Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu (Discovering Theravada vers.)

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible in order to double-check alignment to Theravāda orthodoxy.
meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by 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

Heavenstorm
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:37 am

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by 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.

meindzai
Posts: 595
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by 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.

-M

User avatar
ground
Posts: 2591
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by 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).

Kind regards

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20163
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:39 am

Greetings TMingyur,

What you say is true, but in the interests of keeping to the theme of "Discovering Theravada", we'll leave the Mahayana treatment of these terms to another time and another place.

Thank you.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

User avatar
baratgab
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:55 pm
Location: Hungary
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by 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"

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23044
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:44 pm

baratgab wrote: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.
You see no problems with this?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by Paññāsikhara » Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:18 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings TMingyur,

What you say is true, but in the interests of keeping to the theme of "Discovering Theravada", we'll leave the Mahayana treatment of these terms to another time and another place.

Thank you.

Metta,
Retro. :)
But if we ignore what the Mahayana schools say "tathagatagarbha" and "buddhadhatu" actually is, we run the risk of defining it incorrectly, and then arguments about whether or not the Theravada accept it, may be strawman arguments, or simply statements about ideas that no buddhists at all actually hold.

(Don't you see some ironic parallels with the Hinayana vs Theravada issue on this?)
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20163
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:46 pm

Greetings bhante,
Paññāsikhara wrote:(Don't you see some ironic parallels with the Hinayana vs Theravada issue on this?)
I do actually. :tongue:

In fact, that's precisely why I think it's sufficient in the context of this sub-forum to say, "No, Theravada doesn't recognise this" (because if it's not true or relevant from the Theravada perspective, it is irrelevant to Theravada how others define it) and for that to be the end of the story - same logic as with the "Hinayana" issue. But often what I find sufficient, others find insufficient, and so be it.

Perhaps if Withoutcolour revisits this topic, she may comment on some outstanding angles she wishes to pursue in relation to the topic... and this may (or may not) include Mahayana definitions of these terms not used in the Pali Canon.

In keeping with the logic of SN 22.86 - Anuradha Sutta (which denies the application of the post-mortem tetralemma) "And so, Anuradha — when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life — is it proper for you to declare..." the existence of some Buddha-element?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

User avatar
baratgab
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:55 pm
Location: Hungary
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by baratgab » Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:38 am

tiltbillings wrote:You see no problems with this?
Generally I agree about the path of letting go, and I think that one can validly make a good case of Buddha Nature out of it, as outlined above. As far as my representation goes, I'm not sure that this is the exact position of Ajahn Brahm (or the teacher, from whom I heard from); one's own silliness can introduce many faults even into the most tidy concept, when it comes to phrasing it with one's own words. :)

In any case, I see no special significance in this subject, other than the good-hearted intention of reconciling traditions, when it is needed. As others pointed out, the original teachings are entirely enough, and redundant concepts don't really improve upon anything.

Regardless of this, feel free to point out any inconsistencies, either here, if they are relevant to the topic, or in PM. :anjali:
"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"

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:38 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,
Paññāsikhara wrote:(Don't you see some ironic parallels with the Hinayana vs Theravada issue on this?)
I do actually. :tongue:

In fact, that's precisely why I think it's sufficient in the context of this sub-forum to say, "No, Theravada doesn't recognise this" (because if it's not true or relevant from the Theravada perspective, it is irrelevant to Theravada how others define it) and for that to be the end of the story - same logic as with the "Hinayana" issue. But often what I find sufficient, others find insufficient, and so be it.

Perhaps if Withoutcolour revisits this topic, she may comment on some outstanding angles she wishes to pursue in relation to the topic... and this may (or may not) include Mahayana definitions of these terms not used in the Pali Canon.

In keeping with the logic of SN 22.86 - Anuradha Sutta (which denies the application of the post-mortem tetralemma) "And so, Anuradha — when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life — is it proper for you to declare..." the existence of some Buddha-element?

Metta,
Retro. :)
All I can say, Paul, is that I feel that this sort of attitude and approach is not conducive to real understanding between different Buddhist groups. Nor will it lead to an accurate answer to the issues raised by the original thread starter.

