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THE MOON THE MEMENTO OF THE GENERATIONS.
When the year was more than half gone and the autumn scenery was come, the cool wind piercing the body, after long absence the friends gathered again at the house of the Old Man. They made the customary inquiries and were taking leave when he stopped them saying,—"The moon is very fine to-night. Do not go. Stop awhile and have some wine." So obediently they all sat down. And as the talk went on the people of the house set out food and wine, and the guests soon felt the influence of the wine and became interesting. One with his cup in his hand recited a verse of Rihaku1 in praise of the moon, another capped it, and a third continued and a fourth, and last of all the Old Man;—"The men of to-day see not the moon of long ago: The moon of to-day shines not upon the men of long ago: The men of to-day and the men of long ago, Are like the flowing water. All are alike as they see the moon, With verse and wine their one desire is that, The Moon shine long upon he metal cask;" so he made an end of it. But the drinking went on, and as they drank still more until the mountains seemed to fall, the Old Man continued:
You all unite in praising the moon in verse and my heart is comforted as I see it. An emotion that ceases not arises, for the moon is the comfort of old age. I have many thoughts, and will give you one of them. When a child I was once sitting alone in the corner at the wine drinking on the fifteenth of the eighth month when a samurai, who was wholly illiterate, looked long at the moon and asked,—"How wide p. 126 is it?" Then another like him said, "It is cut off from something. How deep is it?" All who heard it ate their tongues, and even as a child I thought it absurd. But really, are most men so different, as they praise the moon for its clear light and love its pure reflection and meet together to eat, drink and sing? And the poets ornament their verses as they see the moon and labour over their form, and yet after all, aesthetic as it all seems, they are merely amused with the appearance of the moon and know not its profound "feeling."
What I said of "the emotion that ceases not" refers to the love of the ancients, the study of their books as we know their hearts and the pain of separation from the world. It is the moon which lights generation after generation and now too shines in the sky. So may we call it the Memento of the Generations. As we look upon it and think of the things of old, we seem to see the reflection of the forms and faces of the past. Though the moon says not a word, yet it speaks. If we have forgotten, then it recalls the ages gone by. This verse of Rihaku is the best of all the poetry about the moon, for it lets the mere appearance go and unites past and present in one spirit, all "Are like the flowing water." Yet there is something wanting, for it does not speak of waiting for the coming age, and this is supplied in the ancient writing called So,—
|"The men who are gone come not to me|
The men of the future hear me not,"
and as I read it my admiration knows no bounds. For this is Kushi's2 thought: "No one knows me, none of my own generation; and the men of the past who were one in heart with me, with whom I would speak, are beyond my reach; and the men of the coming age who will be of like p. 127 spirit, hear me not and know me not." So is it with every one who has a heart: it is not Kushi only who thus laments. I too see the moon with such a spirit and mourn. The present is the past to the future, and in that age some one like me will grieve as he looks upon the moon.
TO FORSAKE THE WORLD BUT NOT ONE'S SELF.
When the celebrated priest Saigyō went on pilgrimage through the east he came to Kamakura and went with others to Tsurugaoka. There Yoritomo noticed the superiority of his company and called him to his house, asked him of horsemanship, archery and poetry. Without fear of the splendour of Yoritomo or of the presence of his famous followers, Saigyō freely uttered his opinions. Yoritomo greatly admired him, but was unable to detain him or give him anything except a silver cat, and this Saigyō threw to the children in the street as he went away. Nor was it known whither he went.
There was, at that time, a very bad priest at Takao, named Bungaku. He was very proud of his power, which was given him at Kamakura, and he hated Saigyō's character and said, "If I meet him I'll insult him to his face." Once Saigyō came to Takao and Bungaku asked him to spend the night with him, full of joy at the opportunity. He said to his followers, "See! When he comes I'll strike him!" and waited with clenched fist. All were in troubled suspense, but when Saigyō came Bungaku's courage failed and he greeted him respectfully. So, afterwards, the followers said to Bungaku, "Why did you not strike Saigyō?" But Bungaku replied, "See the spirit of his face! He should strike me!" How apparent was Saigyō's high pure character and wonderful spirit! Our only grief is that Confucianism was not yet made known to the world and so even such a man knew not the truth. With a clear pure character, he disliked the ways of the world and became a priest. Truly that was lamentable!
