Can anyone explain the hua-yen sutra accroding to tendai, to me?

I've read a few books of secondary literature on tientai and tendai, a few translations of Zhiyi, the lotus sutra, some of the hua-yen sutra, some translations of hua-yen, some seconadry literature on hua-yen, and assorted scholarship (both ch'an based and otherwise) on east asian Buddhism.

I'm at a complete loss though!

  • 1
    sorry i mean i must come off as slightly simple there haha
    – user2512
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 16:37
  • I know nothing about Tendai or Hua-yen, but when I googled I found this link fascinating, to put it mildly. The stuff it says about four dharmadhatus and the principle/phenomenon relationship is literally eye-opening. Thanks for the educational question /|\ @user3293056
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 20:31
  • 1
    also makes me wonder where @dharmadhatu got his nick. There must be more to that guy than meets the eye...
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 21:10
  • This academic article seems on point Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 18:39
  • also, this SEP article seems worth reading. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


i am a student of Hua-Yen philosophies, have read a handful of western derivative works and am currently working my way through Cleary’s translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. I have, however, no experience with TienTai. I know how difficult it can be to find perspectives on Hua-Yen so I wanted to volunteer my effort here, but I need a little more to work with in terms of a query. Avatamsaka Sutra is a very large collection of work, as you know.

Regarding the metaphor of Indra’s Net, this spiderweb analogy is a good one. The idea is that of an infinite net with glass beads at every node. As light shines through the beads one can examine any bead and see the reflection of all other beads in this single bead...and also the reflection of all beads that appears on each bead is visible if we have strong enough perception.

This also relates to a Fazang teaching regarding li and shi. The absolute interpenetrates all phenomena non-obstructively AND all phenomena interpenetrate non-obstructively.

So, my personal interpretation here is not that identity is annihilated by the light of the absolute, but despite the uniqueness of each bead (even if all beads are clear glass, they may have random bubbles or chips and scratches) any and all other beads can be discovered by studying only one. But none can be found at all that does not have the light of the absolute shining in and through it, no matter how chipped, scratched, cloudy or colorful it may be. For me that light represents Tathagatagarbha...Buddha Nature.

I hope this is somehow helpful and if not that you will forgive the clumsiness of my effort.🙏🏼

  • Welcome to the site. :-)
    – user17652
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 19:45

The Hua Yen comes from Flower Garland Sutra - wikipedia says " The Huayan or Flower Garland school of Buddhism (traditional Chinese: 華嚴; ; pinyin: Huáyán, from Sanskrit: Avataṃsaka) is a tradition of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy that first flourished in China during the Tang dynasty. The Huayen worldview is based primarily on the Avatamsaka Sutra (Chinese: 華嚴經; pinyin: Huáyán jīng). The name Flower Garland is meant to suggest the crowning glory of a Buddha's profound understanding of ultimate reality.

The Huayan School is known as Hwaeom in Korea and Kegon in Japan. This tradition also had a strong influence on Chan Buddhism."

This teaching is the basis of Thich Nhat Hanh's terminology substituting "Interbeing" for Sunyata (Emptiness) - because sunyata isn't simply an "essential nature" of everything. Viet Chan/Zen is very strong in this teaching.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra

Full text of Flower Garland Sutra: https://archive.org/stream/TheFlowerOrnamentScriptureATranslationOfTheAvatamsakaSutraByThomasClearypdfdtyxxytd/The+Flower+Ornament+Scripture+A+Translation+of+the+Avatamsaka+Sutra+by+Thomas+Cleary+%5Bpdf%5D+%7Bdtyxxytd%7D_djvu.txt

Tiantai, on the other hand is based on the Lotus Sutra. Again the Wikipedia summary is sufficient: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiantai

"Tiantai (Chinese: 天台; pinyin: PRC Standard Mandarin: Tiāntāi, ROC Standard Mandarin: Tiāntái) is a school of Buddhism in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam that reveres the Lotus Sutra as the highest teaching in Buddhism.[1] In Japan the school is known as Tendai, in Korea as Cheontae, and in Vietnam as Thiên thai.

The name is derived from the fact that Zhiyi (538–597 CE), the fourth patriarch, lived on Tiantai Mountain.[2] Zhiyi is also regarded as the first major figure to make a significant break from the Indian tradition, to form an indigenous Chinese system. Tiantai is sometimes also called "The Lotus School", after the central role of the Lotus Sutra in its teachings.[3]

During the Sui dynasty, the Tiantai school became one of the leading schools of Chinese Buddhism, with numerous large temples supported by emperors and wealthy patrons. The school's influence waned and was revived again through the Tang dynasty and also rose again during the Song dynasty. Its doctrine and practices had an influence on Chinese Chan and Pure land Buddhism."

Also very big influence on Chan/Zen, as in these traditions an idea of Pure Land teaching is probably encouraged, particularly among the laity. Tiantai is credited with being the first truly Buddhism of Chinese origin.

Full Text Lotus Sutra: http://www.bdk.or.jp/document/dgtl-dl/dBET_T0262_LotusSutra_2007.pdf

  • this reads more like things i should have said in my question, but thanks!
    – user2512
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 21:11
  • everything is interconnected, inter-related, hence temporal, and lacking a true self. The Vedic Story of Indra's Web is mentioned, but as i read it in translation seems a bit vague. The actual Vedic myth isn't what the Buddhist texts refer to, so it's a bit ambiguous. What I have heard is that a drop dew on the spider's web has the reflection of all the other drops of dew on the web in it, as an analogy of this principle. I too would like more explanation to compare it to "as above, so below" "as on earth as it is in heaven" quantuum mechanics notwithstanding Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 21:20

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