Virtue, Calligraphy by Hakuin

Calligraphy by Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768)

Japan, Edo period
Hanging scroll;
ink on paper
Image: 106 × 52 cm
Overall with mounting:
85.8 × 64 cm

Virtue, by Hakuin Ekaku.

This oversize rendition of the character for “virtue” (toku 悳) reflects the exuberant spiritual energy projected by Hakuin Ekaku, who was one of the foremost proponents of the revival of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism in late Edo Japan. Originally composed by Chinese historian and scholar of Confucianism Sima Guang (1018–1086), the inscription reads:

Save up money for your descendants—
they’ll just spend it.
Collect books for your sons and grandsons—
they won’t read them.
The best thing to do for them—
increase your own virtue.
Quietly, secretly
impart this ideal to your descendants,
and it will endure through the generations.
— Trans. Jonathan Chaves

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10028-0198
Phone: 212-535-7710

In the Taoist tradition there is a saying ‘dim your light’. In Buddhism we talk about ‘hidden virtue’.

Categories: Art, Buddhism, Chan / Seon / Zen, Encyclopedia, History

Tags: , , , ,

1 reply

  1. Do something each day for someone else, an act of kindness – but they must not know!


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