Having Faith in the Tathāgata-garbha

Within this series we have encountered the seven Vajra-points that essentially constitutes the main leitmotiv of the Ratnagotravibhāgaśāstra, which is the core make-up and teachings of the Tathāgata-garbha:

Takasaki:

§ 1. The Superiority of Faith over Other Virtues in Regard to Their Merits.

The Essence of Buddhahood, the Enlightenment of the Buddha,
The Buddha’s Properties, and the Buddha’s Acts,
They are inconceivable even to those of the pure mind*,
Being the exclusive sphere of the Leaders.
But the wise one**, whose intellect accepts the faith
In this exclusive sphere of the Buddha,
Becomes a receptacle of the whole collection of properties,
And, being possessed of the desire [to obtain]
The inconceivable properties [of the Buddha],
He surpasses the abundance of merits of all living beings.

*Śuddhasattva: in this context literally meaning ‘the pure sattva’, or the Bodhi-Being of perfect-mindfulness.

**The Wise-Ones: meaning the children of Bodhi, the Noble-Shining Ones who embody perfect Prajñā. Thus they become perfected-receptacles bearing the salvific news of the Tathāgata-garbha.

The text emphasizes that studying and absorbing the teaching of the Ratnagotra one will procure a proper [faith] in them, a faith that surpasses even the benefits of prominent factors of the six-paramitas:

Explanation in comparison with generosity:

Rosemarie Fuchs:

Someone striving for enlightenment may turn to the Dharma
kings, offering golden fields adorned with gems
of equal [number] to the atoms in the buddhafields, and may
continue doing so every day.
Another may just hear a word of this, and upon hearing it
become filled with devotion.
He will attain merits far greater and more manifold than the
virtue sprung from this practice of giving.

Explanation in comparison with moral conduct:

An intelligent person wishing for enlightenment may by body,
speech, and mind
guard a flawless moral conduct and do so effortlessly, even
through many eons.
Another may just hear a word of this, and upon hearing it
become filled with devotion.
He will attain merits far greater and more manifold than the
virtue sprung from this discipline.

Explanation in comparison with meditative-mystic absorption:

Someone here may finally achieve the divine meditative stabilities
and Brahma’s abode, thus quenching all
affliction’s fire
within the three realms of existence, and may cultivate these as
a means to reach unchanging and perfect enlightenment.
Another may just hear a word of this, and upon hearing it
become filled with devotion.
He will attain merits far greater and more manifold than the
virtue sprung from this meditation.

Prajñā (Absolute Wisdom) and Adhimukti (Resolute Faith) are far superior to all other virtues and are part and parcel of the Doctrine of the Ratnagotra—the Uttaratantra, or “Ultimate Doctrine.” Prajñā removes kleśa-jñeyāvaraṇas, or all the afflictive Obstructions through the activation of bodhipower. Prajñā  is side-by-side a crucial element with Bodhi, this is why the [Prajñā-pāramitā] is a highly extolled factor in the text, yea it is THE prime pāramitā that purges, in conjunction with bodhipower, the kleśa-jñeyāvaraṇas. Also, if one hears and absorbs the Teachings of the Ratna, one will soon begin to fathom and have resolute [faith] that one already has the Tathāgata-garbha within. In so doing, such a Noble One becomes a living receptacle of faith bearing the Bodhi-seeds. Such a Mind is primed with Bodhicitta (enlightened consciousness), thus strengthening the receptacle through Sambodhi, or the power of Bodhicitta.

Hence, this chapter highlights two complimentary teachings, that of the Tathāgata-garbha and Prajñā-pāramitā. It is here, as stated in the first blog of this series, that the Ratnagotravibhāgaśāstra compliments the Prajñā-pāramitā teachings AND completes them.

Devotion to Amitabha-Buddha?

Obermiller:

Conclusion:

I have thus duly expounded the 7 subjects,—
The 3 Jewels, the perfectly pure element (of Buddhahood),
The immaculate Supreme Enlightenment,
And the Buddha’s properties and acts.
May, by the merit l have acquired through this,
All these living beings come to perceive
The Lord Amitayus endowed with boundless light,
And, having seen him, may they become possessed
0f the sublime vision of the Highest Truth.
And attain Supreme Enlightenment.

Lord Amitayus: Here Amitayus is chosen as a particularized name of Tathāgata-dharmakāya, the fully-accomplished Buddha:

The names for the object of worshipful veneration in the history of Buddhism have varied—different Buddhas have been set up by different groups of followers throughout the ages: the Buddha Amitābha, Vairocana, Buddha etc. But the common factor is that the object of veneration is an Enlightened One who has become one with the truth of all existence and who acts for all beings replete with Wisdom and Compassion. (Ruben L. F. Habito, The Notion of Dharmakāya: A Study in the Buddhist Absolute)

The question remains, though, why was Amitayus chosen in particular? Takasaki’s footnote lends a wealth of insight:

* This prayer to the Lord Amitāyus is also found in the Mahāyāna-śraddhotpāda-śātra, which is one of the treatises on the tathāgatagarbha theory. It seems that there is a certain relationship between the Amitāyus—cult and the tathāgata-garbha theory.

Perhaps someone who has a greater familiarity with the Pure-Land Tradition could lend a reinforcement of Takasaki’s position.

I would like to add that perhaps Amitayus was chosen within this chapter since he is such a Premier-Buddha when it comes to that Element of Faith—yea, Faith in the Buddha of Infinite Light and Compassion.

The Ratnagotravibhāgaśāstra śāstra concludes, appropriately, with a verse proclaiming how great merit will be obtained by those who become living receptacles of its teachings.

Obermiller:

Through this explanation
Of the precious Highest Doctrine of the Great Vehicle
I have reaped inconceivable merit;
May, by the force of it, all living beings become the receptacles
Of the immaculate jewels of this Highest Sublime Teaching.

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