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Annotated Translation of ''Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana''

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by Shih, Miao Guang


The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana presents itself as one of the most profound, concise and authoritative summaries of Mahayana thought. Written from the perspective of essence () and function (), The Awakening of Faith sought to harmonize the tathāgatagarbha (or Buddha nature) and ālayavijñāna (or yogacara) into the concept, “the One Mind in Two Aspects” which later exerted tremendous influences on different schools of Chinese Buddhism.

This paper aims to examine the text’s influence on Tiantai thinker Siming Zhili (960-1028) based on his work, “Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana” from A Record of Siming Zhilis Teachings. Through providing an English translation of this text, the basic Tiantai concepts such as nature inclusion, following conditions, the unchanging, and doctrinal classification will be assessed, and their possible links to The Awakening of Faith examined.

Key words:

Fazang, Huayan, Zhili, Tiantai, following conditions (sui-yuan), unchanging (bu-bian), Separate Teaching, Complete Teaching, tathāgatagarbha, ālayavijñāna, tathata,nature inclusion, buddha-nature


1. Introduction

Amongst all Tiantai master thinkers from the Song dynasty, Siming Zhili stood out as a unique one for his interpretation of Zhiyi and Zhanrans thought. He was also a leader of the Shanjia defending “the orthodox Tiantai doctrine” against the Shanwai thinkers. A majority of his work consists of criticisms of the Shanwai interpretation of the Tiantai doctrine, for example, Exposition of the Essentials of the Ten Gates of Nonduality (Shibu-ermen-zhi-yao-chao 十不二門指要鈔), “Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and The Awakening of Fait in the Mahayana” (天台教與起信論融會章), Jin-guang-ming-jing-wen-ju-ji (金光明經文 句記), Jin-guang-ming-jing xuan-yi shi-yi-ji (金光明經玄義拾遺記).

The Shanjia and Shanwai clash started off as a disagreement in the interpretation of whether the tathata (true thusness) follows conditions or not. The Shanjia thinkers criticized Shanwai’s classification of Huayan’s Advanced Mahayana Teaching and Sudden Teaching’s interpretation of “tathata which follows conditions” (真如隨緣), highlighting the inappropriateness of regarding them as equivalents of Tiantais Complete Teaching. Zhili’s main approach to this dispute was through the use of doctrinal classification (判教).

In his “Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana,” not only did Zhili seek to harmonize teachings from The Awakening of Faith with that of Tiantai thought; he also attributed, in his mind, an appropriate position to this text. That is, the Separate Teaching. It is also quite clear in the chapter, that Zhili did not completely reject the Huayan point of view, nor that there is an un-harmonizable contradiction between him and the Huayan School. Instead, he incorporated such teachings and absorbed it into the Tiantai system of thought.

The Awakening of Faith has been elucidated and commented on by Fazang of the Huayan School, and is thus regarded as a very important text in the school. On the other hand, Tiantai thinkers had not made any commentaries on The Awakening of Faith, and claimed that it is “a work of the other school.” Even though Zhanran had borrowed the term “following conditions while remaining unchanged” (隨緣不 變), he nevertheless attributed such a term to The Awakening of Faith only, and had not agreed to the way Huayan thinkers understood it. Zhanran adopted the concept of tathata which follows conditions based on the holistic entailment by the mind, which Zhili interpreted as a theory that was based on nature inclusion (性具), and thus qualifies as a part of the Complete Teaching.


Although Huayan thinkers also discuss the tathata which follows conditions, they have based this theory on natural origination (性起), therefore it is still only a part of the Separate Teaching. Knowing that placing his own school in a superior position would stir up disputes, Zhili pictured this scenario in his Chapter on Bringing Together as “rejection by the guest” who does not accept Huayan as the Separate Teaching, which is inferior to the Tiantai Complete Teaching when both teachings are based on the same theory of following conditions while remaining unchanged.

Zhili also pointed out “what difficulty is there for The Awakening of Faith to be incorporated or included into the Tiantai scheme” to express his approval for teachings of the text, which also incorporates the Huayan thoughts as expounded by Fazang, to be included as a part of Tiantai thoughts. However, while accepting what the text says about “the tathata transforms to all dharmas by following conditions, while the essence and nature of the tathata is permanent and unchanged,” he also stressed that “following conditions” is not necessarily always a part of the Complete Teaching.

He raised two points in the chapter about how the Huayan School is insufficient to be the Complete Teaching:

1) “This [[[Wikipedia:theory|theory]]] may bear the name of the Complete Teaching, but in fact shapes its meaning in the Separate Teaching.” In Zhili’s mind, the essence of the tathata as discussed by Fazang only included nature origination, not nature inclusion, which causes an absence of identity amongst all dharmas. Nature origination holds that all dharmas in this world are caused by dharma-nature or the tathata which follow conditions, but this exclusiveness of nature contradicts with the Tiantai idea that all dharmas are inherently included by nature. This lack of identity thus makes the Huayan teaching on following conditions not complete, and thus can only be regarded as an exclusive teaching.

2) In saying, “(Fazang) made an erroneous quotation of the Prajna-paramita Sastra, which says, ‘the insentient possesses only the dharma-nature, not buddha-nature,’” Zhili contends that Huayan’s concepts of nature inclusion and buddha-nature are not sufficient, which also gave him ground to place it in a more inferior position to Tiantai. This is also his attempt to incorporate and include teachings of other schools into the Tiantai system of thought. Although a very obvious use of doctrinal classification can be sensed in the Tiantai thinker’s claim that Huayan is only a branch, and the Lotus Sutra is the root, where the original root (or Complete Teaching) can only be attained through the routes of these branches, it nevertheless has brought these two schools closer, and thus exhibited a harmony of teachings amongst them.

2. Annotated Translation of "Chapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana

A guest once asked me a question: “Which of Tiantai’s Four Teachings can The Awakening of Faith 1 be included into?”

I answered: “The Awakening of Faith was commented on and expounded on the whole by Venerable Fazang of the Tang dynasty. No word for word explanations as such were seen within the Tiantai School. That is to say that the commentary to The Awakening of Faith is his work, which is hard to combine with ours.”

In this work, Zhili insisted that the Huayan and Tiantai teachings were two different systems that cannot be harmonized or brought together (難可和會), as he believed that the Tiantai Complete teaching, which was defined by natural inclusion (性具) is totally different from the Huayan concept of nature origination (性起).


With changed countenance, the guest asked: “Everybody says that the Tiantai School is the one most able for harmonizing and putting teachings together. That is to say, that, the doctrinal classification by the Five Periods and Eight Doctrines incorporates and leaves nothing out of teachings that were taught by the Buddha during his lifetime and transferred to the East. What does this mean?”

I tried to reason: “I am afraid that [the teachings of The Awakening of Faith) cannot be harmonized and incorporated into the Tiantai School. If you believe that there is a reason for the incorporation into (she ) and belonging to (shu ) [other teachings] by the Tiantai School, then it should not be difficult for The Awakening of Faith to do the same. By this, you will be able to see the beauty and ugliness of each school. Today I will present a concise version of the sastra from the point of view of the Tiantai doctrine, and then see what Fazang says in his commentary. Since this sastra summarizes the meanings of ten million sutras, it bears the word Mahayana in its title, its principle should be in accordance and penetrate into the Three Teachings of the Mahayana gate.

Therefore, it is said in the Secret Meaning of the Vimalakirti Sutra that sastras such as Buddhatva-śāstra and Vijñanavada-śāstra all penetrate through the Three Teachings of Mahayana. If even the Vijnanavada School has its own Three Teachings, then why does The Awakening of Faith not incorporate the Three Teachings. Generally speaking, it and the Buddhatva-śāstra are largely identical with only minor differences? For a start of today’s discussion I shall present the teachings of The Awakening of Faith in concise form, which I will then use to put into correspondence with the Three Mahayana Doctrines. The sastra itself has the One Mind as its main topic, and says that [this one mind) “incorporates all mundane dharmas and dharmas that lead one out of the world.” This belongs to the

category of the Complete Teaching (圓教) and integrates the remaining two. Since the aspect of tathatha (true reality) bears the aspects of that which cannot be described by words, that which can be described by words, empty and non-empty, the meanings of Three Teachings are thus quite clear. The gate of birth and extinction of the One Mind indicates that, in the initial stage of original intention, one will be able to slightly see the dharmakaya.

Since [The [[Awakenin] of Faith]]) talks about the Eight Signs of the Attainment of Buddhahood, how can they not have a position in the Complete Teaching? Next, it turns over to the nine characteristics: the three subtleties and six coarse aspects, thus how can it not be a part of the Separate Teaching (biejiao 別教)? At the Eighth Stage of the Way, a bodhisattva acquires the effortless way, is this not the transition from the Common Teaching? Here I made a concise reference to this text, so that everything can be exposed properly.”


In his arguments against Shanwai thinkers, Zhili resorted to Zhiyi’s Four Categories of Buddhist Teachings (shijiao ) 2 :

1) the Tripitaka Teaching (zangjiao ),
2) the Common Teaching (tongjiao ),
3) the Separate Teaching (biejiao ),
4) and the Perfect/Complete Teaching (yuanjiao ).

The last two categories were particularly important in contrasting the exclusive nature of Huayan Teachings with the all-inclusive scope of Tiantai teachings.

The Perfect Teaching represents the all-inclusive character of the Tiantai teachings, which holds that all phenomena are entailed within enlightenment or buddhahood, thus there is a ground for practice which helps one attain buddhahood.

On the other hand, the Separate Teaching emphasized that the Shanwai (or, Huayan) teachings privileged certain modes of existence over others as the proper focus for practice. Zhili contended that although Fazang attributed the Huayan Teaching of “the tathata which follows conditions” to the Complete Teaching, it should in fact be classified under the Separate Teaching3.

By means of “incorporation into and belonging to,” Zhili assessed in depth and absorbed the teachings of The Awakening of Faith and incorporated them into his own system of thought. In other words, Zhili thought that The Awakening of Faith, with the elucidation by Fazang through his use of the Huayan Teachings can be incorporated and included into the Tiantai scheme. Zhili accepted the theory that “the tathata follows conditions to establish all dharma while remaining unchanged in nature and essence” from The Awakening of Faith, but he pointed out the flaws of the Huayan promotion of “following conditions” to prove that such a theory does not always make it for the Complete Teaching:

1) By saying that Fazang’s theory of sui-yuan “may bear the name of the Complete Teaching, but in fact shapes its meaning in the Separate Teaching,” Zhili means that Fazang only reached the Separate Teaching, because he only discussed nature origination and not the natural inclusion, thus making all dharmas non-identical (當體不即)4. Any theory that says dharmas are not identical (in essence) with each other cannot qualify as the Complete Teaching. Nature origination holds all dharmas are caused by dharma-nature or the tathata which follow conditions.

In Zhili’s mind, to say that dharma-nature or the tathata is the origin of all dharmas contradicts with the concept of natural inclusion, which holds that nature is inherently possessed by all dharmas, “yet it needs to be known that nature includes everything, thus it is able to incorporate into and establish all dharmas. It cannot be said that this original enlightenment is independent or that it only exists by following the conditions of delusion.5”

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2) In saying that Fazang “made an erroneous quotation of the Prajna-paramita Sastra, which says, ‘the insentient possesses only the dharma-nature, not buddha-nature,’” Zhili means that the Huayan School’s way of discussing the issues of nature origination and natural inclusion is not brilliant enough, which allowed him to degrade the position of Huayan and raise that of Tiantai at the same time. This is one of the effects of the Tiantai means of she-shu (攝屬) over other schools, which, although still displaying a heavy color of doctrinal classification, in fact displays a close connection between these different schools of thoughts. Thus this reflects on some level, a sense of harmony in bringing together the different teachings.

Question: What are the classifications of the commentary composed by Master Fazang?

Answer: “When Fazang established his meanings, he was imitating the Tiantai doctrines, but he did not see the Separate Teaching as penetrative and square. Why is this? The Separate Teaching consists of a way of teaching and a way of attainment, yet he only discussed the former. Of the Separate Teaching’s Four Gates6 which cover all types of capacities, he only spoke about two. Furthermore, the Separate Teaching also has its own horizontal and vertical aspects [which unfold in time and space). Fazang was only discussing the vertical aspects of practice. Although he had not spoken of the multiple meanings which the Separate Teaching possesses, it does not mean that the Separate Teaching unfolds in a penetrative and square way, as it is only a biased view here.”

