Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2020 – Year of the Rat

A rat nibbling New Year mochi from Ehon Shuyo
of 1751 (printsofjapan.com)

2020 is, in the Japanese tradition, the Year of the Rat (or mouse...take your pick – the term nezumi covers both in Japanese). The rat is usually considered a symbol of good luck, being associated with Daikokuten, the god of wealth. This association is usually explained as rats and mice being attracted by wealth (i.e. surplus food), and so signs of rodent activity, particularly nibbled mochi at New Year, were traditionally seen as good luck. It was also believed that rats stored up food for the winter, and this added to their reputation as animals of good fortune.

Kobayashi Issa reflected something of this in the following haiku:
      New Year's shelf –
      from a dark nook
      a lucky mouse

(Toshi-dana ya kurai hō yori fuku nezumi)

Connections with the bushi are, not surprisingly, not particularly common – warriors generally took more powerful animals as their symbols. The timorous mouse seems an unlikely symbol for a class that prided itself on courage. Rats, however, can be bold: Neko no Myojutsu (The Mysterious Skills of the Old Cat) is a well-known story that concerns one such animal. A ferocious rat is wrecking havoc in the house of a samurai, Shoken.

Shoken getting serious with the rat.

The rat proves too strong for his house cat, and even Shoken himself finds himself in trouble when he confronts it, so he enlists the aid of the local cats, famous for their rat-catching skills. Alas, they are also no match for the rat. whose speed and ferocity prove too much for them.

Finally, much to their surprise, Shoken's final gamble – a famous mouser whose rat-catching days seem long gone – pays off, and the old cat succeeds in catching the rat with ease. Later that evening, Shoken overhears the old cat explain how he was able to succeed where the others failed. This explanation is an account of some of the mental teachings involved in swordsmanship, and is said to have been connected to (or even part of) the teachings of the Itto ryu. For those interested, several translations are available...mine is available here.

Rats featured in other stories as well. This one is from a children's story book, Neko Nezumi Kassen (The War between the Cats and the Rats), illustrated by Utagawa Yoshitora c1840-1860, a one-time pupil of the famous Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

In the story, the general of the cats decides to attack the rats, and battle ensues...
The text for these pages reads:

On the other side there was a rat general called Lucky Rat. One day, the white rat, the general’s lieutenant, rushed in, gasping for breath, “Emergency, emergency!” White Rat: “It is terrible! Cat General Nekomata is on his way to attack us with a huge army. They are almost here.” Lucky Rat: “What? This is a crisis!” Lucky Rat immediately called on his mighty warriors among the white rats, red rats, tortoise-shell rats, China rats, mice, top-spinning rats, sewer rats, and with all others waited for the cat army to arrive. 


This battle ends happily for both sides with deus ex machina in the form of the intervention of ...Daikokuten.

Although rats and mice were not closely linked to martial culture, Minamoto Musashi's 'Rat's head – ox's neck' (or horse's neck – the character is very similar, and as the original no longer exists, it is not possible to say which was originally intended) from the Fire Scroll of Gorin no sho should not be forgotten. The contrast between these two elements is a reminder to maintain a dual perspective that sees detail at the same time as the broader picture. Musashi noted that this is important in both small and large scale combat.

Although Musashi left no examples of rats or mice in his art, several artists have found them to be fine subjects – netsuke artists in particular, took advantage of the qualities offered by the rat/mouse's
 form. However, rather than netsuke, I will finish with a painting by Watanabe Shōtei which nicely displays his controlled and elegant brushwork.

Watanabe Shōtei (1852-1918)

Friday, 28 June 2019

Victor Harris - the original Book of Five Rings


Perhaps the best cover of any version of Gorin no Sho - and the picture is one of Kuniyoshi's depictions of Musashi.

Published by Overlook Press in 1974, this was the first translation of Musashi’s work into English, and for a long time, the only one. One might occasionally pick up fragments in other works – I am particularly reminded of one story in an illustrated book on samurai in my secondary school library, a story about a fan-wielding master of saiminjutsu who managed to persuade Musashi that he was carrying a sword). It has been around for so long, certainly in my life, that it has become part of the landscape. The phrases it used, even the title itself – A Book of Five Rings (Scrolls of the Five Elements would be more accurate, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring) have become familiar. Other translators may have chosen to alter some of these classic formulations, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but the shadow of the original continues to hang over them. It is not easy to assess. But this is escaping the issue. Does it deserve respect for more than its merits as a forerunner in this genre?


