The Sūtra Sources of the ''Tathāgatagarbha'' Teachings

From Buddha-Nature

< Books‎ | When the Clouds Part

LibraryBooksWhen the Clouds PartThe Sūtra Sources of the ''Tathāgatagarbha'' Teachings

The Sūtra Sources of the Tathāgatagarbha Teachings

Brunnhölzl, Karl. "The Sūtra Sources of the Tathāgatagarbha Teachings." In When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sūtra and Tantra, 3–12. Boston: Snow Lion Publications, 2014.

Possibly the first appearance of the term tathāgatagarbha (though not in the sense in which it is used in the tathāgatagarbha sūtras) has been traced to the Mahāsaṃghika Ekottarikāgama (the Chinese recension of the Aṅguttara Nikāya):

If someone devotes himself to the Ekottarikāgama,
Then he has the tathāgatagarbha.
Even if his body cannot exhaust defilements in this life,
In his next life he will attain supreme wisdom.[1]

The term is also used once in the Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra (which is dated prior to the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra) as an epithet of Sudhana, without further explanation. [2] Furthermore, the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra in One Hundred Fifty Lines (Adhyardhaśatikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra) contains the sentence "all sentient beings possess the tathāgata heart because their entire being is that of the great bodhisattva Samantabhadra."[3]

      The earliest mahāyāna sūtras that are based on and discuss the notion of tathāgatagarbha as the buddha potential that is innate in all sentient beings began to appear in written form in the late second and early third century.[4] To my knowledge, there is no Indian text that provides a list of "tathāgatagarbha sūtras," but the Uttaratantra and RGVV spell out their sūtra sources as follows.

      The Uttaratantra (I.2) declares that its primary source is the Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra, which is said to contain all seven vajra points. RGVV adds the following sūtras as alternative individual scriptural sources for these vajra points—the Sthirādhyāśayaparivartasūtra (vajra points 1 to 3), the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta (vajra points 4 and 6), the Śrīmālādevīsūtra (vajra point 5), and the Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviṣayāvatāranirdeśasūtra (vajra point 7). In addition, Uttaratantra III.27 refers to the Ratnadārikāsūtra as the source of the sixty-four buddha qualities. RGVV also mentions the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra as the basis for teaching the dharmakāya, suchness, and the disposition in detail (which refers to Uttaratantra I.143–52, matching the dharmakāya and so on with the nine examples in that sūtra). Though the Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra is not explicitly mentioned in the Uttaratantra, it is clearly the source of the nine examples for enlightened activity used in the Uttaratantra. In addition, RGVV quotes this sūtra several times.

      Further important quotes in RGVV related to the notion of tathāgatagarbha are from the Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra (the example of the universe being painted on a huge canvas and then being inserted into a minute particle, which illustrates tathāgata wisdom pervading the mind streams of all sentient beings), as well as the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchāsūtra and the Sāgaramatiparipṛcchāsūtra (both about luminous mind and its adventitious stains). A famous passage from the Cūlasuññatasutta [5] is silently incorporated in RGVV’s comments on Uttaratantra I.154–55. RGVV also refers to the passage "those with great desire have the nature of absolutely not [attaining] parinirvāṇa," which is found in several sūtras, among them the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra.[6]

      It is obvious that the Uttaratantra’s nine examples for the tathāgata heart being obscured by adventitious stains come from the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, but neither the Uttaratantra nor RGVV explicitly acknowledge this. Likewise, the Uttaratantra’s example of the painters who draw a king’s portrait (I.88–92), which illustrates the emptiness endowed with all supreme aspects, is unacknowledged as stemming from the Ratnacūḍaparipṛcchāsūtra.

