Last modified on 23 July 2013, at 14:12

Yoshida Shoin

Nothing is steadfast but the will, nothing endures but one’s achieve­ments.

Yoshida Shoin (吉田 松陰 Yoshida Shōin, August 1830 – 1859) was a Japanese scholar, military and political philosopher and teacher.

While the school he ran was very tiny, most of his students, including Takasugi Shinsaku and Itō Hirobumi played prominent roles in the mid 19th Century Japanese politics and military scenes.

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Yoshida Shoin ZenshuEdit

  • If a general and his men fear death and are apprehensive over possible defeat, then they will unavoidably suffer defeat and death. But if they make up their minds, from the general down to the last footsoldier, not to think of living but only of standing in one place and facing death together, then, though they may have no other thought than meeting death, they will instead hold on to life and gain victory.
    • Vol. I
  • To consider oneself different from ordinary men is wrong, but it is right to hope that one will not remain like ordinary men.
    • Vol. II
  • One who aspires to greatness should read and study, pursuing the True Way with such a firm resolve that he is perfectly straightforward and open, rises above the superficialities of conventional behavior, and refuses to be satisfied with the petty or commonplace.
    • Vol. II
  • Those who take up the science of war must not fail to master the [Confucian] Classics. The reason is that arms are dangerous instruments and not necessarily forced for good. How can we safely entrust them to any but those who have schooled themselves in the precepts of the Classics and can use these weapons for the realization of Humanity and Righteousness? To quell violence and disorder, to repulse barbarians and brigands, to rescue living souls from agony and torture, to save the nation from imminent downfall-these are the true ends of Humanity and Righteousness. If, on the contrary, arms are taken up in a selfish struggle to win land, goods, people, and the implements of war, is it not the worst of all evils, the most heinous of all offenses? If, further, the study of offensive and defensive warfare, of the way to certain victory in all encounters, is not based on those principles which should govern their employment, who can say that such venture will not result in just such a misfortune? Therefore, I say that those who take up the science of war must not fail to master the Classics.
    • Vol. II
  • Once a man’s will is set, he need no longer rely on others or expect anything from the world. His vision encompasses Heaven and earth, past and present, and the tranquility of his heart is undisturbed.
    • Vol. III
  • In relations with others, one should express resentment and anger openly and straightforwardly. If one cannot express them openly and straightforwardly, the only thing to do is forget about them. To harbor grievances in one's heart, awaiting some later opportunity to give vent to them, is to act like a weak and petty man-in truth, it can only be called cowardice. The mind of the superior man is like Heaven. When it is resentful or angry, it thunders forth its indignation. But once having loosed its feelings, it is like a sunny day with a clear sky: within the heart there remains not the trace of a cloud. Such is the beauty of true manliness.
    • Vol. III
  • What I mean by the "pursuit of learning" is not the ability to read classical texts and study ancient history, but to be fully acquainted with conditions all over the world and to have a keen awareness of what is going on abroad and around us. Now from what I can see world trends and conditions are still unsettled, and as long as they remain unsettled there is still a chance that something can be done. First, therefore, we must rectify conditions in our own domain, after which conditions in other domains can be rectified. This having been done, conditions at court can be rectified and finally conditions throughout the whole world can be rectified. First one must set an example oneself and then it can be extended progressively to others. This is what I mean by the "pursuit of learning."
    • Vol. IV
  • From the beginning of the year to the end, day and night, morning and evening, in action and repose, in speech and in silence, the warrior must keep death constantly before him and have ever in mind that the one death [which he has to give] should not be suffered in vain. In other words [he must have perfect control over his own death] just as if he were holding an intemperate steed in rein. Only he who truly keeps death in mind this way can understand what is meant by [Yamaga Soko's maxim of] "preparedness."
    • Vol. IV
  • Nowadays everyone lives selfishly and seeks only the leisure in which to indulge his own desires. They look on all the beauties of nature-the rivers and mountains, the breeze and the moon-as their own to enjoy, forgetting what the shrine of the Sun Goddess stands for. The common man thinks of his life as his own and refuses to perform his duty to his lord. The samurai regards his household as his own private possession and refuses to sacrifice his life for his state. The feudal lords regard their domains as their own and refuse to serve King and Country. Unwilling to serve King and Country, at home they cherish only the objects of desire and abroad they willingly yield to the foreign barbarian, inviting defeat and destruction. Thus the scenic beauties they enjoy will not long remain in their possession.
    • Vol. IV
  • As things stand now the feudal lords are content to look on while the shogunate carries on in a highhanded manner. Neither the lords nor the shogun can be depended upon, and so our only hope lies in grass-roots heroes.
    • Vol. V
  • Life and death, union and separation, follow hard upon one another. Nothing is steadfast but the will, nothing endures but one's achieve­ments. These alone count in life.
    • Vol. V
  • Once the will is resolved, one’s spirit is strengthened. Even a peasant's will is hard to deny, but a samurai of resolute will can sway ten thou­sand men.
    • Vol. V
  • It seems hopeless, hopeless. Those who eat meat [at public expense] are a mean, selfish lot, and so the country is doomed. Our only hope lies in the grass-roots folk who eat our traditional food.
    • Vol. VI
  • What is important in a leader is a resolute will and determination. A man may be versatile and learned, but if he lacks resoluteness and determination, of what use will he be?
    • Vol. VIII
  • If the body dies, it does no harm to the mind, but if the mind dies, one can no longer act as a man even though the body survives.
    • Vol. VIII
  • When I consider the state of things in our fief, I find that those who hold positions and receive official stipends are incapable of the utmost in loyalty and patriotic service. Loyalty of the usual sort-perhaps, but if it is true loyalty and service you seek, then you must abandon this fief and plan a grass-roots uprising.
    • Vol. IX
  • If Heaven does not completely abandon this land of the Gods, there must be an uprising of grass-roots heroes.
    • Vol. IX
  • If the plan [to intercept the shogunate emissary to the Kyoto court] is to be carried out, it can only be done with men from the grass roots. To wear silk brocades, eat dainty food, hug beautiful women, and fondle darling children are the only things hereditary officials care about. To revere the emperor and expel the barbarian is no concern of theirs. If this time it should be my misfortune to die, may my death inspire at least one or two men of steadfast will to rise up and uphold this principle after my death.
    • Vol. IX

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