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What was the relationship of religion to the attitudes of the Samurai warrior class?

The relationship of religion to the attitudes of the Samurai warrior class centered around Zen Buddhism. This religion emphasizes a type of discipline that was appealing to the Samurai.

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Zen Buddhism was particularly popular among the Samurai class. This Buddhist philosophy came to the Japanese islands in the late twelfth century, a time when the Samurai class was going through a significant period of growth and development. It remained popular into the nineteenth century.

Zen Buddhism places a heavy emphasis on self-discipline and endeavoring for a cause greater than oneself. Naturally, these are valued traits of a disciplined warrior. Zen Buddhism further appealed to the Samurai because it promotes the notion of self-reliance. Zen Buddhism supports the idea of becoming a master at whatever one sets their mind on. Samurais applied this idea to perfecting skills necessary to warriors, such as archery, fighting, and horsemanship. They also used it for the study of non-martial practices, such as art and poetry.

According to the teachings of the Zen Buddhists, long hours of disciplined meditation can lead a devotee towards achieving a state of enlightenment. It became a common practice for a Samurai to spend many hours sitting perfectly still in silent meditation. The inner peace that Zen Buddhism promotes helped mentally and spiritually prepare a Samurai for the possibility of serious injury or an untimely death in battle. It helped a Samurai clear his mind prior to combat and ignore deadly distractions. This helped pave the way for the development of the Bushido warrior code, which combined Zen Buddhism with Taoist and Shinto elements.

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