four ranks of sages ［四依］ ( shie): Buddhist teachers to be relied upon after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death. They are explained in the Nirvana and other sutras, which classify them into four ranks according to their level of understanding. The first rank refers to the voice-hearers who have yet to attain any of the four stages of Hinayana enlightenment. The second rank refers to those who have attained the first stage, that of the stream-winner ( srota-āpanna), or one who has entered the metaphorical river leading to nirvana; and to those of the second stage, that of the once-returner (sakridāgāmin), or one who must undergo only one more rebirth in the human world before entering nirvana. The third rank refers to those who have attained the third stage, that of the non-returner (anāgāmin), or one who will never be reborn in this world. The fourth rank refers to those who have eliminated the illusions of thought and desire and attained the fourth and highest stage, that of arhat. T’ien-t’ai (538–597) and Chang-an (561–632) correlated the four ranks to the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice in The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra and The Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra, respectively. From this viewpoint, persons of the first rank correspond to those who have not yet attained the first stage of security. Persons of the second rank correspond to those in the ten stages of security. Persons of the third rank correspond to those in the ten stages of practice and the ten stages of devotion. Persons of the fourth rank correspond to those in the ten stages of development and the stage of near-perfect enlightenment, in which one has almost reached the enlightenment of the Buddha. Though the four ranks represent the four levels of understanding, “the four ranks of sages” is also a general term for reliable Buddhist teachers, irrespective of how they fit into the above classification. If they are bodhisattvas, they are also referred to as the four ranks of bodhisattvas.