73.   Tien-tai Sect (V)

  1. Tien-tai Sect (V)

73.1   Ten Subtleties

There are ten meanings of subtlety with regard to this realm of sentient beings, as discussed in the Profound Meaning of Lotus Sutra, one of the important treatises in Tien-tai Sect. These ten categories are as follows:

  1. The subtlety of objects -- concerning the objective reality, such as the Ten Suchness of Dharma.
  2. The subtlety of wisdom -- concerning various kinds of wisdom to realize the objective reality.
  3. The subtlety of practice -- concerning various kinds of practice, which lead to the attainment of wisdom.
  4. The subtlety of stages -- concerning the levels of attainment through practice.
  5. The subtlety of Threefold Dharma -- concerning the integrated nature of the threefold aspects of reality and Buddha nature.
  6. The subtlety of empathy and response -- concerning the unity of sentient beings' empathy towards Buddha, or capacity to attain Buddhahood, and the Buddha's power to approach and help sentient beings.
  7. The subtlety of supranormal power -- concerning some of the supranormal power of the Buddha, for the sake of saving sentient beings.
  8. The subtlety of preaching the Dharma -- concerning the variety and ultimate unity of the teachings of different vehicles, which is expedient for the sake of saving sentient being.
  9. The subtlety of attendants -- concerning the qualities of those who attend to the teachings of the Buddha.
  10. The subtlety of benefits -- concerning the benefits, which accrue to those who attend to the Buddha.

73.2   Ten Objects of Contemplation

In Tien Tai Buddhism, the objects of contemplation are summarized in ten realms:

  1. The realm of our worldly life, including the phenomenal realm, the realm of the Five Aggregate, Twelve Fields and Eighteen Worlds.
  2. The realm of blind passion, which is hidden, but becomes apparent as one deepens contemplation.
  3. The realm of illness, which is brought about through unduly rigorous physical discipline.
  4. The realm of Karmic law, whereby countless previous lives cause the present one.
  5. The realm of heavenly beings, which appear in profound contemplation.
  6. The realm of Dhyana, which can be an obstacle to insight if one attaches and carves to it.
  7. The realm of dogmatic views about meditation, especially the view that one is free from all views.
  8. The realm of arrogance and pride.
  9. The realm of Two Vehicles.
  10. The realm of Bodhisattva.

Each of these realms, including those of delusion, is none other than the realm of truth, i.e. Dharmadhatu, one of the main features in Tien Tai Buddhism.

73.3   Four Kinds of Samadhi [四種三昧]

  1. Samadhi of Constant Sitting [常坐三昧]

    Also called One Round Samadhi [一行三昧], it lasts for 90 days. The practitioner is required to sit in a designated posture and get rid of all worldly thoughts and concentrate the mind in Dharmadhatu. If tired, he should recite Buddha's name and not let the mind leave the Samadhi. This Samadhi was formulated by Chih-I, based on different practices found in various scriptures. However, according to the Platform Sutra in Ch'an sect, it is a constant practice of maintaining a direct, straightforward mind in all places, whether one is sitting, standing, walking or lying down. The straight mind is the Bodhimandala (i.e. Dharma Place). The straight mind is the Pure Land.

  2. Pratyutpanna-samadhi [般舟三昧]

    It is also called the Prolonged Samadhi or Samadhi of Constant Walking [常行三昧] because throughout the whole period of 90 days, one meditates intensely, recites the name of Amitabha Buddha without rest, and holds the image of Amitabha Buddha in consciousness until one realizes the non-duality of self and Buddha. It is the Samadhi in which the Buddhas of the ten directions are seen as clearly as the stars at night.

  3. Samadhi of Half Walking and Half Sitting [半行半坐三昧]

    According to the prescription of the Vaipula Sutra, it takes 7 days as one period to hold a Mantra while walking around. Alternatively, the practitioner can follow the Lotus Sutra, accompanied by elaborate rituals of worship, incense purification, repentance, chanting of Dharani and Sutras, circumambulation and meditative practice. It takes 21 days in sitting or walking in this practice.

  4. Samadhi of Non-walking and Non-sitting [非行非坐三昧]

    It is also called the Samadhi at Free Will [隨自意三昧]. The practitioner contemplates on any matter at any time, thus there is no time period. Whenever a deluded thought arises in mind, the practitioner should be aware and get rid of it by contemplating his own mind. Alternatively, wherever thought is awakened, that thought becomes the object of contemplation, whether one is sitting, walking, standing or lying down. The object of contemplation may be either good or bad thoughts, as good thoughts are regarded as consisting evil, and vice versa. The Samadhi reveals that any judgment of good and evil is the result of a self-centered human perspective. In meditation, one can penetrate through evil to see the true reality.

These four Samadhi have a dual purpose, one is the repentance based on 'Shih' (the phenomenal event), and the other is the repentance based on 'Li' (the fundamental principle). The former is expressed through some ritual activities, while the latter is achieved through insight into the true nature of reality. Chih-I affirms the true nature of reality, manifested in phenomenal existence.

73.4   Six Stages of Bodhisattva Development [六即]

As defined in the Tien-tai sect, the six stages of Bodhisattva development is regarded as the Perfect or Round Teaching, which is different from Ten Faiths, Ten Abodes, Ten Behavioral Conducts as defined in Differentiated or Separate Teaching.

The six stages are:

  1. Stage of realization that all beings are of Buddha's nature. [理即]
  2. Stage of apprehension of words that one who hears and believes in Buddhism is potential Buddha. [名即]
  3. Stage attained through meditation practice, study and action. [觀行即] It is known as Stage of Five Preliminary Grades of Disciples. [五品弟子位]
  4. Semblance stage that is close to perfection [相似即], also known as the stage of purification of six roots and equivalent to the stage of Ten Faiths as defined in Differentiated Teaching.
  5. Stage of discrimination of truth and its progressive experiential certification [分証即], also known as Cause or Root of Holiness [聖因], equivalent to the Ten Abodes, Ten Merit Transferences, Ten Grounds, Universal Enlightenment as defined in Differentiated Teaching.
  6. Stage of Perfect Enlightenment [究竟即], also known as Fruition of Holiness [聖果], equivalent to the Wonderful Enlightenment in Differentiated Teaching.

73.5   Identity in Six Degrees [六即佛]

Further to the doctrine of Six Stages of Bodhisattva Development in Tien-tai sect, similar doctrine is used to explain the identity of Buddha in six degrees. The Identity in Six Degrees is the successive stages of cultivation and practice. However, in terms of the substance of reality, which is manifested, there is no difference from one stage to another. Therefore, it is called 'Identity'.

  1. Identity in Principle [理即佛] -- All beings have the Buddha-nature, which is essential and undeveloped. The underlying truth or principle is similar to 'Li' [理], the Absolute , as explained in Hua Yen sect.
  2. Identity in Words [名即佛] -- It is the Buddha as a name or person. It refers to the speeches from good persons and words from the scriptures.
  3. Identity in Contemplative Practice [觀行即佛] -- It refers to the practice according to the Stages of the Five Preliminary Grades of Disciples [五品弟子位].
  4. Identity in Outer Appearance [相似即佛] -- It refers to the manifestation of harmony in outer appearances in the cultivation of the Ten Faiths.
  5. Identity of Partial Realization [分証即佛] -- It refers to the partial destruction of the Fundamental Ignorance and partial realization, in the stage of the First Abode to Preliminary or Universal Enlightenment.
  6. Ultimate Identity [究竟即佛] -- It refers to the complete fulfillment of wisdom and the elimination of all ignorance, in the stage of Supreme or Perfect Enlightenment.