>Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi was one of the master swordsman and an undefeated samurai during the 17th century in Japan. He was orphaned by the age of seven and, in order to earn his way in the world, became a swordsman, killing his first man at the age of 13. Eventually he fought some 60 duels without ever being defeated. By the end of his career, he had become so expert and dominant that he would fight his opponents with nothing but a stick. Then in 1643, he retired to a contemplative seclusion in a cave, where, just before his death, he wrote this book. I read the copy which is commendably translated by Thomas Cleary.
Musashi’s advices are wise, very penetrating and his observations are applicable not only to martial arts, but for the leaders in all professions. He analyses the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction. While reading the book, each and every strategy, I could relate it to every activity I do and could easily think of application of these strategies on them. This book makes us prepared like a warrior to address all the challenges of life. Even though he wrote this book in 1643, his philosophies are very real and applicable even now.
His scientifically aggressive, thoroughly ruthless approach to military science, while not universal among Japanese martialists, represents a highly concentrated characterization of one particular type of samurai warrior. He introduces us to the two essential elements of ancient martial and strategic tradition – first of these basic principles is keeping inwardly calm and clear even in the midst of violent chaos; the second is not forgetting about the possibility of disorder in times of order.
The book is composed with the help of five different courses. He calls it as scrolls, entitled Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Emptiness. The earth scroll is the science of martial arts and the analysis of his own school. How can one attain the true science and what knowledge one should posses and how to reach there is what he explains in the Earth scroll. The second is the Water Scroll. Taking water as the basic point of reference, one makes the mind fluid. Water conforms to the shape of anything and it has the color of deep aquamarine. He talks about the purity of the water and hence the purity of knowledge in the Water Scroll.
The third scroll is the Fire scroll. In this has written about the battle. This is my most favorite chapter in this book. Fire may be large or small, and it may have the sense of violence as well. And he describes on all the matters of battle. Fourth is the Wind Scroll, and he talks about the competition and the various schools of martial arts in the world. One will get to know the different styles of this art and how is it being practiced in many other schools and whether they are good or bad. He says “Unless you really understand others, you can hardly attain your own self-understanding”. The last scroll is the Emptiness. It talks about the reaching the depth and spontaneous entry into the true way.
And finally the book gives us some clear rules for learning the art. I have listed down all the points as under:
- Think of what is right and true.
- Practice and cultivate the science.
- Become acquainted with the arts.
- Know the principle of the crafts.
- Understand the harm and benefit in everything.
- Learn to see everything accurately.
- Become aware of what is not obvious.
- Be careful even in small matters.
- Do not do anything useless.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and it makes a very good and a very essential read for all kinds of professionals in this world. And, now I am beginning to observe my strategies in my everyday activities. I must say, I need a sword now!