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The Yogaacaaraa and Maadhyamika Interpretation
Of The Buddha-Nature Concept in Chinese Buddhism
Ming-Wood Liu


The idea of Buddha-nature was first made popular in China in the early fifth century with the translation of the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.nasuutra (hereafter cited as MNS),(1) and since then, it has remained one of the central themes of Chinese Buddhist thought. Already in the fifth and early sixth centuries, a wide variety of theories on the Buddha-nature had begun to appear, but extant information about them remains scanty and scattered.(2) It is in the writings of Ching-ying Hui-yuan(a) (523-592), (3) the Yogaacaarin, and in Chi-tsang(b) (549-623), the Maadhyamika, that we find the earliest available full-scale treatments of the subject. Hui-yuan and Chi-tsang hold a number of views in common with respect to the question of Buddha-nature:

(a) Both regard the Buddha-nature doctrine as among the principal tenets of Mahayana Buddhism.(4)

(b) Both accept the MNS as the final canonical authority on the problem of Buddha-nature.(5)

(c) Both affirm that all sentient beings without exception possess the Buddha-nature in the sense that every one of them will attain Buddhahood one day.(6)

Nevertheless, given their very different theoretical upbringings and doctrinal affiliations, it is inevitable that they would carry to their explanations of the Buddha-nature concept some of the basic principles and assumptions of their respective philosophical traditions. In examining and comparing the Buddha-nature teachings of Hui-yuan and Chi-tsang our present study attempts to show how the Buddha-nature concept has come to assume divergent significances when read in the context of the two main streams of thought in Mahaayaana Buddhism: Yogaacaara and Maadhyamika.



In calling Hui-yuan a Yogaacaarin, we have in consideration his close connection with the Ti-lun(c) and She-lun(d) schools, (8) which trace doctrinal lineages back to the Da’sabhuumikasuutra`saastra (Ti-lun) and Mahaayaanasa.mgraha`saastra (She-lun) of Vasubandhu and Asa.nga, the founders of Yogaacaara Buddhism in India, respectively. The teachings of these two schools represent the initial Chinese response to Yogaacaara thought when the latter was first imported into China in the sixth and seventh centuries,(9) their most distinctive characteristic being their belief in the existence in every sentient being of an intrinsically pure consciousness, from which evolves the entire phenomenal world which the individual experiences.(10) This belief finds its clearest expression in the writings of Hui-yuan, who declares that "All dharmas without exception originate and are formed from the true[-mind], and other than the true[-mind], there exists absolutely nothing which can give rise to false thoughts."(11) Hui-yuan equates this true-consciousness with the aalaya or the eighth consciousness in the Yogaacaara scheme of reality,(12) and designates it with such terms as "the Tathaagatagarbha, "(13) "the substance of enlightenment, "(14) "the Tathataa-consciousness,"(15) and so forth. However, despite its immaculate nature, the true-consciousness gives birth to the first seven consciousnesses and their corresponding objects, that is, the entire sa.msaaric realm, due to the permeation of ignorance and bad habits accumulated from the beginningless past, like ocean forming waves when stirred by wing.(16) But just as ocean water never loses its wet nature even when assuming an undulating appearance, the true-consciousness also never forfeits its inherent purity when serving as ground for the appearance of defiled phenomena. And once ignorance is destroyed, the true-mind's tainted functions will also cease, and it will be its unpolluted self again.(17) Thus, enlightenment in the Hui-yuan system of thought is basically the revealing of a preexistent true essence:

By "true awakening, " [we have in mind those practitioners who understand perfectly that] the true nature of enlightenment has always been the substance of their being. [In the past,] their [true-] mind was covered by false thoughts. As they were unaware of what is actually present [in themselves], they considered [the nature of enlightenment] as something external, and tried to procure it by reaching outward. Later, having brought an end to false thoughts, they apprehend fully their own [true] essence. Knowing that enlightenment has always been the substance of their being, they do not turn to outside sources to obtain it.(18)

The preceding constitutes the general conceptual framework within which Hui-yuan constructs his interpretation of the Buddha-nature tenet.(19)


"Buddha-nature" (fo-hsing(e) ) is the Chinese translation of a number of closely related Sanskrit terms such as "buddhadhaatu," "buddhagotra," "buddhagarbha," "tathaagatagarbha," and so forth(20) and its connotation usually varies with context. In the MNS, it is primarily used to indicate what constitutes a Buddha, that is, the nature or realm of the Buddha.(21) Since Hui-yuan, like most of the theorists of the Buddha-nature of his time. takes the MNS as the point of departure of his expositions of the Buddha-nature, this explains why it comes to be associated with such apparently mutually exclusive concepts as sa.msaara and nirvana, identity and difference, being and emptiness, external and internal, and so forth in the MNS.(23) He also describes the Buddha-nature as something that "in truth trascends [all] forms and names, and can not be comprehended by thought and language. It is the object of the true knowledge which neither procures nor abandons; and embodies [all] the mysteries [pertaining to] the wonderful understanding of the holy wisdom."(24) But unlike the MNS, in which discussions of the Buddha-nature are in general devoid of ontological implication, (25) in Hui-yuan's philosophy of true-mind, the nature of the Buddha is pictured as a metaphysical principle which all sentient beings share and which ensures their final enlightenment. This conception of Buddha-nature is clearly reflected in Hui-yuan's explanation of the four meanings of Buddha-nature, when the word "nature" is interpreted as "essence".(26)

i. The essence of the cause of Buddhahood is known as Buddha-nature. This is the true-consciousness.

ii. The essence of the fruit of Buddhahood is known as Buddha-nature. This is the dharmakaaya.

iii. The same nature of enlightenment which is present in both the cause of Buddhahood and the fruit of Buddhahood is known as Buddha-nature. While the cause and the fruit [of Buddhahood] are always distinct, their essence is not different.

The preceding three meanings constitute the cognitive aspect" (neng-chih ksing(g) ) [of buddha-nature]. They pertain only to sentient beings and are not shared by the nonsentient.

iv. We designate in general the essence of dharmas as "nature." This nature is perfectly comprehended by the Buddhas only. Considering the essence of dharmas as [the object of comprehension of] the Buddhas, we call it Buddha-nature.

This last meaning constitutes the "cognized aspect" (so chih hsing(h)) [of Buddha-nature]. It covers both the internal (that is, sentient beings) and the external (that is, non-sentient objects) [realms].(27)

By the "cognitive" and "cognized" aspects of Buddha-nature, Hui-yuan is referring primarily to the essence of enlightenment (iii) and the essence of reality (iv). respectively; the former "pertains only to sentient beings" because only the sentient can attain enlightenment, whereas the latter covers both the realms of the sentient and the nonsentient because reality comprises inanimate as well as animate objects.(28) In the Yogaacaara teaching of Hui-yuan, the essence of enlightenment is conceived of as embodied in all sentient beings as their true-mind, which forms the metaphysical ground of their eventual deliverance from ills. So the true-mind is known as "the essence of the cause of Buddhahood" (i). When the true-mind of sentient beings is set free from its association with adventitious defilements and fully realizes its originally endowed non-defiled nature, it becomes the Buddha-body per se, that is, the dharmakaaya (ii).

So the dharmakaaya is known as "the essence of the fruit of Buddhahood." Since the true-mind and the dharmakaaya are actually two states of the same essence of enlightenment, they can be designated as "Buddha-nature" in the same manner that the essence of enlightenment itself and the essence of reality are called the "Buddha-nature."

All in all, we can say that in the hands of Hui-yuan, the Buddha-nature concept has been integrated into the system of thought of Yogaacaara Buddhism and as a consequence assumes distinct ontological significances which are either not found or only dimly suggested in the MNS Buddha-Nature qua Cause and Effect. Since the Buddha-nature indicates in the MNS the realm of the Buddha, the category of cause and effect, which pertains to the realm of conditioned existence only, is strictly speaking not applicable to it. Nevertheless, as the Buddha-nature is not yet attained by sentient beings, and sentient beings are beings of the conditioned realm, the MNS often resorts to the notions of "cause" and "effect" in discussing the fulfillment of Buddha-nature in sentient beings.