To forsake parent and lord that one may save himself by becoming a priest is indeed to forsake the world; but instead of parent and lord it is not to forsake one's self. Unless we forsake our self we forsake not the world. The desire for fame and gain in the world, and the forsaking of the world in the hope of paradise, these differ as the pure and the impure, yet both alike are from the desire for one's own happiness. Buddhism regards our human relationships as "borrowed" and so teaches that parent and lord may be forsaken. Not so! If we are to desert anything, first cast away reputation, gain and pleasure! Then there will be no need to flee the world. But in the celebrated doctrine there is place for natural pleasure. It is not necessary to forsake the human relationships or anything. But to forsake these through the desire for paradise is a shameful exhibition of the craving for happiness.
There was once a woman who was ready to die of grief because of the death of her husband, and she refused to be comforted. But the priest reproved her: "You may well love your husband; Buddhism does not interfere with that, for it is most natural. But separated from him, with the marriage tie cut, in lonliness and for yourself to grieve, that is selfishness. It is a great increase of guilt. Consider this doctrine as you weep." So she repented and stopped her grief, It was wise advice, but the priest did not consider how it applied to himself. From of old all, high and low, men and women, who have clung to Buddhism have found the sole origin for faith in regard for their own happiness. Even the wise among them have not the wisdom of this woman. How have countless generations wasted their precious bodies! And the future too will show like waste! My grief I have put into this verse:
"For an hundred generations the universe flows on; Literature and the 'Way' are now destroyed, Our thoughts are sad; Who knows? Above the heavens just the one round moon, Long shines upon the lasting grief of man. p. 129 The Way of truth is cast away! With whom then shall I speak? False principles and new heresies come forth day by day; The clear moon knows the grief of a thousand generations, And kindly shines upon the old white head."
The guests together repeated the verse, and just then the moon sank in the west and the morning broke; and all went home.
To the samurai first of all is righteousness, next life, then silver and gold. These last are of value, but some put them in the place of righteousness! But to the samurai even life is as dirt compared to righteousness.
Until the middle part of the middle ages customs were comparatively pure though not really righteous. Corruption has come only during this period of government by the samurai. A maid servant in China was made ill with astonishment and fled home in dismay when she saw her mistress, soroban in hand, arguing prices and values. So as it once with the samurai. They knew nothing of trade, were economical and content.
An old man told me this story of Hine Bichu no Kami. When he went to Korea he borrowed money for his expenses and on his return sent to return it. His creditor, Kuroda Josui, directed the servants to take off the flesh from some tai which had been sent in as a present and to make soup of the bones for his guests. As this severe economy was observed, the guests were filled with apprehension as to the probable demand for high interest on the loan. But after the wine when they offered to make payment Kuroda Josui would not take the principal. He was economical beyond expression, even with his fish that had been given him, even in the feasting of his friends, but did not hesitate to give an hundred silver pieces when his friend had need. That is an p. 130 admirable illustration of the character of the samurai of those days, simple and economical, yet unforgetful of righteousness and strong of heart.
Even in the days of my youth young folks never mentioned the price of any thing; and their faces reddened if the talk was of women. Their joy was in talk of battles and of plans for war. And they studied how parents and lords should be obeyed and the duty of samurai. But nowadays the young men talk of loss and gain, of dancing girls and harlots and gross pleasures. It is a complete change from the customs of fifty or sixty years ago. In those days I had a friend Kurando, whose father was a Kaga samurai named Aochi Unimi. Aochi said to his son, "There is such a thing as trade. See that you know nothing of it. In trade the profit should always be on the other side. It differs from 'go' in that if we win there is no peace in the victory." But now, men greatly rejoice if they make a profit by exchange. To be proud of buying high priced articles cheap is the good fortune of merchants, but should be unknown to samurai. Let it not be even so much as mentioned. I remember the remarks of Arai Chikugo no Kami some years ago:—Call no man stingy. If one is stingy of money still more will he be stingy of life. Stinginess is another name for cowardice." So he spoke as he expounded the books before the Shōgun. It is the truth. And samurai must have a care of their words and are not to speak of avarice, cowardice or lust.
