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Chih-i (chēˈ-ē) [key], 538–97, Chinese Buddhist scholar and founder of the T'ien-t'ai (in Japan, called Tendai, or Lotus) school of Buddhism. Chih-i produced a conceptual framework that integrated varying Indian Buddhist schools and scriptures into a coherent whole by classifying the various scriptures into five groups and eight teachings. According to Chih-i, the Avatamsaka Sutra (see Hua-yen Buddhism) revealed the essence of the Buddha's enlightenment, but was incomprehensible to his hearers. In an effort to provide beneficial instruction, the Buddha began with simple teachings that gradually became more subtle and profound, culminating with the Lotus and Nirvana Sutras, which for Chih-i were not merely scriptures, but guidelines for salvation. Chih-i united Buddhist scriptures into a continuous revelation.

See L. Hurvitz, Chih-i (1962); K. Ch'en, Buddhism in China (1964); P. Swanson, The Foundations of T'ien T'ai Philosophy (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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