Kyoso Hanjaku (evaluation of sutras) (教相判釈)

Kyoso Hanjaku means evaluation of Buddhist scriptures, and was practiced in regions where Buddhist scriptures using Chinese characters were used, including China, for the purpose of evaluating and interpreting Buddhist scriptures based on the height and depth of their contents.

It is also called Kyohan for short.


Shaka preached many teachings during around 45 year period after he attained enlightenment and until he entered nirvana. These teachings were compiled into scriptures in later years. After many scriptures had been introduced into China and compiled into Buddhist scriptures using Chinese characters, they were distinguished, according to Chinese-style interpretation of Shaka's teaching, based on their contents and the era of original teachings and monks sought perfect Satori (enlightenment) in unobstructed cultivation of Buddhism from such scriptures. This is the origin of Kyoso Hanjaku and it was introduced into Japan, Korea and Vietnam as northern-route Buddhism.

Currently, however, it is widely criticized and cited as proof of the thesis that the Mahayana teachings do not stem from the historical Buddha's teachings because the era of creation of each scripture is specified to a certain extent and the fact that the Mahayana Sutra is not Shaka's direct teaching but one created in later years is well known. Therefore, classification of the Buddhist Doctrines known as "Fivefold Periods and Eight Teachings" (to be mentioned later) is generally rejected as being imperfect or incorrect. However, even the oldest portion of Theravada Buddhism's tripitaka is assumed to have been compiled only 100 years after Shaka's demise and there exist no scriptures that have been confirmed as those handed down from Shaka's direct teachings.

At that time, however, there were no methods other than Kyoso Hanjaku to distinguish the many scriptures because all Buddhist scriptures, regardless of south route or north route, were believed to be the direct teachings of Shaka. In this connection, some monks still try to conduct Kyoso Hanjaku under the pretext of the history of creation of scriptures, independent of the thesis that the Mahayana teachings do not stem from the historical Buddha, from the standpoint that even though many of scriptures do not directly derive from Shaka's teachings, they cannot be completely bogus since each scripture should have been created and developed based on the original Shaka's teachings.

Block of Tibetan Buddhist Scriptures (Tibet, Mongolia, Ching)
In Tibet, the introduction of Buddhism was carried out as a national project during the period from the end of the 8th century to the 9th century and various Buddhist traditions that then existed in India were introduced in one swoop in a short period. In translating Buddhist scriptures, preparation of the proper Tibetan vocabulary and grammar required for correct translation from Sanskrit was conducted beforehand and as a result, Daizo-kyo Sutra (the Tripitaka) of Tibetan Buddhism are much more streamlined, such as the existence of a single translation of a particular scripture and unified word selection of the same notion used in various scriptures, compared with Buddhist scriptures using Chinese characters. Under such circumstances, a study of Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan Buddhism was conducted from the viewpoint of how to rationally systematize a group of scriptures which also includes partially contradictory wordings.

History (Block of Buddhist Scriptures of Chinese Characters)

In China, the problem concerning which are the real teachings of Shaka arose because Buddhist teachings were highly diversified due to too many scriptures being introduced. Under such circumstances, it was widely thought that the root of such differences in the contents of scriptures was the difference of the era and contents of Shaka's original teachings and a variety of Kyoso Hanjaku, a method for distinguishing the era of Shaka's preachings as well as judging the supreme teachings among them, were practiced by various sects.

The oldest Kyohan is believed to be the one practiced by Dosho and it is categorized into four kinds as shown below.

Zenjo-horin - Shaka preached to lay believers. Hoben-horin - Shaka preached to Zraavaka, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva. Shinjitsu-horin - Shaka preached Hoke-kyo Sutra (the Lotus Sutra). Muyo-horin - Shaka preached Daihatusnaion-kyo Sutra (only first half of Nehan-gyo Sutra (the Nirvana Sutra) translated by Hokken).

Next, Ekan exhorted Kyohan, called the Fivefold Periods.

