From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is a modified clone.
It is a copy of a Wikipedia article that we have modified in some way. But we have not vetted all the content on this page.
Vetting Image fair use 60x35px.png
Sramana Zhiyi.jpeg
Painting of Śramaṇa Zhiyi.
Religion Buddhism
School Tiantai
Lineage 4th generation
Temple Waguan Temple
Guoqing Temple
Other names Chen De'an (陳德安)
Dharma names Zhiyi
Nationality Chinese
Born (538-02-16)February 16, 538
Gong'an County, Hubei, China
Died August 3, 597(597-08-03) (aged 59)
Tiantai County, Zhejiang, China
Religious career
Teacher Faxu (法緒)
Huikuang (慧曠)
Nanyue Huisi

Zhiyi (Chinese: 智顗; pinyin: Zhìyǐ; Wade–Giles: Chih-i; Japanese: Chigi) (538–597 CE) is traditionally listed as the fourth patriarch, but is generally considered the founder of the Tiantai tradition of Buddhism in China. His standard title was Śramaṇa Zhiyi (Ch. 沙門智顗), linking him to the broad tradition of Indian asceticism. Zhiyi is famous for being the first in the history of Chinese Buddhism to elaborate a complete, critical and systematic classification of the Buddhist teachings. He is also regarded as the first major figure to make a significant break from the Indian tradition, to form an indigenous Chinese system.


Born with the surname Chen () in Huarong District, Jing Prefecture (now Hubei), Zhiyi left home to become a monk at eighteen, after the loss of his parents and his hometown Jiangling that fell to the Western Wei army when Zhiyi was seventeen. At 23, he received his most important influences from his first teacher, Nanyue Huisi (515–577 CE), a meditation master who would later be listed as Zhiyi's predecessor in the Tiantai lineage. After a period of study with Huisi (560–567), he spent some time working in the southern capital of Jiankang.[1] Then in 575 he went to Tiantai mountain for intensive study and practice with a group of disciples. Here he worked on adapting the Indian meditation principles of śamatha and vipaśyanā (translated as "zhi" and "guan") into a complex system of self-cultivation practice that also incorporated devotional rituals and confession/repentance rites. Then in 585 he returned to Jinling, where he completed his monumental commentarial works on the Lotus Sutra, the Fahua wenzhu (587 CE), and the Fahua xuanyi (593 CE).

Chappell holds that Zhiyi: "...provided a religious framework which seemed suited to adapt to other cultures, to evolve new practices, and to universalize Buddhism."[2]

Zhiyi and Bodhidharma were contemporaneous,[3] though Zhiyi had royal patronage whilst Bodhidharma did not.

Important works

Zhiyi's Lesser treatise on Concentration and Insight (Xiao Zhiguan/Hsiao chih-kuan) was probably the first practical manual of meditation available to the Chinese [4] and with its direct influence on the Tso-chan-i was very influential in the development of Chan meditation.[5]

Rujun Wu identifies the Great treatise on Concentration and Insight (摩訶止観, Mohe Zhiguan) of Zhiyi as the seminal text of the Tiantai school.[6] Among Zhiyi's many important works are the Liumiao Famen, Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra (法華文句, Fahua Wenzhu), and Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra (法華玄義, Fahua Xuanyi). Of the works attributed to him (although many may have been written by his disciples), about thirty are extant.

The Five Periods and Eight Teachings of the Buddha

In order to provide a comprehensive framework for Buddhist doctrine, Zhiyi classified the various Buddhist sutras into the Five Periods and Eight Teachings (traditional Chinese: 五時八教; simplified Chinese: 五时八教; pinyin: wǔshí bājiào). These were also known as goji hakkyō in Japanese and osi palgyo (오시팔교) in Korean. According to Zhiyi, the five periods of the Buddha's teachings were as follows:[7][8]

  1. The Flower Garland period – taught immediately after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, lasting 3 weeks. The teachings at this time were incomprehensible to all but advanced bodhisattvas, and thus Shakyamuni Buddha started over with more basic (the Agama) teachings.
  2. The Agama Period – taught at Deer Park, and lasting 12 years. These consisted of the most elementary teachings of the Buddha including karma, rebirth, the Four Noble Truths, etc.
  3. The Correct and Equal Period – lasting 8 years. This marks the Buddha's teachings that begin to transition from so-called "Hinayana" teachings to Mahayana ones.
  4. The Wisdom Period – lasting 22 years. The teachings here consist of the Perfection of Wisdom teachings among others. Here, the teachings were intended to demonstrate that the classifications of Hinayana and Mahayana were expedient only, and that were ultimately empty.
  5. The Lotus and Nirvana Period – lasting 8 years. The teachings of this final period mark the most "perfect" teachings, namely the Lotus Sutra and the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra, which encompass the Buddha's original intention.

