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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 17 - Unchecked

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

... I think one must remember that I gave that particular Thecture to a non-Buddhist audience and
therefore I was concerned to avoid technical Buddhist terms as much as possible. In any case it also
has to be said that within the Buddhist tradition itself the theory, to use that term, of Tathagata-garbha,
at lest, and the term garbha is used more than the term dhatu, has been a subject of considerable
controversy. The expression, Tathagata-garbha appears comparatively late, it appears in a particular
group of sutras, it appears especially in the Mahaparanirvana sutra, in Sanskrit that is, in the
Sandhinirmocana sutra and in one or two other sutras. And there was a school of Tibetan Buddhism
which was especially based on these particular texts, these particular sutras, the (Joronang ?) school, I
think it was called.
But a lot of Buddhists, even in ancient times, regarded the whole Tathagata-
garbha theory or idea with grave suspicion. Mainly because it seemed that there was a danger of the
Tathagata-garbha idea or theory or doctrine, being regarded as a sort of Atman theory or doctrine.
Some of the sutras themselves in which the term occurse, in which the teaching occurs, do take note of
this fact and they are often very concerned to deny that there is any resemblance between the
Tathagata-garbha and the Atman of the Vedic schools. But none-the-less, sometimes the distinction is
by no means clear, and I believe in one place, at least, the Buddha is represented as declaring that the
distinction is so subtle that only the Enlightened can understand it. So therefore that would even
suggest that the idea of Tathagata-garbha is not very helpful to the unenlightened because the
unenlightened might mistake the garbha for the Atman.
I personally take it that the garbha is not
the Atman but I must also admit that the subtle distinction is not very easy to explain. In fact it has
probably been approached in the wrong sort of way. I did go into all this in very general terms on
more than one occasion, especially I think in the course of the Hui Neng seminar. What I said, more or
less, on that occasion and on other occasions was this; that it is possible, according to all schools of
Buddhism, for man to gain Enlightenment. That is to say man is potentially Enlightened, man
therefore contains the potentiality for Enlightenment so you can than reify that concept of potentiality
of Enlightenment and think of it as something that is actually there. A sort of entity, or if you like
poetically a seed, and garbha literally translates as womb, or matrix but it really means something more
like seed.
BIQ/A Tusc 84 20 - 2325 So if you reify that concept in that sort of way you do land yourself into all sorts of metaphysical
difficulties. And therefore I have on occasions said that even though one may use this sort of language
in a poetic sort of fashion, when one is speaking more metaphysically, more philosophically it is better
to stick to the formulations of early Buddhism, to what as far as we can see were the Buddhas own
formulations as being simply in terms of 'the attainment of Enlightenment'. Speak simply in terms of
'in dependence upon A, B arises, in depedence upon B, C arises', and so on. But not speak in terms of
a potentiality for Enlightenment, a sort of 'Buddha nature', actually existing within an individual as a
sort of metaphysical or quasi-metaphysical, even pseudo-metaphysical entity. This whole subject of
the Tathagata-garbha doctrine has been gone into in a book which is highly commended by scholars,
but I must confess I have not read it, it, S in French not in English. I forget the exact title but it is by
D.S. Ruegg, that's a Swiss-American scholar. I think it is simply called something something about the
Tathagata- garbha doctrine, the doctrine of the Tathagata-garbha or something like that. It is listed in
many bibliographies.
Padmavajra:
So in the Survey, when you talk about faith, you talk about one's feelings, ( I don't
think you use the Tathagata-garbha there, sort of responding like a musical instrument responding to
the Buddha, you should take that only in a poetic sense, not in any kind of metaphysical sense?
S: Well when one speaks of heart responding like a musical Thstrument, well clearly that is a figure
of speech. One is speaking poetically, but I wouldn't like to say that one was speaking only poetically
as though that was some inferior way of (
?), if you see what I mean. But yes, one is using
poetic rather than scientific language.
Vessantara:
Could you say that the concept of Tathagata- garbha is a pseudo-solution to the
