The Book of Five Rings
Author: Miyamoto Musashi (This version translated by Thomas Cleary)
Where to get: Amazon (This is the version that I have, but there are many different versions and translations)
Who should read it: Anyone who’s interested in seeing into the mind of one of the greatest martial artists of all time and taking away some wisdom.
Who shouldn’t read it: People who don’t like to read between the lines or don’t want to have to think about a concept for awhile before understanding it.
Overall idea: Be comfortable and disciplined within yourself. Seek knowledge in all things and see that understanding one thing deeply can translate to many things. Don’t let the external situation influence your internal situation. Practice.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
– Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645) was a Japanese Ronin and master swordsman, best known for having won over 60 one-on-one armed duels (to the death) and having never been defeated. His philosophies that he developed over a lifetime of martial arts practice are very insightful and applicable to any pursuit in life.
The Book of Five Rings is divided into five sections, or scrolls, each with a different set of ideas. Throughout the book Musashi zooms into the specific and then back out to the universal in adjoining sentences, honoring the Zen idea of the micro being a reflection of the macro. He ends many of his paragraphs with “This should be examined/cultivated/considered/practiced thoroughly”, over and over reiterating the fact that reading is not the same as understanding.
Much of the book is specific martial arts technique, which by itself is super fascinating, but Musashi also weaves wisdom into the most simple of ideas. You can read this book ten times and still get something new out of it. It’s a relatively short book and could easily be read in an afternoon, but I think that it’s one that needs to be savored. Read one scroll a day before you get going in the morning and you’ll find yourself thinking about it and understanding it more and more as the day progresses.
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