Listen to the above video by Todd Ryotoshi Norcross discussing the Dokkodo The Way of Walking Alone as you read this blog post all about the Way and Miyamoto Musashi.
宮本 武蔵 Miyamoto Musashi was the most famous swordsman of all time. He was a Japanese swordsman, a samurai and a ronin. In addition to fighting in samurai battles he traveled throughout Japan as a ronin, a wandering samurai without a master, fighting duels with and defeating the masters of various other schools and styles of swordsmanship. Miyamoto Musashi was undefeated in 61 duels and became known for his unique double bladed fighting style which he named Niten Ichi Ryu. He is considered a sword saint of Japan and honored with numerous monuments.
As well as being a master swordsman, Musashi was also an accomplished artist and a writer. In his later years he retired to Reigandō cave to live as a hermit, meditate and write his books. Many have heard of his most famous writing, The Book of Five Rings. This book details the philosophy, strategy and technique of sword fighting though its principles apply to a broad range of disciplines and to life itself as well. The Book of Five Rings, much like The Art of War, is also often applied to business practices to this day.
His final writing, completed within the week of his death, was the Dokkodo (The Way of Walking Alone), 21 precepts of self reliance, which he dedicated to his principle disciple for future generations. The Dokkodo contains the 21 principles that form the foundations of Miyamoto Musashi’s philosophy as further detailed in The Book of Five Rings. Musashi wrote these works while living as a hermit in the cave where he died. He finished Dokkodo in 1645, the week of his death, as he was in the process of giving away his remaining worldly possessions.
“At the moment of his death, he had himself raised up. He had his belt tightened and his wakizashi put in it. He seated himself with one knee vertically raised, holding the sword with his left hand and a cane in his right hand. He died in this posture, at the age of sixty-two. The principal vassals of Lord Hosokawa and the other officers gathered, and they painstakingly carried out the ceremony. Then they set up a tomb on Mount Iwato on the order of the lord.”-The Hyoho senshi denki via wikipedia
Below is a copy of the original Dokkodo scroll which Musashi finished the week he died in the cave.
There are many differing translations of Miyamoto Musashi’s Dokkodo. I have compared a number of these translations and have included a few below for reference. I used the comparison of these translations to compile a condensed paraphrased version of the 21 precepts that I could use to launch a new version of my Silver Sage Scrolls™ Inspiration through the ages™ series. This is a series of posters with famous quotes from thinkers throughout history emblazoned on a classic scroll illustration. I had created this original scroll illustration in 1987 at the dawn of the digital graphics revolution when I launched my computer graphics studio – DreamLight. I created the illustration using Adobe Illustrator 1.1 on a Macintosh Plus black and white computer. This original version of Adobe Illustrator was well before it was capable of creating blends and shading, so all the shading in the illustration was manually created, shape by shape, much like painstakingly stacking cut shapes of paper to build up an image.
The first poster in the new Silver Sage Scrolls series is seen here and available for purchase now. Get one for your dojo or your home dojo!
Translations of Miyamoto Musashi’s Dokkodo The Way of Walking Alone
I compared a number of different translations of Miyamoto Musashi’s Dokkodo The Way of Walking Alone in order to compile a slightly condensed, paraphrased version for my Silver Sage Scrolls series. While merging the various translations I also slightly generalized them to relate a bit more to our current day so that we may be able to use more of the principles without totally shunning society and becoming a hermit. And a slightly more condensed version would fit on the scroll illustration more comfortably as well.
While Miyamoto Musashi’s Dokkodo is in the public domain due to its age, the various english translations may not be. So using my own paraphrased version for my posters would be safer than using any particular translation to avoid any possible copyright issues. Much as Kane and Wilder did in their book about the Dokkodo.
My Condensed Paraphrased Version of Dokkodo The Way of Walking Alone by Miyamoto Musashi
Dokkodo ~ The Way of Walking Alone
- Accept the world as it is.
- Do not pursue pleasures.
- Give no preference to anything.
- Think not of yourself, but of the world.
- Be free of desire your whole life.
- Do not regret your own deeds.
- Do not be envious of others.
- Find no sorrow in separation.
- Do not make excuses or hold grudges.
- Do not be blinded by love.
- Do not seek elegance in everything.
- Do not keep luxuries in your home.
- Do not feast on fine foods.
- Do not hoard unneeded possessions.
- Trust in yourself, not superstition.
- Focus only on needed implements.
- Always be prepared to die on this way.
- Do not keep wealth or estate in old age.
- Respect the gods but don’t rely on them.
- Protect your name above your life.
- Do not stray from the Way.
Teruo Machida Translation of Dokkodo
I started with this version of the Dokkodo, The last words of Miyamoto Musashi by Teruo Machida, as the base for my condensed paraphrased version. I then compared it with other versions and made slight adjustments to attempt to reconcile and distill the varied meanings into a slightly condensed version.
Dokkôdô (The way that I go alone)
- I will not oppose the ways of the world.
- I will not seek pleasurable activities.
- I will give preference to nothing among all things.
- I consider myself unimportant, but not the world so great and so deep.
- I will be free of desire throughout my whole life.
- I will not regret my deeds.
- I will not be envious of anybody, good or bad.
- I will not be sad when must take my leave of any way.
- I will not seek excuses and I will hold no grudge against myself or others.
- I will not indulge in the way of passionate love.
- I will not seek elegance and beauty in all things.
- I will have no luxury in my house.
- I will have no delicacies for myself.
- I will not own anything that will one day be a valuable antique.
- I will have trust in myself and never be superstitious.
- Weapons are of the highest importance to me, I will not concern myself with other things.
- I will always be prepared to die on this way.
- I will take advantage of no treasure or manor in my old age.
- Buddhas and Gods are worthy of adoration but I will ask them for nothing.
- Even if I sacrifice my life I will not sacrifice my name.
- I will never deviate from the way of Heihô.
Wikipedia Dokkodo Translation
- Accept everything just the way it is.
- Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
- Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
- Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
- Be detached from desire your whole life long.
- Do not regret what you have done.
- Never be jealous.
- Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
- Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself or others.
- Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
- In all things have no preferences.
- Be indifferent to where you live.
- Do not pursue the taste of good food.
- Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
- Do not act following customary beliefs.
- Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
- Do not fear death.
- Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
- Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
- You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.
- Never stray from the Way.
Wilson Dokkodo Translation
From Digital Dao
- Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.
- Do not scheme for physical pleasure.
- Do not intend to rely on anything.
- Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.
- Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.
- Do not regret things about your own personal life.
- Do not envy another’s good or evil.
- Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.
- Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.
- Have no heart for approaching the path of love.
- Do not have preferences.
- Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.
- Do not have a liking for delicious food for youself.
- Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.
- Do not fast so that it affects you physically.
- While it’s different with military equipment, do not be fond of material things.
- While on the Way, do not begrudge death.
- Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.
- Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.
- Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.
- Never depart from the Way of the Martial Arts.
Hyoho Translation of Dokkodo
There’s another varied translation on the Hyoho website that I also used for reference. I would have included it here as well, but they appear to be a bit protective about their translations.
Learn to Win from the World’s Best Swordsman | Dokkodo The Way of Walking Alone by Miyamoto Musashi
Here’s an interesting series of 21 videos by Bryant Chambers discussing the 21 precepts of the Dokkodo. Check them out to see how the philosophy of the greatest swordsman who ever lived may be applied to not just the path of the martial arts, but the path of life in general. The ultimate Way.
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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino