Discover more from Longevity Minded
My Top 10 Musashi Quotes
Excerpts from Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa
Spoiler Alert: If you plan to read the novel in full, don’t read these quotes!
"Are you ready?" Musashi's question was calm but trenchant, falling like so much ice water on his opponent's feverish excitement.
What was it that had enabled Musashi to defeat Kojirō? Skill? The help of the gods? While knowing it was neither of these, Musashi was never able to express a reason in words. Certainly it was something more important than either strength or godly providence. Kojirō had put his confidence in the sword of strength and skill. Musashi trusted in the sword of the spirit. That was the only difference between them.
Musashi smiled ironically and turned back toward the ceramics shop. For some time before the domestic battle erupted, he had been standing just outside it, watching the potters with childlike fascination. The two men inside were unaware of his presence. Eyes riveted on their work, they seemed to have entered into the clay, become a part of it. Their concentration was complete.
He stopped along the way to look at several well-known temples, and at each of them he bowed and said two prayers. One was: "Please protect my sister from harm." The other was: "Please test the lowly Musashi with hardship. Let him become the greatest swordsman in the land, or let him die."
"If you can bear up under hardship, you can experience a pleasure greater than the pain," Musashi said solemnly. "Day and night, hour by hour, people are buffeted by waves of pain and pleasure, one after the other. If they try to experience only pleasure, they cease to be truly alive. Then the pleasure evaporates." "I'm beginning to understand." "Think of a simple yawn. The yawn of a person who's been working hard is different from the yawn of a lazy man. Lots of people die without knowing the pleasure yawning can bring."
Following the style of the last entry, he wrote down the required information, omitting the name of his teacher. The priest, of course, was especially interested in that. Musashi's answer was essentially the one he'd given at the Yoshioka School. He had practiced the use of the truncheon under his father, "without working very hard at it." Since making up his mind to study in earnest, he had taken as his teacher everything in the universe, as well as the examples set by his predecessors throughout the country. He ended up by saying, "I'm still in the process of learning."
"Under whom did you study the martial arts?" "I've had no teacher in the ordinary sense. My father taught me how to use the truncheon when I was young. Since then, I've picked up a number of points from older samurai in various provinces. I've also spent some time traveling about the countryside, learning from the mountains and the rivers. I regard them, too, as teachers." "You seem to have the right attitude. But you're so strong! Much too strong!" Believing he was being praised, Musashi blushed and said, "Oh, no! I'm still immature. I'm always making blunders." "That's not what I mean. Your strength is your problem. You must learn to control it, become weaker."
When finally he leaped onto a boulder, it was with the lightness of a small bird. While he was drying himself and putting on his clothes, the strands of hair along his forehead stiffened into slivers of ice. To Musashi, the icy plunge into the sacred stream was necessary. If his body could not withstand the cold, how could it survive in the face of life's more threatening obstacles?
I do not wish to change my plans at this time, but since I regret as much as you do that I was unable to meet you during my previous visit to your school, I should like to inform you that I shall certainly be back in the capital by the first or the second month of next year. Between now and then, I expect to improve my technique considerably. I trust that you yourself will not neglect your practice. It would be a great shame if Yoshioka Kempō's flourishing school were to suffer a second defeat like the one it sustained the last time I was there. In closing, I send my respectful wishes for your continued good health.
Musashi wrote: "I will have no regrets about anything." While he often wrote down resolutions, he found that merely writing them did little good. He had to repeat them to himself every morning and every evening, as one would sacred scripture. Consequently, he always tried to choose words that were easy to remember and recite, like poems. He looked for a time at what he had written, then changed it to read: "I will have no regrets about my actions." He mumbled the words to himself but still found them unsatisfactory. He changed them again: "I will do nothing that I will regret." Satisfied with this third effort, he put his brush down. Although the three sentences had been written with the same intent, the first two could conceivably mean he would have no regrets whether he acted rightly or wrongly, whereas the third emphasized his determination to act in such a way as to make self-reproach unnecessary. Musashi repeated the resolution to himself, realizing it was an ideal he could not achieve unless he disciplined his heart and his mind to the utmost of his ability. Nevertheless, to strive for a state in which nothing he did would cause regrets was the path he must pursue. "Someday I will reach that state!" he vowed, driving the oath like a stake deep into his own heart.
I cannot recommend reading this book highly enough. There were so many more quotes I could have included here but I hope you enjoyed these ten.