The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Coëmgenu
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The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:48 am

I recently posted this on SuttaCentral, and figure I might as well share it here on DhammaWheel in Connections to Other Paths.

As a general note, since this seems to be a sort-of Mahāyāna-EBT contextualization and comparative thread, I should clarify on what at least I am able to from an informed perspective, with regards to some understandings of “interconnected/interpenetrating” that might be present, or perhaps better clarify some correct presumptions that were being made.

The tradition of Mahāyāna philosophy that I am most familiar with, and highly interested in, is, as Javi already pointed out, us knowing each other online already, the Tiāntāi school of China headed by Ven Zhìyǐ.

The Tiāntāi school of Buddhism is founded on what Ven Zhìyǐ referred to as “the integrated teaching”. Some would later call this “the Tiāntāi synthesis”.

Unlike how Mahāyāna (& Vajrayāna) entered into Tibet, and unlike how Indian Buddhism developed into its late complex stages in India, the entirety of the dispensations of the EBTs, the later sects, & Mahāyāna, all enter into China at more or less the same time, or at least in a very truncated timeframe as compared to the native development of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent.

As a result, early Chinese Buddhists received these texts in more-or-less a freely distributed jumble, and often without commentarial material. For instance, over on DharmaWheel, Malcolm often says that the Tibetans learned their dharma from the commentaries, and the Chinese from the sūtras. How accurate he is in saying this I cannot say.

“The integrated teaching”, or “the Tiāntāi synthesis”, is, IMO, the logical outcome of how the Chinese inherited the dharma. If Ven Zhìyǐ had not undertook such a project, someone else would have. From the perspective of many here, understandably, they will see it as a pity that Ven Zhìyǐ incorporated some apocryphal (even by Mahāyāna standards) material into this synthesis. From that same perspective, it will be seen as unfortunate that Ven Zhìyǐ placed the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra as the definitive teaching of the Buddhas, rather than the āgamāḥ or something of the like.

As a result, there are some elements of the teaching that can reasonably be traced to earlier Buddhisms, and some that cannot be found explicitly stated in the dispensation to the śrāvakāḥ. For instance, this thread’s language, “Buddha-nature is the universe itself”, or “the universe is Buddha-nature”, is apparently rooted in the way that the thought of the Japanese people expresses itself in language.

National Teacher Enkan Saian in Kangshū Province was an esteemed Master under Baso. He once pointed out to his assembly, “All sentient beings are possessed of Buddha Nature.” Right away, we need to thoroughly examine his words ‘all sentient beings’. All sentient beings have different internal propensities and external conditions, which are the fruits of past karma, so their perspectives are different. This holds true for each and every one of them, be they called ‘ordinary people’, ‘non-Buddhists’, ‘those in the Three Courses’, ‘those in the Five Courses’, or something else. ‘All sentient beings’, as spoken of in the Buddha’s Way in the present instance, means that all who possess a mind filled with craving are ‘sentient beings’, since having a mind is synonymous with being a sentient being. All those whose mind is beyond craving will likewise be sentient beings, since being a sentient being is synonymous with having a mind. Accordingly, all minds are, without exception, sentient beings, and all sentient beings are, without exception, possessed of Buddha Nature. And even grasses, trees, and our very nation are synonymous with Mind, and because they are synonymous with Mind, they are sentient beings, and because they are sentient beings, they are possessed of Buddha Nature.


Or perhaps Ven Dōgen was being very "idiosyncratic" to assert what he asserted, even in the thought-realm of Japanese philosophy. Similar language of ‘this world is the Pure Land of the Buddha’ can also be found in Tiāntāi, and I am sure that a Zen teacher has said something similar in the past. What it means here is that the rock “is mind” (note, only Ven Dōgen AFAIK goes further and asserts the rock’s sentience on account of this) in the sense that it makes up the world that is within the mind. If sentience is understood as Buddha-nature, than the phenomenological realm of the ordinary mind is the Pure Land.

