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Sanskrit Noun



Basic Meaning

Buddha-nature, literally the "womb/essence of those who have gone (to suchness)."

Read It in the Scriptures

Son of good family, the True Nature (dharmatā) of the dharmas is this:
whether or not tathāgatas appear in the world, all these sentient beings contain at all times a tathāgata.
~ Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā 73.11-12. As translated in Zimmerman, A Buddha Within, 2002, p 40.
On this topic
Term Variations
Key Term tathāgatagarbha
Topic Variation tathāgatagarbha
Tibetan དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པའི་སྙིང་པོ་
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration de bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po
Devanagari Sanskrit तथागतगर्भ  ( tatagatagarbha)
Romanized Sanskrit tathāgatagarbha  ( tatagatagarbha)
Chinese 如来藏
Chinese Pinyin rúláizàng
Buddha-nature Site Standard English buddha-nature
Karl Brunnhölzl's English Term Heart of the Thus Gone One
Jeffrey Hopkin's English Term Tathāgata essence, matrix of a One-Gone-Thus
Term Information
Usage Example Zimmerman, A Buddha Within, 2002, p 40:

Sanskrit: eṣā kulaputra dharmāṇāṁ dharmatā / utpādād vā tathāgatānām anutpādād vā sadaivaite sattvās tathāgatagarbhā iti / (Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā 73.11-12)

Tibetan: རིགས་ཀྱི་བུ་དག་འདི་ནི་ཆོས་རྣམས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་ཉིད་དེ། དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པ་རྣམས་བྱུང་ཡང་རུང་མ་བྱུང་ཡང་རུང་། སེམས་ཅན་འདི་དག་ནི་རྟག་ཏུ་དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པའི་སྙིང་པོ་ཡིན་

English: Son of good family, the True Nature (dharmatā) of the dharmas is this: whether or not tathāgatas appear in the world, all these sentient beings contain at all times a tathāgata.
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning Buddha-nature, literally the "womb/essence of those who have gone (to suchness)."
Did you know? "Buddha nature" is an English translation not of Tathāgatagarbha but of buddhadhātu, as well as of buddatā, tathatā, prakṛtivyadadāna, and other possible Sanskrit originals.
Related Terms sugatagarbha, Buddhadhātu, tathatā
Term Type Noun
Karl Brunnhölzl Read more about Different Ways of Explaining the Meaning of Tathāgatagarbha by Karl Brunnhölzl.
Explanations of Tathāgatagarbha in Indian Texts
Tathāgatagarbha as the Emptiness That Is a Nonimplicative Negation
Tathāgatagarbha as Mind’s Luminous Nature
Tathāgatagarbha as the Ālaya-Consciousness
Tathāgatagarbha as a Sentient Being
Tathāgatagarbha as the Dharmakāya, Suchness, the Disposition, and Nonconceptuality
Tibetan Assertions on Tathāgatagarbha
Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism See page 897: In Sanskrit, variously translated as “womb of the tathāgatas,” “matrix of the tathāgatas,” “embryo of the tathāgatas,” “essence of the tathāgatas”; the term probably means “containing a tathāgatha.” It is more imprecisely interpreted as the “buddha-nature,” viz., the potential to achieve buddhahood that, according to some Mahāyāna schools, is inherent in all sentient beings.
Tshig mdzod Chen mo [1370] sems can thams cad kyi rgyud la ye nas gnas pa'i gzhi rgyud bde bar gshegs pa'i snying po ngo bo stong pa rang bzhin gsal ba thugs rje kun khyab kyi bdag nyid can...
Wikipedia wikipedia:Buddha-nature
RigpaWiki rigpa:Buddha_nature
Synonyms Buddha-dhatu “The inherent potential of all sentient beings to achieve buddhahood.” - Princeton Dictionary, p. 151 Ch: 如来藏 J: busshō
Grammatical / Etymological Analysis “As for the meaning of the Sanskrit compound tathāgatagarbha, its first part (tathā) can be taken as either the adverb “thus” or the noun “thusness/suchness” (as a term for ultimate reality; many texts, among them the Uttaratantra, gloss tathāgatagarbha as “suchness”). The second part can be read either as gata (“gone”), or āgata (“come, arrived”; the Tibetan gshegs pa can mean both). However, in the term tathāgata, both meanings more or less come down to the same. Thus, the main difference lies in whether one understands a tathāgata as (a) a “thus-gone/thus-come one” or (b) “one gone/ come to thusness,” with the former emphasizing the aspect of the path and the latter the result. The final part of the compound—garbha—literally and originally means “embryo,” “germ,” “womb,” “the interior or middle of anything,” “any interior chamber or sanctuary of a temple,” “calyx” (as of a lotus), “having in the interior,” “containing,” or “being filled with.” At some point, the term also assumed the meanings of “core,” “heart,” “pith,” and “essence” (which is also the meaning of its usual Tibetan translation snying po).” - Karl Brunnhölzl, When the Clouds Part

ZIMMERMAN on Tathāgatagarbha

An interpretation of the meaning of the term tathāgatagarbha must, as a matter of course, start from the context in the TGS in which it originates. 52 The context is that of the withered lotuses with beautiful tathligatas sitting in the center of their calyxes (padmagarbha). In the same way that full-fledged tathāgatas sit in the flowers, so also, according to the siitra, are buddhas contained in living beings. 53 If living beings are said to contain a tathāgata, they should function as receptacles, and the compound tathāgatagarbha must accordingly be understood either as a bahuvrīhi in the sense of "containing a tathāgata" or as a tatpuruṣa meaning "store of a tathāgata." However, in order to reach an adequate interpretation of the compound, I need to preface some remarks on the term garbha, and then give an overview of the range of possible interpretations of the whole compound, in part offered by the texts which succeeded the TGS. 54

Concerning the term garbha, the Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen 55 provides us only with the two meanings "Mutterleib; Leibesfrucht, Embryo, Neugeborenes." It seems, however, that, starting from this biological background, garbha took on other, less specific senses, such as "the inside, middle, interior of anything, calyx (as of a lotus), ... any interior chamber, adytum or sanctuary of a temple &c." (MW), or, as Hara has shown for epic literature, "germ, seed, infant, child" and, by analogy with the vocable putra as the last member of a compound, even simply "member (of a family lineage)."56

Also familiar is the function of -garbha at the end of a bahuvrīhi compound,

indicating that the prior member(s) of the compound is/are contained in the subject the compound refers to.57 Especially in the last case it is difficult to judge how far a biological, embryonic shade of meaning was still felt, that is, to what degree -garbha had become a purely grammatical unit used at the time our siitra came into existence to express a relation of inclusion void of any strong lexical connotations. However, the original embryo-related meaning of garbha did not completely fade out in later centuries; indeed garbha even became associated with the semantic field of "offspring." This suggests that the grammatical application of -garbha never became totally free of the underlying idea of an embryo still in need of development in a nurturing, womb-like container, if the context in question was susceptible of such a nuance. (Source: Michael Zimmerman, A Buddha Within, 2002, pages 40–41).