pseudo-problem of the discontinuity between Samsara and Nirvana?
S:
I don't really see how it is even a pseudo-solution, actually.
Vessantara:
Well if Enlightenment is there reified as a potential, then as it grows it grows
naturally into Enlightenment, so in that sense. ...
S:
But then there would still be a discontinuity between That seed of Enlightenment and the 'soil', so
to speak, in the form of the rest of the unenlightened personality within which it was imbedded. You
would have the discrepency not between the conditioned and the unconditioned, but within the
individual himself. He would then have a sort of conditioned half and an unconditioncd half, and how
could these possibly add up to a single individual or a single personality. So there wouldn't really be
any solution, you only would have transferred the solution.
I think this is, in some ways, the basic
metaphysical
BIQ/A Tusc 84 20 - 3 326problem, from a spiritual point of view. The relationship between the, dare I say the unconditioned in
the individual and the conditioned rest of him. But we won't go into that now.
I personally
prefer to steer rather clear of the Tathagata-garbha doctrine. To regard it from a respectful distance. I
don't say anything against it, it is afterall contained in Mahayana sutras but I think it isn't very useful to
us at present. It can so easily be misunderstood. Again as I have explained at considerable length in
that Hui Neng seminar and else where.
Are people familiar with that seminar, has anyone listened
to it?
Vessantara:
I've read it.
S:
It is transcribed. Do you remember those points?
Vessantara:
I didn't remember all of them
?)
I remember the strictures about ( ?)
S:
I am not sure that I even used the term Tathagata- garbha, but I spoke of the reified Buddha-
nature concept.
Vessantara:
(
?)
S:
That's right, yes.
Alright, let's go on then.
Kuladitya: This is a question which has been brought up before. I wondered if you would go into the
difference between the Dharmakaya and the Dharmadhatu, and explain the difference between the two
terms.
S: Yes. This does come into that diagram, doesn't it. That diagram of the Higher Evolution.
Dharmakaya is part of the Trikaya doctrine. The Dharmakaya represents~that level, so to speak, of the
Buddha's personality where he is at one with ultimate reality. If you take, say, the term Dharma as
representing ultimate reality, the Buddha has realised that Dharma, that ultimate reality, it has in a
manner of speaking become part of his personality. Or one might say that the Buddha, by virtue of his
attainment of the Dharma has become the embodiment of the Dharmakaya. So the term Dharmakaya
refers to the Buddha in as much as he is, or to the sense in which he is the embodiment of that Dharma.
In other words one might say that the term Dharmakaya is, in a sense, a psychological term.
When I say psychological I am not using the word quite in the modern sense, I am using it to pertain to
the experience of the individual. Dharmadhatu is not so much psychological as cosmological.
Dharmadhatu is rather ultimate reality considered not as realised by the individual, that's the
Dharmakaya, but as underlying the whole of conditioned existence. That is the Dharmadhatu. That is
probably the simplist and easiest way of putting it.
BIQ/A Tusc 84 20 - 4327So that in that triangle, you may remember, the Dharmakaya comes right at the end of the
hypotenuese, doesn't it.
But the Dharmadhatu coincides with the point that I have marked in with the
sign of, was it an X?
Vessantara:
It was the point of the right angle.
S: That's it, the point of the right angle. Because That is where, as it were, subject and object
coincide. It is where the psychological subject coincides with the cosmological object. So in that sense
the Dharmadhatu is the ultimate reality that underlies everything, whereas the Dharmakaya is that
ultimate reality as realised by the individual.
This is really the basic difference.
Vessantara:
You mentioned in one of the earlier question and answers that the Sambhogakaya has
an association with the dream state. Is the Dharmakaya not sometimes associated with the state of
deep sleep?
S:
Yes, in the sense that in a state of deep sleep there is no experience of the subject/object
distinction. That is in abeyance. And similarly in the Dharmakaya state there is no experience of that
same distinction, but obviously there is a difference. It's as though in deep sleep you have sunk below
that subject/object distinction whereas in the case of the realisation of the Dharmakaya you have risen
above it. But there is that correspondence or analogy between the two, or sorry, in the ( ?)
Vessantara:
T,,ThO ...

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