Buddha Nature

Buddha Hand holding Flower

Above and beyond the mind, above and beyond the “soul” or any type of inner individuality that we can conceive of, is our essential nature which is the essential nature of ALL.

It is “THAT” which we truly and really are.

Universal and infinite in nature, it is the One Eternal Element which – being omnipresent, unconditioned, undifferentiated, and thus unmanifested – underlies absolutely everything in the manifested universe, as the pure and subjective substratum of all objective existence.

Everything manifested and conditioned – in other words, everything in the phenomenal universe – is in itself “empty and selfless” as Buddha so frequently taught. None of it has any real Self. It only has an undeniably impermanent and illusory “self.”

But there is a True Self (or Atman, which is the Sanskrit word meaning “Self”) which is above and beyond all of this.

In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Lord Buddha states, “The Atman is the Tathagatagarbha. All beings possess a Buddha Nature: this is what the Atman is. This Atman, from the start, is always covered by innumerable passions (klesha): this is why beings are unable to see it.”

The same revered Buddhist scripture speaks of “that one principle of life which exists independently of all external phenomena.”

The Sanskrit word “Tathagatagarbha” means:

* Buddha Nature
* Buddha Principle
* Buddha Element
* The Buddha Within

A scripture from the Jonangpa school of Tibetan Buddhism talks of it in these terms:

* The Buddha Self
* The Beginingless Self
* The Solid Self
* The Diamond Self

It should be reiterated that this Self is the Universal Self of all and not any type of individual self or the personal property of separate individuals.

The true nature of all is ONENESS and this is what we are talking about here. This is the Buddha Nature.

This term should not be misunderstood as meaning that the Lord Gautama Buddha himself is the true Self of all…this is not what it means.

What it does mean, however, is that the same universal Principle or Element of Enlightenment and Perfection which Gautama Buddha embodied and manifested while on earth is the true Self and the real ultimate nature of all beings, although the vast majority have no idea about it.

This Element – the one and only Element – is spoken of at length in a profound Buddhist scripture said to date from the 5th century A.D. called the Uttara Tantra or Ratnagotravibhaga. In Tibetan Buddhism, this text is considered to have been dictated to Aryasangha by the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

In the year 2000 it was published in English by Snow Lion Publications under the title of Buddha Nature: The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary.

In this scripture, Buddha Nature is defined as being “the Element of Primordial Wisdom,” or Adi-Buddhi in Sanskrit. It is also spoken of in various different ways under a variety of different terms, including:

* Suchness (Dharmata)
* Thatness (Tathata – “the ultimate inexpressible nature of all things”)
* Dharmakaya
* Dharmadhatu (The realm of Truth, the Noumenon)
* Buddhakaya
* Buddha-dhatu
* The undefiled Expanse
* The uncreated Expanse
* The unpolluted Expanse
* The absolute Expanse
* “Reality as it is”
* The indestructible state
* True Self
* The Noble Truth
* The Absolute Nirvana
* The Supreme Undefiled Element
* The final Truth

It is said to be “all pervading” and “ever unchanging” and “Since the nature is unchanging, full of virtue, and utterly pure, Suchness is said to correspond to the shape and colour of gold.”

In general, the Mahayana Buddhism of Tibet states that there is no absolute substratum and that the ultimate reality is emptiness, which is even empty of emptiness itself (!). This is the Prasanga-Madhyamika viewpoint which H.P. Blavatsky viewed and described as being extremely rationalistic, “anti-esoteric” and simply wrong. The Uttara Tantra provides a challenge to this traditional viewpoint by stating that the ultimate reality – the One Element – is empty of everything separate, finite, conditioned, and impure but “it is not empty” in and as Itself. It does not have the nature and quality of emptiness.

To use a phrase from HPB’s The Voice of The Silence, it is “the fullness of the seeming void.”

The Uttara Tantra says that this Dharmakaya is immutable (“it is immutability itself”) and changeless (“it is unchangingness itself”). It goes on to state that “It is always free from duality, since it is foreign to all ideation”… “absence of thought is its nature.”

This teaching of an ultimate non-dual REALITY which is the essential nature and true universal Self of all things is therefore not too different at all from the Atman = Brahman doctrine of the Hindu Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

But “the perfect buddha nature within beings [is] obscured by the shroud of desire, hatred, and the other mental poisons.”

The perfect buddhakaya is all-embracing,
suchness cannot be differentiated,
and all beings have the disposition.
Thus they always have buddha nature.

The Buddha has said that all beings have buddha nature
“since buddha wisdom is always present within the assembly of beings.
since this undefiled nature is free from duality,
and since the disposition to buddhahood has been named after
its fruit.”

Essence, cause, fruit, function, endowment, manifestation,
phases, all-pervasiveness of suchness, unchangingness,
and inseparability of the qualities should be understood
as intended to describe the meaning of the absolute expanse.

Just as a jewel, the sky, and water are pure
it is by nature always free from the poisons.
From devotion to the Dharma, from highest wisdom,
and from samadhi and compassion its realization arises.

The Uttara Tantra also explains that those who have realized the “changeless state” of Thatness are thus freed from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Having perceived the true nature of Nirvana, they are liberated from Samsara.

Its realization or actualisation is the result of “devotion to the Dharma [i.e. the living Doctrine of the Buddha]…highest wisdom…samadhi [i.e. perfect inner contemplation and highest meditation] and compassion,” since “understanding and compassionate love [are] the means to enlightenment.”

Enlightenment is vast, without middle or end, and thus all-pervasive like space.
Fully seeing that buddhahood, the treasure of the unpolluted
qualities, is present within all sentient beings without the
slightest distinction,
The wind of the Buddhas’ sublime compassion totally dispels the
clouds of afflictions and hindrances to knowledge, which have
spun their net about it.

Maitreya states in this text that even the animals possess Buddha Nature, which is surely yet another good reason – as if any were needed – for being vegetarian.

Of interest to Theosophists is the fact that this Uttara Tantra or Ratnagotravibhaga scripture is held in particularly high regard by the Masters of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood who were behind H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement. We have mentioned about it in the article titled The Secret Book of Dzyan.

It is also intriguing to note that in the autumn of 1997 a small fragment of paper containing Tibetan writing was translated, which had been found inside the envelope of one of the “Mahatma Letters” sent by the Master K.H. to an English Theosophist in 1882. This Tibetan writing – whether written by the Master K.H. himself or one of his chelas, Djwhal Khul perhaps – was verse 21 from the first chapter of the Uttara Tantra. Translated into English, it reads as follows:

“The only refuge for him who aspires to true perfection is Buddha alone.”

Those who truly and fully perceive and realise the Buddha Nature, the Buddha Principle, the Buddha Element, as their own true Self and the true Self of ALL, become Buddhas in this world and labour tirelessly and without ceasing for the liberation of all living beings from suffering.

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

You may also like to read the related article

SELF AND NON-SELF
IN BUDDHISM AND THEOSOPHY

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