Monday, February 10, 2014



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The Significance Of 'Tathagatagarbha' --
A Positive Expression Of 'Sunyata'
Heng-Ching Shih
The well-known motto of Ch'an Buddhism is that "perceiving the true self, one becomes a Buddha." The "true self" signifies the Buddha nature inherent in all sentient beings. The discovering of the "true self" has become the single most important pursuit of the Buddhist, especially in Sino-Japanese Buddhism. On the contrary, early Buddhism teaches that ultimately no substantial self (i.e., 'anatman') can be found, since the self is nothing but the union of the five aggregates. Modern Buddhologists as well as the Buddhists have been intrigued by the inconsistency that one single tradition teaches both that there is no self on the one hand, and that the goal of religious life is to discover the true self, on the other hand.

The big questions concerning these two contradictory doctrines include:

- How did they develop during the course of Buddhist history?
- How can they be reconciled?
- Are these two ideas actually as contradicting as they appear to be?
- Is the concept of the Buddha nature an outcome of the influence of other Indian religious thought upon Buddhism?

It is out of the scope of this short paper to answer all these questions. Therefore, this paper will deal with the antecedent and synonymous concept of the Buddha nature, that is, 'tathagata- garbha' ('ju lai tsang'). Specifically, this paper will examine the meaning and significance of the 'tathagatagarbha' (Buddha nature) based on three 'tathagatagarbha' texts and argue that the 'tathagatagarbha'/Buddha nature does not represent a substantial self ('atman'); rather, it is a positive language and expression of 'sunyata' (emptiness) and represents the potentiality to realize Buddhahood through Buddhist practices. In other words, the intention of the teaching of 'tathagatagarbha'/Buddha nature is soteriological rather than theoretical.

The term "'tathagatagarbha'" is generally taken as to mean that the "garbha" of a 'Tathagata' exists in all sentient beings without exception, and though temporarily contaminated by adventitious defilement ('agantukaklesa'), it is the cause which eventually leads sentient beings to enlightenment. The notion of the 'tathagatagarbha' can be traced to a luminous�A inherently pure mind (pabhassar citta) found in the 'Anguttara-nikaya' (1:5):

Pabhassarm 'idam' bhikkhave cittam 'tan' ca kho 'agantukehi' upakkilesehi 'upakkilitthan' ti pabhassaram idam bhikkhave 'cittam tan' ca kho 'agantukehi' upakkilesehi vippamuttan ti

Oh! 'Bhiksus'. The mind is pure! It is defiled by the adventitious defilement. Oh! 'Bhiksus'. The mind is pure! it obtains liberation through the adventitious defilement.

When the original pure mind came to be regarded as something capable of growing into Buddhahood, there was the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine. Although the concept of an intrinsically pure mind exists in the Nikaya Buddhism, many Buddhologists, such as Wayman (1), Paul (2), Yin-shun (3) think that the 'tathagatagarbha' thought was originated from the 'Mahasamgika', but was rejected by the 'Theravada'. This theory is also held by Mizuno who points out that the pure mind ('pabhassarcitta') articulated in the Nikaya Buddhism is not totally identical with the original pure mind ('prakrtivisuddhi-citta') articulated in the 'Tathagatagarbha' doctrine, for Mizuno asserts that the former is static whereas the latter is dynamic in that it is capable of eradicating defilement.(4) At any rate, the relationship between pure mind and the adventitious defilement appears to have been wholly adopted by the 'Mahasamghika' and later by the 'Mahayana'.

According to I-tsing's Nan-hai-chi-kuei Nei-fa-chuan (The record of the Buddhist kingdoms in the Southern Archipelago), "the so-called 'Mahayana' (in India) is no more than the two: one 'Madhyamika', the other 'Yogacara'."(5) Although it is commonly held that the 'Madhyamika' and 'Yogacara' were the two major philosophical schools in Indian 'Mahayana' and although it might be true that 'tathagatagarbha' thought never formed an academic school in India, this does not mean that the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine never played a significant role in the development of Indian Buddhist thought.(6) This is attested by the fact that there are many 'tathagatagarbha' scriptures composed in India approximately from the third to the sixth century, such as the 'Tathagatagarbha-sutra', 'Maha-parinirvana-sutra', 'Anuatyapurn-atvanirdesa-sutra', 'Srimaladevisimhanada-sutra', 'Lankavatara-sutra', Rotnagotravibhaga, Buddha-nature Treatise, etc.

Since the beginning of this century, many 'Buddhologists' have become interested in the 'Tathagararbha' doctrine and have shed new light on tathagatagarbha thought. However, their studies, especially on the Ratnagotravibhaga, lead to two different interpretations of the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine, i.e., 'tathagatagarbha as a monistic doctrine, and 'tathagatagarbha' as the embodiment of the principle of dependent co-arising ('pratityasamutpada') or 'sunyata', following the traditional 'Mahayana' Buddhist lines.

Obermiller, who maintains the 'Tathagatagarbha' as monistic, in the introduction to his translation of the Ratnagotravibhaga, says that in this text, "we see that Aryasanga has come to a fully monistic and pantheistic conception" and that "The central point of this most developed theory is the teaching that the fundamental element of Buddhahood, the essence of the Buddha in a living being represents an eternal, immutable ('asamskrta') element, which is identical with the monistic Absolute and is unique and undifferentiated in everything that lives."(7)

Takasaki, an eminent scholar of the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine, asserts that the 'tathagatagarbha' thought holds some monistic element. He says: - "When Buddhism developed itself into 'Mahayana' Buddhism, it could not but take the appearance of Monism as a result of Absolutization of the Buddha and approach the Upanishadic thinking in its philosophy ... for explaining the possibility of anyone's acquiring the Buddhahood, the Monistic philosophy was used as the background. In this last point lies the significance of the 'tathagatagarbha' theory of this text. This theory is in one sense an inevitable result of the development of Mahayanistic monism in its religious expression."(8)

Although Takasaki notes that there is a difference between the nature of monism in the Ratnagotravibhaga and in the Upanishads, for the Absolute taught in the Ratnagotravibhaga is the manifestion of 'sunyata' which is of a quite different character from the substantial Absolute of the Upanishads, still he believes "there was an influence from the Upanishadic thought for the 'astivada' of the Ratna to establish its monistic doctrine."(9)

The reason for those scholars' holding the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine as monistic is that they base their interpretation on passages in various 'tathagatagarbha' literature which assert the equivalence of the 'tathagatagarbha' to terms with all-pervading character, such as 'tathata', 'dharmakaya', 'dharmadhatu', etc., which describe the 'tathagatagarbha' as being eternal (nitya) and immutable ('atman'), which assert the fundamental purity of the 'tathagatagarbha' (equating the 'tathagatagarbha' as 'prakrtiparisuddhi-citta', the original pure mind), and which assert that the 'tathagatagarbha' functions like a first cause from which the phenomenal reality emanates.

However, if we examine more carefully the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine, we will find that it can be interpreted as an expression of the concept of 'pratityasamutpada' and 'sunyata'. Yamaguchi (10) and Ogawa(11) follow this traditional line.

Interestingly, modern Buddhologists are not alone in their puzzle about the question of whether the 'tathagatagarbha' represents a kind of Upanishadic 'atman'. Bodhisattva 'Mahamati' in the 'Lankavatarasutra' raised a question concerning this issue. He said to the Buddha:

- Now the Blessed one makes mention of the 'tathagatagarbha' in the sutras, and it is described by you as by nature bright and pure, as primarily unspotted, endowed with the thirty-two marks of excellence, hidden in the body of every being like a gem of great value ... it is described by the Blessed One to be eternal, permanent, auspicious and unchangeable. Is not this 'tathagatagarbha' taught by the Blessed One the same as the ego-substance taught by the philosophers (tirthikas)? (12).

In this passage, the Buddha clearly identified the 'tathagatagarbha' with emptiness, markless, 'tathata', etc., meaning that the 'tathagatagarbha' is without any substantial entity. Then the question arises: -- if the 'tathagatagarbha' is empty by nature , why the Buddhas teach a 'tathagatagarbha' possessing all positive attributes, such as eternal (nitya), self ('atman'), bliss (sukha) and pure (subha)? The Buddha goes on to answer this question:

- The reason why the 'Tathagatas' who are Arhats and fully enlightened Ones teach the doctrine pointing to the tathagatagarbha which is a state of non-discrimination and imageless, is to make the ignorant cast aside their fear when they listen to teaching of egolessness. It is like a potter who manufactures various vessels out of a mass of clay of one sort by his own manual skill and labour ... that the 'Tathagatas' preach the egolessness of things which removes all the traces of discrimination by various skillful means issuing from their trancend-ental wisdom, that is, sometimes by the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha' , sometimes by that of egolessness ... Thus, 'Mahamati', the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha' is disclosed in order to awaken the philosophers from their clinging to the idea of the ego. Accordingly, 'Mahamati', the 'Tathagatas' disclose the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha' which is thus not to be known as identical with the philosopher's notion of an egosubstance. Therefore , 'Mahamati', in order to abandon the misconception cherished by the philosophers, you must depend on the 'anatman-tathagatagarbha'.(13)

It is pointed out in this passage that the 'tathagatagarbha' is empty in its nature yet real: it is 'Nirvana' itself, unborn, without predicates. It is where no false discrimination (nirvikalpa) takes place. There is nothing here for the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas to take hold of as an 'atman'. They have gone beyond the sphere of false discrimination and word. It is due to their wisdom and skillful means ('upaya') that they set up all kinds of names and phrases in order to save sentient beings from mistaken view of reality. In other words, it is exactly to help sentient beings case away their fear of 'anatman' that the 'tathagatagarbha' with positive attributes (i.e., 'asunya-tathagatagarbha') is taught, and at the same time it is to get rid of the clinging of 'atman' that the 'anatman-tathagatagarbha' is taught. Thus it is clear that the 'tathagatagarbha' is not an Upanishadic 'atman'. Now let's turn to examine how Yamaguchi and Ogawa who hold this traditional line interpret this doctrine.

Yamaguchi points out that the statement in the Ratnagotravibhaga, "O Noble youth, such is the essential nature of the dharma ('dharmanam dharmata'), whether the 'Tathagatas' appear in the world, or whether they do not, these living beings are always possessed of the matrix of the 'Tathagata'" (15) is parallel to the statement found in the Sammyutta-nikaya "Whether the 'Tathagatas' were to appear in the world, the theory of 'pratitysamutpada' remains."(16)

Here we see the 'tathagatagarbha' was considered as a valid principle as 'pratitysamutpada'. Thus Yamaguchi holds that the most important point in expounding the 'tathagatagarbha' in the Ratnagotravibharga is that "the 'pratitysamutpada' is the 'tathagatagarbha'." (engi sunawachi nyoraizo)(17).

Ogawa, following the same position, interprets the 'tathagatagarbha' according to the commentary of the 'Ratnagotravibhaga' by the Tibetan master, Dhar-ma rin-chen. He argues that the 'tathatagatagarbha' is essentially the same as 'sunyata', and also it has the 'sunyata' nature which allows the mind to understand 'sunyata'. The crucial point of this interpretation centers on the passage "all sentient beings are possessed of the 'tathagatagarbha'" in the Ratnagotravibhaga. It expounds three 'svabhavas' of the 'tathagatagarbha' to justify the above passage. According to Dhar-ma rin-chen, the three 'svabhavas' are ways of explaining the 'tathagatagarbha' form three perspectives: - from the perspective of the result level of the 'Tathagata', from the perspective of the nature of the 'Tathagata' and from the perspective of the cause of the 'Tathagata.'(18)

1/- 'Dharmakaya-svabhava': - from the perspective of the result level of the 'Tathagata'. The 'Dharmakaya-svabhava' means that the 'Dharmakaya' of the 'Tathagata' penetrates all sentient beings. According to Takasaki, this first 'svabhava' is derived from the ' Tathagatotpattisambhavambhava-parivarta' of the 'Avatamsaka-sutra' as cited in the Ratnagotravibhaga: -- "There is no one among the groups of sentient beings in whose body the wisdom of the 'Tathagata' does not penetrate at all."(19) It seems that when "the 'dharmakaya' of the 'Tathagata' pervades" is taken to mean that there is no part of the universe where the substantial entity is not present, it could fall into a monistic interpretation. However, according to Dhar-ma rin-chen, the 'Dharmakaya' is explained as having two aspects:

1) 'Dharma-dhatu', the perfectly pure realm of ultimate truth itself, in which "dharma" means "teaching" and "'dhatu'" means "cause". Therefore, the 'Dharmadhatu' refers to the supreme truth which is the cause of the teaching, and
2) arya-dharma which means the teaching in its form as conventional truth. This conventional teaching is the nature outflow ('nisyanda') of wisdom.

Thus we see whereas the former aspect of the 'Dharmadhatu' refers to the truth realized by the Buddha, the static aspect of the 'Tathagata's' enlightenment, the later refers to the dynamic aspect of the 'Tathagata's' enlightenment, i.e., teaching the Dharma. This is to say that the Buddhadharma, or the teaching, spontaniously flows out of the 'Tathagata's' compassion for the benefit of sentient beings. Therefore, when the Ratnagotravibhaga states that "all beings possess the 'tathagatagarbha'" (because the 'Dharmakaya' of the 'Tathagata' penetrates all sentient beings), it simply means that sentient beings are able to hear the pure dharmas and are everywhere and constantly permeated by them, as the nesessary outflow of the 'Dharmadhatu'.(20) In other words, the universality of the 'Tathatagatagarbha' expressed here refers to the potential capacity within living beings to be effected by the teaching of the Buddha and hence does not have a notion of a substantial entity.

2/- 'Tathata-svabhava': - from the perspective of the nature of the 'Tathagata'. This 'tathata-svabhava' means that the 'tathata' of the 'Tathagata' is not different from the 'tathata' of the sentient beings. The underlying principle of this identity of the 'tathata' of the 'Tathagata' and that of sentient being is 'sunyata'. Since the ultimate nature of both the 'Tathagata' and sentient beings are 'sunyata', they are seen to be undifferentiated. The only difference is that when the 'tathata' is associated with defilement, it is called the "'tathagatagarbha'" or 'samala tathata' (of sentient beings), and when the defilement is removed, it becomes 'nirmala tathata' (of the 'Tathagata'). Yet they are essentially identical. Therefore, one says that all sentient beings possess the 'tathagatgarbha' when referring to the existence of the 'sunyata' nature of living being's mind which is essentially free of defilement. Again no notion of immutable substance should be asserted.

