The Dokkōdō

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.[[The word ‘romantic’ in the tenth precept galls me but I have yet think of anything better.]]

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 Way[[Or perhaps ‘The Path One Walks Alone’ (though 行 does mean ‘go’).]]

一 世〻の道𛄜そむく事𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: yoyo no michi wo somuku koto nashi

Defy not the ways of the world.[[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.]]

一 身𛂋𛁠の𛁅𛃉𛄜たくま𛁑

Hitotsu: mi ni tanoshimi wo takumazu

Seek not after pleasures.

一 よろ𛁑𛂌依怙の心𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: yorozu ni eko no kokoro nashi

Favour not one thing over another.

一 身𛄜あさく思世𛄚ふ𛀚く思ふ

Hitotsu: mi wo asaku omoi yo wo fukaku omou

Take little heed of thyself, and take great heed of the world.

一 一生の間よく𛁅ん思は𛁑

Hitotsu, isshō no aida yokushin omowazu

Desire nothing as long as thou livest.

一 我事𛂋おゐて後悔𛄜せ寸

Hitotsu, waga koto ni oite kōkai wo sezu[[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.]]

Rue not what thou hast done.

一 善惡𛂌他を𛂗𛁠𛃑心𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: zen’aku ni ta wo netamu kokoro nashi

Begrudge not others for good or ill.

一 いつ𛄀の道𛂌もわ𛀚れ𛄜𛀚𛂂𛁅ま寸

Hitotsu: idzure no michi ni mo wakare wo kanashimazu

Do not grieve at any parting.

一 自他共𛂋うら𛃉か𛀸つ心𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: jita tomo ni uramikakotsu koto nashi[[Some insert an を between うらみ and かこつ, but that is a mistake.]]

Blame neither thyself nor another.

一 𛄀ん𛃀の道思ひよる𛀸ゝろ𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: renbo no michi omoi-yoru kokoro nashi

Do not yearn for romantic love.[[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.]]

一 物毎𛂌𛁏𛀪𛀸の𛃑事𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: mono goto ni suki-konomu koto nashi

Have no predilections.

一 私宅𛂌おゐてのそむ心𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: shitaku ni oite nozomu kokoro nashi

Desire nothing of thy house.

一 身ひとつ𛂌美食𛄜このま𛁑

Hitotsu: mi hitotsu ni bishoku wo konomazu

Choose not fine food when eating alone.

一 末〻代物𛂂る古き道具所待せ寸

Hitotsu: suezue shiromono naru furuki dōgu shoji zezu

Keep not old tools for later gain.[[I believe that this is an admonishment against the buying of antique goods in the hope that they will become valuable.]]

一 𛄌𛀚身𛂌い𛁠り物い𛃉𛁏る事𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: waga mi ni itari mono-imi suru koto nashi

Deprive not thy body.[[I.e., do not abstain from food or certain acts for ascetic reasons.]]

一 兵具𛂞各別よの道具𛁠𛁅𛂂ま𛁑

Hitotsu: heigu wa kakubetsu yo no dōgu tashinamazu

Rejoice in no tools but weapons.[[I believe that yo means 余, even though the kana よ used here is derived from the kanji 与.]]

一 道𛂌おゐて𛂞死𛄜いとは寸思う

Hitotsu: michi ni oite shi wo itowazu omou

Think it not ill to meet death on thy way.

一 老身𛂌財寳所領もちゆる心𛂂𛁅

Hitotsu: rōshin ni zaihō shoryō mochiyuru kokoro nashi

Wish not for lands and treasures for thine old age.

一 佛神𛂞貴𛁅佛神𛄚𛁠のま𛁑

Hitotsu: busshin wa tōtoshi busshin wo tanomazu.

Worship the Gods and Buddhas but ask of them nothing.

一 身𛄚捨ても名利𛂦すて𛁑

Hitotsu: mi wo sutemo myōri wa sutezu

Cast away thy life before thou casteth away thine honour.

一 常𛂋兵法の道𛄜𛂦𛂂𛃿寸

Hitotsu: tsune ni heihō no michi wo hanarezu

Never stray from the way of the fighting arts.

Further reading

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)

Published by Jonathan

I made this website.