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The Tathagatagarbha (Buddha-essence/Buddha-nature)

May 29, 2007 09:32 AM
by danielhcaldwell

The Tathagatagarbha 

In the book MAHAYANA BUDDHISM, especially Chapter 5 on "The
Tathagatagarbha (Buddha-essence/Buddha-nature)", pp. 96-115,
the author Paul Williams writes:

"[The Mahayana Maha-parinirvana Sutra]...teaches
a really existing, permanent sentient
beings. It is this element which enables sentient
beings to become otherwise fulfils
several of the requirments of a Self in the Indian
tradition. Whether this is called the Real, True,
Transcendental Self or not is as such immaterial,
but what is historically interesting is that this
sutra in prepared to use the word
'Self' (atman) for this element...." page 99

And on page 101 Williams quotes from the
Buddhist scripture Srimula Sutra that
describes the "dharmakaya" as:

"beginningless, uncreate, unborn, undying,
free from death; permanent, steadfast, calm,
eternal, intrinsically pure...."

Then turning to Tibetan Buddhism, below is a brief description of a
book about one Tibetan school that teaches something very similar to
what is given in H. P. Blavatsky "Secret Doctrine":

"The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the
Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen"
by Cyrus Stearns
(Suny Series, Buddhist Studies)

"The Buddha from Dolpo examines the life and thought of the
Tibetan Buddhist master, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361). Known
as 'The Buddha from Dolpo,' he was one of the most important and
original thinkers in Tibetan history, and perhaps the greatest expert
on the tantric teachings of the Kalacakra or 'Wheel of Time.' Based
largely upon esoteric Buddhist knowledge believed to be preserved in
the legendary land of Shambhala, Dolpopa's theories continue to
excite controversy in Tibetan Buddhism after almost 700
years.. 'Dolpopa emphasized two contrasting definitions of the
Buddhist teachings of emptiness: 'emptiness of self-nature,' which
applies only to the, level of relative truth, and 'emptiness of
other,' which applies only to the level of absolute truth. Dolpopa
identified ultimate reality as the Buddha-nature inherent in all
living beings. This view of an 'emptiness of other,' known in Tibetan
as Zhentong, is Dolpopa's main spiritual legacy.. "

And David Reigle has written in BLAVATSKY'S SECRET BOOKS:


Some seven centuries ago there arose in Tibet a school of teachings
which has many parallels to Theosophy. This is the Jonangpa school.
Like Theosophy which attempted to restore teachings from "the
universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world"
[1] it attempted to restore teachings of the earlier Golden Age. Like
Theosophy which teaches as its first fundamental proposition "an
omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle on which all
speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human
conception," [2] it teaches a principle which is permanent, stable,
quiescent, and eternal, which is devoid of anything but itself,
or "empty of other" (gzhan stong), and which therefore transcends
even the most subtle conceptualization.


More from David Reigle:


The Jonangpa teachings are based primarily on Kalacakra and the works
of Maitreya. I have elsewhere provided evidence linking the "Book of
Dzyan" on which The Secret Doctrine is based and the lost mula
Kalacakra Tantra. An important passage from a letter of H.P.
Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett also links the Book of Dzyan and the work
of Maitreya:

"I have finished an enormous Introductory Chapter, or Preamble,
Prologue, call it what you will; just to show the reader that the
text [of The Secret Doctrine] as it goes, every Section beginning
with a page of translation from the Book of Dzyan and the Secret Book
of "Maytreya Buddha" Champai chhos Nga (in prose, not the five books
in verse known, which are a blind) are not fiction."

Blavatsky here refers to a secret book of Maitreya as opposed to the
five books known. It is noteworthy that there came to Tibet from
India two schools of interpretation of the Maytreya works: a
doctrinal or analytical school whose textual exegesis is still
current, and a meditative or practice school thought to have
disappeared several centuries ago. According to Leonard van der
Kuijp, this school did not die out but rather became the basis of the
Jonangpa teachings:

As such, future research may show two things. Firstly, the forerunner
of the so-called Jo-nang-pa position and the 'Great madhyamaka' was
the meditative, practical school that grew up around these teachings
of Maitreya[natha]. In course of time, other texts which expressed
similar sentiments, or which were interpreted as maintaining similar
ideas, were added to the original corpus of texts on which this
tradition based itself. In the second place, it may become possible
to show that Dol-po-pa's efforts could be characterized as an attempt
to redress the 'Meditative School' according to the normative
methodology of the 'Analytical School'.

The specific book of Maitreya on which the fundamental Jonangpa
doctrine of shen-tong or "empty of other" is based is the Ratna-gotra-
vibhaga, also called the Uttara-tantra. This book contains a
synthesis of the tathagata-garbha or "Buddha-matrix" teaching. The
tathagata-garbha teaching of a universal matrix or Buddha-nature,
which all people have, is so different from other Buddhist teachings
that Buddhist writers disagreed on how to classify it. In Tibet, it
was classified by some writers as a Madhyamaka teaching, and by
others as a Yogacara teaching, though it did not fit well in either
category. An early Chinese writer, Fa-tsang (643-712), put it in its
own separate category beyond the three accepted ones of Hinayana,
Madhyamaka, and Yogacara. Analogously, H.P. Blavatsky speaks of
a seventh school of Indian philosophy (darsana) beyond the six
accepted ones, the esoteric school....
[quoted from:




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