Bushido - Part 3 (Courage)

posted Oct 5, 2009, 5:47 PM by Robert Collins II
Courage, The Spirit of Daring and Bearing

The first of the precepts is rectitude or “right thinking” but arguably the precept that precedes and is the foundation for all the others is Courage. Without courage none of the other precepts could or would be acted upon. Courage is not reckless but thoughtful. It is often doing what one fears despite the fear, in the cause of good.

The Samurai did not see courage as a virtue, unless it was used in the cause of righteousness. So, it absolutely has an ethical component.

Confucius defined courage in his typical way of telling us what it is not. “Perceiving what is right,” he says, “and doing it not, argues lack of courage.”

On the other hand, foolhardy daring or as Shakespeare called it “valor misbegot” was not worthy of being called courageous behavior. In the precepts of the Samurai, death for an unworthy cause was called a “dog’s death.” A prince of Mito said, “To rush into the thick of battle and be slain in it is easy enough and the merest churl is equal to the task,” but he continues, “it is true courage to live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die.”

Valor, fortitude, bravery, fearlessness, and courage are common enough terms that we all hear and aspire to. Once again none of these terms allude to reckless, self-destructive behavior. All of these terms are based on the concept of “doing what is right when it is right to do it.”

In the modern world we seldom come face to face with and life and death situation but we often come upon moral and ethical dilemmas. Arguably it is of utmost importance for us to use courage in the cause of right. This also means that it is courageous to do the right thing even when no one is looking.

It’s less important that others know we did the right thing than the fact that you and I know that we did the right thing. Another way to look at courage is the ability to do the right thing rather than the easy thing.

We should learn from the Code of Bushido to live life courageously with rectitude (right thinking), which leads to right doing and right living.