Just like every other teaching, the Separate Teaching’s system is also based on a set of sutras (in this case, the Mahayana Sutras) and sastras (for example, the Yogacara texts and The Awakening of Faith). A general discussion on this system will be omitted in this paper, and instead, the focus will be on the two major characteristics of the Separate Teaching: the alaya-vijanana and the tathagatagarbha. Based on these two characteristics, the Separate Teaching has been further divided into the Initial Separate Teaching (始別教) and Final Separate Teaching (終別教)7.


The former is attributed to the alaya-vijnana, which only provided an explanation on how deluded dharmas are established; while the latter is represented by the tathagatagarhba, which not only explains how the true thusness is related to the establishment of pure and eluded dharmas, but also mentions the need to eliminate the deluded dharma before liberation can be attained.

Zhili’s argument with the Shanwai thinkers was caused for the very reason that the latter were not aware of such a division within the Separate Teaching. Their claim in that the Separate Teaching does not speak of following conditions, and only those that do follow are within the Complete Teaching is an example of the Initial 酪 乳 Separate Teaching, which is regarded by the Tiantai School as a “biased path” (界外 一途法門). The alaya-consciousness is said to be unchanging, immutable, neither arising or ceasing and eternal.

In other words, it is absolutely pure compared to the 「天台宗之判教與發展」現代佛教學術叢刊》 The Separate Teaching’s Four Gates:

1) The Gate of Existence: this refers to the buddha-nature as mentioned in the Lankavatara Sutra, which is like cream within the milk, or gold hidden inside a stone;

2) the Gate of Emptiness: this is as if the nature of gold is absence inside the rock, or that cream is missing within the milk;

3) The Gate of Both Existence and Emptiness: this means the general possession of the buddha-nature within all sentient beings, that they are both with and without it. This is similar to how milk can either be said to be with the nature of cream or without it;

4) The Gate of Neither Existence or Emptiness: This means that buddha-nature is also the Mean, where it dispatches both meanings of existence and emptiness. Thus within the milk, it is neither with the nature of cream, nor without the nature of cream. world that is polluted. This creates a substantial gap between the two, and is regarded by the Tiantai school as too exclusive and out of reach to those who are practicing to attain buddhahood. For this reason, the alaya-vijnana is in sufficient to cover all characteristics of the Separate Teaching; thus it is only a biased view.

The Huayan school adopts the theory of “the unchanging which follows conditions, and to follow conditions while remaining unchanging” from The Awakening of Faith, which is based on the tathagatagarbha. This differs from the unchanging or unconditioned state of the alaya-vijnana. Instead it is able to follow deluded conditions to give rise to deluded dharmas while remaining unchanged in nature. Nevertheless, there is still a gap between the true nature and delusion. Thus it is also only a biased view within the Separate Teaching.

On the other hand, Zhilis claim that following conditions is a part of the Separate Teaching, and that sui-yuan does not necessarily mean that it is the Complete Teaching)] is the Final Separate Teaching. While absorbing the Huayan School’s theory of following conditions while remaining unchanged, Zhili also criticizes the insufficiency of Huayan’s theory in saying that it is yet to attain the identity between the tathata and the real world. While Huayan’s Separate Teaching claims that it is the true mind which follows conditions, Tiantai’s Separate Teaching holds that what follows conditions can be the dharma-nature and also ignorance at the same time. Thus this lack of all inclusiveness makes Huayan’s Separate Teaching to be only a part of the whole Separate Teaching scheme, thus biased.

The guest objected: “In (Fazang’s) commentary, it says that the essence of the teaching is the reality which follows conditions (sui-yuan 隨 緣 ) while remaining unchanged

(bu-bian 不 變 ).Tiantai also attains its theory of the all-penetrative nature of the Three Causes of Enlightenment through the same teaching. How can it said to be a Separate Teaching while it is in fact that of the Complete Teaching?”

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The Three Causes of Enlightenment are the basis upon which the fruit of buddhahood is attained. Nevertheless, this whole process, from the cause to the result, has a consistent display of the theories of following conditions and remaining unchanged. Since this is so, the guest wonders why the same theory as discussed by Huayan should be classified as something inferior to that of Tiantai.

Answer: “Although Fazang adopts the name of the Complete Teaching, he was in fact expounding the meanings of the Separate Teaching. Why is this? According to him, the tathata transforms to all dharmas by following conditions, while the essence and nature of the tathata is permanent and unchanged. Yet he made an erroneous quotation of the Prajna-paramita Sastra, which says, “the insentient possesses only the dharma-nature, not buddha-nature.” This [[[Wikipedia:theory|theory]]] may bear the name of the Complete Teaching, but in fact shapes its meaning in the Separate Teaching.”

This concept of suiyuan (following conditions) traces back to Fazang’s Da-cheng-qi-xin-lun-yiji8, but has also been used by Zhanran in his various works such as An Outline of Smatha-vipasyana, “To follow conditions but remain unchanged, it is nature; to remain unchanged while following conditions, it is the mind.9” Or The Diamond Scalpel, “The myriad dharmas are the tathatha, for they are unchanged; the tathatha is the myriad dharmas, for it follows conditions.10” Later when Zhili revitalized the Tiantai School, he wrote Shibu-ermen-zhi-yao-chao 11 and held that the concept of following conditions is adopted by both the Separate Teaching and Complete Teaching. Not only does the Separate Teaching discuss it, so does the Complete Teaching.

Nevertheless, the Separate Teaching discusses both the following and non-following of conditions, thus the concept of the Separate Teaching’s Following Conditions (bie-li-sui-yuan) has been established. Zhili pointed out that although Zhanran never mentioned bie-li-sui-yuan directly, his teachings in fact already contained such meanings. Furthermore, he has compared the Tiantai doctrine with that of Huayan, and contended that the latter’s concept of sui-yuan only measures up to that of Tiantais Separate Teaching,

I had once heard someone quote the Prajna-paramita Sastra, “the tathata is named dharma-nature amongst the insentient; and it is only amongst the sentient, that it is named buddha-nature

 In Zhili’s attempt to clarify the difference between Tiantai and Huayan teachings, he identified the perfect teaching with the Tiantai doctrine of xing-ju and the separate teaching with the Huayan doctrine of xing-chi in a debate over the meaning of Chan-jan’s Ten Gates of Non-duality (shih-pu-erh-men), and thus wrote this particular commentary.


