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?