Learning about Tendai

Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:10 am

Greetings, everyone.

For a long time I have been interested in Tendai school of Buddhism. Unfortunately there are no Tendai temples and priests in my country, and literature on Tendai seems to be rather sparse. Could you please help me find out more?

1)First of all, I'm interested in philosophy of Tendai. Which version of Madhyamaka or Yogacara does this school subscribe to? Are there any ideas unique to Tendai? I am especially interested in the "original enlightenment" theory: what is its basis, what does it mean exactly, and what are the implications? Any suggested reading on the subject?

2)I am also looking for an overview of Tendai practices, both devotional and meditative. Which deities are venerated, what does daily practice look like? Regarding meditation - is there any difference from shamatha/vipashyana as practised in other traditions, like Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada? Again, any literature I may consult on the subject?

Thank you.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:13 am

Here's one work to start with:

Saichō: The Establishment of the Japanese Tendai School
Paul Groner

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=xhbv9sQpTgIC
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Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:41 am

Hi Mirage, which country do you live in? There are a few smaller sanghas that are off the radar so to speak. Perhaps we could help?
You might also like to read http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essentials-Eigh ... rds=tendai

And of course there are loads of materials here viewtopic.php?f=64&t=12250

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:09 am

Indrajala wrote:Here's one work to start with:

Saichō: The Establishment of the Japanese Tendai School
Paul Groner

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=xhbv9sQpTgIC

Thank you, I think I can get my hands on this one. But doesn't it deal mostly with Saicho's Vinaya innovations, not doctrine as such?
Seishin wrote:Hi Mirage, which country do you live in? There are a few smaller sanghas that are off the radar so to speak. Perhaps we could help?
You might also like to read http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essentials-Eigh ... rds=tendai

And of course there are loads of materials here http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=12250

Gassho,
Seishin.

Hi! Yes, I've heard there are several Tendai sanghas in Europe. I live in Russia, so getting in touch personally would involve a lot of travel anyway.

http://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Tradit ... 0962561878 - wow, that's an expensive book! I don't believe there is a PDF or Kindle version?
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:14 am

mirage wrote:
Indrajala wrote:Here's one work to start with:

Saichō: The Establishment of the Japanese Tendai School
Paul Groner

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=xhbv9sQpTgIC

Thank you, I think I can get my hands on this one. But doesn't it deal mostly with Saicho's Vinaya innovations, not doctrine as such?
Seishin wrote:Hi Mirage, which country do you live in? There are a few smaller sanghas that are off the radar so to speak. Perhaps we could help?
You might also like to read http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essentials-Eigh ... rds=tendai

And of course there are loads of materials here viewtopic.php?f=64&t=12250

Gassho,
Seishin.

Hi! Yes, I've heard there are several Tendai sanghas in Europe. I live in Russia, so getting in touch personally would involve a lot of travel anyway.

http://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Tradit ... 0962561878 - wow, that's an expensive book! I don't believe there is a PDF or Kindle version?


Currently there is not digital version, but the BDK are working on it.

There a few digital texts on the second link and I think there are a few floating around in the Tendai forum. I'll try to dog some out :smile:

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:27 am

Seishin wrote:Currently there is not digital version, but the BDK are working on it.

There a few digital texts on the second link and I think there are a few floating around in the Tendai forum. I'll try to dog some out :smile:

Gassho,
Seishin

Thank you.

I also have a question regarding the Lotus Sutra. Which translation is considered to be preferable, the Rissho Kosei-kai edition or the BDK one? I heard Burton Watson's one is bad.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:33 am

Personally, I prefer Gene Reeves version http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lotus-Sutra-Con ... otus+sutra
Or Kato's version http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Threefold-L ... otus+sutra

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:56 pm

The two works by Zhiyi at Kalavinka Press should be considered, too:

http://www.kalavinka.org/
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:20 pm

Hi mirage,

I know that Shomon Trans in Denmark works with people in many places in Europe. It may be that she knows some people in your part of Russia. It would be worth reaching out to her to find out if there is a connection to be made out there.

http://tendai.eu
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:05 pm

Seishin wrote:Personally, I prefer Gene Reeves version http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lotus-Sutra-Con ... otus+sutra
Or Kato's version http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Threefold-L ... otus+sutra

Gassho
Seishin

Great, I found the Kato version for free on Rissho Kosei-kai website.
Indrajala wrote:The two works by Zhiyi at Kalavinka Press should be considered, too:

http://www.kalavinka.org/

Thank you, this likely fills my request for meditation literature. Though non-contemporary practice manuals usually make for quite difficult reading.
Jikan wrote:Hi mirage,

I know that Shomon Trans in Denmark works with people in many places in Europe. It may be that she knows some people in your part of Russia. It would be worth reaching out to her to find out if there is a connection to be made out there.

http://tendai.eu

Hi,
This is probably unlikely - I've never heard about any Tendai practitioners on Russian Buddhist forums, but I'll need to ask later.

