|What is Ittoen
Ittoen was founded by Tenko Nishida in 1904.
It is a community of people who seek to live a life of having no possessions together with service, in a spirit of penitence. At the foundation of this community is the faith that when human beings live in accordance with the way of nature, we are accepted and enabled to live, even without owning things, and even without converting labor into money.
At Ittoen, the life necessities that are provided by the Light (God, Buddha, Mother Nature) for practical life are entrusted to "senkosha". This is a management of goods in such a way that they serve people, and do not become a source of social conflict. Kosenrin, in the Yamashina district of Kyoto, is our social community embodying the way of Ittoen. It is one form of "senkosha"-alternative institutions based upon perceived workings of Light-and fulfills a headquarters-like function as well. Kosenrin Village was established in the present location in 1928, and it was incorporated as a foundation in 1929. At present, thre are about 70 structures spread over 33 hectare of land, and approximately 100 house holds with 200 persons working and living in the community.
The permanent members (residents) are called "donin" (fellow members), and they are actively living and working along the way of Light as a big family with the spirit and way of life left to us by
Tenko-san as the foundtion. There are differences in the depth of faith and practice among us, but, young and old, we all strive with the spirit of repentance, thanksgiving, and service. We live in accordance with our ability, and with a prayer and vow that we be fulfilled in life in accorcance with the laws of nature, where we are blessed in accordance with the need.
"Ittoen" is a spiritual ground for experiencing a life of no possission, and Kosenrin as one of "senkosha" is a place which explores harmonious ways of holding goods in trust.
|The Foundation of Ittoen Life
Enabled to Live-We Are Accepted and Sanctioned to Live.
It is said that human beings eat to live, and that in order to eat, we do our work. Underlying this is a view of human beings and of human life which holds that the purpose of human beings is to work with the aim of eating.
Tenko-san turned this around 180 degrees, and held that this life is provided to us so that we are enabled to live without having to strive to survive. And precisely because we are accepted and enabled to live by Light, we therefore should work as a way of thanksgiving. And thus we are provided with the food that is necessary for life. Tenko-san himself lived on the basis of this faith, and Ittoen is founded on, this view of human beings and this way of living.
When we look back on human history and the development of human society, we find that the competition for survival has often led to conflict in society, with resultant endless disputes and struggles across the centuries.
Can human beings survive on any other basis? Is it possible for us to live without asserting and insisting on our domineering rights for self-survival?
Tenko-san founded a way of life which can never create a seed for conflict, precisely by totally renouncing one's claim to this right to self-survival.
In 1892, Tenko-san led one hundred farming households to emigrate to Hokkaido, to clear 500 hectares of land. He was 20 years old. Soon he was caught between the investors on one hand, and tenant farmers on the other, regarding the interest payments on the investment. The group was also hit with the recession following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. In this crisis, Tenko-san fell into an abyss of spiritual torment: why must human beings oppose and hate one another and fight among themselves?
Is there not away of life where one does not have to fight to survive? After going through much
questioning and thinking, he withdrew from the Hokkaido project. Setting off with no possessions of his own, he returned to his hometown of Nagahama to meditate and fast in a small temple there. He made up his mind to sit there without taking any food, until he found the answer-even if he were to starve to death.
In the early morning of the fourth day (April 29, 1904, when he was 32 years old), Tenko-san heard a baby crying nearby; and when the baby suddenly stopped crying, a scene of the baby drinking its mother's milk in her arms came to his mind, which moved him deeply. The mother and child are the provider and recipient of nourishment, which are complimentary roles. Far from being in conflict, the two of them are mutually fulfilled and contented, and fusing into one in peace. While their positions are different, at two opposite sides of a process (an interdependent relationship), they are fundamentally in harmony. Is this not the essential and primordial circumstance of life? Our nourishment, too, is nothing other than a natural blessing provided us by Nature.
Human beings are not born by intending to be born. Life is given by Something (Nature, God, Buddha) which transcends us, and we live in the same manner. Here is the true picture of all forms of life being born, and hence the actual mode of all forms of human life and survival. And thus does the world of harmony and sharing emerge to our understanding. All that we need to do is to trust that Greater Being for everything, and live in the way we are then enabled to live. Such is the fountain of a world without conflicts, and here we find a world where we can live and share our joy without conflict.