. . . . . .
Nor must we waste our time. "Strength comes not twice. A day is not twice to-morrow. At the time for labour we must toil. Years and months wait not for man." Born with a love for learning, let us not think that the age is without virtue and the future without reputation, and that we perish as the trees and grass. Strive diligently everyday. There was a Kaga man who was fond of the aesthetcism p. 131 of Rikiyu3 and practiced the tea ceremonies assiduously. When ordered to Edo he took his outfit with him and even in the inns hung up his kettle and made his tea. His associates remonstrated,—"Much as you like your tea, do take a vacation while en route." But he replied,—"A day en route is no other; it too is one of the days of my life! So it is not a day for omitting my ceremonious tea." He made no difference nor stopped a day.
So must scholars set their purpose on the "Way." It not to be forsaken at all, and there is in all the life no day that is not for its practice. Going or coming, there is no place without it. We should not be in haste, lest we soon give it up. Not in haste and not in sloth must we ever purse the "Way."
A WORD FOR THE OPENING YEAR. CONCLUSION.
Swiftly the days and months pass by. Day by day increases the disease, old age, and labour is of no avail. It is the seventy-fifth year, and not so long had the Old Man hoped to live with the billows of old age rolling on. He was paralysized too, so that hand and foot were not easily moved and with difficulty could he get up or down. For three years the spring beauty of the garden had not been seen, but the voice of the uguisu from the tree-top came to his bed awakening him from his lingering dreams. Patiently did he remember the past as the perfume of the plum blossoms visited his pillow.
How blessed was he then that from his youth he had seen through the windows of philosophy the value of the passing years; that he had followed Tei-Shu and sought the manners of the Sages; that he had admired the literary style of Kantaishi and Ōyōshu4 and had learned haltingly to walk the "Way." What consolation was this for his aged p. 132 wakefulness! Through so many months and years well had he considered the passing, changing world, with its alternating adversity and prosperity, its bloom and decay. Are they all dreams and visions, "the clouds that float above the earth"? Fortune and misfortune are twisted together like the strands of a rope.
Among it all only the "Way" of the sages stands with Heaven and Earth. Past and present it only changes not. Men should wonder at it and praise. But the world knows it not. Men are in darkness as to righteousness, though wise in gain and lust. The "Way" is forsaken and customs deteriorate. Alas! Alas! but my low rank and feeble powers could not reform the customs or restore the doctrine; as well might a gnat move a tree or one dip out the ocean with a shell. Yet is it our duty as scholars to grieve over the world and reform the people. We cannot give this task to others. Why should aged teachers and men who are accounted scholars desire false doctrines, mix them with the truth and thus transform the "Way" of righteousness and virtue?
I cannot agree to that. They work and argue, please the vulgar and go with the times. Deplorable! As has been said of old,—"A corrupt learning that flatters the world." Let it be so! Let customs change! I alone will follow the "way" of benevolence and righteousness nor lose the pattern I have learned! This is the sign of the scholar who honours the "Way." In the New Year when men bless themselves with good wishes for a thousand worlds, I will set my heart on the "Way" of the five virtues only and will change not. This I think the rightful cause for congratulations. So I write,—
This spring too I go unchanged
Five times more than seventy seeking the "Way."
This year I have been busy, from Spring to autumn, collecting and writing my various talks with my disciples. I finished it in the autumn, and though it is as worthless as the refuse gathered by fishermen, yet if transmitted p. 133 to our company it may be one-ten-thousandth help to those who study themselves. So at the end I wrote my New Year's verse, ending yet beginning, and thus reveal an endless heart.
Kyō-hō Jin-shi no Toshi, Fuyu Jūgatsu (Winter, Decmber 1729). (signed) Kyusō.
Sacred-Texts Confucianism Shinto Index
1 Rihaku, a famous poet of the Tō dynasty in China.
2 Kushi, the author of the couplet, (Ku Yuan) was a minister who committed suicide, about B.C. 314. Mayers, p. 107.
3 "The Chrysanthemum," Vol. II., No. 5, pp. 198-200.
4 Ōyōshu; Ou-Yang Siu, celebrated among the formost scholars and statesmen of the Sung dynasty. d. 1017 A.D. Mayers. p. 165.