Supplementary Entries and Texts for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KOREAN BUDDHISM by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
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Cheon-Ji-In 천지인 天地人 would have been on page 130 Heaven, Earth and Humanity
The basic trinity at the root of all Oriental philosophy, the basis of both Confucianism and Daoism and a heavy influence on Chinese and Korean Buddhism. It was first expressed in the Juyeok-gyeong (周易經, Zhou I Ching, Classic Book of Changes from the Chou 周 Dynasty), East Asia’s oldest and most profound collection of religious cosmology, divination and philosophical scriptures.
The ‘three ultimates’ or three factors of the Taegeuk (太極, Taiji, T'ai-chi, Grand Ultimate; see that entry) manifest in the conceptual triad of Heaven (sky, insubstantial, principles, spirit), Earth (matter, energy, substance) and human beings (life-forms, actions, ethics, spirituality). Heaven generates all things, earth nourishes them and humanity ‘perfects’ them. The Juyeok-gyeong presents them as three modes of the same Do (道, Dao / Tao, Way): the Do of Heaven is called eum-yang (陰陽, yin-yang complementary balance), the Do of Earth is called yielding and firm or expanding and contracting, and that of Humanity is called humaneness and righteousness; in Buddhism that last one is extended to the Bulbeop (佛法, Buddha-Dharma) and seongbul (成佛, enlightenment). Cheon-Ji-In are co-equal dynamic factors that each influence the other two; they consist of the same nature and it is characterized by harmony rather than opposition.
Cheon-Ji-In is represented in the four trigrams found on the Taegeuk-gi Flag (太極旗) of the Republic of Korea, and in the very common Sam-taegeuk (三太極) symbol. It serves as a basic concept in many Korean Buddhist concepts and art-motifs. It can be found represented in many Buddhist and other traditional-spiritual artworks such as seoktap (石塔, stone pagodas), biseok (碑石, standing stone steles), budo (浮屠, memorial stupas; funerary reliquaries), bulhwa (佛畵, Buddhist paintings), su-in (手印, mudra or hand-position) and temple architecture, especially the common lotus ponds in a square shape (earth) with a round island (heaven) upon which stands a seoktap (humanity). Cheon-Ji-In can be richly correlated with the Sambo (三寶, Three Treasures or Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; see entry on page 450-51 of the book) triad-concept and to some Samjonbul (三尊佛, Buddha Triad) arrangements, which adds to the philosophical symbolic power of them all.