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Shih Miao Guang - Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and the Awakening of Faith

Shih Miao Guang - Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and the Awakening of Faith

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Published by: Memento__Mori on Mar 23, 2014
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Annotated Translation of "Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and
The Awakening of Faith in the  Mahayana
Shih, Miao Guang
The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana
 presents itself as one of the most profound, concise and authoritative summaries of Mahayana thought. Written from the perspective of essence (
and function (
The Awakening of Faith
 sought to harmonize the
 (or Buddha nature) and
 (or yogacara) into the concept, “the One Mind in Two Aspects” which later exerted tremendous influences on different schools of Chinese Buddhism. This paper aims to examine the text’s influence on Tiantai thinker Siming Zhili (960-1028) based on his work, “Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and
The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana
” from
 A Record of Siming
 Zhili’s Teachings
. Through providing an English translation of this text, the basic Tiantai concepts such as nature inclusion, following conditions, the unchanging, and doctrinal classification will be assessed, and their possible links to
The Awakening of Faith
 Key words:
Fazang, Huayan, Zhili, Tiantai, following conditions (
), unchanging (
), Separate Teaching, Complete Teaching,
, tathata, nature inclusion, buddha-nature
1. Introduction
Amongst all Tiantai master thinkers from the Song dynasty, Siming Zhili stood out as a unique one for his interpretation of Zhiyi and Zhanran’s thought. He was also a leader of the Shanjia defending “the orthodox Tiantai doctrine” against the Shanwai thinkers. A majority of his work consists of criticisms of the Shanwai interpretation of the Tiantai doctrine, for example,
 Exposition of the Essentials of the Ten Gates of Nonduality
), “Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and
The Awakening of Faith
 in the Mahayana” (
 Jin-guang-ming-jing xuan-yi shi-yi-ji
). The Shanjia and Shanwai clash started off as a disagreement in the interpretation of whether the tathata (true thusness) follows conditions or not. The Shanjia thinkers criticized Shanwai’s classification of Huayan’s Advanced Mahayana Teaching and Sudden Teaching’s interpretation of “tathata which follows conditions” (
), highlighting the inappropriateness of regarding them as equivalents of Tiantai’s Complete Teaching. Zhili’s main approach to this dispute was through the use of doctrinal classification (
). In his “Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and
The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana
,” not only did Zhili seek to harmonize teachings from
The Awakening of Faith
 with that of Tiantai thought; he also attributed, in his mind, an appropriate position to this text. That is, the Separate Teaching. It is also quite clear in the chapter, that Zhili did not completely reject the Huayan point of view, nor that there is an un-harmonizable contradiction between him and the Huayan School. Instead, he incorporated such teachings and absorbed it into the Tiantai system of thought.
The Awakening of Faith
 has been elucidated and commented on by Fazang of the Huayan School, and is thus regarded as a very important text in the school. On the other hand, Tiantai thinkers had not made any commentaries on
The Awakening of Faith
, and claimed that it is “a work of the other school.” Even though Zhanran had borrowed the term “following conditions while remaining unchanged” (
), he nevertheless attributed such a term to
The Awakening of Faith
 only, and had not agreed to the way Huayan thinkers understood it. Zhanran adopted the concept of tathata which follows conditions based on the holistic entailment by the mind, which Zhili interpreted as a theory that was based on nature inclusion (
), and
thus qualifies as a part of the Complete Teaching. Although Huayan thinkers also discuss the tathata which follows conditions, they have based this theory on natural origination (
), therefore it is still only a part of the Separate Teaching. Knowing that placing his own school in a superior position would stir up disputes, Zhili pictured this scenario in his Chapter on Bringing Together as “rejection by the guest” who does not accept Huayan as the Separate Teaching, which is inferior to the Tiantai Complete Teaching when both teachings are based on the same theory of following conditions while remaining unchanged. Zhili also pointed out “what difficulty is there for
The Awakening of Faith
to be incorporated or included into the Tiantai scheme” to express his approval for teachings of the text, which also incorporates the Huayan thoughts as expounded by Fazang, to be included as a part of Tiantai thoughts. However, while accepting what the text says about “the tathata transforms to all dharmas by following conditions, while the essence and nature of the tathata is permanent and unchanged,” he also stressed that “following conditions” is not necessarily always a part of the Complete Teaching. He raised two points in the chapter about how the Huayan School is insufficient to be the Complete Teaching: 1) “This [theory] may bear the name of the Complete Teaching, but in fact shapes its meaning in the Separate Teaching.” In Zhili’s mind, the essence of the tathata as discussed by Fazang only included nature origination, not nature inclusion, which causes an absence of identity amongst all dharmas. Nature origination holds that all dharmas in this world are caused by dharma-nature or the tathata which follow conditions, but this exclusiveness of nature contradicts with the Tiantai idea that all dharmas are inherently included by nature. This lack of identity thus makes the Huayan teaching on following conditions not complete, and thus can only be regarded as an exclusive teaching. 2) In saying, “[Fazang] made an erroneous quotation of the Prajna-paramita Sastra, which says, ‘the insentient possesses only the dharma-nature, not buddha-nature,’” Zhili contends that Huayan’s concepts of nature inclusion and buddha-nature are not sufficient, which also gave him ground to place it in a more inferior position to Tiantai. This is also his attempt to incorporate and include teachings of other schools

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