Buddha Nature

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Buddha Nature

Postby Dharmakid » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:49 pm

Hello All,
Great to be here.

As a Theravada practitioner who once practiced Zen (and still attends zazen sessions and zen dharma talks on campus since it's the most convenient sangha for me), I often have questions concerning Mahayana teachings and concepts.

A question I currently have concerns Buddha nature. What is the difference between Buddha-datu, Tathagatagarba, and Buddha nature? Are they all the same thing? Do different Mahayana schools teach them differently?

Thanks for your input.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Dharmakid » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:52 am

Wow, no answers at all?

I guess I could just do a Google search.
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:17 am

Greetings Dhammakid,

There may be responses in time, but we're still trying to build up to a critical mass here in order to get some sustainable and timely Q&A going... hopefully though someone will be able to answer your question.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Live in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:12 am

Dhammakid wrote:A question I currently have concerns Buddha nature. What is the difference between Buddha-datu, Tathagatagarba, and Buddha nature? Are they all the same thing? Do different Mahayana schools teach them differently?


Buddha-datu = 如来蔵
Tathagatagarba = 佛性

Just messin' with ya' :tongue:
(I don't know Chinese, I just pasted them off of wikipedia.)

Buddha-datu is defined as Buddha element or Buddha principle
Tathagatagarba is defined as Buddha womb

No being of any kind is without the Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-nature). It is indicated in the Angulimaliya Sutra that if the Buddhas themselves were to try to seek for any sentient being who lacked the Buddha-nature, not one such person would be found. In fact, it is stated in that sutra that it is impossible for Buddhas not to discern the presence of the everlasting Buddha-nature in each and every being:

"Even though all Buddhas themselves were to search assiduously, they would not find a tathāgata-garbha (Buddha-nature) that is not eternal, for the eternal dhātu, the buddha-dhātu (Buddha Principle, Buddha Nature), the dhātu adorned with infinite major and minor attributes, is present in all beings".[11]


Apparently this does not go against anatta, but it sure sounds pretty close to me.
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Fri Oct 23, 2009 7:59 pm

My understanding is they're the same dang thing but I never was one for details. Looking forward to hearing someone more educated than me on this ...
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Dharmakid » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:07 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dhammakid,

There may be responses in time, but we're still trying to build up to a critical mass here in order to get some sustainable and timely Q&A going... hopefully though someone will be able to answer your question.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Thanks for that Retro. I didn't think about there not being very many people here. The counter on the front page says 116, which isn't that much. I kinda thought there would be more traffic here since ES is down.

:anjali:
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Dharmakid » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:14 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
Dhammakid wrote:A question I currently have concerns Buddha nature. What is the difference between Buddha-datu, Tathagatagarba, and Buddha nature? Are they all the same thing? Do different Mahayana schools teach them differently?


Buddha-datu = 如来蔵
Tathagatagarba = 佛性

Just messin' with ya' :tongue:
(I don't know Chinese, I just pasted them off of wikipedia.)

Buddha-datu is defined as Buddha element or Buddha principle
Tathagatagarba is defined as Buddha womb

No being of any kind is without the Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-nature). It is indicated in the Angulimaliya Sutra that if the Buddhas themselves were to try to seek for any sentient being who lacked the Buddha-nature, not one such person would be found. In fact, it is stated in that sutra that it is impossible for Buddhas not to discern the presence of the everlasting Buddha-nature in each and every being:

"Even though all Buddhas themselves were to search assiduously, they would not find a tathāgata-garbha (Buddha-nature) that is not eternal, for the eternal dhātu, the buddha-dhātu (Buddha Principle, Buddha Nature), the dhātu adorned with infinite major and minor attributes, is present in all beings".[11]


Apparently this does not go against anatta, but it sure sounds pretty close to me.


Ahh, thanks David! I think I may have spoken Chinese in a former life, but not this one, haha.

I see what you mean about anatta, but hopefully someone can clear it up for us...