When this person asked what is the reason for establishing the name of buddha-nature? I said that I had once read the text myself and assessed it carefully, yet I had never found such words. Perhaps it had been a false reference or interpretation that had been passed around.12

In his The Diamond Scalpel, Zhanran clearly does not support the distinction between buddha-nature and dharma-nature, especially through the concepts of the sentient and the insentient. In other others, he believes that buddha-nature should be present in both sentient and insentient beings, that is, the myriad dharmas all possess the buddha-nature, The existence of enlightenment without non-enlightenment does not establish the name buddha-nature; while the existence of non-enlightenment without enlightenment cannot allow dharma-nature to establish. For dharma-nature to establish in the presence of enlightenment, and not non-enlightenment, then you are in the position of the smaller vehicle. Only the correspondence of dharma-nature and buddha-nature is sufficient to be called the Mahayana Teaching.13

He sees it as inappropriate to separate buddha-nature and dharma-nature into the subject and object of enlightenment, because only the position of non-duality is fit for the name of the Teaching of the Greater Vehicle. To Zhanran, such a distinction is caused by a differentiating mind that is attached to the difference between sentient and insentient beings, The Avatamsaka also says, “Whether sentient or insentient, neither is real. The same goes to the nature of all dharmas, none possess a substantial meaning.”

In other words, the ‘sentient’ and ‘insentient’ beings as referred to here are none but those with and without lives. Both follow conditions and possess a nature that are unchanging, thus both are regarded as unreal. Therefore, other (phenomena) such as the dharma-realm or reality should all be understood in the same manner. For this reason, it should be understood that the namedharma-nature’ is not exclusive to the reality of insentient beings.14

Based on the above theory, Zhili went on to discuss the difference of the theory on sui-yuan and bu-bian between Tiantai’s Complete Teaching and Fazang’s Complete Teaching in question nine of his “Twenty Questions about The Separate Teaching’s Theory of Following Conditions15”, where he argued that if, according to The Diamond Scalpel, that the tathata represents the myriad dharmas because it follows conditions; while the myriad dharmas also represent the tathatha because they are unchanging in nature. Based on these two theories, even the insentient possess the buddha-nature. On the other hand, although the Advanced Mahayana Teaching in the

Huayan School speaks of following conditions and the unchanging, it nevertheless distinguishes buddha-nature from dharma-nature based on the differences between the sentient and the insentient. Since there is such a distinction, the unchanging is in fact changing. Since it does not correspond with that said in The Diamond Scalpel, how can it be regarded as part of the Complete Teaching?16 Therefore Fazang’s sui-yuan and bu-bian, in meaning, cannot be regarded as part of the Complete Teaching.


Question: “The Separate Teaching holds immutability as its principle, yet it now talks about tathata which follows conditions as the principle of the Separate Teaching, what is the textual basis for this?”

I asked him in return: “We can find out a little bit about 皆終然教同。雖,立金故隨錍知法《性華之嚴名》,彼又不終云專教:無不『情理變眾中隨隨生之緣緣、真二。非如十與眾也問金生。錍,」二所俱明無不真變隨實,緣如。是同諸耶法異性耶,。實若義異俱。非則有非。今』圓。。言 from?”
In Zhili’s Shih-pu-erh-men chih-yao-chao, he adopted the phrase “the Separate Teaching of following conditions” (bie-li-sui-yuan 別理隨緣) to characterize the Huayan understanding of reality in contrast to that of Tiantai. Bie-li-sui-yuan is a phrase which traces back to Fazang’s commentary on The Awakening of Faith, in which he mentioned the ideas of “following conditions” (sui-yuan 隨緣) and “unchanging” (bu-bian 不變) to elucidated the One Mind and its Two Aspects as mentioned in the sastra. “Following conditions” represents the aspect of arising and ceasing of the One Mind, where this originally pure tathata follows the conditions and consequently gives rise to the states of defilement and differentiation.

Unchanging” represents the essential nature of the tathata, which is always pure and undisturbed. This process of the defiled phenomenal world which is transformed from the pure state of the tathata happens to be the Huayan teaching of nature origination. On the other hand, in the Vijnanavada School, only the alaya-vijnana is said to follow conditions, while the tathata is regarded as the real, unchanging reality17 (圓成實相) underlying all established phenomena which does not follow conditions.

This type of tathata is regarded by the Huayan School as the “immutable tathata18 ” (凝然真如). For this reason, the Vijnanavada was classified by the Huayan School as only the primary stage of the Mahayana Teaching (大乘始教), which holds the meaning of not following conditions; while The Awakening of Faith was classified as the Advanced Mahayana Teaching (大乘終教), which states the concept of the tathata which follows conditions.


The guest replied: “All exponents of this doctrine of Huayan had said this, but I have never seen it written anywhere.
Then I said: “Separating the two principles of following conditions and the immutable, can also be seen generally as a division between the School of Characteristic, and School of Nature. This comes from Fazang, as no texts on such a division were ever found in Tiantai. The “principle following the conditions” is not yet the ultimate Complete Teaching, but the Huayan School establishes it as its own type of teaching known as the Final Teaching.

This does not reach the Complete Teaching, thus how can one regard Tiantai’s Complete Teaching as an equivalent to their Final Teaching? It needs to be known that, be it the immutable or the following of conditions, both are expedient means, and are both classified as the Separate Teaching.”

This division between the School of Characteristic and School of Nature by the Huayan School has already been explained above and in note 23 of the running translation. Now, the Shanwai thinkers may have classified the tathata which incorporates both meanings of sui-yuan and the bu-bian into the Tiantai Complete Teaching just because Zhanran also mentioned these two concepts in his Zhiguan-dayi, “To follow conditions but remain unchanged, it is nature; to remain unchanged while following conditions, it is the mind;” and also in The Diamond Scalpel, “The myriad dharmas are the tathatha, for they are unchanged; the tathatha is the myriad dharmas, for it follows conditions.” What they have failed to realize was that Zhanran interpreted sui-yuan and the bu-bian rather differently from Fazang.