This practice receives additional impetus in the thinking of Hui-yuan, for as we have seen, Hui-yuan considers the nature of the Buddha as a transcendental reality which is at once present in all beings, with life of the conditioned realm as their intrinsically pure consciousness. The MNS talks of two types of causes of Buddha-nature when the Buddha-nature is considered with respect to sentient beings:

Good sons! With respect to sentient beings, the Buddha-nature also consists of two types of causes: first, direct cause (cheng-yin(i)), and secondly, auxiliary cause (yuan-yin(j)). The direct cause [of Buddha-nature] is sentient beings, and the auxiliary cause is the six paaramitaas.(29) With respect to the fulfillment of the Buddha-nature by sentient beings, sentient beings are the "direct causes," for only animate creatures can assume the excellences of the Tathaagata. However, enmeshed in defilements in the realm of sa.msaara. sentient beings would not be able to reach the state of Buddhahood without first following proper religious disciplines, among the most important of which are the six paaramitaas of charity, virtuous conduct, forbearance, zeal, meditation and wisdom. So the six paaramitaas are designated as the "auxiliary causes.'' Hui-yuan brings in the tenet of the true-mind in commenting on the above passage: It is because sentient beings are formed of [both aspects of] the true and the false, just as mineral stones [are constituted of both earth and mineral]. As [sentient beings] are formed of [both aspects of] the true and the false, [their true aspect] can act as the basis of the abandoning. of defilements and the achieving of pure virtues. So they are described as "direct causes." Since [the functions of] the various paaramitaas are limited to the revealing of the true [aspect] by bringing to an end the false [aspect]. they are referred to as "auxiliary causes."(30)

While the MNS regards sentient beings in general to be the direct cause of Buddha-nature because only beings with life can assume the excellences of the Buddha, it remains entirely indefinite with respect to the metaphysical ground of this belief.(31) Hui-yuan gives this thesis of universal enlightenment of the sentient of the MNS a definite ontological twist by linking it with the idea of the two aspects of the mind made famous by the Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun(k).(32) Since the mind of sentient beings possesses a true aspect, that is, the true-mind, it "can act as the basis of the abandoning of defilements and the achieving of pure virtues." That explains why sentient beings are called "direct causes'' of Buddha-nature. While the mind of sentient beings is true in essence, it comes to assume a false aspect due to the permeation of ignorance, and so needs the practising of the six paaramitaas to recover its original purity. So the six paaramitaas are called the "auxiliary causes." The six paaramitaas are called "auxiliary," because they do not create but only "reveal" the nature of enlightenment which is immanent.

Besides the thesis of the two types of causes of Buddha-nature, the analysis of the Buddha-nature in the MNS into "cause,'' "cause vis-a-vis cause,'' "effect," "effect vis-a-vis effect," and "neither cause nor effect" also receives considerable attention from posterity:

Good sons! The Buddha-nature has [the aspects of] cause, cause vis-a-vis cause, effect, and effect vis-a-vis effect. The cause is the twelve fold chain of dependent origination, the cause vis-a-vis cause is wisdom, the effect is the most perfect enlightenment, and the effect vis-a-vis effect is the supreme nirvaa.na....As for to be "neither cause nor effect", it is what is known as the Buddha-nature.(33)

Hui-yuan again resorts to the idea of the true-mind in explaining why the twelve fold chain of dependent origination (Buddha-nature qua "cause") can be described as the "cause" of the supreme nirvaa.na (Buddha-nature qua "effect vis-a-vis effect"): [The realm of] dependent origination is formed of [both aspects of] the true and the false. Viewed from [the aspect of] the false, it is the creation of the false mind. Being illusory and empty, it[can]not be called Buddha-nature. Viewed from [the aspect of] the true, it is totally the product of the true mind.... Since it is formed from the true[-mind], the complete disclosure of its real substance is known as nirvaa.na. So [the realm of dependent origination] can be taken as the cause [of nirvaa.na]. And as the cause [of nirvaa.na], it can be called [Buddha-] nature.(34)

Since the mind of sentient beings comprises the double aspect of the true and the false, the sa.msaaric realm of dependent origination, which is regarded in Yogaacaara Buddhism as formation of the mind,(35) also shares the same feature. On the on hand, the realm of dependent origination is false, for it stems directly from the activities of the false aspect of the mind, and is in nature "illusory and empty." On the other hand, the realm of dependent origination is true, for the false aspect of the mind from which it originates arises in turn dependent origination has as true aspect, and so ultimately speaking, the realm of dependent origination has as its "real substance" the true aspect of the mind, that is, in the true-mind. In Hui-yuan's opinion, when the MNS calls the twelve fold chain of dependent origination the "Buddha-nature qua cause" and gives as its "effect" and "effect vis-a-vis effect" the most perfect enlightenment and nirvaa.na, it has in view this "true-mind" which is its "real substance."

Buddha-Nature and the Phenomenal World Our discussions thus far have shown that the term "Buddha-nature" is employed by Hui-yuan not only to indicate the nature of the Buddha per se as in the MNS, but also to denote this nature in its capacity as the true essence of man, that is, as the intrinsically pure mind.(36) If we remember that in the Yogaacaara teaching of Hui-yuan the intrinsically pure mind is given as the origin of the phenomenal world as well as the ontological basis of enlightenment, (37) it would not be g to find Hui-yuan telling us that the Buddha-nature is the cause of both sa.msaara and nirvaa.na,(38) and that all forms of existence, be they soiled or unsoiled, are the creations of the "Buddha-nature as the true-mind" (fo-hsing chen-hsin(l)).(39)

The idea that the Buddha-nature as the true-mind is the source of the false phenomenal order is clearly brought out in Hui-yuan's division of Buddha-nature into the three aspects of "substance", "characteristic" (hsiang(m) ) , and "function" (yung(n)), in which the Buddha-nature is said to have defiled as well as pure functions: As is taught by A`svagho.sa [in the Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun, the Buddha-nature can be] divided into three aspects according to its substance, characteristic, and function:

i. Greatness of "substance," that is, the nature of the tathataa.

ii. Greatness of"characteristic, "thatis, the excellent qualities more numerous than the sand of the Ganges embodied in the tathataa.

iii. greatness of "function," that, the defiled and pure functions of the dharmad-haatu all arising from the pure mind.(40)

As this scheme of "substance," "characteristic," and "function" is first proposed in the Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun as analysis of the mind,(41) and is often used by Hui-yuan in his writings as such,(42)we can safely conclude that by "Buddha-nature" in the above quotation, Hui-yuan has none other than the original true-mind of sentient beings under consideration. While the true-mind is in "substance" the essence of the Tathataa and has as its "characteristic" innumerable merits, it is nevertheless not immune from the influence of ignorance, and it is due to the permeation of ignorance that it gives rise to defiled functions" and becomes the source of the formation of impure phenomena. So Hui-yuan writes of the two forms of false functions of the true mind:

i. The function of ground and support: The tathaagathagarbha is the ground of the defiled and can support the defiled. If there is not the true [mind], defiled [phenomena] will not subsist....

ii. The function of origination: Formerly, [the true-mind] does not produce the defiled even while existing in the midst of defilements.

Now, it unites with falsehood (that is. ignorance) and gives rise to defiled [phenomena], just as water fives rise to waves in response to wind.(43)

"The function of ground and support" denotes the true-mind as the underlying substance which accounts for the subsistence of the defiled phenomenal order. "The function of origination" denotes the true-mind as the fountainhead from which the defiled phenomenal order proceeds. Together, they teach that the impure has its root in the pure, and the nature of enlightenment, that is, the Buddha-nature, is what makes the existence of the world of sa.msaara possible.



Hui-yuan's interpretation of the Buddha-nature doctrine represents the culmination of a long process of transformation of the "Buddha-nature" from a basically practical to an ontological concept.(45) Since one of the distinctive features of Maadhyamika Buddhism is its strong aversion to ontological speculation, it is to be expected that Chi-tsang, the leading figure in the revival of Maadhyamika thought in China in the late sixth century, would view this development with much suspicion.(46) Chi-tsang's basic approach with respect to the Problem of Buddha-nature is to stick fast to the original signification of the term "Buddha-nature" In the MNS as the nature or realm of the Buddha,(47) and to expurgate all the ontic connotations which the term has come to take on as subsequent generations begin to speculate on the metaphysical basis of the belief, likewise present in the MNS, that all sentient beings will eventually assume the station of Buddhahood. Considered as such, Chi-tsang's teaching of Buddha-nature is essentially a return to the more rudimentary and soteriologically oriented version of the Buddha-nature doctrine as found in the MNS.(48) What Is Buddha-Nature?

