The Gotra, Ekayāna and Tathāgatagarbha Theories of the Prajñāpāramitā according to Dharmamitra and Abhayākaragupta

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The Gotra, Ekayāna and Tathāgatagarbha Theories of the Prajñāpāramitā according to Dharmamitra and Abhayākaragupta

Citation: Ruegg, David Seyfort. "The Gotra, Ekayāna and Tathāgatagarbha Theories of the Prajñāpāramitā according to Dharmamitra and Abhayākaragupta." In Prajñāpāramitā and Related Systems, edited by Lewis Lancaster, 283–312. Berkeley: University of California, 1977.


No abstract given. Here are the first relevant paragraphs:

In the course of his monumental work on the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras E. Conze has written: 'It is quite a problem how the Dharma-element which is common to all can be regarded as the source of a variety of "lineages" [gotra]'.[1] It has been the endeavour of the present writer in a series of publications starting in 1968 to shed light on this very fundamental and interesting question. An article in the Festschrift dedicated to the late E. Frauwallner was devoted to the interconnexion between the single, unique and undifferentiated dharmadhātu, the naturally existent spiritual element or germ (prakṛtisthaṃ gotram) and the variously conditioned psycho-spiritual categories (gotra)[2] recognized by the Buddhist texts as explained by Ārya Vimuktisena (ca. 500 ?) and his successor Bhadanta Vimuktisena in their commentaries on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra (i. 37-39), which they correlate with the topics of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā.[3] And shortly afterwards there followed a more detailed study of this question as it relates to the notion of the tathāgatagarbha or buddha-nature in La théorie du tathāgatagarbha et du gotra: Études sur ta sotériologie et la gnoséologie du bouddhisme (Paris, 1969) and Le traité du tathāgatagarbha de Bu ston Rin chen grub (Paris, 1973). In the last publications Haribhadra's commentaries on the Prajñāpāramitā were discussed, and the importance of the doctrine of the One Vehicle (ekayāna), was taken up at some length not only from the point of view of soteriology but also from that of gnoseology
      Between the two Vimuktisenas and Haribhadra (fl. c. 750-800) on the one side and the Tibetan exegetes on the other there lived a number of important Indian commentators whose work could be only briefly touched on in the Théorie. Amongst the most important of these later Indian masters of the Prajñāpāramitā are Dharmamitra and Abhayākaragupta, both of whom have been reckoned by Buddhist doxographers as being, for certain systematic reasons, close to the Svātantrika-Mādhyamika school, and Ratnākaraśānti (first half of the 11th century), a Vijñānavādin (of the Alīkākāravāda branch) who appears to have undertaken a harmonization of the Vijñānavāda and the Madhyamaka in the manner of the synthesizing movements especially characteristic of later Buddhist thought in India.
      One of Ratnākaraśānti's main works on the Prajñāpāramitā—the Sārottamā (or Sāratamā ?), a Pañjikā on the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, which until recently was known only by its Tibetan version in the Bstan 'gyur—has now been recovered in an incomplete Sanskrit manuscript. Since the promised publication of this text is awaited with keenest interest by students of this literature, his work must be left for another occasion.[4] The present paper will therefore consider the discussions by Dharmamitra and Abhayākaragupta of the relation between the gotra, the dharmadhātu, the ekayāna, and the tathāgatagarbha. (Ruegg, "The Gotra, Ekayāna and Tathāgatagarbha Theories of the Prajñāpāramitā," 283–284)


1. E. Conze, The Large Sūtra on Perfect Wisdom (London 1961), p. 105 note 2. References hereunder to the folios of Tibetan translations of Indian texts contained in the Bstan 'gyur relate to the Peking edition as reproduced in the Japanese reprint published by the Tibetan Tripiṭaka Research Institute (Tokyo and Kyoto). Prints of other editions of the Bstan 'gyur were unfortunately unavailable during the writing of the present paper.
2. On the meanings of the term gotra, and in particular on the two meanings '(spiritual) element, germ, capacity' and '(spiritual) lineage, class, category' which might be described respectively as the intensional and extensional meanings of the word when the gotra as germ determines the classification of persons possessing it in a gotra as category, see the present writer's article in BSOAS 39 (1976) p. 341sq.
3. "Ārya and Bhadanta Vimuktisena on the gotra-theory of the Prajñāpāramitā," Beitriige zur Geistesgeschichte Indiens (Festschrift fur Erich Frauwallner), WZKSO 12-13 (1968/1969), pp. 303–317.
4. Ratnākaraśānti's other work on the subject, a commentary on the AA entitled Śuddhimatī, (or: Śuddhamatī) will be referred to below.