I should add two points on this:
1) Astus' ideas on this are very much worth considering. Why? Because this claim..
He states that the 52 stages of Boddhisattvas is derived from the Saddharma Pundarika sutra.
...is not entirely accurate. Snellgrove attributes it to the Lotus Sutra and to the Niokyo (at least in the PDF dearreader* provided). I'm dreadful with languages and I don't know if NioKyo is Gandhavyuha Sutra. (Kegon Kyo is the full Avatamsaka, which has pride of place in Tendai Daishi's writings)
It is not an inaccurate statement either. But for your information Niokyo = Ninnokyo or the "Scripture of Humane Kings" Typically attributed to the 5th century and Kumarajiva but more widely known through the 8th Century's Pu-k'ung aka Amoghavajra (Kukai's Dharma grandfather). It is almost certainly of Chinese pedigree. Zhiyi "regularly quotes the Scripture for Humane Kings.... Arguments in his major works, such as Great Calming and Contemplation, the Meaning of the Four-fold teaching, the Profound Meaning of the Lotus of the Teaching... are strewn with quotations from the Scripture for Humane Kings." Charles Orzech in Politics and Transcendent Wisdom
2)I use the word "commentarial" to describe Tendai Daishi's writings on purpose. It's true that Zhiyi did produce some novel doctrines, which are interesting and inspiring to practitioners (see Swanson's book on the topic). However, I don't think Zhiyi understood his role as a philosopher. He was primarily an expounder of the sutras. He taught the sutras. Given the state of the canon in China in his time (he relied on Chinese translations, not Sanskrit originals), it fell to him as a prominent teacher to systematize and synthesize the sutric teachings, in order to make some sense of the body of materials in circulation. He did so, and in doing so (the logic behind his doing so) advanced some original doctrines. His purpose was exegetical and hermeneutic. He wanted people to practice in the best way, the best-informed way, and he presented the teachings according to his understanding.
I am not sure who was suggesting that Zhiyi was a philosopher (or that they even existed then as we understand them today). I agree that his study and classification of all Sutra available in China at the time accomplished a great deal and largely formed the basis of a truly "Chinese Buddhism." Zhiyi is recorded as teaching the Sutra of Humane Kings and it is "cited as the source of his doctrine of three truths,etc" (Orzech again). I have not fully read this Sutra but will do so now and post any additional findings related to the 52 Stages to this thread. There looks to be a lot of Chih-i mentioned in this book. Should be interesting (I have the 1998 edition not sure if there are other editions)
Since we're on the interwebz, I didn't want to use constipated terms like "hermeneutic" or "exegetical," but since my earlier post with the word commentarial in it threw you for a loop (the bolded bit I quoted back to you that you saw fit to delete in your quoting of my words), some clarification seemed in order.
I apologise, I seem to have committed a forum mistake. I simply edited your quote because my response was only related to the "esoteric" remark you made. It was not because your use of "commentarial" provided me with confusion. I will now be sure to fully quote when posting on this forum. I never dismissed your comment or answer. I only provided additional confirmation I had received assuming it would be of interest to others. You have my apologies for this mistake.
*Incidentally: is "dearreader" intended as a slur against the phonemic difficulties of some Asians attempting to speak in English? I ask because your avatar is an image of "Dear Leader." You know, with an L. I hope your intention is not a bigoted one, because that would surely undermine your credibility among Buddhists.
I must say this comment surprised me a great deal. I am unsure why you post this now and in public as I have used this name and picture for quite some time and neither you nor anyone else has suggested such a thing. All languages have sounds that are difficult to make and this is well known here in Europe. My use of the image and name is no more a slur than is your use of the word "slur" is intended to make fun of those who have problems with unclear or abnormal enunciation. (Looked up slur on Wikipedia). For what it is worth Jikan, I am not English. Additionally, I am not the only one to make the joke of the Dear Leader writing things to his Dear Readers as you can see here: http://laughingsquid.com/dear-reader-the-unauthorized-autobiography-of-kim-jong-il-by-michael-malice/
I will change my avatar, however, so people only need to focus on the content of my post instead of my possible since of humour or motivations