Tales of Old Japan eBook

Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 405 pages of information about Tales of Old Japan.

There are many books of sermons published in Japan, all of which have some merit and much quaintness:  none that I have seen are, however, to my taste, to be compared to the “Kiu-o Do-wa,” of which the following three sermons compose the first volume.  They are written by a priest belonging to the Shingaku sect—­a sect professing to combine all that is excellent in the Buddhist, Confucian, and Shin To teaching.  It maintains the original goodness of the human heart; and teaches that we have only to follow the dictates of the conscience implanted in us at our birth, in order to steer in the right path.  The texts are taken from the Chinese classical books, in the same way as our preachers take theirs from the Bible.  Jokes, stories which are sometimes untranslatable into our more fastidious tongue, and pointed applications to members of the congregation, enliven the discourses; it being a principle with the Japanese preacher that it is not necessary to bore his audience into virtue.

SERMON I

(THE SERMONS OF KIU-O, VOL.  I)

Moshi[87] says, “Benevolence is the heart of man; righteousness is the path of man.  How lamentable a thing is it to leave the path and go astray, to cast away the heart and not know where to seek for it!”

[Footnote 87:  Moshi, the Japanese pronunciation of the name of the Chinese philosopher Meng Tse, whom Europeans call Mencius.]

The text is taken from the first chapter of Koshi (the commentator), on Moshi.

Now this quality, which we call benevolence, has been the subject of commentaries by many teachers; but as these commentaries have been difficult of comprehension, they are too hard to enter the ears of women and children.  It is of this benevolence that, using examples and illustrations, I propose to treat.

A long time ago, there lived at Kioto a great physician, called Imaoji—­I forget his other name:  he was a very famous man.  Once upon a time, a man from a place called Kuramaguchi advertised for sale a medicine which he had compounded against the cholera, and got Imaoji to write a puff for him.  Imaoji, instead of calling the medicine in the puff a specific against the cholera, misspelt the word cholera so as to make it simpler.  When the man who had employed him went and taxed him with this, and asked him why he had done so, he answered, with a smile—­

“As Kuramaguchi is an approach to the capital from the country, the passers-by are but poor peasants and woodmen from the hills:  if I had written ‘cholera’ at length, they would have been puzzled by it; so I wrote it in a simple way, that should pass current with every one.  Truth itself loses its value if people don’t understand it.  What does it signify how I spelt the word cholera, so long as the efficacy of the medicine is unimpaired?”

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Tales of Old Japan from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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