Children of the Buddha

Having been graced with a full understanding of the Noble Wisdom of self-realization, the perfected bodhisattvas (mature garbha, or bodhichild) enter into deep and unfathomable samadhis for the benefit of all sentient beings: “And they enter hundreds of thousands of samadhis, countless hundreds of thousands of samadhis. And as they do so, they travel to other buddhalands and venerate other buddhas and are reborn in celestial palaces, where they praise the three treasures and appear as buddhas themselves surrounded by assemblies of sharvakas and bodhisattvas, and where they liberate beings by explaining to them that what they perceive is nothing but their own mind and that external existence does not exist, thus enabling them to transcend such views as existence and nonexistence.” Perfected in this fashion, these noble champions of Unborn Light empower the blind to see with imageless eyes that all dualistic manifestations are nothing more than fata morganas on the plane of emptiness (sunyata); devoid of self-awakening and recollection of the true and Primordial Self-hood in the dharmatic womb of suchness—tathata—these unwholesome projections of the deluded mind can even lead to the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, the awful curses of believing that some-thing (apart from the Unborn Mind) can exist forever—while simultaneously a belief that this thing-ness is basically a form of nothingness. The Lanka teaches that it is always best to avoid all forms of discriminatory assertions and denials—and also to never cling to the “word-ness” of things since this can lead to extreme wordiness and thus utter dependence upon words (vs. what words are pointing to) in themselves.

Section XXVIII begins to discuss the nature of the tathata-garbha: Red Pine highlights this understanding as, “The Buddha explains how the tathagata-garbha is not the same as a self but rather an expedient means used to attract those who cling to a self by providing something less frightening than no self.” Florin Sutton, in his analysis of the Lanka, Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra, expounds upon it further: “For instance, we will find that quite often Tathagata-garbha is used with a sense resemblant to the Hindu Atman, that is, as an underlying ontological Reality, or essential nature behind phenomena.This can be said to attribute a passive, or static, quality to the garbha element in the compound. An opposite meaning is distinguishable when the Tathagata-garbha is said to evolve, or be set in motion, along with the personality aggregates (skandhas), elements (dhaatus), and bases (ayatanas). In such a case, the meaning of garbha is very appropriately rendered by the words “embryo”, “germ”, or “seed”, which suggest a dynamic, active sense. A third possible, intermediate, meaning – rendered by the words “womb”, “matrix”, or “receptacle” – as something potentially active but dormant (like a seed or an embryo) is conferred by Tathagata-garbha when explicitly equated with Alaya-vijnana, a situation uniquely evidenced in the Lankavatara-sutra.” (Sutton, p. 52) Sutton’s work wonderfully highlights that the nature of the Tathagata-garbha has a wide spectrum of scholarly interpretations—all culminating in the sense that it is used in a heavily didactic sense for expedient purposes. A note of caution: Red Pine translates the end of this section: “Therefore, Mahamati, in order to avoid the views of followers of other paths, you should rely on the selfless tathagata-garbha.” What he essentially means as “selfless” is the absence of the skandhas, as verse XXIX states, “A continuous person in the skandhas…projections of nothing but mind.” Suzuki translates the end of section XXVIII: “Therefore, Mahamati, in order to abandon the misconception cherished by the philosophers, you must strive after the teaching of egolessness and the Tathagata-garbha.” Suzuki has the better rendering since “egolessness AND the Tathagata-garbha” is preferable to “selfless tathagata-garbha”—which can be misconstrued as the womb of suchness somehow being aligned with and an affirmation of anātmanism.

For a full mystical slant on the nature of the tathataga-garbha and the growth of the developing bodhisattvic fetus, or bodhichild, the following video from part 3 of Tozen’s Dharmakaya Sutra offers a hearty dose of Bodhicitta–or the undivided bodhipower of the awakening mind:

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