3/- 'Gotra-svabhava': - from the perspective of the cause of the 'Tathagata'. This 'gotra-svabhava' means that the gotra (seed nature) of the 'Tathagata' exists in all sentient beings. The gotra in this context is explained accroding to the two-fold structure: - 1) the 'prakrtistha-gotra' (innate gotra), and 2) the 'samudanilagora' (acquired gotra). According to Dhar-ma rin-chen: Based on the innate gotra, the first body, which is 'Dharmakaya', is obtained. Based on the acquired, perfected gotra, the later two form bodies ('sambohogakaya' and 'nirmanakaya') are obtained.(21) The 'prakrtistha' gotra which obtains the 'dharmakaya', does so on the basis of the wisdom ('prajna') through which insight into the reality of all dharmas is attained. According to Dharma rin-chen, the 'prakrtistha' gotra is the primary meaning of the 'tathagatagarbha', because it is identified with 'sunyata' and as such the primary "cause" of Buddhahood. The 'samudanita' gotra which obtains 'sambhogakaya' and 'nirmanakaya', does so on the basis of vigorous practices and the accumulation of innumberable merits and thus is the productive "cause" of Buddhahood. The 'samudanita' is called the uttara, or ultimate, because it signifies the central theme of general 'Mahayana' practice, that is, "wisdom ('Dharmakaya') becomes compassion ('rupakaya')(22).

In other words, within the very meaning of gotra is experssed the movement from 'prajna' to 'karuna'. This might be called hsia-huei-hsiang, a down-ward transformation or 'tatha-agata', i.e., returning from the realm of enlightenment to that of this world of sentient beings�wa process of enlightening others, after the socalled shan-huei-hsiang, an up-ward transformation or 'tatha-gata', i.e., striving for the realm of enlightenment from the realm of this world of sentient beings, a process of enlightening oneself. However, this "two-way traffic" process should not be seen as two distinctive and separated processes�F rather, they are non-dual, interrelated and inter-dependent.

Based on the commentary of Dhar-ma rin-chen, we can conclude that the real purpose of the passage "the gotra of the 'Tathagata' exists in all sentient beings" is to articulate bodhisattva practices based on wisdom. This is supported by the structure of the Ratnagotravibhaga, which is arranged by the following order:

1) Buddha,
2) Dharma,
3) Sangha,
4) 'Dhatu',
5) Bodhi,
6) 'Guna' (merits) and
7) Karma (act).

The seven 'vajrapadas' are expalined in terms of cause, condition and result. "'Dhatu'" is the "cause"; bodhi, 'guna', and karma are the "conditions" through which the three jewels (of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) as "result" are manifested. As kiyota says that the wisdom, merits and practice of a Bodhisattva constitute the condition through which the "Buddha-is-caused". The expression "Buddha-is-caused", or "Buddha-caused" is derived from 'Buddha-dhatu'. It is employed synonymously with the 'tathagatagarbha'. As Kiyota rightly points out, the term "cause" here does not refer to a first cause (i.e., a substance or a physical entity), but symbolically as a potential (a principle) which is empirically revealed through a set of conditions�wwisdom, merits ,and practices.(23) In other words, the 'tathagatagarbha' as a potential inherent in the human consciousness can only be realized through Bodhisattva practices.

The above arguments are mainly based on the Rathagotravibhaga. At least two other 'Tatnagatagarbha' related 'sutras' also support this viewpoint. One is the Buddha Nature Treatise (24) and the other, the 'Mahaparinirvana sutra'(25).

In the Buddha Nature Treatise, the author gives five reasons to the question why the Buddha spoke of Buddha nature. They are:

1) to cause sentient beings to depart from inferior mind,
2) to leave behind arrogance,
3) to get rid of delusion,
4) to keep away from slandering the truth and
5) to sever the attachment to self (26).

By overcoming these five shortcomings, one gives rise to five virtues, namely , diligent mind, reverence, widom ('prajna') knowledge ('jnana') and compassion ('karuna'). Clearly, right from the beginning, the author does not try to establish that the Buddha nature stands for something substantial. Rather, he points out the soteriological function of the teaching of the Buddha nature.

Delusion refers to the two erronous views of the substential existence of both person ('atman') and things (dharma). Ignorant actions arise from these two attachments to the self and external things which prevent human beings from perceiving the truth. To the author of the Buddha Nature Treatise, the truth is nothing but the Buddha nature, for "Buddha nature is the Thusness revealed by the twin emptiness of person and things."(27) Thus it is said that "if one does not speak of Buddha nature, then one does not understand emptiness and consequently will cling to reality and slander Thusness."(28) Since the Buddha nature is the implementation of emptiness, it can be any thing but an entity.

Furthermore, in the chapter of expounding the nature of Buddha nature, the author identified Buddha nature with the 'Dharmakaya', which is characterized with four virtues ('guna'). One of them is "self" ('atman'). This "self" is immediately identified with the perfection of non-self ('anatman-paramita'). How can the self be at the same time the perfection of non-self? The author explains:

- All the heterodox, in their various ways, conceive and grasp a self in those things which lack self, namely, the five skandhas�wform, etc. Yet these things such as form, etc. differ from what one grasps as the mark of self�F therefore, they are eternally lacking in self [However] with the wisdom of Thusness (chen ju chih). all Buddhas and bodhisattvas realize the perfection of non-self ('anatman-paramita') of all things Since this perfection of non-self and that which is seen as the mark of not-self are not different, the 'Tathagata' says that this mark of the eternal not-self is the true, essential nature (chen t'i hsing) of all things, therefore. it is said that the perfection of not-self is self. As the 'sutra' verse says,

Already the twin emptiness [of person and thing] is pure. [In this] is realized the not-self, the supreme self, Since the Buddha realizes the pure nature (hsing). Not-self turns on itself (chuan) and becomes self.(29)

It is evident from this explanation that the teaching of Buddha nature is the instrument employed along with 'prajna' to realize the true, essential nature of all dharmas, namely, the non-self. Soteriologically speaking, 'tathagatagarbha/Buddha' nature also functions as an active skillful means, for it is reiterated in several 'tathagatagarbha' texts that 'tathagatagarbha' is the basis of 'samsara' and 'nirvana'. That is to say without 'tathagatagarbha/Buddha' nature, sentient beings would neither arouse aversion to 'samsara' nor desire for 'nirvana'. Therefore, 'tathagatagarbha' is active, not static. In other words, it represents actions of practice, rather than an monastic substance.

This interpretation can be further attested by the three causes of the Buddha nature explained in the Buddha Nature Treatise. The Buddha nature consists of three causes:

1) "deserved" cause,
2) the cause of intensified effort, and
3) the casue of fulfillment.(30)

The three-cause schema signifies that depending on the "Thusness manifested by the twin emptiness (i.e., Buddha nature)"; and through the intensified effort of Buddhist practices, one "should obtain" or "deserves" the fulfillment of Buddhahood. Apparently , the pivot of the triple cause is the cause of intensified practice, for it plays the role of activating the potentiality to realize the Buddha nature.

As we know, the 'Mahaparnirvana-sutra' is one of the most important 'sutras' which articulate the concept of Buddha nature. Just as the Ratnagotravibhaga claims that all sentient beings possess the 'tathagatagarbha', so the 'Mahaparinirvana Sutra' teaches that sentient beings have the Buddha nature. In explaining what it means by sentient beings' having the Buddha nature, the 'Mahaparinirvana Sutra' distinguishes three different ways of understanding the term "to have":

- Good son, there are three ways of having: first, to have in the future, Secondly, to have at present, and thirdly, to have in the past. All sentient beings will have in future ages the most perfect enlightenment, i.e., the Buddha nature. All sentient beings have at present bonds of defilements, and do not now possess the thirty-two marks and eighty noble characteristics of the Buddha. All sentient beings had in past ages deeds leading to the elimination of defilements and so can now perceive the Buddha nature as their future goal. For such reasons, I always proclaim that all sentient beings have the Buddha nature.(31)

Since the above passage identifies sentient beings' ways of having Buddha nature with the third way of having, i.e., having in the future, it is again a proof that the teaching of the universal Buddha nature does not intend to assert the existence of substantial, entity-like self endowed with excellent features of a Buddha. Rather, Buddha nature simply represents the potentiality to be realized in the future.

Elsewhere in the 'Mahaparinirana Sutra', Buddha nature is defined as the ultimate emptiness and the Middle Way. It says:

- Good son, Buddha nature is the ultimate emptiness ,which is 'prajna' itself. [False] emptiness means not to perceive emptiness or non-emptiness. The wise perceive emptiness and non-emptiness, permanence and impermanence, suffering and happiness, self and non-self. What is empty is 'samsara' and what is not empty is great 'nirvana' ... Perceiving the non-self but not the self is not the Middle Way. The Middle Way is Buddha nature.(32)

The essential point of this passage is that true emptiness, or in this case Buddha nature, trancends any dictomony�wbeing and non-being, self and non-self, suffering and happiness, etc. Ordinary people and the heterodox see only the existence of self, while 'Sravakas' and Pratyekabuddhas perceive only the non-self, but not the existence of a self. Clinging to one extreme or the other, they cannot realize the ultimate, and true emptiness and consequently cannot realize the Middle Way. Without the Middle Way, they are not able to comprehend Buddha nature. Trying to lessen the monistic flavour of the Buddha nature, the 'Mahaparinirvana Sutra' interprets Buddha nature as both emcompassing and transcending the notions of self and non-self. It makes the doctrine of the Buddha nature adhere closely to the Buddhist teaching of non-duality and the Middle Way. Thus Buddha nature should not be treated as equivalent to the monistic absolute. If it does seemly indicate the presence of a substantive self, it is actually a positive expression of emptiness.

In conclusion, when we try to interpret the thought of the 'tathagatagarbha', we should keep several points in mind:

1) The 'tathagatagarbha' symbolizes the potential for enlightenment (a principle) rather than a material "essence" of ultimate truth,

2) the 'tathagatagarbha' is based on the framework of the 'Mahayana' doctrine of 'sunyata-pratitys-amutpada'.

3) The development of the 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine signifies the ability of a religious tradition to meet the spiritual needs of the masses aiming at a given time.

That is to say the 'tathagatagarbha' thought was formed as an positive soterio-logical approach to counteract the "'sunyam sarvam'" (all is empty) view. The 'tathagatagarbha' which strongly articulates a devotional and experiential approach to salvation provides much to the hope and aspiration of the people at large. It is this positive aspect that was taken up and strongly emphasized in Chinese Buddhism.

4) The 'tathagatagarbha' doctrine is employed as a skill-in-means ('upaya'). This does not necessarily mean that the theory of the 'tathagatagarbha' is neyartha, a teaching requiring further qualifications -- rather, it is a skill-in-means in that it is taught to suit the needs of a certain kind of people and circumstances. This is why it is said in the 'sutra' that in order to teach the emptiness of all dharmas, the Buddhas preach sometimes by the doctrine of the 'tathagatagarbha', and sometimes by that of emptiness. Thus it is better to take the 'tathagatagarbha / Buddha nature' as representing "profound existence" derived from "true emptiness" rather than as a monistic self./.


(1). A. Wayman, "The 'Mahasamghika' and the 'Tathagatagarbha',' Journal of International Association of Buddhist Studies, Vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 35-80.

(2). Diana Paul, A Prolegomena to the 'Srimaladevi-sutra' and the 'Tathagatagarbha' Theory, dissertation, Wisconsin, 1974, pp.73-80.

(3). Yun-shun, Indian Buddhism, Chen-wen Press, Taipei, 1976, p.167.

(4). Mizuno Hiromoto, The Meaning of the Original Pure Mind, Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu, Vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 8-16.

(5). T. 54, p. 205c.

(6). There is no evidence that the 'Tathagatagarbha' formed a school in India. For one thing there never existed a patriarchal figure in the 'tathagatagarbha' as 'Nagarjuna' in 'Madhyamika' and 'Asanga' in 'Yogacara'. However, Fa-tsang identified a "ju-lai-tsang yuan-chi tsang", i.e". "a school of 'Tathagatagarbha-pratityasamut-pada'". Furthermore , Takasaki identifies 'Tathagatagarbha-vada' in the 'Lankavatara-sutra' and claims it is used as an independent school in contrast to 'Atmavada'. For further discussion on this issue, see M. Kiyota, "'Tathagatagarbha' Thought -- A Basis of Buddhist Devotionalism in East Asia," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 12, no. 2-3, pp. 207-229.

(7). Leningrad Obermiller, "The Sublime School of the Great Vehicle to Salvation, Being a Manual of Buddhist Monism," Acta Orientalia, Vol. IX, p. 104.

(8). Jikido Takasaki, A Study of the Ratnagotravibhaga , Rome, 1966, p. 28.

(9). Ibid. p.61.

(10). Yamaguchi Susumu, Hanyo Shisoni, Tokyo, 1956.

(11). Ichijo Ogawa, Nyoraizo-Bussho no Kenkyu, Kyoto, 1969.

(12). Daisetz T. Suzuki, tr. The 'Lankavatara Sutra', Parajna Press, Boulder, 1978, pp.68-69.

(13). Ibid. p.69.

(14). Ibid. p.69.

(15). Takasaki, pp.294-295.

(16). T. 2, p.84b.

(17). Yamaguchi, p.86.

(18). John Makransky, "Rgyal Tshab Rje's Interpretation of the Three Meanings of 'Tathagatagarbha' with Reference to the 'Tathagatagarbhasutra', the Ratnagotravibhaga and some Philosophical and Historical Developments," unpub. paper.

(19). Takasaki, p.35 and p.189.

(20). Ogawa, pp. 75-77.

(21). Ogawa, p. 85.

(22). Ibid.

(23). Minoru Kiyota, "'Tathagatagarbha' Thought -- Basis of Buddhist Devotionalism in East Asia," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 12, no. 2-3, p.214.

(24). Traditionally, Fo Hsing Lun (The Buddha Nature Treatise) is attributed to Vasubandha and translated into Chinese by 'Paramartha'. Some Buddhologists, for example, Takasaki, suspect that it was actually written by 'Paramartha'. However, this is still an unresolved issue. At any rate, this text represents the Yogacarin view concerning the Buddha nature.

(25). This is the 'Mahayana' version of the Buddha's 'Parinirvana'. Its content concentrates mainly on the 'Mahayana' doctrines such as the eternal nature of Buddhahood rather than on the description of the last days of the Buddha.

(26). T. 31, p. 787a.

(27). T. 31, p. 787b.

(28). Ibid.

(29). T. 31, p. 798c. Adapted from the translation in Sallie King's "The Buddha Nature-- True Self As Action," Religious Studies, 1982, pp. 259.

(30). T. 31, p. 794a.

(31). T. 12, p. 524b. Adapted from the translation in Miug-wood Liu's "The Doctrine of the Buddha Nature in the 'Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra,'" Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 1983, p. 70.

(32). T. 12, p. 523b.

