Clear Serenity, Quiet Insight

T'ien-t'ai Chih-i's Mo-ho chich-kuan, 3 Volume Set

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Paul L. Swanson
Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture
  • Honolulu, HI: 
    University of Hawai'i Press
    , October
     2280 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Robert Campany forthcoming.


The Mo-ho chih-kuan (Great cessation-and-contemplation) by T’ien-t’ai Chih-i (538–597) is among the most influential treatises in the long history of Buddhist scholarship. It is known for not only its brilliant insights, but also its systematic and comprehensive treatment of the Buddhist tradition. Clear Serenity, Quiet Insight is the first complete, fully annotated translation of this monumental work by one of today’s foremost scholars on T’ien-t’ai (Tendai) Buddhism.

The Mo-ho chih-kuan offers a superb outline of Buddhist tradition that covers the full scope of its practices—from sitting or walking in meditation to chanting the Buddha’s name to defining the tenets of ethical living—and its teachings—from the “Hīnayāna” Āgama texts to Mahāyāna sutras and treatises to various Buddhist and non-Buddhist (indigenous Chinese) beliefs. As a cornerstone of T’ien-t’ai study and practice, the Mo-ho chih-kuan was poured over by generations of T’ien-t’ai exegetes and aspiring students, but it also garnered the attention of Buddhist monastics and laity well beyond the confines of the T’ien-t’ai school, including adherents of the Ch’an and Hua-yen schools. Wherever T’ien-t’ai and other homegrown Chinese traditions of Buddhism traveled—Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and beyond—the Mo-ho chih-kuan traveled with them, becoming a genuine classic of East Asian Buddhism.

The extensive annotation accompanying the translation (volumes 1 and 2) will help readers understand the original text and the implications of various crucial passages and ideas, as well as the place the Mo-ho chih-kuan occupies in the development of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese Buddhism and its critical importance for figures such as Nichiren, who considered Chih-i the “great master” and quoted profusely from the text in his own writings. Volume 3 includes ample supplementary materials such as translations of related texts, a comprehensive glossary, and lists of Chinese terms and explanations of various sources, among others.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Paul L. Swanson is a Permanent Research Fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nanzan University.

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