Tenko-san came to understand profoundly that this was the answer that he had been searching for.
And this profound awakening (satiric) became the starting point and basis of Ittoen life..
|Life of Being on the Road (Roto) and Service
-Practice of thanksgiving and returning Kindness
IIttoen life is a way of believing that if human beings go back to the original mode of life and live in accordance with the way of nature, we are accepted and enabled to live, even if we have no possessions, and even if we do not exchange our labor for money. It is a possessionless life, in the street at all times, to be of service to others.
When human beings are born, we come into the world with no possessions, and our very life has been granted to us. There is nothing that we can truly claim is our own, and we are in no position to insist on any rights. Thus, having nothing, with no property or ownership, is the original state of human beings.
"Roto", being on the roadside and serving, away from one’s home and even without a home, is the foundation and true picture of this state of having nothing and of non-possession. At the root of all conflicts among men is desire (greed) and self-centeredness. Humans become attached to their property, to social position, to fame, and so on. It is necessary to cut off this kind of attachment and possessiveness, to clean one's heart of selfishness and get back to our starting
point. This is called the practice of "ｒoto", going back on the roadside. We need to dispose of all the things that have gathered around us, to return them to the Light from which we received them, and get back out on the road having nothing-not to merely go adrift, but to get back to our original mode and Source.
"Takuhatsu" (service and mendicancy) also emerged out of Tenko-san's reflection upon his experiences in Hokkaido. For, in the course of leading the pioneering project there, he saw how ugly human beings can become when engulfed in disputes over money, and how much baseness can come out of us in a struggle for survival.
Money is what puts people in opposing sides, and induces us to engage in such ugly conflicts. Is there a way of living without money? If there is such a way, then it must be possible for us to work without converting labor into money. For example, when a family are united into one with true love, then each member can work and contribute to the well-being of the others without calculating and converting their own labor into money. In short, working and labor is not properly for money-making or even simply surviving, but devoting our heart and strength for others’ welfare. That is indeed to do “takuhatsu” (service and mendicancy) with prayer on behalf of others.
We start by doing takuhatsu ourselves. We count ourselves as nothing, and give everything to others. Only by so doing, can we become one with others.
To pray is negate and accept ourselves into
nothingness. When we ourselves become nothing, then, we
become the whole. (Tenko-san)
|Life of Sange (Penitence) and Geza (Sitting
the Lower End)
-Being penitent to one another, and praying (being reverent) to one another.
Human beings tend to be self-centered, and our selfish desires can be practically limitless. Our hearts seek comfort and pleasure, as well as to be superior to others. Even without our being aware of it, we often hurt others, giving rise to all sorts of negativity such as jealousy, hatred, and desire for revenge.
In the final analysis, human beings have no grounds to insist their supposed rights. On the contrary, the only meaningful practice is to reject the egotistical feelings that are within us, to ask for forgiveness and be penitent for our shortcomings which create negativity and impediments for others.
I have searched for the root
of all the troubles of the whole wide world,
and I have found that it lay within my own heart.
From this knowledge sprang this act of worship.
It is vital not only to find the cause of one’s own troubles within oneself, but also to accept that even the root of various troubles and conflicts in the larger society and world exists within our individual selves. This leads to having a heart filled with deep sange (penitence).
In all spheres and matters of life, we must look at our own shortcomings first and foremost, rather than blaming or criticizing others. We should place ourselves at a lower position than others, and live according to the perspective of the suffering and weak at all times. This is the life of sitting at the lower end ("geza"). When people live their lives and engage in their day-to-day work with this kind of mutual spirit, encouraging and supporting one another, then there is no chance for conflicts ever to emerge.
|The Hope of Ittoen Life
-Achieving of fulfillment and enlightenment of everyone, and true world peace in the future.
The ultimate objective of the Ittoen life is not merely "absence of conflict" (precious as that is), but moreover to build a genuine peace in our hearts which will help root out all causes of conflicts of various types, hatred, vengeance, and disputes. We pray for every family and household to come together, for every country to be justly-governed, and for the world to realize a true and lasting peace.
