Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings)

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This has some compelling Daoist concepts in it (albeit, ascribed to Miyamoto Musashi, the famous Japanese Swordsman). What do you bums think?


Isn't this beautiful?


There is rhythm in everything, however, the rhythm in strategy, in particular, cannot be mastered without a great deal of hard practice.

Among the rhythms readily noticeable in our lives are the exquisite rhythms in dancing and accomplished pipe or string playing. Timing and rhythm are also involved in the military arts, shooting bows and guns, and riding horses. In all skills and abilities there is timing.

There is also rhythm in the Void.

There is a rhythm in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. Similarly, there is a rhythm in the Way of the merchant, of becoming rich and of losing one's fortune, in the rise and fall of capital. All things entail rising and falling rhythm. You must be able to discern this. In strategy there are various considerations. From the outset you must attune to your opponent, then you must learn to disconcert him. It is crucial to know the applicable rhythm and the inapplicable rhythm, and from among the large and small rhythms and the fast and slow rhythms find the relevant rhythm. You must see the rhythm of distance, and the rhythm of reversal. This is the main thing in strategy. It is especially important to understand the rhythms of reversal; otherwise your strategy will be unreliable.

In combat, you must learn the rhythm of each opponent, and use the rhythms that your opponents don't expect. You win by creating formless rhythms out of the rhythm of the Void.

All the five books are chiefly concerned with rhythm. You must train sufficiently to appreciate this.

If you practice diligently day and night in the strategy outlined above, your spirit will naturally broaden. Thus you will come to comprehend large scale strategy and the strategy of one on one combat. This is recorded for the first time in these five volumes of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void.

Those who sincerely desire to learn my way of strategy will follow these rules for learning the art:

  1. Do not harbor sinister designs. Think honestly and truthfully.
  2. The Way is in training. One must continue to train.
  3. Cultivate a wide range of interests in the ten skills and ten arts. Then one can definitely find the benefits of hyoho and develop oneself.
  4. Be knowledgeable in a variety of occupations, and learn the thinking of people who work in them.
  5. Know the difference between loss and gain in worldly matters.
  6. Nurture the ability to perceive the truth in all matters. It is important to build up an intuitive judgment and understand true values.
  7. Be aware of those things which cannot be easily seen with the eye. Develop intuitive judgment and a mind that freely controls one's body.
  8. Do not be negligent, but pay attention even to the smallest details. Keep them in mind all the time, so as to avoid unexpected failure.
  9. Do not engage in useless activity. Do not argue about useless things. Concentrate on your duties


I will describe the essence of the Ni To Ichi Way of strategy in this book of the Void. What I call the void is where nothing exists. It is about things outside man's knowledge. Of course the void does not exist. By knowing what exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.

People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is confusion.

In the Way of strategy, also, those who study as warriors may think that whatever they cannot understand in their craft is the void. Someone like that will continue to be distracted by irrelevant things. This is not the true void.

To attain the Way of strategy as a warrior you must study fully other martial arts and not deviate even a little from the Way of the warrior. With your spirit settled on your duty, you must practice day by day, and hour by hour. Polish the twofold spirit of Shin [heart] and I [will], and sharpen the twofold gaze of ken [perception] and kan [intuition]. When your spirit is not in the least confused, when the clouds of bewilderment are cleared away, there is the true void.

Until you realize the true Way, whether in Buddhism or in worldly laws, you may think that your own way is the one correct and in order. However, if we look at things objectively, in the light of the Straight Way of the Heart or in accordance with the Great Square of the World, we see various doctrines departing from the true Way. What you believe in often proves to be contrary to the true way, distorted as it is by tendencies to favor your own thoughts and views. Know this well, and try to act with forthrightness as the foundation and keep the true Heart as the Way. Enact strategy broadly, correctly and openly.

Then you will come to see things in an all-encompassing sense and, taking the void as the Way, you will see the Way as void.

In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom exists, principle exists, the way exists. Spirit is Void.






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There is also rhythm in the Void.


Oh, if I had but world enough and Time..


To read all these books!


But that there is rhythm in the void, that I think I can attest to.


Once in my meditations I withdrew far from the world, and approached once more the place where I am not.


This time it was empty of everything but a relentless beat, cold, empty and impersonal.


Like the tick of a clock in an echoing hall.


This, then That.


And so on.


It wasn't exactly a pleasant experience.


It was a lonely place.


Edited by Captain Mar-Vell
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My favourite edition is a Japanese one, I just looked and it appears it may still only be available in Japan :(


It contains other essays by Musashi as well as the Go rin no sho, as well as images of his paintings. It also has the old Japanese text, a translation of this into modern Japanese, and then an English translation as well. It is a lovely book. I bought a copy in Tokyo, and then lost it in Heathrow, I eventually plumbed out to have a copy shipped, but bought extra's as presents for my budo teacher :D


The English translation in this edition is by William Scott Wilson and is easily available on its own without the above.



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