1628: Kaidō Honsoku - The Evidence
Document dated 1628, March 26th
The amazing Fuke Shakuhachi document Kaidō honsoku was created by one or more anonymous komosō mat monks in 1628 (early Edo period).
Although the original document scroll has been reported missing (if not simply stolen!?) from its former owner, the Zen temple Kōkoku-ji in Yura, Wakayama Prefecture,
fortunately, prior to the loss, the text of the document was carefully copied and published, and thus preserved, in a way so as to be studied in rather some detail,
even after the disappearance of the original manuscript itself.
Very early Edo Period (early 17th century) komo-sō,
薦僧/菰僧, style mendicant miyo-giri shakuhachi,
三節切り尺八, flute player
This is a modern Japanese painting depicting a very early 17th century
'komosō', "mat monk" - NotaBene not a 'komusō'!
Website source: blog.zaq.ne.jp/randokku
ENGLISH TRANSLATION of the KAIDŌ HONSOKU
Here follows my translation into English, based on the version which was originally presented in my M.A. thesis in Japanology
and accepted by the University of Copenhagen, Eastasian Institute, in 1987, as well as the Tai Hei Shakuhachi edition of the work
which was published internationally in 2003.
You may read more about the Kaidō honsoku on the web page "The Kaidō Honsoku Thesis".
[1(0): * See note after the translation]
The Fundamental Doctrine of Fuke Shakuhachi Itineracy.
[lit.: "Sea-route basic rules"]
Issued from Yura in the Kii Province.
From where does the Komo come?
‘The Dualistic Notion of "Darkness" appears ... ’
Does he come from the Realm of Obscurity?
‘The Dualistic Notion of "Brightness" appears ... '
Does he come from the Realm of Clarity?
Oh, how mysterious is the basket hat that the Komo is wearing on his head!
It is also called the ‘Tengai’.
Oh, how mysterious is the piece of cloth that he carries over his shoulder!
That is the ‘Dots-and-Cross’ patterned curtain in front of the Shintō Dëity and the Bell
String in front of the Buddha, and it is also called the ‘Rainbow Coil’.
Oh, how mysterious is the double-leaf, fine straw mat that he carries on his back!
It represents the Tripartite Climatic Periods and the Five Elements: Earth, Water, Fire,
Wind, and Space.
The first layer signifies the Total Concealment of the Ungraspability of the Three
Existences: Past, Present, and Future.
How mysterious is the case that he carries on his back, inside the rolled up strawmat!
It is also called the ‘Kenkon’ which proclaims the Interrelatedness of Heaven and Earth.
Oh, how mysterious is the net that he has wrapped around the things!
It is called the ‘Prescribed Bag’ for accomplishing an exhaustive roundtrip
through all the provinces.
Oh, how mysterious is the rope with which everything is tied together!
It is also called the ‘Two Concepts of Being and Non-Being’.
Oh, how mysterious is the purse that he carries placed on his chest!
It expresses the Totality of the Human Body. It is also called the Six Internal Organs. It
contains miscellaneous things, their colors being bluish-green, yellow, red, white, and black.
Oh, how mysterious is the bamboo flute that the Komo carries!
The shakuhachi is the principal treasure of the Komo and it represents the Four Seasons,
likened to the four finger holes in the front.
The single finger hole on the back expresses the Clarity of the Enlightened, Adual Mind.
As for the darkness of its interior, that represents the Realm of Jurisdiction of the King of
Hell, Judge of the Dead.
The three nodes represent the Oneness of the Three Bodies, the lower opening the Womb
World, the upper opening the Diamond World, and the crescent-shaped mouthpiece above
teaches the Clarity of Absolute Reality.
The shakuhachi is precious beyond limit.
When the Komo plays in front of a Shintō Dëity, it is to end the Suffering from the Five
Types of Decay and the Three Fevers.
When the Komo plays in front of an image of the Buddha, it is to awaken from the
Drowsiness of Earthly Desires Originating in Illusion.
