is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

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nichiren-123
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is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by nichiren-123 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm

tathagatagarbha (more or less buddha nature) is the idea that beyond the early buddhist concepts of impermanence, suffering and non-self there is a permanent, liberated self of sorts which remains forever untainted from karma, delusion and all forms of suffering.

I was brought up a Nichiren Buddhist in which this idea is very central. However I've been reading and practising in the Theravada tradition for the last few months and it seems to me that the three dharma seals (impermanence, suffering and non-self) represent reality more closely than the tathagatagarbha doctrine.
I have also read about Madhyamaka (middle way, Nagarjuna doctrine) and currently understand it as the logical extension of non-self to every so called 'thing'.
So what are your guys opinions? Is tathagatagarbha true? If you think it is then on what basis do you say so?

Keen to hear what you guys have to say. :)

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by futerko » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:31 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm
the three dharma seals (impermanence, suffering and non-self) represent reality more closely than the tathagatagarbha doctrine.
Effectively they are the same thing, or the consequence - given that the three marks are taken to be true and their consequences understood is no different from the idea of a natural 'shape' of mind itself as a consequence of the three marks.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Dan74 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:14 pm

Whatever position one likes to adopt on the Ultimate is basically going to be wrong - how else can it be from our deluded perspective? One thing is clear - we should be wary of grasping any kind of notion of the Ultimate. Best to focus on practice.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:30 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm
tathagatagarbha (more or less buddha nature) is the idea that beyond the early buddhist concepts of impermanence, suffering and non-self there is a permanent, liberated self of sorts which remains forever untainted from karma, delusion and all forms of suffering.

I was brought up a Nichiren Buddhist in which this idea is very central. However I've been reading and practising in the Theravada tradition for the last few months and it seems to me that the three dharma seals (impermanence, suffering and non-self) represent reality more closely than the tathagatagarbha doctrine.
I have also read about Madhyamaka (middle way, Nagarjuna doctrine) and currently understand it as the logical extension of non-self to every so called 'thing'.
So what are your guys opinions? Is tathagatagarbha true? If you think it is then on what basis do you say so?

Keen to hear what you guys have to say. :)
You should read more of the Tathagatagarbha sutras. You are talking as if the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana sutra (which arguably puts forth "true self" concept) is the only one. The Lankvatara as one example, has a different take and explicitly states that the Tathagatagarbha is not a self.

That there is a "deathless" is not disputed in any form of Buddhism, including in the Pali Canon, the three seals do not say "this is all there is", they say "this is all there is in regards to phenomena".

So, the question is on the nature of enlightenment/Buddha nature, not whether such a concept exists in Buddhism... it becomes a bit of a semantics thing.
The Pali Canon In Regards to Nirvana wrote:"There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress."
This actually comports somewhat with some Mahayana descriptions of Buddha Nature.
The Pali Canon In Regards to Nirvana wrote: [Aggivessana Vacchagotta:] "But, Master Gotama, the monk whose mind is thus released: Where does he reappear?"

[The Buddha:] "'Reappear,' Vaccha, doesn't apply."

"In that case, Master Gotama, he does not reappear."

"'Does not reappear,' Vaccha, doesn't apply."

"...both does & does not reappear."

"...doesn't apply."

"...neither does nor does not reappear."

"...doesn't apply."

"How is it, Master Gotama, when Master Gotama is asked if the monk reappears... does not reappear... both does & does not reappear... neither does nor does not reappear, he says, '...doesn't apply' in each case. At this point, Master Gotama, I am befuddled; at this point, confused. The modicum of clarity coming to me from your earlier conversation is now obscured."

"Of course you're befuddled, Vaccha. Of course you're confused. Deep, Vaccha, is this phenomenon, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. For those with other views, other practices, other satisfactions, other aims, other teachers, it is difficult to know. That being the case, I will now put some questions to you. Answer as you see fit. What do you think, Vaccha: If a fire were burning in front of you, would you know that, 'This fire is burning in front of me'?"

"...yes..."

"And suppose someone were to ask you, Vaccha, 'This fire burning in front of you, dependent on what is it burning?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"...I would reply, 'This fire burning in front of me is burning dependent on grass & timber as its sustenance.'"

"If the fire burning in front of you were to go out, would you know that, 'This fire burning in front of me has gone out'?"

"...yes..."

