CHAPTER VIII. PHILOSOPHY FOR THE PEOPLE
The Confucian literature in Japan so far instructed the mass of the people as to provide summaries of moral rules for them. But these moral rules could exist in harmony with Buddhism. And as in China for centuries and in Japan for a thousand years the Chinese ethics knew no quarrel with the religion of the Buddha, so even after the educated men in Japan had given up Buddhism it still retained its full power over the lower classes and could incorporate the Confucian ethics with itself.
One effort, long continued, was made to win the people not merely to the Confucian ethics, but to the foreign philosophy. Toward the close of the eighteenth century a school of popular preachers expounded the rudiments of the Chinese system to the people. They made such concessions to Buddhism as they thought the case demanded, but sought to substitute their system for the people's faith. They continued in a succession until the middle of the nineteenth century, but their failure was complete. They made no lasting impression upon the nation's mind. The Chinese philosophy remained the exclusive possession of the higher classes.
Volumes of sermons by the preachers of this philosophy may be bought in the bookstalls of Tokyo, though the living voice has long since ceased. The following discourse is from a volume printed in 1838 and deals with the fundamental truths and shows how the philosophy of the schools was adapted to the needs of common life. Such sermons give the spirit of the people's life better than more formal treatises.
"Text: 'The Master says, -Is it not a pleasure to practise what we learn?'
"As you all know, this text is from the beginning of the first book of the Analects. It is the teaching of the great Sage, Confucius. I am unlearned and cannot expound the Analects, but shall talk simply to these ladies and children about the 'Way.' 'The Master says,' means, Confucius says, and what is his meaning in this word, 'learn'? What are we to learn? It is man's 'Way' of course, the 'Way' that belongs to every man, even to the Son of Heaven and the Shogun, with all reverence be it said, to us common folk, and to the very outcast and beggars. For every one is by nature endowed with five virtues, humanity, righteousness, propriety, sincerity, and wisdom; and from these come naturally our duties in five relations-obedience to parents, loyalty to master, conjugal harmony, brotherly affection, and kindness to strangers. The text refers to learning these things, for they constitute man's 'Way.'
"Nothing is without its 'Way' and each thing follows straight its path: the cock crows every morning and tells the hour; the dog guards the gate, the cat catches the rat, the horse and ox bear burdens for man-all do their duty. Was ever horse or ox ashamed to meet its companion, or do they run away to hide, or are cat or dog sentenced to death by their peers? Why, consider even inanimate things! The willow is always green, the flower coloured, the pine crooked, the cedar straight, the radish long, and the turnip short, never a mistake or change at all!
"Alas! alas! Only that sad thing, man! He is born the 'Head of all things,' but as he does not know what constitutes him 'Head,' there are many men who are not true men. As the comic poet says:
"'Should ye become beasts it would not soil your face, O guild of nature's lords.'
For man is endowed with the splendid power of choice and so he leaves his 'Way,' and wanders in forbidden paths. How dangerous! with all our strength we must learn man's 'Way.' You know the ancient verse:
"'Many men. Amid the men no man. Man, be a man! Man, make men!'
This endowment with the five virtues and duties is like the arrangement of five fingers on the hand. Look at your fingers and see: The index finger is for benevolence and filial obedience, the third finger for righteousness and loyalty, the middle finger for propriety and conjugal harmony, the little finger for wisdom and brotherly affection, the thumb for sincerity and fidelity to companions. With the five you can grasp what you will. How wonderful! 'Flowers, bright-coloured leaves, gold and silver in the world are given,- put forth your strength and take.' How important that we put forth our strength! Mencius says, 'If self-examination shows truth, then all the world endows me. No pleasure excels this.' All the world is mine, a precious treasure, but if I am a little selfish, if I seek my own happiness, I break the fingers off. Disobedience breaks the first, disloyalty the third, conjugal discord the second, strife with brothers the fourth, falseness toward others the thumb, and my hand is useless. There! It is a club! it cannot take or hold a thing. My young hearers, are your fingers broken off?
"In prayer we join the fingers of both hands, representing the active and passive principles, or in Shinto the primeval oneness of heaven and earth, of harmony between self and others. But if only the hands are joined what answer can we expect from gods or Buddhas? Feelings and actions, too, must be in harmony, for if they are pushed out like clubs to the deities, though we repeat prayers as enchanters repeat their charms, the god looks the other way.
"'No answer to thy prayer? Silence an answer is. Thy praying heart lacks truth.'