Shaka preached Shitai Tenporin (literally, spinning the dharma wheel and metaphorically to 'expounding the truth' of Four Noble Truths) at Sarnath. Shaka preached Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra at various places. Shaka preached Yuima-gyo (Vimalakirti Sutra) and Bontenyakushi-kyo (Brahmapariprccha Sutra) at various places. Shaka preached Hoke-kyo sutra at Ryojusen Mountain (Griddhakuta). Shaka preached Daihatsu Nehan-gyo (the Nirvana Sutra) at a grove of sal trees. Ekan was believed to have established Fivefold Periods and founded the origin of the Fivefold Periods Kyohan.

Both Dosho and Ekan were the principal disciples of Kumaraju, who translated Hoke-kyo Sutra. Although there is a difference between them in their interpretation of Nehan-gyo, and Ekan once criticized Dosho, both judged the Nirvana Sutra to be the supreme scripture in their Kyohan.

As far as the Fivefold Periods Kyohan is concerned, that of the Tendai sect is famous today but its origin is the Fivefold Periods as exhorted by Ekan. Based on this, a variety of Kyoso-hanjaku were practiced. Therefore, the origin of 'Fivefold Periods Kyohan and Eight Teachings' of the Tendai sect can be traced back to Dosho and Ekan.

Thesis of Fivefold Periods and Eight Teachings (Tendai)
Kyohan based on Fivefold Periods and Eight Teachings, or the thesis of Fivefold Periods and Eight Teachings, is what Chigi (538 - 597) of Mt. Tendai divided Issai-kyo Sutra (complete Buddhist scriptures) into Fivefold Periods and Eight Teachings. Saicho introduced it into Japan. Nichiren adopted it as the basis of his advocacy that Hoke-kyo Sutra is the supreme scripture.

Fivefold Periods
According to this thesis, Shaka preached Kegon-kyo Sutra (Avatamska Sutra) first but as it was too difficult for people to understand, he preached Agon-kyo Sutra (Agama Sutra) next which was easier. Shaka, then preached Hodo-kyo Sutra (Vaipulya Sutra) and Hannya-kyo Sutra (Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra) depending on peoples' level of understanding and during the final 8 years, he preached Hoke-kyo Sutra and Nehan-gyo. As a conclusion, this thesis asserted that Hoke-kyo Sutra, which Shaka finally preached, was the most important teaching.

Based on duration, Eza (place where Shaka preached) and scripture, D are sorted out as follows.

