A Poem For the Road

The photograph is by tciriello and can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tciriellopix/14559075443

The poem below was written by Morikawa Riu, the mother-in-law of Yoshimoto Ishin, the founder of Naikan.  Yoshimoto regarded Riu as a profound practitioner of self-reflection.  The poem is commonly displayed at Naikan Centers in Japan so those doing Naikan can read it.

(Translated by Clark Chilson)


Before you lies today’s road,
a new road,
one you cannot take again.

If you run from something because it is painful,
joy will become more distant.

Everyone has and can find a grateful heart.

Winners are strong;
those who yield are stronger still.

The world of people
has many mountainous roads to travel.

If you become conceited with your strengths,
they become weaknesses.

If you notice your weaknesses,
they become strengths.

Don’t be a doer;
be someone people rely on.

No matter the excuse,
your foolishness cannot stay hidden.

Instead of trying to do what you can today,
you worry about what you can’t do.

Although you know it,
you tend to forget what your parents did for you.

Happiness is not seen anywhere.
No one knows it.
Yet it is close to all of us.

The past creates the present.
The present creates the future.

At times of suffering,
look for the lesson in the suffering.

Nothing makes you suffer more than yourself.

Even if you don’t know difficult things,
there is virtue in simply not speaking ill of others.

Avoid anger.
Work to avoid it.
When you become angry, it shortens your life.

What you gain by burdening others
will not stay with you.

You quickly notice the faults in others
but readily overlook their good points and acts of kindness.

Rather than give attention to appearances,
Keep in mind the light within you.

Your plans for doing this and that are perfect gems,
but your failure to execute makes them flawed.

Many are pleased when praised,
but few examine themselves when scolded.

No matter how much you give,
kindness does not decrease
and the merit of it survives.

The course of events is not coincidental.

If you joyfully do a job you don’t like,
it becomes a job you like.

Even if you are good at doing things for others,
not expecting anything in return is difficult.

The true path is neither to the left or to the right.

At work, think of things from the perspective of others.

Money is precious and has magical powers,
but many torture themselves with it.

People do not give because they are prosperous,
they are prosperous because they give.

Wake up smiling;
go to bed with gratitude.

As days of hope, gratitude, and self-reflection grow,
your life takes on deeper meaning.


            A different translation by D. K. Reynolds and R. Omaki of the same poem can be found at http://constructiveliving2.weebly.com/poems-and-comparisons.html. The original Japanese version is available at https://www.n-classic.net/cms/wp-content/uploads/michinouta.pdf