The Way of Isolate Being - a proposal


Active Member
Good evening.

Back in 2008 or so (some of you read in another thread) I worked with some friends on a deeper exploration of the Dokkodo - Musashi's 21 Precepts. (If you've ever heard of "The Book of Five Rings" that's a more well-known writing of his; in Japanese it's "Gorin no Sho.")

I was training in Hapkido at the time; our master - a PhD in Eastern Philosophy - found this an interesting idea, and asked for an abstract (an abstract for those who don't know is a one-page or one-paragraph description of a paper giving the basic outline, including a simple conclusion.)

The result of this is I was invited to give a presentation of this, as a paper, at the APA (American Philosophical Association)'s west coast regional gathering, at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Philosophy in the Martial Arts. So there I was, a simple butcher, giving a talk in front of ALL THESE UNIVERSITY PEOPLE OMG. And it was very well received.

Regardless, I'm wondering if anyone here would be interested in repeating that project. Say, once a week or so, looking at each precept, I can pull out the Japanese (Romanji, so we could actually pronounce it) and literal English translation, and see how we would apply this 17th century concept to each of our own 21st century realities.

(And frankly I think I could use a revisiting of the project; it's been a rough year for me.)

Any takers?

Below I'll copy the precepts, look them over and see what you think.

1. Do not go against the way of the human world that is perpetuated from generation to generation.

2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.

3. Do not, in any circumstances, depend upon a partial feeling.

4. Think lightly of yourself and think deeply of the world.

5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.

6. Do not regret what you have done.

7. Never be jealous of others, either in good or in evil.

8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.

9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for yourself nor for others.

10. Do not let yourself be guided by feelings of love.

11. In all things, do not have any preferences.

12. Do not have any particular desire regarding your private domicile.

13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.

14. Do not possess ancient objects intended to be preserved for the future.

15. Do not act following customary beliefs.

16. Do not seek especially either to collect or to practice arms beyond what is useful.

17. Do not shun death in the way.

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

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

20. You can abandon your own body, but you must hold onto your own honor.

21. Never stray from the way of strategy.


Active Member
OK, I'm going to do it this way. I'll start a thread for each precept (to avoid the kind of lag the FOO thread is suffering under). That way too, anyone who wants can jump in at any time - as there are always new people joining the forum.

Also rather than make it a scheduled thing, when the thread has petered out I'll move on to the next. Each header message in the threads will have a link back to this original thread.

Any other thoughts as to format?

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
These are quotes from The Book of Five Rings

This is information on the warrior Musashi.

In this interpretation, the first precept has to do with accepting what is.

I think, in the sense of not railing against fate. Yet, if we were not to rail against fate, how could there be change? If Isolate of Being has to do with self management, or with change occurring effortlessly through determined self possession, then this makes sense to me. In Eastern culture though, fate is viewed differently than in Western culture. I think fate is seen as the engine in Eastern culture, and that our task is seen to be to work within it thereby refining the self. In Western culture, we see it as our work to challenge fate. (In never accepting things like caste systems or aristocracies or disease or chronic poverty.) Refining the self for us...we are still figuring that out, I think. Whether that is possible, how it all works, whether refining is even required.


A history of Hapkido

My first karate instructor told us that the peasant classes were not allowed weapons or fighting skills. So (and I have, shamefully enough, forgotten what method we practiced) practitioners of the form of martial arts he taught learned to challenge invaders with empty hands and to transform whatever was at hand into lethal weapons. When armed soldiers were come to destroy them, the native practitioners of this art of transforming themselves into weapons filled their bellies with small stones to damage the soldiers' swords when they cut them in half.

Winning, though losing.

So, that would be an apt description of the Isolate of Being, right?


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
I don't know if I can keep up with you guys, b ut I'm definitely interested.

Well of course you can. Your mom wasn't telling the truth bout those things. You will do fine.

I think the gist of it is that thinking about the questions teaches us how to be present; how to be flexible and fully in the Now and operating solely and openly and freely from our valid centers.

I think that is what it means.


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
Okay. I got it. I think I got it. An isolate is what is left when all extraneous matter is removed. The essence or essentialness of the thing. So, The Way of Isolate Being would be practices to inform us regarding the essence of being alive and conscious and aware of time and mortality and Now. How to celebrate and appreciate the aloneness of that, how to be open to what that is, instead of fearing it.

I just haven't been able to let this go!

Now, I will be able to.

At first, I had thought "isolate" was a poor translation. But that is exactly the right word.



Well-Known Member
Th way of isolate being would be the choice to live as close to ones essential nature as possible.

Our essential nature is revealed to us by a process of letting go of what is extraneous and superficial in ourselves and our lives.

Letting go occurs in various realms: the material, the social, and the personal.

To let go in the material world would be to let go of unnecessary possessions and the want of them.

To let go in the social realm would be to become free of the influence of other individuals, and of the social group and culture.

To let go within ones own personality would involve dropping the nonessential, whether artifice or vanity or affectation or self-indulgence, etc. and cleansing ourselves of emotions that color and distort our memories, experience and thinking.


Active Member
I love how we've started by discussing the actual title's translation!

Everything I read had variations on the translation of Dokkodo as "The Way of Being Alone." In my first exploration, I retitled it for the purposes of our work as "The Isolate Way." As one mentor is fond of saying to me, "Isolate isn't Isolated." :) Thread starts in a few seconds. :)