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

Heng-ching Shih


             Among  the  three  main  `Mahayana`   doctrinal
        traditions   in  Indian   Buddhism--   `Madhyamika`,
        `Yogacara`,and `Tathagatagarbhavada`(1)--the`Tathaga
        tagarbhavada`, which affirms the fundamental  nature
        of  enlightenment   in  sentient   beings,  had  the
        greatest   influence   on  Chinese  Buddhism.   Such
        important schools as the Hua-yen, T'ien-t'ai, Ch'an,
        and San-lun not only accept Buddha Nature as a basic
        tenet, but also consider  it the ultimate  teaching.
        But they did not simply  parrot the Indian  teaching
        on Buddha Nature; what makes the Chinese doctrine of
        tathagatagarbha  or Buddha  Nature  outstanding  and
        unique  is  that  Chinese  Buddhists  developed  and
        reinterpreted it creatively.

             A    good    example     of    such    creative
        reinterpretation  is the  T'ien-t'ai  doctrine  that
        evil   inherently    exists    in   Buddha   Nature.
        Traditionally, the nature  of the Buddha  represents
        absolute goodness and purity.  The radical departure
        of the theory of inherent evil from this traditional
        view caused great controversy in China,
            (1) Fa-tsang,the most important patriarch of the
        Hua-yen  school,  was  the  first  to  identify  the
        `Tathagatagarbha`  as  an  independent  school.  See
        Minoru  Kiyota, "`Tathagatagarbha`  Thought: A Basis
        of Buddhist  Devotionalism  in East  Asia"  Japanese
        Journal of Religious Studies 12 (1985), 207-231.


        and elicited criticism  not only from other schools,
        such as Hua-yen,(2) but also from certain T'ien-t'ai
        Buddhists as well,

             The  theory  of inherent  evil  or impurity  in
        Buddha Nature was first taught by T'ien-t'ai  Chih-i
        (538-597  CE) in his Kuan-yin  hsuan-i (The Profound
        Meaning of the `Sutra` on Kuan-Yin).(3)He maintained
        that the icchantika  is devoid of empircal  good but
        endowed with the inherent  nature of good, while the
        Buddha is devoid of empirical  evil but replete with
        the inherent  nature of evil.  In Chih-i's  holistic
        view of mind and reality, this view of Buddha Nature
        is a natural  development  from the basic T'ien-t'ai

             In  this  essay  I will  first  look  into  the
        doctrinal  sources  of the theory  of inherent  evil
        which existed  before Chih-i, with special reference
        to the Ta-ch'eng chih-kuan fa-men (`Mahayana` Method
        of Practicing Mental Quiescence and Insight).(4)Then,
        in order to contextualize  Chih-i's contribution  to
        the doctrine  of Buddha  Nature, the second  section
        will deal with the content and meaning of the theory
        in the Kuan-yin  hsuan-i.  A third section will deal
        with the place of Chih-i's  theory of inherent  evil
        in the  broader  structure  of his thought;  and the
        last  section  will  discuss  the  problematic   and
        significance of the theory.

             The Source  of the Theory  of Inherent  Evil in
        Buddha Nature

             The Ta ch'eng chih-kuan fa-men was attributed to
        the  second  patriarch  of  the  T'ien-t'ai  school,
        Hui-ssu  (515-577  CE).  It is one  of the  earliest
        T'ien-t'ai works which discusses the dual natures of
        purity  and impurity  of the  `tathagatagarbha`.  It
        explains the `tathagatagarbha` as follows:

               The `tathagatagarbha` embraces the natures of
               all sentient  beings, each  of which  differs
               from the others, thus constituting  differen-
               ces within what is without difference.  Hence
               the natures  of each  and every  one of these
               sentient   beings,  for   all  time,  contain
               qualities    that   are   immeasurable    and
               boundless. This statement
            (2) For example, Tsu-juei, in his Commentary  on
        the Awakening of Faith in `Mahayana` proclaimed that
        the theory  of inherent  evil  was a heretical  view
        which could cause one to fall into hell (chuan 16).

            (3) The  authorship   of  this   work  has  been
        questioned  by some scholars.  The issue is taken up
        later   in  the  paper.   Until   further   evidence
        establishes  otherwise, we follow  the tradition  of
        acknowledging Chih-i as its author.

            (4) The authorship of this  work  also  has been
        questioned.   A  Japanese  T'ien-t'ai   monk  called
        Chen-chen,  in  his  Tien-t'ai   San-ta-pu   Ssu-chi
        (Personal   Notes  on  the  Three   Great  Works  of
        T'ien-t'ai)  raises doubts concerning the authorship
        of the text No matter who the author  may have been,
        the thought presented  in it clearly predates Chih-i
        and can be seen to be the main source  of the theory
        of inherent evil.


               has  reference  to all impure  things  of the
               mundane  worlds, such  as the  six modes  [of
               existence],  the   four   kinds   of   birth,
               suffering and happiness, beauty and ugliness,
               ignorance  and wisdom;  also  to all the pure
               things that transcend  the world, such as the
               causes  and effects  derived  from  the Three
               Vehicles.  All these endlessly differentiated
               qualities are contained within the natures of
               each and every  sentient  being, all complete
               without  the slightest  diminution.  For this
               reason  the storehouse  of the `Tathagata` has
               originally, once  and for all time, contained
               the two natures, the one impure and the other
               pure.  Because  of its  impure  nature  it is
               capable  of  manifesting  the  impure  things
               pertaining to all sentient beings.  Hence the
               storehouse, being in this respect the `dharma-
               kaya` as  it  lies  within  the  barriers, is
               called  Buddha  Nature.  But because  it also
               contains  the pure  nature, it is capable  of
               manifesting the pure attributes of all the
               Buddhas.  Hence the storehouse, being in this
               respect the `dharmakaya` as it transcends the
               barriers,  is  also  called  naturally   pure
               `dharmakaya`, or naturally pure `nirvana`.(5)

