Cultivating inner enlightenment potential through the Tathāgatagarbha
Within the realm of Buddhist philosophy, the teachings of the Buddha are not confined to esoteric doctrines and spiritual ideals but are, in fact, deeply rooted in profound insights into the nature of existence and the human condition.
One such exploration is found in the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras and the teachings from the book “Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature” derived from it. This book stands as the third volume in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series, co-authored by the Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron.
It challenges the notion of inherent evil in individuals and invites us to explore the potential for transformation and enlightenment within each living being.
Table of Contents
Three Reasons for the Buddha Essence
These reasons emphasize the potential for transformation and enlightenment within every being.
Pervasiveness of Buddha’s Bodies
The first aspect of the Tathāgatagarbha is its nature of the dharmakaya of self-arisen pristine wisdom, pervaded by the awakening activities of the dharmakaya.
This means that the wisdom and transformative power of the Buddha’s mind are inherent in all beings.
The Buddha’s bodies are all-encompassing, allowing sentient beings to engage with the awakening activities of the Buddhas.
There are typically three main bodies, known as Trikaya:
- Nirmanakaya the physical body of a Buddha, the form in which a Buddha appears in the world to teach and guide sentient beings.
- Sambhogakaya the body of bliss, representing the qualities of a Buddha’s enlightened mind. It is the form in which Buddhas appear in more subtle, heavenly realms, and it is not directly visible to ordinary beings.
- Dharmakaya the ultimate, formless body, representing the absolute, transcendent aspect of Buddhahood. It is the essence of enlightenment itself, beyond all conceptualization.
These various bodies of the Buddha are inclusive, which means they encompass everything.
In other words, the Buddha’s various forms can engage with all beings, offering teachings, guidance, and enlightenment to anyone who seeks it.
Reflecting upon this, one can contemplate situations in the world where subtle manifestations of a Buddha’s influence may have taken place, even if such occurrences went unnoticed at the time.
When considering how a Buddha’s awakening activities interact with and influence sentient beings, one can observe the profound impact they have on the lives of those they touch.
Non-Differentiation of Minds
Both the minds of Buddhas and sentient beings share the quality of emptiness, devoid of inherent existence.
This suggests that the core nature of all beings is fundamentally pure, and there is no inherent evil within anyone.
Much like how a clear sky can emerge after a passing storm, recognizing the emptiness shared by both Buddhas and sentient beings reveals the fundamental purity of the mind.
It is akin to understanding that beneath the temporary clouds of delusion and negative emotions, our minds possess an inherent clarity, dispelling the notion of inherent evil.
Transforming Buddha Nature
The third aspect is the nature of the Buddha lineage or disposition, culminating as the three bodies of a Buddha.
Sentient beings possess a transforming Buddha nature that can develop into the three Buddha bodies.
This highlights the potential for individuals to grow and attain the qualities of a Buddha.
Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, we can see that our transforming Buddha disposition implies that even small efforts toward virtuous qualities and overcoming nonvirtuous ones can lead us on the path to Buddhahood.
Integration into everyday life
Think about how a small cause can lead to a significant result, both in the world around you and in your own life.
Provide examples from your own experiences, such as choices you have made or natural phenomena.
Apply this idea to your own mind and your ability to develop virtuous qualities and overcome nonvirtuous ones.
Recognize that, due to your own transforming Buddha disposition, you have the capacity to attain Buddhahood.
Let this awareness fuel your motivation and inspiration for your spiritual practice.