If either side is not given the opportunity to correctly present a given doctrine or teaching before the other side begins to accept or reject their mis-interpretation of that doctrine and thus falsely misrepresent that other group, then both sides shall continue to feel lack of good faith and intention on the part of the other.

One may argue that a given forum or site is not the place for giving the other side the opportunity to represent themselves, but I feel that this is merely sticking to the letter of rule about the content of a given forum or site, at the expense of the spirit of clarity of communication and mutual goodwill.

The examples that you have shown above already indicate to me, that by only showing one of the many Mahayana positions on tathagatagarbha / buddhadhatu, and not giving space to other positions which are really very different (please don't merely read the words, that is a naive approach that helps nobody), this misrepresentation has already begun. And your post above has already shut the door to real communication.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:46 am

TMingyur wrote: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).

Kind regards
Exactly.

Your key point here, if I understand, is not that the Madhyamaka (and others) reject "buddha nature", but reject a particular interpretation of "buddha nature".
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Without Colour,

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

Metta,
Retro. :)
Paul's attempt at rejecting "buddha nature" in terms of a "buddha element" are only applicable to the affirming position vis this doctrine, but not with regards the Madhyamaka position. Simply reading the words "buddha-dhatu" and thinking that we now understand what all Mahayana schools mean by this is misrepresenting those schools. How can we then come to an understanding or answer the original question? Paul after all does state "what they point to", but unfortunately has not made the investigation to find out what they actually do refer to, and apparently doesn't even think that it is appropriate int his thread to find out!

Many Mahayana schools understand "tathagatagarbha" and "buddhadhatu" as synonyms for emptiness. This is almost always a strictly non-reified position, and in many cases extremely similar to Theravada positions on emptiness as not self. In fact, I may even go so far as to suggest that a majority of Indo-Tibetan schools read it in this way, and a fair portion of the east asian schools, too.

Thus, in this sense at least, although they may not use those exact words "tathagatagarbha" and / or "buddhadhatu", doctrinally there is a fair amount of commonality. As the second reliance states: Rely on the meaning, not on the words.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20163
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:10 am

Greetings bhante,
Paññāsikhara wrote:All I can say, Paul, is that I feel that this sort of attitude and approach is not conducive to real understanding between different Buddhist groups.
This subforum is called Discovering Theravada. Its sub-title is "A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravada (The Way of the Elders)".

There are sub-forums here at Dhamma Wheel and other forums which are about "understanding between different Buddhist groups"... but this particular one is not one.

I apologise if that sounds abrupt, as it's not intended to be... I'm just trying to keep discussion in the different sub-forums related to their raison d'être, and the original poster's questions and reasons for asking...
withoutcolour wrote: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.
withoutcolour wrote: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.
Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:21 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,
Paññāsikhara wrote:All I can say, Paul, is that I feel that this sort of attitude and approach is not conducive to real understanding between different Buddhist groups.
This subforum is called Discovering Theravada. Its sub-title is "A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravada (The Way of the Elders)".

There are sub-forums here at Dhamma Wheel and other forums which are about "understanding between different Buddhist groups"... but this particular one is not one.

I apologise if that sounds abrupt, as it's not intended to be... I'm just trying to keep discussion in the different sub-forums related to their raison d'être.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If one wishes to dis-cover something, one has to be pretty clear about what is covering it in the first place.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu

Post by Ben » Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:24 am

Hi everyone

I have created a copy of this thread and placed it in the DFFA forum for those who are interested in exploring the topic outside of the constraints of the Discovering Theravada forum which, as Retro said, is for the purpose of presenting a Theravada perspective for those new to the Theravada.
I invite all those interested in continuing the discussion and exploring the Mahayana and Vajrayana perspectives alongside the Theravada perspectives, here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=3455,in" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; the Dhamma-fre-for-all. Go to the last message in the thread to see my direction there.
Keep in mind that as a thread has been created to explore non-Theravadan pov regarding Tathāgatagarbha & Buddha-dhatu, any further non-Theravadin perspectives posted here will be deleted without warning.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Nwad and 14 guests