A Study of Yogācāric Influence on Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine as Found in Laṅkāvatārasūtra

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A Study of Yogācāric Influence on Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine as Found in Laṅkāvatārasūtra


Through a close examination on three Sanskrit compounds — i.e., tathāgatanairātmyagarbha, tathāgatagarbhālayavijñāna and pariniṣpannasvabhāvas tathāgatagarbhahṛdayam — in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, this thesis will demonstrate how the tathāgatagarbha thought in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra is significantly enriched by Yogācāric influence.
      First, in regard to tathāgata-nairātmya-garbha, a doctrinal review of the term "nairātmya" is necessary, because its definition differs according to different traditions. In primitive Buddhism, the term "nairātmya" is a synonym of the term "anātman" (non-existence of a substantial self), which indicates that in the realm of suffering and the impermanence of life phenomena that arise according to the principle of co-dependent origination/ pratītyasamutpāda, no eternal and dependent ātman can be found. According to the Madhyamaka School, the term "nairātmya" is a synonym of the term "niḥsvabhāva" (no intrinsic-nature) which implies that all beings, whether conditioned or unconditioned, are all devoid of an ever-abiding intrinsic nature. For the Yogācāra School, the reality of nairātmya is said to be grasped under the principle of mind-only. That is to say, the imagined self /kalpitātman that is the presentation of mind is unreal, while the indescribable self/ anabhilāpyātman that is the genuine mind itself is real. Finally, it can be said that the tathāgata-nairātmya-garbha in Laṅkāvatārasūtra accords well with the Yogācāra teaching. In other words, it is the Yogācāric sense of nairātmya that sheds an influence upon the tathāgatagarbha doctrine.
      Secondly, in regard to tathāgatagarbhālayavijñāna, a doctrinal development is promoted owing to the identification of tathāgatagarbha with ālayavijñāna, which according to the Yogācāra School is also named "sarvabīljavijñāna" (cognition as the seed of everything). This latter synonym references its function of bringing forth all beings just as a giant tree originates from a seed. As a result of its identification with the ālayavijñāna, the tathāgatagarbha is said to be endowed with the function of bringing forth all forms of existence and thus becomes the "producing cause" of all. This interpretation is not seen in earlier scriptures wherein the tathāgatagarbha is described simply as a static substance supporting all beings.
      Thirdly, in regard to pariniṣpannasvabhāvastathāgata-garbhahṛdayam, the implication of the tathāgatagarbha was expanded substantially by declaring that pariniṣpannasvabhāva is the very essence of tathāgatagarbha. The term "pariniṣpannasvabhāva" according to some important Yogācāra texts is defined as tathatā (ultimate realm of suchness). The combining of pariniṣpannasvabhāva with tathāgatagarbha that had formerly focused on the subjective potential of realizing wisdom, shifts the doctrinal emphasis toward the objective realm of realized perfection.
      This thesis reveals that, having assimilated the Yogācāric doctrine of dharmanairātmya, ālayavijñāna and pariniṣpannasvabhāva, the tathāgatagarbha thinking in Laṅkāvatārasūtra presents the comprehensive and distinctive features in comparison to the scriptures that preceded it.

Citation Hsiao, Mei. "A Study of Yogācāric Influence on Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine as Found in Laṅkāvatārasūtra." PhD diss., University of Calgary, 2008. https://archive.org/details/yogacharastudyofyogacaricinfluenceontathagatagarbhadoctrineasfoundinlankavatarasutrameihsiaothe_179_w/mode/2up.