Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Aug 01, 2009 1:36 pm

Hi Thomas,

I don't know if the idea of buddha nature has prompted anyone to progress all the way, but the idea of suffering does. The idea of buddha nature might stand in the way of progress making it harder for the person to let go of the idea of self. However it does seem like a nice idea to make the teaching popular to the masses.
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:14 pm

I am rather inclined to the view which says that the development of the Buddha -dhatu doctrine represents a reversion within Buddhism to the Upanashadic philosophy that the Buddha rejected.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Individual » Sat Aug 01, 2009 6:13 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I am rather inclined to the view which says that the development of the Buddha -dhatu doctrine represents a reversion within Buddhism to the Upanashadic philosophy that the Buddha rejected.

The Upanishads came after the Buddha. The Buddha rejected Brahminism, but what we call "Hinduism" (including Advaita Vedanta specifically) had yet to develop.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Individual
 
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Sat Aug 01, 2009 8:03 pm

You are quite right. I should have said that Buddha-dhatu seems to me to be a reversion to the Indian philosophical tradition later to evolve into what is commonly known as " Hinduism " which was current at the time of The Buddha, and which he rejected. I dont see how it differs fron Atta doctrine.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Individual » Sun Aug 02, 2009 1:07 am

Sanghamitta wrote:You are quite right. I should have said that Buddha-dhatu seems to me to be a reversion to the Indian philosophical tradition later to evolve into what is commonly known as " Hinduism " which was current at the time of The Buddha, and which he rejected. I dont see how it differs fron Atta doctrine.

Brahmanism didn't really have anything that could be called a philosophical tradition. They only developed one in reaction to criticism by sramanas, such as the Buddha.

Buddha-nature is distinct from atta, because it doesn't claim that there is an individual Buddha-nature, like a soul, as in, "That's YOUR Buddha-nature. This is MY Buddha-nature." It's really not too different from Humanism in western philosophy: the presumption that people are fundamentally good.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Individual
 
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Aug 02, 2009 8:02 am

Individual wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:You are quite right. I should have said that Buddha-dhatu seems to me to be a reversion to the Indian philosophical tradition later to evolve into what is commonly known as " Hinduism " which was current at the time of The Buddha, and which he rejected. I dont see how it differs fron Atta doctrine.

Brahmanism didn't really have anything that could be called a philosophical tradition. They only developed one in reaction to criticism by sramanas, such as the Buddha.

Buddha-nature is distinct from atta, because it doesn't claim that there is an individual Buddha-nature, like a soul, as in, "That's YOUR Buddha-nature. This is MY Buddha-nature." It's really not too different from Humanism in western philosophy: the presumption that people are fundamentally good.

I could show good evidence for challenging both these statements, but Im am uninterested in debate for the sake of debate. My only interest is pragmatic. As as a practitioner of the Theravada. My point is that having examined the concept of Buddha-dhatu fairly thoroughly I concluded that it had nothing to offer me as a practitioner. Its history as a concept holds no interest for me at all, as a consequence.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Aug 02, 2009 8:33 am

Peter wrote:The answer is that arahantship is not becoming anything. It is the ceasing of all becoming. It is the destruction of the taints, the cutting of the fetters, the removal of the defilements. It is a problem with using language like "becoming arahant" or "gaining enlightenment". These phrases can mislead a person into thinking there is something acquired or someone to do the acquiring.

It is like saying "the glass has become empty". Does this mean emptiness was always present even when the glass was full? Does this mean the glass magically transformed into something else? What it means is the stuff in the glass has been removed. "Empty" is a description of the state of the glass when it's contents has been removed, just as "arahant" is how we describe the state of one who has eradicated the defilements.

:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Dhammakid » Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:07 pm

To me, the idea of Buddha-nature is helpful for people who feel they need something they can look for, they can tap into, that they can see and feel for themselves to convince them they are practicing rightly and continue along the path. A reward for hard work, if you will. Unfortunately, this not only plays right into the idea of an Atta, but also the idea of a unifying force in the universe, a "ground of being" so to speak. Kinda hard to stave off the idea of God in this regard.

But for those practitioners with deeper insights into anatta and emptiness, I feel Buddha-nature is simply silly. That looking for something is exactly what we're not supposed to do, if you follow the Theravada point of view.

Personally, Buddha-nature is convenient when in conversation with non-practitioners if the question of whether or not anyone can be enlightened arises. But for my practice, I find it useless.

:anjali:
Dhammakid
User avatar
Dhammakid
 
Posts: 366
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:09 am
Location: Georgia, USA

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Aug 02, 2009 9:47 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:My point is that having examined the concept of Buddha-dhatu fairly thoroughly I concluded that it had nothing to offer me as a practitioner.