While Fazang classified The Awakening of Faith as the Final Teaching, Zhanran attributed sui-yuan to the Tiantai Complete Teaching. Thus this sui-yuan holds different meanings within the Separate and the Complete Teachings. Zhili explained why the Huayan teaching of the tathata which follows conditions 真如隨 緣 does not measure up to the Tiantai Complete Teaching,

The other school [i.e. Huayan) makes clear that the unitary principle, when it adapts to conditions, engenders differentiated dharmas (差別法). Differentiation (差別) is the characteristic of ignorance (無明). Pure unity is the characteristic of suchness. When (suchness) adapts to conditions, it has [the characteristic of] differentiation. When [it] does not adapt to conditions, it lacks [the characteristic of] differentiation. Therefore, we know that when the nature [i.e. suchness) and ignorance combine, the characteristic of differentiation is engendered.This is the meaning of “combination” but not of “nonduality of essence,” because when ignorance is removed, there is no characteristic of differentiation.


Zhili sees Fazang’s unitary principle in following conditions as a differentiation. This unitary principle is the pure tathata, which is thus the subject of sui-yuan, while the differentiating nine dharma realms are the object of sui-yuan. If differentiation is a characteristic of ignorance, then pure unity should be a characteristic of the tathata.

This way, when in the state of sui-yuan, differentiation is engendered when the unitary principle and ignorance combine. On the other hand, when in a state of bu-sui-yuan, the tathata preserves its nature and does not become involved in the establishment of dharmas, and thus differentiation does not exist. If sui-yuan takes place only when reality and delusion combine, then this is similar to the combining of two distinct objects. If ignorance is eliminated, so will the nine realms. If there is only one nature, then it does not comply to the identificalness (相即義) of the

nonduality of essence and function. Although Fazang also once discussed the identificalness (相即) of bu-bian and sui-yuan, but since he established the result of buddhahood as the only possibility for tathata, it means that the nine realms must be eliminated in order to attain the realm of the buddha.

Thus he in fact only established the identificalness of the bu-bian and sui-yuan in name, not in meaning. In terms of the concept of sui-yuan established by the Complete Teaching in the Tiantai School, the myriad principles follow conditions to give rise to myriad phenomena. In this sense, the essence is the unchanging, while the function is that which follows conditions.

When not following conditions, the principle includes all dharmas. While there is no differentiation between nature and ignorance, this is also the nonduality of differentiation and nature. Based on the absence of this discussion on the inclusive nature within all dharmas, thus the holism of all dharmas within the Huayan School, Zhili attributes their concept of sui-yuan to something that is only equivalent to Tiantai’s Separate Teaching.

Zhili thinks that, without inclusive nature (體具), the talk about following conditions or not following conditions is m rely a provisional teaching, and both would only be a part of the Separate Teaching. In explaining the Separating Teaching’s concept of and (following and not following conditions), Zhili referred to Zhiyi’s explanation of sui-yuan in the Fahua-xuanyi and held that the Separate Teaching speaks of the dharma-nature which gives rise to all dharmas means that this dharma-nature in fact follows the conditions of ignorance in giving rise to the nine realms; this indeed represents the meaning of following conditions.Furthermore,the Separate Teaching speaks of the alaya-vijnana which gives rise to all dharmas, and this is once again a reference to ignorance as the cause of dharmas.

To not speak of the tathata that follows conditions in fact represents the meaning of “non following conditions.” Zhili pointed out that not following conditions (bu-sui-yuan) and immutability (ning-ran) share the same meaning, while Fazang’s attempt to separate sui-yuan and ning-ran into the School of Characteristics and School of Nature can only be classified as the Separate Teaching. Furthermore, in discussing the relationship between sui-yuan and bu-bian, Zhili holds that what remains unchanged may not necessarily follow conditions, while following conditions always leads to that which is unchanged, because the idea of sui-yuan is the tathata which follows conditions. If, whatever follows conditions becomes changed in the process of doing so, then it cannot be regarded as nature.20


The concept of the unchanging as mentioned in the Complete Teaching has its essence (svabhava 體體) based on the three thousand dharmas entailed within the principle/tathata (理具三千), while the concept of following conditions has its essence based on the phenomenal which establishes the three thousand dharmas; both the unchanging and the following of conditions have one moment of delusion as their object of dependence (所依體). Furthermore, this unchanging state has the entailment of the three thousand dharmas within nature, and characteristics as they are, as its characteristic;

while following conditions is based on the mutual influence between the tathata and ignorance, where the states of defilement and purity are its characteristic. On the other hand, the Separate Teaching bases this unchanging state on the exclusive nature of the tathata or the tathagatagarbha, which has ignorance

and differentiation as the object dependence; while the state of following conditions has its essence based on ignorance and differentiation, and the tathagatagarbha as its object of dependence; while the unchanging has the unitary principle and non-differentiation as its characteristic, and following conditions has ignorance and differentiation as its characteristic.

Question: “What is the textual basis upon which the TiantaiSchool established its doctrine on the Separate Teaching of following conditions?”
Answer: “According to Mohe-zhiguan, in establishing the Separate Teaching’s object of intention (fa-xin-jing 發心境), the sense organ and its object can either become the basis of delusion or liberation (mi-jieben 迷、解本) in one moment of thought, just as Zhanran in his Fahua-Wenju ji had separated the tathagatagarbha into good and bad causes.

Furthermore, Zhanran held that in the Separate Teaching, all dharmas are established from “the basis of non-abiding” (wu-zhu-ben 無住 本), and this “non-abiding,” he went on further to say, is also known to be ignorance as both the ability and object which covers up the principle. Furthermore, true reality (tathata) gives birth to all dharmas when it is in a state of delusion; and ignorance, as the cause (yin ) that creates the nine realms, must depend on dharma-nature as its essential auxiliary condition (yuan ). The above texts should be sufficient to the proof.”


Here, Zhili refers mostly to Zhanran’s words in interpreting the Separate Teaching through the concept of “following conditions.” According to Zhili, Zhanran once explained in his Miaofalianhuajing-wenjuji that the Separate Teaching is also based on “dharmas established on the basis of non-abiding,” because if the Separate li (principle) does not follow conditions, how can dharmas be established? Furthermore, he supported the following of conditions by mentioning that the tathata, in a state of delusion, creates the nine realms.