Later, probably beginning with Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen[7] (1292–1361), Tibetan authors began to use the terms "tathāgatagarbha sūtras"[8] and "sūtras of definitive meaning" and compiled lists of those types of sūtras. Dölpopa’s "ten tathāgatagarbha sūtras" consist of the following:

1. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
2. Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī
3. Śrīmālādevīsūtra
4. Mahābherīsūtra
5. Aṅgulimālīyasūtra
6. Śūnyatānāmamahāsūtra [9]
7. Tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśasūtra (aka Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra)
8. Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviṣayāvatāranirdeśasūtra
9. Mahāmeghasūtra
10. Parinirvāṇasūtra and Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra (these two are counted as one)[10]

Dölpopa also refers to the first five as "the five tathāgatagarbha sūtras."[11] His "five sūtras of definitive meaning" are the following:

1. Pañcaśatikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra
2. the "Maitreya Chapter"[12]
3. Ghanavyūhasūtra
4. Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryanāmasamādhisūtra
5. Ratnameghasūtra

This list is expanded to "the ten sūtras of definitive meaning" by adding the following:

6. Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra
7. Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra
8. Laṅkāvatārasūtra
9. Sarvabuddhaviṣayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra
10. Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra

The same twenty sūtras in the same order and classification are also found as a contemporary anonymous collection of tathāgatagarbha sūtras and sūtras of definitive meaning, obviously stemming from the Jonang tradition (the end of the brief introduction to this collection refers to Dölpopa’s self-chosen epithet "the one who possesses the four reliances"). The introduction says the following about what these twenty sūtras teach:

I pay homage to and take refuge in the pure ground that is empty and devoid of the bearers of the nature of phenomena, the nature of phenomena, suchness, the great bliss of self-arising wisdom—the final purity, self, bliss, and permanence—that is the partless omnipresent pervader, the single blend of expanse and wisdom without any flaws of contradiction and beyond mundane examples, dependent origination, dialectics, and consciousness, the sphere of personally experienced wisdom, the ultimate sugata heart resembling the eight mirror divinations, the inseparability of [saṃsāric] existence and peace in which the many are one taste and that incorporates all ultimate buddhas, dharmas, saṃghas, deities, mantras, tantras, maṇḍalas, and mudrās, the natural luminosity that is the inseparability of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, as well as the inseparability of the two realities, and in which there is nothing to be removed or to be added, natural connateness, natural changelessness, great nirvāṇa, great Madhyamaka, Mahāmudrā, profound prajñāpāramitā, and the other-empty dharmakāya that pervades all of space. Among these profound words of the Buddha that clearly teach those [topics], here the five tathāgatagarbha sūtras are . . .

      Thus, the five and ten tathāgatagarbha sūtras and the five and ten sūtras of definitive meaning need to be read undoubtedly by those who aspire for [only] a few [texts to be read]. In detail, one needs to read the entire Kangyur and Tengyur, and one definitely needs to cultivate the profound yogas.[13]

      The Gelugpa scholars Kedrub Jé Geleg Balsang [14] (1385–1438) and Kungtang Göncho Denpé Drönmé[15] (1762–1823) present the Jonangpa list of ten tathāgatagarbha sūtras by replacing the Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviśayāvatāranirdeśasūtra, Śūnyatānāmamahāsūtra, and Mahāmeghasūtra in Dölpopa’s above list with the Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra, Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta, and Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra.[16] Tukwan Lobsang Chökyi Nyima[17] (1737–1802) has yet another list based on Dölpopa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning,[18] which consists of the following:

1. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
2. Mahābherīsūtra
3. Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra
4. Śrīmālādevīsūtra
5. Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta
6. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra
7. Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra
8. Ratnakūṭa
9. Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra

The Nyingma master Gaḥto Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu[19] (1698–1755), an important teacher of the Jonang Shentong and Kālacakratantra traditions for the Eighth Situpa, Chökyi Jungné (1699/1700–1774), wrote a brief versified text,[20] whose title says that it lists "the sūtras of the heart of the definitive meaning of the final teaching cycle that ascertain the ultimate." This list consists of "the twenty-two sūtras of definitive meaning." Among these, the "five tathāgatagarbha sūtras" are the following:

1. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
2. Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī
3. Śrīmālādevīsūtra
4. Mahābherīsūtra
5. Aṅgulimālīyasūtra

"The ten tathāgatagarbha sūtras" are the above five plus the following:

6. Laṅkāvatārasūtra
7. Ghanavyūhasūtra
8. Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryanāmasamādhisūtra
9. Ratnameghasūtra
10. Mahāmeghasūtra

"The twenty sūtras of definitive meaning" consist of the above ten plus the following:

11. Śūnyatānāmamahāsūtra
12. Mahāśūnyatānāmamahāsūtra[21]
13. Pañcaśatikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra
14. "Maitreya Chapter"
15. Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra
16. Tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśasūtra (aka Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra)
17. Dharmasaṃgītisūtra
18. Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra
19. Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviṣayāvatāranirdeśasūtra
20. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra

Finally, "the twenty-two sūtras of definitive meaning" consist of the above twenty plus (21) the Akṣayamatinirdeśasūtra and (22) the Daśabhūmikasūtra (from the Avataṃsakasūtra), for these latter two are said to represent "the amazing general meaning of the mahāyāna."

      When compared to Dölpopa’s above lists of "tathāgatagarbha sūtras" and "sūtras of definitive meaning," almost all sūtras in these lists also appear in Tsewang Norbu’s list (the one that appears in the former but not in the latter is the Sarvabuddhaviṣayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra; those that appear in the latter but not in the former are the Mahāśūnyatānāmamahāsūtra, Dharmasaṃgītisūtra, and Akṣayamatinirdeśasūtra). However, only the first five tathāgatagarbha sūtras are identical in name and classification in both lists, while the classifications of the remaining sūtras as "tathāgatagarbha sūtras" or "sūtras of definitive meaning" differ greatly between Dölpopa and Tsewang Norbu.[22]

      Almost exactly the same twenty-two sūtras with the same classifications are found in a collection of twenty-two sūtras of definitive meaning by the Gelugpa scholar Tubten Legshé Sangpo[23] (born 1835) from Drepung, who was also active at the Derge printing house. The colophon of this collection says that these twenty-two sūtras represent the texts that are held to be the final essence of the definitive meaning by the followers of Asaṅga—the lineage of vast conduct among the two well-known traditions of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra. The only two differences between Tsewang Norbu’s and Tubten Legshé Sangpo’s lists are that the latter speaks of the first five sūtras as "the five selected tathāgatagarbha sūtras" and that it replaces the Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra with "the complete elaborations on the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra."[24] Since some of the quite specific wordings in Tsewang Norbu’s text and Tubten Legshé Sangpo’s colophon are identical, either the latter relied on the former or both drew from another common (but unknown) source.

The Essence of Shentong[25] by Tāranātha (1575–1634) says that Great Madhyamaka (that is, Shentong) relies on sūtras from all three dharma wheels. The sūtras from the first wheel are such as the Kaccāyanagottasutta and the Mahāsuññatāsutta. Those from the second wheel are such as the "Maitreya Chapter" and the Pañcaśatikāprajñāpāramitā. Those from the third wheel include the four sūtras of definitive meaning of Mere Mentalism:

1. Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra
2. Laṅkāvatārasūtra
3. Ghanavyūhasūtra
4. Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra

The sūtras that teach the final definitive meaning are the following:

1. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
2. Mahābherīsūtra
3. Aṅgulimālīyasūtra
4. Śrīmālādevīsūtra
5. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra
6. Ratnameghasūtra
7. Praśantaviniścayasamādhisūtra and so on.[26]

Based on these sūtras, Tāranātha says, the extraordinary and subtle philosophical system of the perfect dharmadhātu, the tathāgata heart, and the dharmakāya’s being permanent, eternal, everlasting, and endowed with all ultimate buddha qualities that are primordially intrinsic was formulated as secret discourses.

