74.2 The Five Preliminary Grades of Disciples
74.3 The Fifty-two Stages to Buddhahood
74.4 Difference and Similarities between Tien Tai and Hua Yen
Further to the doctrine of Identity in Six Degrees, Tien Tai sect relates it to the Ten Positions or Stages achieved in the cultivation of Buddhahood. They are:
The fifth to the ninth stages inclusive are equivalent to Identity of Partial Realization [分証即佛]. It is also known as the Stage of Bodhisattva.
It is the Stage of Buddhahood.
This is the beginning stage of the religious practice in Tien-tai sect, placed before the Fifty-two Stages of Buddhahood, as stated in Paragraph 74.3. It focuses to the practice of repentance. Its structure is as follows:
1. Joy from according with the Truth
2. Reading and Reciting
3. Teaching the Dharma
4. Practicing the Six Perfections Simultaneously
5. Correctly Practicing the Six Perfections
As referred to the fourth to tenth stage of Ten Positions, it is similar to the Fifty-two Stages to Buddhahood discussed in previous chapters. Please refer to Chapter 60 Section 60.3
Tien Tai Buddhism, the first truly Chinese school, and Hua Yen Buddhism are developed without any Indian counterpart, but both Tien Tai and Hua Yen refer to Fa Hsiang school or Vijnanavada Buddhism, as they are best explained in conjunction with their similar doctrines.
Though both Tien Tai and Hua Yen were based on the philosophy of emptiness, their fundamental difference derived from their respective principal scriptural sources, the Lotus Sutra and the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Louts Sutra summarizes the Buddha's teachings with various kinds of expedient means to save beings, and attempts to reveal and enter the inconceivable One Buddha Vehicle. However, the Avatamsaka Sutra is a series of expositions showing the accomplishment in the Buddha's realm upon complete and perfect enlightenment.
The two schools also differ doctrinally by the emphasis of the idea of Tathagathagarbha, which is considered to be the basis of Hua Yen Buddhism. Hua Yen sees all things from the standpoint of the accomplished state of Buddhahood in both this phenomenal world (Lokashatu in Sanskrit) and the world of enlightenment (Dharmadhatu in Sanskrit). As the fundamental substance of Tathagathagarbha, they are not two separate worlds, but ignorance and enlightenment of beings make the difference.
Though both schools agree that delusion and enlightenment penetrate each other mutually, Hua Yen tends to see the world as the transparent illumination of Vairocana Buddha, while Tien Tai puts less emphasis on delusory thoughts.
Both schools establish a scheme of classification of teaching, attempting to integrate and harmonize the vast array of Buddhism scriptures and doctrines. In Tien Tai sect, the classification is known as 'Five Periods and Eight Teachings', while in Hua Yen sect it is 'Five Divisions and Ten Schools' . Both schools assert that the Buddha taught different levels of doctrines to cater for different abilities and interests of the practitioners.
Based on the Threefold Body of the Buddha, both schools explain that the mundane phenomena are 'impure' aspects of the one encompassing and absolute mind, of which Dharmakaya Buddha is the pure aspect. All phenomena thus are just manifestations of the Buddha Nature in Dharamkaya form, just as all our thoughts are manifestations of the absolute mind (or 'originated from' and 'resolve into' our mind in layman term). If our thought is pure at one instant and our mind is pure, then we are the Buddhas at that instant; if our thought is impure at another instant and our mind is impure, then we are ordinary beings at that instant
Hua Yen Buddhism takes a further step of identifying ttat all phenomena are inter-penetrating, i.e. each phenomenon is in its entirety in every other phenomenon because of their common manifestations of the absolute mind.
Both schools have come to embody virtually the entirety of Chinese Buddhist philosophy, while Ch'an School and Pure Land School embody the Chinese Buddhist practice. It should be noted that both Ch'an and Pure Land schools are developed in their specific ways though they had roots in India. They will be discussed in later chapters.