一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

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Seishin
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一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by Seishin » Wed May 11, 2016 10:42 am

Here are just some of my own thoughts on the Tendai teaching of 'Light up one corner'

一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU
Light up one corner


In the “Sange-gakushoshiki” Ven Saicho said;

"What are a nation's treasures? True riches are one's faith in Buddha, and those who call it so, and therefore it has from times long ago been said that true riches are not material things but that which shines light into a dark corner."

The word “light” lends itself to various different interpretations and taken as a verb, what it means ‘to light’ can also have a variety of meanings.

Light as Wisdom
In the Buddhist sense, ‘light’ is always seen as a symbol of prajña, or ‘wisdom’. This kind of wisdom is not intellectual knowledge, but insight into the true nature of reality. So in this sense, ‘to light up’ can mean to bring wisdom to a situation or a place.

Light as the Dharma
This wisdom light, then, becomes synominous with the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, as it is through the Dharma that one is able to gain Wisdom. Therefore, the phrase can also mean to bring the Dharma to our lives, to our homes, our cities or our country. It is encouraging us to becomes transmitters and teachers of the Dharma, which also means we must gain the proper training and knowledge through the proper channels (teachers/institutions etc). The phrase then, is also encouraging us to encounter, to study and understand the Dharma, as well as bring it to others.

Light as Support and Happiness
To light, or to brighten, can also mean to give support. This can be emotional support, physical support, financial support etc. To, ‘to light one corner’ can mean to give, which is one of the Pāramitās (perfections) known as Dāna. In giving, we are not only illuminating others, we also illuminate ourselves. Giving selflessly without any thought of reward changes us and makes us more compassionate beings. This selfless giving brings great joy and happiness to both the giver and receiver.

Light as Bodhisattva activity/Engaged Buddhism
So, as we can see, ‘to light’ can be seen as the activity of a Bodhisattva who selflessly puts others above themselves in helping others in any way possible. This highlights the importance of what has become known as “Engaged Buddhism”.

One corner – Who’s corner?
So, taking the above into consideration, what is the meaning of ‘one corner’? At first glance it would seem to be taking about a place, but as we can see from the above, this can mean a place, or a person, or ourselves. This last one tends to be overlooked in the west, and I’m not sure why. We are in need of all the above, just as much as everyone else, and we shouldn’t sit around and just wait for others to help us. We need to help ourselves, and there’s no shame in that. Being compassionate to ourselves does not mean we are ‘kow tow’-ing to our ego, we are simply acknowledging that we are selfish and ignorant, so it is important that we practice the path, to illuminate ourselves, and to gain wisdom. However, this doesn’t mean we should ignore others. Until we are enlightened we won’t be free of our selfish thoughts, but we can still help others, we can still do charitable works and we can still practice generosity.

‘Light up one corner’ – Being the Treasure of a Nation
I believe that this is what Ven Saicho meant when he encouraged us to become the ‘Treasure of a Nation’. When Ven Saicho first created his training and ordination platform on Mt Hiei, he stipulated very strict and rigorous training for his students. He believed that, in order to effectively work for the benefit of others, one needs to have reached a high level of practice and understanding of the Dharma. Although the training is not as rigorous these days, the sentiment still remains. We must do our best to ‘lighten up one corner’ at any given moment or place, be it our own lives, or the lives of others.

On the 4th day of each month, the Tendai school observes ‘Ichigu wo terasu day’ during which we carry out cleaning, copying sutras, alms giving, and other such altruistic efforts.

In 1969 the ‘Brighten the World at Your Corner’ movement was created by the Tendai Shu to do charitable work around the world. http://ichigu.net/foreign/

There are, of course, many other interpretations of this phrase, and I don't want anyone to think that my interpretation is the definitive, but I hope it inspires others.