I guess I'm a bit spoiled by the huge amount of English-language books on Tibetan Buddhism, but I still wonder why so few material on Tendai have been published. For example, I've been looking for a generic "introduction to Buddhism" book by a contemporary Tendai teacher, to get a feel of their understanding of Dharma and various issues (for example, how they regard other schools of Buddhism, their views on ethics, on sexuality, etc), but so far I found none. Do such books exist? It would also be great to see a definitive overview of Tendai philosophy from their own point of view (not academic one), a definitive commentary on Lotus Sutra, etc.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:20 pm

I asked the same question here viewtopic.php?f=64&t=3342

Luckily, we are living in a time when sincere dedicated practitioners are translating texts and materials, however these take time so there's not much at the moment. There are though smaller texts available in digital format as well as texts related to Tendai. There are plenty of links to them here viewtopic.php?f=64&t=1783

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:07 pm

Thank you for your kind answers. Naturally, I have more questions! :D

1)Philosophically, are there significant differences between Tendai and Tibetan Buddhism? Do they disagree on some things?

2)Do Tendai Buddhists study the Avatamsaka Sutra, or is it given little importance?
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:15 pm

Sadly, my knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism is next to nothing. I think Tendai stands out because of Ichinen sanzen which I had never heard of until I started studying Tendai. Tendai also has a different take on Ekayana than schools such as zen, nichiren and pureland, whose founders views were there is only one, or one better than others way to Enlightenment. Tendai recognises that there are many ways to Enlightenment, which is why Tendai has different paths within the one school.

As for Avatamsaka Sutra, yes it is important, but the Lotus Sutra is the central text. :smile:

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:45 pm

mirage wrote:1)Philosophically, are there significant differences between Tendai and Tibetan Buddhism? Do they disagree on some things?


One man's opinion:

There are differences in emphasis and in mode of expression. This kind of question is a matter of interpretation and of selection. This is because Tibetan Buddhism is very diverse doctrinally. I think there are points of contact between TienTai Madhyamaka and so-called "zhentong" Madhyamaka. The word choice is different and different texts are emphasized, but in my view the meaning is very close. I once asked my teacher this question: "It seems to me that some Tendai teachings are closer to some Nyingmapa teachings than some Gelugpa teachings are to Nyingmapa teachings. Am I completely off the reservation here?" I was told I was on the right track but that these kinds of questions are of limited value.

Are these differences significant, as you ask? At the level of the heart, for me, no. Buddha-nature is Buddha-nature. Where are the differences? Dharma is about describing our real situation. If one mode of expression gets the point across, it is good. If another also works, then it is also good. The Buddhist Teachings are Good. I'd encourage you to read widely in the Dharma.

2)Do Tendai Buddhists study the Avatamsaka Sutra, or is it given little importance?


Tendai Daishi (ZhiYi) regarded the Avatamsaki Sutra very highly. It is studied, but as Seishin says, the Lotus Sutra is the "main course" practically and doctrinally.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:17 pm

Thank you Seishin and Jikan. I have already learned a lot about Tendai from this thread.

Could you tell me what is the Tendai position on things like eating meat, sex, homosexuality, etc - the usual issues? Is vegetarianism mandatory (or at least expected)? Regarding sex, since Japanese priests can marry, I suppose Tendai doesn't stress celibacy too much? Certain Chinese schools/masters can be pretty hard-line on such issues, I think.

That reminds me - Chinese Buddhists are often very negative towards Tibetan Vajrayana. Since Japan has its own tantric lineages (though without anuttara yoga), I suppose this is not an issue in Tendai?