As such, interpenetration is solely one of emptiness, not appearance, from the perspective of the ordinary being, but also the non-Mahāyānist in general. In Tiāntāi, interpenetration is predicated on the relationship between appearance/aspect and emptiness. It is not that all appearances/aspects interpenetrate and are ‘one’, if I may refer back to the quote from Ven Zhìyǐ: “[when the first type of fool hears that ‘all dharmāḥ are empty’] they take it to mean that all dharmāḥ are inseparable from emptiness and that even if one were to traverse the entire universe, everywhere would be the same suchness [i.e. emptiness] as that found here as the suchness of, for example, this vase.” It should lastly be noted that there is a very small occurence of the word “interpenetration” found in all of the writings of Ven Zhìyǐ. “Interpenetration”, as applied here, is frequently a construct of Western academia.

On the subject of "interpenetration", it is 圓融. 圓 is etymologically (semantically technically) related to 圍 "to gird" and 國 "country", but in this sense means "encircling and" or "completely". 融 gets its semantic component from 鬲 “cauldron”. It means to intermix or fuse or melt into, referring to the way that things melt into each other (for instance in a cauldron during smelting specifically). Together 圓融 is "encircling and melted together" or "completely fused".

The main dictionary I consult gives this "interdependence / consumate interfusion / interpenetration", but that is rather vague. 'Consumate interfusion' seems to be a very popular translation for this, but it seems this is the model perhaps for the English 'interpenetration'.

From the more detailed Digital Dictionary of Buddhism we have:

圓融

Pronunciations

Basic Meaning: consummate interfusion

Senses: Perfect interfusion; completely interpenetrated; seen more fully written as 圓滿融通 and 圓融無礙. Said of the ultimate reality as understood in Tiantai 天台 and Huayan 華嚴.

In Huayan, all existences are of themselves perfectly interfused. The absolute in the relative and vice versa; the identity of apparent contraries; perfect harmony among all differences, as in water and waves, affliction and enlightenment, transmigration and nirvāṇa, or life and death, etc.; all are of the same fundamental nature, all are thusness, and thusness is all; waves are one with waves, and water is one with water, and water and wave are one.

In Tiantai, the usage of the term is more in application to the nonobstruction among various approaches to the Buddhist doctrine, and thus we see terms such as perfect interfusion of the three disciplines 圓融三學, perfect interfusion of the three truths 圓融三諦, perfect interfusion of the unmoving 圓融無作 and so forth.
[Charles Muller, Robert Buswell; source(s): Ui, Nakamura, JEBD, Yokoi, Iwanami]

Perfect, complete (Skt. pariniṣpanna, paripūrṇa, pariṇāma). [Charles Muller; source(s): Hirakawa]


I am not sure if it is suggesting that 圓融 is an occasional Chinese translation choice for the Sanskrit pariniṣpanna, paripūrṇa, (et al) or not. Running a scan of the Taishō Tripiṭaka we see that 圓融 is a sparsely occuring word, with most of its instances limited to T09b–10 (the Avataṃsaka-Gaṇḍavyūha volume) & T44b–48 (Sarvasamaya, the sectarian teachings).

The oddball occurrence is in the Śuraṅgamasūtra. The rest are in minor apocryphal texts here and there.

Other than in those texts, the other place that it tends to occur is in commentarial material (like in T44b–48 like I already mentioned). Going down the list we have a bunch of commentaries, including two significant commentaries from the Tiāntāi school: Ven Zhìyǐ's 妙法蓮華經玄義 ('The Subtle Dharma of the Lotus Flower Sutra's Profound Meaning') & Ven Zhànrán's 法華玄義釋籤 ('The Dharma Flower's Profound Meaning Guidebook').

Ven Zhìyǐ uses it to refer to the Three Truths in the twice-above-mentioned commentary: 分別者,但法有 麁妙,若隔歷三諦,麁法也;圓融三諦,妙法也。

Interestingly, 圓融 is not a term in the Lotus Sūtra's material text, the textus receptus, as it were.

Ven Zhìyǐ himself was an East Asian Madhyamaka (a subschool of greater Madhyamaka), and his Buddhist education was generally in that milieu. Regardless of whether the above “works” with Ven Nāgārjuna’s exegeses of the empty, and by that I refer to the Nirvānaparīkṣā of Ven Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā****, looking at the world on terms of the relation between emptiness and appearance/aspect, this is a very fundamentally different philosophical angle than what undergirds Buddhadharma practice as explained and attested to in EBTs, the dispensation (exclusively) to the śrāvakāḥ.

