To all Ways there are side-tracks. If you study a Way daily, and your spirit diverges, you may think you are obeying a good way, but objectively it is not the true Way. If you are following the true Way and diverge a little, this will later become a large divergence. You must realise this.
Musashi’s tone here is stern, but there is a lot to think about in these words. What would be a side-track to your chosen Way? Is a small divergence going to grow over time? How do we even know if we are following our true Way?
The quote is highly Americanized. Like most ancient Chinese writings, English translations vary depending on who does the translating.
The quote itself comes from the seventeenth chapter of Chuang Tzu’s writings.
Zo, (the Spirit-lord) of the Northern Sea, said, ‘A frog in a well cannot be talked with about the sea;– he is confined to the limits of his hole. An insect of the summer cannot be talked with about ice;– it knows nothing beyond its own season.
There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.
How would this apply to the study of music? Think about the efforts people put into finding shortcuts . . . Lots to ponder with this one.