Coëmgenu wrote:Well the narrative I have encountered really couches the relations, similar or different, between Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili on terms of the historical realities of sectarian Buddhisms (and, in Zhiyi's case, particularly monasteries moreso than doctrinal movements) competing for aristocratic and imperial patronage in China, particularly after the founder was long dead. Particularly in the different ideological rivals that different writers had to engage in polemic against, lest they lose patronage, and the way that this transformed and reinvented Tiantai over the years.
I recall a discussion years ago where an acquaintance characterized Zhiyi as a captive bird, his urban monastery was a golden cage where his aristocratic patrons could enjoy his singing. Indeed, he'd come down from the mountain from time to time and teach, but it seems he was most content up on the mountain with his students, engaging in deep practice. If you read his ritual manuals, you realize what kind of seclusion is needed for those practices. Years ago, before Japan was overrun with package tourists, you could go to places like Mt. Hiei and be one of the only visitors on the mountain. I remember walking a long path alone under the centuries old cypresses in a spring morning mist. I suspect that he preferred places like that - I imagine Mt. Tiantai is a similar place. At some point in life, I'd like to be able to spend time in a place like that, just get deep into practice.
The point I'm making is, his reasons for coming down from the mountain are the same as most of us - someone's gotta pay the darn bills.
Returning to your point about the "adaptations" - By Nichiren's time, I think there was a self conscious idea in Tendai circles that teachers appear from time to time to renew the teaching of the Lotus and reassert it in relation to new circumstances - Zhiyi established the teachings of the Lotus and asserted them in relation to the teachings of his day. Later, Zhanran renewed the teaching, adapting the critiques to the teachings current at his time. Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) then did so again in Japan (Zhili is out of the Japanese lineage, and in fact, I understand there was correspondence between Hiei and Zhili, and they apparently did not think very much of Zhili; they apparently sent him some questions and one of the Tendai monks predicted what his answers could be, and wrote critiques of each; Zhili's answers matched the worst answers predicted), and Nichiren was doing so again in the Kamakura period in response to the propagation of Mappo thought and Honen's interpretation of Pure Land, Shingon, what he perceived as corrupt Tendai, and the emerging Zen movement. Nichiren's view of himself goes beyond that, but I believe he very much saw himself in this Tiantai-Tendai tradition.
Further, adaptation is built into the Tiantai teachings - just look at that passage of Zhiyi I quoted above - in that passage its saying, any dharma insisted upon is an unsupportable bias, though also not categorically false, and rather, categorically true. Tiantai is built to absorb and assimilate, and adapt. My own biased view on this is, it works that way because it IS the Perfect Teaching.
My sense is that Ziporyn very much appreciates this about Tiantai. I think his most robust exploration of this is his Being and Ambiguity. When he talks about Zhanran as a reinventor, I sense its an observation about how Zhanran readapted Tiantai in his circumstances. He makes similar observations about Nichiren, though I'd disagree with him to a certain extent in exactly how Nichiren adapted.
Certainly I think patronage played a role for these men, but I doubt that it was the guiding motivation. I don't know much about Zhanran, but certainly, Saicho encountered a great deal of difficulty in trying to establish Hiei. I would think that had Saicho been cut off, he would have persevered on the mountain. Nichiren certainly was never motivated by patronage, rejecting it unless it was an action following the intention to revere the Lotus Sutra. He in fact turned down a generous offer of official patronage in favor of moving to a remote mountain hermitage.
In any event, I'm interested to see where you are going in the separate thread.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”