Five Periods and Eight Schools

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Five Periods and Eight Schools. Tʾientʾai classification, initiated by Chih-i, of the Buddha's teaching to reconcile the immense divergences that had grown up since his death. Controlled by the acceptance that the Buddha adapted his teaching to the levels of his audiences (upāya-kauśalya), the five periods are chronological in his life, producing (i) Buddhāvatamsaka-sūtra in the first three weeks; (ii) the Āgamas in the next twelve years; (iii) the Vaipulya-sūtras, the first level of Mahāyāna, stressing superiority of bodhisattva over arhat, in the next eight years; (iv) Prajñāpār-amitā-sūtra (Perfection of Wisdom), unfolding śūnyatā, in the next twenty-two years; (v) the Lotus Sūtra and Mahāparinirvāna-sūtra in his last eight years. But since the Buddha's teaching is indivisible, it was always present in each of the five periods, so that the stress on one aspect more than another led to eight different schools. Tʾien-tʾai and the Lotus Sūtra re-establish the primordial unity.