That Chi-tsang takes "Buddha-nature" to mean primarily what constitutes a Buddha is attested by the series of terms which he cites as synonymous with "Buddha-nature," among which are "tathataa," "dharmadhaatu," "ekayaana," "wisdom, '' "ultimate reality," and so on.(49) It is also demonstrated in his frequent associating of the Buddha-nature with the "Middle-way," the concept which gives the name to Maadhyamika Buddhism.(50) Chi-tsang's famous thesis of "the Middle-way as the Buddha-nature" is based on a well-known passage in the MNS, in which the author, after identifying the Buddha-nature with "the supreme form of emptiness" and "wisdom, " continues to equate it with the Middle-way:

Speaking of "emptiness." [the `sraavakas and pratyeka-buddhas can] not comprehend both emptiness and non-emptiness (pu chien k'ung yu pu-k'ung(o)), whereas the wise can see both emptiness and non-emptiness, the eternal and the non-eternal, the painful, and the blissful, the personal and the non-personal. "Emptiness" [includes] all [beings of the realm of] sa.msaara whereas "non-emptiness" refers to the supreme nirvaa.na, and so forth, "the non-personal" is [the nature of the realm of] sa.msaara and "the personal" refers to the supreme nirvaa.na. The realization of the emptiness of all [beings of the realm of sa.msaara] unaccompanied by the realization of the nonemptiness [of nirvana] is not called the Middle-way, and so forth, the realization of the nonpersonal nature of all [beings of the realm of sa.msaara] unaccompanied by the realization of the personal nature [of nirvana] is not called the Middle-way. The Middle-way is called the Buddha-nature.(51)

In this passage, the "Middle-way is made out as the simultaneous comprehension of the empty, transient, painful. and nonpersonal nature of sa.msaara on the one hand, and the nonempty, permanent, blissful, and personal nature of nirvaa.na on the other hand.(52) This reading of the "Middle-way" constitutes a significant deviation from the orthodox Buddhist understanding of the term, which from Early Buddhism onward usually signifies the abandoning rather than the embracing of dichotomic ideas and concepts.(53)

Furthermore, as one of the chief concerns of Maadhvamika Buddhism is the criticism of one-sided views and positions, Chi-tsang is naturally very interested in maintaining the traditional interpretation of the term "Middle-way" as the forgoing and transcending of all determinate opinions, to the extent of departing from the original import of the MNS in his exegesis of the above quotation:

Again, [the MNS] states, "Speaking of 'emptiness' [the Buddha] sees neither emptiness nor non-emptiness (pu chien k'ung yu pu-k'ung). Similarly, we should [also] say, "Speaking of wisdom, [the Buddha] sees neither wisdom nor non-wisdom?" That is to say, [the Buddha, ] in not seeing emptiness, eschews [the extreme view of] emptiness; and in not seeing non-emptiness, eschews [the extreme view of] non-emptiness. He eschews [attachment to] non-wisdom. This complete detachment from tow extremes is known as the sacred Middle-way. Again, [the MNS] states, "Such dualistic opinions can not be called the Middle-way. [Only] the abandoning of [the extreme positions of] permanent existence and total extinction is called the Middle-way" [T, vol. 12, p. 523c, 11.25-26]. Is this not the idea that the Middle-way is the Buddha-nature? Thus. in eschewing [the view of] non-emptiness, [the Buddha] is free from the extreme of permanence, and again, in eschewing [the view of] emptiness, [the Buddha] is free from the extreme of extinction. The same can be said of [the Buddha's] not seeing wisdom and non-wisdom. So, it is maintained that the Middle-way is the Buddhha-nature.(54)

While in the MNS, the clause "pu chien k'ung yu pu-k'ung" means "can not comprehend both emptiness and non-emptiness" and is a rebuke of the Hiinayaanist's failure to apprehend the non-empty nature of nirvaa.na as well as the empty nature of sa.msaara, Chi-tsang interprets it as "seeing neither emptiness nor non-emptiness," and takes it to be a description of the transcendental wisdom of the Tathaagata, who eschews both the one-sided positions of emptiness and non-emptiness. When so construed, the whole paragraph is turned into a reaffirmation of the notion of Middle-way as the avoidance of all fixed standpoints, such as emptiness or non-emptiness, wisdom or non-wisdom, permanence, or impermanence. and so forth. This spirit of nonattachment to views, as the foregoing quotation suggests, is what constitutes the essence of the Buddha, that is, the Buddha-nature.(55)

Buddha-Nature through Cause and Effect

As indicated in the preceding, Hui-yuan also often uses the term ''Buddha-nature" to denote the nature or realm of the Buddha. However, since in Hui-yuan's system of thought, the nature of the Buddha is an ontological principle which is present in all sentient beings as their intrinsically pure mind and it is with this pure mind as "cause" that sentient beings will eventually attain the "fruit" of the dharmakaaya, Hui-yuan likewise refers to the "cause" which is the pure mind and the "fruit" which is the dharmakaaya as "Buddha-nature," for they are the same nature of the Buddha when looked at differently. Chi-tsang criticizes strongly those who make the Buddha-nature out as exclusively "cause," "effect," or "both cause and effect" and writes:

In explaining the meaning of "Buddha-nature.'' all masters either maintain that Buddha-nature is cause and not effect, or maintain that it is effect and not cause. Such dualistic conception of cause and effect is not "Buddha-nature." As the Suutra says, "Whatever entails dualism is a perverted view." (MNS, T, vol. 12, p. 523c). So we know that all these masters do not understand what the Buddha-nature is. Holding on to one extreme, they argue with each other and lose sight of [the true meaning of] Buddha-nature. Only when one sees that cause and effect are equal and nondual can one speak of Buddha-nature. Thus, the Sutra says, "As for to be neither cause nor effect, it is what is known as the Buddha-nature." (See n.33 above.)(56)

This refusal of Chi-tsang to identify Buddha-nature with either the pole of "cause" or the pole of "effect" is a natural outcome of his idea of the Buddha-nature as the Middle-way, that is, as "equal and non-dual." It also reflects Chi-tsang's general policy of distancing the "Buddha-nature" concept from any reference to an ontological ground or metaphysical reality, with which Buddhist masters like Hui-yuan explains its fulfillment in sentient beings.

In this connection, a comparison of Chi-tsang's account of the "direct cause of Buddha-nature" with that of Hui-yuan is particularly illuminating. We have witnessed already that Hui-yuan equates the "direct cause of Buddha-nature" with the true-mind in the teaching of Yogaacaara Buddhism, and in this way easily explains why the MNS calls sentient beings the "direct causes of Buddha-nature," for only beings endowed with the true-mind can assume the character of a Buddha. Chi-tsang examines eleven theories of the "direct cause of Buddha-nature" current at his time, including that of the Ti-lun School of which Hui-yuan is the representative figure, and dismisses all of them because they see the "direct cause" as "the principle [which ensures] the attainment of Buddha-hood" (te-fo chih li(p) ) (57) We find no clear explanation in Chi-tsang's writings for the remark in the MNS that sentient beings are the direct cause of Buddha-nature.(58)

Chi-tsang's exposition of the concept "direct cause," however, indicates that he makes little difference between "direct cause of Buddha-nature'' and "Buddha-nature." We have noted before that Chi-tsang describes the Buddha-nature as the "Middle-way" and "neither cause nor effect," and these same concepts are used by him to refer to the "direct cause":

So it is said that the Middle-way, which is neither the absolute [truth] nor the mundane [truth], is the direct cause of Buddha-nature.(59)

As for the direct cause, how can it be [described as] cause [or] effect? So [the truth of] neither cause nor effect, which is the Middle-way, is called the "direct cause." So it is maintained that the Middle-way is the "direct cause of Buddha-nature."(60) To Chi-tsang, to understand the "Buddha-nature"and to comprehend the "direct cause of Buddha-nature" amounts virtually to the same thing:

