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Training the Samurai Mind: A Bushido Sourcebook Paperback – October 6, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Cleary is the translator of "Opening the Dragon Gate" by Chen Kaiguo and Zhen Shunchao and "The Story of Chinese Zen" by Nan Huai-Chin, as well as "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, "The Book of Five Rings" by Miyamoto Musashi, "The Japanese Art of War," and dozens of other titles on martial philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism, religion, and philosophy. He was born in 1949 and lives in Oakland, CA.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590307216
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590307212
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bohdi Sanders, Ph.D. VINE VOICE on October 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Training the Samurai Mind is a collection of teachings from samurai, Confucian teachers, and Taoist teachers from 1349-1865. I found the teachings in this book to be full of useful wisdom for those who are seeking to live the warrior lifestyle. Of course some of the teachings are more useful than others, but overall I really enjoyed this book. Thomas Cleary seems to have a knack for finding interesting writings and translating them so those of us in the West can benefit from the wisdom that we would otherwise not be privy to.

The subtitle on this book is "A Bushido Source Book" and could just as easily be called The Bushido Chronicles as it chronicles writing pertaining to the warrior lifestyle over 500 years. This book combined with the writings of Sun Tzu, Lao Ztu, and Cleary's translation of the Code of the Samurai, will give the warrior a clear picture of what the Asian warrior was all about, as well as give the warrior a guide to how to live a life of character, honor and integrity.

I highly recommend this book to every martial artist, every military man, and everyone who may be interested in the ways of Asian wisdom. I honestly don't see how you could read this and not get some benefit from the wisdom that it contains. Highly recommended!

Bohdi Sanders, author of the award-winning bestseller Modern Bushido: Living a Life of Excellence
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Format: Hardcover
I saw Training the Samurai Mind: A Bushido Sourcebook by Thomas Cleary at the library awhile back, and picked it up. Japanese bushido thinking is something I normally find interesting, and I've gravitated to books like The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings in the past. In this case, I had a far more difficult time staying engaged with the material. Perhaps it was the "anthology" nature of the material, meaning that there wasn't necessarily a lot of continuity from chapter to chapter. Given the writings span over 500 years, I can somewhat understand that...

There are 22 chapters, each consisting of a writing by some Japanese individual who was well-known as a bushido teacher in that particular time period. Cleary gives a short intro of the person's biography and cultural setting, as well as their philosophical bent. The rest of the chapter is then a translated writing of theirs that covers some element of bushido, be it warfare, personal responsibility, or training. Cleary has done a nice job in translating the material in a way that makes it understandable to the Western reader. Given that each chapter stands completely alone, you can digest the book in small chunks without having to keep track of an overall plot or theme.

I think I struggled in that the writers each had their own slants and takes on Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shinto in terms of how they affected the life of a samurai. Not having a strong background in the differences and nuances of each, I think some of the material was lost on me. Also, I missed the continuity that comes from a single writer exploring a subject in some detail. I'm sure I'd feel different if the subjects were more a part of my normal culture. But as such, they came across as somewhat random and eclectic.

I think Cleary did a fine job in translation of the material. I just think that you'd have to be pretty well grounded in bushido thought to get the most out of this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a great edition to my collection and contains 22 short chapters of translated Samurai philosophical material spanning roughly the start of the Ashikaga Shogunate of 1338 (1349 in the book) through the Meiji Restoration in 1865. This period witnessed the Onin Wars and Warring States, the Feudal Wars and the unification, and the 300-year Tokugawa period leading to the end of the samurai and rise of the merchant class. If you are a fan of William Scott Wilson's "Ideals of the Samurai", you will love Training the Samurai Mind.

My main complaints about the book are more personal in nature and center around some of Cleary's commentary, which at times can be insightful while others clearly reveal his exceeding his own understanding of the subject. One example is his description of the ninja merging of the Left hand Path with Shinto and Buddhism for the purpose of "mental terror", which is arguably correct in certain later instances, though it suggests he has no clue about the ninja and their relationship with the Yamabushi or how this relationship developed over 900-years ago or the various evolutions that took place during that period. I could debate other issues but as mentioned this is my personal peeve and should not detract from the quality of the book.

My only other complaint is the inclusion of Yamamoto Tsunetomo taking up chapter 10. The Hagakure is a book unto itself and is translated by Wilson, which Cleary must certainly be aware of. Since this book would mostly appeal to people who have already read The Hagakure, why waste space including it here? I would have preferred to have been astonished with a never before translated piece by Yamaoka Tesshu or one of the Yagyu's. That could have put the book over the top.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's boring. Very boring. I don't think I can blame the author because he is merely translating primary source material from original samurai masters and teachers, but it dry nonetheless.

I was hoping to find some nuts and bolts descriptions of how one trained his body and mind to become a warrior of such renown that we still make movies about his lifestyle two hundred years later and half a world away. Instead, there was a bunch of pious, redundant pontificating. Real gems like "battle at night is the opposite of battle during the day" and odd stories about one-armed swordsmen in marketplaces and the courage of bees and scorpions compared to hesitating lions. I'd say roughly 60% of the book boils down to "don't be a jerk". Not exactly ground-breaking stuff.

I accept the possibility that I'm not reaching for deeper meanings or that it's fascinating to some (maybe those with more historical context) but if you are looking for something concrete, look elsewhere.
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