      Largely following Tāranātha, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé’s JKC also lists the same four sūtras of definitive meaning of Mere Mentalism, which are said to teach the nature of phenomena as being really established ultimately.[27] The sūtras that teach the final definitive meaning are the same as in Tāranātha’s list plus the Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra, Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra, Mahāmeghasūtra, and so on.

      Jamgön Kongtrul’s GISM speaks of twenty "sūtras of the heart of the definitive meaning in the last [turning of the] wheel" but does not name them.[28] Given Kongtrul’s great reliance on Dölpopa and Tāranātha, those twenty sūtras are probably Dölpopa’s above "ten sūtras of definitive meaning" and "ten sūtras on the tathāgata heart."

      Dzamtang Khenpo Ngawang Lodrö Tragpa,[29] (1920–1975) in the preface to his Great Shentong,[30] states that the primary scriptural sources of "the causal yāna of definitive meaning" (or sūtra Shentong)[31] are the following eighteen sūtras:

1. the "Maitreya Chapter"
2. Pañcaśatikāprajñāpāramitā
3. Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra
4. Laṅkāvatārasūtra
5. Ghanavyūhasūtra
6. Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra
7. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
8. sections in the Ratnakūṭa collection (such as the Śrīmālādevīsūtra)
9. Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī
10. Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra
11. Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra
12. Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviśayāvatāranirdeśasūtra
13. Aṅgulimālīyasūtra
14. Mahāmeghasūtra
15. Ratnameghasūtra
16. Mahābherīsūtra
17. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra
18. Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryanāmasamādhisūtra

Rinchen Yeshé’s (thirteenth/fourteenth century) RYC lists more than sixteen "sūtras that ascertain the ultimate and teach the definitive meaning":[32]

1. Tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśasūtra (aka Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra)
2. Sthirādhyāśayaparivartasūtra
3. Śrīmālādevīsūtra
4. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
5. Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra
6. Mahāyānopadeśasūtra
7. Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta
8. Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviśayāvatāranirdeśasūtra
9. Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra
10. Gaganagañjaparipṛcchāsūtra
11. Sāgaramatiparipṛcchāsūtra
12. Ratnacūḍaparipṛcchāsūtra
13. Aṅgulimālīyasūtra
14. Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra
15. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra
16. Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra[33] and so on

Gorampa Sönam Sengé (1429–1489) explains that the sūtras to be explained by the five Maitreya works are those that are specific to the mahāyāna.[34] Among them, those that are of expedient meaning are sūtras like the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra. Those that are of definitive meaning are the following:

the prajñāpāramitā sūtras
Dhāraṇīśvararājaparipṛcchāsūtra
Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
Ratnadārikāparipṛcchāsūtra
Sthirādhyāśayaparivartasūtra
Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśasūtra
Śrīmālādevīsūtra
Sarvabuddhaviṣayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra and so on.

Among these sūtras of definitive meaning, Gorampa says, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra ascertains the meaning of those that determine a single disposition because it explains solely the prajñāpāramitā sūtras. The Uttaratantra comments on the meaning of those sūtras that determine several dispositions because it explains the sūtras of definitive meaning other than the prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

      Mipham Rinpoche’s main text on buddha nature, A Synopsis of the Sugata Heart,[35] cites mainly the Mahāparinirvāṇāsūtra (ten times) in support of tathāgatagarbha, while it quotes the Laṅkāvatārasūtra (six times) only in support of tathāgatagarbha’s being just a synonym for emptiness, which is an expedient means to help naive beings overcome their fear of emptiness (see below). The text also quotes the Aṅgulimālīyasūtra, Gaganagañjaparipṛcchāsūtra, Tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśasūtra, Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryanāmasamādhisūtra, Jñānamudrāsamādhisūtra, and others, but all of these quotes except the one from the Aṅgulimālīyasūtra do not specifically discuss tathāgatagarbha.

