Christopher V. Jones at the 2019 Tathāgatagarbha Symposium

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Christopher V. Jones at the 2019 Tathāgatagarbha Symposium
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Christopher Jones discusses the development of the concept of buddha-nature in the first five hundred years of the Common Era. He postulates that the most likely trajectory of buddha-nature thought in India entailed a reimagining of the expression tathāgatagarbha away from its contentious "ātmavādin" origins.

Abstract from the Author

Selfhood, Secrecy, Singularity: Reassessing the Early Life of the Tathāgatagarbha in India

The early history of buddha-nature teaching in India is in the process of some reassessment. Michael Radich’s contention that there is good reason to take the Mahāparinirvāṇamahāsūtra as our earliest source for an account of the tathāgatagarbha invites a fresh look at the wider corpus of Indian literature concerned with this expression, and with it the affirmation that what is essential to a Buddha (buddhadhātu) abides in all sentient beings. My research has focused on a revised trajectory of how buddha-nature was conceptualized in the first five hundred years of the Common Era, informed by the hypothetical primacy of Indian sources that explain tathāgatagarbha to refer to the permanent, indestructible buddhadhātu, and which teach that this constitutes nothing less than the Buddha’s account of the self (ātman).

I contend that the most likely trajectory of buddha-nature thought in India entailed a creative reimagining of the expression tathāgatagarbha away from contentious "ātmavādin" origins. With reference to the Indian tathāgatagarbha corpus delineated by Takasaki Jikidō, this paper will explore a revised picture of the development of early tathāgatagarbha thought by attending to several related themes: the relationship between buddha-nature and discourse about the self, the claim that it constitutes a "secret" revealed by the Buddha – a complement to the teaching that there is only a single vehicle (ekayāna) to liberation – and the extent to which buddha-nature should be articulated in terms of the original purity of the mind.

Sources Mentioned

Secondary Publications Mentioned

People Mentioned

Michael Radich
Jikidō Takasaki
1926 ~ 2013
Masahiro Shimoda
Kazuo Kano
Featuring Christopher V. Jones
Creator University of Vienna, Tsadra Foundation
Event Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia (18 July 2019, University of Vienna, Austria)
Related Website Buddha-Nature Project
Video Web Location Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia
Creation Date 18 July 2019
Citation Jones, Christopher V. "Selfhood, Secrecy, Singularity: Reassessing the Early Life of the Tathāgatagarbha in India." Paper presented at the University of Vienna Symposium, Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia, Vienna, Austria, July 2019. Video, 45:01. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARzGpIOwFYc.