70.1.2 The Fourfold Doctrines of Conversion
70.1.3 The Fourfold Methods of Conversion
70.1.4 The Five Flavors
70.3 The Three Thousand Worlds
The Tien-tai sect classifies the Buddha's teaching in Five Periods and Eight Teachings ( 五時八教 ). The Eight Teachings are subdivided into two groups, one is the Fourfold Doctrines of Conversion ( 化法四教 ) and the other is the Fourfold Methods of Conversion ( 化儀四教 ). An analogy of milk is drawn in Nirvana Sutra, as to explain the classification of teaching by the Tien-tai sect.
The classification gives us a clear system to solve some of the fundamental metaphysical problems of Buddhism. Though some ideas of different schools seem to be contradictory, Tien-tai advocates no opposition between the Hinayana and Mahayana, as they are all the true words of the Buddha.
There are four kinds of Buddhist doctrines to convert sentient beings. They are:
The methods of converting the sentient beings are four, as classified by Tien-tai sect. They are:
In Nirvana Sutra, Shakyamuni drew an analogy of milk to explain the different stages of his teachings in his life. It is known as the Five Flavors.
There are two meanings in the analogy. The first meaning refers to the process of making ghee. The fresh milk comes from the cow. The cream is produced from the milk. Curds, butter and ghee follow in order. The cow symbolizes the Buddha, while the flavor symbolizes his teachings.
The second meaning refers to the degree of richness of the flavors. It begins the fundamental flavor of milk for those at the Avatamsaka assembly. Unfortunately, ordinary people could neither believe nor understand, thus could not transform their worldly passions. It is symbolized by fresh milk.
Secondly, based on the teachings in the Agamas Sutra, those with the capacity of the Two Vehicles transformed the worldly passions and became Arhats. This is symbolized by fresh milk becoming milk.
Thirdly, the teaching is expanded for those who are not satisfied with the Hinayana, and yearned for the Mahayana. They obtained the benefits of the Shared Doctrine. This is just like the cream changes to curd.
Next, those who received the expounded teaching of Prajna became harmonized gradually, and thus obtained the benefits of the Distinctive Doctrine. This is like transforming curd into butter.
Lastly, Shakyamuni Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra and revealed that the Dharma were taught in three different ways, but all converged to One Buddha Vehicle without any contradiction. For those who obtained the prediction of their future Buddhahood, it is like transforming butter to ghee.
The Tien-tai sect set forth a world system of ten realms, of which the higher four are sagely, and the lower six are ordinary. They are:
These ten realms are mutually immanent and mutually inclusive, each one having the remaining nine realms in it. Thus, it makes up to 100 worlds in total.
Further, each of these worlds has ten different features, namely,
These are the Ten Features of Thusness ( 十如是 ). Taking these ten features in the 100 worlds, the Tien-tai sect developed the doctrine of 1,000 realms.
Moreover, each realm consists of three divisions of the worlds, namely,
Thus, there are 3,000 realms or worlds, constituting the whole of the manifested reality.
According to Tien-tai doctrine, the whole universe is said to have the constituency of 'Three Thousands'. The number 3,000 is given to express the inter-permeation of all Dharmas and the ultimate unity of the whole universe. In Buddhism, 'Three Thousands' usually refers to the great chiliocosm consisting 1,000 small, 1,000 medium and 1,000 large worlds. However, according to Tien-tai doctrine, it refers to the whole universe of all beings and things, i.e. the world of 'simultaneous arising', similar to that of Dharmadhatu in Hua-yen sect. In other words, a conscious-instant, or a moment of thought has 3,000 worlds immanent in it ( 一念三千 ). It is called 'Three Thousand Originally Immanent', or 'Three Thousand Immanent in Principle', or 'Three Thousand Immanent in Nature', or 'Three Thousand Perfectly Immanent'.
It should be noted that the 'Three Thousand Worlds' theory is quite different from the 'Mere Consciousness' theory in Fa-hsiang sect, though the former is expounded on the latter. It does not mean that a moment of thought produces or creates the 3,000 worlds, because there is no beginning in terms of time. Nor, it does not mean that the 3,000 worlds are included in one instant of thought because an inclusion is an existence in space.
Each phenomenon, matter or mind, expresses its own principle, which is the Triple Truth of Harmony (i.e. Void, Falsehood and Mean), while the noumenon is originally immanent, perfectly immanent, immanency in principle and immanency in nature. This simply means that a thing or a being itself is the true state.