:anjali:
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Dexing » Sun Jan 24, 2010 5:42 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Apparently this does not go against anatta, but it sure sounds pretty close to me.


It does only if we conceive of it as something that resides in or among the five skandhas. if it were something it would have discernible features or signs to be observed. but it's just like "space"- has a name but no form. clear awareness.
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Huifeng » Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:39 am

There are a couple of very different ways of understanding notions such as "buddha nature".

Those very brief posts above only represent one of them, which tends towards the Tathagatagarbha theory side of things. Even this teaching has several forms, so a single textual citation will be too brief. But in general, it takes the Tathagatagarbha / Buddha nature idea as definitive over the other teachings, such as non-self. It may claim in some cases that non-self is applicable to certain phenomena, eg. the aggregates, but not to the Tathagatagarbha, which is subtle and difficult to perceive. However, the idea is that every living being has this buddha nature within them, a fully awakened buddha ready to be uncovered. This means that this type of buddha nature theory is only applicable to sentient beings, but not the insentient.

The other main explanation is that "buddha nature" refers to the emptiness, dependently originated nature of all phenomena. It thus makes the emptiness teachings definitive over such teachings as a true self Tathagatagarbha, etc. It considers that this buddha nature is not some thing within the heart / mind of each living being, but is merely potentiality. ie. because phenomena are empty, they can be enlightened. This notion of buddha nature as emptiness may thus be applicable to all phenomena, not just sentient beings.

Both of these two main schools of buddha nature thought have many subtle sub-schools and ideas, too.

Some schools, such as Huayan in East Asia, and mid-period Chan / Zen, will tend towards the first type as definitive. Others, such as most Madhyamaka based schools, will take the latter. They are in many ways very very different takes on the same words / terms. Often people will discuss this topic, and fail to notice the main differences. They then tend to talk past each other. It is thus worth clarifying before continuing further with such discussions.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby ground » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:29 am

"Buddha nature" is an unnecessary addition which only creates a further unnecessary potential for going astray.
However it may be sort of "live-safer" for those who first create a distorted image of "emptiness" and then become afraid of their own creation.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Huifeng » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:24 am

TMingyur wrote:"Buddha nature" is an unnecessary addition which only creates a further unnecessary potential for going astray.
However it may be sort of "live-safer" for those who first create a distorted image of "emptiness" and then become afraid of their own creation.

Kind regards


I take the above kind of statement as an example of the second type given above. ;)
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby ground » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:54 am

Huifeng wrote:
TMingyur wrote:"Buddha nature" is an unnecessary addition which only creates a further unnecessary potential for going astray.
However it may be sort of "live-safer" for those who first create a distorted image of "emptiness" and then become afraid of their own creation.

Kind regards


I take the above kind of statement as an example of the second type given above. ;)


If example means "sort of" or "sub-type" then yes. Why this condition? Because the potentiality for buddhahood ("buddhahood" being a potential equal to the potential for e.g. becoming a killer) I would restrict to sentient beings and you have written:
This notion of buddha nature as emptiness may thus be applicable to all phenomena, not just sentient beings.


IMO "Buddha" and "killer" both implicitely refer to sentient beings.
Now the question whether a "sentient being" may arise from "non-sentient phenomena" certainly needs attention. But I would tend to exclude this aspect here and restrict myself to valid conventional reality in order to avoid being drawn into speculation.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:55 pm

TMingyur wrote:"Buddha nature" is an unnecessary addition which only creates a further unnecessary potential for going astray.


Then why did Lord Buddha spend even one sentence to teach it? Seems like he thought it necessary for someone.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:15 am

kirtu wrote:
TMingyur wrote:"Buddha nature" is an unnecessary addition which only creates a further unnecessary potential for going astray.


Then why did Lord Buddha spend even one sentence to teach it? Seems like he thought it necessary for someone.

