Born with the Chen in Huarong, Jing Prefecture , Zhiyi left home to become a monk at eighteen, after the loss of his parents and his hometown Jiangling that fell to the Western Wei army when Zhiyi was seventeen. At 23, he received his most important influences from his first teacher, Nanyue Huisi , a meditation master who would later be listed as Zhiyi's predecessor in the Tiantai lineage. After a period of study with Huisi, he spent some time working in the southern capital of Jinling . Then in 575 he went to Tiantai mountain for intensive study and practice with a group of disciples. Here he worked on adapting the Indian meditation practice of ''zhiguan'' into a complex system of self-cultivation practice that also incorporated devotional rituals and confession/repentance rites. Then in 585 he returned to Jinling, where he completed his monumental commentarial works on the Lotus Sutra, the Fahua wenzhu , and the Fahua xuanyi .
Among his many important works are the ''Mohe zhiguan'', ''Liumiao famen'', ''Fahua wenzhu'', and ''Fahua xuanyi''. Of the works attributed to him , about thirty are extant.
holds that Chih-i: "...provided a religious framework which seemed suited to adapt to other cultures, to evolve new practices, and to universalize Buddhism."
Chih-i and Bodhidharma were contemporaneous, though Chih-i had royal patronage whilst Bodhidharma did not.
Chih-i developed a curriculum of practice which was distilled into the 'Four Samadhi' . These Four Samadhi were expounded in Zhiyi's 'Mo-ho chi-kuan' . The ''Mo-ho chi-kuan'' is the magnum opus of Zhiyi's maturity and is held to be a "grand summary" of the Buddhist Tradition according to his experience and understanding at that time. The text of the ''Mo-ho chi-kuan'' was refined from lectures Chih-i gave in 594 in the capital city of Chin-ling and was the sum of his experience at Mount T’ien-t’ai c.585 and inquiry thus far. Parsing the title, 'chih' holds the semantic field of "ch’an meditation and the concentrated and quiescent state attained thereby" and 'kuan' holds the semantic field of "contemplation and the wisdom attained thereby" . Swanson reports that Chih-i held that there are two modes of 'chih-kuan': that of sitting in meditation 坐, and that of “responding to objects in accordance with conditions” 歴縁対境, which is further refined as abiding in the natural state of a calm and insightful mind under any and all activities and conditions.
Swanson in linking "chih" with ''?amatha'' and "kuan" with ''vipa?yanā'', states that Chih-i in the ''Mo-ho chi-kuan'':
...is critical of an unbalanced emphasis on “meditation alone,” portraying it as a possible “extreme” view and practice, and offering instead the binome chih-kuan 止観 as a more comprehensive term for Buddhist practice.
The 'Samadhi of One Practice' which is also known as the 'samadhi of oneness' or the "calmness in which one realizes that all dharmas are the same" , is one of the ''Four Samadhi'' that both refine, mark the passage to, and qualify the state of perfect enlightenment expounded in the ''Mo-ho chi-kuan''. The 'Samadhi of Oneness' was also developed further by Tao-hsin 道.
The Four Samadhi:
*'Samadhi of Constant Sitting' or 'One Round Samadhi' ;
*'Pratyutpanna-samadhi' or 'Prolonged Samadhi' or 'Samadhi of Constant Walking' ;
*'Samadhi of Half Walking and Half Sitting'
*'Samadhi at Free Will' or 'Samadhi of Non-walking and Non-sitting'
* ; Heisig, James W. & Knitter, Paul . ''Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1: India and China''. World Wisdom. ISBN-13: 978-0-941532-89-1
* Donner, Neal & Daniel B. Stevenson . ''The Great Calming and Contemplation''. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
* Hurvitz, Leon . ''Chih-i : An Introduction to the Life and Ideas of a Chinese Buddhist Monk''. Mélanges Chinois et Couddhiques XII, Bruxelles: Institut Belge des Hautes ?tudes Chinoises.
* Chappell, David W. . 'Is Tendai Buddhism Relevant to the Modern World?' in ''Japanese Journal of Religious Studies'' 1987 14/2-3. Source: ; accessed: Saturday August 16, 2008
* Dumoulin, Heinrich . "Early Chinese Zen Reexamined ~ A Supplement to 'Zen Buddhism: A History'" in ''Japanese Journal of Religious Studies'' 1993 20/1. Source:
* Swanson, Paul L. . ''Ch’an and Chih-kuan: T’ien-t’ai Chih-i’s View of “Zen” and the Practice of the Lotus Sutra''. Presented at the International Lotus Sutra Conference on the theme “The Lotus Sutra and Zen”, 11-16 July 2002. Source:
* Sheng-Yen, Master . ''Tso-Ch'an''. Source: ;