Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu (DFFA version)

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Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu (DFFA version)

Postby withoutcolour » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:06 am

Hi all,

I've studied both Mahayana (particulary the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and zen) and Theravada, and I definitely would consider myself more a follower of the Theravadin path (though I hate to label!)... so that being said...
I was confused to find that the concept of buddha-dhatu (buddha nature) is only recognized in Mahayana buddhism (according to Wikipedia, which is ever-so-reliable :thinking: ) ... but that the word Tathāgatagarbha can be interchangeable. Is this correct? Would the idea of the "womb of the buddha" be equivalent to "buddha nature"?
I've always heard it referred to as buddha-dhatu so I just wanted to understanding it in relation to Theravada.

metta
-wc
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:09 am

NOTE TO ALL:

This topic was split from the original one in Discovering Theravada

viewtopic.php?f=24&t=3289

... so that the discussion on the Mahayana understanding of these terms could be pursued further.

All posts relating to the scope of the Discovering Theravada forum have therefore been removed from this DFFA mirror topic.

Thanks for you understanding, and apologies for any inconvenience.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby IanAnd » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:48 am

To the best of my knowledge, neither of these terms (nor what they point to) are recognised in Theravada.

Nor are they mentioned in any of the suttas.

The term "Buddha nature" is just one more example of nama-rupa for an inquiring mind to let go of. If you look at it in this way, you will be okay.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby withoutcolour » Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:55 pm

So... then Theravada doesn't recognize the potential in all beings to awaken? Or would it be safer to say that neither Tathāgatagarbha nor buddha-dhatu are terms used in Theravada, but the potential for enlightenment in all beings exist?
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:46 pm

Greetings withoutcolour,

withoutcolour wrote:So... then Theravada doesn't recognize the potential in all beings to awaken? Or would it be safer to say that neither Tathāgatagarbha nor buddha-dhatu are terms used in Theravada, but the potential for enlightenment in all beings exist?


The latter is most certainly the case!

As IanAnd said, "The term "Buddha nature" is just one more example of nama-rupa for an inquiring mind to let go of. If you look at it in this way, you will be okay."

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby Dan74 » Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:07 pm

My understanding is that Buddha-nature is an ongoing subject of debate in Thai Buddhism, in the guise of an unconditioned or true Self. In 1939, the then Samgharaja published essays that advocated this concept and more recently a number of prominent Thais have taken this up again, particularly (but not only) the controversial Dhammakaya movement.

Cholvijarn's 2007 thesis Nibbana as Sef or Not Self: Some Contemporary Thai Discussions provides some info, but this is to show that it is not just a Mahayana issue.

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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby withoutcolour » Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:38 am

OK, thank you guys.
Right now, I'm trying to sort out what's separating Theravadin and Mahayanan teachings, and figuring out which concepts belong to which. I really like Theravada for so many reasons, so that's what I'm attempting to categorize at the moment.
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:04 am

Mahayana is an umbrella term for many different teachings, some fairly contradictory. Paul William's Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations may be helpful for you, although it doesn't do justice to the Far Eastern Buddhism (the author is a sanskrit specialist and well-versed in Tibetan texts, but not really in Chinese ones).

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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby withoutcolour » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:46 am

Dan74 wrote:Mahayana is an umbrella term for many different teachings, some fairly contradictory. Paul William's Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations may be helpful for you, although it doesn't do justice to the Far Eastern Buddhism (the author is a sanskrit specialist and well-versed in Tibetan texts, but not really in Chinese ones).

_/|\_


Well I suppose my point is that I'm attempting to weed out the Mahayana stuff that I had learned before and focus my efforts on Theravada. I'm not saying that one is better than the other or that Mahayana is inferior, I just really prefer the Theravadan teachings. I guess you could say that I finally chose a tradition (though I still have a very special place in my heart for the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Heart Sutra).
So I'm re-reading Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words and spending some time on Accesstoinsight in an attempt to make sense of all this.
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:52 am

My understanding is that whichever school of Buddhism one affiliates with, the important thing is to be clear about the practice and what immediately relates to it and of course to have sincere motivation - Right View and Right Intention.

