In grouping and numbering the stages of development towards Enlightenment, a discrepancy is shown in some sutras. The Benevolent King Prajna Sutra gives the total number of stages at fifty-one. The Gem Sutra adds the Universal Perfect Enlightenment to the total at fifty-two, The Surangama Sutra, adding several more developments, totals the number at sixty. The Vairocana Sutra begins the grouping from the ten stages of mental development of the mind to the ten stages of the ten grades of Abiding-places.

    27.1   Six Aspect of Enlightenment in Tien T'ai Sect

    In order to adapt the Dharma to meet the needs of different people of varying roots, Master Chih-I, founder of the Tien T'ai Buddhist Sect, categorized the teaching of Buddhism into the folowing four areas :

    1. the Tripitaka Doctrine,
    2. the Interrelated Doctrine,
    3. the Differentiated Doctrine, and
    4. the Complete Doctrine.

    Here are a few words regarding the extent the Complete Doctrine may help Buddhists to remove delusions and illusions, and the order of their position of progressive development towards Enlightenment to be commensurate with their effort of exertion.

    According to Master Chih-I's profound exposition, in order to realize the self-nature of the mind, there are the six aspects of Enlightenment listed as follows :

      27.1.1   To realize the fundamental principle of Buddhahood

      Due to their ignorance, sentient beings have to undergo rounds of birth and death in the Samsara. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of the inconceivable essence of Buddha-Nature, they are identical with Buddha inasmuch as every Dharma unfolds the Dharmahatsu (Dharma-Realms). There is no question of their realization of Enlightenment.

      27.1.2   To realize Buddhahood as a name of Self-nature

      If one learns from friends, teachers or sutras that Self-nature is a synonym of Buddha, he will understand that everything is the Means. In other words, everything is inseparable from Self-nature, and everything is Dharma. This stage of development is called by the Tien T'ai School "The Great Revelation of the Perfect Enlightenment", and by the Ch'an School "Realizing the Fundamental".

      27.1.3   To realize Buddhahood by meditational practice

      Following one's understanding of the principle of Buddhahood, one has to translate that understanding into practice. In practising the Profound Meditation at this stage of development, the meditator is at par with the phenomena. In the meantime, all passions arising from perception, subjective thought and ignorance are overcome. This is the accomplishment of the five Grades of Discipleship, and is also known as the External Grades, of the Perfect Doctrine of the Tien T'ai School.

      27.1.4   To realize the semblance to Buddhahood

      This stage of development covers the Ten Stages of Faith of the Perfect Teaching, also known as the Inner Higher grades, or the Purification Stage of the six sense organs. At the First Faith Stage, illusions from perception, e.g. doubt, heretical views, misconception of the self, extreme views, viewing inferior things as superior, views in favour of ignorant ascetic prohibitions, etc, have been all eliminated. At any event, there would be no receding to the position of the layman. It may be also called the Non-receding Stage. At the Seventh Faith Stage, all illusions from thought, e.g. greed, hatred, stupidly, arrogance, etc., have been wiped out, no longer would one be subjected to be reborn in the Three Realms and in this world, where saints and laymans live together, but would live in the Temporary Realm, where only those who have got rid of the evils of all unenlightened views and thoughts may stay. At the Tenth Faith Stage, the subtlest illusions and temptations of the Three Realms and beyond all are eradicated. There is nothing to obstruct one's further development. Thus, by compassion and wisdom one goes a long way to help sentient beings actively and positively. This is called the Action of Non-receding.

      27.1.5   To realize Buddhahood by self-experiencing

      This stage of development includes the Ten Abiding Places, the Ten Activities, the Ten Stages of Merit Transference and the Ten Grades of Merits, and also Universal Enlightenment. Proceeding from overcoming ignorance of the First Stage (subtle illusion), one reaches the first Abiding Place, and dwells in the Realm of Permanent Reward and Freedom. Meanwhile,in the Realm of Eternal Rest and Light, he also realizes Buddha-nature by progressive experiential proofs, thereby attaining the wisdom and power of Unperturbed Uncreated Endurance and holding onto the Mean without receding. This is called "Non-receding from Right Discipline"; (this is the Mahayanist Way of beholding the Truth and the Sravaka's fruit of overcoming illusion from perception). To what extent one may realize Enlightenment is entirely commensurate with the effort he may exert in breaking up the different levels of ignorance. The work of elimination is carried on until the forty-two Grades of Ignorance are all removed and the Universal Enlightenment is realized.

      27.1.6   To realize Absolute Perfect Enlightenment

      This is the stage of Wonderful Enlightenment leading to dwelling in the Buddhaland of Absolute Eternal Light and Tranquillity, where one may claim to have accomplished Dharmakaya of absolute purity and to have experienced and verified the Perfect Truth by self-realization. (According to the Complete Doctrine, one act includes all acts and one stage covers all stages, but fundamentally there is neither stage nor grade, thus the above classification of the six stages of development is but a means of expediency. The division of five Grades of Disciples is based on the Lotus Sutra, and the other groupings, based on the Gem Sutra, are taken from the Differentiated Teaching).

    27.2   Nine Grades of Buddhists in Pure Land Sect

    Now let us turn to the development, by the Name-reciting method, of the nine grades of Buddhists to be born in the Pure Land.

    1. Those of genuine faith and firm resolution, who are still distracted of mind during reciting, will be born into the lowest low of the Buddhaland.

    2. Those who have overcome their distractions more or less will be born into the middle low.

    3. Those who are free from distractions will be born into the upper low.

    The aforementioned three grades of beings, though still subjected to illusions of perceptions, would be born in the Buddhaland where saints and layman live together (the four Buddhalands of Supreme Happiness are all Pure Lands). Once born there, never will they recede. (According to the doctrine of some other Buddhist sects, however, one must wipe out all illusions from perception if he is to attain the coveted Never-Receding Position.)

    Those who can recite without negligence and distraction at all times and also recite with an unperturbed mind like an Arhat, shall be born into the Temporary Realm and shall be graded in the upper, middle and lowest, middle.

    Those who can realize, by self-experiencing, the ultimate reality under-lying everything, and non-differentiation between mind and Buddha, and who, like the Ignorance-free Bodhisattvas, are detached from any influence, shall be graded in the upper superior, middle superior or lowest superior and shall be born in The Realm of Permanent Reward and Freedom and the Realm of Eternal Light and Tranquillity.

    As it is profound, simple and adaptable to the followers at all levels, the Name-reciting Method is popular, appealing and universal.