As for Buddha-nature, it is neither being nor nonbeing, neither "within [the true] principle'' (li-nei(q) ) nor "outside [the true] principle" (li-wai(r)).(61) So, only when one comprehends that being and nonbeing, "within [principle]" and "outside [principle],'' are equal and non-dual can one talk about the "direct cause of Buddha-nature."(62) In Chi-tsang's account of the "direct cause." The sense of "cause'' is so much subdued that instead of being called by its full name "cheng(s) (direct), yin(t) (cause), fo(u) (buddha), hsing(v) (nature," it is on several occasions alluded to simply as "cheng-hsing(w)", and as such carries the connotation of"real [Buddha-] nature" or "true [Buddha-] nature."(63)

It is also helpful to contrast Chi-tsang's and Hui-yuan's comments on the analysis of Buddha-nature into the five aspects of "cause," "cause vis-vis cause," "effect," "effect vis-a-vis effect," and "neither cause nor effect" in the MNS. We have observed already how Hui-yuan explains the designation of the twelve fold chain of dependent origination in the MNS as the "Buddha-nature qua cause" by falling back on the Yogaacaara thesis of the production of the realm of dependent origination from the true-mind. Chi-tsang, however, gives a totally different interpretation of the matter by connecting the doctrine of dependent origination with the Middle-way. In doing so, he is basically following the suggestion of the MNS, which opens its discussion of the five aspects of Buddha-nature with the following remark:

Again, good sons, the [erroneous] views of sentient beings fall under two categories: first, the view of permanent existence, and secondly, the view to total extinction, Such dualistic opinions can not be called the Middle-way. [Only] the abandoning of [the extreme positions of] permanent existence and total extinction is called the Middle-way. The abandoning of [the extreme positions of] permanent existence and total extinction is the wisdom [obtained from] contemplating on the twelve fold chain of dependent origination; and the wisdom [obtained from such] contemplation is known as "Buddha-nature"....

Good sons! The wisdom arising from contemplating the twelve fold chain of dependent origination is the seed of the most perfect enlightenment. Thus, we call the twelve fold chain of dependent origination "Buddha-nature."

Good sons! Just as cucumbers are referred to as "fever. Why? For it is conducive to fever. The same is the case [when we refer to] the Twelve fold chain of dependent origination [as Buddha-nature].(64)

The doctrine of dependent origination, as is well known, teaches the conditioned genesis of the twelve factors (namely, ignorance, karman-formation, consciousness, and so forth) which make up the continuity of life, and it accounts for the phenomena of retribution and transmigration without recording to the notion of an abiding self. In this way, it has always been looked upon in Buddhism as a powerful corrective of the fallacies of annihilism (which denies the efficacy of karman and the existence of life after death) and eternalism (which affirms the existence of eternal souls which are one in essence with the Universal Soul), and a perfect exemplification of the truth of the Middle-way in eschewing both the extreme views of "total extinction" and "permanent existence.''(65) When this is understood, it is not difficult to perceive why the MNS come to connect the twelve fold chain of dependent origination and the wisdom arising from the contemplation of it with the Buddha-nature in the above quotation, for have we not been told all along in the Sutra that the Middle-way is the Buddha-nature?(66) This is apparently the rationale behind the following remarks of Chi-tsang on the first four aspects of Buddha-nature:

What is referred to as "cause" is the objective cause, which is the twelve fold chain of dependent origination. What is referred to as "cause vis-a-vis cause" is the auxiliary cause, (67) which is the wisdom [obtained from the] contemplation of the twelve fold chain of dependent origination. As the objective [cause which is the twelve fold chain of dependent origination] is already [known as] "cause, " the wisdom [obtained from the] contemplation [of it is a "cause"] derived from [another] cause, and is thereby called "cause vis-a-vis cause"....

What is referred to as "effect" is the most perfect enlightenment. Since [enlightenment] is achieved through [the fulfillment of the aforementioned two types of] causes, it is known as "effect." What is referred to as "effect vis-a-vis effect" is the mahaaparinirvaa.na. Since nirvaa.na is attained [as a consequence of] enlightenment [which is the "effect"], it is thereby described as the "effect vis-a-vis effect."(68)

The twelve fold chain of dependent origination is the "Buddha-nature qua cause," for as the expression of the truth of the Middle, the contemplation of it will bring about the "wisdom" (cause vis-a-vis cause) which will lead to the achieving of "the most perfect enlightenment" (effect) and the "mahaaparinirvaa.na" (effect vis-a-vis effect). Again on the authority on the MNS,(69) Chi-tsang goes on to associate the twelve fold chain of dependent origination with the fifth aspect of Buddha-nature, that is, "Buddha-nature qua neither cause nor effect" or "direct cause of Buddha-nature," and writers:

The MNS expounds five types of Buddha-nature.... The twelve fold chain of dependent origination which neither comes into nor goes out of existence is the "Buddha-nature qua object" (that is, Buddha-nature qua "cause") . The true insight arising from [contemplating] the neither coming into nor going out of existence of the twelve fold chain of dependent origination is the "Buddha-nature qua contemplative wisdom" (that is, Buddha-nature qua "cause vis-a-vis cause). The consummation of this insight is known as enlightenment, [which is the] "Buddha-nature qua 'effect'." The complete eradication of the bonds of sa.msaara as a consequence of the fulfillment of the true insight is the mahaaparinirvaa.na, [which is the] "Buddha-nature qua 'effect vis-a-vis effect'.'' But the twelve fold chain of dependent origination is calm in essence. It is [in itself] neither the object [of wisdom] nor wisdom, and is also neither cause nor effect. Not knowing how to name it, we call it provisionally "direct [cause of Buddha-] nature" (cheng-hsing(w)). The "direct [cause of Buddha-] nature" is the basis of the five [aspects of Buddha-] nature.(70)

When Chi-tsang asserts that the twelve fold chain of dependent origination "neither comes into nor goes out of existence," he undoubtedly has in mind the doctrine of dependent origination as a refutation of the one-sided opinions of existence and nonexistence and as an instance of the teaching of eightfold negations, (71) in short, as the Middle-way.(72) As knowledge of the Middle-way is a prerequisite of the attainment of the Buddha-nature, the twelve fold chain of dependent origination is made out to be the "Buddha-nature qua object" or "Buddha-nature qua cause." However, to consider the Middle-way as "object" or "cause" is to think of it in connection with its realization in sentient beings, whereas the Middle-way as the Buddha-nature per se transcends all differences and distinctions, and as a consequence such dichotomies as "cause and effect," "object and subject," and so forth are strictly speaking not applicable to it. That is why Chi-tsang proceeds to remark that the twelve fold chain of dependent origination as the Middle-way is "neither the object of wisdom nor wisdom, and is also neither cause nor effect,'' and is in itself none other than the "direct cause of Buddha-nature."(73) Buddha-Nature and Sentient Beings The upshot of our discussion is that Chi-tsang's concept of Buddha-nature is entirely free of ontological implications. This reflects the general antimetaphysical position of Maadhyamika Buddhism of which Chi-tsang is the leading proponent. It also points to where the real significance of Chi-tsang's teaching of Buddha-nature lies:

Chi-tsang's contribution to the history of the development of the Buddha-nature doctrine rests not upon philosophical originality in the ordinary sense of the term, but upon his being one of the earliest Maadhyamikas to expound the doctrine in such a way that it becomes fully consistent with the Maadhyamika way of thinking.