In gassho,
Seishin

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Re: 一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by jake » Wed May 11, 2016 3:33 pm

Seishin wrote:Here are just some of my own thoughts on the Tendai teaching of 'Light up one corner'

一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU
Light up one corner

One corner – Who’s corner?
So, taking the above into consideration, what is the meaning of ‘one corner’? At first glance it would seem to be taking about a place, but as we can see from the above, this can mean a place, or a person, or ourselves. This last one tends to be overlooked in the west, and I’m not sure why. We are in need of all the above, just as much as everyone else, and we shouldn’t sit around and just wait for others to help us. We need to help ourselves, and there’s no shame in that. Being compassionate to ourselves does not mean we are ‘kow tow’-ing to our ego, we are simply acknowledging that we are selfish and ignorant, so it is important that we practice the path, to illuminate ourselves, and to gain wisdom. However, this doesn’t mean we should ignore others. Until we are enlightened we won’t be free of our selfish thoughts, but we can still help others, we can still do charitable works and we can still practice generosity.
Dear Seishin,

Thank you very much for the thoughtful post. I wanted to reflect a bit on the concept of corner. I'm not sure what Saicho meant when he said "corner" but I do like your thoughts on the matter. In a few of Kukai's writings he also mentions corners when discussing teachings, often saying that he is revealing "one corner." Rev. Eijo writes that this alludes to the teachings of Confucious in Lunyu, where he writes: "If I have brought up one corner and he [the student] does not return with the other three, I will not repeat." (source: Annotated Translation of Kukai's Secret Key to the Heart Sutra)

I guess when we work at lighting up our one corner we allow others to help out with the other three. :)
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Re: 一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by Seishin » Wed May 11, 2016 3:48 pm

Thanks for your thoughts Jake, and it made me think of another connection - that with the Ten Directions, which is an important aspect in Tendai Buddhism. Each direction (north, south, east, west, ne, se, nw, sw, above and below) could also be called "corners". So 'light up one corner' could mean to light up a direction, or all directions.

Thanks again :-)

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Re: 一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by Queequeg » Wed May 11, 2016 10:08 pm

Seishin wrote:Here are just some of my own thoughts on the Tendai teaching of 'Light up one corner'

一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU
Light up one corner


In the “Sange-gakushoshiki” Ven Saicho said;

"What are a nation's treasures? True riches are one's faith in Buddha, and those who call it so, and therefore it has from times long ago been said that true riches are not material things but that which shines light into a dark corner."
Thanks Seishin for your introduction to this teaching and your meditations on it.

My understanding of Saicho and his establishment of the Tendai sect is that it was intimately related to Emperoro Kammu's efforts at reform government and establish the new capital (notwithstanding the substantive foundation of Saicho's teachings). Tendai, as the Nara Sects had been before, was to serve for the benefit and prosperity of the state. The prize for the sects were the nationally sponsored ordinands allotted to each. Each ordinand was to become a master of the doctrine they were assigned to, which goes without saying would include faith in the Buddha, and thereby bring benefit to the state. It seems to me then that these nation's treasures were these officially sponsored monks, who through their receipt of transmissions would in turn bring light of Buddha Dharma to the (people of) the nation. The corners then would be the people of the nation?

One idea that I was reminded of in reading your post is that each of us who puts Buddha Dharma into practice is by that act transforming the world. In a really simplistic way, we could describe the effect by referring to the "butterfly effect". By reflecting on the Buddha, perhaps we can cultivate a compassionate disposition that is manifested in the moment to moment interaction with the world - maybe we are yielding when someone cuts us off while walking down the street, and instead of reacting with anger at the offense, we let it pass and thereby preclude aggravation from arising in us, or provoking confrontation with the other person and thereby stimulating their reactive apparatus... and so on. In a positive sense, perhaps we are inclined to assist a co-worker in a task that eases their burden and leavens their mood, which in turn concatenates into further positive causes and conditions.

Seems to me the emphasis on the individual benefits of Buddhist practice and particular aspects of Buddhist teaching that I tend to see these days unfortunately overshadows the wider effect that a mind genuinely livened with Buddha Dharma has on the world, something I guess you could describe as shining light into the corners.
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Re: 一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by jikai » Thu May 12, 2016 3:16 am

Hi everyone,

I will only post here briefly to make sure this thread doesn't stray too far from the text in question (I am at work, I'll try to respond at length if necessary later).

