21 Rules to Live Your Life – Dokkodo

I came across ‘Dokkodo’ recently which is a small book written by Miyamoto Musashi a week before he died in 1645. Based on the date, I was quite amazed at how many of the following rules or principles if you like have stayed with us and are still very relevant today.

The 21 precepts below were written just as Miyamoto was giving away all his possessions in preparation for death and I think many of them still apply to our modern society and lifestyles.

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I’m not one to simply copy the work of others and put it here, but in this case I believe that the precepts by Miyamoto deserve to be shared. Many of them fall into the same line of thinking that I have and the same line of teaching that I’m trying to share here.

This post is long so I recommend you scan the points and if there are any you don’t understand or want to have my views on then read the comments by me below them.

21 Rules to Live Your Life

Below I’ve included the 21 ‘rules’ from 1645 and also added my own commentary; I would love to hear yours in the comments at the end.

1. Accept everything just the way it is

I’ve already stated that I think acceptance is the way to instant happiness so I always try to implement acceptance into my life. If you aren’t accepting things then you are simply resisting what is, resistance causes internal conflict and then tends to lead to negative emotions or downward spirals.

Often things we resist are in the past i.e. not accepting that someone has died or still being angry about a previous relationship. These are things we simply can not change and that is why it makes no sense to resist what has happened. Total acceptance also allows you to live in the now and much more consciously.

2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake

This is one I really had to think about to start to understand. What I believe Miyamoto was suggesting here is that you should not look for pleasure simply in order to have pleasurable feelings. Another interpretation of this by the University of Minnesota suggests that it means you shouldn’t seek pleasure solely for yourself.

In my opinion, you should focus on the things that you enjoy then pleasure will exist as a byproduct, rather than pleasure something you’ve had to work on specifically in order to receive the benefits.

3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling

This is quite self explanatory, but, simply put; don’t act in high importance or high risk situations based on a partial feeling. It’s great to go with your instinct now and then and just ‘go with the flow‘ but when something is crucial, make sure you know what you are getting into.

4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world

You are who you are, nothing more and nothing less. You are not the car that you drive and you are not the size of your bank balance. It’s fine for others to think of you as funny, cool, rich or any of those things, but if you place a large importance on them and start to identify with what these words represent then you’ll start to live a much more reactive life.

Accept who you are, know your strengths and weaknesses, don’t over qualify yourself to the world but definitely don’t under estimate your potential. The world and everything in it is truly amazing, see it, explore, make the most of everything; take nothing for granted.

5. Be detached from desire your whole life long

Detachment is to be disinterested in the outcome of an event or situation. Therefore, being detached from desire your whole life long means that you shouldn’t care about the outcome of the things you want in life. Worry about the outcome projects negative emotions such as fear. As with a point earlier, attachment to something means you are identifying with it, you see it as part of yourself in one way or another.

Whatever your desires are in life, don’t make the outcome necessary. If something doesn’t happen then be OK with that, realise everything in life is abundant.

6. Do not regret what you have done

I have a favourite saying for when I look back after having taken action on something that says “I’d rather regret the things I DID do rather than the things I DIDN’T do”. However, if you look at this on a presence and acceptance level, you should never regret the things you have done, simply because you can’t change what has happened.

7. Never be jealous

What reasons do you have to be jealous of anybody? If you are jealous of somebody with lots of money then you should re-frame your thinking. Be glad there are people out there that show you there is potential for you to make lots of money as well.

If you are jealous of somebody’s looks then you identify with superficiality much more than is even necessary. You never know what ‘problems’ people can have under the surface, fitting in with society standards doesn’t make you a happier person, it just makes you more socially conditioned.

8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation

According to the Buddha, attachment is the source of all suffering and as far as separation goes this certainly applies. Separation can apply to losing a partner, a pet, money, possessions or anything of the sort. I think what Miyamoto is referring to here is once again live in total acceptance of what happens and don’t hold on to things that have occurred previously.

You have the choice to be angry or happy at all times, there’s no point wasting time in the frame of the former. When I was mugged at knife point recently I lost my drivers license, lots of money, my credit card, mobile phone (worth over $300) and more. I was disappointed for a short while, but I was more pleased about the fact the knife wasn’t used on me or my brother during the incident.

9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself or others

Once again this is pretty self explanatory. Resentment and complaint aren’t going to get you anywhere in life, except to be troubled with negative emotions. Accept everything for what it is and always appreciate the moment, nothing else applies.

10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love

I don’t think that this means anything to do with celibacy like others have interpreted this as, but more about controlling your own destiny. If you have a good grasp on reality a.k.a. an abundance mindset then you will know there are literally billions of potential partners out there for you. I don’t believe that there is always just ‘the one’ but I believe there are many people you can connect with and love.

