The deluded mind as world and truth Epistemological Implications of Tiantai Doctrine and Praxis in the Works of ziporyn tiantai

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The Deluded Mind as World and Truth Epistemological Implications of Tiantai Doctrine and Praxis in the Works of Ziporyn Tiantai

The Deluded Mind as World and Truth Epistemological Implications of Tiantai Doctrine and Praxis in the Works of Ziporyn Tiantai

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  • 1. The Deluded Mind as World and Truth:Epistemological Implications of Tiantai Doctrine and Praxis in the Works of JingxiZhanran (711-782)Brook ZiporynNorthwestern University A very greatly oversimplified restatement of the classical Tiantai view of therelation of conscious beings to the world they live in, as put forward by the schools defacto founder Zhiyi (538-597) and as documented accurately and intricately in terms ofits historical and textual groundings in Hans-Rudolf Kantor’s article earlier in thisvolume, can be put like this: every event, function or characteristic occurring inexperience is the action of the all sentient and insentient beings working together. Everyinstant of experience is the whole of existential reality, manifesting in this particularform, as this particular entity or experience. But this “whole” is irreducibly multiple andirreducibly unified at once, in the following way: all possible conflicting, contrasted andaxiologically varied aspects, the “three thousand natures and characteristics,” areirrevocably present--in the sense of “findable”—in each of these totality-effects. Goodand evil, delusion and enlightenment, Buddhahood and deviltry, are all “inherentlyentailed” (xingju) in each and every event. More importantly, however, these multipleentities are not “simply located” even virtually or conceptually: the “whole” which is theagent performing every experience is not a collection of these various “inherentlyentailed” entities or qualities arrayed side by side, like coins in a pocket. Rather, they 1
  • 2. are “intersubsumptive.” That is, any one of them subsumes all the others. Each part isthe whole, each quality subsumes all other qualities, and yet none are ever eradicable. ABuddha in the world makes the world all Buddha, saturated in every locus with thequality “Buddhahood”; a devil in the world makes the world all devil, permeated with“deviltry.” Both Buddha and devil are always in the world. So the world is always bothentirely Buddhahood and entirely deviltry. Every moment of experience is alwayscompletely delusion, evil and pain, through and through, and also completelyenlightenment, goodness and joy, through and through. How does Tiantai Buddhist doctrine arrive at this conclusion, and what are itshuman implications? The Tiantai theory rests on two intimately related foundations: thedoctrine of the Three Truths, and the doctrine of “opening the provisional to reveal thereal.” The Three Truths are an expansion of the traditional Nagarjunian idea of the TwoTruths. The first is Conventional Truth, which includes ordinary language (everydaydescriptions of selves, causes, effects, things, beginnings and ends, as well as traditionalBuddhist statements about value and practice, e.g., the Four Noble Truths, the EightfoldNoble Path, the marks of suffering, impermanence and non-self). The second isUltimate Truth, which is in the first place Emptiness as the negation of the absolutevalidity of any of the terms accepted as conventional truths. But Ultimate Truth alsomeans the Emptiness of Emptiness, which extends this same critique to the concept of“Emptiness” itself; in the end, Ultimate Truth is indescribable. It refers to the livedexperience of liberation, and thus even “Emptiness” is relegated to merely conventionaltruth. 2
  • 3. It is to be noted that in this theory there are really three categories: 1) plain error(metaphysical theories which take ordinary speech terms to be designations of absoluterealities; statements about the beginning and end of the universe, God, ultimate reality,substances, essences, etc.); 2) conventional truth (ordinary speech and Buddhist speech);and 3) ultimate truth (the experience of liberation, for which even the term “Emptiness”is insufficient). The criterion for what counts as conventional truth is pragmatic:whatever is conducive to the comprehension of ultimate truth is conventional truth. Butthis would be whatever statements can serve as a means to lead beyond themselves, to thenegation of themselves: expressions that lead the way to the realization ofinexpressibility. Whatever cognitive claims obstruct this pragmatic goal fall into thecategory of plain falsehood, not even conventional truth. This is how it seems to stand in most versions of Indian Mahayana, including thewritings of Nagarjuna, on many readings.1 Tiantai alters this picture decisively byspeaking of not two but three truths. These are Ultimate Truth, Conventional Truth andthe Center (zhendi, sudi, zhongdi, correlated to Emptiness, Provisional Positing and theCenter kong, jia, zhong). This reconfiguration has two direct consequences: first, thehierarchy between conventional and ultimate truth is canceled. Indeed, even thedifference in their content is effaced: according to the Tiantai tradition, provisional andultimate truth are equal in value and ultimately identical. Second, the category of “plainfalsehood” which was implied by the Nagarjunian idea of Two Truths is here eliminatedentirely: all claims of whatever kind are equally conventional truths, and thus of equalvalue to and ultimately identical to ultimate truth, or the conception of Emptiness, and itsself-overcoming. 3
  • 4. The Tiantai term for conventional truths is “provisional positing” (jia). Ultimatetruth is simply emptiness (kong). We may better understand the Tiantai position byretranslating these terms as “local coherence” and “global incoherence” respectively.Provisional truth is the apprehension of some qualium X as having a certain discernible,coherent identity. Ultimate truth is the revelation that this coherent identity is onlyprovisionally coherent, that it fails to be coherent in all contexts and from all points ofview, and thus is globally incoherent. X is analyzable exhaustibly into non-X elements,non-X causes, non-X antecedents, non-X contexts, which are revealed to be not externalto X, but constitutive of it. No X is discoverable apart from the non-X elements, causes,antecedents and contexts, which are present here, we may say, “as” X. This “as” may betaken as a shorthand way of indicating what is meant by the “third truth,” Centrality, therelation of sameness-as-contrast between this qualium’s identity as X and the effacing ofthat identity. When I say “I am using this book as a doorstop,” I mean that it has thisentity has two different identities at once: it is genuinely being a book, and it is genuinelybeing a doorstop. So it is for X and non-X. These non-X elements which are presenthere as X are revealed simply by closer attention to X itself; they are not brought in fromoutside. X appears exclusively as X only when our field of attention is arbitrarilynarrowed to exclude some of the relevant ways it can be considered; attention to itsconstitutive elements, antecedents and contexts reveals this very same item, X, is alsoreadable as non-X. Hence the two seemingly opposite claims of the Two Truths turn outto be two alternate ways of saying the same thing: to be identifiable is to be coherent, tobe coherent is to be locally coherent, and to be locally coherent is to be globallyincoherent. It is with this move, the third category, that “plain error,” from the Two 4
  • 5. Truths theory, drops out of the picture: all coherences, even alternate metaphysicalclaims, are in the same boat, all are identities which are locally coherent/globallyincoherent. The truth of a statement consists simply in its coherence to some givenperspective, which is always the effect of arbitrarily limiting the horizons of relevance.When all considerations are brought in at once, X has no single consistent non-contradictory identity. This fact, that conventional and ultimate truths are synonymous, is what is meantby the Center. This is also taken to imply that this coherence, X, is the center of all othercoherences in the distinctively Chinese sense of being their source, value, meaning, end,ground, around which they all converge, into which they are all subsumed. “Center”(zhong) indicates not just the midpoint between extremes, but “what is within, from theinside” and also “to hit the mark, to match”—what is truly and exactly the reality of eachentity. All entities are locally coherent, globally incoherent and the determining centerof all other local coherences. Any X subsumes all the non-X qualia that are appearinghere as X: they are instantiations of X, which serves as their subsuming category, theiressence, their meaning, their ground, their destiny. X is, as it were, the overall style ofbeing which is expressed by its various aspects, which is now seen to include all non-Xelements without exception. Each qualium not only is ambiguated by the presence of allother qualia, but by the same token disambiguates these other qualia in terms of itself.Because they are all in the position of being the subsumer, they are also all in the positionof being subsumed. To be X is to be locally coherent (X), globally incoherent (non-X),and intersubsumptive asness (X expressing itself in the form of all non-X’s, and all non-X’s expressing themselves in the form of X). 5
  • 6. The second pillar of Tiantai doctrine is the concept of “opening the provisional toreveal the real” (kaiquan xianshi). This is a way of further specifying the relationbetween local coherence and global incoherence, which are not only synonymous, butalso irrevocably opposed, and indeed identical only by means of their opposition.Provisional truth is the antecedent, the premise, and indeed in a distinctive sense thecause of ultimate truth, but only because it is the strict exclusion of ultimate truth. I havesuggested elsewhere that the everyday example of the joke could serve as a helpfulmodel for understanding this structure, with the provisional as the set-up and the ultimateas the punch line, thus preserving both the contrast between the two and their ultimateidentity in sharing the quality of humorousness which belongs to every atom of the jokeconsidered as a whole, once the punch line has been revealed. The setup is serious,while the punchline is funny. The funniness of the punchline depends on the seriousnessof the setup, and on the contrast and difference between the two. However, once thepunchline has occurred, it is also the case that the setup is, retrospectively, funny; we donot say that the punchline alone is funny, but that the whole joke was funny. This alsomeans that the original contrast between the two is both preserved and annulled: neitherfunniness nor seriousness means the same thing after the punchline dawns, for theiroriginal meanings depended on the mutually exclusive nature of their defining contrast.Each is now a center that subsumes of the other; they are intersubsumptive. As aconsequence, the old pragmatic standard of truth is applied more liberally here: allclaims, statements and positions are true in the sense that all can, if properlyrecontextualized, lead to liberation—which is to say, to their own self-overcoming.Conversely, none will lead to liberation if not properly recontextualized. 6
  • 7. The above is to be contrasted to an implicit and commonsensical notion of truthand its relation to falsehood that informs almost all other philosophical and religioussystems, including the vast majority of Buddhist thought. This is that there is some partof our cognitive apparatus—“Reason,” or perhaps a capacity for unbiased awareness, orprajna as an insight into Emptiness or an experience of ultimate truth as such—to whichunambiguously true claims can be directed, which can recognize and assess those claimsaccurately, and which can then reject and replace its previously held false beliefs. Butthis model can gain no purchase in the Tiantai universe. It is not just that our mind isclouded over or misinformed by erroneous beliefs; it is literally composed of biased anddistorted habituations, to such a degree that every one of its actions and posits, includingits positing of an objective truth that subverts or corrects its errors, is irrevocably taintedby its unbalanced existential position. “Truth,” however conceived by the deluded mind,is just one additional delusion, perhaps the most pernicious delusion of all. An objectiveand unbiased contemplation of the truth is effectively ruled out by these Tiantaipremises—for any determinate position or stance is intrinsically biased. As the SongTiantai writer Siming Zhili (960-1028) puts it: Because both the mind as such and its concomitants are originally constituted by the influences of views and attachments (jian’ai xunxi suocheng), when even the Integrated practitioner is at the level of [Identity merely in] Name [i.e., mere intellectual understanding], he is still entirely unable to subdue it. Even his good thoughts are still inseparable from 7
