Accessing Tibetan Tathāgatagarbha Interpretations based on The Ratnagotravibhāga
Buddha Nature or Tathāgatagarbha is a complex phenomenon that has been the subject of discussion in Buddhist cultures for centuries. This study presents for the first time a survey of the extent of Tibetan commentarial literature based upon the Indian Tathāgatagarbha Śāstra, the Ratnagotravibhāga, as well as a comparison of passages of Tibetan interpretations upon The Three Reasons given for the presence of Tathāgatagarbha in the Ratnagotravibhāga. Furthermore, attention is drawn to the inconsistencies regarding the dating, authorship, structure and content of this source text within the Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan traditions.
Thereby the present study addresses primarily the need for an overview of the Tibetan commentarial literature upon this important Śāstra, by surveying more than forty Tibetan commentaries. This survey will facilitate contextualization of future studies of the individual commentaries. Secondarily it addresses the need for documentation and interpretation of precise concepts and arguments, by presenting line for line comparison of passages of interpretations by four different authors, Rngog Blo ldan shes rab (1059-1109), Dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan (1292-1361), Rgyal tshab dar ma rin chen (1364-1432) and Mi pham phyogs las rnam rgyal (1846-1912). This comparison will trace divergent traditions of Tathāgatagarbha interpretation based on the Ratnagotravibhāga in Tibet.
It becomes apparent that the main divergence in these four authors' Tathāgatagarbha exegesis hinges on their interpretation of Dharmakāya and the role it plays as the first supporting reason for the presence of Tathāgatagarbha. Where some interpret Tathāgatagarbha as being "empty", others maintain that it is "full of qualities", apparent contradictions that however, are based upon the same scriptural passages of the source text, the Ratnagotravibhāga. That the ambiguous nature of the source text accommodates such seemingly contradictory interpretations should be kept in mind when studying Tibetan interpretations so as to avoid dismissal of certain interpretations in favour of others.
The aim of the present study is to provide a structural framework for accessing Tibetan Tathāgatagarbha interpretations based on the Ratnagotravibhāga that surveys their extent and documents their nature. The study may thus contribute to a broader understanding of Tibetan literature in general and of Buddha Nature interpretation in particular.
|Burchardi, Anne. "Accessing Tibetan Tathāgatagarbha Interpretations based on The Ratnagotravibhāga." Unsubmitted PhD diss., University of Copenhagen, 2001.