That being said, this, what I present (not necessarily what I am presenting about), is all somewhat surface-level philosophizing, only my own understanding, and perhaps my own misconceptions. You wont find this kind of language or expression in any early Indian Buddhist text. But is it entirely unBuddhist? I do not think so.


****the abovementioned exegesis of the empty, Ven Nāgārjuna, Mūlamadhyamakakārikā:

25:19-20
न संसारस्य निर्वाणात् किं चिद् अस्ति विशेषणं
na saṁsārasya nirvāṇāt kiṁ cid asti viśeṣaṇaṁ
There is nothing whatsoever of samsara distinguishing (it) from nirvana.
न निर्वाणस्य संसारात् किं चिद् अस्ति विशेषणं। १९
na nirvāṇasya saṁsārāt kiṁ cid asti viśeṣaṇaṁ| 19
There is nothing whatsoever of nirvana distinguishing it from samsara.
निर्वाणस्य च या कोटिः।कोटिः। संसरणस्य च
nirvāṇasya ca yā koṭiḥ koṭiḥ
[That which] is the limit which is the limit of nirvana [is the] the limit of samsara;
न तयोर् अन्तरं किंचित् सुसूक्ष्मम् अपि विद्यते। २०
na tayor antaraṁ kiñcit susūkśmam api vidyate| 20
Even a very subtle interval is not found of (between) them.
(Siderits & Katsura translation, [additions mine])
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:47 am

Would you mind explaining the reference to “apparently rooted in the way the thought of the Japanese people expresses itself in language.?” This may be obvious in the fuller context, but here it appears to suggest that certain Buddhist ideas were established by Japanese or uniquely created by them. That would be surprising. I don’t understand what the thought of the Japanese people might be or how it could express itself in language. Did you mean the way “certain Japanese expressed themselves in language”? If you have the time to clear this up it would be appreciated.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:26 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:47 am
Would you mind explaining the reference to “apparently rooted in the way the thought of the Japanese people expresses itself in language.?” This may be obvious in the fuller context, but here it appears to suggest that certain Buddhist ideas were established by Japanese or uniquely created by them. That would be surprising. I don’t understand what the thought of the Japanese people might be or how it could express itself in language. Did you mean the way “certain Japanese expressed themselves in language”? If you have the time to clear this up it would be appreciated.
Well, I do not at all understand Ven Dōgen's thought here, hence my "apparently". I do not understand how something being a mental object is the same as that something being that is, itself, a sentient being.

I attribute this, tentatively, to my lack of familiarity with Japanese philosophy as a whole, it being an island nation with a long history of isolation, being somewhat unique. Perhaps this is utter hubris on my part! But my experience as an ethnomusicologist testifies to Japan's tendencies toward defying commonly held "universal" norms of anything, or in the very least of the "norms" of the human instinct towards musical-intellectual system building.

Someone on DharmaWheel, earlier, corrected me when I described his attestation of sentience to nonsentient objects as "idiosyncratic", and said that Ven Dōgen was quoting someone else, implying that this was a mainstream view in "some" way, and that I was misunderstanding him. That is liekly, although I do not yet understand how I am misunderstanding him.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:45 pm

Buddhism was not isolated, particularly in this era. In this case, Dogen, a pretty good example of the Sinosphere, trained in China, studied (at least Chinese language) Buddhist texts in Japan, and trained in China. Dogen expressed orthodox Buddhism with unique, inspiring language and a fluidity of perspectives. This takes nothing away from his originality or greatness.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:59 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:45 pm
Buddhism was not isolated, particularly in this era. In this case, Dogen, a pretty good example of the Sinosphere, trained in China, studied (at least Chinese language) Buddhist texts in Japan, and trained in China. Dogen expressed orthodox Buddhism with unique, inspiring language and a fluidity of perspectives. This takes nothing away from his originality or greatness.
Can you explain to me how the rocks are sentient beings? I don't understand how Ven Dogen attributes aggregates to them? AFAIK, sentience is the meeting of 5 consciousnesses.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
Posts: 741
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:27 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:59 pm
....Can you explain to me how the rocks are sentient beings? I don't understand how Ven Dogen attributes aggregates to them? AFAIK, sentience is the meeting of 5 consciousnesses.