      In his commentary on the Third Karmapa’s Aspiration Prayer of Mahāmudrā,[36] the contemporary Kagyü master Sangyé Nyenpa[37] Rinpoche (born 1968) speaks of "the twenty-one sūtras of the definitive meaning, such as the Śrīmālādevīsūtra, Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra (greater and lesser), Candrapradīpasūtra,[38]Mahābherīsūtra, and Mahāmeghasūtra." He adds that those who accept these sūtras as the final definitive meaning hold that the Shentong view represents the meaning of the intention of the sūtras of the final turning and that this view is the very ultimate definitive meaning.[39]

      In sum, as per the Uttaratantra, RGVV, and the above Tibetan authors, the sūtras explicitly or implicitly associated with tathāgatagarbha can be listed as the following twenty-four:

1. Tathāgatagarbhasūtra
2. Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta
3. Śrīmālādevīsūtra
4. Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra
5. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra
6. Aṅgulimālīyasūtra
7. Mahābherīsūtra
8. Laṅkāvatārasūtra
9. Tathāgataguṇajñānācintyaviṣayāvatāranirdeśasūtra
10. Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra
11. Ratnadārikāsūtra
12. Mahāmeghasūtra
13. Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra
14. Sthirādhyāśayaparivartasūtra
15. Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī
16. Śūnyatānāmamahāsūtra
17. Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra
18. Ratnakūṭa
19. Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra
20. Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra
21. Gaganagañjaparipṛcchāsūtra
22. Sāgaramatiparipṛcchāsūtra
23. Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryanāmasamādhisūtra
24. Candrapradīpasūtra

Though several modern scholars have studied the notion of tathāgatagarbha and related terms in a number of these sūtras (for details, see below), to my knowledge, there is no comprehensive overview of all the sūtra sources related to the notion of buddha nature and the different ways in which it is treated in these sources. An exhaustive study of all the details of whether, how, and to what extent the teachings on tathāgatagarbha are represented in the above sūtras is obviously beyond the scope of this book, so the following is just a brief survey of the major points of how buddha nature is discussed in these sūtras.[40]