"And suppose someone were to ask you, 'This fire that has gone out in front of you, in which direction from here has it gone? East? West? North? Or south?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"That doesn't apply, Master Gotama. Any fire burning dependent on a sustenance of grass and timber, being unnourished — from having consumed that sustenance and not being offered any other — is classified simply as 'out' (unbound)."

"Even so, Vaccha, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply.

"Any feeling... Any perception... Any mental fabrication...

"Any consciousness by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of consciousness, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea."

Compare this to the Nirvana chapter of the Lankavatara:

https://sacred-texts.com/bud/bb/bb20.htm

The basic gist is that Nirvana/Buddhanature is beyond all and any propositions you might make about it, that includes selfhood, permanence, impermanence, etc.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Queequeg » Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:48 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:30 pm
You should read more of the Tathagatagarbha sutras. You are talking as if the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana sutra (which arguably puts forth "true self" concept) is the only one. The Lankvatara as one example, has a different take and explicitly states that the Tathagatagarbha is not a self.

That there is a "deathless" is not disputed in any form of Buddhism, including in the Pali Canon, the three seals do not say "this is all there is", they say "this is all there is in regards to phenomena".

So, the question is on the nature of enlightenment/Buddha nature, not whether such a concept exists in Buddhism... it becomes a bit of a semantics thing.
Mahayana Mahaparinirvana does refer to a true self, but its misleading. That's a pithy summary of much longer discussions about this "self" and refers to something that most ordinary references to "self" have nothing to do with. Its still, no self, but a way to refer to it in an inverse way. Anatman is a way to talk about dharmas in negative terms. Atman in the Mahaparinirvana is using positive terminology, since all descriptions of reality fall short anyway, this is possible. By positive or inverse way I mean the way that the letter A, for instance, is not just three black lines, but also the negative spaces between the black.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Queequeg » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:01 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm
tathagatagarbha (more or less buddha nature) is the idea that beyond the early buddhist concepts of impermanence, suffering and non-self there is a permanent, liberated self of sorts which remains forever untainted from karma, delusion and all forms of suffering.

I was brought up a Nichiren Buddhist in which this idea is very central. However I've been reading and practising in the Theravada tradition for the last few months and it seems to me that the three dharma seals (impermanence, suffering and non-self) represent reality more closely than the tathagatagarbha doctrine.
I have also read about Madhyamaka (middle way, Nagarjuna doctrine) and currently understand it as the logical extension of non-self to every so called 'thing'.
So what are your guys opinions? Is tathagatagarbha true? If you think it is then on what basis do you say so?

Keen to hear what you guys have to say. :)
As true as anatman.

To put it as simply as possible - anatman and emptiness is not nothing. If its not nothing, then what is it? We can't say its "something" either because no label is irreducible. Instead we say it is thus, tathata. In Tripitaka and some Mahayana teachings, a negative analysis is put forth as a way to understand. Anatman and sunyata are examples of these approaches. They aim at neutralizing conceptualization through an increasingly subtle negative analysis. They never reach nothingness, however. There is something both irreducible and ineffable.

"Mind, monks, is luminous!"

Tathagatagarbha and Buddhanature are teachings on this irreducible thusness.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by SteRo » Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:55 am

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm
... However I've been reading and practising in the Theravada tradition for the last few months ...

So what are your guys opinions? Is tathagatagarbha true? ...
My impression is that the concept of 'truth of doctrine' is very important in the Theravada tradition whereas in (at least some) Mahayana traditions the aspect of upāya overrides the truth vs non-truth dichotomy.

:namaste:

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by jhanapeacock » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:06 am

SteRo wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:55 am
nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm
... However I've been reading and practising in the Theravada tradition for the last few months ...

So what are your guys opinions? Is tathagatagarbha true? ...
My impression is that the concept of 'truth of doctrine' is very important in the Theravada tradition whereas in (at least some) Mahayana traditions the aspect of upāya overrides the truth vs non-truth dichotomy.

