I enjoyed Ven. Thanissaro's talk, but must take issue with some of his claims. His critique rests on three different presentations of the idea of "Buddha nature":
1) that we are already enlightened, so no need for practice,
2) that we all have the potential to become enlightened,
3) that buddha nature refers to some kind of "ground of being"; I guess he is referring to Mahayana dharmadatu.
But 1) sounds more like pop dharma than Mahayana; what legitimate teacher in any tradition would say that it's all right to go around sliming joggers in the park as an expression of "buddha nature" ?!?
His argument against 2) is weak, as Theravada also agrees that beings have the potential for enlightenment. Where did we get this potential? It was not transferred to us through the grace of God. Therefore it must be somehow innate.
As for 3) this is really a doctrinal difference over the nature of enlightenment, rather than "buddha nature" per se.
If the Venerable believes that Mahayana does not require effort and practice, perhaps he is not familiar with texts such as this:http://www.kalavinka.org/book_excerpts/ ... _Intro.pdf
It seems to me a stronger argument against "buddha nature" is that, among some Mahayanists, it has been turned into a sort of ineffable, quasi-eternalistic spiritual essence. This is a problem which Stephen Batchelor discusses in his excellent talk "Buddha Nature, Mara Nature". (http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/12/t ... part_1.mp3
). As Batchelor suggests, translation problems from Sanskrit into Chinese may be partly to blame. However, he also points out that buddha nature does not have to be defined this way; it can be conceived more simply in terms of a capacity or potential for awakening.