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Is “Buddha-Nature” Buddhist?

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Recent controversies in Japanese Buddhist scholarship have focused upon the Mahāyāna notion of a “Buddha nature” within all sentient beings and whether or not the concept is compatible with traditional Buddhist teachings such as anātman (no-abiding-self). This controversy is not only relevant to Far Eastern Buddhism, for which the notion of a Buddha-nature is a central doctrinal theme, but also for the roots of this tradition in those Indian Mahāyāna sūtras which utilised the notion of tathāgatagarbha (Buddha-embryo or Buddha womb). One of the earliest Buddhist texts to discuss this notion is the Queen Śrīmālā Sūtra (Śrīmālādevīsūtra), which appears to display a transitional and revisionist attitude towards traditional Mahāyāna doctrines such as emptiness (śūnyatā) and no-abiding-self (anātman). These and related issues are examined as they occur in the Śrīmālā Sūtra and as they might relate to the issue of the place of Buddha-nature thought within the Buddhist tradition. Finally some concluding remarks are made about the quest for “true” Buddhism.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies University of Stirling Stirling. Scotland. FK9 4LA United Kingdom


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