When we take up the spirit of being on the road having nothing ("roto"), exactly like when we were born, then we come to realize that all the things in this world (goods, positions, etc.) are only things that we have been entrusted with provisionally, for the time being. Strictly to ask ourselves how to accept in trust such things as goods, properties, position, food, shelter and clothing, and even our knowledge and our very bodies, and how to use these gifts for the good of the whole: such the path of "senkosha".
Thus our life has both "Ittoen", based on our relative nothingness by renouncing worldly things, and "senkosha", based on our holding all things in trust. Thus these two aspects work like two wheels which move the cart in unity.
-Achievement of fulfillment and enlightenment of everyone.
To have everyone on this globe attain true self-awareness is perhaps a goal to be attained only in a distant future. Nevertheless, we walk on the path of prayer and practice unceasingly for the realization of this goal.
Building true world peace in the future.
We believe in this goal, and believe that by persevering in prayer and practice for true peace, without falling into either pessimism or undue optimism, we can work for the dignity, glory and future of human beings.
|Ittoen: Life at Kosenrin
|Morning Service snd Evening Service
At Kosenrin about three hundred persons in one hundred families live communally. The fundamental principle governing the life in this village is “Komyo Kigan” (The Five Prayers); there are no other community rules. People young and old work and study in various areas, in accordance with their ability and interests. The products and proceeds from everyone’s work ("takuhatsu") are all offered to the Light. Since we work as a way of thanksgiving to the Light and Nature for giving us life itself, there is nothing that we can truly call our own, so that the goods and services that are necessary for our day-to-day life are provided for by the Light. Those who live this life are called "donin" (fellow members).
The responsible person for Kosenrin at Ittoen is called the "Toban" (Director, literally, "staff on duty"). And just as various work areas are "senkosha" (organs entrusted with the practical management of goods and work on behalf of the Light), Kosenrin as a whole is a “senkosha” as well.
Ittoen is not a religion, and there is no single object of worship. Rather, Ittoen members and friends of the Light pay homage to the essence of all great religions. The front of the Worship Hall has a circular window from which we can worship Nature. It is the Ultimate, God, the gods, Buddha, which we in Ittoen refer to as the Light, one and indivisible.
The morning service consists of prayer and reading aloud of selected Buddhist sutras and Tenko-san's "One Fact of Life", while the evening service consists mainly of reading the selected sutras.
Yuima (Vilamakirti) Sutra is by Yuima (Vilamakirti), a lay Buddhist teacher who can be regarded as a forerunner of the Ittoen way, while Hanna (Prajna-Paramita-sutra) is a short sutra which sums up the essence of Buddha's teachings very concisely. "One Fact of Life" is a short excerpt from Tenko's inner account of reaching a new life, which expresses the Ittoen way in a succinct way.
|Work (Takuhatsu and Labor)
Every member in Kosenrin village engages in work such as cooking, boiling bath water, cleaning, working at the nursery and day care center, teaching at Ittoen schools, lecturing, forestry work, farming, and various business divisions. Work is called "samu" (work as service). When called upon, members also go out of the community to work. All the proceeds, both inside and outside, are contributed to the common pool of the Light.
Ittoen members, non-member residents and non-member staff of the business divisions join together for meals, sitting together on the wooden
floor of the dining hall. After prayers and reading aloud of short excerpts from Hannya sutra (Prajna-paramita-sutra), they share a simple and nutritiously balanced meal in silence. After finishing, everyone recites in unison Emperor Meiji's poem:
"To go beyond self concern and work for other's well-being:
This is what human beings are called upon to practice."
When children reach three years of age, they enter Ittoen's Izumi Kindergarten, along with other children from the surrounding communities. When they reach school age, they enroll in Ittoen Elementary School, followed by Ittoen Junior High School and Ittoen High School.
While pupils at the elementary and junior high schools go to school fulltime like pupils at other schools, the high school has a system of integrating study and work. Thus, high school students work during the morning hours and study in the afternoon and evening, while students at Daigakurin do "takuhatsu" and "samu" (labor as service) in various areas, and study at night time.
|Activity of Ittoen
When the League of Nations was formed in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War, Tenko-san was deeply struck with the realization that work of building toward true world peace must begin with resolving and removing seeds of dispute from the hearts of individual men and women. With this realization and determination, he set the vow of Rokuman Gyogan.