The text in question, namely the Sange Gakusho Shiki (山家学生式) by Dengyo Daishi Saicho is a key work within Tendai. The commentary literature on these verses is extensive to say the least. However, with great respect, I believe that the translation you are using is rather 'interpretive' perhaps to the detriment of the deeper meanings of the text. The verse you quote which comes at the beginning of the work, in my opinion differs somewhat from its rendering here. I'll include my own translation of it here along with the Japanese, any errors are my own:

国の宝とは何物ぞ、宝とは道心なり。道心ある人を名づけて国宝と為す。故に古人言わく、径寸十枚是れ国宝に非ず、一隅を照らす、此れ則ち国宝なりと。

”What is the treasure of the nation? It is our bodhicitta. Thus, those who have this bodhicitta are the treasures of the nation. A man of old once said, “Ten large pearls do not constitute the nation’s treasure, but he who sheds his light over a corner is the nation’s treasure.”

The word I am translating here as Bodhicitta is 道心/ Doshin. It is often used as an older variant for Bodhicitta, being replaced later by 菩提心 but the use of 道心 still persists. There are therefore some problems of course in rendering that sentence into English as 'one's faith in Buddha'. The other word to be careful of in this passage is the term translated as 'corner' 隅. This is the Chinese denoting the sanskirt diś or vartani. It means something akin to 'orientation' or 'direction' in a literal sense. However, with the help of such texts as the Yogâcārabhūmi-śāstra, we get the sense that it refers to The track of a wheel, rut, or delineated pathway. The implication being then that to 'Light up a corner' refers to lighting up that which one encounters in their doings. To light up that which one is karmically involvled with. The term is purposefully vague so that it can imply the wide tange of varied 'doings' which different individuals engage in. The significance behind specifying 'a' corner, or 'one' corner is for this very reason- one is to apply themselves in the ways they can, most importantly, with the skills you have. This is why the text continues with the following (my transaltion):

古哲また云わく、能く言いて行うこと能わざるは国の師なり、能く行いて言うこと能わざるは国の用なり、能く行い能く言うは国の宝なり。三品の内唯言うこと能わず、行うこと能わざるを国の賊と為す。

"A philosopher of old said, “He who can (has the ability to speak well) speak but not act is a Teacher to the nation. He who can act (has the ability to perform actions well) but not speak is a Functionary (is to be used to purpose) to the nation. He who can both act and speak is the treasure of the nation. Aside from these three, he who can neither speak nor act is a Thief(i.e only takes, but does not give) to the nation.”

In other words, we should try to cultivate ourselves to a point where we are also 'Treasures of the nation', but that we should appl our efforts where we are most useful in our Bodhisattva actions. The final line adds that it is a duty to cultivate our skills in order to perform our Bodhisattva actions. Having a comassionate heart, without investing in your abilities/ skill sets, is a moral evil as it were.

And finally the text closes with the following which brings it all into perspective (Again my translations):

乃ち道心あるの仏子、西には菩薩と称し、東には君子と号す。悪事を己に向え、好事を他に与え、己を忘れて他を利するは、慈悲の極みなり。

"Buddhist disciples with Bodhicitta are called Bodhisattvas in the West(India), and Junzi in the East(China- Junzi is a confucian term meaning a Noble Man). They take the bad upon themselves, and confer all good on others. This is the height (acme, extremity) of compassion.”

I am very glad that this has been posted, and thank you Seishin san for bringing it up here. But I thought a little clarification was in order. I hope I didn't derail things too much!
(BTW, I've just noticed your question Queequeg about the 4 Faiths and Five Stages of Practice. I'll get onto it! :tongue: )

Gassho,
Jikai.
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(摩訶止觀)

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( 法華玄義)

"觀心者空觀是般若假觀是解脫中觀是法身"
(法華文句)

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Seishin
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Re: 一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by Seishin » Thu May 12, 2016 8:39 am

Thanks for your thoughts Queequeg, and thanks for the correct translation Jikai-sensei :smile:

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Re: 一隅を照らす ICHIGU WO TERASU

Post by Queequeg » Thu May 12, 2016 2:35 pm

Jikai, great stuff!
Look forward to your reply in the 4 faith/5 practice thread!
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

"Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world!"
-The Grateful Dead

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