  1. Taishō 125, 550c. This source was pointed out by Katsumata Shunkyō (translation as in Diana M. Paul 1980, 54). Note however that parts of the Ekottarikāgama contain mahāyāna elements and thus seem to have been added later. Modern scholars have suggested that the mahāyāna evolved from within the Mahāsaṃghika School and that even tathāgatagarbha sūtras such as the Śrīmālādevīsūtra are mahāyāna outgrowths of the later Mahāsaṃghika tradition.
  2. See Takasaki 1974, 67n24 (ayaṃ sa tathāgatagarbha āgacchati). This sūtra as well as the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra also use the terms "tathāgata family" (tathāgatakula) and "buddha family" (buddhakula), though not in the sense of buddha nature.
  3. Skt. sarvasattvās tathāgatagarbhāḥ samantabhadramahābodhisattvasarvātmatayā. There is a new Sanskrit edition by T. Tomabechi (Vienna 2009), a Tibetan translation (D17, 10 folios), and a Chinese translation (Taishō 220 [10]). For an English translation, see Conze 2002, 221–36; the above phrase is on 230.
  4. It is generally held that Nāgārjuna did not know the tathāgatagarbha sūtras. However, several of the nine examples for buddha nature’s being obscured by adventitious stains in the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra as well as the example of a lamp in a vase in the Mahābherīsūtra and Aṅgulimālīyasūtra appear in his Dharmadhātustava. While this is not ultimately conclusive evidence, it is hard to find any other sources from which Nāgārjuna could have culled these examples unless he came up with them himself (which appears to be too much of a coincidence).
  5. See the section on the Śūnyatānāmamahāsūtra.
  6. For the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra ’s ambiguous position on the notion of tathāgatagarbha in all sentient beings, see the section on the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra.
  7. Dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan 1992a, 344–45. See also Stearns 2010, 316nn28–29.
  8. More literal translations of this term (snying po’i mod) would be "essence sūtras," "essential sūtras," or "heart sūtras," but it is obvious that the main topic of such sūtras is commonly regarded as the tathāgata heart (de gshegs snying po).
  9. This corresponds to the Pāli Cūlasuññatasutta (Majjhima Nikāya 121).
  10. The Kangyur does not contain a Parinirvāṇasūtra but two versions of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra of different length, which are obviously the ones Dölpopa refers to here. For details on the versions of this sūtra, see the discussion of its contents in the section on the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra.
  11. It is curious that the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta is absent from Dölpopa’s list of tathāgatagarbha sūtras. He obviously knew it since he quotes it in his main work Mountain Dharma (see Hopkins 2006, 95).
  12. What the Tibetan tradition commonly calls "The Chapter Requested by Maitreya" in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras exists in one Sanskrit and three Tibetan recensions. The Sanskrit is found in the revised Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra. This is a different version of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, into which the corresponding names of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra ’s chapters, its seventy points, and their subpoints are inserted as headings (without any additional comments). The unrevised and revised sūtras are close in content, but there are several passages in the latter that were added, omitted, or transposed so as to better conform to the outline of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra. The Tibetan versions of this chapter are contained in the translations of said revised sūtra (D3790), the eighty-third chapter of the Aṣṭadāśāsāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra (D10), and the seventy-second chapter of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra (D9). The versions in D10 and D3790 correspond closely to the Sanskrit, while the version in D9 often differs in its use of technical terms and seems to have been based on a different Sanskrit manuscript. The Sanskrit edition has no title, while its versions in D9 and D10 are titled "The Chapter of the Distinctions in a Bodhisattva’s Training (bhang chub sems dpa’i bslab pa la rab tu phye ba’i lee’s)." Note that the "Maitreya Chapter" is missing in the Śatasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, in the Gilgit manuscript of the Aṣṭadāśāsāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, and in all Chinese translations of the prajñāpāramitā sūtras. Certain parts of this chapter differ in their diction from the rest of these sūtras (and the prajñāpāramitā sūtras in general) in that all phenomena from form up through the qualities of a buddha are divided into three aspects, such as "imaginary form (parikalpitaṃ rūpaṃ)," "conceived form (vikalpitaṃ rūpaṃ)," and "dharmatā-form (dharmatārūpaṃ)." Due to all this, most modern and even some traditional Tibetan scholars regard this chapter as a later addition to the Aṣṭadāśāsāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra and the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra. In any case, most commentators agree that the three types of phenomena in this chapter and their descriptions correspond to the imaginary nature, the dependent nature, and the perfect nature, respectively. Some later Indian prajñāpāramitā commentaries (such as the Śatasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā, the Śatasāhasrikāpañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāṣṭādaśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā, and the Bhagavatyāmnāyānusāriṇī) adopted the three types of phenomena in the "Maitreya Chapter" as their basic exegetical template and explained the relationship between them according to the shentong model of the relationship between the three natures (that is, the perfect nature’s being empty of both the imaginary and de- pendent natures). This is obviously the reason why Dölpopa and his followers included the "Maitreya Chapter" under the sūtras of definitive meaning (in the sense of Shentong). In any case, this chapter does not contain any tathāgatagarbha-related discussions. For more details, see under the section "Indian Forerunners of shentong, Early Tibetan Shentongpas, and Their Connection to the Uttaratantra," Conze and Shotaro 1968, and Brunnhölzl 2011a.
  13. Anonymous 2010, zhu don snang ba, 1–2. There is also a similar but not completely available collection of sūtras of definitive meaning in several volumes (beginning with the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra, Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, and Aṅgulimālīyasūtra) that was published for use at the Jonang monastic college at Tsangwa Monastery in Dzamtang (Nges don gyi mdo’i chos skor; see TBRC W1KG4241).
  14. Tib. Mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang.
  15. Tib. Gung thang dkon mchog bstan pa’i sgron me. See Hakamaya 1992, 71.
  16. Dge legs dpal bzang 1980–82, 463.
  17. Tib. Thu’u bkwan blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma.
  18. See Ruegg 1963, 83.
  19. Tib. Rig ’dzin tshe dbang nor bu.
  20. Tshe dbang nor bu 1976–77.
  21. This is a slightly more elaborate version of the Pāli Mahāsuññatasutta (Majjhima Nikāya 122).
  22. Note also that the title of Tsewang Norbu’s text speaks of sūtras of the final teaching cycle of the Buddha, while (11) the Śūnyatānāmamahāsūtra and (12) the Mahāśūnyatānāmamahāsūtra clearly belong to the first cycle and at least (13) the Pañcaśatikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, (14) the "Maitreya Chapter," and (21) the Akṣayamatinirdeśasūtra are commonly considered as belonging to the second cycle.
  23. Thub bstan legs bshad bzang po 2000.
  24. It is not clear what exactly "the complete elaborations on the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra means, but it probably refers to the parts in the longer version of this sūtra that are not found in the shorter one plus the very brief addition that consists of D121. In any case, the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra and its "elaborations" in this list cover D119–21. Tubten Legshé Sangpo’s collection contains seven more texts: the Bhagavānamitābhadhāraṇīmantra, Sarvakarmāvaraṇaviśodhanīnāmadhāraṇī, Amitābhavyūhasūtra, Avalokiteśvaraikadaśamukhanāmadhāraṇī, ’Phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug yid bzhin nor bu’i rtog pa las smon lam ’byung ba (no Sanskrit title), Dpang skong phyag brgya pa (no Sanskrit title), and Mahābalasūtra. The colophon of this collection says that though these seven texts are not included in the sūtras of definitive meaning, they are of great benefit and are therefore presented as dharma gifts in this collection.
  25. Tib. Gzhan stong snying po (Tāranātha 1982–87, 4:501).
  26. As for the relationships between Dölpopa’s and Tāranātha’s differing lists of sūtras of definitive meaning, from the perspective of the usual Tibetan doxographical ranking, Tāranātha’s differentiation between the four sūtras of the definitive meaning of Mere Mentalism and those of the final definitive meaning suggests that he takes the former to be inferior to the latter. By contrast, Dölpopa includes the former four sūtras in his general list of the ten sūtras of definitive meaning. Among Tāranātha’s seven explicitly mentioned sūtras of the final definitive meaning, the first five also appear in Dölpopa’s list of ten tathāgatagarbha sūtras, while the last two are found in his list of ten sūtras of definitive meaning. Just as in Dölpopa’s lists, the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta is conspicuously absent in Tāranātha’s lists.
  27. 5
  28. 180
  29. Tib. Ngag dbang blo gros grags pa.
  30. Tib. Gzhan stong chen mo (Sheehy 2007, 114–15).
  31. Ngawang Lodrö Tragpa adds that most tantras include sections on tantric Shentong.
  32. 2
  33. This sūtra is often also called Mahāyānābhidharmasūtra in modern literature, but the Mahāyānasaṃgraha as well as its commentaries Vivṛtagūḍhārthapiṇḍavyākhyā and Mahāyānasaṃgrahopanibandhana explicitly speak of it as the Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra and explain its name accordingly.
  34. Go bo rab ’byams pa bsod nams seng ge 1979b, 12.
  35. ’Ju mi pham rgya mtsho 1984c.
  36. Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 1–2.
  37. Tib. Sangs rgyas mnyan pa.
  38. This is the name of the early and shorter version of the Samādhirājasūtra.
  39. Later, Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan (n.d., 39 and 51) also mentions "twenty sūtras of definitive meaning" but does not elaborate which sūtras these are.
  40. Needless to say, the topic of buddha nature is quite ubiquitous in the Buddhist tantras (for examples, see Hevajratantra, part 2, IV.69, as well as Hopkins 2006, 121–24 and 195). However, the treatment of tathāgatagarbha and related notions in the tantras is not the topic of this study.