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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Saichō (767–822) was a Japanese Buddhist monk who transmitted the Chinese Tiantai tradition as well as other aspects of Mahāyāna Buddhism to found the Japanese Tendai school. His endorsement of universal Buddhahood (Buddha-nature) on the basis of the one-vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the establishment of Mahāyāna precepts based on an altruistic bodhisattva spirit, to replace the detailed precepts of the traditional Vinaya, had a lasting influence on the basic assumptions of Japanese Buddhism. His legacy includes later developments in the radically nondual interpretation of “original enlightenment” to mean that all living things are enlightened just as they are. The second part of this chapter explores some of the crucial ambiguities and implications of this idea in its original Chinese and Japanese Buddhist contexts and in general philosophical perspective as they pertain to perennial issues of Buddhist practice as well as to general ethical and epistemological concerns.

Keywords: Saichō, Tendai, Buddha-nature, threefold truth, emptiness, Middle Way, bodhisattva precepts, original enlightenment, hongaku

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