). This is especially important. Human beings learn vicariously through other people… but if no one exists like the person we’re thinking of then we must create them ourselves.


24: if there is something that must be done, it is better not to rely on others. This is an old adage, but it is still true. Of course, it can be taken WAY too far: there are some things that MUST BE DONE which it would be MUCH better to rely on others for as opposed to having to do it ourselves.

28: one should not hesitate to correct himself when he has made a mistake (otherwise it can fester in the minds of others). It’s easy for us to pretend things haven’t happened. We make a faux pas and then continue as though nothing occurred. In my experience: it is always better to say something. We never know what another person may think – if it didn’t bother them, great… but if it DOES and we IGNORE IT, then we let it grow.

29: you cannot tell whether a person is good or bad by his vicissitudes in life.

30: “the mystery is created in their minds, and by waiting for the disaster, it is from their very minds that it occurs” – self-fulfilling prophecies. Don’t prophecies your own problems, prophecies growth and solutions.

31: “Simply become insane and desperate.” Enough said…

34: “ It is spiritless to think that you cannot attain to that which you have seen and heard the masters attain (whatever someone else can do, you can do) You are also a man. If you think you will be inferior in doing something, you will be on that road very soon” (32)”


35. “even if a man be sick to death, he can bear up for two or three days (33).” It’s amazing how much farther we can push passed where we already are – consider Dean Karnazes.

39: “if you are slain, have your corpse be facing the enemy”

40: a warrior is a person who does things quickly

41: if one WILL do it, it can be done (34)

42: “endure suffering” p46

43: “a person who becomes fatigued when unhappy is useless” (51)

44: “in refusing to retreat one gains the strength of two men” (67)


p82: the monk pursues courage with the warrior as his model, and the warrior pursues the compassion of the monk.

p87: If one has not previously mastered his mind and body, he will not defeat the enemy.

P102 “tomorrow too is but a single day”

P 104: “but a rreal stalwart is a man who will go out secretly, saying nothing, and die”

123: “and if people took notice of the masters of even these times, they would be able to say that there are masters in the various arts. But people become imbued with the idea that the world has come to an end and no longer put forth any effort. This is a shame. There is no fault in these times”

128: “There are few people who will make mistakes with fire having once been burned. Of people who regard water lightly, many have been drowned”

132 “I beg that you execute me immediately” – and his life was spared.


p133: Story of the Blood Genealogy: A retainer’s lord’s house was burning down and warned that entering the house would spell certain death, the samurai “lept into flames” to collect the lords most valuable possession: a book of his genealogy. They found the samurai’s body burned, lying on it’s belly. Rolling it over, they saw that the samurai had cut open his belly to safely store the book… Reminds me of the story of Spartan boy who caught a fox… intense.

interesting words

Kaishaku: decapitates the one doing seppuku

Oibara: sppuku of retainer after master’s death (jumping into pyre)

giri = duty

Pick your favorite aphorism and comment on it!



Have you heard of the WISDOM OF INSECURITY yet? It may change your perspective on MANY things!