Listing of Vietnamese merchants, especially from the local area (San Francisco, San Jose, Bay Area ), includes search engine.
Like · · Share · February 5 at 12:33am near Bedok Garden

    Michael Zaurov, Laya Jakubowicz and 3 others like this.
    Soh This is a long article but you can use Narrator to read aloud from Windows 8 or 7. Paste the text on notepad, open Windows Narrator, increase the reading speed and read it fast forward by pressing CTRL+A to select all the text. That's what I always do
    February 5 at 12:53am · Edited · Like
    Soh Such features also exist in mac. Instructions for windows and mac:
    How to Make Your Computer Say Everything You Type
    Both Windows and Mac OS X provide built-in text-to-speech capabilities that narr...See More
    February 5 at 12:44am · Like · 2 · Remove Preview
    Laya Jakubowicz I was checking how to do on Mac and found one of the method described above just in the same time you were posting… Great idea !
    February 5 at 12:50am · Unlike · 2
    Soh The article is very good at presenting scriptural citations and explanations on how Buddha-nature is actually 1) a positive way of putting forth 'emptiness' 2) a potential for sentient beings to attain enlightenment in the future, rather than a substantial entity like Brahman. That explanation is still somewhat theoretical, but it is a good counterbalance to a prevailing tendency among many to substantialize Buddha-nature.

    The 'yogic' view (a term that Jackson often use which I like, but I find him skewing towards one side) should be to directly realize the luminosity, the pristine awareness, then realize its twofold emptiness where the emptiness of a background observer and the empty, non-arising nature of foreground presence is directly realized. Buddha-nature is not only luminosity, not only emptiness, but the union of luminosity and emptiness. In practice there should not be skewing towards any side.
    February 5 at 1:11am · Edited · Like · 5
    Robert Healion Tathagatagarbha according to the Russian studies on linguistic history was introduced as a counter measure to relic worship.
    February 5 at 6:35am · Like
    Neony Karby It's not clear to me why so many here refer to Brahman as " a substantial entity".
    The union of luminosity and emptiness is actually how I've conceived the concept reading Vedanta. And later when I was reading Buddhism I found a parallel in Buddha Samantabhadra.
    But maybe that's just how it is for me???
    February 6 at 1:25am · Like · 2
    Soh Substantial entity here does not mean an ego or person or form... but a truly existing something/Self that could exist independently (self-existing on its own independent of all causes and conditions, with its own substance/essence) and changelessly, unaffected by change.
    February 6 at 1:38am · Edited · Like
    Soh Regarding Dzogchen:

    An Eternal NowDecember 17, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    Hi Namdrol,

    As you mentioned about Hindu Vedanta... a question came to mind.

    I was just reading someone's post half an hour ago in another forum ( ). He/she ('star') states that according to Dzogchen view, everything is Consciousness, and therefore everything is real.

    What is your comment on this?

    Also, he/she states 'The Supreme Source' as a reference... in which I also personally have some questions regarding this book: in certain parts of the book, Consciousness is described as an all-creating agent, which sounds like God to me. How does Dependent Origination apply here?
    Malcolm SmithDecember 17, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    This person has confused the Trika non-dual view with Dzogchen.

    The mind that is the all-creating king, as Norbu Rinpoche makes clear, is the mind that does not recognize itself, and so enters into samsara, creating its own experience of samsara.

    All conditioned phenomena are a product of ignorance, according to Dzogchen view, and so therefore, everything is not real. The basis of that ignorance is the basis, which is also not established as real.

    In Dzogchen, everything is unreal, from top to bottom. The basis, in Dzogchen, is described as being "empty not established in any way at all". If the basis is not real, then whatever arises from that basis is not real.

    In Dzoghen, dependent origination begins from the non-recognition of the state of the basis, when this happens, one enters into grasping self and other, and then the chain of dependent origination begins.
    Rigpa II | Treasury of Ati
    February 6 at 1:47am · Like · Remove Preview
    Soh Some months back:

    John Tan Haha Jackson, u never give up.

    This heart is the "space" of where, the "time" of when and the "I" of who.

    In hearing, it's that "sound".

    In seeing, it's that "scenery".

    In thinking, it is that "eureka"!

    In snapping a finger, it is seizing the whole entire moment of that instantaneous "snapping".

    Just marvelous such as it is on the fly.

    So no "it" but thoroughly empty.

    To u this "heart" is most real, to dzogchen it is illusory. Though illusory, it is fully vivid and brilliance. Since it is illusory, it nvr really truly arise. There is genuine "treasure" in the illusory.

    I think Kyle has a lot points to share. Do unblock him.

    Nice chat And happy journey jax!

    December 12, 2013 at 8:24am · Unlike · 10


    John Tan Hi Kyle,

    Actually I am saying instead of attempting to deconstruct endlessly, why not resolved that that pure experience itself is empty and non-arising.

    In hearing, there is only sound. This clear clean and pure sound, treat and see it as the X (treat and see it like an imputation/conventional designation as u explained), empty and non-arising.

    In seeing, just scenery, just this clear clean and lurid scenery. Where is this scenery? Inside, outside, other’s mind or our mind? Unfindable but nonetheless appears vibrantly.

    This arising thought, this dancing sensation, this passing scent, all share the same taste. All experiences are like that -- like mirages and rainbows, illusory and non-arising, they are free from the 4 extremes.

    Resolved that all experiences are non-arising then pure sensory experiences and conventional constructs will be of equal taste. Realize this to be the nature of experience and illusory appearances will taste magic and vajra (indestructible)! Groundless and naturally releasing!

    Just my 2 cents of blah blah blah in new year.

    Happy New Year Kyle. 2 minutes ago • Unlike • 1
    February 6 at 1:50am · Edited · Like
    Neony Karby Yes, it's clear to me what you mean by substantial entity, but not why you refer to Brahman as such Soh.
    February 6 at 1:54am · Like
    Soh A simple search online shows: "The core of Advaita is that Brahman is the only reality. 'Reality' is defined as that which does not undergo any change at any time. By this test, Brahman, which is absolutely changeless and eternal, is alone real. The world keeps on changing all the time and so it cannot be considered as real. "
    February 6 at 1:56am · Like
    Soh A non-substantial view would be to see that Consciousness/Awareness/Presence is the transience that is ultimately empty and non-arising... it is illusory, but never denying the luminous clarity shining vividly as appearance (the luminous clarity itself is illusory)
    February 6 at 1:57am · Like
    Soh Brahman is considered to have a self-existing substance independent and changeless, rather than being dependently originating and empty
    February 6 at 1:59am · Edited · Like · 1
    Neony Karby If there is continuous non-clinging could that be considered a changeless state.?
    February 6 at 2:02am · Like
    Soh The absence of clinging is not a continuous 'thing'. It is an absence. Like the absence of santa claus is not a continuous 'thing'. Of course even that absence is conventionally designated...

    In any case, Brahman is not 'non-clinging', Brahman is the ultimate reality of sat-chit-ananda, so why are you bringing up 'non-clinging'
    February 6 at 2:04am · Like
    Neony Karby OK.
    The union of luminosity and emptiness is actually how I've conceived the concept reading Vedanta. And later when I was reading Buddhism I found a parallel in Buddha Samantabhadra.
    But that's not how you (and probably many others) see it. And that's fine by me.
    February 6 at 2:10am · Like · 1
    Soh If you see luminosity as empty, then it is empty of Self, empty of changelessness, empty of self-existence... but Brahman is defined as self-existing, changeless, true Self etc. Not sure how it has anything to do with "empty". Luminous, sure.
    February 6 at 2:12am · Like
    Neony Karby Let me play freely here . Emptiness is form and form is emptiness and it is always so. Agreed?
    February 6 at 2:25am · Like
    Soh Yeah sure
    February 6 at 2:25am · Like
    Neony Karby Then 'always' could be considered a constant , never changing?
    February 6 at 2:26am · Like
    Laya Jakubowicz always empty does not make non empty...
    February 6 at 2:29am · Like
    Soh 'Always' should be loosely used in the sense that all phenomena are by nature empty of real existence, not in the sense that there is a self-existing and constant principle behind phenomena called 'Emptiness'. Even emptiness is empty of its own-existence*. It is not a self-existing and changeless source or substratum of phenomena, like Brahman.


    Emptiness Itself is Empty

    Even emptiness is empty. For example, the emptiness of the bottle of milk does not exist inherently. Rather, it exists in a dependent way. The emptiness of the bottle of milk is dependent upon its basis (the bottle of milk). It is also dependent upon having been designated as emptiness. As we saw above, this is alluded to in Nagarjuna’s Treatise, verse 24.18.

    Understood this way, emptiness is not a substitute term for awareness. Emptiness is not an essence. It is not a substratum or background condition. Things do not arise out of emptiness and subside back into emptiness. Emptiness is not a quality that things have, which makes them empty. Rather, to be a thing in the first place, is to be empty.

    It is easy to misunderstand emptiness by idealizing or reifying it by thinking that it is an absolute, an essence, or a special realm of being or experience. It is not any of those things. It is actually the opposite. It is merely the way things exist, which is without essence or self-standing nature or a substratum of any kind. Here is a list characteristics of emptiness, to help avoid some of the frequent misunderstandings about emptiness, according to the Buddhist Consequentialists:

    Emptiness is not a substance
    Emptiness is not a substratum or background
    Emptiness is not light
    Emptiness is not consciousness or awareness
    Emptiness is not the Absolute
    Emptiness does not exist on its own
    Objects do not consist of emptiness
    Objects do not arise from emptiness
    Emptiness of the "I" does not negate the "I"
    Emptiness is not the feeling that results when no objects are appearing to the mind
    Meditating on emptiness does not consist of quieting the mind

    Back to top
    Nondual Emptiness Teachings
    The Heart of Now Philosophical Consultation is devoted to understanding revealing inner peace, as well insights helping with everyday problems
    February 6 at 2:29am · Like · Remove Preview
    Neony Karby I've read all of that , think it's as clear to me as to you Soh.
    But just for the conceptual playfulness , I'll take out this sentence:
    Emptiness of the "I" does not negate the "I".
    We can agree that we can substitute 'I' with 'Self' in that sentence ?
    February 6 at 2:46am · Edited · Like
    Tommy McNally Neony: "Then 'always' could be considered a constant..." - If you can't see how the use of words like "always" are just a convention and do not imply any sort of permanence, you'll struggle to understand dependent origination. Try to find anything constant in your experience, find any aspect of your experience which is always there, which you're continually aware of and which remains unchanging. It's not possible, there's nothing mystical about this, it's apparent if you look for it so don't try to overcomplicate it or overthink it.
    February 6 at 2:46am · Unlike · 2
    Neony Karby All we have is conceptions and conventions when we communicate. And I have no trouble concerning dependant origination. Let that be clear Tommy. I'm just playing with concepts here.
    February 6 at 2:51am · Edited · Like
    Tommy McNally Why are you playing with concepts? Not trying to be an arsehole or anything, just wondering why you'd go down this particular path of enquiry if your understanding is as clear as you think it is.
    February 6 at 2:55am · Like · 1
    Tommy McNally Also, and again no disrespect intended, I doubt that the above article is as clear to you as it is to Soh otherwise the question you're asking, or "playing with", wouldn't even arise.
    February 6 at 2:57am · Like · 1
    Tommy McNally Not discouraging questions here, again to be clear, just trying to understand your motivation and, hopefully, trying to contribute something useful to the conversation.
    February 6 at 2:58am · Edited · Like
    Neony Karby Oh God. Then let's drop the play. Bye bye
    February 6 at 2:58am · Like
    Tommy McNally Dude, grow up. Seriously. Don't just spit the dummy 'cause someone calls you out on something.
    February 6 at 3:00am · Like
    Soh "Emptiness of the "I" does not negate the "I".
    We can agree that we can substitute 'I' with 'Self' in that sentence ?"

    Yes. "Self" as a convention is not a problem, it is only problem when "Self" is taken as truly existing - as independent, changeless, hidden/ghostly something with self-existence.

    For example, when we talk about "Seeing", one realizes that "Seeing" is just a convention and is just a label for the shapes and colours/the scenery, etc, i.e. "Seeing" is empty of being some hidden, ghostly entity existing in and of itself, rather it is a label for the manifestating transience/interdependencies.

    In hearing, there is no independent hearing or hearer, hearing is just the vivid sound...

    In "Self", there is no truly existing "Self" but is just a label collating the five aggregates...

    In "Weather", there is no truly existing "weather" in and of itself but "weather" is just a label collating the wind, the blowing, the shapes and colours of the blue sky, the darkening, raindrops falling... You do not search for 'weather' or conceive of 'weather' as being some sort of changeless/self-existing source, substratum or container for rain to happen, etc... you realize and penetrate its conventionality and see directly the entire workings in action.

    In "Awareness", there is no changeless/independent "Awareness" in and of itself or existing as some sort of container but "Awareness" is just a label collating the self-luminous transiency that are dependently originating...

    In "Body", there is no truly existing container with substantial shape or boundaries but merely vivid and flickering bodily sensations...

    Same applies for "Buddha-nature", etc etc.

    Even "physical universe"/"matter"/etc is analyzed that way: “In the Pali literature, the mahabhuta ("great elements") or catudhatu ("four elements") are earth, water, fire and air. In early Buddhism, the four elements are a basis for understanding suffering and for liberating oneself from suffering. The earliest Buddhist texts explain that the four primary material elements are the sensory qualities solidity, fluidity, temperature, and mobility; their characterization as earth, water, fire, and air, respectively, is declared an abstraction—instead of concentrating on the fact of material existence, one observes how a physical thing is sensed, felt, perceived.[8]"” (Wiki)

    The convention is OK if understood as mere collating convention, the problem lies in reifying an eternal, changeless, truly existing X (Self/Awareness/etc etc).
    February 6 at 3:19am · Edited · Like · 4
    Soh In the topic I posted yesterday:

    King: Nagasena, I have not told a lie. It is in the dependency and interworking of all the parts that you have a chariot. A pile of parts isn't enough. It is when they all work together that you have this conceptual term, sound, and name of a chariot.

    Nagasena: Your majesty is exactly right about the chariot. It is just so with me. Nagasena is the working of all the parts of the body and the five skandhas that make me. But in ultimate reality, however, the person still isn't caught.
    February 6 at 3:07am · Like
    Neony Karby "The convention is OK if understood as mere collating convention, the problem lies in reifying an eternal, changeless, truly existing X (Self/Awareness/etc etc)."

    Settled then. Just one question more in this play Soh .
    Let me, in your last sentence, substitute your 'X' with the conventional word 'life'.
    What happens then??

    Then Tommy , may understand my motivation for playing with concepts and that there is no 'spitting the dummy', as it is just a play for the simple fun of it, and no disrespect intended.
    February 6 at 4:42am · Edited · Like
    Soh Neony: the same. Life as a process, interdependencies, that is alive, luminous...

