A translation of Miyamoto Musashi‘s last message
In this translation, I do not attempt to contribute any new interpretations, but I endeavour to convey to the reader the peculiar intensity of Musashi’s words.
I used second person singular for linguistic precision and to emphasise the fact that Musashi lived in the same age as when Shakespeare’s plays and the King James Bible were written.
The Japanese definitions used herein are taken from the Kōjien, the Gakken Kogo Jiten, and the Nihon Kokugo Daijiten. The English definitions are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary and have been verified for congruence using Etymonline and Google Ngrams.I
To preserve the look of the original text, I included many of the hentaigana that Musashi used, but, owing to the low quality of the images I could find, I was unable to clearly identify every instance of their use; and so I have left the usual hiragana as they are where the original text was illegible,
The hentaigana are displayed using the UniHentaiKana font.
The Lonely WayII
Hitotsu: mi ni tanoshimi wo takumazu
Seek not after pleasures.
Hitotsu: yorozu ni eko no kokoro nashi
Favour not one thing over another.
Hitotsu: mi wo asaku omoi yo wo fukaku omou
Take little heed of thyself, and take great heed of the world.
Hitotsu, isshō no aida yokushin omowazu
Desire nothing as long as thou livest.
Hitotsu: zen’aku ni ta wo netamu kokoro nashi
Begrudge not others for good or ill.
Hitotsu: idzure no michi ni mo wakare wo kanashimazu
Do not grieve at any parting.
Hitotsu: jita tomo ni urami–kakotsu koto nashiVII
Blame neither thyself nor another.
Hitotsu: renbo no michi omoi-yoru kokoro nashi
Do not yearn for romantic love.VIII
Hitotsu: mono goto ni suki-konomu koto nashi
Have no predilections.
Hitotsu: shitaku ni oite nozomu kokoro nashi
Desire nothing of thy house.
Hitotsu: mi hitotsu ni bishoku wo konomazu
Choose not fine food when eating alone.
Hitotsu: suezue shiromono naru furuki dōgu shoji zezu
Keep not old tools for later gain.IX
Hitotsu: waga mi ni itari mono-imi suru koto nashi
Deprive not thy body.X
Hitotsu: heigu wa kakubetsu yo no dōgu tashinamazu
Rejoice in no tools but weapons.XI
Hitotsu: michi ni oite shi wo itowazu omou
Think it not ill to meet death on thy way.
Hitotsu: rōshin ni zaihō shoryō mochiyuru kokoro nashi
Wish not for lands and treasures for thine old age.
Hitotsu: busshin wa tōtoshi busshin wo tanomazu.
Worship the Gods and Buddhas but ask of them nothing.
Hitotsu: mi wo sutemo myōri wa sutezu
Cast away thy life before thou casteth away thine honour.
Hitotsu: tsune ni heihō no michi wo hanarezu
Never stray from the way of the fighting arts.
Image of the original scroll at the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art – if you are interested in graphology, then this is worth a look.
Some amateur commentary on the precepts (in Japanese)
A Dokkōdō translation by Teruo Machida
A very nice Dokkōdō translation by William Scott Wilson
Another Dokkōdō translation (author unknown)
五輪書 – The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (original text and Modern Japanese translation)
- The word ‘romantic’ in the tenth precept galls me but I have yet think of anything better.↑
- Or perhaps ‘The Path One Walks Alone’ (though 行 does mean ‘go’).↑
- Although hitotsu does mean ‘one’, in this case it is used merely to list each item, so I have omitted it from the English.↑
- The word そむく literally means “turn one’s back”, but in Japanese to turn one’s back is not to ignore or abandon but to rebel.↑
- Some people insert a comma between 我 and 事 and read it as ‘ware, koto …’: ‘I rue things not.’ I don’t think that this is the correct reading but I don’t have any proof. However, a precept that begins with ‘I’ does not sit nicely with the others.↑
- The character ゐ is pronounced wi, so にゐいて could be transliterated as ni owite, but the difference in pronunciation is so little as to make no difference.↑
- Some insert an を between うらみ and かこつ, but that is a mistake.↑
- I would write Yearn not for the love of a woman, because ‘romantic love’ was not part of the contemporary English lexicon, but it leaves too much unsaid to be an accurate translation.↑
- I believe that this is an admonishment against the buying of antique goods in the hope that they will become valuable.↑
- I.e., do not abstain from food or certain acts for ascetic reasons.↑
- I believe that yo means 余, even though the kana よ used here is derived from the kanji 与.↑