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(2010-01-15 16:05:22)


Although the term, Tathagata-garbha, does include the connotation of "embryo", the Tathagata-garbha should not be viewed as something which is itself growing, developing or maturing into perfection. It is already perfect, pure and replete with all virtuous, inconceivable Buddha-qualities.  One needs to think of the Tathagata-garbha in this connection in association with how the Buddha was in the womb of his own mother, Queen Maya: he entered into her womb radiant, complete, perfect, totally aware, and dwelt there full of light, in the lotus posture dispensing teachings to those who could see him. In that great Lalita Vistara Sutra we read of how the "embryonic" Buddha in his mother's womb was: "luminous, glorious, gracious, beautiful to see, seated with his legs crossed, shone like pure gold. In analogous fashion, the Tathagata-garbha (the immanent Buddha-Self) is perfect, of gold-like radiance and value, and complete within every being -  but is hidden deep inside, removed from worldly sight. What is necessary is simply that the worldly being should inwardly advance ever closer to realisation -  that is, perception - of the inner Tathagata-garbha, by clearing away all the defilements (kleshas), (negative mental states and tendencies, such as greed, anger, ignorance, pride, and jealousy), which conceal it from view. The eradication of such moral and emotional afflictions allows the Buddha-dhatu or Tathagata-garbha to stand revealed in all its shining splendour; but the Tathagata-garbha itself remains forever unchangeable, firm and immovable as the quintessence and cause of Buddhahood.



      Because of the presence of the sacred Buddha-dhatu within the depths of each being's mind, all beings should be treated with kindness, compassion and an attitude of equality: one should not kill any living person or creature, and one should desist from eating meat, as flesh consumption "destroys great loving-kindness" and causes fear to arise in numerous animals, great and small. The Bodhisattva (trainee Buddha) should never inflict harm on any being and should instead be intent on bestowing "eternal life" upon each person and creature, by leading that being -  through the use of skilful means (kausalya-upaya) - into the sanctuary of Nirvana: highest, everlasting peace and happiness.


      Should one renounce Nirvana oneself, in order to help others towards it first? According to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the answer is "no": one should first attain Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana for oneself, and then one will best be placed to lead others to it too. Yet while one is seeking Awakening for oneself, one should act for the benefit of others also. The motivation for reaching Awakening should be the dual one of finding enduring happiness for oneself and of pointing the way to such happiness for others as well.


      What constitutes the Path to Awakening and Nirvana? The chief route advocated by this sutra is the extirpation of the negative mental states and immoral modes of behavior (including selfish desire, hatred, ignorance, avarice, and wrong livelihood -  such as being a soldier or killer of animals), the cultivation of the paramitas (moral perfections, such as generosity, and meditation), the leading of a pure and harmless life, faithful study, practice and veneration of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, and the constant meditative cultivation of the idea of the Buddha's eternity, unchangeability and indestructibility. The Buddha states: "The Tathagata  will reside in the homes of those who constantly think that the Tathagata is eternal (nitya), unshakeable (dhruva) and everlasting (sasvata)." Worship of, and the making of offerings to, the Nirvana Sutra, are also positive acts which generate wholesome karma and bring one closer to Nirvana.



      The Buddha-dhatu is truly present within the body-and-mind complex, the being (the kaya), of each individual -  regardless of whether that person be a god, human, animal, ghost, demon, or occupant of Hell. Nevertheless, it is covered over by masses of negative character traits such as those listed above. The Buddha-dhatu is like a cache of hidden gold buried beneath the house of a poverty-stricken person - awaiting discovery. The Buddha is the guide who points out where that treasure-trove is, and how we can reach it. 

       佛性确实表现为身体和精神的情结,这个生命(the kaya),每一个人无论该人是神,人,动物,鬼,或地狱之人。无论如何,它是被大量的负面的性格特征如前述所列那样。佛性就一个隐藏在一个穷人家的黄金-等待着发现。佛陀是一个指出那里有宝藏的人,以及我们怎样找到它。

