May 29, 2007 03:45 PM
David Reigle writes as follows on Maitreya's Ratna-gotra-vibhåga:
Maitreya's Ratna-gotra-vibhåga, sourcebook of the tathågatagarbha
or "Buddha-matrix" teaching, opens by listing seven
vajra-subjects. Vajra means diamond; and the analogy is given in
the commentary by Asanga that like a diamond is hard to
penetrate, so these subjects are hard to understand. Thus they
may be called mysteries.
Here is this opening verse:
"1. Buddha, doctrine (dharma), community (gaña = sangha),
element (dhåtu), enlightenment (bodhi = nirvaña), virtuous
qualities (guña), and lastly buddha-action (karma); these seven
diamond-like subjects (vajra-pada), are in brief, the body of the
[notes: Dhåtu is perhaps the key term in the Ratna-gotra-vibhåga.
Its basic meaning is "Element" (Hookham), also "the Germ (of
Buddhahood)" (Obermiller), "the Essence [of the Buddha]"
(Takasaki), "buddha-nature" (Holmes). The seven vajra-padas
each have a conventional (saµv®ti) and an ultimate (paramårtha)
aspect. Dhåtu when obscured is called tathågata-garbha; when
unobscured it is called dharma-kåya.]
This text gives these seven vajra-subjects from the standpoint of
non-dual wisdom (jnåna). In other words, it gives them in a
form which is not very accessible to the mind. Thus readers
should not expect to find the seven great mysteries spelled out
clearly for them in this text.
For as H. P. Blavatsky says regarding one of the stanzas she
translated from the "Book of Dzyan:"
"Its language is comprehensible only to him who is thoroughly
versed in Eastern allegory and its purposely obscure phraseology.
However, some of these seven subjects, such as karma, are given
in a form which is more accessible to the mind (i.e., from the
standpoint of prajnå) in a work which forms part of the standard
monastic curriculum, the Abhidharma-kosa;a by Vasubandhu."
The One Element
The key term in Maitreya's Ratna-gotra-vibhåga is dhåtu, or
element. It is described in the following important verse:
"80. It is not born, does not die, is not afflicted, and does not grow
old, because it is permanent (nitya/rtag-pa), stable (dhruva/brtanpa),
quiescent (siva/zhi-ba), and eternal (såsvata/g.yung-drung)."
?Ratna-gotra-vibhåga or Uttara-tantra, by Maitreya, verse 80
As noted earlier, this one thing, dhåtu or element, may be called
tathågata-garbha or Buddha-nature when obscured, and dharmakåya
or body of the law when unobscured.
The one element is also a key concept in the Theosophical
teachings as found in the Mahatma letters:
"However, you will have to bear in mind (a) that we recognize but
one element in Nature (whether spiritual or physical) outside
which there can be no Nature since it is Nature itself, and which
as the Akasa pervades our solar system, every atom being part of
itself, pervades throughout space and is space in fact, . . . (b) that
consequently spirit and matter are one, being but a differentiation
of states not essences, . . . (c) that our notions of "cosmic
matter" are diametrically opposed to those of western science.
Perchance if you remember all this we will succeed in imparting
to you at least the elementary axioms of our esoteric philosophy
more correctly than heretofore."
"Yes, as described in my letter?there is but one element and it is
impossible to comprehend our system before a correct conception
of it is firmly fixed in one's mind. You must therefore pardon
me if I dwell on the subject longer than really seems necessary.
But unless this great primary fact is firmly grasped the rest
will appear unintelligible. This element then is the?to speak
metaphysically?one sub-stratum or permanent cause of all
manifestations in the phenomenal universe."
"We will say that it is, and will remain for ever demonstrated that
since motion is all-pervading and absolute rest inconceivable,
that under whatever form or mask motion may appear, whether
as light, heat, magnetism, chemical affinity or electricity?all
these must be but phases of One and the same universal omnipotent
Force, a Proteus they bow to as the Great "Unknown" (See
Herbert Spencer) and we, simply call the "One Life," the "One
Law" and the "One Element." "
These last three epithets, the "One Life," the "One Law," and
the "One Element," correspond well to the Ratna-gotra-vibhåga's
terms tathågata-garbha, dharma-kåya, and dhåtu, respectively.
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