             Hui-ssu  did not use the term  "inherent  evil"
        (hsing-er) which is used by Chih-i.  Rather, he used
        the term "inherent impurity" (hsing-jan).  Following
        the   `tathagaragarbha`   tradition,  the  Ta-ch'eng
        chih-kuan  fa-men  takes  the  `tathagatagarbha`  as
        possessing  two aspects, the "empty tathagatagarbha"
        and the "non-empty `tathagatagarbha`."  However, the
        meaning  of the latter  term in the Ta-ch'eng  chih-
        kuan  fa-men  is  different   from  the  traditional
        definition found in `tathagatagarbha`  texts such as
        the Lion's Roar of Queen `Srimala`; the Awakening of
        Faith  in `Mahayana`, and  so forth.  In the  latter
        text  the "non-empty  `tathagatagarbha`"  refers  to
        immeasurably  undefiled  and pure virtues, i.e., the
        garbha  empty  of all defilements.  By contrast, the
        "non-empty   `tathagatagarbha`"   in  the  Ta-ch'eng
        chih-kuan  fa-men includes both purity and impurity.
        This   text  describes   the  pure  aspect   of  the

               Although   this  pure  mind   is  equal   and
               substantially   undifferentiated,  it  is
               endowed with undefiled virtues as many as the
               sands  of the  Ganges.  This  is because  the
               self-nature  of the mind  possesses  great
               wisdom  and light and is truly knowledgeable,
               eternal, blissful, autonomous,  and  pure.
               Immeasurable  pure virtues like these are all
               one  mind, as extensively  elucidated  in the
               Awakening of Faith in `Mahayana`. Because the
               pure mind embraces such pure dharmas, it is
               said to be non-empty.(6)
            (5)`Taisho` 46, 647c.  The translation is taken,
        with some slight modifications, from Fung Yu- lan, A
        History of Chinese  Philosophy  (2 vols., Princeton,
        1953), II.362.

            (6)`Taisho` 46, 646a.


             There  is little  controversy  over  this  pure
        aspect  of the "non-empty  `tathagatagarbha`," since
        mind  is consistently  held  to be positive  in  the
        `tathagatagarbha` tradition.  The defilements of the
        mind are held to be "adventitious"  (`agantuka`) and
        are  in  no  sense  inherent  in  or innate  to  the
        `garbha`.   But  the  Ta-ch'eng   chih-kuan   fa-men
        presents a new interpretation  of this impure aspect
        of the "non-empty  `tathagatagarbha`."  The impurity
        of the  mind, it teaches, contains  both  the impure
        nature and impure things. According to the Ta-ch'eng
        chih-kuan  fa-men, the impure nature of the mind has
        two  functions: "to [karmically]  produce  life  and
        death" and "to make life and death."(7)The difference
        between these two functions  lies in the meanings of
        the  terms  "produce"  and "make."  In the  case  of
        ordinary beings, the impure nature engenders actions
        and  karmic  retributions, resulting  in the endless
        transmigrations of birth and death.  This is what is
        meant  by the impure  nature  being able to "produce
        life  and death."  In the case  of the  Buddhas, the
        impure  nature  can  "make"  the  `dharmakaya`  of a
        Buddha  transmigrate  in the five paths of existence
        for the sake of sentient  beings.  This  is what  is
        meant by the impure nature  being able to "make life
        and death." This interpretation  of impure nature
        laid the groundwork  for Chih-i's theory of inherent

             Two  reasons   are  given   for   the  Buddhas'
        retention  of  the  impure  nature  even  after  the
        achievement   of  Buddhahood.   First,  the  nature,
        whether   pure  or  impure,  remains   fundamentally
        immutable.  Second, the  impure  nature  provides  a
        basis   for  activating   and   carrying   out   the
        compassionate  actions  of  Buddha.   The  Ta-ch'eng
        chih-kuan   fa-men  explains  the  first  reason  as

               Question:  Regarding   the  fact   that   the
               storehouse of the `Tathagata` embodies two kinds
               of nature, the one impure and the other pure,
               does  this  mean that  these  natures  become
               formed  as the  result  of habit, or  do they
               remain  forever  unchangeable?

               Answer: These natures, both as substance  and
               function, are [forever] unchangeable  and are
               not formed as the result of habit. That it is
               why it is said that Buddha  Nature, the great
               ruler, is not something created. How then can
               it  be formed  as the  result  of  habit? And
               since Buddha Nature, that is the pure nature,
               can not be created, this means that the impure
               nature, which is identical in substance even
               though it belongs to the world of physical
               things, likewise cannot be formed as the result
               of habit.(8)

             This   interpretation   of   the   unchangeable
        substance   of  the  mind   is  in  line  with   the
        `tathagatagarbha`  tradition;   however,  it  is  in
        contrast  with the doctrine  of `anatman`  (no-self)
        taught in early Buddhism.  Although  the doctrine of
        an    innately    pure    mind,    whether    called
        `tathagatagarbha`  or Buddha  Nature, is problematic
        in Buddhist
            (7)`Taisho` 46, 646b.
            (8)Fung, Hisrory, II.379. The translation has
        been slightly amended.


        hermeneutics,  it  does  provide   a  positive   and
        optimistic view of human potential for awakening.(9)

             The Ta-ch'eng  chih-kuan  fa-men  explains  the
        second  reason  why the  Buddhas  retain  the impure

               Question: With  the  extinguishing  of impure
               perfuming,   the   nature   in   its   impure
               functioning no longer produces [the cycle of)
               life and death. Does this mean that after the
               achievement    of   Buddhahood   the   nature
               completely  fails  to  function?

