Synopses & Reviews
Ziporyn professor of ancient and medieval Chinese religion and philosophy at the University of Chicago offers a casual but dense introduction to the lesser known Tiantai school of Buddhism. He examines the philosophical and religious ideas within the Lotus Sutra and three representative figures of the school: Tiantai Zhiyi Jingxi Zhanran and Siming Zhili. Tiantai’s basic premises are jarring and seem blasphemous for those acquainted with popular understandings of Buddhism: “Buddhahood inherently includes every form of evil” and each experience includes all other possible experiences interpreted in all possible ways; dwelling more deeply in suffering and delusion leads to liberation and freedom. By explaining Tiantai Buddhism’s radically paradoxical conception of a holistic monistic universe Ziporyn reveals the Tiantai understanding to be underpinned by emptiness as ontological and illimitable ambiguity. He aims for an introduction “divested of both technical detail and philosophical baggage” and succeeds for the most part; readers are however expected to be very comfortable with dense theoretical investigation. Those who take the journey with Ziporyn will find a rich and rewarding work not simply due to the mind boggling Tiantai doctrine but also because of Ziporyn’s respect for the tradition and his extraordinary finesse in presenting its demanding ideas. (June) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
Tiantai Buddhism emerged from an idiosyncratic and innovative interpretation of the Lotus Sutra to become one of the most complete, systematic, and influential schools of philosophical thought developed in East Asia. Brook A. Ziporyn puts Tiantai into dialogue with modern philosophical concerns to draw out its implications for ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. Ziporyn explains Tiantai's unlikely roots, its positions of extreme affirmation and rejection, its religious skepticism and embrace of religious myth, and its view of human consciousness. Ziporyn reveals the profound insights of Tiantai Buddhism while stimulating philosophical reflection on its unexpected effects.