:namaste:
I don`t think the Thathagatagarbha doctrine is upaya. But everybody is free to think whatever they want.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by LastLegend » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:13 am

True in perception or description but even perception is empty.
Make personal vows.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Simon E. » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:45 am

Dan74 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:14 pm
Whatever position one likes to adopt on the Ultimate is basically going to be wrong - how else can it be from our deluded perspective? One thing is clear - we should be wary of grasping any kind of notion of the Ultimate. Best to focus on practice.
This.
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:01 am

Get hold of Sallie B. King's book Buddha Nature. It clearly differentiates Buddha-nature teachings from 'atmanavada'. It seems similar from the perspective of mere talk, but the distinction is crystal clear when you drill down on it.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by smcj » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:53 am

Buddha Nature and Guru Yoga are the intellectual basis for Vajrayana (imho). Without some understanding of, and and openness to, those ideas much effort in practice will be unnecessarily thwarted (imho).

YMMV
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by seeker242 » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:51 pm

Tathagatagarbha is true, but it's not actually a self, in the way deluded beings think of a self, even though it may appear to be spoken of as such. To ascribe ordinary notions of selfhood onto Tathagatagarbha would be a mistake. Tathagatagarbha is not an ordinary notion of selfhood. Tathagatagarbha does not contradict non-self. Ascribing ordinary notions of selfhood onto Tathagatagarbha, that's what creates the contradiction, so don't do that! If you don't do that, then no contradiction. :smile:
Last edited by seeker242 on Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by LastLegend » Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:53 pm

seeker242 wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 12:51 pm
Tathagatagarbha is true, but it's not actually a self, in the way deluded beings think of a self, even though it may appear to be spoken of as such.
Yup!
Make personal vows.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Simon E. » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:02 pm

smcj wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:53 am
Buddha Nature and Guru Yoga are the intellectual basis for Vajrayana (imho). Without some understanding of, and and openness to, those ideas much effort in practice will be unnecessarily thwarted (imho).

YMMV
Understanding doctrinal positions can certainly be an aid to practise, and it’s possible that an absence of such understanding can be an obstacle. The issue it seems to me is clinging to such positions and reifying them.
Every monastery has monks who know it all and practise little. Many have monks who are largely unlettered and radiate Bodhicitta.
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Queequeg » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:19 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:02 pm
Understanding doctrinal positions can certainly be an aid to practise, and it’s possible that an absence of such understanding can be an obstacle. The issue it seems to me is clinging to such positions and reifying them.
Every monastery has monks who know it all and practise little. Many have monks who are largely unlettered and radiate Bodhicitta.
As I've been taught, its not a matter of one or the other. Practice and Study are two wings of a bird: both are necessary to fly. Practice that is not grounded in study has a tendency to become too loose. Study without practice has a tendency to desiccation. Study guides practice and practice informs study.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Simon E. » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:22 pm

Sometimes study happens in ways that do not involve books or flip charts.. :smile:
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by SteRo » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:07 pm

jhanapeacock wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:06 am
SteRo wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:55 am
nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:24 pm
... However I've been reading and practising in the Theravada tradition for the last few months ...

So what are your guys opinions? Is tathagatagarbha true? ...
My impression is that the concept of 'truth of doctrine' is very important in the Theravada tradition whereas in (at least some) Mahayana traditions the aspect of upāya overrides the truth vs non-truth dichotomy.

:namaste:
I don`t think the Thathagatagarbha doctrine is upaya. But everybody is free to think whatever they want.
The intention of my remark has been to highlight what appears to me to be a dominant attitude towards doctrine in the Thervada tradition because the OP has been practicing in that tradition and now asks about the truth of tathagatagarbha doctrine.
I think that when practicing in a tradition one's perception either already conforms with the tradition or it gets 'colored' accordingly.
However I do not negate that the same attitude towards doctrine can also be found in (some) Mahayana traditions.


I may be mistaken but I feel that your response might be caused by a misunderstandings: the misunderstanding that if I would have said that tathagatagarbha doctrine is upāya then this would necessarily imply the assertion that tathagatagarbha doctrine is not true.
Why would that be a misunderstanding? It would be a misunderstanding because I have said 'upāya overrides the truth vs non-truth dichotomy' and in that context equating upāya with non-truth does not apply.

:namaste:

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by smcj » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:09 pm

Every monastery has monks who know it all and practise little. Many have monks who are largely unlettered and radiate Bodhicitta.
Sad, but true.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)

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Re: is the tathagatagarbha true? Opinions?

Post by Queequeg » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:29 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:22 pm
Sometimes study happens in ways that do not involve books or flip charts.. :smile:
This is true. The point stands.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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