               Answer: This  nature, not being  perfumed  by
               pollution, no longer produces  [the cycle of]
               life and death.  And yet, as long  as mind is
               motivated, it [the nature], being perfumed by
               the compassionate  wish  [of the  Buddhas  to
               save  all  beings],  may  still   act  as  an
               instrument for conversion.(10)

             This passage spells out a very important reason
        for  the  existence  of  evil  in  the  Buddha.  The
        important point is that although the Buddha's nature
        can no longer be polluted  the element of evil in it
        can  act  as an  expedient  instrument (`upaya`) for

             As to the mind's embracing  impure  things, the
        Ta-ch'eng chih-kuan fa-men states:

               The embracing of impure things by the essence
               of the mind means  that this  impure  nature,
               being  perfumed  by  impure  deeds (`karma`),
               creates the condition of ignorance (`avidya`)
               and  the  seeds  of  all  impure  things.  In
               accordance with these seeds, various kinds of
               karmic retribution are manifested. This igno-
               rance, together  with these fruits  of karma,
               constitute  the  things  of  impurity.   This
               condition  of  ignorance,  however,  together
               with the karmic retributions  induced  by the
               seeds, although  manifested  in various forms
               that  are spoken  of as [phenomenal]  things,
               nevertheless  all  have  the single  mind  as
               their substance  and do not lie outside  this
               mind.  This is the reason why the mind is not
               [really]  'empty.'  The case is like  that of
               the  images  reflected  in  a bright  mirror.
               These have no substance other than the single
               mirror, yet this fact does  not prevent  them
               from  being  demarcated  according  to  their
               differences,  and  since  these  differing
               images  are all reflected  in the mirror, the
               latter is therefore said not to be empty.(11)
            (9) One of the main arguments about the validity
        of  tathagatagarbha  thought  is whether  it  repre-
        sents  a  form  of  monism   or  an  expression   of
            (10) Fung, History, II.382. The translation  has
        been slightly amended.
            (11) Ibid., II.365.  The  translation  has  been
        slightly amended.


             The  quotations   given   above   present   two
        important  doctrines: (1) The mind  is endowed  with
        two innate natures, namely, purity and impurity; (2)
        The impure or pure nature of the mind is capable  of
        manifesting  its  obverse, i.e., the pure  or impure
        things pertaining  to all sentient  beings.  Special
        attention  should be paid here to the word "innate."
        Although  it is sometimes  said  that the theory  of
        `tathagatagarbtha`  in  The  Awakening  of Faith  in
        `Mahayana`  is dualistic, in fact  the "one mind and
        two gates" schema of this text represents solely the
        innate  purity of mind, and not that impurity  which
        is  described  as  adventitious  or  accidental.  By
        contrast, the dual natures of purity and impurity in
        the Ta-ch'eng  chih-kuan  fa-men  are said  to exist
        inherently in the mind.

             In  Chinese   Buddhist   terminology,  "nature"
        (hsing)  is  equivalent  to t'i, the  essence  of  a
        thing, and "thing" (shih) is a phenomenon manifested
        as a result of the functioning  of"nature." In other
        words, "potentiality becomes manifest as actuality."
        In the  case  of the  Ta-ch'eng  chih-kuan  fa-men's
        explanation    of   `tathagatagarbha`,   since    it
        originally and for all time contains two natures, it
        is capable of manifesting  both impurity and purity.
        As the "essence  of mind of each and every  sentient
        being  and of each  and every  Buddha  is originally
        composed  of the two natures  without  the slightest
        distinction between them,"(12) the logical conclusion
        is that  both  sentient  beings  and the Buddha  are
        capable of manifesting impure actions.  However, the
        Ta-ch'eng  chih-kuan  fa-men  does not focus  on the
        difference  between  the impure actions  of sentient
        beings  and the Buddha.  It was Chih-i  who took  up
        this issue and gave it some theoretical clarity.

             The  Theory  of Inherent  Evil  in the Kuan-yin

             The Kuan-yin hsuan-i is Chih-i's commentary  on
        the Kuan-shih-yin pu-sa pu-men-pin, the twenty-fifth
        chapter  of  the  Lotus  `Sutra`.  He expounded  the
        meaning  of  Kuan-yin   (`Avalokitesvara`)   in  ten
        aspects.  It was  in the  explanation  of the  ninth
        aspect that Chih-i developed  his theory of inherent
        evil in the Buddha.  His explanation  can be divided
        into four sets of questions  and answers.  The first
        set reads:
            (12) `Taisho` 46, 646c.


               Question: As the  conditioned  and  revealing
               causes  of  Buddha  Nature  possess  inherent
               good, do they also possess inherent evil?(13)

               Answer: They do.(14)

             This question and answer assert a double aspect
        of Buddha  Nature, which is based  on the T'ien-t'ai
        philosophy  of  hsing-chuo,  "natural  endowment,  "
        which indicates the possession of full potential and
        reality.  Chih-li, an able disciple  of Chih-i, said
        in his Kuan-yin  hsuan-i chi (The Commentary  on the
        Kuan-yin hsuan-i):

               Just the word "endowment"  (Chu) can truly
               reflect  the  teaching  of this  [T'ien-t'ai]
               school, for all the other  schools  know  the
               inherent  good, but they  cannot  fathom  the
               teaching of inherent evil.(15)

             Strictly speaking, the hsing-chu  philosophy is
        common  to other schools  that affirm Buddha  Nature
        (hsing-tsung) such   as  the  Hua-yen,  T'ien-t'ai,
        Ch'an, and so forth.  However, although  the concept
        of  hsing-chu   emphasizes   absolute  and  perfect
        harmony among all differences  and takes the mind as
        encompassing  both  good  and  evil,  in  the  other
        schools  it  is  not  attributed  to Buddhas.  Since
        T'ien-t'ai's perfect teaching is concerned more with
        chu, or endowment, than  with  purity, it integrates
        evil and accepts its presence in Buddha Nature.

             The second question and answer are:

               Question:  What  good   and  evil   have  the
               icchantika and the Buddha eradicated?

