Reconsidering the "Essence" of Indian Buddha-Nature Literature

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Reconsidering the "Essence" of Indian Buddha-Nature Literature
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Citation: Jones, Christopher V. "Reconsidering the 'Essence' of Indian Buddha-Nature Literature." In "What is Tathāgatagarbha: Buddha-Nature or Buddha Within?" Edited by Saitō Akira. Special issue, Acta Asiatica 118 (2020): 57–78.

Abstract

This paper is published in Acta Asiatica no.118, which concerns recent scholarship on tathāgatagarbha, or Buddha-nature thought, in Indian literature. In light of recent reassessments of the development of tathāgatagarbha thought in India, this paper considers instances in which tathāgatagarbha is unpacked to refer to some "essence" (dhātu) of a Buddha present in all sentient beings. My observation is that this articulation of Buddha-nature teaching is found throughout Indian tathāgatagarbha literature, from the Nirvāṇa Sūtra through to supposedly "basic" materials of the Ratnagotravibhāga, but is conspicuously absent where Buddhist authors are invested in (re)interpreting Buddha-nature in terms of the basic nature of the mind: an influential innovation that I believe is first evident in the Śrīmālā Sūtra. (Source Accessed April 3, 2020)