The theory of the four-level two truths (四重二諦說) created by Jizang (吉藏), was based on the Sanlun school’s traditional theory of the three-level two truths (三重二諦說), and is one of the most renowned teachings of the Sanlun school (三論宗). Most of the preceding studies related to the theory of the four- level two truths were the result of integrating the theory mentioned in other literature of Jizang, focusing on the theory introduced in Dasheng xuanlun 大乘玄論. However, the extant Dasheng xuanlun is neither a work of Jizang nor a compilation by his disciples. Instead, it is a document that was later attributed to Jizang, distorting many of his thoughts, including the theory of the four-level two truths.
Therefore, many issues need to be addressed in the previous studies on the theory of the four-level two truths. This paper focuses on the intended audience of each level of the two truths and examines whether Jizang developed the theory in reaction to other schools of his day. Generally, Jizang’s theory of the four-level two truths is considered to have developed one step further from the theory of the three-level two truths to criticize the two truths of the Abhidharma, Chengshi, Dilun, and Shelun schools in China. However, Dasheng xuanlun, which has been the basis for this argument, misinterpreted the four-level two truths theory since it has nothing to do with the emergence of Yogācāra schools which occurred at the time as the Dilun and Shelun schools. The intended audience of each stage is ordinary people, the two vehicles, and Bodhisattvas, the same as in the early theory of the three-level two truths. It is far from the original intention of Jizang to claim that those three recipients correlate with the masters of the Abhidharma, Chengshi, and Mahāyāna (e.g., Dilun and Shelun) schools, mentioned in Dasheng xuanlun.
Jizang’s theory of the four-level two truths is not a separate theory that deviates from the context of the traditional theory of the three-level two truths but is a multi-layered theory developed more systematically in a continuous context with the theory of the three-level two truths. By focusing on the intended audience at each stage, this paper lays the groundwork for further research on the logical structure and characteristics of the four-level two truths theory.