To oversimplify my oversimplified understanding of mainstream Mahayana thought:

The implications of Interdependent origination or causation are that there is no separate inside or outside. From one perspective, that rock you see causes you and you cause the rock. You cannot separate the two or inside and outside. From one perspective, that rock is you. If you have sentience, the rock does too. This does not make all into one undifferentiated glop. Individual identity makes this mutual identity possible (here is where Indra’s Net simile as used in Huayen is helpful (the simile Indra’s Net was also widely used in ancient Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian texts, sometimes with different meanings). From another perspective, that rock will really hurt you if you kick it (thus Samuel Johnston refuted Bishop Berkeley!). From another perspective, there is no rock or you. Everything is freely manifesting emptiness or Buddha Nature. Eveything is emptiness or Buddha Nature. This is orthodox Mahayana on the inevitable logical consequences of the Buddha’s teachings that all is caused and as confirmed by their meditative experience. I am not sure how this compares with orthodox Theravada.

So does a dog have Buddha Nature? In one koan Zen master Joshu says Mu (no, does not have, does nor exist, etc.): in another he says ”Yu” (has, possesses, exists, etc.). Seen in terms of orthodox Buddhist philosophy, especially Madhyamaka/Yogacara thought which forms the specific Mahayana background we are discussing, these are both perfectly correct answers. It does miss the point of the koan which is not meant philosophically at all or as a doctrinal teaching tool.This approach does show that the Zen sect, to which Dogen belonged, may be “not dependent” on Buddhist scriptures, but it certainly does not differ from or oppose those scriptures that its monks spend so much time studying. Similarly Dogen brilliantly plays with perspectives and language for a religious purpose, but never deviates from orthodox Buddhism. He is not caught by it either. Take a look at his “Painted Rice Cake” to see how he works.

Zen “ancestors” include Madyamaka and Yogacara thinkers. It can be described as a Madyamaka - Yogacara school in philosophical terms. If you study them, Dogen might be clearer (or not!).

That’s my perspective anyway!

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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:53 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:27 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:59 pm
....Can you explain to me how the rocks are sentient beings? I don't understand how Ven Dogen attributes aggregates to them? AFAIK, sentience is the meeting of 5 consciousnesses.

To oversimplify my oversimplified understanding of mainstream Mahayana thought:

The implications of Interdependent origination or causation are that there is no separate inside or outside. From one perspective, that rock you see causes you and you cause the rock. You cannot separate the two or inside and outside. From one perspective, that rock is you. If you have sentience, the rock does too. This does not make all into one undifferentiated glop. Individual identity makes this mutual identity possible (here is where Indra’s Net simile as used in Huayen is helpful (the simile Indra’s Net was also widely used in ancient Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian texts, sometimes with different meanings). From another perspective, that rock will really hurt you if you kick it (thus Samuel Johnston refuted Bishop Berkeley!). From another perspective, there is no rock or you. Everything is freely manifesting emptiness or Buddha Nature. Eveything is emptiness or Buddha Nature. This is orthodox Mahayana on the inevitable logical consequences of the Buddha’s teachings that all is caused and as confirmed by their meditative experience. I am not sure how this compares with orthodox Theravada.

So does a dog have Buddha Nature? In one koan Zen master Joshu says Mu (no, does not have, does nor exist, etc.): in another he says ”Yu” (has, possesses, exists, etc.). Seen in terms of orthodox Buddhist philosophy, especially Madhyamaka/Yogacara thought which forms the specific Mahayana background we are discussing, these are both perfectly correct answers. It does miss the point of the koan which is not meant philosophically at all or as a doctrinal teaching tool.This approach does show that the Zen sect, to which Dogen belonged, may be “not dependent” on Buddhist scriptures, but it certainly does not differ from or oppose those scriptures that its monks spend so much time studying. Similarly Dogen brilliantly plays with perspectives and language for a religious purpose, but never deviates from orthodox Buddhism. He is not caught by it either. Take a look at his “Painted Rice Cake” to see how he works.