If you feel you want to marry someone then go down that route, but don’t let your strong attachment and emotions guide the direction of your life. Take control and enjoy lust / love on the way, don’t completely immerse yourself in their powers and detach from other areas of your life.

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11. In all things have no preferences

Before you are so quick to dismiss this, think about what it is saying. Obviously we all have a preference over things such as Coke vs Pepsi or Cars vs Motorbikes but that isn’t the main message. I think the message here is not about having no preferences but rather about not letting certain preferences control your emotions.

For example, if there is a noisy party next door and you are trying to sleep then wishing there was silence (preferred) isn’t going to help. Instead, you should just accept the noise, don’t create any internal conflicts and you’ll be asleep before you know it. [Example Source]

12. Be indifferent to where you live

The word indifferent is best described as “that which does not matter, one way or the other” and in reality where you live shouldn’t make any difference to you internally. Whether Miyamoto was referring to the idea that you should travel more or the underlying fact that it was much harder to move around in 1645 I’m unsure.

13. Do not pursue the taste of good food

I have a feeling that this doesn’t refer to food literally but haven’t found anyone that has yet to explain this in more detail. Maybe a copy of the book is needed or if anyone can leave a comment I’ll update this one.

14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need

Letting go of the things that you don’t need can give you multiple benefits. First of all you get a lot more clarity in your life (and environment) due to lack of clutter. Secondly, someone else can benefit from your possessions and put them to good use.

This may seem quite negative to the likes of collectors and those who are very materialistic but it makes a lot of sense. Also, we tend to attach ourselves to our possessions and feel strong negative emotions if anything happens to them, even if we don’t need / use them.

15. Do not act following customary beliefs

We live in a society where a large majority of people spend their time living in spectator mode, just like everybody else. We follow celebrities in the media, we play computer games and we watch a lot of TV. These are all influences on how we should live our lives and are actually a place where a lot of this ‘life’ is wasted.

Make your own life rules based on reference points, experience and with proper, truthful mindsets such as those of abundance and potential.

16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful

In 17th-century Japan this was a lot more relevant due swords being a commonality and the many forms of Martial Arts were in full swing. I take this message as saying ‘Don’t waste time with things (weapons) that aren’t going to benefit you‘.

Sure, there are hobbies such as fencing that involve weapons which aren’t necessarily used in this way because they are useful. People take part in fencing because they enjoy what they do. However, in terms of learning to perform skills with weapons which serves no purpose, this could be seen as protecting you from acts which simply inflate the ego.

17. Do not fear death

I’m a big preacher of living in the moment and doing things for the now, I started learning more about ‘The Now’ through the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. In his first book Eckhart states that there is ‘no such problem in the now’. In my lack of understanding, I hesitantly asked on an Eckhart Discussion Forum how the likes of having a knife in your chest could not be seen as a problem in the now.

One of the responses I received that I liked went along the lines of “Death is no different to birth, they are both natural. They are one and the same. If you fear death then that is like fearing birth.”

18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age

Stated very strongly in the book ‘The Four-Hour Workweek’, we tend to try to save up our money so that we can start to enjoy life once we retire from our jobs. However, as you will discover, if you can live in the moment you will see how stupid and incorrect our societal views on this actually are.

Think about it, most of us actually do plan to save money so that we can enjoy life when we retire and do the things we love. However, this is silly because we are planning for something that:

  • a) We may never reach
  • b) Involves our form being in it’s worst ever condition (aging)
  • c) We could be doing right now

19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help

I’m not Christian or involved in any other religions so I don’t believe in the common view behind the word ‘God’. However, that isn’t to say I would judge or look down upon anyone that chooses to have belief that such Gods exist.

Respect the teachings and messages of others, but don’t use them as a crutch to keep you balanced.

20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour

The one thing we all have in common when we born, albeit deemed as negative, is that we are going to die. We can’t stop the aging process (although we can limit its affects through the likes of plastic surgery) and we can’t cheat death.

Despite that, this precept is saying that along the way you should always stand to live by your own moral values. Don’t change them due to pressure from others or the usual conforms of society.

21. Never stray from the Way

‘The Way’ may be viewed as something monumental like finding and acting our your life’s purpose and it may also be viewed as something small like keeping on top of your goal progress. Either way, you should always try to remain focused on the things you want to achieve and stay on that path.

There are many distractions these days with drug or alcohol abuse, financial worries and much more. However, you should simply see these distractions as hurdles that filter out those that really want to achieve something and those that don’t. Never stray from the way.

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