  • 8. views and attachments…. If you try to use this mind directly to contemplate the Principle of the Real-mark, it would be like trying to support Mt. Sumeru from a lotus stalk; you would just be fruitlessly increasing discriminations, and there would be no way to cut off thoughts.2This would seem to rule out any hope of escape from the closed circle of delusion. Andyet the above conceptions concerning epistemological and ontological matters are framedentirely within a soteriological context, and share the general Buddhist optimism aboutthe possibility of liberation. Indeed, given the Tiantai claims about the relation ofspeakablity and unspeakability, all possible assertions without exception are made onlywith reference to the bias of some particular biased viewpoint, and only for soteriologicalpurposes. All statements and claims are by nature biased, situational, pragmatic andsoteriological. What makes this coexistence of radical skepticism and radicalepistemological optimism possible is the distinctive Tiantai form of Buddhist praxis, thepractice of mind-contemplation, designed to lead to a liberating realization of these ideas.In the works of Jingxi Zhanran, the implicit approach to practice in Zhiyi’s works isstreamlined and intensified. It is characterized, polemically, as the contemplation of andby the deluded, rather than the enlightened, mind. Here the Tiantai premises are used tofind a practical way out of the vicious circle which it seems to posit: the self-overcomingof delusion. The following passages are in the form of clarifying question and answersdrawn from Zhanran’s works. The first is from Zhanran’s Jingangpi, and the rest fromthe same author’s Zhiguan yili, a brief somewhat catechismic summary of Zhanran’s 8
  • 9. interpretation of Zhiyi’s masterwork, Mohezhiguan. In these passages Zhanran’sapplication of Tiantai epistemology to praxis are spelled out clearly and forcefully.Q: ….I have heard people quote the “Dazhidulun” to say that in insentient beingsSuchness should merely be called “Dharma-nature”; it is only in sentient beings that itcan be called the Buddha-nature. Why do you use the term “Buddha-nature” [withreference to insentient beings as well]?A: …… “Dharma” denotes non-awareness [i.e., an object of consciousness, hencesomething which is itself non-aware]. “Buddha” denotes awareness. Although allsentient beings originally possess the principle of “non-awareness” in themselves, theyhave not yet acquired the wisdom that would allow them to be aware of non-awareness.This is precisely why we temporarily make a distinction between awareness and non-awareness: so as to make people aware of non-awareness. But once there is awarenessof non-awareness, non-awareness is no longer non-awareness, is it? The object ofawareness cannot really be separate from the awareness, can it?Q: But it is only when one reaches Buddhahood that one can really understand this.Ordinary people do take them as separate; why do you contradict this view?A: Are you trying to learn Buddhahood, or trying to learn the ordinary people’s views?In the ultimately liberating coherence, there is no real difference; it is ordinary peoplewho themselves consider them separate. Thus [the Buddhas] reveal this to sentientbeings, to enable them to become aware of non-awareness. When you are aware of non-awareness, [awareness and non-awareness, subject and object, mental activity andmaterial form] naturally combine into a single Suchness. If awareness were deprived of 9
  • 10. non-awareness, it could not properly be called the Buddha-nature; if there were noawareness of non-awareness, it would not really be the Dharma-nature. If awarenesswere deprived of non-awareness, how could Buddha-nature be established? Hence, theidea of a Dharma-nature which is not also Buddha-nature is permissible only within theHinayana teaching. To count as a Mahayana teaching, the Buddha-nature must beunderstood as identical to the Dharma-nature.3This discussion appears in the context of Zhanran’s defense of his claim that “insentientbeings also have the Buddha-nature.” Buddha-nature means, for Zhanran, “awareness-nature,” the inextricable character of bearing awareness, while “dharma-nature” refers to“objecthood,” the character of being an object of awareness, and hence of being itselfnon-aware. In this passage Zhanran hopes to show that these two are inseparable, that anelement of non-awareness is constitutive to awareness, and vice-versa. Zhanran uses theTiantai “opening of the provisional to reveal the real” to redefine the distinction betweenthe two: a distinction between awareness and objecthood is first made in order to fomentawareness of the inextricable presence of unawareness in every act of awareness. Thetwo are first posited and defined as mutually exclusive precisely in order to show thatthey cannot be mutually exclusive. This means that there can never be a reduction ofboth sides to either awareness or non-awareness—subjectivity or objectivity, mental ormaterial—as originally defined, but there can be a reduction of all to either sideaccording to the modified definition which sees them as inevitably mutually entailing.The cultivation of a “mind-only” contemplation, far from denying the presence of non-mind realities or of aspects of the world not penetrated by mind, or of which we are not 10
  • 11. aware, actually depends on it, and in fact is meant to intensify this “realist” intuition: wemust become more aware of the aspects of the world which are devoid of awareness,strengthening the sense of the dead, inert, unaware realm of matter circumscribing us.But this intensification of the presence and importance of “non-awareness” to us, ourdeepening acknowledgment of the neutral, unknowing world around us, is itself an aspectof awareness: the awareness of non-awareness. This serves to collapse the initialdistinction—not from without, through a dogmatic claim that it is, compared to someobjective truth to which we have access, wrong, but rather from within, by accepting itsown premises and pushing them to their furthest conclusion. This is a first prototype ofthe self-overcoming of delusion characteristic of Tiantai practice.The remaining passages are selected from Zhanran’s Zhiguan yili.Q: Here we see manifestly black, yellow, red and white [i.e., separate differentiatedthings and characteristics]. In what sense are they the Dharma-realm of Suchness?A: When you speak of black and so on, this is what is seen by deluded attachment.When you speak of the Dharma-realm, you are talking about what accords withLiberating Coherence (li). Why use deluded attachment to challenge LiberatingCoherence? Our present contemplation is to contravene deluded attachment andcontemplate Liberating Coherence. One mustn’t go on to contravene LiberatingCoherence and accord with deluded attachment. Moreover, black and the rest areConventional Truth, while the Dharma-realm is Ultimate Truth. Or again, black and therest are a small portion of Conventional Truth, while the Dharma-realm is the entirety ofthe Three Truths. Or again, black and the rest are a small portion of what is seen by the 11