Therefore, since the tathata acts as the basis of dharmas that are established, how can it be said to not follow conditions? In Zhiguan-fuxing-zhuan-hongjue , Zhanran used the tathagatagarbha as good and bad causes to explain this source of delusion and liberation (mi-jie-ben), which is created by the sense organ and its object in one moment of thought. He argued, if delusion means the creation of the nine realms by following the conditions of ignorance, and liberation the establishment of the buddha-realm by following the teachings, then this explains exactly the meaning of following conditions as in the Separate Teaching.

The Basis of Delusion or Liberation (mi-jie-ben 迷解本) Mi-jie-ben traces back to Mohe-zhiguan, where it says, “The sense organ and its object give rise to dharmas in one moment of mind. The arising of this mind makes it provisional [i.e. unreal], and this mind with such a provisional positing, is the basis of either delusion or liberation.23” Here it can be seen that Zhiyi sees this unreal mind as the cause of ignorance. Once the sense organ and its object come together, a moment of thought arises, and to believe that this thought is real is in fact a state of ignorance. Therefore, whatever [that is, the myriad dharmas) follows ignorance is therefore delusion and unreal.

Zhiyi used examples such as “The three realms are created by this one mind, which is like an artist that paints all kinds of matters; and the mind is what creates the six realms of rebirth24” to hold that while suffering and ignorance is caused by this mind, enlightenment and liberation also come from the same cause is, Similar to how a painter who washes out all colors to apply the white clay color…To contemplate the purity of the body and even the impermanence of the mind….The contemplation of the body leads to emptiness of the body, and eventually the contemplation of the mind leads to emptiness of the mind. There is no impermanence within emptiness, and thus there is no impurity.25

Since this delusive mind is the cause of ignorance, a clear observation of this mind 心無道《常。摩。分訶如別止是校觀道記》品無紆量通種化別城。。觀身身空乃至譬觀如心畫心師空洗。蕩空諸中色無塗無以常墡。彩乃。至所無謂不觀淨身。不如淨是乃道至品觀直 《摩訶止觀》 三界無別法唯是一心作。心如工畫師造種種色。心構 can also lead to enlightenment. Zhili went further to use Zhanran’s reference on the tathagatagarbha from the Lankavatara Sutra to explain mi-jie-ben in his basis of purity and pollution, while the pearl and the elephant are the conditions of purity and pollution to explain that without recognizing this basis (nature), both discussions on following and not following conditions would be merely a part of the Separate Teaching27.

All dharmas are established from “the basis of non-abiding

95 200.jpg

This “basis of non-abiding” (wuzhuben) traces back to the Vimalakirti Sutra,

Manjusri also asked, “What is the fundamental basis of good and bad (dharmas)?”
Answer: “The body is their fundamental basis.”

Manjusri also asked, “What is the fundamental basis of the body?”
Answer: “Desire is its fundamental basis.”

Manjusri also asked, “What is the fundamental basis of desire?” Answer: “False discrimination is its fundamental basis.” (Manjusri) also asked, “What is the fundamental basis of false discrimination?”

Answer: “Confused conception is its fundamental basis.” Manjusri also asked, “What is the fundamental basis of confused conception?”
Answer: “The non-abiding is its fundamental basis.”


Manjusr] also asked, “What is the fundamental basis of non-abiding?”
Answer: “Non-abiding is without any fundamental [basis]. Manjusri, all dharmas are established on the fundamental [basis] of non-abiding.”28
And wuzhuben is explained by Kumarajiva as follows, Dharmas have no nature, and arise as a response to conditions. When not yet arisen, it cannot be known what it is attached to.

Since there is no knowing what [this un-arisen dharma) is attached to, it is thus non-abiding. Since it is non-abiding, it is thus neither existence nor nothingness. Since it is neither existence nor nothingness, it is thus the basis of existence and nothingness. Since it is non-abiding, its origin is thus exhausted and thereby has no place of origin. Thus it is called non-abiding, which is thus the basis of all matters. For this reason, it is said to be [that which] establishes all dharmas.29

In the Vimalakirt Sutra, this basis of the good and bad starts off as the body, which then leads to desire, false discrimination, and confused conception, all four of which are provisional positing of that which is not substantial, which then land on the basis of non-abiding. If this non-abiding itself, just as Kumarajiva has explained,

abides in nothing, and is thus neither existent () nor nothingness (), then ultimately the previous four are also based on this non-abiding. That is why Kumarajiva spoke about this absence of nature in all dharmas, which arise as a response to conditions. Since all dharmas are empty in nature, they are thus non-abiding. In other words, all dharmas are established on the basis of non-abiding.

Zhanran then uses this non-abiding as a support of the doctrine of “mutual embodiment” (huju 互具), which is elaborated most extensively as “the three thousand dharmas inherently contained in each moment of thought” (yinian sanqian 一念三千),


As it has been said, all dharmas are established from the basis of non-abiding. Since ignorance is the basis of all dharmas, ignorance is thus dharma-nature. While, ignorance is based on dharma-nature, it should be known that all dharmas are also based on dharma-nature, thus dharma-nature is ignorance.

Dharma-nature is also based on ignorance, thus dharma-nature is ignorance. Since dharma-natures have no place of abiding, and 所住。無所si住nc故e 則ig非no有ra無nc。e非is有d無ha而rm為a有-n無at之ur本e,。ig無n住or則an窮ce其a原ls更o 無ha所s 出no。p故la曰ce無o本f 。無本而 牟宗三 abiding. As both ignorance and dharma-nature have no place of abiding, they are both the basis of all dharmas. That is why it is said that all dharmas are established from the basis of non-abiding. Since this basis of non-abiding is interpenetrative, truth therefore refers to principle and all dharmas, and this consequently refers to the ‘three thousand’ (dharmas) as the myriad of things.

In explaining this basis of non-abiding as the non-abiding of both dharma-nature and ignorance, Zhanran also gave a condition under which this is classified as the Separate Teaching,

When it is said that ignorance depends on dharma-nature to be established, [it needs to be known that] dharma-nature is not defilement, thus it cannot be said to be the basis of defilement. Thus we say that which is non-abiding is thus non-basis. If all dharmas are established based on dharma-nature, since ignorance does not depart from dharma-nature, then this dharma-nature is the basis of ignorance.