    Brahman however is seen as an ultimate reality, and that would not allow for 'process/interdependencies/etc' but rather subsumes those to be merely illusory superimpositions of a changeless, truly existing Brahman.
    February 6 at 4:42am · Edited · Like
    Neony Karby Bringing us back to my
    'The union of luminosity and emptiness is actually how I've conceived the concept reading Vedanta. And later when I was reading Buddhism I found a parallel in Buddha Samantabhadra.'
    Some may say that I've misunderstood what the Veda is referring to by the concept Brahman, some that I've got it right. And some may say that I can't make that parallel between the concepts. Which really is of no concern to me , as I'm just telling how I'm 'getting the message'.
    So for me Emptiness of the "Brahman" does not negate the "Brahman"
    If reification is defined as the conversion of an abstract concept into something concrete; a viewing of the abstract as concrete. Then I see no trouble in reifying life.
    February 6 at 5:48am · Edited · Like
    Justin Struble the view of "transience" .. arising and passing, impermanence, is skillful means, it is merely preliminary. the view of "transience" is dependent upon dualistic delusions. that sensations ACTUALLY come and go. when "transience" is realized as non-arisen, all phenomenal display is no longer experienced as arising, presenting, or passing away.

    if clinging remains in relation to the provisional view of impermanence, or transience of sensations, then one has not crossed over to the other shore of awakening. one has failed to truly realize two fold emptiness. one has failed to release the vehicle.

    generally, if after certain degrees of realization are attained, one falls into the view of Tathāgatagarbha AS "transience" this is due to either a failure to integrate the realization, or the strength of karmic propensities ... when the karmic propensities are still strong / have not been thoroughly weakened or cut off, then even with true cessation of the skandhas one will fail to discern the deathless. why is this so?

    what will occur with cessation when the karmic propensities are still too strong is, instead of the definitive discernment / wisdom of Dharmadhatu / Tathatā being realized, with cessation there will merely be a "gap" of unconsciousness. this is because either due to weak concentration or the karmic propensities being too strong, the karmic propensities arise before definitive wisdom of the deathless is discerned.

    instead, only an inferential wisdom arising on review after exiting cessation, will arise which determines the dis-jointedness, and impermanence of the skandhas, rather than discerning this within awakening. in this case, the karmic propensity of clinging to the aggregates was not sufficiently weakened, and true, definitive renunciation of the skandhas has not occurred.

    only when clinging to the aggregates has truly been sufficiently exhausted and true, deep, profound renunciation occurs, does Nirodha / cessation occur as awakened discernment wisdom of the deathless, unconditioned element, nibbana. "gap" cessations are not definitive wisdom, they are not true nirodha.

    due to a failure to discern the deathless during cessation, due to latent karmic propensities of clinging to the aggregates, practitioners fail to discern the deathless, and truly leap over to the other shore of nibbana.
    February 6 at 6:02am · Edited · Like · 1
    Justin Struble
    Nirvana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Nirvāṇa (Sanskrit: निर्वाण; Pali: निब्बानnibbāna ; Prakrit: णिव्वाण) is an ancie...See More
    February 6 at 7:20am · Like · Remove Preview
    Justin Struble In some Mahayana/Tantric texts nirvana is described as purified, non-dualistic 'superior mind'. The Samputa, for instance, states:

    Undefiled by lust and emotional impurities, unclouded by any dualistic perceptions, this superior mind is indeed the supreme nirvana.'[52]

    Some Mahayana traditions see the Buddha in almost docetic terms, viewing his visible manifestations as projections from within the state of nirvana. According to Professor Etienne Lamotte, Buddhas are always and at all times in nirvana, and their corporeal displays of themselves and their Buddhic careers are ultimately illusory. Lamotte writes of the Buddhas:

    They are born, reach enlightenment, set turning the Wheel of Dharma, and enter nirvana. However, all this is only illusion: the appearance of a Buddha is the absence of arising, duration and destruction; their nirvana is the fact that they are always and at all times in nirvana.’
    February 6 at 7:22am · Like
    Justin Struble Some Mahayana sutras go further and attempt to characterize the nature of nirvana itself. The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which has as one of its main topics precisely the realm or dhatu of nirvana, has the Buddha speak of four essential elements which make up nirvana. One of these is ‘Self’ (atman), which is construed as the enduring Self of the Buddha. Writing on this Mahayana understanding of nirvana, William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous state:

    ‘The Nirvana Sutra claims for nirvana the ancient ideas of permanence, bliss, personality, purity in the transcendental realm. Mahayana declares that Hinayana, by denying personality in the transcendental realm, denies the existence of the Buddha. In Mahayana, final nirvana is both mundane and transcendental, and is also used as a term for the Absolute.[54]

    At the time this scripture was written, there was already a long tradition of positive language about nirvana and the Buddha.[55] While in early Buddhist thought nirvana is characterized by permanence, bliss, and purity, it is viewed as being the stopping of the breeding-ground for the "I am" attitude, and is beyond all possibility of the Self-delusion.
    February 6 at 7:23am · Like
    Justin Struble Kosho Yamamoto, translator of the full-length Nirvana Sutra, expresses the view that the non-Self teaching is expedient only and that in the Nirvana Sutra a hidden teaching on the True Self is disclosed by the Buddha:

    He [the Buddha] says that the non-Self which he once taught is none but of expediency ... He says that he is now ready to speak about the undisclosed teachings. Men abide in upside-down thoughts. So he will now speak of the affirmative attributes of nirvana, which are none other than the Eternal, Bliss, the Self and the Pure.[60]

    In consonance with this, researcher on the Nirvana Sutra, Dr. Tony Page, comments:

    On the specific question of the supramundane or nirvanic Self, it is apparent that the [Nirvana] Sutra does assert an eternally abiding entity or dharma – what we might call the “Buddha-Self”, since the Buddha utters the equation ‘Self = Buddha’ - as an ever-enduring reality of the highest order. That Buddha-Self is one with Nirvana.
    February 6 at 7:24am · Like
    Justin Struble There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished,[1] unevolving, without support [mental object].[2] This, just this, is the end of stress.
    Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (1)
    I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near S?vatth? at Jeta's Grove, An?thapi??ika's monastery.
    February 6 at 7:31am · Like · Remove Preview
    Justin Struble There is, monks, an unborn[1] — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.
    Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)
    I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at J...See More
    February 6 at 7:33am · Like · Remove Preview
    Justin Struble
    February 6 at 7:35am · Like
    Justin Struble Chapter 7: No Location, No Limitation

    To contrast with the analogies discussed in Chapter Two, the Buddha
    provided three analogies to describe the mind that has put an end to renewed
    The first analogy is simply a reversal of the field analogies.

    “And if these five means of propagation are not broken, not rotten, not
    damaged by wind & sun, mature, and well-buried, but there is no earth
    and no water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?”
    “No, lord.”
    “And if these five means of propagation are broken, rotten, damaged
    by wind & sun, immature, and poorly-buried, but there is earth & water,
    would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?”
    “No, lord” ….
    “Like the earth property, monks, is how the four standing-spots for
    consciousness should be seen. Like the liquid property is how delight &
    passion should be seen. Like the five means of propagation is how
    consciousness together with its nutriment should be seen ….
    “If a monk abandons passion for the property of form ….
    “If a monk abandons passion for the property of feeling ….
    “If a monk abandons passion for the property of perception ….
    “If a monk abandons passion for the property of fabrications ….
    “If a monk abandons passion for the property of consciousness, then
    owing to the abandonment of passion, the support is cut off, and there is
    no landing of consciousness. Consciousness, thus not having landed, not
    increasing, not concocting, is released. Owing to its release, it is steady.
    Owing to its steadiness, it is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not
    agitated. Not agitated, he (the monk) is totally unbound right within. He
    discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is
    nothing further for this world.’” — SN 22:54
    February 6 at 7:38am · Like
    Justin Struble Although this analogy explicitly mentions only two alternative ways by
    which becoming is ended, it contains three variables that can actually function in
    this way: when the seed is deprived of water, when it is deprived of earth, and
    when it is poorly buried and damaged to the point where it cannot grow. These
    three variables, in differing combinations, relate to the three modes in which
    freedom from becoming—Unbinding—is experienced after Awakening. Iti 44
    describes two of these. In the first, the arahant while still alive experiences the six
    senses, but without any passion, aversion, or delusion. This would correspond to
    the seed’s being deprived of water. In the second, the arahant at death watches as
    the six senses grow cold through not being relished. This would correspond to
    the seed’s being deprived both of water and of earth.
    Other discourses, though, describe a third mode: an experience of Unbinding
    in this lifetime that seems to be a foretaste of Unbinding after death, in which all
    experience of the six senses is absent.
    February 6 at 7:39am · Like
    Justin Struble Ven. Sariputta: “Once, friend Ananda, when I was staying right here in
    Savatthi in the Blind Man's Grove, I reached concentration in such a way
    that I was neither percipient of earth with regard to earth, nor of water
    with regard to water, nor of fire ... wind ... the dimension of the infinitude
    of space ... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness ... the
    dimension of nothingness ... the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception ... this world ... nor of the next world with regard to the next
    world, and yet I was still percipient.”
    Ven. Ananda: “But what, friend Sariputta, were you percipient of at
    that time?”
    February 6 at 7:40am · Like
    Justin Struble Ven. Sariputta: “‘The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the
    cessation of becoming — Unbinding’: One perception arose in me, friend
    Ananda, as another perception ceased. Just as in a blazing woodchip fire,
    one flame arises as another flame ceases, even so, ‘The cessation of
    becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding’: One
    perception arose in me as another one ceased. I was percipient at that time
    of ‘The cessation of becoming — Unbinding.’” — AN 10:7
    February 6 at 7:40am · Like
    Justin Struble In this case, consciousness is not only devoid of passion, etc.; it is also
    separate from the senses. In terms of the field analogies, this would correspond
    to the seed’s being damaged—stripped of nutriment and moisture—and poorly
    The second analogy for a mind freed from becoming—dealing specifically
    with the arahant’s more general experience of Unbinding in this lifetime—
    focuses primarily on the seed.
    February 6 at 7:41am · Like
    Justin Struble “Just as when seeds are not broken, not rotten, not damaged by wind
    & heat, capable of sprouting, well-buried, planted in well-prepared soil,
    and a man would burn them with fire and, burning them with fire, would
    make them into fine ashes. Having made them into fine ashes, he would
    winnow them before a high wind or wash them away in a swift-flowing
    stream. Those seeds would thus be destroyed at the root, made like a
    palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined
    for future arising.
    “In the same way, any action performed with non-greed—born of non-greed, caused by non-greed, originating from non-greed: When greed is
    gone, that action is thus abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a
    palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined
    for future arising.
    “Any action performed with non-aversion …
    “Any action performed with non-delusion—born of non-delusion,
    caused by non-delusion, originating from non-delusion: When delusion is
    gone, that action is thus abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a
    palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined
    for future arising.” — AN 3:34
    February 6 at 7:42am · Like
    Justin Struble The purpose of this analogy is clear: to explain how an arahant still engages
    in intentional activity without producing renewed becoming. He or she has so thoroughly destroyed any trace of passion and delight for action that no present
    action can possibly sprout into a future kammic result. Although only an arahant
    would fully understand what this entails, the analogy does help make sense of
    the fact that arahants continue to engage in intentional activity after
    Awakening—practicing generosity, virtue, and concentration; making use of
    skillful habits, practices, and views—without creating any new kamma.

    “One enters & remains in the first jhana … the second jhana … the
    third jhana … the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness,
    neither pleasure nor pain. Such is my instruction, brahman, to those
    monks who are in training, who have not attained the heart’s goal but
    remain intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage. But as for those
    monks who are arahants—whose effluents are ended, who have reached
    fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal,
    totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who are released through
    right gnosis—these dhammas lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to mindfulness & alertness.” — MN 107

    Ven. Sariputta: “An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to
    these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer,
    an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self.
    Although, for an arahant, there is nothing further to do, and nothing to
    add to what has been done, still these things—when developed &
    pursued—lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to
    mindfulness & alertness.” — SN 22:122
    February 6 at 7:44am · Like
    Justin Struble Although the purpose of this second analogy is clear, its terms are not
    explicitly defined. The seed would appear to correspond to present intention—
    i.e., new kamma. The fact that it is planted and then destroyed would indicate
    that the arahant does fabricate intentions, but that their potential to produce
    becoming is then aborted.
    But because intention is one of the four nutriments for consciousness, the seed
    might implicitly correspond to consciousness and its other three nutriments as
    well. After all, intention depends on contact (AN 6:63) and the presence of
    sensory consciousness (SN 12:2); the survival of the arahant’s body depends on
    food. This would mean that the seed in this analogy corresponds to the same
    analogues as does the seed in the first analogy in this chapter: consciousness plus
    its nutriments. And this would further mean that arahants, in the course of this
    lifetime, have a special relationship to nutriment and sensory consciousness, just
    as they do to intention.
    This interpretation is supported by discourses dealing specifically with the
    living arahant’s relationship to sensory consciousness and physical food.
    Iti 44 states unequivocally that the arahant, during this lifetime, is conscious
    of the six sense media.

    “And what is the Unbinding property with fuel remaining? There is
    the case where a monk is an arahant whose effluents have ended, who has
    reached fulfillment, finished the task, laid down the burden, attained the
    true goal, ended the fetter of becoming, and is released through right gnosis. His five sense faculties still remain and, owing to their being intact,
    he is cognizant of the agreeable & the disagreeable, and is sensitive to
    pleasure & pain. His ending of passion, aversion, & delusion is termed the
    Unbinding property with fuel remaining.” — Iti 44
    February 6 at 7:47am · Like
    Justin Struble However, the arahant’s consciousness of the senses occurs with an attitude of
    being disjoined from them.

    Ven. Nandaka: “Just as if a skilled butcher or butcher’s apprentice,
    having killed a cow, were to carve it up with a sharp carving knife so
    that—without damaging the substance of the inner flesh, without
    damaging the substance of the outer hide—he would cut, sever, & detach
    only the skin muscles, connective tissues, & attachments in between.
    Having cut, severed, & detached the outer skin, and then covering the
    cow again with that very skin, if he were to say that the cow was joined to
    the skin just as it had been: would he be speaking rightly?”
    A group of nuns: “No, venerable sir. Why is that? Because if the skilled
    butcher or butcher’s apprentice, having killed a cow, were to carve it up
    with a sharp carving knife so that—without damaging the substance of
    the inner flesh, without damaging the substance of the outer hide—he
    would cut, sever, & detach only the skin muscles, connective tissues, &
    attachments in between; and … having covered the cow again with that
    very skin, then no matter how much he might say that the cow was joined
    to the skin just as it had been, the cow would still be disjoined from the
    Ven. Nandaka: “This simile, sisters, I have given to convey a message.
    The message is this: The substance of the inner flesh stands for the six
    internal sense media; the substance of the outer hide, for the six external
    sense media. The skin muscles, connective tissues, & attachments in
    between stand for passion & delight. And the sharp knife stands for noble
    discernment—the noble discernment that cuts, severs, & detaches the
    defilements, fetters, & bonds in between.” — MN 146
    February 6 at 7:47am · Like
    Justin Struble Thus, although the arahant is sensitive to the senses, his or her lack of passion
    & delight—clinging—alters the way in which this form of nutriment is
    A similar dynamic tempers the way in which an arahant consumes physical

    Not hoarding,
    having comprehended food,
    their pasture—emptiness
    & freedom without sign:
    their trail,
    like that of birds through space,
    can’t be traced.
    Effluents ended,
    independent of nutriment,
    their pasture—emptiness
    & freedom without sign:
    their trail,
    like that of birds through space,
    can’t be traced. — Dhp 92-93
    February 6 at 7:50am · Like
    Justin Struble Being independent of nutriment means not that arahants no longer have to
    eat, simply that their attainment, being unconditioned, requires no nutriment.
    Arahants, like anyone else, need to consume physical food to stay alive. But
    having fully comprehended the nature of food—which, according to SN 22:23,
    means that they have abandoned all passion, aversion, and delusion with regard
    to it—the nature of their consumption has radically changed. They consume food
    simply for the upkeep of the body, for whatever length of time it takes their past
    kamma to run out.