The basics are anyway the same - dependent origination, virtue, discipline, concentration, mindfulness and insight. They appear in various guises but in my experience they are definitely there.

What I am trying to say is that philosophical speculation or matters relating to higher levels of attainment are best left alone, at least until they are relevant to practice.

I am not sure if what you are "weeding out" falls into this category, if not - my apologies for rambling.

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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby PeterB » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:10 am

withoutcolour wrote:Hi all,

I've studied both Mahayana (particulary the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and zen) and Theravada, and I definitely would consider myself more a follower of the Theravadin path (though I hate to label!)... so that being said...
I was confused to find that the concept of buddha-dhatu (buddha nature) is only recognized in Mahayana buddhism (according to Wikipedia, which is ever-so-reliable :thinking: ) ... but that the word Tathāgatagarbha can be interchangeable. Is this correct? Would the idea of the "womb of the buddha" be equivalent to "buddha nature"?
I've always heard it referred to as buddha-dhatu so I just wanted to understanding it in relation to Theravada.

metta
-wc

As has been said there is no recognition of such concepts in the Theravada. Not because of an oversight or omission but because it is considered that the Buddha held nothing back, he taught with open hands. My own view having spent many years involved with the Vajrayana , is that there are no higher or secret teachings, its all there in the Pitakas. No mystery, no special transmission. Just hard work and the joy that brings.
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby meindzai » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:25 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's talk on this issue is good, from a Theravada perspective. Title is "What is Wrong with Buddha Nature"

http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/ThanissaroBhikkhu.html

I'd say that the concept itself isn't "wrong," though it's not a part of the Canon, therefore we would say it wasn't taught by the Buddha. But even the concept itself has a few different dimensions. If you just think of it as Nibanna then there's no problem. If it's simply the innate capacity to awaken, I think we all have that potential - but maybe it's going to take you a lifetime and me an Aeon or two (thousand...billion).

If you say we all are already awakened, of course that's a problem, because you can't be awakened and still have the kilesas (defilements). So that doesn't work from a Theravada POV.

Calling it a true self or any other kind of self is a problem because the Buddha advised against pretty much any form of self identification you can come up with - even grand noble ones like a cosmic self, true self, one with the universe, etc.

Mahayana has ways of addressing these issues with it's own kind of logic, but they just don't work in Theravada. The Theravada ideal is arahantship, and not Buddhadhood. Since a Buddha is self awakened, a Buddha can't be a person who is currently studying the teachings of the Buddha of the current period, so none of us can be Buddhas as long as we are studying the teachings of the Buddha! :buddha1:

-M
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 19, 2010 11:14 pm

meindzai wrote: Since a Buddha is self awakened, a Buddha can't be a person who is currently studying the teachings of the Buddha of the current period, so none of us can be Buddhas as long as we are studying the teachings of the Buddha!

-M

None of us likely can be sammasambuddha, but buddha we can be.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby PeterB » Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:39 am

tiltbillings wrote:
meindzai wrote: Since a Buddha is self awakened, a Buddha can't be a person who is currently studying the teachings of the Buddha of the current period, so none of us can be Buddhas as long as we are studying the teachings of the Buddha!

-M

None of us likely can be sammasambuddha, but buddha we can be.


An important, in fact I would vital, distinction.
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby Heavenstorm » Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:40 pm

withoutcolour wrote:Hi all,
I was confused to find that the concept of buddha-dhatu (buddha nature) is only recognized in Mahayana buddhism (according to Wikipedia, which is ever-so-reliable :thinking: ) ... but that the word Tathāgatagarbha can be interchangeable. Is this correct? Would the idea of the "womb of the buddha" be equivalent to "buddha nature"?


The problem with Buddha nature is that it might invoke the idea of "Buddha soul" or underlying hidden ultimate reality beneath Samara, similar to the Brahman & Maya theory in the Vedas. Then that will be a problem as it stands against the doctrine of Anatta.