This is thus the basis of dharma-nature. Now, after the Vimalakirti Sutra has assessed the basis of defilement and sees that dharma-nature is not defilement, it thus says that it is non-abiding and has a non-basis. It cannot self-abide, and thus depends on other (conditions?] to abide. To say that it is self-abiding while regarding the dharma-nature as its condition, it also stands to say that it abides in conditions. This concept of self-abiding belongs to the Separate Teaching, while that which
abides in conditions belongs to the Complete Teaching.

In his Shibu-ermen-zhi-yao-chao, Zhili offers an explanation of the distinction between self-abiding (自住) and abiding in conditions (依他住), clearly grasp their main points. Thus self-abiding is expounded so: self-abiding and abiding in conditions stand. Therefore, these two: self-abiding and condition-abiding do not represent the complete meaning, as its nature of defilement will certainly become the obstacle, and only by eradicating this obstacle. In expounding the meaning of abiding in conditions: not only are (self-abiding and abiding in conditions) inter-depent and identical, also because they are the same in essence and therefore identical. In conclusion, based on the identity and difference in essence, they are classified as two separate teachings.

504597 n.jpg

Now, as Zhanran held that “since ignorance is the basis of all dharmas, (ignorance) is thus dharma-nature.” This ignorance is also non-abiding, whether as the object or subject that covers up the principle. This relationship between nature and its characteristics has been explained by The Awakening of Faith with the examples of water and waves,

This is like the relationship that exists between the water of the ocean [i.e., enlightenment) and its waves [i.e., modes of mind) stirred by the wind [i.e., ignorance). Water and wind are inseparable; but water is not mobile by nature, and if the wind stops the movement ceases. But the wet nature remains undestroyed. Likewise, man's Mind, pure in its own nature, is stirred by the wind of ignorance. Both Mind and ignorance have no particular forms of their own and they are inseparable. Yet

From what has been said so far, the following points made by Zhili regarding the basis of non-abiding, the basis of delusion or liberation and the tathagatagarbha as good and bad causes should be clear:
1) Zhanran has stated in his Fahua-Wenju-ji that the Separate Teaching holds that all dharmas “are established from the basis of non-abiding.” If this separate principle does no follow conditions, then how can all dharmas be established?

2) In the same chapter of Fahua-Wenju-ji, Zhanran also stated that in the Separate Teaching, “the tathata, in the state of delusion, gives rise to the nine realms.” Since this tathata is the basis of all established dharmas, then how can it be said to not follow conditions?

3) In his Zhiguan-fuxing-zhuan-hongjue, Zhanran used “the tathagatagarbha as good or bad cause” to explain the Separate Teaching’s concept of “the sense organ and its object can either become the source of delusion or liberation in one moment of thought.” He said, since basis of delusion exists when the tathagatagarbha follows the condition of ignorance to create the nine dharma realms, and the basis of liberation exists when the teachings are followed to create the buddha-realm, this distinction explains exactly the meaning of following conditions within the Separate Teaching.
Question: “Having now understood that the meaning of the commentary lies within the Separate Teaching, I now make a further request for an analysis on the elucidation of the Three Teachings by the sastra.”

Answer: Do raise any questions you may still have. Question: “The gate of the tathata expounds the realm of principle altogether, therefore it can incorporate the Three Teachings. The gate of birth and extinction (sheng-mie-men) is explained according to grounds (bhumis), abiding, practice and attainment of a bodhisattva, both of which should follow the same track. The Separate has been the Separate from beginning to end, while the Complete has always been the Complete. Thus how should these Three Teachings be arranged in order?”


Answer: “This sastra represents the meanings of all the sutras, and thus clarifies several theories. Since there is not just one theory (li), how can there be only one path for the different positions, practices and attainment? Just as Huayan began explaining the Perfect Teaching by holding that, “the samyak-sambodhi is attained immediately upon the moment of initial intention,” yet it mentions that the state of an-abhoga is attained at the eighth stage of a bodhisattva when it later spoke about the stages.

Furthermore, a verse from the Renwang-huguo-jing says that the Three Virtuous Positions of a bodhisattva and the Ten Excellent Characteristics of a sage attain their rewards in the Complete Teaching, the Fourteen Prajnas in the Separate Teaching, and the Five Ksanti in the Common Teaching. This couple of sutras have already clearly clarified the position of such, not to mention this sastra represents the meanings of ten million sutras. Thus how can it turn out to be limited to any one single position? In the text which says that it holds no position within the Tripitaka, since it takes the title of Mahayana, it can only be classified as the Mahayana Teaching.”

Question: “For someone as well-learned in both characteristic and nature as Fazang, who abides by the position of the Four Reliances, what makes his commentary inferior to the Tiantai teachings?”

Answer: “Bodhisattvas adopt appropriate means for beings with different aptitudes when they propagate the teachings, since one type of path is appropriate for one particular level of aptitude. That is why he made this interpenetrative teaching. It does not necessarily mean that he was incomplete in following the Four Reliances.”
Question: “If each of them is good at their own [means of teaching), and presents their own means for different levels of aptitude, why is there the need to incorporate or classify one another?”
Answer: “Since you know that the two traditions each has their own appropriate means to accommodate different levels of aptitudes, why is there the need to ask this question? Since they are classified and incorporated just as expounded above, if the sastra covers the [different] aptitudes, then there is no need for harmonization or convergence.” Upon hearing this, the guest retreated in agreement.

In general, Zhili affirmed the distinction between the Separate Teaching and Complete Teaching’s concepts of sui-yuan by examining whether the essence and function were identical or not (相即). To speak of the tathata which follows conditions (真如隨緣) without mentioning the inclusive principle (理具), this still does not qualify as identical. In other words, within the Complete Teaching, the nine realms are identical to the buddha realm; while distinguishing the nine realms from the buddha realm is a concept from the Separate Teaching. Based on the above, the following distinctions between these two teachings can seen:

The Separate Teaching holds a more exclusive means of following conditions. The nine realms are not inclusive to nature, but are only established by following conditions. Thus the buddha realm is exclusive and is regarded as distinct from the nine realms.

