by Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat
When we talk about Tathagatagarbha, or Tathagata-garbha, we are referring to a Mahayana Buddhist teaching that Buddha Nature is within all beings. In other words, all beings may realize enlightenment because this seed, or potential exists in all of us.
In order to awaken
All of your energy and all of your being must be focused on one point. And that focal point is called Buddha-nature or universal mind, which is fundamentally transcendent to object addiction or object consciousness (thoughts).
For a meditator with a proclivity towards bliss, you transcend sensual attachments or object addictions. For meditator with an inquiring mind, you transcend analytical intellect or thoughts. In both cases you are transcending the conditioned base of your experience.
In Buddha-dharma this transcendence is called “Tathagatagarbha”. ‘Tathagata’ means the one who is well gone (Buddha). ‘Garbha’ means womb or source. So this is the well-gone one, who’s gone to the source of the transcendent experience. In other words, this describes the awakened mind or Buddha Nature.
Mirror-like conscious and the quality of no qualities
Buddha Nature, or the Tathagatagarbha in itself has no distinguishing qualities. You can’t define it or describe it through the sense bases. You can’t describe it or define it through mental properties.
“With words it cannot be described, but without words it can’t be expressed” is how the Daoists expressed this. This means that you have to talk about it in order for people to know of it, but no matter what you say, it isn’t that.
The Tathagatagarbha has no qualities of any kind including the quality of no qualities. By having no qualities this insures you don’t get caught in a nihilistic view. Tathagatagarbha is also called the ground of Buddha-nature. It functions like a mirror, which can be called mirror-like-consciousness. And mirror-like-consciousness means that whatever is put in front of the mirror, reflects back.
What do you get back? Whatever you put into the mirror. So the Tathagatagarbha, the ground of Buddha-nature, reflects what you put in it.
The ground of Buddha-nature functions like a mirror, which can be called mirror-like-consciousness: whatever is put in front of the mirror, reflects back.
The ultimate wisdom is resting in the unknowable
Another word for this is emptiness, the Tathagatagarbha or transcendental realization. From this place of realization you can examine both a sense-door-function or mind-door-function that is immediately blissful, no matter what that object is. Including a mosquito bite.
Can you understand the difference?
If you’re attached to bliss you always have to get rid of what you don’t want, and hang on to the stuff you do want, which means that your bliss is dependent upon the object. When you let go of the object, you dwell in emptiness, and whatever object arises is blissful.
To see it another way, in relation to wisdom, you have to let go of the security of being the knower and rest in the huge ‘angst’ of unknowing. This “unknowing” curiously produces wisdom.