Here is a story in point.
"When we pray for cleansing and holiness, as in Shinto, we desire to be rid of self-seeking and wilfulness. We do not offer anything to the gods. And when we pray, 'Save, eternal Buddha!' we do not aid him, for, pure and holy, he does not need our help, but we desire to be changed into his likeness. Otherwise our form of prayer is like using the clubs, and man must learn this 'Way' by the teaching of the Sages, and so Confucius says, Learn.'
"An old woman who very much wished to go to heaven once lived among the farmers. Every day she made an offering to her Buddha and called the rice 'sacred,' and all things used in its preparation she esteemed the property of Buddha and used them for nothing else - 'sacred pot,' 'sacred ladle,' 'sacred cloth.' So, too, all the family used the same adjective when they mentioned anything belonging to the Buddha, 'sacred flower,' 'sacred censer,' even 'sacred dishcloth.' The reason for it all was the old woman's desire to go to paradise after death, there to feast upon an hundred kinds of fruit and never to labour more. She was wholly selfish. Yet the founder of her sect was not wholly to blame, as he had hoped to wheedle men into just living now. But the old woman never thought of that and interpreted the Buddhist saying, 'The world is a transient, borrowed lodging,' to mean that she might please herself, even by disobedience, disloyalty, and injustice. Was she not a fool? 'A borrowed world! Yet use it not in vain! This borrowed world only is thine.' The seed of heaven and hell is all sown in this life and so this 'borrowed' world is of the last importance to us all. But this woman in her selfishness thinks it is transient! I can please myself! So in her accounts are many things that do not agree. She will not pay her taxes until compelled, but would pay her temple dues with her skin! She can't fast on the anniversary of her parents' death, 'for her health's sake,' but is not hurt by fasting on the 'sacred' day when the founder of her religion died. And so with all the family-they scold each other with loud, shrill voices, and almost the same instant turn to their Buddha and pray with the gentlest tones! How selfishness seems to make a fool of Buddha! He only grieves as such a club is thrust out before him. He never supposed that a desire for heaven would lead to such misconduct nor that prayer should become pretext for sin. Such conduct causes tears of blood to fall. Are not such folk wholly astray?
"This old woman never washed the rice for Buddha with her hands, but used two clubs, and a man, asking her, 'Why do you wash the rice in such inconvenient fashion?' was told, 'Because it is for the Buddha, and my hands are not clean enough. Some particle of dirt remains, whatever care I take.' So he asked again, 'How do you pray?''Why, with clasped hands, of course.' 'That, too, is wrong,' he said; 'you should use two clubs!' 'You wretch! what blasphemy!' she cried. But the real blasphemy is prayer with the fingers joined while thoughts and actions are like the clubs.
"Of old, Buddha and the inventors of religions pitied men and tried to coax them to virtue, just as the seller of sweets blows a flute and sings a song and the peddler spins a top-all for the sake of selling their wares."Swallowing the device of the priest, Well satisfied they dance their prayers.'
"The word 'practice' means imitate. When we hear the precious words of the Sages we take them as our model. Or, if that is too hard for us stupid folk, we can find models near at hand and imitate the obedient and loyal men we see. As Confucius said, 'If I see a wise man I desire to be like him; if a foolish man I examine myself.' And again, 'In the actions of every three men there is a teacher for me. Seeing the right I follow it, and seeing the evil I mend it.' So, seeing the conduct of other men, I mend my own.
"But some of you thoughtlessly hear this word 'imitate,' and the boy thinks of imitating the jester, and the woman of imitating the harlot or dancer, and the clerk of imitating the actor's hair, and so evil comes of it. Then, too, the true middle way is hard to copy. To save from such error I teach this 'Way.' Pray consider it!
"All the time a clear-sighted, honoured teacher is close at hand. Do not go peering about for it. It is called the 'true self,' has not eyes nor ears nor mouth, and nothing hinders it. It has been much praised in India and China from the earliest time. To it we will go at once and I will lead you by the hand.
"If we listen, as to gossip, carelessly, we shall not understand, for we learn this lesson by testing it, as we learn the taste of water by tasting. What is the 'Way' of the sparrow? Chu-chu. Of the crow? Ka-ka. Of the willow? Greenness. Of the flower? Colour. Of man? Obedience, loyalty, sincerity-as any one can say who has the cant words by heart. But it is a great mistake to suppose this is the sort of thing that is to be heard merely by the ears. To repeat the correct words as volubly as the old-clothes man talks and yet not to know the 'Way' is to be like the club, so Laotze said, 'Destroying great religions, love and righteousness spring up.'
