Tian-tai Metaphysics vs. Hua-yan Metaphysics


Tian-tai Buddhism and Hua-yan Buddhism can be viewed as the two most philosophically important schools in Chinese Buddhism. The Tian-tai school was founded by Zhi-yi (Chih-i) (538-597 A.D.). The major Buddhist text endorsed by this school is the Lotus Sutra, short for “the Sutra of the Lotus Blossom of the Subtle Dharma.” Hua-yan Buddhism derived its name from the Hua-yan Sutra, translated as “The Flower Ornament Scripture” or as “The Flowery Splendor Scripture.”1 The founder of the Hua-yan school was a Chinese monk named Du-shun (557-640 A.D.). The second patriarch of Hua-yan is Zhi-yan (602-668 A.D.), who studied with Du-shun. However, it is generally acknowledged that the real founder of Hua-yan Buddhism is its third patriarch, Fa-zang (643-712 A.D.). He introduced the division of “the Realm of Principle” and “the Realm of Things,”2 which was developed by Hua-yan’s fourth patriarch Cheng-guan (738-839? A.D.) into the defining thesis for Hua-yan Buddhism – the “four dharma realms”: the Realm of Principle, the Realm of Things,3 the Realm of the Noninterference between Principle and Things, and the Realm of the Noninterference of All Things.



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JeeLoo Liu
California State University, Fullerton

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