Queequeg wrote: ↑
Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:32 pm
jikai wrote: ↑
Fri Dec 01, 2017 9:50 am
Anything in particular you didn't like? In general I found it fairly consistent with the tradition.
Maybe you can help me hash this out.
I don't have the text before me, but it was the presentation of the Three Truths, wherein they seem to suggest that the conditioned and ultimate are reconciled into the middle which subsumes them both. My understanding (I believe per Ng) is that this is one iteration of the Separate Three Truths.
IIRC, the three truths are like Isvara's three eyes - ؞
. None is above the other, all are perfectly integrated, such that if one sees the conditioned, one also sees the ultimate and middle; if one sees the ultimate, one also sees the conditioned and middle; if one sees the middle, one sees the ultimate and conditioned. Donner and Stevenson refer to this a couple paragraphs later, so it seems odd that their first description would weight the middle so heavily. I conceive of the Integrated Three Truths as walking, chewing gum, and clapping at the same time. There is no transition, so to speak. All three truths are immediate and simultaneous. In contrast, we have the Separate Three Truths - in one iteration, seeing one of the three, the other two truths are implicit but not readily apparent; alternatively, the middle is some sort of negotiation between the two truths; and alternatively again, the middle is a higher level truth that subsumes the other two (what Donner and Stevenson seem to suggest).
You are right in my mind to identify a divide of sorts between Stevenson, Donner, and Swanson on the one hand, and with Ng and Ziporyn on the other. But I wouldn't attribute it to Japanese vs Chinese educated scholars. In my experience the majority of Chinese and Japanese Tiantai/Tendai scholars are in surprisingly consistent agreement on the majority of early Tiantai - as it pertains to doctrinal discourse. Of course, it is a muddier matter when it comes to the history of the tradition. The divide in this case, to my mind arises from scholars with fairly orthodox positions on the one hand (Stevenson, Donner, Swanson) who tend to be fairly 'conservative' in their ideas. And scholars who attempt to 'break new ground' as it were (Ng and Ziporyn). Ng and Ziporyn are quite different though. Ng finds himself on this end of the spectrum because he attempts to 're-orient' or perhaps more charitably 're-focus' Tiantai studies by identifying what he feels are under appreciated concepts (like the Middle Way- Buddha Nature). This sets him apart from the tradition somewhat. Ziporyn is not doing the same thing, but nontheless doesn't quite fit in with what I've described as the 'conservative' approach. Ziporyn's views are consistent with later Tiantai developments which is why he draws most consistently from Siming Zhili, and Zhanran. What Ziporyn does which sets him apart somewhat in his approach, is that he treats Tiantai as would a Philosopher. That is, he attempts to unpack and discuss the ultimate conclusion of x,y,z, and show how it relates to standard philosophical approaches/ questions, or contemporary concerns not of issue to the system and tradition itself.
Coming from a Nichiren background, my view may very well be colored by Zhanran's interpretation of Zhiyi. Zhanran figures very prominently in Nichiren's writings - when Nichiren quoted Zhiyi, he often qualified the passages with Zhanran's commentary.
Does Zhanran not figure as prominently in Tendai? IIRC, Saicho received the Tendai lineage from Zhanran's direct disciple.
On the Middle-way Buddhanature emphasis by Ng - is he breaking new ground or bringing to the fore the mystical aspect of Buddhanature that seems to be ignored in the more academically oriented scholarship? The Middleway-Buddhanature that Ng identifies is the Buddha who is constantly thinking how to quickly cause beings to attain the body of the Buddha in response to living beings; ie. the Buddha as described through the convention of the 4 siddhanta. This dynamic Buddhanature doesn't seem to sit well with secular scholars - and hence they tend to interpret Zhiyi in a way that's closer to the dry version of Madhyamika. I don't have a lot to stand on with this, but I suspect the secular scholars are closer to the Critical Buddhists on the spectrum between mysticism and that bone dry Madhyamika ("Buddhism is Criticism!") they seem to assert is "real" Buddhism.
I don't have much to go on in saying this, but I'm not sure that Zhiyi's innovation of the Three Truths is simply a misunderstanding of Madhyamika due to a bad translation. I suspect its also a synthesis of Yogacara sensibilities, filling in the full Middle that is suggested in Madhyamika analysis.
Anyways, you can probably see which way I break in terms of the "conservative/innovative" divide.
As a general suggestion to those who will are following along and would like some more details on the divide Jikai and I are discussing above, as a companion to Swanson's translation, you might consider picking up Ziporyn's Emptiness and Omnipresence. Ziporyn's iconoclastic, whimsical style I think leaves a bit to be desired, but he offers a fairly comprehensive picture of Tientai. Other than Hurvitz' study of Zhiyi, its the only widely available text that presents an overall view of Tiantai.
Jikai, do you have any other suggestions on getting the "big picture" on Tientai?
Ok, I think I have an idea of the issue now.
