Ishida Baigan (石田梅岩)
Baigan ISHIDA (October 12, 1685 - October 29, 1744) was a thinker and ethicist of the Edo period. He was the founder of Sekimon-shingaku. His name was Okinaga. His common name was Kampei.
He was born in Toge-mura, Kuwata County, the Province of Tanba (present Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture) as a peasant's second son. In 1695, he was apprenticed to a kimono shop at the age of 11, and then he once returned to his hometown. In 1707, he worked as an apprentice again at the age of 23. He started to follow the way to a thinker, studying under a lay Buddhist scholar Ryoun OGURI whom he met in 1727. At the age of 45, he hosted a free lecture at his rented residence and taught the thought called Sekimon-shingaku. This philosophy was based on the concept that 'learning is to do one's best and to understand nature'; in other words, this philosophy requires learning about nature and the law wherein mind and nature are united to form order. Therefore, Baigan himself had called it "seigaku" (study of nature). However, the term "shingaku" (study of nature) was spread by his pupils, such as Toan TEJIMA. Initially it was only for the men; then women were allowed to listen to the lecture in another room behind the shoji (partitions that can divide the interior of a building into separate rooms) since many women desired to attend. He deceased at the age of 60 in 1744.
The thought was based on the providence theory, which followed Sogaku (Neo-Confucianism). Shosan SUZUKI's duty theory, which was a similar thought and preceded Ishida's, did not fully explain the duty of merchants among Shinokosho (hereditary four-status order consisting of warrior-rulers, peasants, artisans, and merchants). On the other hand, Ishida had full knowledge of commercial essence from the years of work at mercantile house. He had established point of view, "commercial essence is the broking business of exchange, and the importance is not inferior to other duties in any way," and gained merchant's support. There were 400 disciples at peak. It produced many talented persons, including Toan TEJIMA (1718-86), a kimono fabrics dealer of Kyoto, Shoo FUSE (1725-84), author of 'Shoo Dowa,' Kyuo SHIBATA (1783--1839), author of one of the best Shin school (Mind school) dowa (talks on the way) 'Kyuo Dowa,' Zenmon Saito and Urin Oshima. Since he encouraged thrifty and regarded accumulation of wealth as achievement of God's will, American sociologist Robert Neelly Bellah saw his thought as Japanese version of Calvinism commercial ethics. It was also considered as the motive power for the successful industrial revolution in Japan.
Reevaluation of Sekimon-shingaku
While the concerns to the environmental issue have been raised from the 1970s, and the scandals of enterprises have happened one after another, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) became a much-discussed subject especially in Europe and America. Within the context, Baigan ISHIDA's thought, which expressed the essential spirit of CSR with very simple words, such as 'taking double profit and eating sweet poison often cause destruction' and 'a true merchant thinks others as well as one self,' is spotlighted as 'the origin of Japanese CSR,' along with 'Sanpo-yoshi principle' of Omi shonin (Omi merchants). The thought also does not deny a profit-making activity and teaches to achieve social responsibility in main business from a viewpoint of 'sustainable development of business' rather than ethics. Its feature differs from European and American CSR whose 'philanthropy' is other than main business, such as contribution and support, as the core activity.
His main books are "Tohi Mondo" (City and Country Dialogues) and "Kenyakusaika Ron."
His seated figure is placed in Sugawara-jinja Shrine, Sakai Ward, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture. Moreover his new seated figure is located in the concourse of JR Kameoka Station which was reformed to an overhead station in his hometown.