The Four Teachings and the Three Perfectly Endowed Truths

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailGoogle GmailEvernoteShare

Lectures on Basic Study Materials -14
Daibyakuho, No. 381 March 1, 1993

The Four Teachings and the Three Perfectly Endowed Truths
The Lotus Sutra: The Only True, Perfectly Endowed Law

The Great Master T’ien-T’ai classified Shakyamuni’s teachings into
five periods and eight teachings. Within this, the classification of the
structure of the teachings is known as the Four Teachings of Method
(Kegi no Shikyo), which include the Sudden Teaching (Tonkyo), the
Gradual Teaching (Zenkyo), the Indeterminate Teaching (Fujokyo)
and the Secret Teaching (Himitsukyo). The classification of the
content/doctrine is called the Four Teachings of Doctrine (Keho no
Shikyo), which include the Tripitaka Teaching (Zokyo), the Connecting
Teaching (Tsukyo), the Specific Teaching (Bekkyo) and the Perfect
Teaching (Enkyo). The teachings of method are often compared to the
methods of mixing medicines, while the teachings on
content/doctrine are compared to seasonings.
Instances where we human beings entertain erroneous notions which
cause our behavior to sink into depravity are caused by confusion
about the Three Truths of Non-Substantiality, Temporary Existence
and the Middle Path, which is in turn brought about by the blinding
nature of our earthly desires. There is no other reason that
Shakyamuni expounded Buddhism than so that people could become
emancipated through the principle of the Three Truths.
However, because the principle of the Three Truths, which stems
from the Buddha’s enlightenment, is actually difficult to understand,
Shakyamuni resorted to various means or methods to accomplish his
single purpose. Sometimes he would expound a truth suddenly
(Tonkyo) and at other times, he would expound something gradually
from the superficial to the profound (Zenkyo). Again, depending on
people’s capacities, he maintained a flexibility about the way in
which he would divulge the explanation of a teaching (Fujokyo), or,
even though his own position in terms of the Law was the same, in
case different persons should hear the content of his message
differently, without his listeners’ being aware of it, he would
indeterminately and secretly employ different explanations of the
Law for each person, so that no other person would know the kind of
teaching an individual was hearing (Himitsukyo). We will explain the
Four Teachings of Doctrine as they were expounded through these
expedients.

The Tripitaka Teaching (Zokyo)
The word “Tripitaka” refers to sutras (Kyo), rules (Ritsu) and
treatises (Ron). Bodhisattva Nagarjuna argued in the Daichido Ron
that in contrast with Mahayana Buddhism, Hinayana Buddhism was
comprised of the three divisions mentioned above. Further, there is a
passage in the Anrakugyo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra which reads:
“Hinayana scholars are indulged in attachment to (the letter of) the
sutras, precepts and treatises.” Because of this, Hinayana teachings
came to be known in this way as the Tripitaka.
It is explained here in terms of cause and effect, that earthly desires
are the source of illusions of thought and desire (Kenjiwaku), which
serve to veil the truth of the principle of non-substantiality (Ku), and
cause unenlightened beings in the threefold world of desire,1 form
and formlessness to wander through the six paths, or lower worlds of
hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility and rapture.
Various practices were taught in order to awaken people to the
principle of non-substantiality, and that awakening was explained as
supreme enlightenment. The doctrine of the Four Noble Truths was
expounded for people in the world of Learning, while the Twelve-
linked Chain of Causation was presented to those in the world of
realization and the Six Paramitas were taught to individuals at the
stage of Bodhisattva.
The Tripitaka teachings explained that including each living being, all
phenomena within the threefold world similarly manifest and
disappear through the combining and disintegrating forces of causal
relationship. Although it had been explained that the true entity of
all phenomena is from the outset, “filled with suffering, non-
substantial, impermanent and without ‘self,'” because people
arbitrarily hold on to the idea that we possess a true self and a true
nature, they are also attached to the ideas that to possess is joy, and
to lose is sorrow. Further, because of the emergence of earthly desire,
people blindly create karma. The result of this is the invitation of
suffering in the future. Because such is the case, it was explained that
if one were to practice what is called an analytic observance of non-
substantiality, analyzing each causal step from earthly desire to
suffering and finally observing the truth of non-substantiality, one
would be able to eliminate earthly desire.
However, because the teaching of this form of non-substantiality is
merely one-sided, it is also referred to as conditional non-
substantiality. This polarized principle of non-substantiality has no
relation to the other essential truths, namely, temporary existence
and the middle path. This version of non-substantiality is considered
to be a partial and incomplete teaching.