I'll admit that their language does stray close to the line in places, but I get the impression that is intentional. Nevertheless, I think they generally maintain their argument fairly well. Check pg 11-12 again where they mention:
"As an ultimate reality that synthesises and utterly transcends the two provisionally devised truths, Zhiyi describes the middle as an unalloyed and singular truth. By the same token, however, the very relativity implicit in the notion of a singular, transcendent middle undermines the middle's monistic inclusiveness. To counter this sort of fragmentation, Zhiyi disabuses the middle of any hint of ontological integrity and characterises it as utterly decentred. Thus it becomes a non-middle, an inconceivable (不可思議) middle that effaces itself in a simultaneous "identity with emptiness, identity with provisionality, and identity with the middle" ( 即空即假即中), where "any one interfuses with all three, and the three, one" (一即三三即一). Pushing this line of reasoning to its extreme, the very distinctions that establish an ultimate reality must vanish altogether."
You are right to notice that their discussion in places emphasises the middle in a way dangerous to purpose. However, I think this has more to do with distinguishing the concept of the middle against the backdrop of two truths. Your analogy of the three eyes of Mahesvara is used quite a few times by Zhiyi and early Tiantai writers, so its a great one to remember.
In regards to your questions about Zhanran. Zhanran is indeed incredibly important in Tendai, and you recall correctly that Dengyo Daishi trained under Zhanran's disciple, Daosui. Zhanran is essential reading you could say. He wrote the authoratative commentaries on the Tiantai Sandabu/ Tendai Sandaibu 天台三大部(i.e the Mohe Zhiguan, Fahua Xuanyi and Fahua Wenju)Three Great Works of Tiantai Dashi, and Dengyo Daishi wrote a commentary on Zhanran's Diamond Scalpel. So yes, Zhanran is of great importance in Tiantai/ Tendai.
However, there is context here which I think results in a different 'reading of' Zhanran in Tiantai/Tendai than in Nichiren. From my experience, Zhanran writes primarily to two ends: 1) clarifying and establishing the orthodox Tiantai position, 2) repudiating the doctrines of other schools, and/or identifying the influence of other schools on Tiantai thought. This is because Zhanran existed at a time when the Tiantai school's fortunes had slipped, and competition from schools like Huayan threatened Tiantai standing. I am not as familiar with Nichiren's writings and letters as your good self Queequeg, but from the readings I have done, and given what Nichiren understood to be his 'duty', I've found he quotes most consistently from the latter comments by Zhanran. I got the distinct impression that had I not read Zhanran directly, I would have come to very different conclusions as to Zhanran's ideas, had I only read him through Nichiren. Another thing to remember is that much like Zhiyi in the Mohe Zhiguan, Nichiren can be quite creative with his quoting and paraphrasing of Zhanran. This sort of thing is part and parcel of the tradition, but it needs to be said that they really do read quite differently.
Ng may well have intended as you say, to 'bring to the fore' the mystical aspect of Buddhanature, and I did enjoy his work. However, he does make too much of the Middle Way-Buddha Nature concept. It is not the 'lynch-pin' he wishes it to be. If he did indeed intend as you suspect, then there are a number of concepts better fit for purpose. Don't get me wrong, Ng's work was very enjoyable, and I learnt from it. But it isn't without fairly substantial issues. As a practitioner, I do appreciate attempts to bring out more of the dynamic elements of the tradition. But...
Your hunch is correct, and you have more to go on than you may think
. Tiantai is not simply a misunderstanding of Madhyamaka, and there are Cittamatrata influences present in some of his ideas. Although these probably don't come from Yogacara sources, but from Abhidharmaka texts. I could discuss these points forever, but I intend to touch on them as we go through the Mohe Zhiguan, so I'll save it.
Those are good suggestions Queequeg, and both serve as good introductions to the Tiantai tradition. Ziporyn's 'Emptiness and Omnipresence' can be used as a primer for doctrine, and Hurvitz's study of Zhiyi acts as a good companion for the early history. Unfortunately neither of them are particularly holistic. To my mind, none of the currently available literature in English is thorough enough to serve as a proper introduction to the tradition. Academic publications by their very nature often need to be finite and limited to the discussion at hand. But ironically, these works are then only useful if one is already reasonably familiar with the tradition. Myself and a few others are working to improve the situation, although I don't want to say too much. Suffice it to say that we intend to produce something fairly thorough, and well-rounded. It is still a work in progress, but will hopefully be something like Ven. Dhammajoti's 'Sarvastivada Abhidharma' textbook.
This translation of the Mohe Zhiguan helps the situation immensely, and I have no doubt that it will open the field to broader, and more consistent consideration. It can be fairly intimidating of course, and needs guidance to make the most of it.
With all of this in mind, I suggest that people start with the two aforementioned works: Ziporyn's 'Emptiness and Omnipresence', and Hurvitz's 'Chih-i'. Follow this with the translations of Gishin's Tendai hokke shū gishū (天台法華宗義集), and Chegwan's Tiantai sijiao yi (天台四教儀). Both are available in BDK editions, although if you can find it, buy the older edition of the Tiantai Sijiao Yi as it has a lot of helpful footnoting omitted from the BDK version. Neither of these two works are perfect. Gishin's work is too terse to be used by a pure beginner, and Chegwan's work is quite late, reading later doctrinal developments into Zhiyi, and weights the doctrinal classification system excessively. However, they are fairly broad in their coverage, and provide enough to give an outline of the system. If you can read Japanese go for Fukuda's 天台学概論 Tendaigaku Gairon. It is a bit dated now, but still streets ahead of any modern resource in any language.