First, it should be noted how well it has stood up in the forty-five years since it was first published. Victor Harris (who died in 2017) was an experienced kendoka, an expert on the Japanese sword (President of the Token Society of Great Britain), and head of the Japanese Department of the British Museum. He was deeply involved in this field. For all that, A Book of Five Rings was a relatively early work. Would he have liked to change anything? I have no idea, but I have read that he would sometimes refer to Musashi in his teaching, so I am sure his understanding and appreciation of the work deepened and matured over the many years since he first worked on the translation.


Despite the fact that I no longer use it as my translation of choice, it is still a good choice for anyone interested in Musashi’s writing, although its strengths as a book (at least in the original version) perhaps weigh stronger than the absolute qualities of the translation. Compared to all the subsequent works, it is better set out as a book – the care given to the layout and spacing of the text makes it exceptionally easy to read and consult; the front matter, although not extensive, is relevant (especially for those days when very few in the west had heard of Musashi). It is clear and well-written, and despite being somewhat dated (Musashi ‘scholarship’ has come on a lot since those days) provides a good overview of the standard view of Musashi’s life and significant duels. There is a slip in the general historical background when he confuses his shogunates, but this is a minor detail (and shouldn’t be used to judge what is a serious and well-considered work.) It has atmosphere, and this is something that is often overlooked – it shouldn’t be. There is also a good choice of art and photographic references – most of the subsequent translations have followed his lead on this – including some difficult-to-find pictures which are rarely seen elsewhere.


There are weaknesses, but these are not fatal flaws. Chief among these is the writing style, which has a tendency to be somewhat opaque. I do not necessarily feel that translations should read as if the writers were our contemporaries – given Musashi’s background and class, (and style in the original) there is a degree of terseness that is not easy to preserve in English, but in this work, the meaning is not always as clear as it might be. I feel that there is a lack of authority, perhaps because of the author’s lack of grounding in the technique (although he was a serious kendo practitioner and was later involved in older styles of Japanese sword arts, kendo and kenjutsu are different animals), as if he didn’t quite understand the finer points of the techniques he was writing about. I hesitate to say it, especially in view of his continued involvement in the field and obvious facility with the language, but it looks to me as if he was unsure of what it was Musashi was saying in some places. This is natural enough, especially in descriptions of sword technique, but translation is also an act of imaginative creation: as a writer, the translator attempts to reimagine the meaning of the words and translate their message with reference to the wording and style of the original as necessary. I feel as if Harris sometimes gives more weight to the words than to the meaning, with the result that something that is quite clear in the Japanese is suddenly open to a range of interpretations in English. But this is the translator’s art – any translation may be more or less successful at this. Some of his successors have made more informed decisions, better decisions I feel – but they also had something to work with, as Harris did not.


Yes, it still stands on its own merits. For anyone serious about looking into Gorin no Sho, I would recommend other versions as well, or perhaps primarily, and if your Japanese is up to it, versions in Japanese, preferably in both the modern and original Japanese. The language Musashi uses is not generally difficult (although a few sections might prove problematic) and the Japanese certainly gives a more visceral feel to the work. But if this is a step too far at the moment, you won’t go far wrong with the Victor Harris translation – a book to inform and inspire.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Book of Five Rings…but which one?

An imaginative recreation of Musashi in the cave at Reigendo where he wrote Gorin no Sho.

Miyamoto Musashi’s Gorin no Sho is one of the most famous books in the field of martial arts. Since the first commercial translation in 1974 (Victor Harris, Overlook Press) there have been a host of others, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses – the publication of another translation in 2018 (Alexander Bennett, Tuttle) makes it worth considering the merits of some of the most significant of these.

Reigendo, the cave where Musashi lived for the last two years of his life.

Written in the last two years of his life when he was living in the cave Reigendo, in Mount Iwato in Kyushu, he finished it a few days before he died on the 19thday of the 5thmonth, 1645. he passed it to his student Terao Magonojo. The original five scrolls, bearing only the titles of the elements, (rather than the name Gorin no Sho) were destroyed by a castle fire less than fifty years later – fortunately several copies had been made.

When it comes to translations, it is difficult to say one version is better than another; personal taste plays a major role here – the writing style of one translator may just sit with a reader better than another does. 