    Ven. Sañkicca:
    I don’t delight in death,
    don’t delight in living.
    I await my time
    as a worker his wage.
    I don’t delight in death,
    don’t delight in living.
    I await my time
    mindful, alert. — Thag 11

    Because they consume without delight in either living or dying, there is no
    clinging in their consumption. Thus the motivation for their eating is both pure
    and free. This purity and freedom mean that an awakened person “eats the
    country’s almsfood without debt” (SN 16:11), because the kammic rewards of
    providing physical requisites for an arahant are so great that donors who
    provide them are amply repaid for their gift. In this way the blissful rewards of
    Awakening are not confined to the awakened, but are shared among those who
    support them. Although those who seek arahantship are sometimes criticized as
    “selfish” for pursuing their goal, in actual fact one of the motivations for their
    pursuit is that it offers great rewards to their supporters.
    February 6 at 7:51am · Like
    Justin Struble “’Contemplatives, contemplatives’: That is how people perceive you.
    And when asked, ‘What are you?’ you claim that ‘We are contemplatives.’
    So, with this being your designation and this your claim, this is how you
    should train yourselves: ‘We will undertake & practice those qualities that
    make one a contemplative, that make one a brahman [arahant], so that our
    designation will be true and our claim accurate; so that the services of
    those whose robes, alms-food, lodging, and medicinal requisites we use
    will bring them great fruit & great reward; and so that our going forth will
    not be barren, but fruitful & fertile.’” — MN 39
    February 6 at 7:53am · Like
    Justin Struble “Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows
    on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has
    entered by way of the window, where does it land?”
    “On the western wall, lord.”
    “And if there is no western wall, where does it land?”
    “On the ground, lord.”
    “And if there is no ground, where does it land?”
    “On the water, lord.”
    “And if there is no water, where does it land?”
    “It does not land, lord.”
    “In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of
    physical food … contact … intellectual intention … consciousness, where
    there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or
    grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not
    alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of
    fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no
    production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no
    production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth,
    aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair.” —
    SN 12:64

    This analogy does not specifically state whether it refers to the arahant before
    or after death. However, in the context of this analogy, the beam of light depends
    on the wall, the ground, etc., only for the fact of its appearance and growth
    within space and time. This suggests that it otherwise would not be affected
    when the nutriments disappear. Thus the analogy would refer to the arahant
    both before and after death.
    This interpretation is supported by two contexts, one authorial and the other
    textual. The authorial context is that if the Buddha’s Awakening had revealed
    that total Unbinding was a state of total unconsciousness, he would never have
    thought of using this analogy to describe the awakened state.
    The textual context is provided by MN 49, which states that—in contrast to
    the consciousness of an unawakened being, which is known only through its
    interaction with kamma—the arahant’s knowledge of unconditioned
    consciousness is totally unmediated.
    February 6 at 7:59am · Like
    Justin Struble “‘Having directly known the all [the six sense media and their
    objects—see SN 35:23] as the all, and having directly known the extent of
    what has not been experienced through the allness of the all, I wasn’t the
    all, I wasn’t in the all, I wasn’t coming forth from the all, I wasn’t “The all
    is mine.” I didn’t affirm the all ….

    “‘Consciousness without surface,
    without end,
    luminous all around,
    has not been experienced through the earthness of earth … the
    liquidity of liquid … the fieriness of fire … the windiness of wind … the
    being-ness of beings … the deva-ness of devas … the Pajapati-ness of
    Pajapati … the brahma-ness of Brahma … the radiant-ness of the radiant
    (devas) … the beautiful black-ness of the beautiful black (devas) … the
    sky-fruit-ness of the sky-fruit (devas) … the conqueror-ness of the
    conqueror … the allness of the all.’” — MN 49
    February 6 at 8:01am · Like
    Justin Struble A basic feature of the Buddha’s teachings on causality is that if x depends on
    y for its existence, it will cease when y ceases. But because consciousness without
    surface—unlike sensory consciousness—is known independently of the six sense
    media, it will not cease when they do.

    “‘Consciousness without surface,
    without end,
    luminous all around:
    Here water, earth, fire, & wind
    have no footing.
    Here long & short
    coarse & fine
    fair & foul
    name & form
    are all brought to an end.
    With the cessation of consciousness
    each is here brought to an end.’” — DN 11
    February 6 at 8:02am · Like
    Justin Struble Reading this verse in light of MN 49, the “cessation of consciousness” would
    seem to refer to the cessation of the aggregate of sensory consciousness, whereas
    “consciousness without surface” would not be touched by that cessation. This is
    because this mode of consciousness would also lie outside the aggregates,
    inasmuch as the aggregate of consciousness covers only those forms of
    consciousness that can be located in space and time. Consciousness without
    surface, however, no longer has a “place” defined by craving and clinging, and
    so does not fall under the categories of time or space.
    This consciousness should not be confused with the “radiant mind” of AN
    1:51-52. As those discourses state, the radiant mind is something that can be
    developed. In terms of the duties of the four noble truths, this indicates that the
    radiant mind is part of the truth of the path. As with other skillful states of
    becoming, it is to be developed until it has served its purpose and then
    relinquished. Consciousness without surface, however, is related to the truth of
    cessation, and as such cannot be developed. It can only be realized.
    February 6 at 8:03am · Like
    Justin Struble The analogy between consciousness without surface and an unreflected light
    beam carries other implications as well. The first is that, just as a light beam that
    is not reflected off any surface cannot be apprehended—and in that sense has no
    location—in the same way, a person whose consciousness does not land and
    become established on any object cannot be apprehended either in this life or
    after death, even by those with extensive psychic powers.

    Effluents ended,
    independent of nutriment,
    their pasture—emptiness
    & freedom without sign:
    their trail,
    like that of birds through space,
    can’t be traced. — Dhp 93

    “And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati,
    search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that
    ‘The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) is dependent on this.’
    Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now.”
    — MN 22
    February 6 at 8:04am · Like
    Justin Struble Then the Blessed One went with a large number of monks to the Black
    Rock on the slope of Isigili. From afar he saw Ven. Vakkali lying dead on a
    couch. Now at that time a smokiness, a darkness was moving to the east,
    moving to the west, moving to the north, the south, above, below, moving
    to the intermediate directions. The Blessed One said, “Monks, do you see
    that smokiness, that darkness …?”
    “Yes, Lord.”
    “That is Mara, the Evil One. He is searching for the consciousness of
    Vakkali the clansman: “Where is the consciousness of Vakkali the clansman
    established?” But, monks, it is through unestablished consciousness that
    Vakkali the clansman has become totally unbound.”— SN 22:87

    Because the arahant’s consciousness has no location, it is totally undefined.
    February 6 at 8:06am · Like
    Justin Struble “If one doesn’t stay obsessed with consciousness, that’s not what one is
    measured/limited by. Whatever one isn’t measured by, that’s not how
    one is classified.” — SN 22:36

    When one is undefined, one cannot be described as existing or not existing,
    either in the present life or after death.

    Considering the ground,
    crushing the seed,
    he wouldn’t provide it with moisture
    —truly a sage—
    seer of the ending of birth.
    Abandoning conjecture,
    he cannot be classified. — Sn 1:12
    February 6 at 8:06am · Like
    Justin Struble Although the classifications of words are inadequate to describe Unbinding—
    because words are fabricated phenomena, part of a causal chain in which
    Unbinding does not participate—the discourses nevertheless describe three of
    Unbinding’s aspects in positive terms.
    The first aspect is Suchness, a term we have already met, which means that
    the arahant is unaffected by the arising or passing away of anything related to
    the six senses. Unlike equanimity, which is an activity of the mind, the Suchness
    involves no effort or activity at all. Because it is effortless, this Suchness lies
    beyond questions of control and lack of control. Thus questions of self and not-self are also irrelevant. The arahant is simply Such.

    “Thus the Tathagata—being the same with regard to all phenomena
    that can be seen, heard, sensed, & cognized—is ‘Such.’ And I tell you,
    there is no Such higher or more sublime.” — AN 4:24

    He whose senses are steadied
    like stallions
    well-trained by the charioteer,
    his conceit abandoned,
    free of effluent,
    even devas adore him.
    Like the earth, he doesn’t react—
    like Indra’s pillar,
    like a lake free of mud.
    For him
    there’s no traveling on.

    Calm is his mind,
    calm his speech & his deed:
    one who’s released
    through right knowing,
    Such. — Dhp 94-96

    A brahman [arahant] not led
    by habits or practices,
    gone to the beyond
    doesn’t fall back. — Sn 6:6

    For the monk who has left
    all kamma
    shaking off the dust of the past,
    steady, unpossessive,
    There’s no point in telling
    anyone else. — Ud 3:1

    Knowing the world,
    seeing the highest goal,
    crossing the ocean, the flood,
    his chains broken,
    The enlightened call him a sage. — Sn 1:12

    The second positive aspect of Unbinding is sukha—a term that can be
    translated as pleasure, happiness, bliss, or ease. Unbinding, as experienced in
    this lifetime, is invariably described as pleasurable. And because this pleasure is
    unconditioned, it is not affected by the arahant’s death.

    “If the thought should occur to you that, when defiling mental
    qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one
    enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having
    known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, one’s abiding is
    stressful/painful, you should not see it in that way. When defiling mental
    qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one
    enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having
    known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture,
    serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding.” — DN 9

    Although Unbinding is the foremost pleasure (Dhp 203), an arahant does not
    cling to it, and so is not limited by it.

    When a sage,
    a brahman through sagacity,
    has known for himself,
    then from form & formless,
    from pleasure & pain,
    he is freed. — Ud 1:10

    Freedom, in fact, is the third aspect, and the one that the discourses most
    frequently attribute to Unbinding. This is because the Suchness of the arahants’
    attainment is free from conditioned influences. Although living arahants still experience their field of kamma, in the form of the aggregates and sense media,
    that experience creates no direct impact on them.

    With no passion, delight, or relishing for anything at all—not even for the
    state of dispassion—there is no “where” for the arahant to be bound. This fact
    explains a Pali idiom that has long given trouble to Western translators. Poems in
    the Canon often mention the arahant as being “everywhere released” (sabbattha
    vimutto) or “everywhere independent” (sabbattha anissito). Translators, lacking a
    sense of the underlying image of the idiom, have tended to render it in more
    prosaic terms: “completely released in every respect,” “not dependent on
    anything,” “released from everything.” However, in light of the field analogies,
    in which the moisture of craving and delight creates the “where” for becoming,
    the idiom means precisely what it says: The arahant is released from every
    possible “where,” whether fabricated or not—every possible spot for renewed

    Gone to the beyond of becoming,
    you let go of in front,
    let go of behind,
    let go of between.
    With a heart everywhere released,
    you don’t come again to birth
    & aging. — Dhp 348

    Sister Subha:
    I—unimpassioned, unblemished,
    with a mind everywhere released …
    Knowing the unattractiveness
    of fabricated things,
    my heart adheres nowhere at all. — Thig 14
    February 6 at 8:21am · Like
    Justin Struble
    February 6 at 8:21am · Like
    Kyle Dixon Ātman in the context of the Nirvāna Sūtra and the like, are not using the term ātman to refer to a self of any type. The term 'ātman' in those texts means 'essence', so the theories of those like Tony Page, that the Buddha was advocating for a transcendent identity, are not found to be accurate.
    February 6 at 8:52am · Like
    Justin Struble Kyle, I highly recommend reading chapter 7 of Thanissaro's book:
    February 6 at 8:58am · Like
    Kyle Dixon I'll check it out, but I don't buy into the eternalistic interpretations like the ones you cited above.
    February 6 at 10:16am · Like
    Justin Struble
    February 6 at 10:17am · Like
    Justin Struble I find the most interesting thing about that chapter is Thanissaro's treatment / commentary on the sutta's various descriptions of unbinding & the nature of the awakening of an arahant.
    February 6 at 10:21am · Like
    Kyle Dixon So I take it you are advocating for an independent nature which abides outside of the aggregates?
    February 6 at 11:19am · Like
    Soh Justin: "due to a failure to discern the deathless during cessation,"

    If you look into my earlier entries in my ebook, you should know that I used to take deathless as an inherent Awareness. That inherent view to me is what karmic propensity is. That understanding of unborn/deathless nature of dharmas evolved.

    As I wrote in

    The Unborn Dharma
    Posted by: Soh
    A discussion with a friend in TheTaoBums, who himself has pretty deep insights.


    Sorry for the slow reply... Didn't really have much time last week - long shifts on duty in operations on an island and lack access to internet apart from my phone. (well I am still only using my phone now but have more time to reply). I'm back from the operation late saturday and just fired 115 rounds last night in a machine gun live firing exercise (from one hill to another hill with night vision, kinda fun). Not that I like military life in general tho - we are just told to "suck up" the two years of national service in Singapore. (It does suck to have your freedom taken away and have to stay in camp every weekday)

    There are different understandings about unborn... Related to different realisations.

    At the I AM (realization of luminosity but inherent and dualistic) and substantial nondual (nondual but inherent) level, unborn is understood in terms of an unchanging, inherent, birthless and deathless awareness. At this point, we discover ourselves as an all-pervading presence not bounded by the birth and death of this body-mind. As an analogy, you used to think you are one of the wave arising and subsiding in the ocean, but now you realize you are the whole ocean. Or you used to think you are the drop of water, until that drop of water sinks into the ocean and you can no longer find a separate identity or drop of water apart from the entire ocean. Or the outbreathe merges with the air in the environment, the air in the vase becomes inseparable from the air of the whole world when the vase breaks. These analogies should give you a sense of the 'all-pervadingness' of Pure Presence, and how 'deathlessness' is experienced when the sense of 'individuality' is overcome in the discovery of one's true identity as this all-pervading Presence. At this level of insight, the transience (the birth and death of waves on the ocean) in contrast is understood to be illusory, unlike the real, absolute unchanging awareness (the deathless oceanic Presence)... it should be understood that the lack of individual identity in the all-pervading Presence is not to be understood as the no-self of Anatta which will be explained further on.

    Even though it might be understood that the unchanging awareness is inseperable from illusory, transient experiences (nonduality of subject and object). This is understanding unborn from an inherent (albeit nondual) perspective. This is also the understanding of advaita vedanta (though a common understanding among some zennists, shentongpas, etc). This is understanding things from the substantialist non-dual point of view.

