Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism

Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism

Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism

Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism

Synopsis

Tiantai Buddhism emerged from an idiosyncratic and innovative interpretation of the Lotus Sutra to become one of the most complete, systematic, and influential schools of philosophical thought developed in East Asia. Brook A. Ziporyn puts Tiantai into dialogue with modern philosophical concerns to draw out its implications for ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. Ziporyn explains Tiantai's unlikely roots, its positions of extreme affirmation and rejection, its religious skepticism and embrace of religious myth, and its view of human consciousness. Ziporyn reveals the profound insights of Tiantai Buddhism while stimulating philosophical reflection on its unexpected effects.

Excerpt

Contemporary philosophical consciousness finds itself in a disorienting situation. the dissolution of monolithic conceptual hegemonies that has occurred in the wake of intensified intercultural communication presents a new set of challenges, calling for a way forward that both respects and creatively develops the unwieldy diversity of seemingly incommensurate cultural systems that are now beginning to come into contact with one another. These unprecedented challenges, however, also provide unprecedented opportunities. Traditional Chinese Buddhist thought can make a claim for particularly close philosophical attention in this cultural situation in that it preserves for us the record of perhaps one of the only commensurate premodern examplesof an analogous philosophical predicament. Chinese Buddhism emerged from the worldhistorical encounter between two deeply disparate cultural and philosophical traditions: the indigenous traditions of India (and, more generally, IndoEuropean cultures) and East Asian cultures.

The earliest attempt at a thoroughgoing Sinitic reworking of the Indian Buddhist tradition is found in the Tiantai school, founded in the fifth century ce, which through supreme intellectual effort forged a vocabulary with which to bring these two worlds of thought into creative dialogue, developing a synthesis that simultaneously satisfies their very dissimilar demands, thereby producing an entirely new vision of Buddhism and indeed of the human condition. in its full flowering, Tiantai creates the most rigorous theoretical edifice in all of East Asian intellectual history, using modes of argumentation and praxis that are derived squarely from Indian Buddhism but in the service of ideals and . . .

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