The T’ien T’ai (Tendai) Revolution
Buddhist thought in South China was distinctly philosophical in character in Zhiyi’s time. (See more about Zhiyi) Northern Chinese Buddhists were developing a religion of faith and discipline called Zhingtu (sometimes called Ch’ing-tu or Pure Land). Zhiyi was a product of the southern Chinese educated upper class. His teacher, Huisi (514-577), was a Northerner of the lower classes. Because of this, Zhiyi came to the judgment that the contemplative and philosophical approaches to religion were like the two wings of a bird. As a result the Chinese T’ien T’ai School, and its descendent, the Japanese Tendai School, is characterized by a strong philosophical content and emphasizes meditative practice at the same time.
The most distinguishing trait of the T’ien T’ai worldview is that there is only “one” reality consisting of both the phenomenal world of samsāra, and ultimate reality of nirvana. Zhiyi undertook to explain the evident incongruity…
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