Zen “ancestors” include Madyamaka and Yogacara thinkers. It can be described as a Madyamaka - Yogacara school in philosophical terms. If you study them, Dogen might be clearer (or not!).

That’s my perspective anyway!
There is also a lot of Indra's Net/Huáyán influence going on here, it seems at least. I suppose this is why Thích Nhất Hạnh uses "interbe" for the state of being dependently originated.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
Posts: 741
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:28 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:53 pm
....
There is also a lot of Indra's Net/Huáyán influence going on here, it seems at least. I suppose this is why Thích Nhất Hạnh uses "interbe" for the state of being dependently originated.
Oh, yes. TNH uses “interbeing” for dependent or interdependent origination for exactly this reason.

Huayen and Zen are indeed very close with lots of mutual influence.

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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:27 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:27 pm
The implications of Interdependent origination or causation are that there is no separate inside or outside. From one perspective, that rock you see causes you and you cause the rock. You cannot separate the two or inside and outside. From one perspective, that rock is you. If you have sentience, the rock does too. This does not make all into one undifferentiated glop. Individual identity makes this mutual identity possible (here is where Indra’s Net simile as used in Huayen is helpful (the simile Indra’s Net was also widely used in ancient Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian texts, sometimes with different meanings).
Can you elaborate what you mean here? I am still not following 100%. I am completely lacking in any significant basis of critical exposure to the Yogācāra, only being familiar with it via intersectarian polemics from Tiāntāi (Ven Zhìyǐ had little laudation for Ven Vasubandhu, from the archived personal letter 四念處: "In [Ven] Vasubandhu's theory of consciousness-only, there is only the one consciousness, but it is divided into the discriminating and the undiscriminating forms of consciousness; the discriminating consciousness is what we usually call consciousness, whereas the undiscriminating consciousness is "consciousness appearing to be an object" (sì chén shí / 似塵識). All the physical objects in the universe- vases, clothing, carts, and carriages- are all this undiscriminating form of consciousness.... But since they are all one nature, we can equally say that there are two forms of matter, the discriminating and the undiscriminating.... It is in this sense that the mind and matter are non-dual. Since he [Ven Vasubandhu] is able to say there are these two different forms of consciousness, we can equally say that they are two different forms of matter.... In the Integrated Teaching we can also say that all things are matter only, or sound only, or scent only, or flavour only, or tactile sensation only, or consciousness only. In sum, every dharma inherently mutually possesses all the dharmāḥ comprising dharmadhātu."). That may well be conditioning some of my misunderstanding.

I am working with an understanding of Indra's Net that would be, I am quite sure, rejected by most. Even I myself reject it, but this is likely because of my misunderstanding.

As I currently understand it, Indra's Net and Huáyán thought is in violation of hypostatizing the emptiness of all dharmāḥ. Please note that I do not present this as an accusation of heresy or anything of the like on the part of this concept or this school and its descendants. The misunderstanding is mine, thus, the 'fool' in the following excerpt is me.

When the first type of fool hears that “all dharmāḥ are reducible to the neither defiled nor non-defiled,” they take it to mean that all dharmāḥ are inseparable from emptiness and that even if one were to traverse the entire universe, everywhere would be the same suchness [i.e. emptiness] as that found here as the suchness of, for example, this vase.