  • 12. human and heavenly eyes, while the Dharma-realm is the entirety of what is seen by theBuddha-eye. Each eye inherently entails all five eyes, so black and the rest inherentlyentail all dharmas. The same applies to the relationship between any one truth and theThree Truths. For these reasons, you cannot challenge the presence of the entireDharma-realm because of [the manifestation of] black and the rest….4Here we see the application of Tiantai epistemology to the most basic problem of biasedand complete cognition, and incidentally the point that most clearly distinguishes Tiantaiepistemology from Huayan thought, for example. Note that even when contrastingenlightenment from delusion, Zhanran is still speaking perspectivally, as in the previouspassage: which are you endeavoring to learn, the enlightened (liberating-from-suffering)perspective or the deluded perspective? Both are merely perspectives, not the absolutetruth in an objectivist sense. But every possible view is “a small portion” of the truth,and each portion of the truth interpenetrates with every other: all perspectivesinterpenetrate. The contrast is not between true and false, full stop, but between a partialand a comprehensive unfolding of the same truths. “Delusion” really means a form—apartial form—of truth. But this partial form is necessary to the unfolding ofcomprehensive truth, an upaya by means of which it is posited, as in the previouspassage, and hence embodies and encompasses the more comprehensive views withwhich it interpenetrates. 12
  • 13. Q: Of the four phases of the [experience of any of the] Ten Realms [not-yet-arisen,about-to-arise, arisen, already-gone], the arisen has marks that are easy to know. Buthow can the not-yet-arisen and the already-gone be contemplated?A: Although the already-gone and the not-yet-arisen do not refer exclusively andprecisely to one single mental state, they do necessarily take shape within the arisen stateof mind. Thus, one comes to know which realm the arisen state of mind belongs to;looking to what preceded it from within this perspective, we have what in this contexttakes the role of the already-gone, and looking ahead, we have the not-yet-arisen. Thusthe already-gone and the not-yet-arisen can be contemplated from within the perspectiveof the about-to-arise and the arisen.Q: The arisen state of mind can look to what preceded it and find some marks of mind toknow. But if looking to what is yet-to-arise there is anything there to see, this is theabout-to-arise; how can it be called the not-yet-arisen?A: Looking toward the future and knowing that there are states of mind that have not yetarisen is what is called[contemplating] the not-yet-arisen. When some particular marksof mind are recognizably about to arise, this is called the about-to-arise. So these twomarks of mind are completely different. Contemplating this single phase of the mind,[one sees that] it inherently entails the Ten Realms, the Hundred Realms and theThousand Suchnesses. All of these are precisely Emptiness and precisely the Center.Thus we know that although we are contemplating the four phases of the Ten Realms,there are in fact no realms and no phases: we contemplate only the Three Thousand intheir identity to Emptiness and the Center. All three names are transcended, and sosubject and object meld perfectly. Thus it is different from Provisional Positing in the 13
  • 14. sense of dependence on conditions, or Emptiness in the sense of lacking a self-nature. Itis the non-duality of Emptiness and Provisional Positing that is called the Center. If wemay borrow a metaphor: the manifesting of all the various states of material form andmind are like the arising and submerging of implements made from gold or silver. Just inthe gold itself different identities arise, which are neither prior nor posterior to the golditself. It is also like a public road, which a private citizen digs up, using the dirt to makestatues. The wise know that it is still the same public dirt consigned to official use, whilethe foolish say that some statues have actually come into existence. Later when thegovernmental official wants to travel the road, these statues are recovered to fill in theholes in the road. The statues neither arise nor perish, and the road too is neither newnor old.5Zhiyi, in describing his method of mind-contemplation in the Mohezhiguan andelsewhere, had noted that the mind is difficult to frame as an object, and thus haddelineated four marks of mind to make it more easily distinguishable: not-yet-arisen,about-to-arise, arisen, and gone. The distinctive mark of what constitutes mind, for thepurposes of contemplation, is its temporality, with special emphasis on the borderingbetween states of mind distinguishable in a sequence through time. This same emphasison the borders is also applied to the subject-object relation, and the presence-absencecontrast. Here Zhanran makes clear that all of this is stipulated purely with reference tocontemplation of a given mental state, and that the not-yet and gone phases are to beunderstood not as absolute absence, but as the presence of that absence internal to anygiven state: its own prior and subsequent absence are present to it, and within it, indeed 14