Ditto. I do not find it helpful. I find it leads too easily to eternalist misunderstandings. I can see, however, the opposite might be true for someone else, i.e. helpful and prevents nihilist misunderstandings.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
User avatar
kc2dpt
 
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:04 am

I have finally listened to the 2-hour talk by Stephen Batchelor (thank you, tiltbillings) on Buddha nature. Batchelor contrasts Buddha nature with Mara nature, saying that these are two sides of the same coin, and that it depends on our effort which one we develop. I think this understanding is helpful in as far as it prevents the most obvious misunderstanding, namely that Buddha nature is a given. Batchelor also mentioned that the English term 'Buddha nature' is a translation accident that occurred earlier last century when Chinese Mahayana sources were translated by people like D.T. Suzuki and others. The more correct translation would be 'Buddha womb'. The proper understanding of this very term would probably have prevented some of the above discussion.

The original term Tathāgatagarbha does not imply thingness, essence, or even atta/atman, which may be associated with the English term 'Buddha nature'.

My conclusion is that whether the teaching is helpful, depends on the practitioner's level of development and -perhaps most importantly- on his/her karmic disposition. Rowyourboat believes that the idea of suffering prompts people to progress rather than the idea of Buddha nature. -I think it depends.- If you experience relatively gross levels of suffering, then the overcoming of suffering (in the sense of the 4NT) is probably a very good motivator. But what if you experience positive karmic fruits, if you are materially well off, have loving family and friends, a well-paid job, etc., in other words - what if life runs smoothly, except for the occasional smaller annoyance?

In this situation, people might spent time with relatively refined pursuits, and the idea of Tathāgatagarbha can become a powerful motivator on the path. It is like a signpost that declares the ultimate goal. It reminds you that all you have achieved in life, such as relationships, career, wealth, etc. is impermanent. It is a challenge to go further. It is a challenge to go even beyond the initial spiritual achievements which may have secured calm and peace of mind. This is the sort of situation, where tathāgatagarbha becomes meaningful. So, it should probably be considered by people enjoying good karmic fruits and intermediate practitioners.

Cheers, Thomas
User avatar
Pannapetar
 
Posts: 327
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:05 am
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:25 am

Your reply could be interpreted as assuming that those who do not see that concepts like the tathagarbha" have any utility for them , make that assumption on the basis of a faulty translation. I suspect i speak for many when I say that I am very aware of the nuances of the translations of that term. The concept of a :quote: Buddha womb :quote: makes no more sense to me than the idea of
Buddha Nature. LIke most Theravada students from a western background I didnt leap into an understanding Buddhism by jumping into the first presentation of the Dhamma I encountered. In fact I discovered Zen first. Fairly soon the whole Mahayana corpus struck me as a vast outgrowth which obscured the pure Dhamma which could still occasionally be glimpsed beneath its gothic edifice.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:44 am

Pannapetar wrote: It is a challenge to go even beyond the initial spiritual achievements which may have secured calm and peace of mind. This is the sort of situation, where tathāgatagarbha becomes meaningful. So, it should probably be considered by people enjoying good karmic fruits and intermediate practitioners.

Are you implying that Theravada is for "beginners" and Mahayana for the "more developed" practitioners? :juggling:

Personally, I think there are some contradictions between the details of Theravada and Mahayana practise. Either is valid, but in the end you really have to make some choices about how you approach practise. I like this post from elsewhere by meindzai:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... 9149&st=40
meindzai,Oct 28 2008, 09:04 AM wrote:
passenger1980,Oct 27 2008, 04:08 PM wrote:So what's keeping you from practising the fundamentals? I'm not saying that you should do the same as me. But meditation and living by the 8FP is all we need in my opinion. Practise as much as you can, and that's it, the rest is just wasting time if you see it from a spiritual point of view.


I was trying to avoid getting too specific here so that I don't open up a big can of worms, but here goes. Pandoras box follows: (sorry for mixing metaphors)

Meditation in zen vs. theravada, as an example, are based on two entirely different premises. In Zen it's based on the idea of Buddha nature, and requires a lot of faith in the process, letting go of thoughts as they come. It's sometimes called a goalless process, effortless effort. The more the practitioner "messes" with it the less productive it becomes. It is akin to "wu-wei" in daoism. It's a very organic and natural unfolding, again - totally based on the idea that Buddha nature will reveal itself through the practice.

However, the Buddha (of all people!) did not talk about buddha nature. There's no such teaching in Theravada. Meditation is very specific and goal oriented. One overcomes the 5 hindrances (there are specific practices for each) and develops samadhi by balancing certain factors, piti, sukkha, one pointedness, etc. You have a choice to develop the jhanas or do a dry vipassana practice. Right concentration is defined as the four Jhanas. Meditation is tied directly into the suttas by way of overcoming taints, defilements, etc. The suttas explain what those are, in detail, and how to overcome them.

Also in Theravada, meditation is tied directly into the teachings on morality. This relationship is much more apparent then in zen, which emphasizes meditation.

According to Bodhidharma:
Buddhas don't recite sutras." Buddhas don't keep precepts." And Buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil.

To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.


The idea of course being that we're already Buddha's so our job is to see our own nature. Not to keep precepts, not to overcome hindrances, not to purge the defilements, etc.