So, what is it that I look for in a translation?

Primarily, fidelity to the original – in content and in tone. You might think this is pretty much a given – surely all translators try to be accurate in their work? Translation requires more tha linguistic skill, and some translators make it a virtue that their work is more approachable than the original (or previous versions). But for me, this may well make it less useful.

The brevity of Japanese gives translators a great deal of leeway, and although all of the significant translations oGorin no Sho are, for the most part, accurate (anyone can be forgiven for a minor error), for a text like this something more is required. Words and phrases in either language have a value or effect beyond their outward meaning. Some words are stronger, some more subtle, they have rhythm and energy. Some have additional connotations; a translator’s sensitivity to  these is important, particularly if they are translating a document as something that speaks to us now, rather than a historical curiosity.

Perhaps, then, it ismerely a matter of personal opinion. There are certainly inconsistencies, infelicities of language and even inaccuracies in even the best of translations, but each of those currently available have something to offer. Personally, I like to be able to hear the voice of the original writer coming through. It is true that some of Musashi’s instructions can be difficult to follow, but if I cannot begin to imagine what he was actually saying from reading the translation, I think something has been missed.

As a word or warning – don’t believe the editor and fanboy reviews you may find on Amazon or elsewhere for some of these versions. I don’t consider any of them to be more definitive than the others in any substantial way. Nor do I feel that the authors’ experience in martial arts or lack of it necessarily makes a difference…it can do, but even those practising traditional martial arts may be a long way from the kind of art Musashi was writing about.

There is also the question of familiarity: I first read Gorin no Sho at the age of about 15, and over the years, certain phrases have become familiar. Subsequent translators will naturally write in their own style; though perfectly accurate, the difference may not be to the reader’s liking if they are already familiar with the text. Alternatively, the reader may find a new translation speaks to them in a different voice and what was previously opaque becomes clearer. 

Finally, the prospective reader might also consider the design of the book. How big is it? How has it been laid out? What illustrations are there? What additional background, notes, introduction etc. the author has seen fit to include? Some books are just more pleasant or easier to read and use as reference. Others have more useful or interesting notes and explanations. It depends on what the reader is looking for, but there are significant differences.

Having laid out these brief considerations, I will look at some of my favourite versions in the next few posts.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Senki — the spirit of battle

Senki by Miyamoto Musashi, Shimada Bijutsukan

Calligraphy held an important place in the arts in both China and Japan. Indeed, it was probably regarded as the primary visual art, certainly more important than painting. It gained by the importance of the message it transmitted, but didn't suffer from the taint of craftsmanship. Practised by emperors, nobles, priests, statesmen and generals, as well as literati of various stripes, it also benefitted by being an art with an immediate practical application, and one that allowed expression, both of skill and sensibility, without necessarily possessing artistic talent.

As Japan adopted the Chinese writing system, it is no surprise that Chinese calligraphers were regarded as the chief exemplars of the art. These calligraphers are still revered today and fine examples of their art can be seen in various collections in Japan. (A minor spat ensued earlier this year when Taiwan loaned a famous work by Yan Zhenqing (J.Ganshinkei) to the Tokyo National Museum despite pointedly refusing to allow it to travel to the mainland. See here for more details).

Like many things adopted from China, Japan added its own twists, one of these being the fashion for displaying short pieces of calligraphy — often only a few characters — a fashion commonly associated with Zen.

One of the characteristics that is often identified with the practice of calligraphy is the development of the student's character. As an art which is dependent on copying models as the primary mode of practice, it has been said that this helps the student imbibe some of the character of the model.

In a similar vein, there has long been a fashion for reading the artist's character through the shape and flow of the characters her or she produces. Modern scholarship places more emphasis on the uses calligraphy was put to in the roles and institutions for which it was written rather than this impressionistic approach, but nevertheless, when faced by the power of a piece of art, there is something to be said for such impressions. Subjective though it may be, the individual response to a work of art is at the heart of art appreciation. I have been taken aback on several occasions when coming upon a powerful work unexpectedly, particularly, I might add, in the case of Yamaoka Tesshu — he was so prolific that his works do, indeed, turn up where you are not expecting them.

Not so Miyamoto Musashi – or not often, anyway.