"To speak correctly, Ka-ka is the crow, greenness the willow, colour the flower, and the virtues man. As Mencius says: 'Man does all things by benevolence and righteousness: he does not do benevolence and righteousness.' 'Before heaven and earth were formed the chick sang in its shell.' This great teacher had no beginning but was before heaven and earth. It is with us the livelong day and says, 'Do this:' 'Do that:' 'That is wrong:' 'Do not do it!' With all our strength we must imitate it, it is the living teacher. I beseech you, follow it.
"We master nothing by copying it once or twice, we must grow like it. The very children write over and over again until at last they write just like the copy. So with man's 'Way': as we copy the great teacher, the 'true self,' at last our acts become like our model and this is the meaning of the text. Just as in music, we wish to sound chin tsun ten but it comes out chin chin ten, but, as we persevere, at last we can play what we will and gain a skill that makes us forget our food in joy. Still more when I follow the 'Way' of man, the essential element of manhood, do I attain the highest happiness. So our text says, 'Is it not a pleasure to practice what we learn?'
"But this saying of the Sage is beyond us common folks, and yet if we enter this gate and learn only the outer edge of the true self, that which has seemed apart from us-Shinto, Buddha, and the Sage-we learn at once is all our own. They are not wholly apart from us. So we lose our selfishness and grow ashamed of our old thoughts and feelings. We had thought ourselves wise and prudent and now the horns of the selfish demon draw slowly in, and the skin, a thousand thick, thins down to one. And in like degree we enter heaven with joy and thankfulness unspeakable, unconscious how our hands move and our feet dance. As the poet sings,
"'So long as Buddha lives Whate'er I see or hear Is source of thankfulness.'"Now for a little stop, stretching out your elbows proudly, and study the shell of this body. What a wonderful being it is! On the head we wear nothing, and just there is the cushion of hair that protects us against injury should anything fall upon it. And the eye is a wonder! It takes in light for the whole body and is withdrawn a little and protected from dust by the eyelid which opens and shuts itself; and if dust gets in, the eyelash sweeps it out. The eyebrows, like the eaves of a warehouse, carry away the perspiration. The nose cannot shut, so it opens downwards that no wind may enter, and the roof above protects it. Were it not for that we should have to walk backwards when the wind blows hard, and might fall into a puddle or strike against a cart or stone. So it is by the grace of this roof, which in a lifetime needs no repairs, that we walk at ease.
"The mouth takes in our food. How wisely it is made, expanding, contracting, to admit just the load! And inside are the teeth, those officials who roughly handle the various things and with the tongue let nothing hard, or hurtful escape. And in old age out come the teeth, lest food too strong for the stomach should be taken.
"The ears spread like a wine-seller's funnel to receive the five sounds, and at the joints of our limbs the skin is a little loose, and toes and fingers are protected at the ends by nails, like bits of hardware. You must ask the doctor to tell you of the clock-like mechanism of the body, of its five and six viscera. All is formed by Heaven from the five elements. Could there be a more skilful workman? We sleep, we wake, we walk, we speak, we think at will. We can never understand the marvel, study as we may.
"See how we go astray. We think, This body is mine; I can do as I please; and so we come to think, I am wise and smart. 'If he goes there I move here: if he comes here I go there': from morning to night the elbows are pushed out like a chess-player's, we scowl as we consider what we shall do, and the will is like a wrestler's. How guilty! How pitiable! Heaven is too kind and gives us our tenement free of rent, and we presume on the kindness and think it our own. At last we dun the owner! No possible happiness can come from that. I'll illustrate by a story:
"In a certain place was a servant named Chokichi, a most wonderful fool. There were many fools, but this one was extraordinary, with a remarkable talent for forgetting. One day his mistress said to him, 'Here, Chokichi; to-day is an anniversary and the priest will soon come and we must have an offering for the household deities. Hurry to Nihom-bashi and buy five things,-carrot, dock, mountain potato, dried mushroom, and lotus root.' She gave him five cents and he answered 'Yes,' tucked up his skirt, and started fast as he could run.
"Soon he meets neighbour Kichimatsu, who asks, 'Where do you go so fast?' 'To Nihom bashi to buy some things.' 'What shall you buy?' 'Why, I don't know.' His mistress's commission was forgotten and he remembered only to run. Was he not a fool?
