Prior to his death, Miyamoto Musashi wrote one final work which was called Dokkodo, the Way of Walking Alone. In this document Musashi gives a list of precepts that were meant to be followed by any who sought to walk his path. Although the age of the sword has passed, many continue to follow the Dokkodo, not only as a means of keeping focus on kenjutsu, but also on many other types of martial arts in this modern age. Here I outline how this ancient document is as applicable today as it was in ancient times.
Accept everything just the way it is. - Too often we struggle trying to change things that cannot be changed. When one accepts things as they are, they are free to pursue their true purpose as opposed to fighting against the unchangeable.
Do not seek pleasure for its own sake. - Seeking out the pleasurable things in life quickly become a distraction from the overall goal. In time, the pursuit pleasure may become the goal itself and all effort towards your true purpose is lost. Avoid constant pleasure if you would stay true to your path.
Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling. - Assumptions are a plague when it comes to the attainment of goals. In the least they are distractions, at worst they become the basis of decisions. One should never take any course of action based on partial feeling without getting all the facts straight. Knowledge, not feeling, is the basis for accomplishment.
Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world. - When impartially considered, each of us are very small compared to the vastness of the world. Because we must live with ourselves we tend to become the center of our universe and consider our own thoughts and actions as important. This ultimately leads to egotism and it becomes counterproductive to reaching one’s goals. Humble yourself, don’t take yourself seriously, and realize that the world is bigger than any of us.
Be detached from desire your whole life. - We all want certain things. Most people’s goals are the attainments of these things because they believe that they will make them happy, comfortable, and even lift their social status. The flames of desire do not burn out easily and soon more things must be acquired in order to satisfy. Detach yourself from desire and learn to do without the things you want if you would stay true to your goals.
Do not regret what you have done. - Making mistakes is human nature and is unavoidable. There are times when we regret those mistakes and in time, if unchecked, it becomes all consuming.In pursuit of any goal we will make many mistakes, but it is important to learn from them rather than regret. In this way, the road to a goal is shortened rather than bogged down by regret.
Never be jealous. - Becoming jealous of another person is the quickest way to discredit yourself and will hamper the pursuit of your goals. It is weak to desire what another person has when you are supposed to be carving your own destiny. Take inspiration from what others have over you and let it spur you forward in your daily pursuits rather than allow it to make you jealous.
Never let yourself be saddened by a separation. - In life we form attachments with others, whether they be friends or lovers. Eventually, it will be time to say goodbye and it becomes very easy to be saddened by the parting. This sorrow can fester and one will lose all desire to continue on their path and wallow in despair. Let go of people gracefully, be thankful for the things you shared, and accept that all things must end.
Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others. - Resentment and complaint lead into each other very easily and can become the center of focus just as quickly. Both happen because of an inability to accept and are a waste of time. It is far more efficient to change things without resentment or complaint and accepting what cannot be changed.
Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love. - If one studies the irrational behavior of humans it becomes prevalent that most of it is caused by love and lust. As wonderful as love can be, it can be equally as hurtful and distracting from one’s primary goal and, all to often, the same goal can even be forsaken. Lust will also become a bar to one’s path and will be no less of an obstruction as love. Never allow either to guide you.
In all things, have no preferences. - Developing preferences for things is another aspect of human nature. When pursuing and making sacrifices for one’s goals it is often necessary to do things we do not prefer. If a person’s preferences outweighs their drive to accomplish their goal, they will ultimately quit. Give up your preferences if you would not give up your goals.
Be indifferent to where you live. - Most people consider where they live to be of the utmost importance. It’s the basis for the quality of life. However, many goals require the sacrificing that quality of living offers for a more humble abode. As long as you are indifferent to where you live you won’t feel the desire to upgrade and can pursue your goals without thought to it.
Do not pursue the taste of good food. - The quality of food is also considered to be of importance to many as it also defines the quality of living. As with other things discussed, food quality is another distraction and will likely become another sacrifice necessary for the completion of one’s goals.
Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need. - Everything has its use, but eventually things run their course and become broken or unusable. You only need to check out an episode of Hoarders to see the result of people who refuse to let go of their possessions. Let go of what us no longer useful and move forward.
Do not act following customary beliefs. - The surest way to come up short in your goals is to do what others expect of you, following their methods instead of what works for you. Musashi would not have become the legendary swordsman that he was if he did what was customary.
Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful. - As with other possessions, it becomes burdensome to the Way when the desire for weapons becomes prominent. Keep what is useful and discard what is not.
Do not fear death. - The greatest detriment to a person is to be scared of dying. Great deeds can never be accomplished so long as death holds sway over your decisions. A true warrior carries death in his heart daily and, when the time comes, fully embraces it.
Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age. - A warrior’s life is full of danger and so life may be very short indeed. When you make plans for material possessions, you lose focus on what is truly important and do what you can to live and enjoy wealth. This can lead to cowardice and other loathsome actions that will further you from the Way.
Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help. - All too often, people pray to their gods for their selfish desires and blame them when things go wrong. Rely on no one but yourself to accomplish your goals while giving due respect to what is divine.
You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor. - To abandon honor to save their own life is disgraceful and will result in a fate far worse than death. A warrior’s honor is what sets him apart from a murderer and a person who values their honor above their own life is rare and praiseworthy. Aspire to nothing less.
Never stray from the Way. - Never stray from the Way.