The piece above — Senki — is one of his more famous pieces. This pairing of the two main characters, tatakau (fight, battle) and ki (energy, spirit) seems to be unique to Musashi. The line below it is from a Chinese poem  by Bai Juyi (Po Chü-i; J. Hakukyoi), taken from the Wakan Roueishu (A Collection of Japanese and Chinese Poems for Singing), and elucidates the main two characters.

The chill current holds the moon as clearly as a mirror.

The chill current (the slow, inexorable flow of a broad river) is generally taken to represent Musashi's mindset: cold, unstoppable, and ever moving, yet which reads perfectly everything the opponent thinks or does.

There is a rather long (for this kind of thing) analysis (in English) of this work in terms of character on the website of the Japanese martial arts magazine Hiden. It is written by a calligrapher and aikido, William Reed. Although I feel it rather overanalyses, you might find it an interesting read. The following is one of the more interesting observations:

Thick strokes mix freely with thin strokes, and internal spaces are well preserved, which further reinforces the impression of a sword master who could remain calm and effective at the edge of life and death. Musashi knew how to be close enough to safely penetrate the opponent’s space and deliver a fatal strike.

In any case, the work itself deserves a close study, however you may interpret it. An interesting perspective on Zen calligraphy is that interpretation of calligraphy does not tell you about the character of the artist, as much as that of the observer. This, too, may be true, but for myself, I find the more I look, the more I see.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy 2019 - Year of the Boar

 Old Boar in the Snow by Konoshima Okoku

Even a wild boar
With all other things
Blew in this storm
  Matsuo Basho

The boar (inoshishi) symbolises courage, strength, energy and single-pointed focus. While this was admired, inoshishi-bushi – warriors who charged blindly into the fray – were criticised for their inflexible approach.
During Yoritomo's hunting party at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Nitta Shiro Tadatsune kills a gigantic boar by Kitao Shigemasa (Courtesy of Boston MFA)

Boars were key elements in several well-known stories: Nitta Shiro Tadatsune leapt on the back of a giant boar that was wreaking havoc in the shogun Yoshitomo's hunting party, killing it with his short sword. (He was arrested and executed soon after by Yoshitomo – this was seen as a result of killing what was seen as a local god/spirit).

Yamamoto Kansuke Killing a Boar  by Shuntei (ArtofJapan.com)

Yamamoto Kansuke, military advisor to Takeda Shingen, was famously lame (and blind in one eye) as the result of a fight with a large boar. This was a factor in his rejection by the fastidious Imagawa Yoshimoto; he later turned to Shingen for employment, in whom he found someone who saw his true value.

Boar A quick sketch by Maruyama Okyo

One last story is about the painter Maruyama Okyo, who was famous in his day for drawing from live subjects. One day, he showed an acquaintance a picture he had just done of a sleeping boar. His friend praised him for depicting a dead boar so accurately. Okyo was a bit put out by this, so he went back the next day, only to find that it was infact a dead boar that he had drawn.

Friday, 23 March 2018

A Pointed Story – Saigo's dog's ears

Statue of Saigo Takamori in Ueno Park.
From a print by Watanabe Nobuzazu (1899)
The whole print may be seen here.

The Year of the Dog (2018) is already well underway as I write this, but alas, there seems to be little evidence of that principle feature of the dog’s personality, loyalty, in public affairs. Perhaps this is part of the popularity of heroes who seem to rise above the 'swamp' of realpolitik.

Japan has had a long and conflicted relationship with dogs (and, indeed, with the concept of loyalty) varying from using them as target practice for inuoumono, a form of mounted archery (the arrows were blunted, so the dogs survived)...

 ...to the edicts of the Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi, who forbade the taking of animal life (Edicts on Compassion for Living Things issued from the 1690's), and had a huge kennels built for 20,000+ dogs outside the walls of Edo Castle.

The typical image of a dog nowadays is that of the shiba inu; a little on the small side, slightly foxy, smart-looking and attentive. This is only a comparatively recent development, however. It was not so long ago that dogs became a small but hotly contested area of nationalism – the relatively new Japanese nation needed to show its spirit through its canine friends. A quick look at the Japanese breed standards for the shiba inu still has a whiff of this:
A spirited boldness, a good nature, and an unaffected forthrightness, which together yield dignity and natural beauty.