      In a parable rich in symbolic suggestiveness, the Buddha also speaks of the Tathagatagarbha as being like a distinctive nectar or fragrance emanating from a special tree in the Himalayas. This is what he says: There is an elixir-producing (rasa-dhatu tree in the Himalayas called 'bees' nectar'. Even though it stands entangled with the dense thickets of the forest, it is apparent by its fragrance. Once, a chakravartin (supreme, righteous emperor of the world) inserted pipes from each side to get it, and then sour juice flowed out of the mouths of some of those pipes from that elixir tree; from some there flowed salty juice; from some there flowed sweet juice; from some there flowed pungent juice; from some there flowed bitter juice; and from some there flowed astringent juice. That elixir wafted to the sky in the forest. From the single taste of that elixir, many different tastes emerged, and each one of those tastes did not become mixed together. Moreover, like the disc of the moon, that elixir was ubiquitous. Even though it was present thus, other people went into that forest of dense thickets, but, though they dug with hoes, people with few blessings were unable to get any of it, while, by virtue of his merit, the chakravartin was able to do so. 

     在一个富有象征性的寓言故事之中暗示,佛陀也谈到了如来就如有特殊香味的花蜜或从在喜玛拉雅山上的一颗独特的树散发的香气。这就是他说的:在喜玛拉雅山有一颗能产生长生不老妙药 (rasa-dhatu的树叫做蜜蜂花蜜。尽管它在森林之中树上缠绕着浓密的灌木。它很明显有它的香味。一次,一个转轮圣王(最高的,世界上的正义之王)从每一边插入管子以得到它,接着从那些链接长生不老树的管子里流出了盐水,从那里流出了一些甜水;从那里流出了酸水;从那里流出了苦水,从那里流出了辣水。那个妙香飘浮在森林的空中。从那个妙药的独特的味道,许多不同的味道出现了,每一个这些味道都不会混合。更多一点,就像月亮的圆盘,那个妙药是无处不存在的。尽管它现在是这样,其它的人到森林的浓密的灌木丛,但是,尽管他们挖出洞,没有受到祝福的人是不能从中得到什么,当然,由于他的悲心道德,转轮圣王能够这样做。


      In the same way ... the Tathagatagarbha is like the elixir: it remains concealed by the various defilements (kleshas). Even though it has just a single taste - as the cause of becoming a Buddha - it is transformed into many different tastes by the maturation of the karmic actions of people, who then arise as men, women, or hermaphrodites. The Tathagata-dhatu is the intrinsic nature of beings. Therefore, it cannot be killed by having its life severed. If it could be killed, then the life-force (jivaka) could be annihilated; but it is not possible for the life-force to be annihilated. In this instance, the life-force refers to the Tathagatagarbha. That Dhatu (Element, Principle) cannot be destroyed, killed or annihilated; but also it cannot be seen very clearly as long as Buddhahood has not been attained." (Tibetan version). 

       同样。。。。如来藏就象这妙药:它仍然被各种染污覆盖(烦恼kleshas)。尽管如此它有一个独特的味道-成佛的原因-它转变成许多不同的滋味由于人们业力行为的成熟,接着这里产生了男人,女人,或两性人。如来藏是生命内在的本性。因此,它不能被由于生命的离开而杀死。如果它可以被杀死,接着生命力(jivaka) 可以被消灭;在这种情况下,生命力是指如来藏。那个Dhatu(元素,原则)是不能被破坏,杀死或消灭的;但是它不能被很清楚的看见只要没有达到成佛的状态。(藏文版本)


      The advanced Bodhisattva, Kasyapa, comments to the Buddha that the Buddha himself possesses the Self or Soul [atman], but asks whether the 25 levels of samsaric existence (this includes the incarnational forms of humans, animal, ghosts, the various types of god …) also have the Self. The Buddha replies: The True Self is the Tathagata-dhatu (emphasis added). You should know that all beings do have it, but it is not apparent, since those beings are enveloped by immeasurable kleshas (mental afflictions). It is, for example, like a cache of precious treasure that exists within an impoverished dwelling, though unknown. Then, somebody who is skilled in the characteristics of treasure said to the poor man, “Do some work for me, and I’ll give you wealth and treasure.” The poor man replied, “I can’t come. Why not? Because there is a cache of treasure within my old home, and I can’t abandon it.” The man said, “You are foolish, for you do not know the location of the treasure. Work for me and I’ll give you the precious treasure, which you will be able to use without its ever becoming exhausted.” After he had said this, that person then removed the precious treasure from that house and  gave it to him. The poor man was delighted and amazed, knowing that that person was truly reliable. All beings are also like that, for each one of them has the Tathagata-dhatu, but they are unaware of that because it is enveloped and submerged beneath immeasurable kleshas. The Tathagata skilfully encourages them and reveals it, causing them to know that the Tathagata-dhatu exists within their bodies and accept this with confidence."