               Answer: For the icchantika all empirical good
               (hsiu-shan)  has  been  eradicated, but  the
               innate  nature  of good exists, while for the
               Buddha all empirical evil (hsiu-o)  has been
               eradicated  but  the  innate  nature  of evil

             The icchantika is one who has severed the roots
        of virtue and does not engender  the aspiration  for
        enlightenment.  This  being  the case, a controversy
        arose as to
            (13) According   to  the  `Mahaparinirvanasutra`
        there are three causes  of Buddha  Nature: the basic
        cause,  the  conditioned  cause, and  the  revealing
        cause.  The basic cause refers to the `bhutatarhata`
        (chen-ju)  as the direct cause of attaining  perfect
        awakening,   which    is   associated    with    the
        `dharmakaya`.  The other two function  as activating
        causes, of  which  the  revealing  cause  refers  to
        `prajna`,  while   the  conditioned   cause   is  an
        environmental  cause, referring  to the practice and
        merits which result  in liberation.  The conditioned
        cause   can  enhance   the  revealing   cause  which
        manifests  the basic cause.  When the basic cause is
        fully manifest, Buddhahood is attained.
            (14) `Taisho` 34, 882c.
            (15) `Taisho` 35, 905a.
            (16) `Taisho` 34, 882c.


        whether  the icchantika  has Buddha Nature  and will
        eventually  become  a Buddha.  The key issue lies in
        the  question  of the  innate  existence  of  Buddha
        Nature  or  inherent  good  in the  icchantika.  All
        schools  which affirm  Buddha Nature teachings  hold
        that innate Buddha Nature exists universally, and so
        the icchantika  is eventually  certain  to become  a
        Buddha. What then is the difference between a Buddha
        and   an   icchantika?   Here   Chih-i    creatively
        reinterprets the issue through a distinction between
        "empirical  good" and "empirical  evil."  He divides
        both   good   and   evil   (or,  in  the   Ta-ch'eng
        chih-kuanfa-men's  terminology, purity and impurity)
        into  inherent  and experiential  aspects.  That is,
        inherent  good and inherent  evil are objective  and
        ontologically  existent, while  empirical  good  and
        empirical  evil  are subjective  and  experientially
        existent.  A Buddha who has attained  perfection  in
        compassion  and  wisdom  is subjectively  devoid  of
        acquired  impurity, but  objectively  possesses  the
        innate  nature  of  impurity.  On the  contrary, the
        icchantika  who  has engaged  in nothing  but impure
        activities  is subjectively  destitute  of  acquired
        good, but objectively  endowed  with  the nature  of

             The third question and answer are:

               Question: Why  is it that  inherent  good  or
               evil cannot be eradicated?

               Answer: The nature  of good or evil is simply
               the entrance  into the dharma  consisting  in
               good or evil.  This nature cannot be changed.
               No one  in the  past, present, or future  can
               destroy it, neither can it be eradicated. For
               example, even though  a demon  might  burn up
               all  the Buddhist  scriptures, how could  the
               activities of inherent good come to an end?
               Even  though  the Buddha  might  burn  up all
               evils, how could  the nature  of evil come to
               an  end? Consider  another  example: although
               Emperor  Ch'in  had burned  books  and buried
               Confucian  scholars  alive, how could he ever
               destroy the nature of good or evil?(17)

             The  theoretical   basis  for  the  ontological
        existence  of inherent  good  and evil  lies  in the
        immutability  of the basic nature  of good and evil.
        Chih-i  called  this  nature  an "entrance  into the
        dharma," indicating  symbolically  thereby  that the
        Buddha enters dharma through  the accomplishment  of
        empirical  good  and  the  elimination  of empirical
        evil, while the icchantika enters by the performance
        of empirical evil with an absence of empirical good.
        Although  the  entrance  serves  as  both  exit  and
        entrance, it remains  itself  unchanged.  Similarly,
        empirical  good and evil serve  as the entrances  to
        the states of Buddhahood  and icchantika, though the
        basic  nature  of good  and evil remain  essentially

             Since the Buddha has eradicated  empirical evil
        and at the same time retains inherent evil, there is
        a question as to whether the Buddha's inherent  evil
        will give rise to empirical evil. By the same token,
        although the icchantika has not created
            (17) `Taisho' 34, 882c.


             empirical evil, he or she does possess inherent
        good.  The  question  then  is  whether  it is still
        possible  for  the  icchantika  to create  empirical
        good. The fourth question and answer deals with this
        issue. It reads:

               Question: Can the icchantika  whose nature of
               good  is  not  eliminated  still  produce
               empirical  good? Can the Buddha  whose nature
               of  evil  is  not  eliminated  still  produce
               empirical  evil?

               Answer: The icchantika  does  not  comprehend
               the true nature  of good.  As a result, he is
               tainted  by good  and can  produce  empirical
               good  to counteract  all  evils  extensively.
               Although   the  Buddha   does  not  eliminate
               inherent evil, he comprehends [the nature of]
               evil.  As a result  he can  exercise  mastery
               over   evil   and  is  not  defiled   by  it.
               Furthermore, because his empirical evil never
               arises, the Buddha  will  never  create  evil
               again.  Due to his control  over evil, he can
               freely  make  use of evil  in order  to teach
               sentient  beings.  He utilizes  evil  all the
               time,  and  is  never  contaminated   by  it.
               Because  he is  not  defiled, empirical  evil
               does  not  arise.  How can the icchantika  be
               likened  to  the  Buddha? If  the  icchantika
               comprehends  [the  true nature  of] good  and
               evil, he is no longer an icchantika.(18)

             The statement that the icchantika  whose nature
        of  good  is  not  eliminated   can  still   produce
        empirical  good may be examined  from two points  of
        view: first, why  is  a  person  an  icchantika? And
        second,  what   is  his   potential   for  realizing
        Buddhahood? The  answer  that  Chih-i  gives  to the
        first  question  is that  the  icchantika  does  not
        understand   the  true  meaning  of  inherent  good.
        Because  of this it is said  that he is "tainted  by
        good", a  statement  which  requires  clarification.
        Here, "good"  does not refer  to inherent  good, but
        rather  to a kind of adventitious  good that is only
        partially good.  The icchantika  does not understand
        that  both  inherent  good  and  inherent  evil  are
        originally   empty   of   self-nature;    therefore,
        attachment  to them  arises.  This attached  good is
        said to be defiled or "tainted".  Nevertheless, even
        the defiled  good which he experiences, since  it is
        inevitably  imbued with undefiled  inherent good, is
        capable of counteracting  evil.  When the icchantika
        overcomes  evil with  experienced  good and realizes
        that  the  nature  of good  and evil  are empty  and
        unsubstantial, he will  no longer  be an icchantika.
        As  to the  icchantika's  possibility  of  realizing
        Buddhahood, it  lies  in the  permanent  and  innate
        presence  of inherent  good which becomes  activated
        when stimulated by favorable conditions.  As long as
        the existence  of universal  Buddha  Nature applies,
        the icchantika's future realization of Buddhahood is
        guaranteed, although  its actualization  depends  on
        various favorable circumstantial factors.

