An Analysis on Hagakure

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One of the most fundamental philosophies of the samurai is that of detachment from the self. This detachment allows for a freedom from fear, which is essential to the samurai warriors. In the opening of Hagakure, Tsunetomo states that “the Way of the Samurai is found in death”. These rank among the greatest and most well known phrases in Japanese history, and in fact in the history of the world. Death is not to be feared by the samurai, it is to be embraced. The relationship between the samurai and his master is of the utmost importance, and only through detachment can the samurai fully and properly serve his master. These are two core, fundamental philosophies of bushido, and both can are reminiscent of similar ideologies in Buddhism, and Confucianism.

In Hagakure, a great emphasis is placed on the samurai's approach towards death. The relationship between death and the samurai can not be understated. Death is inevitable, and an honorable death is the most desirable thing a samurai could hope for. The samurai should live his life as though his body is already dead, and through this "he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling". If a samurai lives his life as though his body is already dead, he will have not have to worry about actually dying. Once you have conquered death, the most inevitable and unconquerable part of existence, then you can conquer anything. If a samurai can conquer this most fundamental thing, then he will be successful in reaching his goal. Death is all-encompassing in samurai philosophy, and by understanding this we can make comparisons between the samurai and another important denomination in Japan at the time, the Buddhists.

Buddhism teaches of ...

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...s being courageous, loyal and honorable.

During the relatively peaceful Tokugawa period, the samurai were not as occupied with waging war as they had been in the past, and as such they had begun devoting their time to other things. The samurai spent more time in intellectual and artistic pursuits, and thanks in part to Tsunetomo himself, the culture of Bushido flourished. Bushido became a formal ideology and was pieced together by the samurai at the time (specifically Tsunetomo), similar to how chivalry had been formalized in Europe. Bushido was becoming a properly formalized code of conduct, a philosophy of loyalty, detachment and honor in death, where death is more highly revered than victory. Bushido is one of East Asia’s most influential schools of thought. What would Sun Tzu, the Chinese author of The Art of War, think of this death-oriented military ethos?
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