Mohe Zhiguan

The Móhē zhǐguān (摩訶止観, Mo-ho chih-kuan, Jap.: Makashikan, Skt.:Great śamatha-vipaśyanā) is a major Buddhist doctrinal treatise based on lectures given by the Chinese Tiantai patriarch Zhiyi (538–597 CE) in 594.[1] These lectures were compiled and edited by Zhiyi´s disciple Guanding (561-632) into seven chapters in ten fascicles.[2][3]

The voluminous Mohe Zhiguan is a comprehensive Buddhist doctrinal summa which discusses meditation and various key Buddhist doctrines which was very influential in the development of Buddhist meditation and Buddhist philosophy in China. It is one of the central texts of Chinese Tiantai (and Japanese Tendai) Buddhism.[4]

A major focus of the Móhē zhǐguān is the practice of samatha (止 zhǐ, calming or stabilizing meditation) and vipassana (觀 guān, clear seeing or insight). Zhiyi teaches two types of zhiguan - in sitting meditation and 'responding to objects in accordance with conditions' or practicing mindfully in daily life.[3] Zhiyi uses quotes from all the Buddhist sutras available in China at the time, and tries to include all doctrines into his meditation system.[3] The text is founded firmly on scripture, every key assertion of the text is supported by sutra quotations.[5] In the Móhē zhǐguān, Zhiyi also discusses several key Buddhist doctrines in its exposition of meditative praxis. A major doctrinal view of the work is that of the superiority of the practice of "sudden" samatha-vipasyana which sees ultimate reality present at the very start of one's practice.[6]

Zhiyi divides his meditation system into three major sets, the "twenty-five skillful devices", the "Four samādhis" (sizhǒng sānmèi 四種三昧) and the "ten modes of contemplation".[3]

The "twenty five skillful devices" are preparatory practices which include keeping the five precepts, being in a quiet place, adjusting food intake and posture as well as restraining desire in the five senses and restraining the five hindrances.[3]

The four samadhis are designed for beginners who wish to practice meditation intensively. They are:[3][7]

After the meditator has practiced the four samadhis, he then moves on to contemplating the "ten objects":[3]

The core of the exposition is taken up by the skandhas, ayatanas and dhatus, which are to be contemplated in ten "modes":[3]

The concept of the three truths is a key element in Zhiyi's exposition of the practice of contemplation. Zhiyi's "perfectly integrated threefold truth" is an extension of Nagarjuna's Two truths doctrine.[8] This "round and inter-inclusive" truth is made up of emptiness, conventional existence, and the middle way between the first two, a simultaneous and integral affirmation of both.[3] Contemplating a mental moment with regard to this truth or "threefold contemplation within one moment of mental activity" (yixin sanguan) is seen as the highest form of contemplation and as the ultimate form of realization.[8] It leads to universal salvation (du zhongsheng) because through the transformation of oneself, one can therefore transform others.

According to Rev. Jikai Dehn, the major commentaries on this text in the Tendai tradition are:[9]

The first is a Chinese commentary by the sixth Tiantai patriarch; the latter three are Japanese works.