When the Komo plays for educated persons, he should prolong his breathing in constant
concentration and blow so as to drive away the Mediocre Body Originating in Illusion.
When he plays the shakuhachi for ordinary, uneducated persons, it is to explain all the
Schools of Buddhism as well as performing all of the Buddhist Ceremonies.
If you inquire about the Komo’s place of origin, the answer is:
‘Neither in the Past nor in the Present!’
Or, to put it in the words of Banzan:
‘The Three-fold World is Immaterial!’
Any attempt at answering the question would be just as meaningless as saying ‘the willow
is verdurous, the flower is crimson’!
Instead of a place of origin, the Komo are scattered in the world without such a place to call
And now being deprived of employment anywhere, be it at any of the three barriers of
Akama-ga-seki in the Nagato Province, Ōsaka-no-seki at the [old] capital [Kyōto], or the two checking stations
of Shirakawa in Ōshū, the Komo who abundantly wander the world, to whom Heaven
and Earth have the Same Root and All Creation is One Body, have neither confinements nor
Oh, humbly speaking, how mysterious are the straw sandals that the Komo is wearing!
They represent the proper footwear for the steadfast treading his way [on giant rocks]
in the footprints of Banzan and Sekitō.
It is said in a poem that,
‘When you search, and find in shakuhachi sound your refuge,
is that not indeed the essence of bamboo?’
The competent Komo possesses a magnificent piece of bamboo.
So he may pass through the Five-fold Environments of Karma, the Komo’s straw mat
is highly tightly woven and therefore he sleeps alone.
Here the fourth of 'The Five Components of Life' is at work: That of 'Volition'.
Because the Komo practices celibacy till the end, he shall create a mind of relief and
disconnection in those who listen to his shakuhachi sermons and sweep away the
Drowsiness of Illusion and Mediocrity and bring about Realization.
Another poem has it that,
‘Choosing as one’s hermitage the voice of the shakuhachi
is that not the Spring breeze blowing at Miyagi-no?'
How mysterious, indeed, is the Komo’s staff!
If you are doubtful, Setchō said,
‘White Clouds Everywhere!’
How mysterious, indeed, is the sword that the Komo is carrying!
Even at Banzan’s deathbed Fuke made a somersault over the screen and mattress, it is
The Komosō founder Priest Fuke’s sect has 16 branches:
The Wakazari Branch Sect.
The Inu-yarō Branch Sect in Tsukushi.
The Hokkoku Noki-ha Branch Sect.
The Noki-ha Branch Sect in Chūgoku.
The Sakabayashi Branch Sect in Ise.
The Gokinai Yawata Noki-ha Branch Sect.
The Kagari Branch Sect in Musashi.
The Wakashû Branch Sect in Minō.
The Sara-ha Branch Sect in Jōshū.
The Yoritake Branch Sect in C. Musashi.
The Kinzen Branch Sect in Shimōsa.
The Kogiku-ha Branch Sect in Shimotsuke.
The Tanjaku Yorokobi Branch Sect in Ōshū.
The Umeji Branch Sect in Hitachi.
The Additional Tanjaku Branch in Ōshū.
The Kandan-ki no ha Branch Sect in Hokkoku.
These are the rustic and humble branches.
Boro — ‘He/they who live(s) like the dew’.
Kan’ei 5, Mid-Spring, 21st day.
* Note to Par. 1(0):
The Kaidō honsoku manuscript scroll, as it appears in all of the several known reprints, features a headline which (according to an editor of a central
source collection named Mori Hikotarō) was written "differently" from the rest of the document:
"When Hottō Kokushi returned to his native country, he was accompanied by four Buddhist laymen: Kuo Tsuo. Li Cheng, Tseng Shu & Pao P'u
(in Japanese: Kokusa(ku), Risei, Sōjo and Hōfu)."
I believe that this one sentence must have been added to the original document sometime after its completion in 1628
and I have therefore omitted the translation of that particular line in the above presentation.
Original translation by Torsten Olafsson, Denmark, 1986-87