Theses Doctoral

The Revival of Tiantai Buddhism in the Late Ming: On the Thought of Youxi Chuandeng (1554-1628)

Ma, Yung-fen

This dissertation is a study of Youxi Chuandeng's (1554-1628) transformation of "Buddha-nature includes good and evil," also known as "inherent evil," a unique idea representing Tiantai's nature-inclusion philosophy in Chinese Buddhism. Focused on his major treatise On Nature Including Good and Evil, this research demonstrates how Chuandeng, in his efforts to regenerate Tiantai, incorporated the important intellectual themes of the late Ming, especially those found in the Śūraṃgama Sūtra. In his treatise, Chuandeng systematically presented his ideas on doctrinal classification, the principle of nature-inclusion, and the practice of the Dharma-gate of inherent evil. Redefining Tiantai doctrinal classification, he legitimized the idea of inherent evil to be the highest Buddhist teaching and proved the superiority of Buddhism over Confucianism.

Drawing upon the notions of pure mind and the seven elements found in the Śūraṃgama Sūtra, he reinterpreted nature-inclusion and the Dharma-gate of inherent evil emphasizing inherent evil as pure rather than defiled. Conversely, he reinterpreted Śūraṃgama Sūtra by nature-inclusion. Chuandeng incorporated Confucianism and the Śūraṃgama Sūtra as a response to the dominating thought of his day, this being the particular manner in which previous Tiantai thinkers upheld, defended and spread Tiantai. What set Chuandeng apart from his predecessors were his efforts to harmonize rather than criticize other Buddhist schools. The Śūraṃgama Sūtra was emblematic of the syncretic intellectual trend of the late Ming and its popularity was widespread. Chuandeng ably took ideas from the Śūraṃgama Sūtra to make his points. Chuandeng was a culminator and innovator of nature-inclusion and his thought and activities represent the revival of Tiantai in the late Ming. This study proves that the Tiantai school was not a marginal but rather an active contributor to the overall revival of Buddhism in the late Ming,


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Yu, Chun-Fang
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 17, 2011