    Second is unborn from the perspective of anatta... Due to the insight of anatta it is seen that there is no inherent self anywhere, no subject, no substantiality to any phenomena including a superawareness of sorts... Seeing is the seen, scenery sees! Awareness is realized to simply be a label collating the various transient experiences in the same way that the word weather is a label collating the various diverse, dynamic and ungraspable manifestations like clouds, rain, lightning, wind, etc. Similarly awareness is not an unchanging essence located anywhere but is simply the self-luminous transient manifestations.

    So how is this anatta linked to unborn if there is no unchanging awareness? It is the absence of a self at the center that links and persists throughout experience - walking from point A to point Z, there is no sense that there is a self unchanged throughout point A to point Z - instead, experiences are experienced as disjoint, unsupported, self-releasing and spontaneous. In other words, point A is point A complete in itself, same goes to point B, C, to Z.

    Do take note that experience is effortlessly and implicitly non-dual, just a refinement of 'view' after this new found experience and realization. That is, from this implicitly and effortlessly non-dual experience and without having the need to reify and rely on a 'source', how is 'unborn' understood?

    If we keep on penetrating this, it will come a time that 'boom' we suddenly realized that why is there a need to do so? Why is the relying of the Source so persistent? It is because we have relied on a wrong view despite the right experience.

    Once the willingness to let go of the 'wrong dualistic and inherent view' arose, it suddenly it became clear that all along I am still unknowingly relying on 'wrong view'. For example, seeing the same 'mind' being transformed into the transience manifestation.

    In actuality there is in seeing just the seen, no seer, in hearing just sounds, no hearer. How is this deathless if there is just manifestation? Just as Zen Master Dogen puts it: firewood does not turn into ashes, firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood while ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, while at the same time ash contains firewood, firewood contains ash (all is the manifestation of the interdependent universe as if the entire universe is coming together to give rise to this experience and thus all is contained in one single expression).

    The similar principle applies not just to firewood and ash but to everything else: for example you do not say summer turns into autumn and autumn turns into winter - summer is summer, autumn is autumn, distinct and complete in itself yet each instance of existence time contains the past, present and future in it. So the same applies to birth and death - birth does not turn into death as birth is the phenomenal expression of birth and death is the phenomenal expression of death - they are interdependent yet disjoint, unsupported, complete. Accordingly, birth is no-birth and death is no-death... Since each moment is not really a starting point or ending point for a entity - without the illusion and reference of a self-entity - every moment is simply a complete manifestation of itself. And every manifestation does not leave traces: they are disjoint, unsupported and self-releases upon inception. This wasn't dogen's exact words but I think the gist is there, you should read dogen's genjokoan which I posted in my blog.
    Awakening to Reality: The Unborn Dharma
    I would usually sum up what's being said in this entry like this: Each moment is...See More
    February 6 at 12:05pm · Edited · Like · 1 · Remove Preview
    Soh Lastly is understanding the unborn dharma from the perspective of shunyata. This perspective should complement with the perspective of anatta for true deep experiential insight (without realization of anatta, there will still be clinging to a base, ground, somewhere).

    I should say the realization of the unborn dharma (from shunyata) arose the day after you sent me this PM - the details of which can be found in the last ten to twenty pages of my ebook - new materials just added on sunday, in a new chapter called "shunyata". The realization arose spontaneously while simultaneously reading and contemplating an article from a highly experienced mahamudra practitioner/blogger, Chodpa, owner of the blog luminous emptiness.

    The realization of unborn from the perspective of emptiness is the realization that everything experienced - thoughts and sensate perceptions are utterly unlocatable, ungraspable, empty. In investigation where did thought arise from, where is thought currently located, and where will thought go to, it is discovered that thoughts are indeed like a magician's trick! No source can be located, no destination can be found, and the thought is located nowhere at all - it is unfindable, ungraspable... Yet "it" magically and vividly appears! Out of nowhere, in nowhere, to nowhere, dependently originated and empty... A magical apparition appears, vividly luminously yet empty. When this is seen, there is an amazement, wonder, and great bliss arising out of direct cognition of the magic of empty luminosity. So how is this linked to unborn? It is realized that everything is literally an appearance, a display, a function, and this display is nowhere inherent or located anywhere - so like a dream, like a tv show, characters of the show may vividly appear to suffer birth and death and yet we know it is simply a show - it's undeniably there (vividly appearing) yet it's not really there. It has no actual birth, death, place of origin, place of abidance, place of destination, ground, core, substance.

    However in the insight of emptiness, this is different from substantial nonduality as there is no referencing of the manifestations and appearances as being part of an unchanging awareness. Awareness is the unborn display - not the display is appearing in/as an unborn, unchanging Awareness. This is the difference between unborn understood from a nondual and noninherent view, and unborn understood from a nondual but inherent view. Even though it is realised all is mind/experience, there is no substance to mind/experience. It is not the same as the subsuming of all experiences to a "one mind" like substantial nondualism. There is also no cosmic mind (this is actually a nonbuddhist view) but individual, unique and nondual mindstreams.

    Lastly if you are interested in dzogchen (oh and just wondering, are you more into mahamudra or dzogchen?) you might want to chat with loppon namdrol in dharmawheel (vajrahridaya informed me that namdrol has recently started posting in that forum, previously namdrol posted mostly in esangha before it was taken down), namdrol is very knowledgeable, has realization of emptiness and is an experienced dzogchen practitioner under chogyal namkhai norbu rinpoche. He is a loppon which means he has like a phd in buddhism, and if memory serves he was asked by a lama to teach dzogchen though he rejected it.

    Finally just a note, whenever there is any mentions of permanence, it is not a permanent metaphysical essence of awareness or substance... But emptiness (the absence of inherent existence) is the permanent nature of everything.

    Also, as Loppon Namdrol pointed out, Mahaparinirvana sutra and other teachings on Tathagatagarbha on permanence, self etc shld be understood in terms of Emptiness and No-self - it is simply the subversion of Hindu concepts of atman and brahman into emptiness and noself - the true essence is lack of essence. And as Lankavatara sutra points out, the teachings of true self by Buddha is not the same as non-Buddhist teachings of an all-pervasive creator and Self but is simply a skillful means to lead those who fear emptiness to the profound prajna wisdom. It (true self, tathagatagarbha, etc) is not meant to be taken literally as pointing to an inherently existing metaphysical essence. It is a teaching device.
    February 6 at 12:04pm · Like · 1
    Soh Among the famous masters proclaiming 'Impermanence is Buddha-nature' is Zen Master Dogen, Ch'an Patriarch Hui-Neng, and a couple of other famous masters.
    February 6 at 12:11pm · Like
    Soh Tony Page is a full fledged eternalist with a view that is 100% no different from Advaita as he posits a universal consciousness as source and substratum. As I posted two weeks ago (based on a post I made many months ago):

    Dr Tony may be making valid comments about this sutra, but it does not mean that this sutra is being treated as the definitive sutra by the majority of people in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, however there are certainly a handful of followers that hold such Atman/eternalist view that is no different from the Hindu's Advaita Vedanta.

    I wrote last year:

    Now recently I was discussing with Geoff (online jnana, nyana, etc) and he mentioned: "The "Mahāyāna" is a mixed bag, and has meant different things to different people at different times. I have faith that by practicing the perfections one can realize buddhahood. And this isn't unique to the Mahāyāna. The Theravāda also has teachings on the bodhisatta vehicle."

    I can't agree more with this particularly the first sentence.

    Mahayana means different things to different people, simply because it is not one particular teaching taught by one person. It is not even from the historical Buddha. Rather, it is a collection of teachings from so many people with different background, situation, understandings, under different circumstances or periods of doctrinal developments etc etc.

    Some of those scriptures may be attributed to Buddha, but even those scriptures are not exactly by the historical Buddha (as modern scholarship will tell you) but are composed by many unknown authors writing them - perhaps a visionary account of their teachings, or more likely than not as Malcolm said - "...Even though Shakyamuni Buddha certainly never actually taught Mahayana, nevertheless, Mahayana stands on its own and is valid as a spiritual path and practice because the folks that wrote the Mahayana sutras down were realized persons. The source of these teachings are all realized beings-- ***their assumed historical settings are merely skillful means to instill faith in the teachings in those person's who need to crutch of historical literalism...***" In any case, the Mahayana sutras show signs of literary composition and gradual development that are simply absent in the Pali suttas, which shows signs of being handed down orally in the beginning and having more consistency etc.

    And because Mahayana is such a diverse set of teachings developed over a thousand years, you can actually easily find a sutra to support a whole range of positions to your own liking. So if for example your understanding is that your true self is eternal and changeless awareness (and I know you're an eternalist lol), sure, you can also find doctrinal support easily in Mahayana Buddhism. You may even find that the early Tathagatagarbha teachings like the early Mahaparinirvana Sutra (Mahayana) may even seem more eternalist than Vedanta and is rather unapologetic about it. In that sutra, Nirvana is described as the true changeless self and distinct from the five passing aggregates. Which is in direct contradiction to the earlier Pali suttas (and Mahayana Prajnaparamita sutras etc) which held Nirvana to be empty of self.

    But that is just one small part of the Mahayana basket of scriptures. Earlier than the Tathagatagarbha class of teachings we have the Prajnaparamita class of teachings, which are the emptiness teachings - all dharmas including Nirvana are taught to be empty and illusory, and as I quoted to you in the past from this class of teaching, "Nirvāṇa is an illusion. Even if there is anything greater than Nirvāṇa, that too will be only an illusion." ~ Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñapāramitā Sutra

    And in the later developments, such as Lankavatara Sutra, which is not particularly prajnaparamita, not particularly tathagatagarbha, not particularly yogacara - but since it is such a late sutra it is a synthesis of all the earlier developments - PP, TG, YC all included in one coherent scripture. This is the sutra that teaches sudden awakening and is said to be the only sutra brought into China by the 1st Zen/Ch'an Patriarch in China, Bodhidharma.

    In this Lankavatara Sutra, it explains that the doctrine of Tathagatagarbha is simply a skillful, expedient means taught to non-Buddhists who fear the notion of emptiness and cling to notions of true self. Its aim is actually to lead them gradually towards understanding emptiness, non-arising etc expediently. It teaches that true Bodhisattvas must treat tathagatagarbha as ultimately not-self, and warn against falling into non-Buddhist views of an Atman. But of course this is not what is being explained in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra for example, which explains itself as being the final definitive teachings, etc. So there are always contradictions between sutras simply because they are written and developed by different people.

    So all these mean very different things to different people, all depending on what they take to be provisional and what they take to be definitive.

    The general consensus among the majority of Mahayana and particularly Vajrayana people is that they do not hold a rather substantialist understanding of Buddha-nature. In Vajrayana for example Buddha-nature is understood as the inseparability of clarity and emptiness. In other words, even though clarity is an aspect of nature of mind, or one of the natures/essence of mind (the other being emptiness), that clarity too is not reified in terms of a changeless substantial true self but is empty of any self or substantial real existence as well.

    Vajrayana generally take the middle way teachings on emptiness to be definitive but at the same time talk about the clarity aspect or the inseparability of clarity and emptiness. There is strong influence of Nagarjuna's emptiness teachings in terms of view on the Vajrayana teachings as a whole even though in terms of practice they are more focused on tantric methodologies generally speaking (or there may be practice-based teachings that claim themselves to be beyond tantras like Dzogchen and Mahamudra for example).

    On the other hand there are also those minority like the Jonangs and the more extreme version of Shentong that takes some of the Tathagatagarbha teachings to be definitive and thus developed an eternalist doctrine out of it that is no different from the Vedanta teachings. The same goes for some adherents/teachers of Zen and Ch'an Buddhism which are also in many cases teaching stuff that are very much like Vedanta. At the same time you can find Zen teachers that teach a very non-substantialist understanding, and I especially like Dogen for example. So it is truly, a mixed bag, even within the specific traditions of Mahayana and Vajrayana. There can be no similar consensus among such a wide range of Buddhists on such issues.

    But going back to topic, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists generally agree with the Buddha's (the early/original teachings in pali suttas) description of Nirvana and generally do not hold substantialist views about it. However they do have different understandings of the details - and some Vajrayana people will talk about the difference of Bodhisattva's nirvana (non-abiding nirvana) versus the one-sided cessation of arahants and so on. All these I'll leave to the experts like Geoff who described it very nicely:
    Dharma Connection: Nirvana In The Different Schools Of Buddhism
    February 6 at 12:13pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Soh The 'unborn' taught by Buddha in the pali suttas is not referring to the 'unborn inherently existing awareness' sense of unborn. Instead he is talking about the removal of afflictions.

    As I wrote before:

    Buddha: "And what, monks, is the death-free (amata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the death-free."

    As Loppon Namdrol/Malcolm Smith puts it: “When you have eradicated all afflictions which cause rebirth, this is all the deathlessness you need. No more birth, BAM! no more death.”

    As a moderator of the dhammawheel forum tiltbillings puts it: “There is no "deathless." That is a bad translation leading to an objectification/reification of the idea of awakening. With awakening, there is no more rebirth, one is free from death. (31 words.)”

    Jnana/Geoff says it very well: “Firstly, while the translation of asaṃskṛta as “the unconditioned” is fairly common, it’s a rather poor translation that all too easily leads to reification. The term asaṃskṛta refers to a negation of conditioned factors, and the meaning is better conveyed by “not-conditioned.” Secondly, for Sautrāntika commentators, and many mahāyānika commentators as well, an analytical cessation (pratisaṃkhyānirodha) is a non-implicative negation (prasajyapratiṣedha), i.e. a negation that doesn’t imply the presence of some other entity, and therefore nirvāṇa simply refers to a cessation that terminates the defilements and fetters that are abandoned by the correct practice of the noble path. It doesn’t refer to an entity or state that is substantially existent (dravyasat).”

    (The same applies to “Deathless” – there is no “Deathless” but “death-free” that is the absence of afflictions that lead to samsaric rebirth and death)

    Geoff also wrote, “One has to be careful with such descriptions which may seem to be pointing to some sort of truly existent "unconditioned ground." Nibbāna is the extinguishment of the mental outflows (āsavā). The liberated mind is measureless (appamāṇa). This is not a "state of oneness with all of existence." It's an absence of identification (anattatā). It's non-indicative (anidassana), unestablished (appatiṭṭha), and not-dependent (anissita). None of these adjectives entail any sort of metaphysical "ground of being" or "unconditioned absolute." They are all negations. An arahant has simply "gone out."”
    February 6 at 12:18pm · Like
    Soh SN 43 Asaṅkhata Saṃyutta (1-44 combined & abridged):

    And what, monks, is the not-fabricated (asaṅkhata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the not-fabricated.

    And what, monks, is the not-inclined (anata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the not-inclined.

    And what, monks, is the outflowless (anāsava)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the outflowless.

    And what, monks, is the truth (sacca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the truth.

    And what, monks, is the farther shore (pāra)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the farther shore.

    And what, monks, is the subtle (nipuṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the subtle.

    And what, monks, is the very hard to see (sududdasa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the very hard to see.

    And what, monks, is the unaging (ajajjara)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unaging.