It's not that Bodhidharma's teaching is wrong within the scope of zen and mahayana. But you cannot hold this viewpoint, and, simultaneously, engage in a practice of overcoming hindrances and purging defilements.

In that sense there's nothing "basic" about meditation. The paradigm is entirely different. Meditation is part of a larger picture. Each system depends on it's own paradigm for meditation to have any clear purpose.

You also mention the eightfold path. The heart sutra, chanted Daily by Zen practitioners, teaches "no suffering, no path," etc. etc. This of course doesn't mean you shouldn't practice the eightfold path, but it points to the idea that the teachings themselves have the property of sunyata - emptiness.

Again, ok in context, but no such teaching in Theravada. As the simile of the raft illustrates, you let go of the raft when you reach the other side. But until then, HOLD ON.

I'm going to keep saying this so it's clear - I am not criticizing either teaching. When one is fully immersed in one or the other, they function as a complete system that will get one to the other side. But you cannot practice them simultaneously. Even the "basics" are different once you go just a little bit beneath the surface.

-M


Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10660
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:51 am

Yes thank you Mikenz66, thats excellent.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:53 am

Tathagatagrabha in its very basic original conception was a way of talking about emptiness in terms of the mind, meaning that because there was not a fixed thingness to our mind, we were open to the possibility of awakening. Of course this was done within the rather elaborate, complicated doctrinal structures that the Mahayana was wont to develop, and it only got worse (or - without value judgement - considerably more complicated) over time. As a teacher I worked with years ago would say, "Best to keep things simple and easy."

And just because I have this already on file, let me share this:

-- The tathagatagarbha [buddha-nature] is not just any emptiness,
however. Rather it is specifically emptiness of inherent existence when
applied to a sentient being's mind, his (her) mental continuum. ... When
the mind is defiled in the unenlightened state this emptiness is called
tathagatagarbha. When the mind has become pure through following the
path and attaining Buddhahood so emptiness is referred to in the dGe
lugs tradition as the Buddha's Essence Body (_svabhavikakaya_). The
Buddha's pure mind in that state is his Gnosis or Wisdom Body
(_jnanakaya_), while the two taken together, the Buddha's mind as a
flow empty of inherent existence, is what the tradition calls the
_dharmakaya._ ... This also means that the tathagatagarbha itself is
strictly the fundamental cause of Buddhahood, and is no way identical
with the result, _dharmakaya_ or Essence Body as the case may be,
except in the sense that both defiled mind and Buddha's mind are empty
of inherent existence. ...which is to say that even the _dharmakaya_,
and, of course, emptiness itself, are all empty of inherent existence.
They are not 'truly established', there is no Absolute in the sense of an
ultimate really existing entity. --- Paul Williams MAHAYANA
BUDDHISM, pub by Routledge. Pg 106-7.


I am so glad I am a Theravadin.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19894
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:03 am

mikenz66 wrote:Are you implying that Theravada is for "beginners" and Mahayana for the "more developed" practitioners? :juggling:


That's your interpretation, not mine... :smile:

"Being a Theravadin" or "being a Mahayana practitioner" is just one more useless ego identification, in my view. Who cares?

Cheers, Thomas
User avatar
Pannapetar
 
Posts: 327
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:05 am
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:08 am

Hi Thomas
I don't mean to speak for Mike, but I think I am correct in assuming he was asking you a question rather than passing a value judgement.
Perhaps you would like to clarify your statement so that we all have a better understanding?
Metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16292
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:17 am

Pannapetar wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Are you implying that Theravada is for "beginners" and Mahayana for the "more developed" practitioners? :juggling:


That's your interpretation, not mine... :smile:

"Being a Theravadin" or "being a Mahayana practitioner" is just one more useless ego identification, in my view. Who cares?

Cheers, Thomas



Erm ...me for one.
:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:17 am

Which statement do you want me to clarify?
User avatar
Pannapetar
 
Posts: 327
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:05 am
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:30 am

Hi Thomas
It would be the statement that Mike asked the question about, see below:
mikenz66 wrote:
Pannapetar wrote: It is a challenge to go even beyond the initial spiritual achievements which may have secured calm and peace of mind. This is the sort of situation, where tathāgatagarbha becomes meaningful. So, it should probably be considered by people enjoying good karmic fruits and intermediate practitioners.

Are you implying that Theravada is for "beginners" and Mahayana for the "more developed" practitioners? :juggling:


Many thanks

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16292
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-dhātu

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:52 am

Ah ok, thanks for the clarification.

The problem that I saw in Mike's response is that he made an inference from the Tathāgatagarbha to the Mahayana. While I agree that Tathāgatagarbha is an 'advanced' doctrine in some sense, I don't think that this can be said for Mahayana on the whole. Both Theravada and Mahayana contain basic doctrines as well as advanced doctrines.

Cheers, Thomas
User avatar
Pannapetar
 
Posts: 327
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:05 am
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

PreviousNext

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bhikkhu Cintita and 14 guests