A Book of Five Rings

I fairly recently read Miyamoto Musashi’s A Book of Five Rings (五輪書, Go Rin no Sho). Short background: Musashi was a samurai who defeated over 60 enemies before retiring to a cave to write this guide to strategy then die. It’s composed of five books: The Book of Earth, The Book of Water, The Book of Fire, The Book of Wind, and The Book of Void. More background and a nice summary here.

There are many interesting quotes and ideas in the writing that I’m keeping here to look back on. The book definitely seems like one that gets better after reading it multiple times so I’ll surely revisit it in the near future. I highly recommend reading it for yourself.

“Whoever thinks deeply on things, even though he may carefully consider the future, will usually think around the basis of his own welfare. By the result of such evil thinking he will only perform evil acts. It is very difficult for most silly fellows to rise above thinking of their own welfare.”

  • This is an excerpt from “Hidden Leaves” (Ha Gakure) by Yamamoto Tsunenori, though it was inserted in my copy of Five Rings to elaborate on Musashi’s statement that “the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.

  • Also included in the “Hidden Leaves” excerpt is the chilling, “If you keep your spirit correct from morning to night, accustomed to the idea of death and resolved on death, and consider yourself as a dead body, thus becoming one with the Way of the warrior, you can pass through life with no possibility of failure and perform your office properly.”

“The strategist makes small things into big things”

“What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive.”

  • Duh, but also, huh.

  • I felt on a few occasions that Musashi’s words were not necessarily enlightening or brilliant in that they introduced me to an incredible new idea, but great in that they made me notice something that I normally paid no attention to and think about it in a way I otherwise wouldn’t have. This is a prime example of that.

Read the rest on Medium.

Julian Tineo