seven expedient means ［七方便・七方便位］ ( shichi-hōben or shichi-hōben-i): (1) Seven stages of Hinayana practice, also referred to as seven expedients, seven stages of worthiness, seven worthies, or seven categories of worthy persons. The seven expedient means belong to the level of ordinary practitioners. They lead to the way of insight, the first of the three ways leading to nirvana, and are divided into two groups: the three stages of worthiness and the four good roots. They constitute practice preparatory to entering the way of insight. See also four good roots; three stages of worthiness.
(2) Seven expedients or expedient means, a concept set forth by the T’ien-t’ai school. T’ien-t’ai (538–597) defined two different sets of seven expedient means. One is that of the seven vehicles, or teachings, preached prior to the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra. These are teachings for (a) human beings, (b) heavenly beings, (c) voice-hearers, (d) cause-awakened ones, (e) bodhisattvas of the Tripitaka teaching, (f) bodhisattvas of the connecting teaching, and (g) bodhisattvas of the specific teaching. The other refers to practitioners: (a) voice-hearers and (b) cause-awakened ones of the Tripitaka teaching; (c) voice-hearers, (d) cause-awakened ones, and (e) bodhisattvas of the connecting teaching; (f) bodhisattvas of the specific teaching; and (g) bodhisattvas of the perfect teaching. In this context, the seven expedient means also refer to the seven stages or levels attained by these practitioners.