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Hakuin Studies

Summaries of Hakuin’s Writings in Japanese (Kana hōgo)
by Yoshizawa Katsuhiro  

Hebi ichigo

『辺鄙以知吾』 (Raspberries, parts 1 and 2). Written in 1754

This work is written in the form of a letter to Ikeda Tsugumasa, daimyō of the Okayama domain.

In part 1 Hakuin emphasizes the importance of nurturing good health and governing wisely, citing representative examples from China and Japan.

In part 2 Hakuin quotes Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Jinkun goikun (Divine ruler’s legacy), and praises the text as the ideal expression of the spirit of benevolent rule. The most noticeable aspect of the missive, however, is its scathing criticism of the social conditions of the times. Pointing out that the daimyō, with their concubines and mistresses, support their lavish and self-indulgent lifestyles through the labors of the citizenry, Hakuin expresses sympathy for the peasants who circulate petitions and rise in rebellion, saying that “a desperate rat will bite a cat.” The greatest virtue of the daimyō, Hakuin stresses, is eliminating extravagance, cutting expenditures, and devoting himself to the welfare and happiness of the people.

Hakuin also severely criticizes the sankin kōtai 参勤交代 system, one of the main features of the Tokugawa system of government, in which the daimyō were required to reside during alternate years in Edo. Hakuin attacks the wasteful extravagance of this system, and points out the enormous burden of tax that it places on the peasantry.

Because of such criticism Hebi ichigo was banned by the authorities, and publication forbidden.

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  Last Update: 2003/12/19