             If the icchantika  can produce  empirical  good
        from  the inherent  nature  of good, can  the Buddha
        similarly  produce evil from the inherent  nature of
        evil? The
            (18) `Taisho` 34, 882c.


        answer  is negative, and  the  reason  is that  even
        though retaining  inherent evil, the Buddha will not
        commit empirical evil even when producing evil.  The
        terminology differs here from that reported above on
        p.  154.  Here, "committing empirical evil" means to
        engage personally  in evil actions, something  which
        the Buddha has already abandoned.  "Producing  evil"
        means to manifest  empirical  evil, which means that
        the Buddha's  mastery  over evil renders it possible
        to manifest  (i.e., to produce)  evil without  being
        tainted by it.  The manifestation  of evil motivated
        by compassion on the part of the Buddha is necessary
        in order to teach and help sentient beings who are
        immersed in the defiled world.

             As we can see, Chih-i  takes  the existence  of
        inherent  evil in Buddha Nature as the basis for the
        Buddha's  compassionate  activities.  The theory  of
        inherent  evil is intended  to bring the Buddha into
        touch  with the real world of misery  and suffering,
        that  is, it is an attempt  to humanize  the  Buddha
        without undermining  his supreme qualities.  At this
        point  we may  ask an important  question: why is it
        necessary for the Buddha to possess inherent evil in
        order   to  carry  out  the  work  of  benefitting
        sentient  beings? Chih-i responded  to this question
        in his Kuan-yin hsuan-i:

               According to other schools, the [mind of the]
               icchantika  who is destitute  of good is able
               to produce good because he or she is perfumed
               by the `alayavijnana`. The `alayavijniana` is
               neutral  by nature  and the basis both of all
               the seeds of ignorance  and of good and evil.
               The icchantika  has not eradicated  ignorance
               but is able to produce good.  The Buddha, who
               has eradicated  ignorance, is not subject  to
               perfuming [from the `alayavijnana`; therefore
               for him evil  does not arise.  If the Buddha,
               then, wants  to teach and transform  sentient
               beings  by means  of evil, he has to manifest
               'supernatural power with intention'.(19)

             Here  "the  other  schools"  are  the  Northern
        Branch of the Ti-lun School and the She-lun  School.
        They   assert   that   the  `alayavijnana`   is  the
        storehouse consciousness containing the seeds of all
        good and evil. Since the `alayavijnana` functions in
        this  way  for icchantikas, the  seeds  of empirical
        good can grow through  the permeating  influence  of
        inherent   good.   On  the  other  hand,  since  the
        `alayavijnana`  has been transformed  into  `jnana`
        (wisdom)  in the case  of the Buddha, the  seeds  of
        evil  are  completely  eliminated.  In other  words,
        according  to these schools  the Buddha is free from
        defilement  and abides in absolute purity.  Although
        immune  to evil, the Buddha  can still  perform  the
        work  of  helping   and  saving   living  beings  by
        utilizing  empirically  evil methods;  to do this he
        has to manifest supernatural power "with intention".
        Such activity  does not seem culpable  to the Ti-lun
        or She-lun schools.  However, Chih-i criticized this
             (19) `Taisho` 34, 882c.


               If evil is completely eliminated at the stage
               of Buddhahood, the Buddha  has  to elicit  an
               intention  in regard to evil in order to help
               sentient beings.  This is as artificial  as a
               man painting  a picture.  However, just  as a
               mirror  without  motion  can  reflect  images
               spontaneously,  the  inconceivable  principle
               should  be able  to  manifest  evil.  If  the
               Buddha  has to bring  forth  a conscious  in-
               tention  [in order to help sentient  beings],
               how  then  is the  Buddha  different  from  a

             As  this  passage  indicates, Chih-i  does  not
        question the explanation  of the Buddha's ability to
        perform  good  deeds,  although   he  is  immune  to
        inherent evil.  His criticism  focuses rather on the
        necessity  of the Buddha's  conscious  intention  in
        regard  to evil  in performing  good  deeds.  In the
        Fa-hua hsuan-i  ("The Profound Meaning of the Lotus
        `Sutra`"),  Chih-i  distinguishes   three  kinds  of
        supernatural    powers:    (1)    the    intentional
        supernatural  powers  of the non-Buddhist;  (2)  the
        undefiled supernatural powers of the `Hinayna`;  and
        (3) the ultimately  true supernatural  powers of the
        `Mahayana`.(21)  The   Buddha   has   the   greatest
        supernatural  powers.  These  differ  from those  of
        others in that thay are completely unintentional and
        effortless. According to the `Mahayanasangraha`, the
        `dharmakaya` of the Buddha has absolute self-mastery
        or freedom in ten respects,(22) and the Buddha devotes
        himself in altruistic  endeavours spontaneously  and
        effortlessly.  Vasubandhu  explains  the meaning  of
        "effortless" by saying:

               Intention means making effort, responding  to
               conditions  pertaining  to the three  worlds,
               and having  the thought  that one has oneself
               done, is doing, or will do something. To have
               no such thought is to do things effortlessly.

