Zhiyi - Founder of Tiantai Tradition

Zhiyi - Founder of Tiantai Tradition

Tiantai School of Buddhism is one of the oldest Buddhist schools in China and Tiantai school practices Tiantai tradition which was considered to be found by Zhiyi, Fourth Patriarch of Tiantai School.

Tiantai Tradition of Tiantai School of China is one of the most popular traditions of Buddhism in China . And Zhiyi is generally considered as the founder of Tiantai Tradition of Buddhism in China. Zhiyi was a Buddhist monk and also considered as the fourth patriarch of Buddhism. In respect to Zhiyi , a monastery was built in Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang, China. The monastery is even named after him and the name is Zhiyi’s Monastery. Among the four patriarchs, Zhiyi was known and famous for being the first to elaborate a complete classification of Buddhist teachings in the history of Chinese Buddhism. The other three patriarchs were Nagarjuna, Huiwen, and Huisi. According to Chinese Buddhism tradition, Nagarjuna was the first patriarch of the Tiantai School and passed on his knowledge to second patriarch Huiwen and Huiwen to Huisi. Monk and Master Huisi transmitted his knowledge to Zhiyi and thus Zhiyi became the fourth patriarch of Tiantai School.


Zhiyi also known as Zhikai turned as a monk lived a monastic life at the age of 17 after the death of his parents. At that time, the Tiantai School was taught by great Buddhist master Huisi and also known as the third patriarch of Tiantai SchoolZhiyi became the disciple of Huisi and started learning from 560 to 567. At the age of 23, Zhiyi was taught his most important and most influential teachings by his masterHuisi. In 575, Zhiyi went to Tiantai Mountain for intense training and meditation so he could learn more. And there he even practices his meditation with his disciples. According to Tiantai tradition, Zhiyi mostly worked on meditation based on the Indian principles of Samatha and VipasyanaZhiyi was the one who adapt the Indian meditation practices and convert it into a complex self-cultivation practice. This practice even incorporated various devotional rituals and rites. In Tiantai history, Zhiyi and Bodhidharma coexisted at the same time.

Achievements of Zhiyi


Being the founder of Tiantai tradition was considered as Zhiyi ’s most important achievements. During his lifetime, Zhiyiwrote “ Great Concentration and Insight ” and this text was considered very important in Tiantai SchoolThe Mohe Zhiguan is one of the greatest achievements of Zhiyi according to Buddhist traditionThe Mohe Zhiguan consists of Four Samadhi and even developed various practice and curriculum based on the principle of TheFour Samadhi .
The Four Samadhi that Zhiyi mentioned in his Mohe Zhiguan and they are:

  • One Round Samadhi (Samadhi of Constant Sitting)
  • Prolonged Samadhi (Pratyutpanna-Samadhi)
  • Samadhi of Half Walking and Half Sitting
  • Samadhi at Free Will (Samadhi of Non-Walking and Non-Sitting)

Tiantai School

Tiantai is one of the important schools of Buddhism in China and various East Asian countries like Japan , Korea , and VietnamTiantai School of Buddhism mainly teaches based on the Lotus SutraTiantai School is sometimes also known as “ The Lotus School ”. Tiantai School of Buddhism teachings mainly focuses on the around the Lotus Sutra and sutta related to Lotus Sutra . According to Tiantai traditionLord Buddha taught about Buddhism for five periods. The five periods are:

  1. The Flower Garland Period
    This period shows the 3 weeks where Lord Buddha started to teach to monks immediately after attaining Enlightenment.
  2. The Agama Period
    The Agama Period lasted over 12 years. Lord Buddha taught and preach about Buddhism to Buddhist monks and disciples in Deer Park, Sarnath.
  3. The Correct and Equal Period
    The Correct and Equal Period
     lasted over 8 years.
  4. The Wisdom Period
    The Wisdom Period 
    according to Tiantai tradition lasted for 22 years. The Wisdom Period was the longest period in Buddha lifetime.
  5. The Lotus and Nirvana Period
    The Lotus and Nirvana Period
     lasted for 8 years. This period consists of Buddha attaining PariNirvana in Kushinagar.

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