Nonorigination and Nirvāṇa in the Early Tathāgatagarbha Literature

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Nonorigination and Nirvāṇa in the Early Tathāgatagarbha Literature
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Citation: Grosnick, William. "Nonorigination and Nirvāṇa in the Early Tathāgatagarbha Literature." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 4, no. 2 (1981): 33–43. https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/view/8547/2454.

Article Summary

One of the most interesting notions found in the early tathāgatagarbha literature is the idea that nirvāṇa should be understood as nonorigination (anutpāda). This idea is explicitly formulated in two texts, the Ratnagotravibhāga, the only śāstra extant in Sanskrit which is completely devoted to the tathāgatagarbha and Buddha-nature teachings, and the Jñānālokālaṅkārasūtra, the sūtra upon which the Ratnagotravibhāga bases its exposition of nonorigination. The Jñānālokālaṅkārasūtra itself does not speak of the tathāgatagarbha or Buddha-nature doctrines, but the Ratnagotravibhāga takes the Jñānālokālaṅkārasūtra explanation of nonorigination and links it to the view of nirvāṇa found in two of the important early sūtras that do speak of the tathāgatagarbha, the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśa and the Śrīmālādevīsūtra. This interpretation of nirvāṇa in terms of nonorigination is of considerable importance in understanding the early tathāgatagarbha teaching, for it clarifies certain notions frequently associated with the tathāgatagarbha like the "natural purity of mind" (cittaprakṛtiviśuddhi)—notions which have been hotly debated ever since the doctrine's inception. It may also tell us something about the conceptual issues which divided the schools of early Buddhism and so hold clues for understanding the origin of Mahāyāna Buddhism. (Grosnick, "Nonorigination and Nirvāṇa," 33)

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