The Period of Kegon-kyo (Avatamsaka)
Duration - 21 days (some assert it was 31 days)
Eza - 8 meetings at 7 places including nearby Gaya Castle and under a lime tree along the Niranjana River.
Scripture - Kegon-kyo Sutra (Daihokobutsu Kegon-kyo Sutra)
Contents - Nyuso (Fresh milk), Sudden Teaching that advocates Betsu-kyo (Distinctive Teaching) and En-kyo (Complete Teaching) and the teaching of gigi (to gauge good things).
The Period of Agon-kyo (Agamas)
Duration - 12 years
Eza - Sarnath in Varanasi
Scripture - Agon-kyo Sutra of zoitsu (or Ekottara Agama, Additional Discourses), Jo (or diigha-nikaaya, Collection of Long Discourses), chu (or majjhima-nikaaya, Collection of Middle-length Discourses), zo (or saMyutta-nikaaya, Connected Discourses or Kindred Sayings), and sho (or khuddaka-nikaaya, Collection of Little Texts) and Nanden Daizo-kyo Sutra (the Tripitaka coming from the south) such as Hokku-kyo Sutra (Dhammapada). Contents - Rakuso (Cream), Zen-kyo (gradual teaching) that advocates only Daizo-kyo (including Himitsu-kyo (Secret Teaching) and Fujo-kyo (Variable Teaching)) and the teaching of yuin (to lead).
The Period of Hodo-kyo (Vaipulya)
Duration - 16 years (some assert it was 8 years)
Eza - Gion-shoja (the Jetavana monastery) at Sravasti, Venuvana Monastery in Magadh and Amrapali in Vaisali
Scripture - Gon-daijo-kyo (sutras to explain Mahayana Buddhism) including Amida-kyo Sutra, Dainichi-kyo Sutra (Mahavairocana Sutra), Konkomyo-kyo Sutra Konkomyo-kyo Sutra (Golden Light Sutra), Yuima-kyo Sutra (Vimalakirti Sutra), Shoman-kyo Sutra (Srimala Sutra) and Gejinmitsu-kyo Sutra (Samdhinirmocana-sutra). Contents - Shoso (Curds), Zen-kyo (including Himitsu-kyo and Fujo-kyo) that advocates the comparison of 4 teachings of Daizo-kyo, Tsu-kyo (Shared Teaching), Betsu-kyo and En-kyo and the teaching of danka (to scold).
The Period of Hannya-kyo (Prajna)
Duration - 14 years (some assert it was 22 years)
Eza - 16 meetings at 4 places including Ryojusen Mountain nearby Rajagrha in Magadh. Scripture - Daihannya-kyo (Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra), Kongohannya-kyo Sutra (Diamond Sutra) and Hannya Shin-gyo (Heart Sutra), and so on. Contents - Jukuso (Butter), Zen-kyo that advocates En-kyo with Tsu-kyo and Betsu-kyo mixing (including Himitsu-kyo and Fujo-kyo) and the teaching of tota (to select).
The Period of Hokke Nehan-gyo (Lotus Nirvana)
Duration - 8 years (1 day 1 night as for Nehan-gyo Sutra)
Eza - 3 meetings at 2 places including Ryojusen Mountain nearby Rajagrha in Magadh (Hoke-kyo Sutra) and under a sal tree along the Ajitavati River in Kushinagar (Nehan -gyo Sutra). Scripture - Hokke Sanbu-kyo Sutra (The Threefold Lotus Sutra) centered on Hoke-kyo Sutra 28 chapters and Nehan-gyo Sutra. Contents - Daigo (Ghee), Ton-kyo that advocates En-kyo (no Himitsu-kyo and Fujo-kyo) and the teaching of kaie (to reveal).

However, the above time-series classification was made simply based on the time, descriptions relevant to time and places that are described in scriptures together with their contents, it does not necessarily mean that Shaka actually preached in this order.

In this connection, Nichiren said in his Shugo Kokka-ron (Treatise on protection of the nation); 'The above is a summary of voluminous sutra. Concerning various sutras of Mahayana and Hinayana other than this, their histories are definitely confirmed and there is a possibility that Shaka preached Kegon-kyo Sutra after Agon-kyo Sutra or he preached Hodo-kyo Sutra and Hannya-kyo Sutra after Hoke-kyo Sutra.
As the meanings of them are analogous, they should be treated together.'
Therefore, attention should be paid to the fact that Shaka preached his teachings taking into account people's patience (ability to listen to or understand his teachings) and as the term taiki-seppo (the best suitable expression of the teaching for the target audience) and Rinki Ohen (the best suitable action according to circumstances) indicate, he preached not necessarily in sequence. From the viewpoint of the thesis that the Mahayana teachings do not stem from the historical Buddha as well as the history of scriptures, attention also should be paid to the fact that even Nichiren admitted the history of sutras was not confirmed while he adopted the Fivefold Periods thesis which Chigi had determined. Therefore, although some members of the current Buddhist community reject the Fivefold Periods thesis as wrong, it cannot be denied completely.

