Dissertation
Dissertation > Philosophy, religion > Religion > Buddhism > The analysis and study of Buddhism

The Tath(?)gatagarbha in Tibetan Buddhism

Author DaoJiRenQing
Tutor DuoShi
School Northwest University for Nationalities
Course Chinese Ethnic Language and Literature
Keywords tathāgatagarbha pratītyasamutpāda sūnyatā Tathāgatagarbha Sutra
CLC B948
Type PhD thesis
Year 2010
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The tathagatagarbha in Tibetan BuddhismThe tathagatagarbha concept is a fundamental philosophical question of Buddhism. tathagatagarbha (Sanskrit) has the original contextual meaning of "embryonic Buddha" (Tib:bade gashegas snginga po) or "Buddha heart". Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and particularly the Prasangika school expresses the term as "Buddha nature". Within the three surviving nikayas of Theravada Buddhism, there are several ways of understanding tathagatagarbha and according to different sutras. The most significant doctrines lie in the Tathagatagarbha, Lankavatara, Mahaparinnirvana,, Maharatnakuta, Mahabheri Haraka Parivarta, and Angulinalya sutras, which define tathagatagarbha as a monism and something permanent. Prasangika and Tibetan Buddhism schools (Nyingma, New Bon, Kadam, Sakya, Jonang, Gelug, Kagyu) meanwhile, see tathagatagarbha as an expression of the concepts of pratiyasamutpada (dependent arising) and sunyata (emptiness). Many researchers believe that the Tibetan Buddhist practice of mahasampanna (Eng:Dzogchen, Tib:rdzogas chena) and Mahamudra (Eng:the Great Seal, Tib:phyga rhy chen mo) are based on the concept of an "absolute" tathagatagarbha.In this paper I focus on the Tibetan Buddhist interpretation of tathagatagarbha and argue that its concept concerns "emptiness" and "dependent arising" but nothing else. I have five main arguments:1) All Tibetan Buddhist schools, in theory and practice, assert that they follow Mahayana Buddhism and its Prasangika school; Tibetan Buddhism is enshrined in the doctrines of bothNagarjuna and Candrakirti who both stated that ultimate truth is sunyata but not atman (infinite, ego-less, svabhava); 3) Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika declares:"whatever is relational origination [pratityasamutpada] is sunyata" which means that all phenomena (dharmas) are sunyata including Buddha nature; 4) The Tibetan Buddhist schools insist that all Buddhist sutras be explained in terms of Nagarjuna’s theory and wisdom. The Buddha himself prognosticated Nagarjuna as his re-disseminator and this is recorded in several scriptures, for instance Tsongkhapa’s In praise of dependent arising; and 5) Tibetan Buddhist schools agree on the tathagatagarbha concept and this understanding corresponds with the principles of Buddhist scripture, in particular the "revelation of the whole truth" and "partial revelation of the truth", the four seals of Buddha truth (chatur udan) and the four reliances (catrari pratisaranan).Tibetan Buddhist schools stress that in the three turnings of the wheel of the Buddha’s doctrine(tridharmachakra), the second teaching of the "perfection of wisdom" (prajna) or "wisdom of emptiness" is central, the Heart Sutra (Prajnapramit-hridaya Sutra) containing the wisdom of salvation. Tathagatagarbha is the main teaching of third of the tridharmachakra and should be combined with the wisdom of emptiness. Hopkins [1973:p323] states:"The prasangikas say that this teaching [of the concept of tathagatagarbha] is an example of giving to the cause the name of effect; for, the emptiness of the mind of each sentient being is what allows for change of that sentient being’s mind, and this emptiness if being called a fully enlightened Buddha"In conclusion, I am arguing that the concept of tathagatagarbha in the Tibetan Buddhist schools-being simply emptiness and dependent arising-includes the view of the Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen school and its gazhanastaonga (Eng:wrong view concerning unrealness of the attributes) text and tradition. In this vein, Tibetan Buddhist sects also contend that several Mahayana Buddhist scriptures such as the Mahaparinirvana, Tathagatagarbha, Srimladevimhanada and Mahayana Angulimaliya sutras, which describe tathagatagarbha as omniscient, eternal, infinite, pure, benevolent, nurturing, ultimate nature, unconditioned, changeless, virtuous or ineffable are to be understood as only "partial revelation of the truth" and not "revelation of the whole truth". After all, tathagatagarbha in Tibetan Buddhism is emptiness or wisdom of emptiness but nothing else. In fact, according to Tibetan Buddhism, the two-in-one (yuganaddha, Tib:zunga vajuga) of emptiness and bodhicitta, means that we can attain the final Buddhist goal of enlightenment. This is why tathagatagarbha is the cornerstone of all Buddhist teaching.

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