Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

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Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby dumb bonbu » Thu Apr 16, 2009 1:38 pm

firstly, my knowledge of each is very, very basic. i've been reading little about the development of various Mahayana schools of thought and i was left wondering if people see these two as opposing or complementing each other?

from my basic understanding it appears that Madhayamika posits that there is no thing which inheritently exists. yet Tathagatagharba school of thought seems to posit a fundamental underlying reality to our existence - in its unawakened state as Tathagatagharba and in its awakened state as Dharmakaya. this is turn, seems to suggest there is then something bearing inherent existence...or no?

thought? views? corrections? :smile:
Although I too am within Amida's grasp,
Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and
illumines me always.
- Shinran


Namu Amida Butsu
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Re: Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby shakubodhi » Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:26 am

Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika are (IMHO) not incompatibe , rather they seem to be complimentary.

Madhyamika, following Nagarajuna's lead, seeks to undermine the habit of the unenlightened mind to reify what it thinks it perceives as being what really is. Thus, it employs a radical apophatic method to clear the mind of mental detritus. It does not (again IMHO) reify the concept of emptiness, it rather tears down all the veils (filters and projections based on hopes, fears, attraction/aversion, etc) that we have created.

Tathagatagharba, on the other hand, proceeds from the clarified unenlightened mind acquired through Madhyamika praxis to looking at reality from the point of view of the enlightened mind and says that with a mind unburdened by conceptual filters and projections we can see reality-as-it-is. Reality-as-it-is (suchness/tathata) being that to which Shakyamuni was awakened.

As Madhyamika did not reify emptiness (which would lead to nihilism), so too Tathagatagharba does not reify tathata (though often accused of doing so) but rather breaks the distinction between subject and object, samsara and nirvana, and merely uses the term tathata to point to what is left when the mind is cleared of all entanglements. That is, tathata really exists because it is not an object relative to a subject able to distort it. Remember that Madhyamika cleared the unenlightened mind of the husks of reifications within the subject-object manifold, so from there Tathagatagharba eliminates dichotomous perception so that what is left is what is real but it is not reified as object for there are no psycho-conceptual filters or projections causing distortions - there is only the immediate presence of reality.

However, and this is the tricky part, one has to make sure that the noumenal unity of things does not blind us to the phenomenal multiplicity, even as (using apophatic Madhyamika praxis) we had to avoid letting the mulitplicity of phenomena veil us from the unity at the level of noumenon. When both of these views have been integrated one may be called a Bodhisattva. When they have been fully integrated and made into a permanent and constant lived reality, then one can be called a Buddha.

So, taken out of some of the jargon: when one realizes that what we perceive is not precisely that which is but an 'image' we created based on the results of both perception and conception (and all our psychological baggage), then we will see that the objects of perception and conception are empty of independent substantial existence. Following upon that we might realize that the exact same thing is true of the self (or perceiving subject). When we have an authentic experience (not just conceptual understanding) of this, then we will see (as does Avalokiteshvara in the Heart sutra) that "whatever is form, is emptiness; and whatever is emptiness is form." From there we realize that samsara and Nirvana are neither two nor one and Buddha Nature (Dharmakaya, Tathagatagharba, etc) and unenlightened human consciousness are also not completely two nor indistinguishably one.

Having said this, there are many individuals who would disagree with this assessment and would rather posit a doctrine of negation in Madhyamika and a doctrine of affirmation in Tathagatagharba and say that the two are diametrically opposed. But I do not see Mahayana Buddhism as being based upon doctrines, but upon upaya and so my reading often differs from the majority reading. Therefore, you should probably take anything I say with a grain of salt ;) and read up on all sides of the issue and see what you make of it. But, be forewarned, such investigations will never yield anything worthwhile if alienated from the praxis, which -Jodo Shinshu- is said to be 'given' by Amida.

If this does not help, may it at least do no harm.

Namo Amida Butsu
_/\_

P.S. You may find that the text "Buddha Nature" by Sallie B. King to be useful in wrestling with these issues - http://astore.amazon.com/bodhi.mine-20/detail/0791404285
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Re: Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby tobes » Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:57 pm

dumb bonbu wrote:firstly, my knowledge of each is very, very basic. i've been reading little about the development of various Mahayana schools of thought and i was left wondering if people see these two as opposing or complementing each other?

from my basic understanding it appears that Madhayamika posits that there is no thing which inheritently exists. yet Tathagatagharba school of thought seems to posit a fundamental underlying reality to our existence - in its unawakened state as Tathagatagharba and in its awakened state as Dharmakaya. this is turn, seems to suggest there is then something bearing inherent existence...or no?

thought? views? corrections? :smile:


It depends upon which view of Madhayamika and which view of Tathagatagharba one utilises.

It is very plausible to assert their incompatibility, particularly if one takes the view that the Tathagatagharba is innate not a potential.

But of course, you will find plenty of people who see them as perfectly complementary. :anjali:
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Re: Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby Sönam » Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:07 pm

dumb bonbu wrote:from my basic understanding it appears that Madhayamika posits that there is no thing which inheritently exists.


... except buddha nature, the union of emptiness and clear light.

Sönam
By understanding everything you perceive from the perspective of the view, you are freed from the constraints of philosophical beliefs.
By understanding that any and all mental activity is meditation, you are freed from arbitrary divisions between formal sessions and postmeditation activity.
- Longchen Rabjam -
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Re: Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:21 pm

Madhyamaka = nothing truly exists of its own accord

Tathagatagarbha = nonattachment is bliss

Two sides of the same coin
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Re: Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:55 am

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche puts it elegantly - these are both views on Emptiness. Madhyamaka places more emphasis on the "empty" and Tathagatagarbha places more on the "ness." (He was speaking particularly of the view of Uttaratantrashastra).

I recommend listening to his lectures on these for a more thorough exploration. You can purchase them at siddharthasintent.org
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Re: Tathagatagharba and Madhyamika - incompatible?

Postby Silent Bob » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:58 pm

dakini_boi wrote:Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche puts it elegantly - these are both views on Emptiness. Madhyamaka places more emphasis on the "empty" and Tathagatagarbha places more on the "ness." (He was speaking particularly of the view of Uttaratantrashastra).

I recommend listening to his lectures on these for a more thorough exploration. You can purchase them at siddharthasintent.org


DKR's 2007-08 talks on Maitreya's Uttaratantra were simply outstanding and they are also available upon request and at no cost as a (very large) downloadable pdf.
http://www.siddharthasintent.org/teachi ... ntary.html
"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"
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