    All beings are also like this. Each one of them has the Tathagata-dhatu, but, through having recourse to evil acquaintances, they give rise to attachment, hatred and delusion and fall into the three miserable states and so forth, adopting various kinds of bodies throughout the 25 modes of existence. The precious jewel that is the Tathagata-dhatu is buried within the wound of the kleshas of attachment, hatred and delusion, so that they are unaware of its presence there. Engaging in the notion that there is no Self as regards the mundane/ conventional self, they do not understand the skilful words of implicit intent of the Tathagata, who is like the good doctor. They have the notion that there is no Self and are unable to know the True Self. Regarding this, the Tathagata again utilises skilful means: he causes them to extinguish the raging fires of the countless kleshas, revealing and elucidating the Tathagata-dhatu to them. 



      Moreover, noble son, it is, for example, like this: there is a very sweet medicinal herb in the Himalayas called ‘superior taste’, which remains hidden and invisible as long as there is no chakravartin [supreme and righteous emperor] in the world. Sick people went to the location of the medicine and, digging into the ground, they buried pipes to draw off the medicinal sap. They obtained sap with a sweet taste, a bitter taste, a pungent taste, a sour taste, a salty taste, or an astringent taste. Though the sick people got these various tastes, they were unable to get the medicine with the true superior taste, because they did not dig the ground deeply enough and because their merits were slight. Because of the power of a chakravartin’s merit, he is able to obtain the medicine with the true superior taste when he appears in the world. Similarly, noble son, the Tathagata-dhatu is hidden by a multitude of different tastes, the countless kleshas (arising from) delusion. Hence, beings are unable to obtain the superior taste of the Tathagata-dhatu, and, engaging in various kinds of actions, they come to be born in different places. 


      The Tathagata-dhatu cannot be killed. Those who die are said to be short-lived, while the Tathagata-dhatu is said to be true life. It cannot be cut off or destroyed, right up to the attainment of Buddhahood. The Tathagata-dhatu can neither be harmed nor killed, but only nurtures/ sustains the person, while those who can be harmed or killed, like those sick people, engage in a mass of perverse actions and encounter various kinds of fruitional recompense as ksatriyas, Brahmins and so forth, being born and dying in the 25 modes of existence, because they cannot obtain the true Tathagata-dhatu. 



      Furthermore, noble son, it is like a person who digs the earth searching for diamonds. Holding a sharp pickaxe in his hands, he digs into the ground and rocks, able to pulversie them all. Diamonds alone he cannot shatter. The Tathagata-garbha is like this, for it cannot be harmed by the sharp weapons of the gods and demons. It only nurtures/ sustains the person, and anything that can be harmed or damaged is not the Tathagata-dhatu. Hence, you should know that the Tathagata-dhatu cannot be harmed or killed. This means that the vaipulya (extensive) sutras, the Tathagata’s definitive teachings, are both elixir and poison.”



      Firstly, we need to understand what is meant by the Buddha's saying that his long, profound sutras (the vaipulya sutras) are both an elixir and a poison: such sutras as the "prajnaparamita" sutras, which emphasize Emptiness (shunyata -or open paciousness) and the lack of a particularised inherent nature in every phenomenon, can easily be misunderstood as proclaiming a form of nihilism and thus can have a depressing, poisonous effect upon the listener, if the true meaning (that of limitless freedom and innermost stillness and tranquility within each phenomenon) is not grasped. Equally, if sutras such as the Mahaparinirvana Sutra are taken as preaching the existence of a giant, worldly form of Ego, then that too is a poison to one's spirit, leading one to become even more attached to one's personal "self", with all its limitations, sufferings and selfishness: the correct understanding, in contrast, is that the Buddha-dhatu or Tathagata-garbha is the immortal essence of the ego-free Buddha within each being -  there is no craving, grasping or clinging with this Buddha-dhatu. There is only utmost purity, eternity and happiness. That ever-enduring, ego-less, omniscient Awareness or Knowingness is the True Self. 




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