Prince Shotoku and Article seventeen of the Constitution /聖徳太子と十七条の憲法 No.5

This article can be read in about 13 minutes.

Five storied Pagoda in Horyuji Temple

In this article, we will see Prince Shotoku’s ardent desire and the article 12 to 14 from the 17 Article  of the Constitution.

He was born in 578A.D. as the second prince of the 31st Emperor Yomu.
He passed away in 622A.D.
Her mother was the 29th Emperor Kinmei’s princess and also came from the Soga clan, which supported Buddhism and the most powerful officials.
It was said he grew up being familiar with Buddhism and its teaching.
At the age of 35, he lectured on Shoman-gyo, one of the most difficult Buddhist teachings, to the Emperess Suiko for consecutive three days as she requested it.
It was said that around one hundred people attended to take the lectures.

Was Prince Shotoku’s life always smooth sailing?
Actually, not.
Soga Umako, the most powerful official around that time, was Prince Shotoku’s granduncle.

It was said that Umako assassinated Prince Shotoku’s uncle, the 32nd Emperor Sushun, by dispatching a man.
It was also said that in the same way, Umako have killed another two princes and his other subordinates due to the suspicion of dethronement plot.

According to the book “Prince Shotoku” written by Kamei Katsuichiro, it was inferred that Prince Shotoku worried about his genetical feature, of being savage too due to his granduncle’s records of killing.
Also, Price Shotoku might have been afraid of being assassinated by Soga clan.

There might be no Japanese people who don’t know Prince Shotoku’s name, his achievements and contributions to Japan.
When he passed away, many people were said to have remembered Prince Shotoku’s virtue and have started to worship him as an avatar of Guze Kannon Bodhisattva. 

There are many picture scrolls in the temples across Japan that depicted the whole life of Prince Shotoku.
These picture scrolls have been drawn since he passed away.
The oldest one was drawn in 771, while the latest one was done in 1983.
His achievements and virtue have been passed down to the next generation in several ways including Shirabyoshi, a kind of dancing while reciting Waka poems.

What was the Prince Shotoku’s virtue?
He was known to behave with rectitude and practiced the Buddhist Ten Virtue Commandments, which was similar to the Ten Commandments of Christianity.

The Buddhist Ten Virtue Commandments:

  1.  Don’t kill any lives including animals and plants.
  2.  Don’t steal anything including others’ ideas.
  3.  Don’t commit adultery.
  4.  Don’t tell a lie.
  5.  Don’t speak ill of others.
  6.  Don’t speak with forked-tongued.
  7.  Don’t flatter too much.
  8.  Don’t be driven by personal greed.
  9.  Don’t get angry easily.
  10.  Don’t think wrongly such as harmful ideas against the society, discrimination, pessimism and so on.

We could guess that he hoped that the Buddhist Ten Virtue Commandments would have brought peace to the country.    
That’s why he set “Harmony should be respected” in Article 1.    
Whereas, worshipping Buddhism was written in Article2 that states “Respect to three treasures: Buddha, Dharma and Buddhist monks”.

Here are the articles 12 to 14 from the 17 Article of the Constitution.

Article 12
The officials who are dispatched from the central government to the countrysides must not impose the citizens of additional tax.
The country does not have two emperors and the citizens do not have two masters. 
All people who live in the land (where the emperor heads) consider the emperor as their only master.
All officials are the subordinates of the emperor.
The officials can not impose additional taxes to the citizens as the country already imposed the taxes.

The original one from Nihon-Shoki, Chronicles of Japan; 

Article 13
The officials who assign various positions should equally have a detailed knowledge about their tasks.
They are sometimes not able to conduct their tasks properly due to diseases or other missions. 
However, when they return to their tasks, they should act harmonious like they have known everything since old days. 
They must not disturb public duties by saying that they do not hear anything about these.

The original one from Nihon-Shoki, Chronicles of Japan; 

Article 14
The officials who work for the emperor should not be jealous.
When I am jealous of others, others are also jealous of me.
The negative effects of jealousy are endless.
Therefore, when you encounter a person who is smarter than you, you can not be pleased. When you see a person who is more talented than you, you come to be jealous.
Even though you have already met a mentor (whom you can meet once in five hundred years), you try to wait for a sage whom you can meet once in one thousand years. 
It result to miss the opportunities to meet both a mentor and a sage.
The nation can not be managed without a mentor and a sage. 

The original one from Nihon-Shoki, Chronicles of Japan; 

It can be seen that Prince Shotoku, despite of his sufferings, he was still able to practice Buddhist teachings and become a good example for the people and proceeded to enact laws while praying desperately for Japan to become a peaceful country.

The end of the series “Prince Shotoku and Article seventeen of the Constitution ” is just around the corner.
On the last part of the series, we will see two temples that are closely related to Prince Shotoku.
I bet you’ll love it!

To be continued…
Go to Article seventeen of the Constitution

Go back to no.4.

【Translation for language learners of either English or Japanese】/英語・日本語学習者向け翻訳 えいご ・  にほんごがくしゅうしゃむ  ほんやく








  1.  動物や植物など生き物を殺さない。
  2.  他人の物やアイデアを盗まない。
  3.  姦淫をしない。
  4.  嘘をつかない。
  5.  悪口を言わない。
  6.  二枚舌を使わない。
  7.  過ぎたお世辞を言わない。
  8.  私利私欲に走らない。
  9.  怒らない。
  10.  社会に有害な考えや差別。悲観主義などの間違った考えをしない。













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