Speaking of former symbols of nationalism, 2018 is also the year of the Taiga drama ‘Sego-don,’ about the life of Saigo Takamori – perhaps a good choice for this year as he was renowned for his loyalty and strength of spirit, and was strongly associated with his own dogs, especially his favourite, Tsun.

 The confusing title comes from the way ‘Saigo dono’ (dono is an honorific) was/is pronounced in Saigo’s local Kagoshima dialect – Sego don. Note also the Mt Fuji-shaped hat

But back to the dog. Saigo was fond of dogs, keeping several. His favourite, by all accounts, was Tsun – a black and white floppy-eared foreign breed. These characteristics are clearly seen in early depictions of the dog, such as this one by Yoshitoshi (1888), eleven years after the death of Saigo.

By the time the statue was built, Saigo had been thoroughly co-opted by nationalist interests, and it was felt that a floppy eared dog did not look Japanese enough. An early version was criticised for looking like a mongrel or too Chinese. Flying in the face of fact and common-knowledge, it was suggested to the sculptor, Gotō Sadayuki, that he change the ears to make them pointed, as a good Japanese dog’s ears should be. This is the image that has stuck in popular culture, and I fear NHK will be no different.
Statue of Saigo Takamori, Ueno Park, Tokyo by
Takamura Koun and Gotō Sadayuki) (1898)

Takamura Koun, with a hat remarkably
similar to Segodon's.

Both men were remarkably skilled sculptors (Takamura was particularly well-known), and their Saigo is not among their best works. Their Kusunoki Masashige, which stands outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, is far more dynamic and assured. (Once again, the horse was by Gotō – he was famous for his horses, with two other sculptors responsible for the sword and the armour).

Kusunoki Masashige (1904)

Takamura's small pieces, particularly of animals, also have a charm which is absent from the Saigo statue. Head of the woodworking department of Tokyo School of Fine Arts, he was also appointed as an artist of the Imperial household. One of his most famous pieces is Aged Monkey, which was exhibited at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Sharp eyes might also spot that Saigo's attire is very 'Japanese' in the statue, in contrast to Yoshitoshi's print. There may have been considerations in the sculptor's mind of what looked more heroic or suitable for such a statue in aesthetic terms, but I can't help feeling that there was something purposeful in choosing to go without the western-style shirt and collar as shown in the slightly earlier print by Yoshitoshi. The choice was also something of a shock to Saigo's widow, Itoko, who remarked on it when the statue was unveiled.

When the statue was finally uncovered, revealing the image, Itoko emitted a sudden shriek.  “It looks nothing like my husband,” she exclaimed.  She was immediately silenced and later reprimanded by Tsugumichi, out of regard for the “feelings of those many people who went to such trouble and expense to produce the statue.”  But Itoko would never overcome here embarrassment at the statue’s informal attire “for all the world to see” – because in life Saigo “was a man of the utmost decorum” who would have worn the formal “hakama and haori bearing the family crest, or a military uniform.” 
(From Samurai Tales: Courage, Fidelity, and Revenge in the Final Years of the Shogun, Romulus Hillsborough, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Pub., 2010.)

But popular images evolve over time, and Saigo's, despite several notable inaccuracies, (I know the dog's ears are not really important) long ago became a legend.

An enlightening article dealing with some of these issues can be found at:

Friday, 13 October 2017

Hojo Tokimune - The Lions' Roar

Kamakura Period (the time of Hojo Tokimune
and the Mongol Invasions) kara shishi (courtesy
of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The lion, of course, is not native to Japan, or anywhere in East Asia, come to that. The stories and imagery were brought along the Silk Road from western Asia, and preserved (principally) in the teachings of Buddhism.

It seems that the aspects of strength, courage and righteousness, in particular, came to be the defining aspects of the lion in Japan – similar, indeed, to how lions were viewed in the west. Rather than being associated chiefly with the ruling powers (eagles and tigers have that distinction) it kept its associations with Buddhism. There is some crossover, however. Most notable is the case of Hojo Tokimune, the defacto ruler of Japan at the time of the Mongol invasions.

Hojo Tokimune, depicted as a Zen Abbot
Tokimune was an early adherent and supporter of Zen - an influential one, given his position – despite the fact that he died quite young. On hearing of the second Mongol invasion, he went for an audience with his teacher, the Chinese priest Mugaku Sogen (posthumously awarded the title Bukko Kokushi).

