Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(Skt.). The ‘embryonic Buddha’. A Mahāyāna concept which holds that all beings inherently possess the potential to become a Buddha. According to this view, the negative elements that bind an individual to saṃsāra are adventitious (āgantuka-kleśa) and merely conceal or veil the underlying pure Buddha-nature. The Tathāgata-garbha doctrine is based on a set of ten sūtras that teach this concept, such as the Tathāgata-garbha Sūtra, the Śrīmālā-devi-siṃhanāda, and the Nirvāṇa Sūtra, as well as the treatise attributed to Sthiramati or Maitreyanātha, the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga, though it has a historical antecedent in the early Buddhist concept of the intrinsically luminous mind. According to the position adopted by these sūtras, the Tathāgata-garbha is a real and eternally existing essence that is primordially replete with all the qualities of a Buddha. The concept was understood slightly differently in the Tibetan and the Chinese traditions where the term is translated as ‘Tathāgata embryo’ and ‘Tathāgata womb’ respectively. The term is also used synonymously with ātman andgotra in a number of these texts and was additionally influential in the formation of the Tibetan zhen-tong concept (extrinsic emptiness) linked with the Jonangpas.

Subjects: Buddhism.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.