In this connection, Chigi asserted that the content of Nehan-gyo Sutra was almost the same as that of Hoke-kyo Sutra, and its truth had already been clarified in Hoke-kyo Sutra and therefore, it was preached only for the purpose of rescuing people who had been left out from Hoke's rescue. Based on this standpoint, Chigi further asserted that, rather than separating Nehan (nirvana) and Hoke, he classified them together in the 'Hoke-Nehan period' because Nehan was preached only for one day and one night, while Hoke was preached for 8 years; judging from the content and the place of preaching while the period of preaching from the Kegon-kyo and Hoke-kyo sutras were unknown, however, the Nehan-gyo Sutra are the only teachings that Shaka preached when he was dying.

Gomisosho-no-tatoe (The five flavors, or stages of making ghee, which is said to be a cure for all ailments; it is a Tiantai illustration of the five periods of the Buddha's teaching)
Chigi also linked Fivefold Periods, Kegon, Agon, Hodo, Hannya and Hoke-Nehan, to Five Flavors, fresh milk, cream, curds, butter and ghee, that are advocated by Nehan-gyo Sutra as Gomisosho-no-tatoe.

Nyuso = Kegon
Rakuso = Agon
Shoso = Hodo
Jukuso = Hannya
Daigo = Hoke-Nehan

This is well-known as Daigo-no-tatoe (analogy of Daigo). However, the above description of Nehan-gyo Sutra solely advocates that Nehan-gyo Sutra is the ultimate and supreme sutra among all sutras and strictly speaking, Hoke-kyo Sutra does not appear in this description.

Precisely, the description of Nehan-gyo Sutra says 'a cow creates nyu (fresh milk), nyu creates rakuso, rakuso creates jukuso (salpis, which is the word origin of Calpis (Japanese milk-based soft drink) and jukuso creates ghee and similarly in the teaching of Buddhism, Buddha creates Junibu-kyo Sutra (the Twelve Divisions of Scriptures), Junibu-kyo Sutra creates Shutara (sutra), Shutara creates Hodo-kyo Sutra, Hodo-kyo sutra creates Hannya Haramitsu (prajnaparamita) and Hannya Haramitsu creates Dainehan-kyo Sutra' (the Nirvana Sutra).

Strictly speaking, therefore, linkage is (presumed to be) as follows.

Nyu = Junibu-kyo Sutra
Rakuso = Shutara
Shoso = Hodo-kyo Sutra
Jukuso = Hannya Haramitsu
Daigo = Dainehan-kyo Sutra

Chigi linked Fivefold Periods and Five Flavors by his intelligent inspiration. By people belonging to the Buddhist academy, however, much criticism has been raised against his interpretation which judges that Nehan-gyo Sutra is inferior to Hoke-kyo Sutra, asserting that he twisted the argument too much in favor of Hoke-kyo Sutra from his standpoint regarding Hoke-kyo Sutra's superiority.

Eight Teachings
Eight teachings are divided into Kegi-no-shikyo (Shakamuni's four modes of instruction) and Keho-no-shikyo (Shakamuni's four kinds of teaching the content of the Truth, accommodated to the capacity of his disciples).

Kegi-no-shikyo is the categorization of Shaka's teachings based on the form of teaching to guide people (such as rites) with the calling of such form as Gi.

Ton-kyo (ton means immediately and Ton-kyo are the teachings which Buddha preached immediately after he attained Satori regardless of people's patience)
Zen-kyo (zen means gradually and Zen-kyo is the teaching which Buddha preached stepwise from shallow teachings to deep teachings depending on people's patience)
Himitsu-kyo (Its correct name is Himitsu Fujo-kyo and it is the teaching which Shaka preached in order to give indefinite benefits separately (individually) to people whose patience is different while keeping the difference in teachings a secret (confidentially))
Fujo-kyo (correct name is Kenro Fujo-kyo and it is the teachings which Shaka preached in order to give indefinite benefits separately (individually) to people whose patience is different while revealing the difference of the teachings)

These four correspond to Fivefold Periods as Ton-kyo to the Period of Kegon-kyo, Zen-kyo to three periods of Agon-kyo, Hodo-kyo and Hannya-kyo, Himitsu-kyo and Fujo-kyo to a part of Kegon and Agon, Hodo and Hannya and neither Ton-kyo, Zen-kyo, Himitsu-kyo nor Fujo-kyo correspond to the Period of Hoke-Nehan-kyo.

