Dynamics of Practice and Understanding – Chinese Tiantai Philosophy of Contemplation and Deconstruction

  • Hans-Rudolf KantorEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 9)


This chapter discusses and examines the deconstructive practice of Tiantai contemplation from a philosophical point of view. The scope of this examination embraces all the Tiantai doctrines that describe the dynamics and epistemological nature of ultimate realization, called “subtle awakening” (miaowu 妙悟), as well as all the relevant Buddhist sources based on which Tiantai master Zhiyi (智顗 538–597) developed this type of “contemplation” (guan 觀). According to the Tiantai view, epistemological and ontological issues coincide with one another, since contemplation entails our insight that “truth and falsehood are inseparable” concerning the way we relate to and exist in our world. Therefore, (1) the introduction deals with the question of the specific sense in which Tiantai contemplation must be grounded in deconstructive practice. The subsequent two sections, (2) and (3), elaborate the epistemological and soteriological implications of this Buddhist teaching; section (4) and (5) discuss its linguistic pragmatics; (6) and (7) highlight the ontological and hermeneutical issues, and (8) elaborates on the Tiantai philosophy of mind.


Zhiyi Tiantai Contemplation Deconstruction Mohe zhiguan 


  1. Deguchi, Yasuo, Jay Garfield, and Graham Priest. 2008. “The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhism.” Philosophy East and West 57.2: 395–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Garfield, Jay. 2002. Empty WordsBuddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. ____. 2011a. “Taking Conventional Truth Seriously: Authority regarding Deceptive Reality.” In Moonshadows – Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, ed., by Cowherds. New York: Oxford University press, 23–39.Google Scholar
  4. Donner, Neal and Daniel B. Stevenson. 1993. The Great Calming and Contemplation – A Study and Annotated Translation of the First Chapter of Chih-i’s Mo-ho chih-kuan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  5. Kantor, Hans-Rudolf. 2006. “Ontological Indeterminacy and Its Soteriological Relevance: An Assessment of Mou Zongsan’s Interpretation of Zhiyi’s Tiantai Buddhism.” Philosophy East and West 56.1: 16–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ____. 2009. “Zhiyi’s Great Calming and Contemplation: Contemplating kantoMental Activity as the Inconceivable Realm.” In William Edelglass and Jay Garfield, eds., Buddhist Philosophy – Essential Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 334–348.Google Scholar
  7. ____. 2011b. “Ambivalence of Illusion – A Chinese Buddhist Perspective.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38.2: 274–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. ____. 2014. “Textual Pragmatics in Early Chinese Madhyamaka.” Philosophy East and West 64.3: 759–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kwan, Chun-Keung. 2011. “Mou Zongsan’s Ontological Reading of Tiantai Buddhism.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38.2: 206–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Moeller, Hans-Georg. 1999. “Zhuangzi’s Dream of the Butterfly: A Daoist Interpretation.” Philosophy East and West 49.4: 439–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mou Zongsan 牟宗三. 1977/1993, 1st and 2nd vol. Buddha-nature and Prajñā (Foxing yu Bore 佛性與般若). Taipei: Xuesheng Shuju.Google Scholar
  12. NG, Yu-Kwan. 1993. T’ien-t’ai Buddhism and Early Mādhyamika. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  13. Priest, Graham. 2002. Beyond the Limits of Thought. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. ____. 2005. Towards Non-BeingThe Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Swanson, Paul. 1989. Foundation’s of T’ien-t’ai Philosophy – The Flowering of the Two Truths Theory in Chinese Buddhism. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  16. ____. 2003. The Great Cessation-Contemplation. Tokio: Kosei Publishing Company, CD-Rom.Google Scholar
  17. Tillemanns, Tom J. F. 2009. “How do Mādhyamikas Think? – Notes on Jay Garfield, Graham Priest, and Paraconsistency.” In Pointing at the Moon: Buddhism, Logic, Analytic Philosophy. Eds. by D’Amato, Mario, Jay Garfield, and Tom J.F. Tillemans. New York: Oxford University Press, 83–101.Google Scholar
  18. Andō Toshio 安藤俊雄. 1973. Tendai seigō shisōron 天台性具思想論 (On the Tiantai Thought of Nature-Containing). Kyoto: Hozokan.Google Scholar
  19. Wang, Youru. 2003. Linguistic Strategies in Daoist Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism. London/New York: Routledge/Curzon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ziporyn, Brook. 2000. Evil and/as/or the Good – Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. ____. 2004. Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism. Illinois: Open Court.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Huafan UniversityNew Taipei CityTaiwan

Personalised recommendations