The Way of the Warrior is the way of virtue, love, and sacrifice.
"Religious individuals," generally speaking, have little interest in the question of warrior ethics. And that is unfortunate; warrior ethics are profound, and have profound consequences for moral philosophy. But it is the case. However, part of the reason why the study of the warrior ethos is so often ignored by the typically "religious" person is that the typically "religious" person does not often think very deeply about their convictions.
"The rules are the rules," they seem to think, "and morality consists in following the rules."
But does it, really? Is that really the quintessence of morality, the mere slavish submission of man before the law? Or is there something deeper, something more profound? Well, the warrior has an answer...
First, however, a short digression: Unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Buddha-Taoism is strangely lacking in imperatives. That is not to say it has no imperatives at all- for it certainly does-, but they are more akin to "rules of thumb" than to "hard and fast rules." They are a bit liquid; they are eternally flexible. And so there are few laws that cannot be broken in Buddho-Taoism.
This moral flexibility resonates well with the spirit of the warrior. The warrior feels naturally in tune with it; he feels naturally at home in its ambiguity. Because war is chaos- and the warrior that remains inflexible in that chaos will not survive long. More importantly still, what he is willing to die for will not survive long either- and that is the only thing that matters to the warrior.
Ultimately, the warrior ethos is not an ethos for blind submission; rather, it is an ethos for the cultivation of personal wisdom. There are no inexorable laws in war; there are no inexorable rules of engagement- and there cannot be, if war is to be won. Warfare, to repeat it once more, is chaotic; its circumstances are continually shifting. And so the spirit of the warrior must remain forever fluid, forever willing to adapt itself to new and ever-shifting environments.
This in no way implies that the warrior is entirely free; quite the contrary. For his actions are indeed constrained- but the imperatives that bound his behavior are internally-derived rather than externally-derived. They are rooted in wisdom rather than conviction; they are concerned with the development of desirable qualities rather with the development of desirable behaviors. Because, ultimately, the warrior ethos is not so much concerned with the cultivation of "goodness" (whatever that means) but rather with the cultivation of a particular class of human being- that is, of the warrior.
What qualities define the warrior, then? So far as we are concerned, there are three qualities that define the warrior: Virtue, generally speaking, refers to strength- though not necessarily physical strength-, that is, strength of will, and self-possession under duress; love refers to the connection the warrior feels for the tribe, for those he has chosen to fight for and to protect with his life; and finally, sacrifice refers not only to his willingness to submit himself to discipline but also to his willingness to lay down his life in pursuit of the Way of the Warrior. And that, essentially, is the code of the warrior: It is a code without rules; it is a game without lines- and yet the costs of defeat are tremendous. Clearly, he who cannot think for himself has no business being in that arena.
Tragically, we live in a world that has convinced most of us all that warriors are never philosophers and that philosophers are never warriors. But that is absurd. For as Thucydides once remarked, "A nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Warriors are necessary because war is necessary; it casts off the old and the dead, like the fire that purifies the forest- and the culture, the government, the society that pretends otherwise does so at its peril.
~ Joshua van Asakinda