"But possibly we should not laugh too loudly at him. Of course not in this congregation, but back in the country are many men not unlike Chokichi, men who forget the most pressing duties. They know very well what others should do,-well, let each examine self.
"Here is Mr. Hachibei, who says that every being is born with a special commission from Heaven. 'Indeed! What were horse and ox born for?' 'Oh, I know that! To help man by bearing burdens.' 'And what was the cock born for?' 'To tell the dawn.' 'And the dog?' 'To guard the gate.' 'And the cat?' 'To catch the rat.' Whatever I ask, if it is only something yonder, he knows it well. Now, Mr. Hachibei, what were you born for? He scratches his head, 'Why was I born? I do not know. To eat rice and grumble.' That is the sort of reply he makes. Truly he is of Chokichi's guild. It cannot be that man only came into the world to grow old eating rice! He differs from cat and dog and is the 'head of all things,' but that does not mean that he is aimless.
"When Chokichi reached Nihom-bashi he wandered aimlessly about, his money in hand. He saw cookies in a baker's and went in and ate some-ten. Then he drank small beer and spent what he had left in a low eating-house. But still he was not satisfied, and went home grumbling because he could not buy cooked eel and duck.
"Meanwhile master and mistress were hot as fire. 'Chokichi, what are you about, where are the things we sent you for?' Chokichi, surprised, replied, 'What things? I have not bought anything.' The master angrily: 'What did you do with the money?' 'Oh, I used that to buy things to eat and I want some more." Mistress and master amazed, 'You are talking in your sleep! We did not tell you to buy things to eat, but to get carrot and dock-the five things for the ceremony. You spent the money for things to eat? You are crazy.' They scold and pound the mats. No doubt of his being a fool. He looks up surprised, and says, 'Do you want carrot and dock? I have just been to Nihom-bashi, and it would have been such a good time to have bought them!' A monstrous fool! In the wide world none would support him for an hour. Hit him with the fist and drive him out! There is no help for it.
"But this is not merely an amusing story, it is a parable. If we hear of folly we examine self. So if any thinks, 'I am not like Chokichi,' let him examine self.
"At birth we receive from Heaven not five cents with which to buy things, but a body with five members and five senses and a heart endowed with five virtues. And we are to fulfil the five duties, this is our commission, the things we are to buy. But we forget virtues and duties, and, rising up and lying down, complain: 'I want this! I want that! This won't do! That's not enough! and use our mouths and ears buying and eating -Chokichi himself! Surely, man was not born so aimlessly. And even in these times of peace, when with diligence one need not want anything, men do not imagine even in their dreams that gratitude is due. 'That's not enough! This won't do!' It is blasphemy.
"When the 'true self' disappears the selfish demon rules. The family is in factions, father and son, husband and wife are enemies. They glare at each other and ill-treat each other. The lord, too, abuses his servants and they watch his errors. It is a living hell! And when a pause comes they study questions of no profit: 'Are the times good or bad?' 'Is the world wide or narrow?' 'Is it the world's beginning or end?' It is the merest folly! So grumbled Chokichi, because his mistress's money was too little and he could not have eel and duck. Such grumblers dun Heaven for rent, and in return are ordered to quit the premises. They run off bankrupt, men and women drowning themselves together or having their heads cut off. So they get a blow or two from Heaven's fist and are turned out of heaven, the wretches!
"It is written, 'All things are cultivated in a series, therefore they must not hurt each other.' We know the true self and wish to forsake our selfish buying and eating and to follow the true 'Way.' We desire to do the pressing commission of Heaven and to be obedient, loyal, and kind. Thus shall we live in joy.
"But some of my young hearers think,' That is old-fashioned and not for these times'; and others say, 'No. It is true and I mean to follow the "Way." But just now I am too busy "and really have not time.' All these belong to Chokichi's guild and soon Heaven's fist will be on their heads and then what sorrow and woes will they know-a fearful doom! Learn over and over again this 'Way.'
"In ancient times Buddha, Confucius, and the founders of the sects forsook home and rank and denied themselves pleasant food and clothes, and with wasting flesh helped others. We, too, desire to make it the business of life to live and die true men. That is our prayer to Heaven, to the gods and Buddha, the true prayer for the bountiful harvest of the five kinds of grain and for peace in earth and heaven.
"My sermon has been so long, from the beginning to end, that now we'll stop and take a pipe."