16. The Three Truths in Tiantai Buddhism

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. Brook Ziporyn

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch16

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Ziporyn, B. (2013) The Three Truths in Tiantai Buddhism, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch16

Author Information

  1. National University of Singapore, Singapore

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • centrality;
  • emptiness;
  • provisional truth;
  • Tiantai Buddhism;
  • ultimate truth


All Mahayana schools adopt some version of the Two Truths theory, with one exception: the Tiantai school, which alone among all Buddhist schools moves from the Two Truths epistemology to a Three Truths model of truth. The Three Truths are actually three different ways of looking at any object or state. Each implies the other two, and each is one way to describe the whole of that object, including its other two aspects. This cup is a cup: that is provisional truth, conventional truth, local coherence. This cup is not a cup: that is ultimate truth, its emptiness, its global incoherence. To be a cup is not to be a cup: that is its Centrality, its Non-duality, its Absoluteness. This cup is all things, all possible ways of being, all universes, as this cup.