Miyamoto Musashi's Dokkōdō - A Ronin's 21 Laws Of Life

21 Lines Of Wisdom


In the final days of his life, the mythical Japanese samurai Musashi Miyamoto retreated to a cave called the Reigandō. (Spirit Rock Cave) In that cave he spent the final months of his life meditating and writing his views on the world. While secluded in the cave he wrote two works. The Go Rin No Sho (Book of Five Rings) and the Dokkōdō. The Go Rin No Sho he imparted with all of his samurai martial arts. The Dokkōdō contains his very own soul. Each of these books are the result of years of his life spent as a samurai and ronin. While the works themselves speak of Japanese culture and sophistication, especially in the warrior class, he also speaks of strategy, combat, and of the arts.

Both of these works are dedicated to his favorite disciple Terao Magonojo.

Lines of Wisdom

The Dokkōdō means "The Path of Aloneness" or "The Way to be Followed Alone" . Musashi wrote this work a week before his death. It is 21 lines long, each line containing a different idea one would live by.

  1. Accept Everything Just The Way It Is.

    Beautiful advice. Rather than worry or fret about what's going on around you, accept it. The time you've spent dwelling on it is better spent improving yourself.

  2. Do Not Seek Pleasure For It's Own Sake.

    I've seen many men not heed this warning; just hit the lobby at MGM. Anyone who has lived a few years understand the pains of losing friends to addictions and watching the problems that come with them. If it makes you happy; go for it. Just make sure that when the feeling fades you're a couple steps farther ahead.

  3. Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Depend On A Partial Feeling.

    You must be sure of where you put your foot before you step. The meaning here is not to get confused, to keep your head clear, and only act when you're certain.

  4. Think Lightly Of Yourself And Deeply Of The World.

    Being humble. How are you to hear wisdom if you only hear yourself? If you only walk around with eyes for yourself, you'll miss the details of the world around you. Paying attention to the world let's you better appreciate the results of your actions, as well as giving you insight into things you would otherwise miss.

  5. Be Detached From Desire Your Whole Lifelong.

    If you spend your life chasing a dream you may be running forever. Live your life to be content, have goals but don't let them rule you. Don't dwell on what others have when you can make your own.

  6. Do Not Regret What You Have Done.

    Understand your actions. If you disprove of how you are, don't constantly regret the past and be bitter. Work to understand yourself, put it past you, and live your life how you should.

Duel between Miyomoto Musashi and Tsukahara Bokuden
Duel between Miyomoto Musashi and Tsukahara Bokuden

7. Never Be Jealous.

It's a waste of time. Spend your energy productively. All that time scheming could achieve a lot of other things.

8. Never Let Yourself Be Saddened By A Separation.

Just by living life people will come and go. It's not the distance that matters but how you remember them. Keep them close to your heart and they are always living in your footsteps.

9. Resentment And Complaint Are Appropriate Neither For Oneself Nor Others.

Better to focus your energy on bettering yourself or them then causing useless grief. Pissing and moaning at the world doesn't make it spin faster.

10. Do Not Let Yourself Be Guided By The Feeling Of Lust Or Love.

Act with respect to yourself. Love will come and go, Don't do something for someone you wouldn't do for yourself. Don't burn a bridge you've spent years building.

11. In All Things Have No Preferences.

Have an open mind, be ready to try all things and desire none.If you always act a certain way you will never experience anything new.

12. Be Indifferent To Where You Live.

Living is living. If your unhappy with where you are, move, but in time you'll realize it's not where you live but how you live. A palace or a parking garage; be happy of shelter and warmth.

13. Do Not Pursue The Taste Of Good Food.

You can see this in evidence today. Eat for nourishment and eat to be full. Living the life of a ronin Mushashi learned the value of appreciating a full stomach. A taste for good food can be as harmful as any addiction.

14. Do Not Hold On To Possessions You No Longer Need.

If it no longer benefits with you, part with it freely. Give it to someone who can appreciate it. It's easy to get a bunch of junk that will just weigh you down. Have a yard sale and hit the beach. You'll feel better for it.

15. Do Not Act Following Customary Beliefs.

Think and act for yourself. Act how you think you should act not how others say you should. You only have one chance to decide for yourself.

Mushashi fighting against a whale.
Mushashi fighting against a whale.

16. Do Not Collect Weapons Or Practice With Weapons Beyond What Is Useful.

A tribute to his time but apt advice depending on how you apply it. It's better to be a master swordsman than an apprentice in many weapons.

17. Do Not Fear Death.

This may be the hardest one for some to do. Easier as the years past for some, harder as they do for others. Everyone dies, Everyone comes to terms differently. The best way to do it is identify what scares you the most about it and work from there.

18. Do Not Seek To Possess Either Goods Or Fiefs For Your Old Age.

What good will they do when you're gone? You want wine to wet your bones? Apt advice as well, Live usefully and collect what is useful. Don't waste your time when you can spend your time bettering yourself.

19. Respect Buddha And The Gods Without Counting On Their Help.

Count on yourself, Don't count on luck or gods to pull you through. Tackle the endeavors you know are within your capabilities. If you pray to them for strength then they will put you in situations to find it.

20. You May Abandon Your Own Body But You Must Preserve Your Honor.

Don't do anything you can't live with for the rest of your life. Your actions make you. If you become old and weak, not far from the drink; live still with the actions and character that made men respect you.

21. Never Stray From The Way.

If you live a certain way, Either devote yourself wholly to it or cast it aside. If you can't bring yourself to place complete conviction in your actions then why do them?

Just by reading Musashi Miyamoto's writing you feel why he inspired such Japanese tales of heroics of bravery, becoming an idol for the stout-hearted yet wise for years to come.

Miyamoto Mushashi listening to his fortune.
Miyamoto Mushashi listening to his fortune.

Comments 7 comments

dokkodo videos 6 years ago

Very nice. I hope more people get a chance to read and think about Dokkodo.


Zhao An Xin

Pasv (pasv [at] csu[dot]fullerton[dot]edu) 5 years ago

I read the Dokkodo everyday after or before zazen. It was nice reading someone else's thoughts/interpretations on it. You did an excellent job getting to the point on them. Another really good analysis was done by Kenji Tokitsu's book. It's hard to believe that 21 recommendations could ultimately change your life, but then again Christianity has the 10 commandments, bad comparison but the same idea.

Jack 4 years ago

I think correction is in order.. he was not Mythical at all however there are a lot of works of fiction out there (Based on the real man) that people tend to confuse as the real life events of Myamoto Musashi.

Vimal 2 years ago

thanks for sharing with interpretations as well..

Rohihn Barroga 2 years ago

I think your interpretations are good & all but I also think you should inform people that these are your interpretations and that they should make their own.

Mustafa 2 years ago

Im very honored to read the legends words very inspiring

What? 4 weeks ago

A lot of these commentaries are missing the original intent of the precepts completely. (For instance 15 is more about not being superstitious.)

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