-Ven Zhìyǐ, 法華玄義 (The Dharma Flower’s Profound Meaning), Taishō 33.703a, citing the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra Scroll 6, Ch 15, v 0561b20: “故一切法趣[…]”


In short, the suchness of me is not the suchness of the rock. Or, like the above example, the suchness of X dharma is not the suchness of Y vase. And Indra's Net can't really be arguing that, because, as I understand it, that would be quite wrong. Like you said:

Caodemarte wrote:This does not make all into one undifferentiated glop


Or to evoke the words of the Pāli Canon:

At Savatthī. Then a brahmin who was a cosmologist approached the Blessed One … and said to him:

“How is it, Master Gotama: does all exist?”
“‘All exists’: this, brahmin, is the oldest cosmology.”
“Then, Master Gotama, does all not exist?”
“‘All does not exist’: this, brahmin, is the second cosmology.”
“How is it, Master Gotama: is all a unity?”
“‘All is a unity’: this, brahmin, is the third cosmology.”
“Then, Master Gotama, is all a plurality?”
“‘All is a plurality’: this, brahmin, is the fourth cosmology. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle[...]"
-SN 12.48, Lokāyatikasutta


But as it is, I can't understand it any other way based on the way that it is presented to me. It is connecting specifically "Indra's Net", how it is explained, to the above 'Dhamma by the middle', in a Mahāyāna or non-Mahāyāna context, that alludes me. In particular, this alludes me somewhat from your explanation:

Caodemarte wrote:Individual identity makes this mutual identity possible (here is where Indra’s Net simile as used in Huayen is helpful (the simile Indra’s Net was also widely used in ancient Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian texts, sometimes with different meanings).


And this probably relates to my potential, nay probable, misunderstandings of Indra's Net.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

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Coëmgenu
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:53 pm

In my desperation to have Indra's Net not be a doctrine of Oneness, I mistranslated a line of the Mahāvaipulyabuddhāvataṃsakasūtra, naively giddy to be correct in my suspicions about the doctrine, only to later correct myself with regards to grammar, from the same thread, later:

Coemgenu wrote:
Coemgenu" wrote: I cannot speak at all for the teachers of the Huáyán school, but it would be interesting if they did not speak of “interpenetrating X’s & Y’s” either. For instance, in the Cleary translation cited by Ven Dhammanando earlier:
Ven Dhammanando quoting the Mahāvaipulyabuddhāvataṃsakasūtra to illustrate and instance of the occurrence of the words "Indra's Net":

“[All Buddhas] know all the different phenomena in all worlds, interrelated in Indra’s net.”


We can already here see academia and knowledge of the doctrines of later schools, perhaps, influencing translation choices. Clearly has “interrelated”. My Chinese is hardly professional, but look at this:

知一切法界中如因陀羅網諸差別事盡無有餘
knowledge of all of dharmadhātu middling as in Indra’s Net[-] myriad disparate items all with none remaining.

The verb here is 中, not “interrelated” or “interpenetrate”. Alternatively, 中 may be interacting in some eccentric way with 一切 (‘all’), since it more often comes after what it modifies rather than before.

In the interest of full disclosure. The above was a brilliant solution by my own metrics (only), but entirely too creative. 中 as "middling" is IMO still a possibility, and extraordinarily eccentric one, but perhaps only IMO.

The normal usage for 中 when it appears like this is as modifying what preceded it, here 法界 (dharmadhātu).

So we get: knowledge 知 of all dharmadhātu 一切法界, within [it] 中, likened to Indra's Net 如因陀羅網


So you can see my confusion manifest.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

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Coëmgenu
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:29 pm

If I can summarize. Ven Zhìyǐ preserves the integrity of the conventional disparate appearances/aspects of the myriad dharmāḥ/sarvadharmāḥ without contradiction (or despite 'apparent' contradiction) between this and their mutual identical emptiness. It seems like Huáyán & their discourse involving Indra's Net violates this. This is mirrored in Tiāntāi-Huáyán polemics going back to the founding of Huáyán.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
Posts: 741
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:36 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:27 pm
Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:27 pm
The implications of Interdependent origination or causation are that there is no separate inside or outside. From one perspective, that rock you see causes you and you cause the rock. You cannot separate the two or inside and outside. From one perspective, that rock is you. If you have sentience, the rock does too. This does not make all into one undifferentiated glop. Individual identity makes this mutual identity possible (here is where Indra’s Net simile as used in Huayen is helpful (the simile Indra’s Net was also widely used in ancient Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian texts, sometimes with different meanings).
Can you elaborate what you mean here?:…
As I currently understand it, Indra's Net and Huáyán thought is in violation of hypostatizing the emptiness of all dharmāḥ. And this probably relates to my potential, nay probable, misunderstandings of Indra's Net.
On why Mahayana Buddhism does not take inside/outside, etc. distinctions or their negation too seriously and why indIvidual entities function because they are empty I would have to refer you to any good book on the Madhyamaka. The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Madhyamika System by T.R.V. Murti is an old classic that has some of the best explanations of Madhyamaka thought, but is not so reliable on its history. There are many others.