             Only that supernatural power which is exercised
        unintentionally  and effortlessly  can be said to be
        masterful.  According  to  T'ien-t'ai, in  order  to
        activate  freely  the  self-mastering   supernatural
        powers  in  response  to living  beings'  needs, the
        nature of the Buddha  must contain  latent  elements
        which correspond to those of living beings, which of
        course comprise both good and evil. Since the Buddha
        certainly  has absolutely  free  and  self-mastering
        supernatural  power, the logical conclusion  is that
        the elements  of evil must necessarily  be innate in
        the nature of the Buddha.
             (20) `Taisho` 34, 882c-883a.
             (21) `Taisho` 33, 692b.
             (22) The ten aspects of self-mastery  are those
        regarding  the  mind,  wealth,  karma,  birth, life,
        happiness, vows, knowledge, wisdom, and dharma.  See
        Paul J.  Griffiths et al., The Realm of Awakening: A
        Study  and  Translation  of Chapter  Ten of Asanga's
        `Mahayanasangraha` (New York, 1989), 77-81.
             (23) `Taisho` 31, 262a.


        The Doctrinal  Context  for the Theory  of lnherent

             The fundamental basis for the T'ien-t'ai theory
        of  inherent  evil  is  the  absolute   identity  of
        contrasts which unifies and harmonizes all opposites
        or dualistic  qualities.  The theory of the complete
        hairmony and identity of contrast or duality has its
        root  in  the  principal  T'ien-t'ai  teachings: the
        "mutual  encompassing  of the  realms," the "hundred
        realms and thousand suchnesses;" the "three thousand
        worlds  immanent  in one moment of thought," and the
        "three tracks."

             For  example, we may take  the teaching  of the
        three  tracks  to explain  what  the  theory  of the
        identity  of opposites  signifies  in the  so-called
        "exclusive perfect teaching of T'ien-t'ai." It is in
        the Fa-hua hsuan-i  that Chih-i  set forth the three
        tracks and explained their relationship:

               The three tracks  are: (1) the track  of true
               nature;  (2) the track  of contemplation  and
               illumination;  (3)  the track  of assistance.
               Although  these  are three  in name, they are
               the Dharma of the `Mahayana`. These three are
               not   three,   for   they    can   be   taken
               holistically.  Yet  the one is also  not one,
               for  it  can  be  taken   as  [distinctively]

             In the  perfect  teaching, the  "track  of true
        nature"  refers to the substance  of ultimate  truth
        (`bhuatatathata`).  When this is fully revealed, the
        `dharmakaya`   becomes   manifest.   The  "track  of
        contemplation  and illumination"  refers to ultimate
        emptiness  (`sunyata`),  the  realization  of  which
        leads to `prajna`: The "track of assistance"  refers
        to  the  numerous  virtues  of the  `Tathagata`, the
        realization of which is liberation.  The relation of
        these tracks is one in three and three in one. Taken
        separately,  the   "track   of   contemplation   and
        illumination"  and the "track of assistance"  can be
        contracted;   that  is  to  say,  only  through  the
        contracting  force of the "track of assistance"  can
        the "track of true nature"  be realized.  Thus it is
        said  that  bodhi  without  the  impetus  of `klesa`
        cannot  be true bodhi.  Applying  this theory to the
        contrasting  conceptions  of good  and  evil, Chih-i
        thus says in the Fa-hna hsuan-i:

               The mind  of man encompasses  the ten realms,
               which  in turn innately  comprise  the nature
               and characteristics  of good  and  evil.  The
               nature and characteristics of evil are simply
               the nature and characteristics of good.  From
               evil comes good; apart from evil
             (24) `Taisho` 33, 741b.


               good does not exist. To turn evil around good
               is accomplished.(25)

             Chih-i thought that all defilements are nothing
        but the seeds  of Buddhahood.  The two  are mutually
        identical  and interpenetrating.  At the stage of an
        ordinary  person, evil  functions  as  an  assisting
        element, since "enlightenment  is innately  existent
        in evil." Objectively speaking, evil is illusory and
        subjectively speaking it is controllable.  Evil does
        not obstruct the way, so `klesa` is bodhi.

             In the case  of a Buddha, evil  functions  as a
        self-stimulating  force, which becomes actual as the
        spontaneous  flow of the Buddha's  compassion.  This
        concept of the identity  of good and evil is closely
        connected with the T'ien-t'ai philosophy of the mind
        encompassing  the  ten  realms.  The ten  realms  of
        existence  include those of the hells, hungry ghosts
        (preta),   animals,  asuras,  human   beings,  gods,
        `sravakas`,   pratyekabuddhas,   bodhisattvas,   and
        Buddhas.  These ten realms are mutually immanent and
        inclusive.  One realm comprises  all the other  nine
        realms,  and  in  each  realm  the  other  nine  are
        included.  Each element of existence  is present  in
        every other.  The realm of the Buddha  also includes
        the elements and nature of the other nine realms. In
        other   words,  hell  is  not  different   from  the
        Buddha-realm, and vice- versa.

             When  the  theory  of the identity  of the  ten
        realms  is extended, it  develops  into  the  theory
        of"the  hundred  realms  and  thousand  suchnesses,"
        which  states  that  every  one  of the  ten  realms
        involves the ten features of suchness.(26)Since each
        realm involves  the other nine realms, there are one
        hundred  realms  possessing   the  ten  features  of
        suchness  of each, bringing  the  number  up to  one
        thousand. Each realm further contains three distinct
        worlds:  (1)  the  five  skandhas;  (2)  all  living
        beings;  and (3) countries  and  plants, each  again
        consisting of the ten features of suchness.  Thus we
        arrive at a total of three thousand worlds.

