Painting Space with Colors: Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāyānasūtrâlaṅkāra-Corpus IX.22-37

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Painting Space with Colors: Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāyānasūtrâlaṅkāra-Corpus IX.22-37
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Citation: Griffiths, Paul J. "Painting Space with Colors: Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāyānasūtrâlaṅkāra-Corpus IX.22–37." In Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota, edited by Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan, 41–63. Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1990.

Article Summary

The early history of Tathagatagarbha thought in India remains obscure. In attempting to elucidate it much depends upon how one chooses to categorize Tathagatagarbha as a system, upon the decisions one makes as to which terms, concepts, argument-patterns and so forth must be present in order for it to be proper to characterize some text or text-fragment as representing that system. These are large questions, much too large to enter upon in this paper; my purpose here is much more limited. I intend to offer a reasonably detailed exposition of a set of sixteen verses from the ninth chapter of the Mahāyānasūtrâlaṅkāra [MSA] (IX.22-37). These verses deal, or so the bhāṣya tells us, with the "profundity of the undefiled realm" (anāsravadhātugāmbhīrya), and they conclude (37) with the only use of the term tathāgatagarbha in the entire text There is little doubt that this is one of the few early occurrences of the term in Indian Buddhist texts surviving in Sanskrit; a relatively detailed study of these verses may perhaps shed some light upon the historical and doctrinal questions just mentioned.
          The systematic question underlying my comments upon these verses throughout will be: what is the relation between the ground of awakening, that which makes it possible, and the fact of awakening, its essential properties?
          In what follows I shall provide ftrst a brief introduction to the of the MSA-corpus; I shall then place MSA IX.22-37 in its context within the text as a whole, and shall translate the verses in full and offer expository comments on them, drawing in so doing upon the surviving Indic commentaries. (Griffiths, "Painting Space with Colors", 41–42)