    And what, monks, is the stable (dhuva)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the stable.

    And what, monks, is the undisintegrating (apalokita)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the undisintegrating.

    And what, monks, is the non-indicative (anidassana)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the non-indicative.

    And what, monks, is the unproliferated (nippapañca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unproliferated.

    And what, monks, is the peaceful (santa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the peaceful.

    And what, monks, is the death-free (amata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the death-free.

    And what, monks, is the sublime (paṇīta)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the sublime.

    And what, monks, is the auspicious (siva)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the auspicious.

    And what, monks, is the secure (khema)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the secure.

    And what, monks, is the elimination of craving (taṇhākkhaya)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the elimination of craving.

    And what, monks, is the wonderful (acchariya)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the wonderful.

    And what, monks, is the amazing (abbhuta)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the amazing.

    And what, monks, is the calamity-free (anītika)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the calamity-free.

    And what, monks, is the dhamma free of calamity (anītikadhamma)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the dhamma free of calamity.

    And what, monks, is extinguishment (nibbāna)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called extinguishment.

    And what, monks, is the unafflicted (abyāpajjha)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unafflicted.

    And what, monks, is dispassion (virāga)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called dispassion.

    And what, monks, is purity (suddhi)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called purity.

    And what, monks, is freedom (mutti)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called freedom.

    And what, monks, is the unadhesive (anālaya)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unadhesive.

    And what, monks, is the island (dīpa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the island.

    And what, monks, is the cave (leṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the cave.

    And what, monks, is the shelter (tāṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the shelter.

    And what, monks, is the refuge (saraṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the refuge.

    And what, monks, is the destination (parāyana)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the destination.
    February 6 at 12:19pm · Like
    Kyle Dixon Justin, the transience and impermanence you addressed was coarse impermanence. Impermanence carries both coarse and subtle meanings though, the transience referenced above merely touches on coarse impermanence, which is the arising and passing of coarse phenomenal existents which are extended in time.

    The subtle meaning of impermanence is revealed in the non-arising of phenomena, which reveals that because conventional dissimulations cannot be found upon analysis, alleged objects only arise in accordance with the function their designation represents or suggests. And because within that conventional arising there is no true arising (or lack thereof), there is no 'thing as such' which abides from (so-called) moment to (so-called) moment.

    The basis of designation for a given entity does not posses an entity which can endure, and for that reason there is no essence which binds given instances of appearance to one another. Meaning; that with each encountering of an alleged object, the appearance is neither the same nor different from times it was encountered previously. Every perceived instance disjoint and unrelated, fully unique and fully complete.

    The ground arises and ceases with each step. The action of walking arises and ceases with each step. The entity which walks arises and ceases with each step.

    Since no step has access to any other step, no instances of occurrence can be found or established. Since the so-called tactile appearance which lends to the perception of contact between foot and ground, contains neither foot nor ground, no environment, action nor acting entity can be found or established. Since the so-called visual appearance which lends to the perception of interaction between foot and ground, contains neither foot nor ground, no environment nor acting entity can be found or established. Since the so-called sensory appearances which lend to the perception of occurrence contain neither sensory organ, sense field nor sense object, no consciousness or awareness can be found or established.

    This is what the Guhyagarbha Tantra means when it says:

    "The wonder of it! This marvelous, astounding event/reality [Dharma]: From that which involves no origination, everything originates;
    and in that very origination, there is no origination!
    The wonder of it!
    In it's very enduring, there is no enduring!
    The wonder of it!
    In it's very cessation, there is no cessation!"

    And Vimalamitra's statement:
    "Everything arose from non-arising;
    even arising itself never arose."
    February 6 at 12:20pm · Like · 3
    Soh "Consciousness, thus not having landed, not
    increasing, not concocting, is released."

    This statement in and of itself is not a problem if it is not interpreted as an eternalistic sort of awareness with inherent existence, or as some sort of ultimate source and substratum, or as some sort of metaphysical essence.

    Now viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is a reference to the nature of the released consciousness of an arahant. It does not reflect anything. To be more precise, it does not reflect a nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form. An ordinary individual sees a nāma-rūpa, when he reflects, which he calls 'I' and 'mine'. It is like the reflection of that dog, which sees its own delusive reflection in the water. A non-arahant, upon reflection, sees name-and-form, which however he mistakes to be his self. With the notion of 'I' and 'mine' he falls into delusion with regard to it. But the arahant's consciousness is an unestablished consciousness.

    A non-ara­hant's consciousness is established on name-and-form. The unestablished consciousness is that which is free from name-and-form and is unestablished on name-and-form. The established con­sciousness, upon reflection, reflects name-and-form, on which it is established, whereas the unestablished consciousness does not find a name-and-form as a reality. The arahant has no attachments or en­tanglements in regard to name-and-form. In short, it is a sort of pene­tration of name-and-form, without getting entangled in it. This is how we have to un­ravel the meaning of the expression anidassana vinnnam.

    Bhikkhu Nanananda"
    Nibbana Sermon 07
    Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samm�sambuddhassa Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa…
    February 6 at 12:22pm · Like · Remove Preview
    Soh "In this case, consciousness is not only devoid of passion, etc.; it is also
    separate from the senses."

    You should not understand consciousness this way. You are only skewing towards the formless realm now. Like the I AMness (even if you may not use this term).

    You are having a dualistic view of consciousness now because you are unable to see the luminous one taste ( in all senses and further penetrate into its non-duality and anatta.

    Non-establishing consciousness that does not land should not be taken to imply formlessness. Rather it must be seen as non-establishing, non-conceiving suchness.

    It must be understood as such:

    Excerpt from Kalaka Sutta (

    ""Monks, whatever in the cosmos — [..]: That I directly know. That has been realized by the Tathagata, but in the Tathagata[1] it has not been established.[2]...

    ...When cognizing what is to be cognized, he doesn't construe an [object as] cognized. He doesn't construe an uncognized. He doesn't construe an [object] to-be-cognized. He doesn't construe a cognizer.

    Thus, monks, the Tathagata — being the same with regard to all phenomena that can be seen, heard, sensed, & cognized — is 'Such.' And I tell you: There's no other 'Such' higher or more sublime."

    Bahiya Sutta (

    In the seen, there is only the seen,
    in the heard, there is only the heard,
    in the sensed, there is only the sensed,
    in the cognized, there is only the cognized.
    Thus you should see that
    indeed there is no thing here;
    this, Bahiya, is how you should train yourself.
    Since, Bahiya, there is for you
    in the seen, only the seen,
    in the heard, only the heard,
    in the sensed, only the sensed,
    in the cognized, only the cognized,
    and you see that there is no thing here,
    you will therefore see that
    indeed there is no thing there.
    As you see that there is no thing there,
    you will see that
    you are therefore located neither in the world of this,
    nor in the world of that,
    nor in any place
    betwixt the two.
    This alone is the end of suffering.” (ud. 1.10)

    My commentaries (

    Non-duality is very simple and obvious and direct... and yet always missed! Due to a very fundamental flaw in our ordinary dualistic framework of things... and our deep rooted belief in duality.

    In the seen, there is just the seen! It is completely non-dual... there is no 'the seen + a perceiver here seeing the seen'.... The seen is precisely the seeing! There is not two or three things: seer, seeing, and the seen. That split is entirely conceptual (though taken to be reality)... it is a conclusion due to a referencing back of a direct experience (like a sight or a sound) to a centerpoint. This centerpoint could be a vague identification and contraction to one's mind and body (and this 'center of identification within the body' could be like two inches behind your eyes or on the lower body or elsewhere), or the centerpoint could be an identification with a previous nondual recognition or authentication like the I AM or Eternal Witness experience/realization. It could even be that one has gained sufficient stability to simply rest in the state of formless Beingness throughout all experiences, but if they cling to their formless samadhi or a 'purest state of Presence', they will miss the fact that they are not just the formless pure existence but that they are/existence is also all the stuff of the universe arising moment to moment... And when one identifies oneself as this entity that is behind and separated from the seen, this prevents the direct experience of what manifestation and no-self is.

    But in direct experience it is simply not like that: there is nothing like subject-object duality in direct experience.... only This - seen, heard, sensed, cognized. Prior to self-referencing, this is what exists in its primordial purity.

    So, in the seen, there's just That! Scenery, trees, road, etc... but when I label these as such, instead of putting a more subjective term such as 'experiencing'.... they tend to conjure images of an objective world that is 'out there' made of multiple different objects existing in time and space separated by distances.

    But no, the Buddha says: in the seen, just the seen! There is no thing 'here' (apart from the seen).... nor something 'there' (as if the seen is an objective reality out there). From the perspective of the logical framework of things, the world is made of distance, depth, entities, objects, time, space, and so on, but if you take away the reference point of a self... there is simply Pure Consciousness of What Is (whatever manifests) without distance or fragmentation. You need at least two reference points to measure distance... but all reference points (be it of an apparent subjective self or an apparent external object) are entirely illusory and conceptual. If there is no 'self' here, and that you are equally everything... what distance is there? Without a self, there is no 'out there'...

    The seen is neither subjective nor objective.... it just IS....

    There is pure seeing, pure hearing, everything arising without an external reference other than the scenery being the seeing without seer, the sound being the hearing without hearer (and vice versa: the hearing being just the sound, the manifestation).

    But even the word 'hearing', 'seeing', 'awareness' can conjure an image of what Awareness is.... As if there is really an entity called 'hearing' or 'seeing' or 'awareness' that remains and stays constant and unchanged.

    But.... if you contemplate on "How am I experiencing the moment of being alive?", or, "How am I experiencing the moment of hearing?", or "How am I experiencing the moment of seeing?" or "How am I experiencing the moment of being aware?"

    All the bullshit concepts, constructs and images of an 'aliveness', a 'hearing', a 'seeing', an 'awareness' simply dissolves in the direct experiencing of whatever arises... just 'seeing is seeing, hearing is hearing, thinking is thinking and they are all flowing independently', with 'no self holding all these sensory experiences together'.

    If readers find my explanation a bit too hard to grasp, please read Ajahn Amaro's link because he explains it much better than me.
    Awakening to Reality: One Taste
    February 6 at 12:48pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Soh Thanissaro Bhikkhu's understanding also seems to be quite dualistic, for example there was one article he was talking about practicing being the Witness. I'm not sure if his understanding has gone beyond that.

    Many Thai Forest monks seem to hold a dualistic perspective.
    February 6 at 12:30pm · Edited · Like
    Greg Goode I had a friend who went on a Thai forest retreat, and he said the monks were reading I AM THAT between sessions.....
    February 6 at 12:32pm · Unlike · 3
    Soh Wow.. haha
    February 6 at 12:32pm · Like · 1
    Justin Struble Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu is an awakened teacher. I advocate for true, genuine awakening as it is described in the suttas, and as Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu clearly makes evident in his translations and other works.

    It is always the last recourse, when it is no longer possible to misinterpret the translations, to then attack the messenger / translator, when defending wrong views. Classic Ad Hominem, when one cannot rationalize their own cognitive dissonance, when one cannot refute the reason / logic of another through their own clear reasoning, one resorts to personal criticisms.

    Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu is 65 years old and has been a practicing ordained monk since early in his life. He is the only western monk to be given title, authority, and responsibility of preceptor in the Dhammayut Order. In my opinion he is very likely a true arahant. Someone worthy of true devotion and gratitude, who has dedicated his life to the dharma. Worthy of respect.

    It is the height of arrogance to assume his understanding is at fault rather than your own. I strongly suggest everyone take a moment to reflect on their own conceit and attempt some level of humility, if not for the sake of others, then for the sake of your own genuine awakening.
    February 6 at 12:49pm · Like
    Soh Justin Struble, I have addressed his statements.

    About Thanissaro Bhikkhu and Thai Forest Tradition, I'm just making a factual statement. I was referring to this article:

    I find many Thai Forest tradition monks understanding quite dualistic, inclining towards the Poo Roo (One Who Knows). This is not an attack on anyone, just stating an observation of mine.
    Maintaining the Observer - Thanissaro Bhikkhu - 显密文库 佛教文集 手机佛教网站
    February 6 at 12:54pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Soh "It is the height of arrogance to assume his understanding is at fault rather than your own."

    I have been through the Witness phase. Witnessing is not to be denied, just that its non-dual and empty nature must be seen.
    February 6 at 12:54pm · Like · 1
    Soh Ajahn Brahmavamso, another Thai Forest Monk, himself made a similar statement: he said many would think that "Ultimate Self that is the Knower" is a Hinduistic understanding, yet it is quite prevalent among monks, even high monk, in Buddhism. He specifically addressed the "Poo Roo" and said that in jhanas, the Doer falls away and one abides in the Knower, then when anatta is realized, the sense of a Knower is also seen through.
    February 6 at 12:57pm · Like
    Soh So you see, it is not just me who is criticizing the prevailing tendency, Ajahn Brahmavamso from that tradition is making similar statements.
    February 6 at 12:57pm · Like
    Soh p.s. you can find those statements from Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook
    February 6 at 12:58pm · Like
    Lindsay Funk Ajahn Sumedho used to send his monks to Douglas Harding.
    February 6 at 1:09pm · Like · 2
    Soh Also not to think that Ajahn Brahmavamso doesn't know I AMness. Ajahn Brahmavamso has realized the I AMness. He talks about realizing the radiant mind in meditation. There is a description about it in that book. But at a later chapter he talked about realizing anatta and relinquishing self-view of that mind/knowing.

    An earlier description on the radiant mind:

    When the Body Disappears.

    Remember "con men," "con women" as well. These con men can sell you anything! There's one living in your mind right now, and you believe every word he says! His name is Thinking. When you let go of that inner talk and get silent, you get happy. Then when you let go of the movement of the mind and stay with the breath, you experience even more delight. Then when you let go of the body ,all these five senses disappear and you're really blissing out. This is original Buddhism. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch completely vanish. This is like being in a sensory deprivation chamber but much better. But it's not just silence, you just don't hear anything. It's not just blackness, you just don't see anything. It's not just a feeling of comfort in the body, there is no body at all.

    When the body disappears that really starts to feel great. You know of all those people who have out of the body experiences? When the body dies, every person has that experience, they float out of the body. And one of the things they always say is it's so peaceful, so beautiful, so blissful. It's the same in meditation when the body disappears, it's so peaceful, so beautiful, so blissful when you are free from this body. What's left? Here there's no sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. This is what the Buddha called the mind in deep meditation. When the body disappears what is left is the mind.

    I gave a simile to a monk the other night. Imagine an Emperor who is wearing a long pair of trousers and a big tunic. He's got shoes on his feet, a scarf around the bottom half of his head and a hat on the top half of his head. You can't see him at all because he's completely covered in five garments. It's the same with the mind. It's completely covered with sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. So people don't know it. They just know the garments. When they see the Emperor, they just see the robes and the garments. They don't know who lives inside them. And so it is no wonder they're confused about what is life, what is mind, who is this inside of here, were did I come from? Why? What am I supposed to be doing with this life? When the five senses disappear, it's like unclothing the Emperor and seeing what is actually in here, what's actually running the show, who's listening to these words, who's seeing, who's feeling life, who this is. When the five senses disappear, you're coming close to the answer to those questions.

