Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: The Courage of a Samurai

The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa Whaley is a most incredible book. I am not a huge fan of self-help books, having read a few and decided that many sort of chewed over the same advice. This is not a self-help book. This is a book that awakens those dim memories of being taught when young how to live properly, of doing the right thing, and living a life of integrity and moral uprightness. In the preface the author speaks about things that will have readers nodding in agreement—how do you live your life according to principles when most people these days seem to have tossed ethics, integrity, truthfulness, and honour out the window? How can one pursue a life of doing what is right when everyone else seems to be doing what they want or what they think is right for them? How does one live ethically in a society dominated by materialism, selfishness, and the prevailing ideology of “me first!” in society and government.

The author uses the code of bushido, the principles of the samurai, the code of chivalry that permeates Japanese society, to awaken in readers what we know is right, and to encourage us to pick up those principles and use them, making our lives worthy and honourable. The author introduces the history and culture of Japan, the rise of the samurai class, the way of the warrior, in an engaging way that makes the history lesson really palatable and enjoyable. You’ll love learning these facts which open the reader’s eyes to Japanese society and behaviour, especially in times of terrible disasters.

Each chapter is devoted to a principle: Courage, Integrity, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honour, and Loyalty. Each chapter is prefaced with a kanji, the Japanese ideogram for the meaning of the word. I found this so interesting and unusual. Lori uses stories of great and memorable people, many of them humble folk who would not consider themselves to be great or extraordinary at all—their deeds of heroism, their acts of selflessness, their “doing the right thing” illustrate that people who maintained these principles in their lives and actions rose to stand out above the rest. Much of this heroism happened during World War II and some stories brought me to tears. Lori also outlines the history of the Japanese people in the USA and their shocking treatment at the hands of the American government during the war, with the internment camps and alien classification because they were Japanese.

The book is so beautifully laid out in a way that facts and figures do not overwhelm the reader, but can be absorbed easily. Lori’s tone is conversational and laid-back, but amazingly enough, she manages to cover much ground and deep thinking in this fashion. This review cannot accommodate just how much interesting information is covered, and the author’s incredible research is very evident. I learned a great deal and my views on what is the right way to conduct oneself during life were reinforced. Relevant and appropriate quotes from leaders, philosophers, philanthropists, humanitarians, and deep thinkers are included as well.

I have always been fascinated with Japan, the samurai class, the way of the warrior, and I absolutely love the story of the 47 Ronin who sacrificed themselves to avenge the needless death of their master, to put right a great wrong. The fact that these samurai are still celebrated in Japanese culture today speaks volumes for what they stood for.

The author aims to inspire, empower, and educate readers, and by the end of this book, your faith in doing what you know is right, living by what could be construed as “old fashioned” values is reinforced. You’ll be inspired to forge your own warrior’s code and create a life of success and meaningfulness, using principles that will help you face and conquer today’s challenges, both personally and professionally. This is a must-read for anyone interested in finding the keys to creating a life lived well and lived worthily. Thought provoking, spiritual, and very moving. A stellar achievement by Lori Tsugawa Whaley.

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