These were compared in order to the five stages of milk: fresh milk, cream, curds, butter and ghee (clarified butter).[7]

Further. the teachings of the Buddha were organized into four types based on the capacity of listener:[7]

  • Sudden teachings
  • Gradual teachings
  • Indeterminate teachings
  • Secret or "esoteric" teachings.

and four types of sources:

  • Hinayana
  • Mahayana
  • Teachings found in both
  • Teachings that transcend both (e.g. Lotus Sutra)

Together these were the Eight Teachings of the Buddha attributed to Zhiyi.

Three Thousand Realms in a Single Moment of Life

Zhiyi taught the principle of Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought Moment (一念三千) (J. Ichinen Sanzen) in his 'Great Concentration and Insight', based on the Lotus Sutra. The number 'Three Thousand' is derived from the Ten Worlds, multiplied by ten [because of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds], which gives 100, multiplied by ten [the Ten Factors listed in Ch. 2 of the Lotus Sutra which gives 1,000. 1,000 multiplied by 3 [the Three Realms of Existence: Self, Other, and Environment] which gives 3,000.[9]

Volume 5 of Great Concentration and Insight states:

Life at each moment is endowed with the Ten Worlds. At the same time, each of the Ten Worlds is endowed with all Ten Worlds, so that an entity of life actually possesses one hundred worlds. Each of these worlds in turn possesses thirty realms, which means that in the one hundred worlds there are three thousand realms. The three thousand realms of existence are all possessed by life in a single moment. If there is no life, that is the end of the matter. But if there is the slightest bit of life, it contains all the three thousand realms.... This is what we mean when we speak of the 'region of the unfathomable'.[9]

See also


  1. Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). "Tiantai Zhiyi", in Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 911. ISBN 9780691157863. 
  2. Chappell, David W. (1987). 'Is Tendai Buddhism Relevant to the Modern World?' in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 14/2-3, 247-266. Source: PDF; accessed: Saturday 16 August 2008. p.247
  3. Swanson, Paul L. (2002). Ch'an and Chih-kuan: T'ien-t’ai Chih-i's View of “Zen” and the Practice of the Lotus Sutra. Presented at the International Lotus Sutra Conference on the theme “The Lotus Sutra and Zen”, 11–16 July 2002. Source: "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007.  (accessed: 6 August 2008). p.2
  4. Sekiguchi, Shindai, Tendai sho shikan no kenkyu, Tōkyō: Sankibō Busshorin (1954; repr. 1961)
  5. Gregory, Peter N (1986), Ch 'ang-lu Tsung-tse and Zen Meditation; in 'Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism', Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press
  6. Rujun Wu (1993). T'ien-T'ai Buddhism and early Mādhyamika. National Foreign Language Center Technical Reports. Buddhist studies program, University of Hawaii Press, p. 1. ISBN 0-8248-1561-0, ISBN 978-0-8248-1561-5. Source: [1] (accessed: Thursday 22 April 2010)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2013). "Wushi" and "Wushi bajiao", in The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. p. 1003. ISBN 0691157863. 
  8. English Buddhist Dictionary Committee (2009). "Five Periods", in: The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 9788120833340. Archived from the original on 2016-02-26. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, Soka Gakkai, "Three Thousand Realms in a Single Moment of Life"


  • Dharmamitra (trans.): The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation by Shramana Zhiyi, Kalavinka Press 2008, ISBN 978-1-935413-00-4
  • Donner, Neal & Daniel B. Stevenson (1993). The Great Calming and Contemplation. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
  • Shen, Haiyan. The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra: T’ien-t’ai Philosophy of Buddhism volumes I and II. Delhi: Originals, 2005. ISBN 8188629413
  • Swanson, Paul L.; trans. (2004). The Great Cessation and Contemplation (Mo-ho Chih-kuan, Chapter 1-6), CD-ROM, Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co.
  • Tam, Wai Lun (1986). A Study and Translation on the Kuan-hsin-lun of Chih-i (538-597) and its Commentary by Kuan-Ting, Hamilton, Ontario: McMaster University
  • Thich Tien Tam, trans. (1992). Ten Doubt about Pure Land by Dharma Master Chi-I (T. 47 No. 1961). In: Pure Land Buddhism - Dialogues with Ancient Masters, NY: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada & Buddha Dharma Education Association, pp. 19–51.

Secondary sources

External links

This article includes content from Zhiyi on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo