views updated


Zhili (Siming Fazhi fashi, 960–1028) reestablished the Tiantai school during China's Northern Song dynasty period by leading the Shanjia (orthodox) attack on the Shanwai (heterodox) interpretations of Tiantai doctrine and practice. Zhili stressed the uniqueness of Tiantai teaching as opposed to those of the Huayan school and Chan school. He emphasized the doctrines of evil inherent in the buddha-nature, the contemplation of the deluded mind, the inherent entailment of all quiddities in each other, the existence of differentiated characteristics even in the absence of delusion, the simultaneous validity of both mind-only and matter-only doctrines, and "the ultimacy of the dung-beetle." The last-named doctrine was rooted in his claim that enlightenment was a state that made more explicit all determinate realities, good and evil, and disclosed each sentient being's identity not only with the Buddha, but with all other possible sentient beings in all their aspects, all of which were the ultimate reality.

Zhili was instrumental in combining Tiantai doctrine with Pure Land practice, and much of his doctrinal work can be understood as an attempt to provide an adequate framework for understanding the necessity and legitimacy of Buddhist ritual practice in the face of certain interpretations of "sudden enlightenment" that might threaten it. In 1017 he made a vow to commit selfimmolation after three years of practicing the Lotus Repentance with a group of junior monks. He vowed to be reborn in AmitĀbha's Pure Land. After defending his intention to commit this arguably sinful act in a series of letters, in which Zhili makes the notorious claim that "there is no Buddha but the Devil, and no Devil but the Buddha," he finally abandoned his plan, and was given a purple robe and the honorific name Fazhi (Dharma-wisdom) by the emperor.

See also:Pure Land Buddhism


Chan, Chi-wah. "Chih-li (960–1028) and the Crisis of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism in the Early Sung." In Buddhism in the Sung, ed. Peter N. Gregory and Daniel A. Getz, Jr. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

Ziporyn, Brook. "Anti-Chan Polemics in Post-Tang Tiantai." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17, no. 1 (1994): 26–63.

Ziporyn, Brook. Evil and/or/as the Good: Omnicentrism, Inter-subjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Brook Ziporyn