“Once again, Śāriputra, as I expounded earlier, within the realm of beings too there are three types of natures. All are true thusness, not distinct and not [mutually] separate. What are the three natures? 1. The nature that is the embryo of the tathāgatas which from the very beginning is in its intrinsic nature associated [with it] and is pure. 2. The nature that is the embryo of the tathāgatas which from the very beginning is in its intrinsic nature un-associated [with it] and, being covered with defilements, is unpurified. 3. The nature that is the embryo of the tathāgatas which is equal to the future limit (of saṁsāra), constant, and existing.
The Tathāgata makes it clear in no uncertain terms that there is not some form of parallel reality concerning the Real—as it being Pure and then somehow impure. It is intrinsically Pure in ITS Absolute Stature yet is oftentimes hidden through adventitious defilements. The Ratnagotravibhāga goes into great detail concerning those limitless sheaths of defilements and the AAN breaks it down here in concise fashion. As Tathāgatagarbha IT implants the efficacious Dharma-seed THAT is the kernel of potential salvific awakening even in the midst of the present and future limits of samsara.
“You should know, Śāriputra, that the nature of the embryo of the tathāgataswhich from the very beginning is in its intrinsic nature associated [with it] and has a pure nature is in accord with reality, is not illusory, is inseparable and indivisible from the dharma-realm of insight and pure thusness, and the quality of being inconceivable. From the beginningless beginning exists this reality which is both pure and associated [with it].
The Essential-nature of the Tathāgatagarbha is intrinsically Pure, yet is still in accord with defiled dharmata as a soteriological principle; as soteriological principle, IT is the dharmatā, or the inner-essence of things as they [truly] are. Hence, IT IS AS SUCH for ALL since the beginningless beginning.
“Regarding this dharma-realm of pure thusness, Śāriputra, I expound for[ordinary] beings the intrinsically pure mind, which is an inconceivable teaching.
Ordinary beings (prithagjana) cannot conceive nor perceive of the salvific and intrinsically pure nature of the Tathagatakaya; yet the Tathāgata still expounds its Dharmatic imperative as an inconceivable teaching, or to awaken those with little sand in their eyes.
“You should know, Śāriputra, that the embryo of the tathāgatas which from the very beginning is in its intrinsic nature unassociated [with it], is covered with defilements, and is an unpurified thing, is from the very beginning free and released, not associated [with it], covered by defilements and is impure. It can only be cut [free] by the Tathāgata’s Bodhi-wisdom.
Although free from skandhic associations, the Tathāgatagarbha is still covered with adventitious defilements. When in obstructed mode, it is the alayavijnana, or its defiled twin. The shared umbilical cord can only be severed through the Tathāgata’s Bodhi-wisdom, essentially through sambodhi—or the power of ITs awakened consciousness.
“Regarding this non-associated and inconceivable dharma-realm, covered with defilements, Śāriputra, I expound for [ordinary] beings the intrinsically pure mind stained by adventitious defilements, which is an inconceivable teaching.
Silk: In the Tathāgatagarbha-sūtra we read in the simile of the kernels enclosed in husks that “tathāgatahood, buddhahood, svayaṁbhūtva—wrapped in the skin of the sheaths of defilements—is always present in every sentient being,” sems can thams cad la de bzhin gshes pa nyid | sangs rgyas nyid rang byung nyid | nyon mongs pa’I sbubs kyi shun pas dkris shing gnas par…(Zimmermann 2002: §3B, trans. Zimmermann). In a similar fashion, the mention here of the dharmadhātu as covered by defilements is worthy of note.
adventitious defilements: *āgantukakleśa.
The entire expression may be compared with the following from the *Śāriputrābhidharma, a Dharmaguptaka text: 心性清淨, 爲客塵染。凡夫未聞故, 不能如實知見, 亦無修心。聖人聞故, 如實知見, 亦有修心, “The nature of the mind is intrisically pure, stained by adventitious defilements.
Because common people have not yet learned this, they are not able to know or see it in accord with reality, and they no not cultivate the mind. Because Nobles have learned it, they are able to know and see it in accord with reality, and cultivate their minds.” (T. 1548 [XXVIII] 697b18–20) [Silk, pg. 121)
“You should know, Śāriputra, that the nature of the embryo of the tathāgatas which is equal to the future limit, constant, and existing is precisely the basis of all qualities [definitive of a buddha]. It is furnished with all [such] qualities, joined with all [such] qualities, and while engaged in worldly affairs it is inseparable and indivisible from the truth and from all [such] qualities, it maintains all qualities, it embraces all qualities.
While directly engaged within the samsaric-environment, Its Buddha-nature is undeterred, as the innumerable qualities of the tathāgatas still shines through the amnesic-haze of worldly affairs.
“Regarding this unborn, unperishing, eternal, tranquil, unchanging refuge, Śāriputra, the inconceivable, pure dharma-realm, I term it ‘beings.’ Why? To say ‘beings’ is (only) a synonym for precisely this unborn, unperishing, eternal, tranquil, unchanging refuge, (this) inconceivable, pure dharma-realm, and so on. With this intention, regarding those qualities, I term it ‘beings.’
Another, reinforced, passage that equates the sattvadhātu as a nexus-point of Beingness with the Unborn Dharmakaya.
“These three types of natures, Śāriputra, are all true thusness, not distinct and not [mutually] separate. With respect to these truly thus, not distinct and not [mutually] separate natures, one absolutely does not entertain the two types of extremely evil and bad views [that there is an increase or decrease in any of the three categories]. Why? Because this is a view in accord with reality. As for the views that there is increase or decrease, Śāriputra, the buddhas and tathāgatas absolutely distance themselves from these two mistaken views. They are criticized by the buddhas and tathāgatas.
The three natures (of the embryo of the tathāgatas) as just articulated in these passages do not contradict each other and are in full accord with Dharmātic Reality. If viewed otherwise, then one is in danger of falling into the fallacies of the aforementioned two mistaken views, something that the great hosts of Buddhas and Tathāgatas greatly condemn.