To conclude, we would examine briefly how Chi-tsang conceives of the relation between Buddha-nature on the one hand, and sentient beings and the phenomenal world on the other hand, and contrast his opinion with that of Hui-yuan. Let us take up sentient beings first. We have noted several times in the preceding that in the case of Hui-yuan, the Buddha-nature is conceived of as a metaphysical essence at once present in all beings of life as the true-mind and this possession of the true-mind by all sentient beings is what ensures their eventual enlightenment. Chi-tsang labels this belief of the immanence of the Buddha-nature in man as the thesis of "inherent existence" (pen-yu(x)),(74) criticizes it for missing the skillful intent of the Buddha's Buddha-nature message, (75) and even associates it with the idea of the pudgala, considered heretical by most Buddhists.(76) While Chi-tsang does not deny that the MNS and other sutras contain passages suggesting that sentient beings are originally endowed with the Buddha-nature, he understands the matter as follows:

Speaking of the Buddha-nature [itself], it is in truth not [an entity] inherent of or to be newly acquired [by man]. However, the Tathaagata is skillful, and in order to dispel the erroneous view of impermanence (prevalent among) sentient beings, he teaches that all sentient beings originally possess the Buddha-nature and as a consequence will (sooner or later) realize the Way of the Buddha.(77)

In Chi-tsang's opinion, the Buddha-nature as the Middle-way is not an entity intrinsic to or to be newly acquired by man. When the Tathaagata speaks of sentient beings originally possessing the Buddha-nature, he is not referring to a metaphysical reality which all of them share. but is emphasizing in a figurative way the practical truth that all beings of life will be able to "realize the Way of the Buddha" if they tread the Buddhist path, with the intention of dispelling the "erroneous view of impermanence" which leads to scepticism of the efficacy of religious practice. That Chi-tsang sees the significance of the Buddha-nature teaching often in pragmatic rather than in philosophical terms is clearly evidenced by the following remarks on the purpose of the teaching of the tathaagatagarbha, generally considered to be a synonym of "Buddha-nature":(78)

Again, [the idea of tathaagatagarbha is put forward by the Buddha] for the sake of the Nihilists, who maintain that sentient beings are in nature similar to grass and trees: they last for one life only, and there is no existence after death. To counter such [false opinion, the Buddha] then teaches [the concept of] tathaagatagarbha, [and asserts that all sentient beings] will definitely become the Buddha, unlike grass and trees which last for one life only. Thus the MNS says, "The Buddha-nature is not like walls, tiles, and stones." (T, vol. 12, p. 581a, 11.22-23) Again, in order to make sentient beings aware that they have in themselves the Buddha-nature [and so] resolve to attain enlightenment and strive for Buddhahood, [the Buddha] teaches [the concept of] Buddha-nature. Again, [the concept of Buddha-nature is taught] in order to make sentient beings aware that [living beings] other than themselves all have in them the Buddha-nature, and [so] not to commit the ten evil deeds such as killing.(79) Again, [the concept of Buddha-nature is taught] in order to prevent sentient beings from entertaining the views of the two vehicles (that is, the Hiinayaana views of the `sraavakas and pratyekabuddhas). [Knowing that they] have solely the nature of the Buddha and not [the nature of] the two vehicles, sentient beings would not entertain the views of the two vehicles.(80)

In proclaiming that all sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, the Tathaagata means to instill in his listeners confidence in themselves and respect for others. For on knowing that they they possess the Buddha-nature, they would think of themselves as different from grass and trees and not doubt the possibility of future salvation. Also, on knowing that their fellow creatures likewise possess the Buddha-nature, they would treat them with consideration and compassion, and would not try to hurt them in words or in deeds. Furthermore, on realizing that Buddhahood is open to everyone, they would not be satisfied with the inferior achievements of `sraavakahood or pratyekabuddhahood, and would strive for the supreme end of becoming the Tathaagata. All in all, in Chi-tsang's eyes, the mainstay of the Buddha-nature teaching rests with its usefulness as a means of religious deliverance, and not with its truthfulness as a reflection of the nature of reality.

Since in the Yogaacaara teaching of Hui-yuan, the Buddha-nature as the true-mind is the property of every sentient being from the very start but remains unnoticed and unrealized due to the permeation of defilements, the attainment of the nature of the Buddha by man is pictured in his philosophy largely as the revelation of a preexistent but concealed essence.(81) The notions "concealment" (yin(y)) and "revelation" (hsien(z)) also figure in Chi-tsang's depiction of the relation between Buddha-nature and sentient beings, but with totally diverse connotations: Question: Ti-lun [masters] also speak of the concealment and revelation [of Buddha-nature].

In what way is it different from [what you are teaching] now? Explanation: Though they use the same expressions as [ours], what they mean is completely different. They hold that there is [in sentient beings] a [true] substance which is the tathaagatagarbha, which is covered by falsehood and so is described as "concealed." When [sentient beings] regain [their original nature], this [true] substance would become apparent and so is described as "revealed".... In our case, [however,] it is only due to [the existence of] delusions that [the Buddha-nature] is described as "concealed" and as the "[tathaagata-] garbha." How could there be any substance which is concealed? It is only due to [the realization of] enlightenment that [the Buddha-nature] is described as "revealed" and as the "dharmakaaya." There is [actually] no substance which is revealed. [Since] it is due to [the existence of] delusions that [the Buddha-nature] is described as concealed, nothing is actually concealed even though [we use the term] "concealment." [Since] it is due to [the realization of] enlightenment that [the Buddha-nature] is described as revealed, nothing is actually revealed even though [we use the term] "revelation." It is only because there is delusion that there is the concealment [of Buddha-nature], and it is [only] because there is enlightenment that there is the revelation [of Buddha-nature].(82)

In the case of the Ti-lun School, "concealment" and "revelation" are spoken of in connection with a "true substance" which is immanent. Since Chi-tsang excludes all optic allusions from his idea of Buddha-nature, the "concealment" and "revelation" of Buddha-nature naturally mean something quite different in his system of thought. According to Chi-tsang, by "concealment" of Buddha-nature is meant that the Buddha-nature as the Middle-way is screened from the view of the common run of mankind due to the existence of delusion. When the Buddha-nature is so concealed from the understanding of the non-enlightened, it is known as the "Tathaagatagarbha" (that is, embryo of the Tathaagata) with respect to them. By "revelation of Buddha-nature" is meant that the Buddha-nature as the Middle-way would become known to practitioners who have worn away the last remarks of delusion through diligent religious practice. When the Buddha-nature is so revealed to the wisdom of the enlightened, it is known as the "dharmakaaya" with respect to them. In Chi-tsang's discourse on the "concealment" and "revelation" of Buddha-nature, there is no reference whatever to an eternal, pure substance which stays hidden or becomes disclosed as circumstance varies, and Chi-tsang is obviously trying to draw our attention to this when he affirms that "nothing is actually concealed even though we use the term `con-cealment', " and "nothing is actually revealed even though we use the term 'revelation'."


As we have seen, in Hui-yuan's Yogaacaara philosophy, the Buddha-nature as the true-mind is given out as the metaphysical basis of the phenomenal world. Chi-tsang, true to the Maadhyamika tradition to which he belongs, is not interested in exploring into the ontological origin of the phenomenal order. However, he does on occasion talk about the relation of the Buddha-nature with non-sentient objects, and in this connection comes forth with the very startling thesis that not only sentient beings but also non-sentient objects such as grass and trees possess the Buddha-nature. This thesis is startling not only because it seems to fly in the face of the tacit agreement among all Buddhists that only beings with life are capable of cultivating the Buddhist path and so attaining the Buddhist goal. It also appears to undercut the very ground of Chi-tsang's own explication of the purpose of the Buddha-nature teaching: for has Chi-tsang not repeatedly told us that the Tathaagata teaches the possession of Buddha-nature by all sentient beings in order to remind them that they are not like grass and trees which "last for one life only" and can never achieve the supreme fruit of Buddhahood?(83) Chi-tsang's demonstration of the possession of Buddha-nature by nonsentient objects is preceded by the elucidation of a distinction: "outside the true principle" (li-wai(r) ) and "within the true principle" (li-nei(q)).(84) By "outside the true principle," Chi-tsang refers to the common people, the two vehicles, and the misguided Mahaayaanists who fail to comprehend the empty nature of dharmas and whose life and actions are characterized by attachment. The opposite are the buddhas and bodhisattvas, who perceive that dharmas neither come into nor go out of existence and whose life and actions exemplify the truth of the Middle-way, and so are said to be "within the true principle."(85)

Chi-tsang does not deny that there exist these two fundamental categories of the non-enlightened and enlightened in the actual world, but he continues to reason how sentient beings "outside the true principle, " and, for that matter, non-sentient objects as well, would figure in the non-discriminating vision of those who are "within" it:

These passages(86) teach that in the true principle, all dharmas [including both] the "individual" (cheng(s) ) and his "environment" (i(aa) ) are non-dual.(87) Since the individual and his environment are nondual, if sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, grass and trees [also] have the Buddha-nature. For this reason, [we maintain that] not only sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, but grass and trees also have the Buddha-nature.