Last question: what does daily practice in Tendai generally look like for an average member of Sangha?
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Meido » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:31 pm

Seishin wrote:Tendai also has a different take on Ekayana than schools such as zen, nichiren and pureland, whose founders views were there is only one, or one better than others way to Enlightenment. Tendai recognises that there are many ways to Enlightenment, which is why Tendai has different paths within the one school.


[Just as an aside from the Zen corner of the room]: my understanding of "Ekayana" as viewed in Zen is, rather, that any tradition, text or method used in a manner that leads to direct recognition of one's nature is thereby encompassed within the One Vehicle. In other words "Ekayana" is a way to approach any Buddhist practice, regardless of school.

I might also say that to view some of the mentioned schools as rigid, single-path methods is not entirely the case. Certainly in the Rinzai tradition, for example, there are many, many practice methods supporting the overall intent of the training...not just, say, zazen or the use of koan.

In fact, since the point of all our traditions is that every activity of body/speech/mind is encompassed within practice, perhaps we can agree that all schools have infinite ways to enlightenment!

Of course Tendai has an unusually rich and diverse collection of practices, which to my mind is one of the things making it a wonderfully sublime and relevant tradition.

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:32 pm

In Japanese Buddhism in general, sex, alcohol and eating meat are aloud, this has been a source of argument and controversy both on this thread and in the larger Buddhist community in general (see here) however there are some temples, individuals and organisations that do not allow it. Tendai is, by no means an exception.

Homosexuality is not an issue.

From what I've been told, many Tendai monks study Tibetan Buddhism and believe we share a kinship.

For Tendai services see here, and here,

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:40 pm

Meido wrote:my understanding of "Ekayana" as viewed in Zen is, rather, that any tradition, text or method used in a manner that leads to direct recognition of one's nature is thereby encompassed within the One Vehicle. In other words "Ekayana" is a way to approach any Buddhist practice, regardless of school.

Of course Tendai has an unusually rich and diverse collection of practices, which to my mind is one of the things making it a wonderfully sublime and relevant tradition.

~ Meido


Thanks Meido :smile:

I think my post was probably a little too vague, allow me to elaborate :smile:

From what I understand, Tendai monks such as Dogen, Nichiren and Honen left Tendai and embarked on "single practice" schools (Zen, Nichiren and Pureland respectively), due to their thought that this one practice was better/easier to attain enlightenment. From my little understanding, Nichiren believed that his school was the only correct way to enlightenment, whereas Dogen and Honen wanted "better/easier" ways to enlightenment.

If anyone can elaborate/correct this that would be most appreciated :)

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:58 pm

mirage wrote:Could you tell me what is the Tendai position on things like eating meat, sex, homosexuality, etc - the usual issues? Is vegetarianism mandatory (or at least expected)? Regarding sex, since Japanese priests can marry, I suppose Tendai doesn't stress celibacy too much? Certain Chinese schools/masters can be pretty hard-line on such issues, I think.


Laypersons are expected to keep the five precepts as best they can. I know very few Tendai practitioners who are full-time vegetarians, but some definitely are. Vegetarianism is certainly not mandatory but it is practiced during retreats and intervals of training (gyo). As far as homosexuality goes, my home temple may have been the first site of a legal same-sex marriage in the state of New York; the ceremony was held at the temple in Canaan, NY and then everyone drove a few miles to Massachusetts to sign the papers. Our sangha in DC is welcoming to everyone.

That reminds me - Chinese Buddhists are often very negative towards Tibetan Vajrayana. Since Japan has its own tantric lineages (though without anuttara yoga), I suppose this is not an issue in Tendai?


Not at all an issue. Seishin is correct that there are plenty of people in the Tendai fold who also keep samaya with some Tibetan lineages. My teacher's teacher, Ichishima sensei, is a Tibetologist by training and trade. As Meido has expressed so eloquently, Tendai is a "big tent" culture.

Last question: what does daily practice in Tendai generally look like for an average member of Sangha?


This varies. Daily practice may include any of the following elements for a layperson: seated meditation, sutra recitation or copying, chanting, nembutsu practice, walking meditation... This can be supplemented by sutra study. Group practice is strongly encouraged. Tendai is sociable. What is more, your daily practice routine may change over time as appropriate to your needs.

Finally: Thank you to Meido sensei for the kind and gracious words.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:40 pm

Thank you, everyone! Well, guess I've got a lot of stuff on my reading list, so I will return once I have any new questions :namaste:
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