The Bushido was made up of seven virtues. They were the cores of the Samurai. Not only was it their way of life, but also who they were. You need to understand the Bushido first in order to understand the Samurai. Although it was not formalized and was just an unspoken code, Bushido became so popular that some elements were made into law during the Edo Period.
Bushido made its way into America around 1900 through a book, Bushido: The Soul of Samurai or Bushido: The Soul of Japan. Nitobe Inazo wrote the book. He was a Japanese scholar, author, agricultural economist, politician, and diplomat.
The book has received criticism for romanticizing a non-existent chivalrous age. Some Samurai were landowners and political figures who abused their power. Most Samurai, however, were strict followers of Bushido. So, what is Bushido and how can you apply it to your modern life? You do not have to practice martial arts to follow Bushido.
But you have to be fearless and ready to make huge sacrifices for a higher purpose. Morality/Rectitude: this is the ability to make choices and behave according to accepted moral standards.
The upper part of the kanji “Gi” represents a sheep. In ancient China, that was the symbol of beauty. The lower part is the ‘I’ character with a slanting stroke, which represents a halberd. This character can be translated to “understanding (sheep) after conflict (halberd).”
Courage: this is the quality of spirit or mind that gives someone the ability to face danger, difficulty, adversity, or pain without fear. To some people, it is synonymous to bravery. However, the two are noticeably distinct.
Bravery is the ability to face a tough situation without fear while courage is choosing to do something difficult despite the presence of fear.
The kanji “Yuu” stands for courageous. It is usually written as “Yuuki”. “Ki” is energy. Together they make courageous energy. Benevolence: this is the desire to do and be good to others. The Samurai had the physical and legal power to kill. They controlled their powers with mercy and benevolence.
On the left side of the kanji “Jin” is the human character and on the right are two horizontal strokes, representing the number two. The Jin is akin to the golden rule. Rei: this can be defined as respect or politeness.
The Japanese are known for their respectfulness and politeness.
Rei dictates your actions towards other people in a society.
The character symbolizes ceremony or rite but generally means respect. Honesty: The Samurai were so honest that they never relied on written contracts since that would signify doubting their word.
The kanji “makoto” means veracity, truth in action and in word, to truly adhere to the law of the universe.
Honor: Samurai were known to live and die by their honor. They strived toward fame and not knowledge or wealth.
“Meiyo” comprises of two kanji. “Mei” stands for reputation and “yo” is to admire or to praise. “Meiyo” is to find joy in a good reputation.
Loyalty: in the Samurai era, loyalty was of more value than life.
“Chuugi” is made up of two characters. “Chuu” is to be loyal or sincere. “Gi” means right duty or action. “Chuugi”, therefore, is to be loyal or act in faithfulness. All the virtues are interwoven together.
Everyone must embrace and practice the Bushido virtues consciously until they become second nature.
“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.” -Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings