Sameness With a Difference in the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtra

Alan Cole

in Text as Father

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780520242760
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931404 | DOI:
Sameness With a Difference in the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtra

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The issue of internal Buddha, that statuesque figure of perfect paternity which several Mahayana sutras posited as the only legitimate subject inside the body of each sentient being, is an attractive innovation in several spheres of early Mahayana writing. The Tathagatagarbha Sutra is dedicated to explaining the “visible” reality of the internal Buddha and the techniques for excavating it. This chapter accounts for the narrative techniques by which the text constructs this internal truth-father for the reader and then explores the means by which the text offers itself as the avenue for gaining access to this form of paternal perfection. The text's rhetoric promises to the reader that he or she can undergo something like a smelting process which will extract the internal Buddha from its polluting surroundings. The text takes itself as the singular mediating element that will resolve the reader's relationship to his primal identity—the internal Buddha—an identity which also turns out to be synonymous with the origins of the Buddhist tradition.

Keywords: Tathagatagarbha Sutra; internal Buddha; Mahayana writing; paternal perfection; smelting process

Chapter.  19770 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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