The Tathāgatagarbha Theory in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra

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LibraryArticlesThe Tathāgatagarbha Theory in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra

The Tathāgatagarbha Theory in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra
Citation: Takasaki, Jikidō. "The Tathāgatagarbha Theory in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra." Indogaku Bukkyōgaku Kenkyū (Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies) 19, no. 2 (1971): 1–10.

. . . We may conclude the characteristics of the TG [tathāgatagarbha] theory in this sūtra in the following way. 1) The biggest contribution of the MPS [Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra] to the history of the TG theory is the establishment of the concept of buddhadhātu as explaining the nature of tathāgatagarbha. This dhātu concept as showing the essence or nature common to sattvas and the Tathāgata seems to be introduced by the AAN [Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśa], but the MPS, succeeding the AAN, utilized it in its full scope, in which are involved various other meanings of the term dhātu developed in Buddhism, such as relic of the Buddha, the 18 component elements, the 4 gross elements, sphere of the dharma, the essence of dharmas (e.g. the tathāgatakāya is not (consisting) of elements of collected materials (bsags paḥi khams), but of the essence of the dharma (chos kyi khams) (L. 110a1–2). It suggests that 'dharmakāya' is 'dharmadhātu-kāya' ), the word root, etc.
      2) The most unique expression of this sūtra with respect to the TG is the ātman, which is regarded as a sort of taboo in Buddhism*. Connotation of this term in the text is completely identical with dhātu.
      3) Inspite of the use of such an abstract concept, the MPS is far from systematization of the theory, in comparison with the AAN and the ŚMS [Śrītmalasūtra]. Especially the relationship between tathāgatagarbha and dharmakāya, problem of the pure mind and the defilements, etc. are not discussed explicitly as in the SMS. In this respect, I hesitate a bit to suppose the date of the MPS as coming after the ŚMS.
       4) Inspite of frequent references to the icchantika, the term agotra is not used. In general, the gotra concept is lacking in the MPS. This point is common to the AAN, and the ŚMS. (Takasaki, section 6, 9–10)

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