Personally, I see anatta and other two marks of existence as being a self sufficient mean to Satipatthana. Why include an extra dimensional level of complexity and mental attachment?
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby meindzai » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:00 pm

Heavenstorm wrote:
withoutcolour wrote:Hi all,
I was confused to find that the concept of buddha-dhatu (buddha nature) is only recognized in Mahayana buddhism (according to Wikipedia, which is ever-so-reliable :thinking: ) ... but that the word Tathāgatagarbha can be interchangeable. Is this correct? Would the idea of the "womb of the buddha" be equivalent to "buddha nature"?


The problem with Buddha nature is that it might invoke the idea of "Buddha soul" or underlying hidden ultimate reality beneath Samara, similar to the Brahman & Maya theory in the Vedas. Then that will be a problem as it stands against the doctrine of Anatta.


And indeed this does become a problem, which is why I think people studying Mahayana should have some background in Theravada first.

The Mahayana answer as I understand it is that Buddha Nature is unconditioned, unfabricated, etc. or in other words, anything you can say about Nibanna/Nirvanna you can also say about Buddha nature. Mahayana still teaches anatta/anatman of course, so the teachings are held up against each other. Though it still looks very confusing and from a Theravada point of view is, as you indicate below, perhaps unecessary. Not all Mahayana schools use it, BTW.

Personally, I see anatta and other two marks of existence as being a self sufficient mean to Satipatthana. Why include an extra dimensional level of complexity and mental attachment?


My interpretation is that it was teaching developed for people who were scared off by the anatta/anatman teachings. (Again, a not unbiased interpretation - and without too many Mahayanists here to be able to defend their doctrines - keep that in mind.)

-M
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby Heavenstorm » Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:32 pm

meindzai wrote:And indeed this does become a problem, which is why I think people studying Mahayana should have some background in Theravada first.


Agree. But unfortunately, its not the trend in the world's today. I'm amazed by the fantasy stuffs that are coming from some of their mouths. And some stuffs that some Mahayanists believe in sounds more like superstitions than Buddhism.

The Mahayana answer as I understand it is that Buddha Nature is unconditioned, unfabricated, etc. or in other words, anything you can say about Nibanna/Nirvanna you can also say about Buddha nature. Mahayana still teaches anatta/anatman of course, so the teachings are held up against each other. Though it still looks very confusing and from a Theravada point of view is, as you indicate below, perhaps unecessary. Not all Mahayana schools use it, BTW.


I do know that. But debates about Buddha Nature can be rather confusing, I'm not exaggerating to say that thousands of books had been written on that subject alone. So much so that sometimes I think perhaps its better to do away with the entire concept just like Theravada does.

My interpretation is that it was teaching developed for people who were scared off by the anatta/anatman teachings.


You mean wrong understanding of anatta? If anyone understands anatta correctly, I don't see why they need to be scared. On the other hand, they should be afraid of the dukkha in their current state by recognizing it through Anicca.
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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby meindzai » Tue Jan 26, 2010 4:16 pm

Heavenstorm wrote:
My interpretation is that it was teaching developed for people who were scared off by the anatta/anatman teachings.


You mean wrong understanding of anatta? If anyone understands anatta correctly, I don't see why they need to be scared.


True. I think I'd rephrase my statement to say that it was developed to gaurd against a nihlistic interpretation of Anatta.

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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby ground » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:06 am

What strikes me in this thread is that it is implied that "buddha nature" is unanimously accepted in all schools of Mahayana and that if the term as such is accepted then there would be one meaning that is unanimously implied by all schools of Mahayana.
This is definitely not so. E.g. Madhyamaka does not hold the Tathāgatagarbha view and some schools of Madhyamaka explicitely reject all interpretations of "buddha nature" that imply something other than a mere non-affirming negation (i.e. emptiness).

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Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Postby baratgab » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:39 am

If it is of any interest at all, one possible way of viewing Buddha Nature is that beings already have nibbana (or jhanas, for that matter); it is just covered with activity. This is in line with the path of letting go: we need less, rather than more; we need to lose, rather than to gain. If applied to the mental sphere, the end point is total detachment, anatta. I think I have heard this explanation from Ajahn Brahm (well, I'm just a parrot), who is very keen on reconciling traditions.
"Just as in the great ocean there is but one taste — the taste of salt — so in this Doctrine and Discipline there is but one taste — the taste of freedom"
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