T'ien-T'ai Chih-I's Theory of Buddha Nature—A Realistic and Humanistic Understanding of the Buddha

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T'ien-T'ai Chih-I's Theory of Buddha Nature—A Realistic and Humanistic Understanding of the Buddha
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Citation: Shih, Heng-Ching. "T'ien-T'ai Chih-I's Theory of Buddha Nature—A Realistic and Humanistic Understanding of the Buddha." In Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota, edited by Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan, 153–70. Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1990.

Article Summary

Heng-ching Shih, in her contribution, explores in some detail the T'ien-t'ai view of Buddha Nature, with a special focus on the question of evil. This is clearly a difficult issue for any philosophical school whose basic affirmation is that all living beings are naturally and originally pure and radiant: how, if this is true, can one account for the apparent existence of evil, the opposite or absence of this purity and radiance? Shih's chronological review of the development of the theory of "inherent evil" in T'ien-t'ai begins with the Ta ch'eng chih-kuan fa men which, in accord with the tradition, she judges to predate Chih-i himself, and then proceeds to an analysis of the Kuan-yin hsüan-i, a work that, again following tradition, she attributes to Chih-i. It is probably fair to say that the weight of contemporary historical-critical scholarship in both Japan and the West is against both this chronology and this attribution; Shih is, of course, aware of this, but judges the arguments against the traditional position to be inconclusive. The matter is complex, and the importance of Shih's paper lies not in this but rather in the substantive doctrinal analysis she provides of "inherent evil". (Griffiths and Keenan, introduction to Buddha Nature, 6)