             What makes the T'ien-t'ai  teaching  unique  is
        that it directly  acknowledges  the identity  of the
        "three thousand  dharmas  which exist by nature from
        the very beginning"  (`li-chu`  san-chien)  with the
        "three thousand dharmas which are created phenomena"
        (shih-chu  san-chien).  When the a priori  (li), and
        the a posteriori (shih) are considered to be one and
        the  same,  and  the  three  thousand   dharmas  are
        instantaneously  immanent  in one moment of thought,
        the perfectly harmonious  T'ien-t'ai  philosophy  is
        established.  The T'ien-t'ai  considers its doctrine
        of perfect harmony and interpenetration  superior to
        the  doctrine  of other  schools  which  teach  that
        "because of the reality [of Buddha Realm] one severs
        the other nine [realms]" `yuan`-li tuan-chiu).  This
        is because  in these  schools  the a priori  reality
        (li) of the Buddha  realm leads to the severance  of
        the other nine realms of existence. So these schools
        maintain  that  only  the realm  of the Buddha  is a
        realm of absolute  purity which thus transcends  the
        other nine realms.  The T'ien-t'ai school's critique
        of this
             (25) `Taisho` 33, 743c.
             (26) The ten  features  of suchness  are: form,
        nature,  substance, power, action, cause, condition,
        effect, reward, and  harmony  of the  beginning  and


        position  is that a Buddha in a world isolated  from
        others is like a perfect person who is incapable  of
        doing  any evil.  If such a person  does evil  it is
        only because he is forced to by evil people.  By the
        same  token, the  Buddha  in the teaching  of yuanli
        tuan-chiu  possesses  no other qualities  than good.
        This  being  the  case, when  the  Buddha  manifests
        himself  in the other  nine realms, it is not out of
        spontaneity, but only when he is forced  to do so by
        external conditions.

             The  `yuan-li`   tuan-chiu   theory  stands  in
        contrast to the holistic T'ien-t'ai view of mind and
        reality.   This  view  is  that  "all   things   are
        interrelated  in an endless  dialectical  matrix  of
        relationship, i.e., all-in-one and  one-in-all."(27)
        T'ien-t'ai  accepts  the presence  of the Buddha  in
        hell and the presence  of hell (evil) in the Buddha,
        because any one realm is present in every other.  In
        this teaching  the Buddha retains his inherent evil,
        from which he manifests  impure  activities  for the
        sole purpose  o f moving freely in the impure realms
        to save sentient beings.  The T'ien-t'ai  concept of
        the Buddha is based on a realistic  humanism  rather
        than  on an  idealistic  concept  of  transcendence.
        Therefore, the theory of inherent evil in the Buddha
        is not  as unorthodox  as some  other  schools  have

             The Problematic  and Significance of the Theory
        of lnherent Evil in the Buddha

             Since the T'ien-t'ai theory of inherent evil in
        Buddha Nature is unique and radically different from
        the traditional concept of the nature of the Buddha,
        it engendered  criticism  both within the T'ien-t'ai
        School  itself  and from  other  schools.  The  most
        critical  and systematic  response comes from Fujaku
        Tokumon, a Japanese  Pure  Land monk-scholar  of the
        eighteenth century.  In his `Shikyogishuchu`-`senyo`
        (Essence  of  the  Collected  Commentaries   on  the
        Ssu-chiao-yi), Fujaku  set forth  his  criticism  in
        five points.(28)

             First, Fujaku  points  out that  the T'ien-t'ai
        doctrine  of inherent  evil goes against  the widely
        accepted  `Mahayana`  doctrine  of Buddha Nature and
        reality.  He says that the `Mahayana`  teachings are
        divided  into  the "temporal"  and then "real."  The
        teachings   of  Hua-yen,  T'ien-t'ai,  the  `Nirvana
        Sutra`, etc., belong  to the "real  teaching"  which
        holds  the  `tathagatagarbha`  doctrine  to  be  the
        essence   of   `Mahayana`.   The   `tathagatagarbha`
        doctrine  teaches  an  innately  pure  mind,  Buddha
        Nature, Buddha  seed, etc., and maintains  that  all
        beings possess the pure Buddha Nature.  According to
        the `sutras`  of the  `tathagatagarbha`  corpus, the
        `tathagatagarbha` represents the two aspects--
        emptiness and non-emptiness. The `tathagatagarbha`
             (27)See Whalen W. Lai, "The Pure and the Impure:
        The  Mencian  Problematik  in Chinese  Buddhism," in
        Early Ch'an in China and Tibet, ed.  Whalen  W.  Lai
        and Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley, 1983), 299-326.

             (28) The following arguments are cited from the
        Essence  of  the  Collected   Commentaries   on  the
        Ssu-chiao-yi, 16-29.


        empty  in  that  it  is  originally  pure  and  thus
        innately empty of impurity (evil), and it is innately
        non-empty  in that it is intrinsically  endowed with
        immeasurable  virtues  Since the `tathagatagarbha` is
        totally  pure, evil has no independent  or permanent
        place in either human or Buddha Nature. Exalting the
        teaching   of  the  pure  mind  in `tathagatagarbha`
        doctrine   as  the  ultimate  reality,  Fujaku  thus
        refutes the doctrine of inherent evil.

             Second, as understood  by Fujaku, the  doctrine
        of inherent  evil  also  contradicts  the T'ien-t'ai
        teaching  of  "mutual  interpenetration  of the  ten
        realms."  He reasons  that the nine realms belong to
        the "temporal" and that only the realm of the Buddha
        is "real." As such, the real meaning of the teaching
        of mutual  interpenetration  is to reveal  that only
        the realm of the Buddha  is true reality, while  the
        other  nine  realms,  arising  from  ignorance,  are
        devoid  of true nature.  To prove  his point, Fujaku
        quotes  Chih-i's  Ma-ho chih-kuan: "There is neither
        good  nor  evil  in the  great  emptiness  of Dharma
        Nature.  It is due to people's  delusions  that they
        see good and evil." Thus, he asserts that the theory
        of inherent evil cannot be Chih-i's thought.