Rokuman Gyogan is a practice of nurturing and strengthening of the heart of taking the lower position ("geza") within us, through being allowed to clean the toilets of other families. As we do this work, we pray and make a vow for the future of the world without conflict. Embodied in this practice are six interrelated prayers of praying (paying homage): "geza" (taking the lower position, humility), service, consolation, "sange" (penitence), and "gyokotsu" (to do mendicant labor). And since 10,000 households were counted as a basic unit of this service, it was named “Rokuman Gyogan” (six prayers practice for 10,000).
This has been continued and spread through "gyogan" in Kyoto and Shiga, the annual New Year's "gyogan" throughout the country, November "gyogan", and "gyogan" by participants in Ittoen's training Program, which is carried out every year. This activity of spreading circles and rings of peace through "gyogan" is called the LPC movement (Life of Peace-Creative movement).
The ultimate hope of Ittoen life is the achievement of true peace in the world, based upon the realization that true peace can be built only by setting our hearts right and by straightening out our own personal conduct and life. Therefore Ittoen established the vow for "the Light-Gammadion-Cross" movement in 1930, in order to work actively for peace. In the same spirit, after the Second World War, Ittoen has been cooperating fully from their inception with the Japanese Association for the United Nations, the UNESCO movement, Kokusai Shukyo Doshikai (International Religious Fellowship Association), the World Congress of Religion and Peace (WCRP). Moreover, we take part in the International Association for Religious Freedom (IRA). Throughout these activities, we strive to take the lower position ("geza"), going beyond the boundaries of different religions and denominations, and actively take part in prayers for world peace.
Light-Gammadion-Cross is the symbol of this.
Based upon this activity, we have had a significant number of visitors from overseas, and there are always several friends from other countries who live in the community.
|Chitoku Training Sessions
Ittoen life, based upon the principle of "living without seeds of dispute", has established educational organs within Kosenrin with the hope of training successors. While most of the pupils are children of Ittoen members, the schools are open to those who share our ideal. Ittoen Elementary School was opened in 1933; afterwards Toei Gakuen was established as a school foundation, running Izumi Kindergarten, Ittoen Elementary School, Ittoen Junior High School, and Ittoen High Schoo. These schools base their education on Confucius’ teaching on "integrating practice with study". The Kindergarten was founded from the outset to accept young children from the local community.
This short-term training program on Ittoen life was started in 1941, with the aim of enabling people to train themselves in wisdom (chi) and virtue (toku), from which its name is derived. The two-day training program is held in the first half of each month. The training consists of morning and evening prayer service, together with lectures on Tenko-san's teachings and Ittoen Life. Central activities are Rokuman Gyogan (toilet training as a form of religious service and practice) and "takuhatsu" service on "roto" (out on the streets). Each month, this training program focuses on a broad range of areas: individual spiritual training, as a part of corporate training program, and as a form of training of recruits (new employees of various business enterprises).
|Friends of Light and Friends of Light Association
There are a large number of persons who live outside of Kosenrin, and who do not directly take part in the collective life of the community, but who are inspired and share in the ideal of Ittoen Life. They are called "Koyu" (literally Friends of Light), and they have formed Koyukai (Friends of Light Associations) throughout Japan. As such, they engage in Gyogan, takuhatsu activities, events, and lecture meetings. The headquarters of the Friends of Light organization is located in Kosenrin Village. The Friends of Light Association started with Tenko-san's prayer at the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake (1922). The day-to-day norms observed and encouraged by the Friends of Light include:
Let us leave our footwear in a neat way [with toes pointing outside] when entering a building.
Let us pray and give thanks for the food that is provided us.
Let us engage in work in a spirit of service.
When you engage in the service of toilet cleaning
(gyogan), all of these become quite easy to practice.
These points have been agreed upon, but there are no other rules and there are no membership dues or even a membership list. Any and all persons who read the organs "Hikari" (Light) and "Koyu" (Friends of Light), and who aspire to walk on the same path, are all "Koyu-san".