The Connecting Teaching (Tsukyo)
The principle of non-substantiality is ultimately the same in the
introductory Mahayana teachings as it was in the preceding
Hinayana (Tripitaka) teachings. In that sense, the principle of non-
substantiality is “passed” or “shared” between the Tripitaka and
early Mahayana teachings, as in a tunnel connecting two places.
Again, these early Mahayana teachings are said to “lead into” the
later, higher level Specific (Bekkyo) and Perfect (Enkyo) Teachings.
From this dual relationship with preceding and later teachings, the
early Mahayana teachings came to be known as the “Connecting
Teaching.”
But as opposed to the Tripitaka Teaching, the Connecting Teaching
establishes the principle of non-substantiality based on the direct
observation of reason. In other words, early Mahayana teachings
explain with direct immediacy that the true entity of all phenomena
is non-substantial, neither manifesting nor disappearing. This is
known as the True Entity of Non-substantiality.
Then again, there is one aspect of the true entity, expounded in the
doctrine/teaching that the true entity of all phenomena is non-
substantial, which is recognized by ordinary human subjectivity.
That aspect, derived from the doctrines of the Connecting Teaching, is
the observation that just as they are, all things in the threefold world
are non-substantial, and that they are neither born (manifest) nor
dying (disappearing). This means that the notion that there is
“existence,” is naturally included within this concept of non-
substantiality. In contrast with the Tripitaka’s conditional form of
non-substantiality, this “existence”-inclusive concept is called
“Unconditional Non-Substantiality.”
Through the Connecting Teachings, people in the worlds of Learning
and Realization, as well as dull-witted Bodhisattvas, claimed, “Turn
the body to ashes and obliterate wisdom!” believing that immolating
their own bodies, the source of earthly desire, was the means to the
highest life condition, “Nirvana Where Nothing Remains.” However,
more astute Bodhisattvas perceived that deeply embedded within
this principle of non-substantiality was the principle of the Middle
Path, which also later leads to the enlightenment of the two more
advanced teachings Ñ the Specific Teaching (Bekkyo) and the Perfect
Teaching (Enkyo). This is known as a “passive joining.”

The Specific Teaching (Bekkyo)
In the context of its usage in the title “Specific Teaching,” the word
“specific” means that the teaching is “different from” both its
predecessor: the Connecting Teaching, and the teaching that follows
it, the Perfect Teaching.
The Specific Teaching not only clarifies the principle of non-
substantiality, but extensively serves to shed light on the Three
Truths of Non-substantiality, Temporary Existence and the Middle
Path. The Specific Teaching further illuminates aspects of the causal
relationships within the worlds outside of the six paths of the
threefold world, and explains the cause and effect of long-term
Bodhisattva practice which aspires for the fruits of Buddhahood.
However, the Specific Teaching is said to present a “distinct” and
“successive” version of the Three Truths, where each of the Three
Truths is separate, or unrelated to any of the others. Even the Middle
Path, and because it is conditional, that is, separate from both non-
substantiality and temporary existence, is called the Conditional
Middle Path.
As teachings, neither the Distinct Teaching nor the preceding
Connecting Teaching can rise above the genre of the provisional
Mahayana, which is tainted with expedient theory, and as a result,
their methods of practice are accordingly set forth as the Three
Observations, or the Three Distinct and Successive Observations.
Nevertheless, by actually following these methods of practice, and by
gaining distinct (separate) and successive experience in the practices
of the observations of non-substantiality and temporary existence,
when one begins to attempt to ascend to the level of observance of
the Middle Path, what emerges is not the principle of the Conditional
Middle Path expounded in the Distinct Teaching (the pristine,
undefiled, quintessential Middle Path which is neither the Truth of
Non-substantiality nor the Truth of Temporary Existence), but a
natural entrance into the doctrine of the Perfect Teaching. In this
way, those who have gone beyond the initial stages of practice of the
Specific Teaching become followers of the Perfect Teaching, and in
actuality, practitioners of the Specific Teaching disappear. This is
known as a teaching without practitioners.