'The hour of my trial is now at hand,' declared Tokimune.
'How will you respond?' replied Sogen, at which Tokimune replied with a mighty 'Katsu!' (the shout used in Rinzai Zen to demonstrate understanding, and also, if taken literally, the Japanese for victory or 'I will win'.
Sogen replied, 'It is true that the son of a lion roars as a lion.'

D.T. Suzuki says more about Tokimune, comparing him to Yunmen's golden haired lion, directing operations against the Mongol invasions from Kamakura, hundreds of miles from the action. He expresses his admiration for his ability as a leader during this time of crisis (which lasted over 10 years), and his ability to take upon his shoulders the responsibility for the whole country. This not only required great understanding, but also great application, and was a demonstration of his spirituality (whatever that is), as that is the characteristic that underlies understanding. Suzuki had a tendency to hagiography and was a tireless proselytizer for Zen – his writing was very much of his time, but it contains points of interest, too.
Manjusri riding the Golden-Haired Lion
(Muromachi period)

The golden-haired lion was an image used by Fazang, a patriarch of the Hua Yen school of Buddhism, to illustrate the relationship of form (a lion statue) to principle (the gold from which it is made). The lion's body is embodied in each hair - an infinity of infinities. Suzuki, as he often did, neglects to mention the origin, but relates it directly to Zen -Yunmen (J. Ummon) referred to the golden lion in one of his koans. (Fazang predated Yunmen by 200 years).

Suzuki's point, I suppose, is that Tokimune's complete awareness was present in each of his duties. To be realistic, it is worth pointing out that commentators have noted that Tokimune's role was probably much less vital than is often made out - several of his advisors played crucial roles, but we must give Suzuki credit here, as he was probably not aware of this.

More on Mugaku Sogen

An example of Sogen's calligraphy (Courtesy of Tokiwayama
Bunko Foundation)
Sogen was a man of parts, an accomplished calligrapher and painter, known for his courage and self-possession, which seems to have matched well with the spirit of the bushi.

He was 'head-hunted' from China after the first Mongol invasion, and it is quite possible that he was chosen as a result of the famous incident in which he outfaced the Mongols who came to his temple to slaughter the priests. He was found alone by a Mongol warrior. According to the story, he either composed a four line poem or calmly wrote it as the warrior stood, sword ready. Impressed, the warrior left him alone.
The poem has become quite well known, and the last line, 'A flash of lightning in the shadows, a sword cutting the spring wind' became associated with an indifference to death. Yamaoka Tesshu chose it as a name for his dojo, Shumpukan (shumpu is spring wind; kan is hall), and I have also seen it written on a flag of a kamikaze pilot - the historical connection being very appropriate, I suppose.
The poem in full goes:
  Throughout heaven and earth there is not a piece of ground where a single stick could be inserted;

  I am glad that all things are void, myself and the world:

  Honored be the sword, three feet long, wielded by the great Yüan swordsmen;
  For it is like cutting a spring breeze in a flash of lightning.

(It may be noted in passing that this was a reworking of a much earlier poem (c.414 C.E.) by Seng Chao, who composed the poem below while in jail, waiting for execution.
He was, indeed, executed:

The four elements essentially have no master.
The five shadows are fundamentally empty.
The naked sword will sever my head
as though cutting the spring breeze. 

This takes nothing away from Mugaku's work, as Chinese poetry was an art that made much use of borrowing from older works. Mugaku's poem was, in turn, used by the noted monk and poet Sesson Yubai as the basis for a poem when he found himself in extremis.

Tokimune was particularly concerned with the question of fear, and Sogen set him the question 'Where is my fear located?' as a koan. His response, as Sogen indicated may be seen as a kind of 'Lion's Roar', a term which goes back to the very origins of Buddhism, denoting the truth of the teachings of the Buddha and his disciples. Sogen was to use the image of the roaring lion again in his death poem:

A lion appears before ten billion ignorant fools
The lion roars before the ten billion ignorant fools

Torei Enti
Hossu with the
verse mentioned

Once again, this provided fodder for at least one later poet, the monk Torei Enji (1721-1792), a pupil of Hakuin. His rather witty take was this:

A million ignorant fools
A million lions appear 

But of all Sogens's verse, I like the following best:

The bow is shattered; the arrows are all gone.
At this critical moment 
Cast aside all doubt.
Shoot without the slightest delay.