When one comprehends the equal nature of all dharmas and does not see any distinction between oneself and one's environment, [one will apprehend that] there exists in the [true] principle no mark of attainment and non-attainment. Since there is no [mark of] non-attainment [in the true principle], we[can] speak provisionally of the attainment of Buddhahood [by grass and trees]. For this reason, [we hold] that when sentient beings attain Buddhahood, all grass and trees also attain Buddhahood.

So the [Vimalakiirti-] suutra says, "All dharmas are the tathata, and so is Maitreya. If Maitreya attains enlightenment, so should all sentient beings? " (T, vol. 14, p. 532b, 11.12-19) This [passage] teaches that since sentient beings and Maitreya are of one tathataa, not two, if Maitreya attains enlightenment, so should all sentient beings. As this is the case with sentient beings, the same is true of grass and trees. Since the [true] principle is [all] pervasive, there is nowhere the aspiration [of those "within it] does not reach. This is what is known as [the way of] non-obstruction of the Mahayana.(88)

To Buddha and bodhisattvas who are "within the true principle" and practice the way of nonattachment, all dharmas would appear "equal" and "non-dual" and all forms of differences would vanish, even the differences between "within the true principle" and "outside the true principle," between "oneself' and one's "environment," and so forth. Indeed, given the teaching of the Buddha-nature as the Middle-way and the definition of the Middle-way as the transcending of all discriminations, it is natural to conclude that to one who truly attains the Buddha-nature, all distinctions, including the distinction between "attaining" and "non-attaining," would come to an end. As a result, all objects of the phenomenal world, from sentient beings "outside the true principle" down to such lifeless entities as grass and trees, would be envisaged by him as participating in his "all pervasive" enlightenment experience and so assuming the nature of the Buddha like himself. It is on this count that Chi-tsang, following the suggestion of the Vimalakiirtisuutra, asserts that "If Maitreya attains enlightenment, so should all sentient beings. As this is the case with sentient beings, the same is true of grass and trees."

All that the above discussion demonstrates is that non-sentient objects are experienced by those who are "within the true principle" to be one with themselves and so possessing the Buddha-nature like themselves. It by no means shows that grass and trees are capable of actively following the true principle and thus really coming to embody in their being the nature of the Tathaagata. Indeed, Chi-tsang is the first person to remind us of that. So he continues:

This is the "general way" (t'ung men(ab) ) of describing the matter. But when looked at in the "specific way" (pieh men(ac)), the situation is not like that.(89) Why? [For in actual life,] sentient beings have the mind of delusion and so can realize enlightenment. As grass and trees are devoid of a mind and can [never] become deluded, how can they ever become enlightened? Just as when there is dream, there is awakening, and when there is no dream, there is no awakening [from dream]. For this reason, [the Buddha] declares that sentient beings have the Buddha-nature and so will attain Buddhahood, [whereas] grass and trees do not have the Buddha-nature and will not [ever] attain Buddhahood. That [grass and trees] "will attain" and "will not attain" [Buddhahood] are equally the words of the Buddha. What is there so astonishing [about the idea of the possession of Buddha-nature by non-sentient object]?(90)

That grass and trees "will attain" and "will not attain" Buddhahood can simultaneously be "the words of the Buddha," for the term "attain" carries diverse meanings in the two cases. When the Tathaagata teaches that non-sentient objects "will attain Buddhahood," he is telling us that in the all-encompassing wisdom of the enlightened, all objects are perceived as sharing in its fulfillment of the nature of the Buddha. But that need not preclude the Tathaagata from also teaching that Non-sentient objects "will not attain Buddhahood,'' when "attaining Buddhahood" is taken to signify the active pursuing and actual realization of the nature of the Buddha in their life. When so understood, there is indeed little in the thesis of the attaining of Buddhahood and so the possession of Buddha-nature by grass and trees to be surprised about. It is the logical outcome of the theory of the Buddha-nature as the Middle-way. It does not in any way contradict the orthodox view that Buddhahood is only open to beings with life, and is also completely in line with Chi-tsang's explanation of the purpose of the Buddha-nature teaching as set out in the previous section.


In the above exposition, we have seen that both Hui-yuan and Chi-tsang base their teachings of Buddha-nature on the MNS, from which they borrow most of the key terms for their analyses of the concept. Nevertheless, their general approach to the problem, their understanding of the Import of the doctrine, their description of the relation of Buddha-nature with sentient beings, their interpretations of the meaning of "direct cause of Buddha-nature," and so forth remain widely different owing to their respective Yogaacaara and Maadyhamik backgrounds. Subsequent development of the Buddha-nature theory in China follows in main the two basic directions initiated by Hui-yuan and Chi-tsang, but to demonstrate that would require the space of another article.


1. For discussions of the teaching of Buddha-nature in the Mahaaparinirvaa.nasuutra (hereafter cited as MNS), consult Mou Tsung-san(ad), Fo-hsing yu pan-jo(ae) (Taipei, 1977), vol. 1, pp. 179-182 and 189-216; and Ming-Wood Liu, "The Doctrine of the Buddha-nature in the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra, " Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 5, no. 2(1982): 63-94; hereafrer cited as Liu, "Doctrine."

2. On the early Chinese Buddha-nature theories, refer to Fuse Kogaku(af), Nehanshuu no kenkyuu(ag), 2nd ed. (Tokyo, 1973), vol. 2; T'ang Yung-t'ung(ah), Han Wei Liang-Chin Nan-pei-ch'ao fo-chiao shih(ai), 2d ed. (Peking, 1963), pp. 677-717; Mou Tsung-san, Fo-hsing yu pan-jo, pp. 182-189; and Whalen Lai, "Sinitic Speculations on Buddha-nature: The Nirvaa.na School," Philosophy East & West 32, no. (April 1982): 135-149.

3. Posterity often refers to Hui-yuan as "Hui-yuan of the Ching-ying Temple," in order to avoid confusion with the famous Hui-Yuan of Lu-shan(aj) (344-416).

4. Hui-yuan regards the idea of Buddha-nature as the fundamental principle of the one vehicle teaching. See Ta-ch'eng i-chang(ak) (Essentials of the Mahaayaana, hereafter cited as Essentials), Takakusu Junjiro(al) and Watenabe Kaikyoku(am), eds., Taisho shinshuu daizokyo(an), 85 vols. (Tokyo, 1924- 1934), vol. 44, p. 649a, 1 1.27-28, hereafter cited as T. Chi-tsang also mentions the Buddha-nature as the most important issue of the Buddha Dharma. See Sheng-man-ching pao-h'u(ao), T, vol. 37, p. 85a, I.27.

5. Both Hui-yuan and Chi-tsang have compiled commentaries on the MNS. Refer to the lists of works of the two masters in Ocho Enichi(ap), Chuugoku buukyo no kenkyuu(aq), vol. 3 (Kyoto, 1979), pp. 153 -154. As we shall see, a large part of their expositions of the Buddha-nature are presented as exegeses of key passages on the subject in the MNS.

6. Refer to Essentials, T, vol. 44, p. 477c, and Chi-tsang's Sheng-man-ching pao-k'u, T, vol. 37, p. 67 a-b, and Chung-kuan-lun su(ar), T,vol. 42, p. 153c.

7. Biography of Hui-yuan, in Tao-hsuan(as), Hsu kao-seng-chuan(at) , T. vol. 50, pp. 489c-492b; hereafter cited as Tao-hsuan, Hsu kao-seng-chuan. For recent studies of the life and writings of Hui-yuan, refer to Kamata Shigeo(au) , Chuugoku bukkyo shiso-shi kenkyuu(av) (Tokyo, 1968), pp. 298-312. and Ocho Enichi, Chuugoku bukkyo no kenkyuu, pp. 146-150.

8. Hu-yuan undertook his apprenticeship as a Buddhist master under Fa-shang(aw) (495-580), one of the most prominent Ti-lun masters of his time. He also came under the influence of the teaching of the She-lun School through T'an-ch'ien(ax) (542-607) in the final years of his life. See Tao-hsuan, Hsu kao-seng-chuan,, T, vol. 50, p. 490a and p. 572c.

