According to the Bushido Shoshinshu (the Code of the Samurai), a samurai was expected to commit seppuku ("hara kiri" – ritual suicide) upon the loss of his master. One who chose not to honor the code was "on his own".
The undesirability of rōnin status was mainly a discrimination imposed by other samurai and by the daimyo (feudal lords).
During the Edo period, with the Shogunate's rigid class system and laws, the number of rōnin greatly increased. Confiscation of fiefs during the rule of the third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu resulted in an especially large increase of rōnin. During previous ages, samurai were able to move between masters and even between occupations. They would also marry between classes. However, during the Edo period, samurai were restricted, and were above all forbidden to become employed by another master without their previous master's permission. Also, low-level samurai, often poor and without choice, were forced to quit or escape their masters.
For centuries, "The Book of Five Rings" has been a resource for gaining insight into the mind of the warrior spirit. Well known amongst business leadership circles, the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi is actually the definitive treatise on mortal combat from the most formidable swordsman in the history of the world. Starting at the age of thirteen until his retirement around the age of fifty-five, he fought over 65 duels to the death, all of them against reknowned swordsmen of the day and most of them lasting less then twenty seconds.
Mushashi is also the world's most famous rōnin samurai; his sword was for hire to the highest bidder for most of his incredible career. He discusses the benefits of "doing rōnin" in 5 Rings, as an effective method for keeping the warrior edge, and for gaining humility, an essential warrior trait.
Musashi spent many years studying Buddhism and swordsmanship. He was an accomplished artist, sculptor, and calligrapher. Records also show that he had architectural skills. Also, he seems to have had a rather straightforward approach to combat, with no additional frills or aesthetic considerations. This was probably due to his real-life combat experience; although in his later life, Musashi followed the more artistic side of bushidō. He made various Zen brush paintings, calligraphy, and sculpted wood and metal. Even in The Book of Five Rings he emphasizes that samurai should understand other professions as well.
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