Keho-no-shikyo is the categorization of Shaka's teachings based on their contents and such teachings (such as the Four Axioms, and so on) are called ho (teaching).

Zo-kyo (the abbreviated name of Sanzo-kyo (Tripitaka Teaching) that consists of kei (Sutta-pitaka), ron (Abhidhamma-pitaka) and ritsu (Vinaya-pitaka)). It is also called Hinayana and it advocates the necessity of attaining enlightenment of Kuri (abstract or impracticable theory) in order to renounce worldly desires but as it regards every substance as a part of Ku (mind that is not bound by anything), it is called 'Tanku-no ri' (the theory of only Ku) or 'Henshin no Kuri' (the abstract or impracticable theory of prejudicial truth) because it is a prejudiced truth.

Tsu-kyo (teachings that are similar to Zo-kyo and Betsu-kyo.
It is a primer of Mahayana
It advocates Taikukan which regards the substances of various Ho as Ku, but while clever Bodhisattva attained 'Futanku-no-ri' which contains Chudo-no-myori (profound reasons of moderation) that is not mere Ku from it, stupid Bodhisattva, shomon (Sharavakia) and Engaku (or paccekabuddha, who has come to Bodhi independent of any other person) attained only 'Tanku' which could be attained from Zo-kyo).

Betsu-kyo (unlike Zo-kyo and Tsu-kyo above or En-kyo below, it is the teachings which Shaka separately preached to Bodhisattva only. While the above two teachings advocate only Kuri, it advocates the three axioms of Ku, Ke (or difference, a though that things exits temporally) and Chu (or totality) but as the three axioms are not united and separated, it is called 'Kakureki-no-sandai' (three separate axioms) and it advocates only discrimination, rather than harmonization, concerning all things. Although it also advocates the axiom of Chudo (moderation), it is called 'Tanchu-no-ri' (the theory of only Chudo) because what it advocates is mere Chudo that is separated from two axioms of Ku and Ke. Further, it advocates the three delusions (illusions from imperfect perception, illusion and temptation through the immense variety of duties in saving men, illusions and temptations that arise from failure philosophically to understand things in their reality) and, to renounce them, it advocates the 52 steps of ascetic practices for Bodhisattva. It further advocates karma of Jikkai (the Ten Realms) but only advocates the border of each realm separately. In view of the above, Betsu-kyo is deemed an imperfect teaching since it lacks Sandai Enyu (The Perfectly Integrated Three Truths) and Jikkaigogu (Mutual Containment of the Ten Realms)).

En-kyo (the teachings of peace and harmonization. It is the supreme teachings that advocate the harmonization of three axioms of Ku, Ke and Chu as well as Jikkaigogu).

These four teachings correspond to Fivefold Periods as Zo-kyo to Agon and Hodo, Tsu-kyo to Hodo and Hannya, Betsu-kyo to Kegon, Hodo and Hannya and En-kyo to Kegon, Hodo, Hannya and Hoke-Nehan respectively. However, Kegon, Hodo, Hannya and Nehan-kyo are Zatsu-En (En-kyo that is mixed with other teachings) that is mixed with Hoben-kyo (tentative teachings that aim to induce people into real teachings) of Zo-kyo, Tsu-kyo and Betsu-kyo and therefore, they are not pure Enkyo. Only Hoke-kyo is deemed as the one that advocates purely excellent En-kyo independently.

Therefore, Hoke-kyo is called the teachings of 'transcending eight - Daigo' because it transcends the eight teachings of Kegi (Shakamuni's four modes of instruction) and Keho (Shakamuni's four kinds of teaching the content of the Truth, accommodated to the capacity of his disciples).

[Original Japanese]