9. For more information on these early Chinese Yogaacaara schools, see D. S. Ruegg, La Theorie du Tathaagatagarbha et du Gotra (Paris: Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 1969), pp. 439-442; Alfonso Verdu, Dialectical Aspects in Buddhist Thought (Kansas City, Kansas: Center for East Asian Studies. University of Kansas, 1974), pp. 29-39; Paul Magnin, La Vie er l'Oeuvre de Huisi (Paris: Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 1979), pp. 96-97, notes 101 and 102, and, Diana Y. Paul, Philosophy of Mind In Sixth Century China (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, (1984), chapter 2.

10. In this essay, the term "Yogaacaara" is used to refer to this teaching of the true-consciousness of the early Chinese Yogaacaarins. It should be noted that the concept of true-consciousness is not a characteristic feature of Indian Yogaacaarsim in general.

11. Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun i-su(ay), T, vol. 44, p. 183c, 11.27-28.

12. Hui-yuan adopts the Yogaacaara system of eight consciousnesses in his analysis of the character and function of the mind. For example, see Essentials, T, vol. 44. p. 524b-c.

13. Ibid., p. 524c, 1.20.

14. Ibid., p. 829c, 1.13.

15. Ibid., p. 524c, 11.26-27.

16. For a detailed picture of Hui-yuan's theory of origination of false phenomena from the true-mind, see Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lan i-su. T, vol.

44, pp. 532c-533a.

17. For more information on the mind-only teaching of Hui-yuan, consult Kamata Shigeo, Chuugoku bukkyo shiso-shi kenkyuu, pp. 312-355; Kaginushi Ryokei(az) , Kegon kyogaku josetsu(ba) (Tyoto, 1968), pp. 107-115; Katsumata Shunkyo(bb), Bukkyo ni okeru shinshiki-setsu no kenkyuu(bc) (Tokyo, 1961), pp. 668-677; Takamine Ryoshuu(bd), Kegon shiso shi(be), 2d ed. (Tokyo, 1963), pp.101-114; and Han Ching-ch'ing(bf) , "Ching-ying Hui-yuan pa-shih i-shu(bg)," in Wei-shi ssu-shing lun-chi(bh), vol. 2, ed. Chang Man-t'ao(bi) (Taipei, 1978), pp. 345-381.

18. Essentials T, vol. 44, p. 636a, 1.27-b, 1.1.

19. Hui-yuan devotes an entire section to the problem of Buddha-nature in the Essentials, and his commentaries on the MNS and the Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun(k) , entitled the Ta-pan nieh-p'an ching i-chi(bj) and Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun i-su, respectively, also contain interesting observations on the subject. However, most of Hui-yuan's expositions on the Buddha-nature are posed as exegeses of pronouncements on the concept found in various suutras and ‘saastras, and, on the whole, Hui-yuan appears to be more concerned with clarifying and coordinating ideas on the Buddha-nature as passed down in various canonical traditions than in giving a systematic account of his personal view. In the following study, we shall try to bring into focus Hui-yuan's own opinion on the question of Buddha-nature by relating his remarks on the subject with his general philosophical position and by contrasting his stand with that of Chi-tsang. For accounts which more truthfully reflect the actual manner of deliberation of Hui-yuan, consult Tokiwa Daijo(bk), Bussho no kenkyuu(bl), revised ed. (Tokyo, 1944), pp. 193-201; Ogawa Kokan(bm), Chuugoku nyoraizo shiso kenkyuu(bn) (Tokyo, 1976), pp. 252-289; Hukihara Shoshin(bo), "Joyo Eon bussho-setsu(bp)," in Hokugi bukkyo no kenkyuu(bq), 2d ed., ed. Ocho Enichi (Kyoto, 1978), pp. 203-260.

20. For discussions on the Sanskrit original of the term "Buddha-nature, " refer to Mizutani Kosho(br) , "Bussho ni tsuite, "(bs) Indogaku bukkyogaku no kenkyuu(bt), 4, no. 2(1956): 550-553 (hereafter cited as IBK); Shinoda Masashige(bu), "Bussho to sono gengo(bv)," IBK 11, no. 1 (1963): 223-226; Ogawa Ichijo(bw), "Bussho to buddhatva(bx)," IBK 11, no. 2 (1963): 544-545, and his Bussho shiso (by) (Kyoto, 1982), pp. 21-30.

21. See Liu, "Doctrine," sec. II

22. See note 4 herein.

23. Essentials, T, vol. 44, p. 472b.

24. Ibid., p. 476b, 11.7-9.

25. Refer to Liu, "Doctrine," sec. III, 3 and 4.

26. The section on the Buddha-nature in the Essentials opens with a long exposition of the meaning of the words "Buddha" and nature." According to Hui-yuan, the word "nature" has four basic significations: (i) seed, cause, or root, (ii) essence, (iii) immutability, and (iv) distinction (T, vol. 44, p. 472a-b).

27. Ibid., p. 472a, 11.15-23.

28. When Hui-yuan deals with the "cognitive" and "cognized" aspects of Buddha-nature a few paragraphs later, he refers to the former as the true-mind and the latter as the nature of dharmas, the dharmadhaatu, the supreme form of emptiness, the Middle-way, and so forth. See ibid., p. 472c.

29. T, vol. 12, p. 530c, 11.15-17.

30. Ta-pan nieh-p'an ching i-chi, T, vol. 37, p. 836b, 11.16-19.

31. Indeed, the entire early history of the Buddha-nature doctrine in China can be read as an ongoing attempt to identify that precise element in the constitution of sentient beings which explains their special status of being the "direct cause of Buddha-nature." Refer to Liu, "Early Development."

32. Allegedly compiled by A`svagho.sa the famous Buddhist poet and author of the Buddhacaritamahaakaavya, the Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun is most probably the work of a Chinese Yogaacaara master of the middle sixth century. According to the Ta-ch'eng Ch'i-hsin lun, there is in every sentient being a mind which has both an absolute and a phenomenal aspect. In its absolute aspect, the mind is the realm of truth (dharmadhaatu) and as such is pure, unborn, imperishable. and undifferentiated. This absolute mind takes on a phenomenal aspect when it comes under the influence of falsehood. and it is this phenomenal aspect of the mind which directly gives rise to the world of common experience. (See T. vol. 32, pp. 575c-576c.) This idea of two aspects of the mind is taken over by Hui-yuan and Forms the backbone of his mind-only philosophy. as can be seen from our sketch of his teaching in section II, "Background," herein.

33. T, vol. 12, p. 524a, 11.5-15.

34. Essentials, T, vol. 44, p. 473c, 11.24-28.

35. See "Background," in section II herein.

36. See notes 27 and 34, herein.

37. See "Background," in section II herein.

38. Essentials, T, vol. 44, p. 472c, 11.6-10, and p. 473a, 11.25-27.

39. Ibid., p. 526a, 11.22-23, and p. 651b, 11.9-10.

40. Ibid., p. 473a, 1.29-b, 1.3.

41. See T, vol. 32, p. 575c, 1.20-p. 576a, 1.1.

42. For example, see Essentials, T, vol. 44, p. 530a, 1.18-b, 1.5, and p. 652a, 1.1-10.

43. Ibid., p. 530a, 11.24-28.

44. Biography of Chi-tsang in Tao-hsuan, Hsu-kao-seng-chuan, T, vol. 50, pp. 513c-515a. Hirai Shunei's(bz) Chuugoku hannya shiso-shi kenkyuu(ca) (Tokyo 1976) is by far the most detailed and penetrating study on the life, works, and thought of Chi-tsang available at present; hereafter cited as Hisai Shunei, Chuugoku hannya shisho-shi kenkyuu. For discussions on the teaching of Chi-tsang, consult Hsueh-li Cheng, "Zen and San-lun Maadhyamika Thought: Exploring the Theoretical Foundations of Zen Teachings and Practices," Religious Studies 15, no. 3 (1979): 343-352; "Naagaarjuna, Kant, and Wittgenstein: The San-lun Maadhyamika Exposition of Exptiness," Religious Studies 17, no. 1 (1981): 67-73: and "Chi-tsang's Treatment of Metaphysical Issues." Journal of Chinese Philosophy 8. no. 3 (1981): 371 389. Also consult Aaron K. Koseki, "Chi-tsang's Ta-ch'eng hsuan-lun: The Two Truths and the Buddha-nature" (Ph.d. diss, University of Wisconsin, 1977) (hereafter cited as Koseki, "Chi-tsang's Ta-ch'eng hsuan-lun"), and "The Concept of Practice in San-lun Thought: Chi-tsang and the 'Concurrent Insight' of the Two Truths." Philosophy East & West 31, no. 4 (October 1981): 449-466.

