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(Skt.). Intrinsic nature, self-being or own-being; a technical term found in early sources but used mainly in later Buddhism to denote the concept of an ātman or a permanent and unchanging identity or substratum. In contrast to some pre-Mahāyāna schools such as the Sarvāstivāda.all Mahāyāna schools reject the existence of any such intrinsic nature and maintain that all phenomena are devoid or empty (see śūnyatā) of any kind of svabhāva. According to the Abhidharma.the svabhāva was the unique and inalienable ‘mark’ or characteristic (lakṣaṇa or sva-lakṣana) by means of which entities could be differentiated and classified. By identifying the svabhāva of an entity a taxonomy of real existents could be produced. For example, the svabhāva of fire was identified as heat, and the svabhāva of water was defined as fluidity. Thus the schools of the Hīnayāna.while denying a self of persons (pudgala-nairātmya) nevertheless accepted the substantial reality of those elements (dharmas) which composed the world at large, including five skandhas of the individual subject. Beginning with Nāgārjuna, the Mādhyamaka undercut this teaching by denying the substantial reality not just of the self (ātman) but of all phenomena, a view known as dharma-nairātmya. All entities were therefore seen as alike in lacking a discrete mode of being or self-essence (svabhāva), and in sharing instead the common attribute or ‘mark’ of emptiness (śūnyatā).

Subjects: Buddhism.

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