Kirt


The context of my statement of course has been my context and not everybody's context.
(In my context) Several buddhas have been involved in the teachings covering the three turnings so "Lord Buddha" implies a singularity which does not appear to be appropriate.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby muni » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:42 pm

Nothing can harm what is uncompounded and non-arising spontaneously primordial goodness. No entity but ultimate nature regarding mind, free from ignorance.
It is said to not seek outside of our being, as then we are going on the dual discursive way, far away from home.

While it is home. Unfabricated Suchness.
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby ground » Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:24 pm

Of course a mere concept cannot be harmed. How could it?
Also emptiness, a non-affirming negation, being a mere concept too cannot be harmed.
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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:13 pm

This teaching has been a sticking point for me, since initially I was immersed in a practice (Zen as per the teachings of the late Daido Roshi et. al.) that talked about Buddha nature quite a bit. Not so much that they expounded upon it in great detail, however. It's more something that was emphasized and repeated on many ocassions, without a great deal of technical or historical background, which I'm sure was intentional.When I studied Theravada I was at first shocked and probably disappointed to find that the teaching did not appear in the Pali canon. And when you look at the Buddha's teachings on Anatta in that canon it makes it even harder to reconcile with Buddha nature.

So now I consider Buddha nature something even harder to wrap my my around whereas initially I had just accepted the teaching from those earlier teachers. However, given the seemingly inconceivable nature of such a teaching, I guess I shouldn't feel bad that I can't conceive of such a thing.

Anyway, onto my question. Can we say, perhaps, that anything that can be said about Nibanna/Nirvanna can also be said of Buddha nature?

i.e. Conditioned things are impermanent (anicca), notself (anatta/anatman), and unsatisfactory (dukkha).

Nibanna/Nirvanna is not subject to the characteristics of suffering and impermanance, but still has the not-self characteristic. We could say it is "permanant and satisfactory" but I always thought wierd about defining Nirvanna in those terms. For me it's almost easier to say that it's "not impermanant" and "not suffering." (Though more unwieldly, verbally speaking).

Likewise, would Buddha Nature be characterised as not subject to impermanance and suffering, but also not self?

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby ground » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:16 pm

My interpretation:

Objective perpective:
(Only) in Madhyamaka "Buddha Nature" is just another term for emptiness (of the subject), the subject rid of ignorance and the other afflictions. Emptiness is beyond "permanent" and "impermanent" and it does not exist inherently (anatta).

Subjective perspective:
As experiential state it is not subject to "impermanence" since it is empty of perception of either "impermanence" or "permanence". Being rid of ignorance there is no suffering and no (inherently existing) self.

But there are certainly quite different presentations of "buddha nature". See Ven. Huifeng above.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby kirtu » Fri Feb 05, 2010 10:31 pm

meindzai wrote:This teaching has been a sticking point for me, since initially I was immersed in a practice (Zen as per the teachings of the late Daido Roshi et. al.) that talked about Buddha nature quite a bit. Not so much that they expounded upon it in great detail, however. It's more something that was emphasized and repeated on many ocassions, without a great deal of technical or historical background, which I'm sure was intentional.


Daido Roshi followed Dogen's teachings on Buddha Nature (naturally) and thus the basic teaching on Buddha Nature could be summarized as the possibility of a person to attain enlightenment. In Dogen's view (and Daido Roshi's as well), it is due to one's Buddha Nature that we are practicing or engaging in the spiritual life at all.

This is all public teaching with Daido Roshi. Deeper engagement on this subject was to be found in dokusan and presumably during the Shobogenzo Intensives.

Buddha Nature is derived from the sutras so we could find an historical development of the teaching.

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Re: Buddha Nature

Postby Anders » Fri Feb 05, 2010 11:16 pm

meindzai wrote:Anyway, onto my question. Can we say, perhaps, that anything that can be said about Nibanna/Nirvanna can also be said of Buddha nature?


Basically: Tathagatagarbha = Dharmakaya = Tathagata = Nirvana

What the 'garbha' notion means to add to the picture is that this nature is immanently present and merely obscured by adventitious stains.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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