             Third,  Fujaku   enumerates   six   points   to
        challenge the authenticity of the theory of inherent
        evil.  (1)  The theory  of inherent  evil  in Buddha
        Nature   fundamentally   contradicts   the  Mahayana
        teachings   in  general  and  the  teaching  of  the
        T'ien-t'ai  school in particular as explained above.
        (2) If the theory of inherent evil were the ultimate
        and most unique  teaching  of Chih-i, then  it would
        have   been  elucidated   in  the  most  appropriate
        sections of his masterpieces, such as the section on
        the "wonder  of the realm of the phenomenal"  in the
        Fa-hua  hsuan-i, the "ten features  of suchness"  in
        the Fa-hua wen-chu, the "Chapter  of the Buddha Way"
        in the  commentary  on the  `VimaIakirtisutra`, etc.
        The  fact  that  none   of  Chih-i's   major   works
        explicitly  mentions  this theory proves that it was
        attributed  to him rather  than being  his own idea.
        (3) Fujaku  points  out that  the  works  of Chih-i,
        either  written  by him or recorded  by his disciple
        Chang-an,  are  excellent   both  in  language   and
        thought, yet  the Kuan-yin  hsuan-i, especially  the
        section on inherent evil, is poor in literary  style
        and  content.   (4)  The  Kuan-yin   hsuan-i  quotes
        passages   on  the  Buddha's   power   of  universal
        manifestation  from various  `sutras`, using them as
        scriptural   authority   to  certify  the  necessary
        existence  of inherent evil in the Buddha.  However,
        Fujaku argues that the Buddhas  or bodhisattvas  who
        manifest  themselves  in response  to the  needs  of
        sentient  beings  do so not through  the working  of
        inherent  evil,  but  rather  out  of  the  virtuous
        functioning  of their great  wisdom  and compassion.
        Therefore, the  existence  of  innate  evil  in  the
        Buddha cannot be justified in this way. (5) Chih-i's
        Kuan-yin  hsuan-i and Fa-hua hsuan-i contradict  one
        another in their definitions of the conditioned  and
        revealing  causes  of  Buddha  Nature.   The  former
        defines the conditioned and revealing causes as evil
        by nature, while  the latter  defines  the revealing
        cause  as `prajna`  and  the  conditioned  cause  as
        myriad  virtues, both  being  good  by  nature.  (6)
        Fujaku  mentions  that  Chih-i  critically   refuted
        heretical   doctrines  concerning   the  concept  of
        substantial  nature, yet the theory of inherent evil
        is  similar  to  the  `Sankhya`  concept  of  Atman.
        According  to Fujaku, all of these six points  prove
        that the Kuan-yin  hsuan-i is not Chih-i's  work and
        that he did not posit the theory.


             Fourth,  Fujaku   quotes   from  the  Awakening
        of Faith in  the  `Mahayana`   which  mentions  four
        misconceptions    about   the   doctrine    of   the
        `tathagatagarbha`. One of these is to hold that evil
        or impurity innately exist in the `tathagatagarbha`.
        This concept is incorrect  because impurity is taken
        as  a  substantial   reality,  while   in  actuality
        impurity  is merely an illusion.  Thus the theory of
        inherent  evil is a deviant  view which  needs to be

             Fifth, Fujaku criticizes the theory of inherent
        evil in the Buddha  as being anti-ethical.  Although
        he  acknowledges   that  people  like  Tsin-hsi  and
        Ssu-ming  who  promoted  this  theory  in  order  to
        elevate  the  T'ien-t'ai   teaching  to  a  superior
        position  over  other  schools  were  not themselves
        morally affected  by this theory, he charges that it
        may produce  ill effects  on later  generations, for
        people could erroneousiy employ the theory to defend
        their misconduct.

             Examining Fujaku's refutation  of the theory of
        inherent  evil, we find  that  most of his arguments
        are  not  above   criticism.   For  example,  Fujaku
        questions  the authorship  of the Kuan-yin  hsuan-i.
        Despite  his  questionable  arguments, even  if  the
        Kuan-yin hsuan-i were not Chih-i's work, this cannot
        be used as a reason to invalidate the theory itself.
        In  other  words, the  authorship  of  the  Kuan-yin
        hsuan-i  and  the  theory  contained  in it are  two
        different issues.  Another weak argument is Fujaku's
        attack upon the theory based on his understanding of
        traditional    `tathagatagarbha`     thought,    for
        T'ien-t'ai  postulates  the doctrine  of evil within
        Buddha Nature in full awareness that it differs from
        traditional `tathagatagarbha` thought.

             Although  some of Fujaku's  criticisms  are not
        convincing, he does raise two important points.  (1)
        The Buddha's  universal  manifestations  in the nine
        realms are not activated by inherent evil but by the
        spontaneous  virtuous  functioning  of the Buddha as
        Dharmakaya.(2) The theory of inherent evil in Buddha
        Nature could lead to unethical behavior.


             Doctrinally, the theory of inherent  evil is at
        the pinnacle of the T'ien-t'ai philosophy of perfect
        harmony   and  identity   in  which   all  realities
        penetrate  one another, each contained  in each, and
        all  opposites  are  identified  and  harmonized.  A
        theory such as this naturally erases all dichotomies
        such  as good  and evil, `klesa` and `nirvana`, Buddha
        and sentient beings, and so forth.  In this holistic
        view, evil, no less than  good, is an integral  part
        of the Buddha.  Most  significantly, from  the  per-
        spective  of  the  icchantika   the  theory  implies
        inherent  good within  all beings, for if evil is an
        integral  part of the Buddha good must similarly  be
        an integral  part of the icchantika.  Therefore, the
        theory  affirms  the  icchantika's   Buddhahood  and
        Buddha's humanity.

             From  the religious  point  of view  the theory
        signifies the interrelatedness of life and points to
        an inner dynamic of Buddhahbod.  The element of evil
        in the Buddha generates  feelings  of compassion  to
        view all fellow beings sympathetically, since he and
        they  have  an  identical   human  nature.   In  the
        `Vimalakirtisutra` the


        Buddha says: "Because sentient beings are sick, I am
        also sick." We may assume that, motivated  similarly
        by compassion, the Buddha manifests evil in order to
        relate to the nature  of sentient  beings who commit
        evil. In this theory of realistic humanism, a bridge
        is thus built  between  the Buddha  and all sentient