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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
106 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY Yet though empty of fixed or independent substance, phenomena nonetheless exist as elements of conventional reality. A reverse contemplation, “[re-]entering the conven- tional from emptiness,” in effect returns one to the world and reestablishes concep- tual distinctions as features of empirical, commonsense experience, stripped of any false essentializing or clinging; it engenders the wisdom to carry out bodhisattva-like action in any situation. The middle is not a separate position, between or transcend- ing the other two, but encompasses both poles of understanding without dissolving the tension between them: phenomena are neither one-sidedly empty nor conven- tionally existing but exhibit both aspects simultaneously. In Guanding’s words, “There is not a single sight or smell that is not the Middle Way.” The threefold truth represents Zhiyi’s unique interpretation of Nagarjuna’s famous two truths, con- ventional and ultimate. Contemplation of the middle encompasses and dynamically mediates the two, maintaining insight into both while obviating bias toward either. In practice, the threefold contempla- tion can be cultivated in a sequential, gradual approach or in a “perfect and sudden” manner that apprehends all three simultaneously. The “perfect and sudden” cessation-and-contemplation is the Mohe zhiguan’s chief focus. The first chapter, “Synopsis,” provides an overview. Here we encounter Zhiyi’s famous “four samadhis”: sitting, walking, both sitting and walking, and neither sitting nor walking (a “free- form” meditation practiced amid daily activities, wherever the mind is directed). Today we tend to overdraw the distinction between ritual or devotional practices, seen as external performance geared toward merit-making, and meditation, seen as internal and aimed at liberative insight. Zhiyi’s discussion of the four samadhis, however, suggests that he understood both as integral aspects of cultivation. Subsequent chapters establish the doc- trinal bases for cessation-and-contempla- tion, distinguishing the sudden and perfect from the sequential and gradual methods of apprehending the threefold truth. The last two chapters discuss practice itself. In contrast to the four samadhis, which are grouped according to bodily posture and ritual format, the focus here is on mental attitude and technique. Zhiyi the systematizer is again in evidence, classify- ing a vast range of meditative approaches for different practitioners into ten catego- ries of objects, arranged from general to specific, and ten modes of contemplating them, from subtle to coarse. For example, the combination of the first object and first mode is the contemplation of ordinary phenomena as “inconceivable”—that is, as identical to the threefold truth. Here we encounter Zhiyi’s famous statement of the “three thousand realms in a single thought,” which the Japanese teacher Nichiren (1222–1282) took as his doctrinal founda- tion. In essence, the smallest event (a “sin- gle thought”) and all phenomena (“three thousand realms”) are mutually encom- passing: the one and the many, delusion and awakening, subject and object, self and other, and all sentient beings from hell dwellers, hungry ghosts, and animals up through buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as their corresponding insentient environments—indeed, all things in the entire cosmos—are inseparable from the mind at each moment. Some Chinese Bud- dhist thinkers postulated an original pure