Any thought on such matters is in danger of making emptiness into a thing which is why so much time is spent in Huayen and other Mahayana Buddhism explaining the danger and why it is an error.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:45 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:36 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:27 pm
Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:27 pm
The implications of Interdependent origination or causation are that there is no separate inside or outside. From one perspective, that rock you see causes you and you cause the rock. You cannot separate the two or inside and outside. From one perspective, that rock is you. If you have sentience, the rock does too. This does not make all into one undifferentiated glop. Individual identity makes this mutual identity possible (here is where Indra’s Net simile as used in Huayen is helpful (the simile Indra’s Net was also widely used in ancient Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian texts, sometimes with different meanings).
Can you elaborate what you mean here?:…
As I currently understand it, Indra's Net and Huáyán thought is in violation of hypostatizing the emptiness of all dharmāḥ. And this probably relates to my potential, nay probable, misunderstandings of Indra's Net.
On why Mahayana Buddhism does not take inside/outside, etc. distinctions or their negation too seriously and why indIvidual entities function because they are empty I would have to refer you to any good book on the Madhyamaka. The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Madhyamika System by T.R.V. Murti is an old classic that has some of the best explanations of Madhyamaka thought, but is not so reliable on its history. There are many others.

Any thought on such matters is in danger of making emptiness into a thing which is why so much time is spent in Huayen and other Mahayana Buddhism explaining the danger and why it is an error.
Just like in Tiāntāi, with the earlier excerpt that I quoted from Ven Zhìyǐ. The issue is which how Indra's Net is explained and how I receive that explanation. I can take it on faith, to a certain extent, that the Huáyán, like all other Mahāyāna Buddhisms, does not hypostatize emptiness, but the issue remains, for me at least, with the dearth of materials explaining the relations of Indra's Net and dependent origination, specifically with regards to the relation between that net and the 5 aggregates and their rebirth and/or constitution.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

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Coëmgenu
Posts: 1493
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:20 pm

If I may clarify: It seems to me that Ven Dōgen is arguing that the rock has a seperate mindstream from the perceiver of the rock. This is not the case?

And to lastly clarify another point concerning Indra's Net: That the "cosmos" is not an uncomplicated "Oneness" is rejected by Tiāntāi. And I have every reasonable reason to think that Zen/Chán and Huáyán (both of whom were influencing and mutually influenced by Tiāntāi) reject this oversimplication similarly. The Buddha himself rejected it even it his earliest dispensation. It's clear that Indra's Net doesn't mean what I think it means. It is how Indra's Net is not this sort of "Oneness" that escapes me, in literature that describes Indra's Net.

Tiāntāi's interpenetration/consumate interfusion I have no problem with. It makes sense how it is not such a "Oneness". I suppose this is to do with different dharma doors meeting different conditions. But I would like to learn, resources have escaped me as of yet, that are able to reach me on an intuitive level.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
Posts: 741
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:37 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:20 pm
If I may clarify: It seems to me that Ven Dōgen is arguing that the rock has a seperate mindstream from the perceiver of the rock. This is not the case?

And to lastly clarify another point concerning Indra's Net: That the "cosmos" is not an uncomplicated "Oneness" is rejected by Tiāntāi. And I have every reasonable reason to think that Zen/Chán and Huáyán (both of whom were influencing and mutually influenced by Tiāntāi) reject this oversimplication similarly. The Buddha himself rejected it even it his earliest dispensation. It's clear that Indra's Net doesn't mean what I think it means. It is how Indra's Net is not this sort of "Oneness" that escapes me, in literature that describes Indra's Net.

