true teaching ［実教］ ( jikkyō): The teaching in which Shakyamuni Buddha directly revealed his enlightenment. The term is used in contrast with “provisional teachings,” or those teachings the Buddha expounded as temporary expedients to lead people to the true teaching. T’ien-t’ai (538–597) defined the true teaching as the Lotus Sutra, which regards the one Buddha vehicle as true and the three vehicles as expedient. Classifying all the Buddhist sutras into five periods and eight teachings, he declared the first four of the five periods and the first three of the four teachings of doctrine to be “provisional,” and the last (Lotus and Nirvana period) of the five periods and the last (perfect teaching) of the four teachings of doctrine to be “true.”
The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, considered a prologue to the Lotus Sutra, reads: “In the past I sat upright in the place of meditation for six years under the bodhi tree and was able to gain supreme perfect enlightenment. With the Buddha eye I observed all phenomena and knew that this enlightenment could not be explained or described. Why? Because I knew that living beings are not alike in their natures and their desires. And because their natures and desires are not alike, I preached the Law in various different ways. Preaching the Law in various different ways, I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth.” And the “Expedient Means” (second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads, “Honestly discarding expedient means, I will preach only the unsurpassed way.” In the first quote, “preaching the Law in various different ways” indicates those teachings expounded prior to the Lotus Sutra, which were expedient or provisional teachings adapted to the capacities of the listeners, and “the truth” means the Lotus Sutra, the “true teaching” that is to be revealed irrespective of people’s capacities to understand it. In the next quote, “honestly discarding” indicates the temporary or provisional nature of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, and “I will preach only” indicates the permanent or true nature of the “unsurpassed way,” the one vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra. See also eight teachings; five periods.