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A special intensive master class on Tiantai at Yale University

Woodenfish Founder and President, Venerable Dr. Yifa, HBMLP Director and University of Oslo master's student Guttorm Gunderson and other past 'fish participated in this 3 day conference at Yale University.

To Meet the Buddhas Face to Face: Ritual Penance, Samādhi, and Self-Cultivation in Early Tiantai

October 14-16, 2016

Yale University

Daniel B Stevenson

In addition to the celebrated Great Calming and Contemplation (Mohe zhiguan 摩訶止觀), numerous works on the principles and practicalities of self-cultivation (xiuxing 修行) were produced over the course of Tiantai Zhiyi’s 天台智顗 (528-597) career. Their contents range over a diversity of subjects, from step-by-step instructions for cult-specific programs of ritual repentance and devotion, to synoptic treatises on the meditative path as a whole. Some were written by Zhiyi personally; others were redacted from his lectures or oral instructions. Though the Great Calming and Contemplation is often lionized by modern scholars as the sine qua non of Zhiyi’s teaching on the “sudden and perfect approach to calming and contemplation” (yuandun zhiguan 圓頓止觀), the quintessence of Tiantai meditative praxis, the historical record amply reveals that the MHZG never abrogated this larger repertoire of works. Canonized, reproduced, and consumed by generations of Tiantai practitioners, along with the MHZG, these diverse literatures provide an invaluable point of entry to the lore and logics of estimation that informed the world of meditation and self-cultivation in Tiantai communities.

Drawing selectively from both these assorted early tracts and related sources, including the MHZG, this seminar will explore Tiantai views regarding the human condition and practicing subject, the prospects and perils of self-cultivation, the strange fauna and phenomena that populate its path, and the technologies that bear on its lifelong pursuit. Particular attention therein will be given to the relationship between contemplative discernment of the mind (guanxin 觀心, what we often idiomatically refer to as “meditation”) and formal procedures of ritual repentance and devotion directed to the Three Treasures with which meditative discernment was inseparable linked. A variety of supporting documents will be brought into relation with the core treatises on meditation and ritual practice, including hagiographies and independently circulating epitaphs, memoranda, tales of miraculous response, monastery inscriptions, and personal correspondence. Wherever possible, sources will be selected with attention to the historically specific communities and locale from which they were generated and known to circulate. English translations will be provided together with the original Chinese text.

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