Tiāntāi's interpenetration/consumate interfusion I have no problem with. It makes sense how it is not such a "Oneness". I suppose this is to do with different dharma doors meeting different conditions. But I would like to learn, resources have escaped me as of yet, that are able to reach me on an intuitive level.
No, Dogen is clearly not arguing that "the rock has a separate mindstream from the perceiver of the rock." I agree with you that the universe is not an undifferentiated glop in Mahayana Buddhism. The arguments of Madhyamaka quickly dispose of any such notion. I would look there for supporting material. I think you are looking at material written for monks or Buddhists who would be assumed to be already familiar with the classic arguments if not the texts themselves, so there was usually no felt need to go into more detail. If you are puzzled by any point it is a often a good idea to go back and look at the basics and earliest arguments before working forward through material that assumes you have studied the foundational material first (and that you are a Chinese living several centuries ago!)

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Coëmgenu
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:20 am

In the translation I posted earlier, Ven Dōgen says that the rocks, trees, and nations are sentient beings.

I don't think Japanese has plurals. The rock being "sentient being" can make sense. Especially in the context of it being 'mind'. That gets us back into standard Buddhism. But when the 's' is on sentient being's' it makes it sound like there is more than one sentient being involved when one looks at or perceives a rock.

I think it's likely a translation issue.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1493
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Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:45 am

I think I might actually get now how Ven Dōgen's thought is meant to be understood in that quote, and like I suspected, for me it was a language problem, if indeed this is the misreading.

As the grasses, trees, etc, are synonymous with mind, they are synonymous with (the) sentient being.

Or "(your) sentient being" if we are to dip into the terminology of ātmavāda for just a moment for attempted clarifications sake. Now them having Buddha-nature makes sense, at least from an intellectual angle. If the above it right, I can at least follow his train of thought. Which would be an improvement for me.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1493
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:28 pm

To reiterate the above from Ven Zhìyǐ: "In Vasubandhu's theory of consciousness-only, there is only the one consciousness, but it is divided into the discriminating and the undiscriminating forms of consciousness; the discriminating consciousness is what we usually call consciousness, whereas the undiscriminating consciousness is "consciousness appearing to be an object" (sì chén shí / 似塵識).[...]"

The rock is synonymous with the sentient being (perceiving it) because it is consciousness appearing to be an object.

The Tiāntāi school has a different perspective, having a different set of teachers, but it is better to be at least able to follow, perhaps, something of Ven Dōgen's reasoning here. Thank you for opening me up to this line of inquiry, as the way that the translation quoted in the OP was phrased was puzzling me greatly.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
Posts: 741
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: The Tiāntāi Synthesis

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:49 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:20 am
In the translation I posted earlier, Ven Dōgen says that the rocks, trees, and nations are sentient beings.

I don't think Japanese has plurals. The rock being "sentient being" can make sense. Especially in the context of it being 'mind'. That gets us back into standard Buddhism. But when the 's' is on sentient being's' it makes it sound like there is more than one sentient being involved when one looks at or perceives a rock.

I think it's likely a translation issue.
I would just point out that plurals don’t matter here. I don’t think the difficultiy you are having is a translation issue. Remember that the Soto hierarchy kept Dogen’s Shobogenzo under wraps for many years because they thought the common folk would misunderstand it and not for language issues.

One rock, two rocks, one sentient being, all sentient beings would all work in this phrase. You can play with different perspectives as Dogen does. The phrase works either way as standard Buddhism. It is only if you believe that consciousness is over here and the rock is there or that all is mixed up in universal soup that you have difficulty. Madyamaka quickly disposes of these arguments. The Zen school can be said to be a Madyamaka/Yogacara sect or a child or subset of Tientai (Dogen was first ordained and trained as a Tientai monk; Tientai and Zen are extremely close historically and “doctrinally.”) It cannot be fairly accused of teaching nonstandard Chinese Buddhism. The teachings may be right or wrong, but they are hardly heretical.

Thank you for your kind words for my faltering attempts to explore this topic. If you are interested you might want to check out Shohaku Okumura, the respected Soto priest and Dogen scholar. In his books such as “Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo” he explicates how Dogen’s words express the 4 Noble Trurths, basic Buddhism, Madyamaka/Yogacara etc. He would obviously be a much better guide than me!

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