The Perfect Teaching (Enkyo)
The word “perfect” is used here to connote something that is
complete and without bias. The doctrine of the Perfect Teaching
clearly divides the quintessential and phenomenal worlds into: (1)
that which is pristine and undefiled, and; (2) that which is in a
condition of illusory, disorderly taintedness. Because of this, both the
practice, order, distinction and succession of this doctrine seek the
quintessential Middle Path.
However, in the Perfect Teaching, the true and original nature of the
entire universe is embodied within the principle of the quintessential
Middle Path, which is eternally and indivisibly one. Because that
principle does not involve the question of which aspect emerges first
or reverts afterwards, it is referred to as non-vertical. By the same
token, because that principle is nothing but quintessence, it is
similarly called non-horizontal.
Within the Three Perfectly Endowed Truths, the true entity of all
that exists is neither distinct nor separate, and yet, it is not within
the realm of ordinary human comprehension. It is thus called
“Perfectly Mystic” (Enmyo). Because originally, there is nothing with
which this true entity is not endowed, it is called “Perfectly Fulfilled”
(Enman); since the single entity contains all entities, it is called
“Perfectly Replete” (Ensoku), and; because this true entity has neither
start nor finish, and because there is no attainment of its mastery
through the passage of time, it is called “Perfectly Immediate.”
Again, the Three Perfectly Endowed Truths are said to be endowed
with Perfect Wisdom. That is, the aspects of the Three Kinds of
Wisdom ÑÑ (1) Wisdom of the Two Vehicles of Learning and
Realization, through which one is able to comprehend all phenomena;
(2) Bodhisattva Wisdom, or the compassionate wisdom to discern,
based on individual circumstances, which is the most appropriate
means to save all mankind, and; (3) Buddha Wisdom, is the
combination of these former two kinds of wisdom. The Perfect
Teaching which contain other explanations in addition to the
foregoing, including Perfect Practice, in which the one practice is the
equivalent of all practices, and Perfect Stage (rank), according to
which, the benefit and virtue of all stages are contained within the
initial stage. Moreover, the Perfect Teaching clarifies such truths as:
Perfectly Impartial Truth; Non-substantiality Equals All Phenomena.
In this way, the Perfect Teaching ingrained the ideal that the
entirety of the truth-revealing Doctrine on the Aspect of the
Teaching, was “Perfectly Endowed,” and explained the Mystic Practice
of Three Observations in a Single Mind. From the aspect of practice of
the doctrine of “Observing the Mind,” the practice itself was said to
be “Perfectly Immediate.” It is only by arriving at this level that it is
shown for the first time that the enlightenment of the Buddha is the
Mystic Truth that earthly desires are enlightenment, that birth and
death are nirvana, and that this world is the land of tranquil light.

The True Perfect Teaching
As regards the difference between the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and
the Lotus Sutra, within this classification of the Threefold Comparison
of the Teachings, the Great Master T’ien-t’ai summarizes them into
his doctrine of the Eight Teachings and Five Periods. In other words,
he categorizes both Teachings and Periods relative to their being
“Three, Early and Distinct” or “One, Later and Mystic.” In terms of the
summary of the teachings, the three-part group including the
Tripitaka, Connecting and Distinct Teachings, is comprised of
expedient teachings, while only the Perfect Teaching is the true
teaching. This division denotes the contents of the Four Teachings,
just as they have been set forth herein. Further, the summary of the
periods judges them from the point of view of their superiority or
inferiority within the Five Periods: the Specific and Perfect Teachings
are expounded during the Kegon Period; the Tripitaka, Connecting,
Specific and Perfect Teachings are expounded during the Hodo
Period, and; the Connecting, Specific and Perfect Teachings are
expounded during the Hannya Period.
However, when compared with the perfection of the Lotus Sutra, the
perfection of the three former teachings is tinged with expedient
teachings, and only the single later teaching (the Lotus Sutra) is
strictly judged to be the “One True Teaching of Immediate
Perfection.” Because such is the case, it was only when the Lotus
Sutra had been expounded that the doctrine of the Three Perfectly
Endowed Truths became an actuality.
Through the Lotus Sutra, the Great Master T’ien-t’ai set forth the
theoretical doctrine of ichinen sanzen. But as the True Buddha of the
Latter Day of the Law, the Daishonin established the Mystic Law
concealed within the depths of the Lotus Sutra as the Dai-Gohonzon
of the actual practice of ichinen sanzen.
When we earnestly embrace, believe in and practice to this
Gohonzon, we are naturally able to experience the Mystic Principle of
the Three Perfectly Endowed Truths, and are able to lead sound lives.

Footnote:
1 Three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. All rights reserved