The Complete Teaching sees ignorance and dharma-nature as identical in nature, thus everything follows conditions while remaining unchanged in nature. Obstacles or defilements are equivalents to merits, which do not have to be eliminated. On the other hand, the Separate Teaching distinguishes ignorance from dharma-nature, and sees ignorance as the main cause for its exclusive mean (但中) to follow conditions in a defiled state to establish the nine realms. Here, ignorance is regarded as an obstacle, where the nine realms must be eliminated in order for the buddha realm to be attained, thus making this buddha exclusive, not inclusive.

Within the Complete Teaching, ignorance and dharma-nature are identical in essence, and both follow conditions. The Separate Teaching on the other hand, separates ignorance and dharma-nature in terms of essence, and in a deluded state, this exclusive mean can create the nine realms, thus it is the working of ignorance here. In order to eliminate this ignorance and attain the realm of the buddha, the nine realms must be destroyed.

While the Complete Teaching holds that the principle includes all dharmas, and is thus not produced by conditions (無作), while the Separate Teaching only discusses a single principle which, by following conditions, transforms and establishes dharmas, thus it is not that which is not produced by conditions.

3. Conclusion

The translation and annotation of Zhili’sChapter on Bringing Together the Teachings of Tiantai and The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana” from A Record of Suu-ming Zhili’s Teachings has enabled a clear picture of how Tiantai was influenced by the concept of “following conditions” from The Awakening of Faith, and how Tiantai confirmed its superiority over other schools based on its holistic and intersubjective interpretation of “following conditions.”
Although it was Zhanran who borrowed the concept of “following conditions while remaining unchanged” ( 隨 緣 不 變 ) from Fazang’s commentary on The Awakening of Faith, it was Zhili who furthered the Separate Teaching’s concept of following conditions (別理隨緣) in the Tiantai School. Through this, Zhili provided a very clear picture of Tiantai’s position among other schools such as Huayan and Vijananvada while presenting the fundamental view of the Tiantai School at the same time.

In sum, Zhili was able to achieve the following three purposes with his concept of bie-li-sui-yuan:
1) The incorporation and inclusion ( 攝 屬 ) of Huayan School’s concept of “remaining unchanged while following conditions” ( 不變隨緣) which was inspired by The Awakening of Faith.

2) To reveal the unique characteristic of Tiantai’s concept of “nature inclusion” (性 具).

3) Settle the Shanwai and Shanjia dispute by classifying the Huayan School and other Shanwai conepts of “following conditions” as the Separate Teaching, while elevating the status of Tiantai by classifying it as the Complete Teaching within its doctrinal scheme.

It is also important to note that, although Zhili deemed Fazang’s interpretation of “following conditions” as something of a lower position, this does not mean that he did the same for The Awakening of Faith. Instead, he sought to harmonize the text’s concepts by giving it a position within the Tiantai doctrinal scheme, thus allowing a close connection between the different schools' interpretation of the same theory underneath the same big picture, thereby achieving the purpose of she-shu (jjijgjj), which is also a characteristic of Tiantai's concept of holism and intersubjectivity.


1) PRIMARY SOURCES – Canonical Texts
1. Asvagosha 馬鳴. Da-cheng-qi-xin-lun大乘起信論》. T32, No.1667
2. Fazang (Tang) 法藏. Da-cheng-qi-xin-lun-yiji大乘起信論義記》. T44 No.
3. Zhanran (Tang) 湛然. Jin-gang-bei《金剛錍》T46 No. 1932
4. Zhanran (Tang) 湛然. Zhiguan-fuxing-zhuan-hongjue止觀輔行傳弘決》T46
No. 1912
5. Zhili (Sung) 知禮. Siming zunzhe jiaoxing lu四明尊者教行錄》T46 No. 1937
6. Zhili (Sung) 知禮. Shibu-ermen-zhi-yao-chao十不二門指要鈔》T46 No.
4 See Questions and Answers to the Four Types of Four Noble Truths
5 T.46, No.1937 870b
, T.46, No.1937

7 Mou Zongsan,
, , 56, pp.51-55
8 , T44, No. 1846
9 , T46, No. 1914

11 T46, 705a-720a.
12 Jin-gang-bei
T46, No.1932
13 Jin-gan-bei,

14 Jin-gan-bei,
15 Bie-li-sui-yuan-er-shi-wen
16 See T46, No. 1937,
T46, No.1937
17 Samdhinirmocana-sūtra, see chapter two on Xuanzang’s explanation of the parinispanna-svabhāva
18 See chapter 2 of Fazang’s Huayan-yisheng-jiao-fenqi zhang
19 Fazang’s commentary to The Awakening of Faith (Qixinlun-Ichi) T46, No.1928

21 Se

Zhiguan-fuxing-zhuan-hongjue26, he uses the example of a pond of water as the
23 T46, No.1911, p. 8, b21-22.
24 T46, No.1911, p. 8, b23-25.
25 T46, No.1911, p. 8, b27-c2.
27 T46, No.1928, p.715, c5-18
28 The Vimalakīrti Sutra, trans. John R. McRae., Berkeley, Calif. : Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2004, pp.142-143

29 T38, No.1775, p. 386, c1-5
30 Mou Zongshan explains this as , which ultimately means causation of something which is empty in nature. , p.676

Words contained within the commentary are simple yet high in

Thus the basis of non-abiding as a part of the Separate Teaching should be quite clear.
On ignorance which covers up principle

1 Dacheng-qixin-lun
, T.32, No.1666.

remains undestroyed.34
2 As an implicit hermeneutic strategy, Zhiyi used a variety of different classification schemes for different purposes throughout his works. These Four Categories were only expounded by Zhiyi in his Ssu-jiaoyi (T.46, 721a-769a) and his commentary on the Vimalakirti Sutra (T.38, 519a-562b)
3 T.46, No.1937 871c

則若以說法自性住為D本ha。rm今a經-n撿at覈ur煩e 惱a之nd本法d性ef非ile煩m惱en故ts言無lo住ok無本up。既ea無c有h 本o。th不er得, 自th住u依s 他而住。
31 T33, No.1717, p. 920, a24-b3

32 T38, No.1778, p. 677, a12-19
33 T46, no. 1928, p. 715, c21-26
T32, No.1666, p. 576, c9-16.