  • 15. are constitutive of it. To be a moment is to find oneself in a situation, with a vista ofbefore and after surrounding one; but for this before and after to be operative in the hereand now, they must also in some sense be internal to it. This is structurally analogous toZhanran’s comments about awareness and non-awareness in the Jingangpi, cited above.The “not-here” is present in and to the “here.” Note that Zhanran then specifies how thiscontemplation changes our understanding of Provisional Positing and Emptiness. Intheir identity to one another, Provisional Positing does not mean merely “dependence onconditions,” and Emptiness does not mean merely “absence of a self-nature.” Rather, bythe interfusion of the Three Truths, each means both, and each further means Centrality.Provisional Positing then means the inherent presence of each and every determinatemark, pervading all times and places, and Emptiness means the interfusion of thesemarks, and these two, quite obviously, are now seen as synonymous. Zhanran’s finalanalogy deserves some comment. What we call our present deluded state of mind iscompared to the statues made of dirt from the public road. The very same thing is alsopart of the road itself—i.e., the course of the Buddhas. That is, the same thing, indifferent contexts, has different functions, but neither one nor the other need actuallychange to do so. To understand this analogy, and Zhanran’s cryptic final comment, lestit be thought that this implies a “leveling” of the marks of the particular states of mindinto an undifferentiated whole of the Buddha-mind, it should be compared to themetaphor of the sky and the illusory flowers, below.Q: The external material form that makes up inanimate beings is not endowedsimultaneously with mind. How can it have replete within it the Three Meritorious 15
  • 16. Properties [Liberation, Wisdom, Dharmakaya], such that you say the Three MeritoriousProperties pervade all places?A: It is not only the external material form that is not simultaneously endowed withmind; the material form inside one’s own body is just the same as grass, trees, tiles andbricks. But if we are talking about the inherent entailment of the Meritorious Properties,it is not only the internal mind that is a transformation of mind. Thus it is said of both theinternal mind and external material form that, because mind is neither internal norexternal, material form too is neither internal nor external. Thus each is both internaland external. Because of the purity of the mind, the Buddha-land is pure, but also,conversely, because of the purity of the Buddha-land, wisdom is pure. Because bothmind and material form are pure, all dharmas are pure. Because all dharmas are pure,mind and body are pure. How can we say only that the external material form lacksmind?6Here we have a further development of Zhanran’s ideas of awareness and non-awareness,and the manner in which they interfuse. Neither is primary, each is reducible to theother. Either one can be described as primary, according to upayic circumstances, thesoteriological needs of any present conversation. In the sense that the external world isinsentient, our own bodies and minds are also insentient; in the sense that our bodies andmind are sentient, the external world is also sentient.Q: [Zhiyi’s Mohezhiguan] says, ‘Believe only in the Dharma-nature; do not believe inanything else.’ There is only the Dharma-nature; nothing else exists. But then what are 16
  • 17. all the diverse dharmas we see before us? And why is it also said that the Dharma-nature inherently entails all the many dharmas?A: Because sentient beings for long aeons have been exclusively attached to the diversedharmas, and did not believe in the Dharma-nature, this statement is made as acorrective to destroy this ancient prejudiced way of calculating, so that in all the diversedharmas they will see purely and only the Dharma-nature. But to see the Dharma-natureis to see that the Dharma-nature is purely and only all the diverse dharmas. This Naturethat is also all the diverse dharmas is originally without either the one name or the other.It is called either [diverse] dharmas or [one] Nature in accordance with the need torefute or establish upayically.7Neither unity nor diversity is primary. It is not the case that the world appears to bemultiform, deluded and biased, but is in reality one. Rather, either of these ways ofstating the case is equally valid, to be applied as a corrective to a previous bias.Q: All the texts say that mind and material form are non-dual. But if we want tocontemplate this, how do we set up our contemplation?A: Mind and material form are one substance; neither precedes the other. Each is theentire dharma-realm. But in the sequence of contemplation, we must start with theinternal mind. Once the internal mind is purified, this pure mind will encounter alldharmas, and naturally meld with them all perfectly. Moreover, we must first understandthat all dharmas are mind-only, and only then begin contemplating the mind. If you cancomprehend all dharmas to the end, you will see that all dharmas are nothing but mind, 17
  • 18. and that all dharmas are nothing but material form. You must understand that everyexistence comes from the distinctions made by one’s own mind. When have dharmasthemselves ever declared that they were the same as or different from one another?Hence the Zhanchajing says, “There are two types of contemplation. The first isConsciousness-only. The second is of the Real-Mark [i.e., of the ultimate reality].” TheReal-mark[practice] is the contemplation of Liberating Coherence (li), while theConsciousness-only[practice[ works through individual Events (shi). AlthoughLiberating Coherence and Event are non-dual, the ways for contemplating them areslightly separated. Only one who is able to understand this can be spoken to about theWay.8Again, reality is ultimately neither material nor mental. But the contemplation of mindis made primary for the sake of Buddhist praxis, precisely because it is mind that is thesource of the problem of delusion and suffering for sentient beings. All is mind, all ismatter. But in what sense are things said to be “mind” from the point of view of praxis?The mark of mind is the making of distinctions. Dharmas themselves do not distinguishthemselves from one another, do not predicate sameness or difference of themselves.Zhanran here quotes a Chinese apocryphal sutra, the full title of which is Zhancha shan’eyebao jing (“The sutra of prognostication and investigation of good and evil karmicretribution”), which gives a fuller exposition of the practice of the “contemplation ofconsciousness-only,” as follows: 18
  • 19. In all times and places, wherever physical, verbal or mental karma is being created, youshould observe and know that it is all mind only. This goes also for all objects andstates: whenever the mind fixes its attention in some object of cognition, you shouldnotice and be aware of it, never letting the mind go obliviously chasing after objectswithout noticing its own activity. Rather, observe each and every movement of theattention. Whenever the mind traces or attends to something, you should return it tomake the mind follow after that act of attention itself, so the mind is aware of it. Knowthat you own inner mind is what is producing thoughts and acts of attention; it is not theobjects themselves that have thoughts or make distinctions. That is to say, the innermind produces countless views of long and short, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong,gain and loss, decay and advantage, existence and non-existence and so on, while theobjects themselves have never had thoughts which give rise to such distinctions. Youshould know that all objects are themselves devoid of any thoughts and distinctions, sothey are themselves neither long nor short, neither beautiful nor ugly, and so forth, up toneither existent nor non-existent. In themselves they are free of all marks. Thus youshould observe that all dharmas are born from the thoughts of the mind. In the absenceof this mind, there is no dharma and no mark that could view itself as being differentfrom anything else. You should hold and attend to [this operation of] your inner mind,and know that there are only these deluded thoughts and no real external objects. Attendto it without cease. This is called cultivating and learning the contemplation [that all is]mental consciousness only. If the mind is inattentive and does not realize that its ownattention is operating, it believes there to be external objects before it. This is no longercalled the contemplation [that all is] mental consciousness only…..9 19
  • 20. The function of the mind is to make distinctions, which is what it is to make predications,including those of existence and non-existence, i.e., that there even is or is not an objecthere to be cognized, about which some predications might be made. It is fundamentallya faculty of dividing. It divides itself from the objects before it, reifying both, andsimultaneously separates out the objects from one another, identifying them as this orthat, and cognizing various characteristics inhering in them by which to distinguish them.Where it makes a border, it posits a determinate thing within the border. The act ofcognition is here regarded in a way very consistent with indigenous Chineseepistemological theories: knowing is a skill in dividing things out of a larger context.Where there is no dividing, there is no thing. To be aware of a thing is here notconceived according to the metaphor of a receiving of an impression, or the lighting up ofwhat was in darkness, or a clearing away of a blockage; it is not a kind of disclosing orilluminating, not a revealing or a reception, but rather a dividing. Where there is anyquiddity or characteristic of any kind, there is a distinction, a parsing, a forming ofboundaries between “this” and “another.” Without this bordering, no characteristics canexist. But things do not border themselves; it is a particular biased perspective andcognitive apparatus of a sentient being that decides to divide up the world in one way oranother, setting the limits to how much of the given counts as “this thing” and how muchas “that thing,” where things begin and end. This is what constitutes the world of shapes,colors, entities, characteristics. When contemplating mind, then, where is mind to befound? Mind cannot directly be an object of mind. By mind-contemplation, theattentiveness to, say, the stream of words and emotions through one’s “interior 20
  • 21. monologue” is not meant. These are mental objects, not the distinguishing function ofmind as subject and perceiver. All these things are distinguishable, are perceivable,hence all belong to the realm of objects. Rather, wherever one notices a characteristic ofany kind, any sort of definitive presence, one is to see the activity of mind. Thegreenness of green, the redness of red, the bookness of book, the spaciness of space: theseare mind. And this mind is not the pure mind, but the deluded mind, the mind thatmakes arbitrary and biased distinctions. This deluded mind is the creator of all particularthings, including the Buddha, and it is this deluded mind that is to be the object ofcontemplation in Tiantai practice. Hence, in the passage from Zhiyi translated inKantor’s article in this volume, we find first an exhaustive cataloguing of specific aspectsof determinate existence: a kind of sweeping through all imaginable distinctions intospecific characteristics available to the mind as it is operating here at this moment,designated as “the three thousand natures and marks.” Zhiyi’s discussion of “theinconceivable realm” explicitly begins with a statement of his modus operandi; inKantor’s translation, “As this realm can be hardly expressed, we first expound theconceivable realm, in order to find an easier way making the inconceivable realmevident.” We have here an exercise in invoking the awareness of the totality of theknown—whatever one can presently perceive, conceive, imagine. An effort is made toextend this to all imaginable aspects: the possible, the actual, the subjective, theobjective. Every substance, every attribute, every aspect, every possible view of everypossible thing, everything one is capable of noticing, is to be included here in the“conceivable realm” (siyijing), and Zhiyi’s exhaustive enumeration may be viewed as anexercise encouraging one to practice noticing more and more of what is noticeable, 21
  • 22. leaving nothing out. Then we turn to the “inconceivable realm”: what is left out of thisexhaustive surveying? Not an additional “known” but the condition of it, present in itall, as the very process of surveying it all: “Mind.” This is then the “inconceivablerealm” (busiyijing). It is to be noted in noting the “knownness” of the known, the“clarity,” the “distinctness,” the “presence,” the “being-there,” in their separation fromone another, their being precisely what they are, in their disambiguation, their identity.That is the presence of “mind” in them. Viewing the mind is viewing this. We mightdescribe this as the aspect of “ness” to the redness of red, the greenness of green, thehotness of hot, the coldness of cold. Where there is a thing, there is its “distinctness,” itsidentity, its “being itself and none other.” That aspect of all things is one’s own(deluded) mind. That things are present to you as they are is your mind. It is this that iscontemplated in the contemplation of mind as the inconceivable realm.Q: [Zhiyi’s] Fahuaxuanyi says that the object is able to contemplate the subject.Although many scriptures are quoted to verify it, it is hard to understand the liberatingcoherence of this claim.A: If we follow the merely upayic teachings, there is no way to see the liberatingcoherence of this idea. But it is quite easy to integrate it coherently into the ultimateteaching. We take mind itself as the object, while mind is also the subject that is doingthe contemplating. Thus subject and object are both mind, and both the mind and itssubstance pervade everywhere. Each state of mind reflects on another state of mind—thecoherence of this is quite clear. Thus at the beginning of the section on the Inconceivable 22
  • 23. Object it says, ‘The inconceivable object is itself precisely the subject doing thecontemplating.’ From this we can derive four different but equally accuratedescriptions: 1) the object is aware of the object, 2) the object is aware of the subject, 3)the subject is aware of the object, 4) the subject is aware of the subject. As soon as thereis any real awareness, it is beyond description. But the awareness should be described,for it then goes beyond what can be completely comprehended by the awareness alone.Conversely, as soon as there is any real description, it cannot be exhausted byawareness. But the description should become an object of awareness, for it then goesbeyond what can exhausted by the description alone. Thus it is different from whatpeople of the world normally think of, namely, an inert object as what we are aware ofand contemplate. It differs also from the one-sided Hinayana idea of the deluded mind asthe object of contemplation. Nor is it the same as the idea of artificially setting upSuchness as the object of contemplation. These differences conceptions of thecontemplated object also apply to the contemplating subject—do not carelessly confoundthem.10Here we have the most distinctive aspect of Tiantai thought, distinguishing it from mostother Buddhist “mind-only” doctrines. Mind-only also means matter-only, and eachmeans both. We cannot assert a one-way perceiver-perceived relation. This is also seenin Zhanran’s awareness-non-awareness point, and further explicated below in themetaphor of the empty sky and the illusory flowers. Hence it is just as accurate to saysubject is perceiving object and to say object is perceiving subject, or that subject isperceiving subject, or that object is perceiving object. Indeed, as Zhiyi says, each of 23
  • 24. these alone is the entirety of the dharma-realm, described in three alternate ways: assubject, as object and as the act of subject encountering and perceiving object. “Theentire dharma-realm confronts the entire dharma-realm, and the entire dharma-realmarises as a result.”11 Note however that this does not mean that none of the descriptionsis accurate, or that we should instead say that no arising or perceiving takes place, that inreality these three reduce into an undifferentiated totality; any of the descriptions isequally accurate, according to the demands of upaya, the only determinant of any claimwhatsoever. The differentiation is itself inherently entailed, and necessary to theunfolding of the non-differentiation. Zhanran’s further comments here on the relationbetween contemplation and verbal description are especially telling. Neither is moreultimate than the other, and each exceeds the other. Finally, Zhanran distinguishes thisfrom several other views of subject-object relations, and delusion-truth relations. It isnot an active and aware mind that unilaterally perceives an inert and non-aware object, ascommon sense would assume. Nor is the Tiantai contemplation of deluded mind like theHinayana contemplation of deluded mind, where the latter is something to be transcendedand discarded when the real truth is realized, where the real truth is conceived of assomething lying beyond the deluded mind, separable from it. Nor is it the entertaining ofa real truth—Suchness—as the direct object of contemplation, apart from the deludedmind itself. The contemplator too differs: it is not one-sidedly active as opposed topassive, perceiving as opposed to perceived. Rather, the contemplator is all threethousand pure and impure natures and characteristics; the object of contemplation,equally, is all three thousand; the activity of contemplating itself, arising from theinteraction of these two, is also all three thousand. 24
  • 25. Q: ….[The Mohezhiguan] says, ‘[When we speak of “one” single moment of mentalactivity] we are not regarding it in the same way as ordinary people of the world, forwhom a single moment of mental activity clung to [as definitively “one,” where “one”and “diverse” are regarded as definitive, mutually exclusive characteristics12] is capableof inherently including the Three Thousand. Is this the case only in this context, oreverywhere?A: Everywhere.Q: Then is it that this clung-to mind does not inherently include the Three Thousand?A: This is said only with respect to the object to be used in contemplation. The clung-tomind itself is originally all dharmas. We come to see that this mind of clinging is born ofconditions, and hence is illusory and false. [And yet] the Three Thousand, being mereaspects of [lit., within] this falsity, are in their own essence [i.e., apart from this mentalactivity] devoid of self-nature. [Thus] they are themselves precisely the inconceivableintegrated and wondrous Emptiness, Provisionality and Centrality of the nature of minditself. It is like [illusory images of] flowers in the sky. Since there is no difference insubstance between the flowers and the empty sky, this empty sky does not correspond toeither the word ‘flower’ or to the word ‘empty sky,’ for the latter was originally positedin contradistinction to the flowers. This emptiness has no name. Extending this point indetail, the same applies to all things.13A moment of mental activity is in reality neither one nor many. As shown in the passagetranslated in Kantor’s article in this volume, it does not merely “produce” or 25
  • 26. “encompass” all dharmas: it is all dharmas. That is to say, either “this moment” or “alldharmas” are equally valid descriptions of it. Which is appropriate is determined by theneeds of any given upayic situation. But here Zhanran describes the Tiantai mind-contemplation practice clearly. All determinate marks of the world are seen to beaspects of this moment of mental activity—as we saw above, things themselves do notdeclare themselves “same” or “different,” so wherever we see sameness or difference—that is, wherever we see anything at all—we see the activity of this deluded mind. But ifall is mind, then mind no longer means mind as contrasted to non-mind. Mind assubstrate or producer crashes by virtue of its very success: when seen to be everywherewithout exception, such that even the negation of it can only be it, it no longer meanswhat it originally meant. In Zhanran’s metaphor, mind is like empty sky, and alldeterminate marks are like the illusory images of flowers floating in the air, as a result ofan eye disease. Once the flowers are seen to be nothing but sky, sky means “sky-and-flowers,” and similarly flowers, since they mean sky, mean “sky-and-flowers.” Hencebecause all things are mind, they are empty. But because all things are empty, mind isempty. Yet mind determines these things in this one particular way because of itscurrent state of delusive bias. It is provisionally posited, and thus they are correlativelyprovisionally posited. But its particular state cannot be produced from itself, another,both or neither; looking purely at its place in the temporal sequence of diverse mentalstates, its relation to its border with other states, entailed in its contrast to them and henceto its particular identity, proves unintelligible. Hence each of these marks is theEmptiness, Provisionality and Centrality of the nature of mind itself; they are inherentlyentailed, pervading all times and places, and intersubsumptive. We can now further 26
  • 27. understand the claim that object perceives subject: the manifestation of each biasedappearance in my mind right now is also an upayic self-presentation of each reality.Either is as much the agent and the patient as the other. The sky-flower metaphor helpsus understand the statue-road metaphor cited earlier. In keeping with the claim that “theindividual colors are a small portion of Conventional Truth,” and hence are truthsthemselves, which however interpenetrate with the excluded portions of truth, the statueis to the road as the flower is to the sky. The statues are nothing but road, and hence“road” no longer means what it did when the contrast between the two was in place.Hence neither the road nor the statues, neither the sky nor the flowers, neither the mindnor all dharmas, ever arises or perishes. All are inherently entailed in every particulartime and place.Q: Are all the Great Master’s (Zhiyi) oral transmissions purely to cure various diseases,or is there any other essential heart of the teaching he transmitted?A: They are all to cure various diseases. But there is one verse that says:“The teacher taught the following maxim:The Ultimately Real mind is connected to the Ultimately Real object,Thereby producing Ultimately Real conditioned states in sequence.Real pours into Real, one after another,And thus effortlessly one enters the Real Liberating Coherence.”I explain this as follows: If the mind connects to the object, then the object necessarilyconnects to the mind as well. When mind and object connect to one another, this iscalled the Ultimately Real conditioned state. And then this is done by the following 27
  • 28. moment of mind, so that one such mental event follows another without interruption.Each mental event connects to the previous mental event. This is called “[OneUltimately Real after another Ultimately Real] pouring into one another.” This meansalso the mind pouring into the object, the object pouring into the object, the objectpouring into the mind. Each mind, each object, each moment of mental activity poursinto all the others; when this continues in every sequential moment without interruption,one effortlessly moves into the identity with Buddhahood at the level of contemplationand practice, the identity with Buddhahood at the level of versimilitude, and the identitywith Buddhahood at the level of partial realization. This is called entering into the RealLiberating Coherence.14Here we see again the distinctiveness of Tiantai thought. The final result of seeing thatall determinate characteristics encountered in experience are produced by our owndeluded cognitive divisions, and thus have no reality of their own, is not to dismiss themas ultimately unreal, nor to correct our misperception (it’s all in my head, all I have to dois see it differently and it will be different!). Rather, the final upshot is that each andevery determinate characteristic I encounter is even more real than I formerly believed itto be: it is ultimate reality. My very act of misperceiving in this particular way is itselfineradicably built-into reality. My illusion is the very self-disclosure of the ultimatetruth. So the world I observe, with all its mountains and rivers, its obstructions andmateriality, its politics and struggles, far from vanishing into illusion or being reduced tomind, is very real, absolutely real, in its every detail. Every aspect is equally real. Alldharmas are absolute reality. Each dharma is absolute reality. The world as we see it, 28
  • 29. or as each individual deluded sentient being sees it, is not merely an illusion. Eachmisperception is the ultimate truth. Whatever colors, shapes, situations, valences,tendencies, characteristics my crazy deluded mind may be experiencing, these are notmerely to be refuted, deconstructed, shown to be empty, and discarded; rather, preciselywhen so deconstructed, the reconstitute themselves as not merely contingent partialrealities, but as the totality of absolute reality, of absolute truth. Because they areillusions, they are the truth. Every illusory perception entertained however fleetingly byany sentient being is the absolute truth.1 This claim is somewhat controversial, as Nagarjuna’s epistemological position is notoriously ambiguous and subjectto many interpretations. The picture is further complicated if we factor the Dazhidulun (*Mahaprajnaparamitasastra),a text attributed to Nagarjuna and extant only in Chinese, into our interpretation, but most scholars consider thisattribution spurious. Zhiyi’s understanding of Madhyamika thought, however, relies heavily on this text.2 T39.88b.3 T46.783a.4 T46.451c.5 T45.452b-c.6 T46.451c.7 T46.452a.8 T46.452a.9 T17.908a.10 T46.452b.11 T46.9a. The alternate version of the text, given in the Taisho, is “The Buddha’s dharma-realm confronts thedharma-realm, giving rise to the dharma-realm, so that none is not the dharma of the Buddha.” Later Tiantai writerstend to use the version without the character “Buddha” at the beginning of the phrase, rendering the more generalmeaning given here. See Zhanran’s citation of this passage at T46.451b, quoted above.12 “And again, when we speak of ‘one single moment of mental activity,’ we do not mean the same thing as whatpeople of the world attach to as ‘one single’ moment where ‘one’ and ‘diverse’ are regarded as fixed characteristics.We merely say ‘one’ to designate what is neither one nor diverse. It is like the way a single moment of mentalactivity, when covered over by the phenomenon of sleep, can dream of the events of a limitless span of generations.”Zhiyi, Mohezhiguan, T46.127a-b.13 T46.452c.14 T46.453a. 29