    What you're seeing in such deep meditation is that which we call "mind," (in Pali it's called Citta). The Buddha used this beautiful simile. When there is a full moon on a cloudy night, even though it's a full moon, you can hardly see it. Sometimes when the clouds are thin, you can see this hazy shape shining though. You know there is something there. This is like the meditation just before you've entered into these profound states. You know there is something there, but you can't quite make it out. There's still some "clothes" left. You're still thinking and doing, feeling the body or hearing sounds. But there does come a time, and this is the Buddha's simile, when the moon is released from the clouds and there in the clear night sky you can see the beautiful full disc of the moon shining brilliantly, and you know that's the moon. The moon is there; the moon is real, and it's not just some sort of side effect of the clouds. This is what happens in meditation when you see the mind. You see clearly that the mind is not some side effect of the brain. You see the mind, and you know the mind. The Buddha said that the mind released is beautiful, is brilliant, is radiant. So not only are these blissful experiences, they're meaningful experiences as well.

    How many people may have heard about rebirth but still don't really believe it? How can rebirth happen? Certainly the body doesn't get reborn. That's why when people ask me where do you go when you die, "one of two places" I say "Fremantle or Karrakatta" that's where the body goes! [3] But is that where the mind goes? Sometimes people are so stupid in this world, they think the body is all there is, that there is no mind. So when you get cremated or buried that's it, that's done with, all has ended. The only way you can argue with this view is by developing the meditation that the Buddha achieved under the Bodhi tree. Then you can see the mind for yourself in clear awareness - not in some hypnotic trance, not in dullness - but in the clear awareness. This is knowing the mind
    Knowing the Mind.

    When you know that mind, when you see it for yourself, one of the results will be an insight that the mind is independent of this body. Independence means that when this body breaks up and dies, when it's cremated or when it's buried, or however it's destroyed after death, it will not affect the mind. You know this because you see the nature of the mind. That mind which you see will transcend bodily death. The first thing which you will see for yourself, the insight which is as clear as the nose on your face, is that there is something more to life than this physical body that we take to be me. Secondly you can recognise that that mind, essentially, is no different than that process of consciousness which is in all beings. Whether it's human beings or animals or even insects, of any gender, age or race, you see that that which is in common to all life is this mind, this consciousness, the source of doing.

    Once you see that, you have much more respect for your fellow beings. Not just respect for your own race, your own tribe or your own religion, not just for human beings, but for all beings. It's a wonderfully high-minded idea. "May all beings be happy and well and may we respect all nations, all peoples, even all beings." However this is how you achieve that! You truly get compassion only when we see that others are fundamentally just as ourselves. If you think that a cow is completely different from you, that cows don't think like human beings, then it's easy to eat one. But can you eat your grandmother? She's too much like you. Can you eat an ant? Maybe you'd kill an ant because you think that ants aren't like you. But if you look carefully at ants, they are no different. In a forest monastery living out in the bush, close to nature, one of the things you become so convinced of is that animals have emotions and , especially, feel pain. You begin to recognise the personality of the animals, of the Kookaburras,(Australian bird) of the mice, the ants, and the spiders. Each one of those spiders has a mind just like you have. Once you see that you can understand the Buddha's compassion for all beings. You can also understand how rebirth can occur between all species - not just human beings to human beings, but animals to humans, humans to animals. You can understand also how the mind is the source of all this.

    The mind can exist even without a body in the realms of ghosts and angels (what we call in Buddhism Devas). It becomes very clear to you how they exist, why they exist, what they are. These are insights and understandings which come from deep meditation. But more than that, when you know the nature of the mind then you know the nature of consciousness. You know the nature of stillness. You know the nature of life. You understand what makes this mind go round and round and round, what makes this mind seek rebirth. You understand the law of Kamma.
    Meditation: The Heart of Buddhism- Ajahn Brahm
    I want to talk in depth today about the nature of Buddhism. Very often I read in...See More
    February 6 at 1:11pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Kyle Dixon Loppon Malcolm comments on Tony Page's interpretation of the Nirvana Sutra, cites provisional and definitive interpretations of tathāgatagarbha, and some more:

    Malcolm wrote:
    ...Yogacara/cittamatra insists forcefully that awareness/consciousness, whatever you want to the call it is individuated. There really is no Buddhist school that argues for an uniform uber-consciousness out of which individual consciousness are instantiated.

    Basically, folks like Tony Page really are faced two alternatives, either their "true self" is like Purusha of the Saṃkhya school, a totally unconditioned individuated knower, as opposed to the nonsentient evolutes of prakriti (buddhi, ahaṃkara, manas, five sense organs, five organs of action, the five subtle elements (sound, etc.) and the five coarse elements; or it is like brahmin of the Vedantins and so on. They really have only these two choices if they insist on a literal interpretation of the term "atman", bdag nyid in texts like the Nirvana Sutra and so on.

    In Saṃkhya there are an infinite number of purushas, while in Advaita, using the basic model of Saṃkhya, proposes that purusha and brahmin are synonymous and further, that there is only one purusha, and that further, prakriti and its evolutes are also included in purusha.

    Malcolm wrote:
    The term bdag nyid, atman, just means, in this case, "nature", i.e. referring to the nature of reality free from extremes as being permanent, blissful, pure and self. The luminosity of the mind is understood to be this.

    There are various ways to interpret the Uttaratantra and tathāgatagarbha doctrine, one way is definitive in meaning, the other is provisional, according to Gorampa Sonam Senge, thus the tathāgatagarbha sutras become definitive or provisional depending on how they are understood. He states:

    'In the context of showing the faults of a literal [interpretation] – it's equivalence with the Non-Buddhist Self is that the assertion of unique eternal all pervading cognizing awareness of the Saṃkhya, the unique eternal pristine clarity of the Pashupattis, the unique all pervading intellect of the Vaiśnavas, the impermanent condition, the measure of one’s body, in the permanent self-nature of the Jains, and the white, brilliant, shining pellet the size of an atom, existing in each individual’s heart of the Vedantins are the same.'

    The definitive interpretation he renders as follows:

    'Therefor, the Sugatagarbha is defined as the union of clarity and emptiness but not simply emptiness without clarity, because that [kind of emptiness] is not suitable to be a basis for bondage and liberation. Also it is not simple clarity without emptiness, that is the conditioned part, because the Sugatagarbha is taught as unconditioned.'

    Khyentse Wangpo, often cited as a gzhan stong pa, basically says that the treatises of Maitreya elucidate the luminosity of the mind, i.e. its purity, whereas Nāgarjuna's treatises illustrate the empty nature of the mind, and that these two together, luminosity and emptiness free from extremes are to be understood as noncontradictory, which we can understand from the famous Prajñāpāramita citation "There is no mind in the mind, the nature of the mind is luminosity".

    dzogchungpa wrote:
    If I understand what you've written above, the clarity referred to is conditioned? If so, how can the
    Sugatagarbha, which is unconditioned, be the union of a conditioned part and something else?

    Malcolm wrote:
    Is emptiness conditioned or unconditioned? It is unconditioned. Are all conditioned things empty? Yes. Therefore, the conditioned and the unconditioned are actually non-dual.

    Your second question is misphrased, sentient beings are tathāgatagarbha, without them there is no possibility of Buddhahood, they are the matrix, nexus, locus etc. of tathatā.

    dzogchungpa wrote:
    OK, so there's one matrix etc. for each being?

    Malcolm wrote:
    Each being is a matrix. This is illustrated by such statements like the Hevajra Tantra:

    'Great wisdom is present in the body,
    perfectly free from all concepts,
    pervading all things,
    present in, but not arising from the body.'

    dzogchungpa wrote:
    Are you saying that the body is the matrix?

    Malcolm wrote:
    Of course. Where else can consciousness be located?

    dzogchungpa wrote:
    OK, then I'm a little confused. If I'm not mistaken 'matrix' = 'garbha', which, according to your Gorampa quote is unconditioned. Is the body then considered to be unconditioned?

    Malcolm wrote:
    Garbha means something that holds, what is being held, tathatā. Who holds tathatā? Sentient beings.

    Sugatagarbha is a short hand way of saying "the dharmakāya encased in afflictions".

    What becomes afflicted, clarity. What is the nature of clarity? Emptiness. Tathatāgarbha is just a way of saying that sentient beings have the potential for awakening because the mind and the mind essence are inseparable, the former conditioned and the latter unconditioned.
    February 6 at 4:31pm · Unlike · 1
    Soh New Post:

    Son of Buddha wrote:The sutra even quotes old anatman(not self) teachings and explains them in the context of True Self.

    Malcolm replied:

    Yes, indeed, which is why is treated as a provisional text.

    The Āryākṣayamatinirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra sets out the criteria for a sūtra of definitive meaning:

    Any sūtrānta which explains in a variety of different terms a self, a sentient being, a living being, a personality, a person, an individual, one born from a human, a human, an agent, an experiencer — teaching an owner in what is ownerless — those sutras are called "of provisional meaning". Any sūtrānta which teaches emptiness, the signless, the wishless, the unconditioned, the non-arisen, the unproduced, the insubstantial, the non-existence of self, the non-existence of sentient beings, the non-existence of living beings, the non-existence of individuals, the non-existence of an owner up to the doors of liberation, those are called "definitive meaning". This is taught in the sūtrāntas of of definitive meaning but is not taught in the sūtrāntas of the provisional meaning.

    This is why the tathāgatagarbha doctrine can be either provisional or definitive depending on one's understanding and method of explication.

    Dharma Wheel • View topic - "the Self is real" according to T. Page
    February 8 at 12:53am · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Kyle Dixon And the age old argument that tathāgatagarbha is not empty of 'buddha qualities', that gzhan stong pas such as Jax attempt to use:

    Son of Buddha wrote:
    "Lord, the Tathagatagarbha is void(empty) of all the defilement-stores, which are discrete and knowing as not liberated.
    "Lord, the Tathagatagarbha is not void(empty) of the Buddha dharmas which are nondiscrete, inconceivable, more numerous than the sands of the Ganges, and knowing as liberated.

    Malcolm wrote:
    This is merely a reference to dharmakāya. Of course, since dharmakāya is emptiness, as Nāgārjuna says, "for those whom emptiness possible, everything is possible..." When one directly knows emptiness, having become a Buddha, one knows everything, those are the buddha qualities being referred to.

    The reason why only buddhas can see tathāgatagarbha is the same reason only buddhas can see the dharmakāya.

    Son of Buddha wrote:
    The is a direct reference to the Tathagatagarbha which is the Dharmakaya, and in Tathagatagarbha lititure the Dharmakaya is Not-Empty.

    Malcolm wrote:
    What the dharmakāya is not empty of is omniscience. All of its qualities are simply qualities of omniscience, and that is all. The dharmakāya is unconditioned, it has neither form or shape, so those are the only qualities it could be said to possess. It has two aspects, the emptiness aspect and the luminous aspect. Understood in this way, one understands the real meaning of purity, bliss, self, and permanence.

    It is pure because it is empty, it is bliss because it is free from suffering, it is "self" because omniscience transcends both self and non-self and it is permanent because it not subject to decay.

    February 8 at 1:06am · Like
    Kyle Dixon Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche makes the same argument here:

    "If the Buddha nature (Tathagatagarbha/Sugatagarbha) was really existing (sat) and not empty (nishwabhava), in the Sutra sense, like the Brahman of the Hindus, then the same fault that ancient Buddhist masters blamed on the Hindu Atman-Brahman would boomerang on these Buddhists too. An unchanging really existing thing cannot function in any way as function implies change (Tatva Sanghraha, chapter 7, section E, text 332-335 of Shantarakshita commentary by Kamalashila). Therefore, how can such a Tathagatagarbha that is unchanging have any qualities as it cannot function in any way. If it is answered that the function of the Buddha’s qualities are inconceivable (acintya/sam gyi mikhyab), a further question arises that is, how can a conceivable Tathagatagarbha (as to say it exists is to bring it down to the level of conception and thus conceivable) have inconceivable qualities? For the Tathagarbha to have inconceivable qualities, it would also have to be inconceivable. We now come to the point of Nagarjuna that the Tathagarbha must also be free from the four extremes (tetralemma) which means empty of real existence. Therefore the whole Shentong/Rangtong issue is superfluous. And if the Tathagarbha becomes really existing then Buddhism loses its main thesis that differentiated it from Hinduism from its very inception.

    We find even Hindu scholars as early as 300 AD like Vatsayana through Bharahar Sutra (Sutta) trying to prove that the Buddha actually taught the Atman but the Buddhists did not understand. This statement implies that there were no Buddhists who understood the Buddha. It further implies that until the time of Vatsayana, Buddhists did not agree with the Atman theory. However, in most kinds of Shentong (except the Dolpopa Shentong), Buddha nature is also empty and emptiness means unfindable that is free from the four extremes as per Nagarjuna-Chandrakirti.

    In the tradition of the Mahasiddha Lord of Yogins (Yogeshwar) Virupad, who is one of the famous eighty four Mahasiddhas as well as a great scholar and an abbot (Upadhyaya/Khenpo) of Vikramashila; luminosity (prabhashwar), clarity or pure awareness is the store house consciousness (alaya vigyana) which is the relative truth and the Tathagarbha is emptiness and the ultimate truth. The unity of the two is the unity of Samsara and Nirvana which is inexpressible and experienced only by Aryas (Aryasamahita), those who have attained the Bhumis. In short, the unfindability of any true existence is the ultimate truth (paramartha satya) in Buddhism, and is diametrically opposed to the concept of a truly existing thing called Brahman, the ultimate truth in Hinduism.

    There is also another problem with a really existing Tathagatagarbha that is not empty. If it is “really existing” then it cannot be indivisible with Samsara which is empty. Then the mind (Chitta) cannot be a Buddha and even worse is that the whole of Buddhist Tantra/Vajrayana would be subverted, as Samsara which is empty cannot be transformed into Nirvana, which according to the Shentong theory is not empty. The whole of Buddhist Tantra is based on the principle of transformation and that is why it is called the way of transformation (parinati marga). Vajrayana would become redundant and Sankara Vedanta would be the true Buddhist Way."
    - Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche


    "Hence,to say that the Tathagarbha exists is to make it conceivable, expressible and within the domain of concepts. As the inimitable Sakya Pandita says, that would be like bringing the Tathagarbha down to conceptual proliferation (prapancha). Or, in the context of this essay, it is to make the Tathagarbha just another synonym for the Hindu Atman-Brahman which it is not. In the Mulamadhyamaka Karika, Nagarjuna very clearly mentions ‘tathagato nisvabhavo….’ that is ‘the Tathagata is empty (nisvabhava) of real existence’ (Mulamadhyamaka Karika, Tathagata Parikshya, chapter 22, verse 16). If the Tathagata is empty (nisvabhava), how can the Tathagatagarbha be really existing like the Brahman of the Hindu?"

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