of Yamaga Sokô
Yamaga Sokô is without doubt one
of the most important figures in the history of bushido. A rônin
(masterless samurai) during the Tokugawa period, Sokôís most significant
contributions were codifying the bushido ethic and re-envisioning the role
of the samurai. His systematic articulation of the samurai spirit
helped provide a philosophical basis for bushido. Sokô detested
the teachings of the Sung neo-Confucian school and the sense of spirituality
it tried to instill into Confucianism. He was, nonetheless, heavily
influenced by Confucian teachings.
Sokô viewed devotion to duty as
the most important aspect of a samuraiís life and believed that the samurai
class should assume moral leadership in society. In this sense he
helped redefine the samuraiís role in the Pax Tokugawa and gave the
warriors a new raison díetre. His work reflects prevailing
notions during his time that the samurai should combine intense martial
training (bu) with high intellectual pursuits (bun).
In addition, Sokôís devotion to the imperial house later helped justify
the overthrow of the shogunate during the Meiji Restoration.
There are relatively few English translations
of Yamaga Sokôís works. The one listed below is an excerpt from
his work Shidô.
The Way of the Samurai, in
Sources of Japanese Tradition, Volume I (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1958), pp. 389-91