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Narrow Road to the Interior. Analysis

“Narrow Road to the Interior,” written by Matsuo Basho is a set of haiku and prose depicting Basho’s journeys across Japan. In this work, Basho describes how he traveled, describing the places and references to other poems. Additionally, the topic of spirituality, mainly on the basis of the religious tradition of Confucianism, is mentioned. Basho describes his journey through Japan and refers to both spiritual and physical experience in “Narrow Road to the Interior.” This paper aims to explore the lessons Basho learned from his journeys and the connection of this experience to Confucianism.

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A journey is an essential theme in Basho’s poetry because it serves as an important symbol, a way of depicting his understanding of life. Basho explains it in the following manner – “each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home” (15). This can be interpreted as viewing life as a journey, which is why it is a home, one as to travel through life, and it is a natural part of living that one has to complete each day. Basho demonstrates his understanding of a journey as an integral part of being an individual in the following – “the moon and the sun are eternal travelers,” meaning that traveling is an integral part of life and nature (12). In Basho’s case, the journey is not only a physical ability to go from one place to another, but it is also a part of spiritual exploration.

Basho’s journey outlines his understanding of life and the elements of it. For example, “with every pilgrimage one encounters the temporality of life” can be interpreted as a way of addressing death (5). Similarly to any journey, life has a set duration, and Basho acknowledges the temporal nature of it since each journey allows him to understand this. This uncovers another theme in Basho’s work – the spirituality or the journey towards enlightenment.

To fully understand the implications of Basho’s work, it is necessary to examine the religion of Ancient Japan and Confucious’ teachings. Enlightenment is an important aspect of the Japanese religious traditions, which is a state of being awake and the strengths of one’s mind. Hamill makes references to Confucious by explaining that Basho often used this religious tradition in his writing. He states, “Confusionus says, “only the one who attains sincerely under heaven may discover one’s true nature,” outlining the key characteristics of this religion. It is based mainly on the morality of people and the state, and Basho’s work helps understand the key features of it – purity and honesty. Moreover, as Basho encounters a man during his journey, he explores another feature of Confucianism – the virtue of being a good person, since the stranger in the passage above allowed Basho to stay at his home (10). In general, in his journal, Basho makes many references to other writers and poets who discussed the topic of Confucianism, which provides a better understanding of his view on this tradition.

Overall, “Narrow Road to the Interior” is about the spiritual and physical journey of Basho. The author explains his understanding of a journey, in reference to one’s life. Basho sees a journey as something natural, exploring the themes of temporality and religious teachings of enlightenment and Confucianism through his reflections on the similarities between one’s life and a journey. Additionally, through his encounters with other people, as he travels, he explores the key virtues according to Confucianism.

Work Cited

Basho, Matso. Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics). Translated by Sam Hamill, Shambhala, 2006.

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