Buddha Nature Thought and Mysticism

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Buddha Nature Thought and Mysticism
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Citation: King, Sallie B. "Buddha Nature Thought and Mysticism." In Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota, edited by Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan, 139–52. Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1990.

Article Summary

Sallie B. King, in her essay "Buddha Nature Thought and Mysticism", offers a characterization of the phenomenon of mysticism and analyzes three Buddha Nature texts to see whether and to what extent the thought of those texts may properly be called 'mystical'. All three of the texts she discusses are extant only in Chinese. Two of them—the Buddha Nature Treatise (Fo hsing lun) and the Supreme Basis Sūtra (Fo shuo wu shang i ching)—are translations made by Paramārtha in the sixth century CE; and there is some question as to whether he may have actually composed them rather than simply translated them. The third, the No Increase, No Decrease Sutra, was also translated into Chinese in the sixth century CE (by Bodhiruci), and there almost certainly was an Indic original for this text. Each of these texts belongs, more or less, to the Tathāgatagarbha tradition, but King wishes to classify only the Buddha Nature Treatise and the No Increase, No Decrease Sūtra as properly mystical texts. The Supreme Basis Sūtra, she argues, endorses devotionalism rather than direct mystical experience for the practitioner; it cannot therefore be classified as a mystical text. King therefore distinguishes different threads or emphases within the Buddha Nature thought of the period with which she deals. (Griffiths and Keenan, introduction to Buddha Nature, 5–6)