45. See note 31 herein.

46. See Chi-tsang's criticism of the Buddha-nature theories of his predecessors and contemporaries, including those of Ti-lun and She-lun masters, in the Ta-ch'eng hsuan-lun(cb) (The profound teachings of the Mahayana; hereafter cited as Profound Teachings), T, vol. 45. pp. 35b-37a.

47. Sec note 21 herein.

48. The most important original source for the study of the Buddha-nature doctrine of Chi-tsang is the Profound Teachings, in which a whole section is given to the exposition of the problem. Many of Chi-tsang's other compilations also contain discussions on the subject, such as the Chung-kuan-lun su, Ching-ming hsuan-lun(cc), Fa-hua hsuan-lun(cd), and Sheng-man-ching pao-k'u. This study aims primarily at bringing out the Maadhyamika orientation of Chi-tsang's Buddha-nature teaching by contrasting it with that of Hui-yuan, and does not pretend to be an exhaustive examination of all aspects of Chi-tsang's ideas on the question. Interested readers may consult Tokiwa Daijo, Bussho no kenkyuu, pp. 206-220; Ogawa Kokan, Chuugoku nyoraizo shiso kenkyuu, 324-330; Kamata Shigeo, Chuugoku bukkyo shiso-shi kenkyuu, pp. 30-50: Hirai Shunei, Chuugoku hannya shiso-shi kenkyuu, pp. 617-640; Aaron K. Koseki, "Chi-tsang's Ta-ch'eng hsuuan-lun," chap. 4, and "Praj~naaparamitaa and the Buddhahood of the Non-sentient World: The San-lun Assimilation of Buddha-Nature and Middle Path Doctrine," Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 3, no. 1 (1980): 16-33: and Mint-Wood Liu, "Chi-tsang ti fo-hsing kuan(cc)," Journal of Oriental Studies 19, no. 1 (1981): 44-72.

49. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, p. 41c. Chi-tsang also includes in the list of synonyms of "Buddha-nature" the "tathaagatagarbha," "intrinsically pure mind" and "eighth consciousness," which, as we have seen, are the basic furniture of Yogaacaara thought. He does so largely because these concepts appear in such authoritative canonical texts as the `Sriimaalaadeviisi.mhanaadasuutra and L.ankaavataarasuutra, and so cannot be dismissed offhand. Chi-tsang's general policy is incorporate them into his writings, but meanwhile interpret them in such a way that they lose all their original ontological implications. See Hirai Shunei, Chugoku hannya shiso-shi kenkyuu, pp. 636-637, and note 80 herein.

50. Chi-tsang writes in the Jen-wang pan-jo ching su(cf) : "Neither-birth-nor-extinction is synonymous with the Middle-way, and is the other name for the profound nirvaa.na. It is also called the Buddha-nature"(T. vol. 33, p. 315a, 11.28-29). Chi-tsang often couples the "Middle-way" with "Buddha-nature,'' for instance, in the Chung-kuan-lun su, T. vol. 42, p. 9c, 1.15 and p. 21b, 1.9.

51. T, vol. 12, p. 523b, 11.13-18.

52. A central teaching of the MNS is that nirvaa.na is eternal, blissful, personal, and pure. See Kenneth K. S. Ch'en, Buddhism in China (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1964), pp. 14-115.

53. The concept "Middle-way" is propounded in Early Buddhism in connection with religious practice and metaphysical speculation. In the former case, it denotes avoidance of the extreme of devotion to sense pleasure on the one hand, and to self-mortification on the other hand:

Monks, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth as a wanderer. What two? Devotion to the pleasure of sense, a low practice of villagers, a practice unworthy, unprofitable, the way of the world [on the one hand]; and [on the other] devotion to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.

By avoiding these two extremes, the Tathaagata has gained knowledge of that middle path which gives vision, which gives knowledge, which causes calm, special knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbaana. (Sa.myuttanikaaya 56, 2, i, in F. L. Woodward, trans., The Book of Kindred Sayings, 5 vols. (London: Pali Text Society, 1917-1930), vol. 5, pp. 356-357; hereafter cited as Woodward, Book of Kindred Sayings). In the latter case, it indicates abstinence from taking sides on the so called "indeterminate questions," such as the existence or nonexistence of the world, the existence or non-existence of the self, and so forth. For example:

Everything exists:- this is one extreme. Nothing exists:- this is the other extreme. Not approaching either extreme the Tathaagata teaches you a doctrine by the middle[way]: - Conditioned by ignorance activities come to pass, conditioned by activities consciousness; thus conditioned [arises] name-and-shape; and sense arises, contact, feeling, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, decay-and-death, grief, suffering,... even such is the uprising of this entire mass of ill. But from the utter fading away and ceasing of ignorance [arises] ceasing of activities, and thus comes ceasing of this entire mass of ill. (Sa.myutta-nikaaya XIII 15, in F. L. Woodward, Book of Kindred Sayings, vol. 2, p. 13)

54. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 44, p. 37b,11.16-23.

55. Chi-tsang considers the spirit of "nonattachment, " which underlies the notion of Middle-way, as the central principle of Buddhism. So he observes, "Even though the Buddha expounds myriads of concepts and teachings, he has in mind the one mark and one taste of nonattachment'' (Chuang-kuan-lun su, T, vol.42, p.32a, 11.10-11). He further asserts, "Thus, it is said that partiality and attachment are the roots of sa.msaara, and impartiality and nonattachment are the main theses of [all] suutras and `saastras" (Son-inn hsuan-i(cg), T, vol. 45, p. 7a, 11.25-26).

It should be noted that in his long lost commentary on the MNS titled Ta-pan nieh-p'an ching su(ch), Chi-tsang closely follows the wording of the suutra and regards the union of the extremes of "emptiness" and "nonemptiness" as the Middle-way. See the fragment of the commentary collected by Hirai Shunei in "Kichizo cho 'Daihatsu-nehan-gyo she' itsubun no kenkyuu(ci)" Nanto bukkyo(cj)(29) (1972) : 60; hereafter cited as Hirai Shunei, "Kichizo cho Daihatsu-nehan-gyo sho' itsubun no kenkyuu."

56. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, p. 38c, 11.2--8.

57. Ibid., p. 36c, 11.17-18.

58. Instead. Chi-tsang criticizes vehemently those who, following the suggestion of the MNS, advocate that sentient beings are the direct cause of Buddha-nature. See ibid., p. 36a.

59. Ibid., p. 37a, 11.9-10.

60. Ibid., p. 38a, 11.17-19.

61. For explanation of the meaning of "within the true principle" and "outside the true principle," see the section later in this paper entitled "Buddha-Nature and Nonsentient Objects."

62. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, p. 41b, 11.1-3.

63. For example, when Chi-tsang comments on the analysis of the Buddha-nature, in the MNS, into the five aspects of "cause," "cause vis-i-vis cause," "effect," "effect vis-i-vis effect." and "neither cause nor effect." he sometimes refers to the aspect of "neither cause nor effect" as "cheng-yin fo-hsing" (see note 60 herein) and sometimes as "cheng-hsing" (see note 70 herein).

64. T, vol. 12, p. 523c, 1.24-p. 524a, 1.5. See note 33 herein.

65. The idea that the doctrine of dependent origination signifies the Middle-way can be found in the oldest Buddhist texts. For example, we find the following conversation in the Sa.myuttanikaaya:

When the Exalted One was staying at Saavatthii a certain brahmin came into the presence of the Exalted One, and exchanged gretings with him and in courteous and friendly converse sat down at one side. So seated he said to the Exalted One:

'What [say you] here. Master Gotama:- He who does the deed, is he the one to experience?' 'He who does the deed and he who experiences are the same:- this brahmin, is one extreme. 'Well. then, Master Gotama, [what of this:]- he who does the deed is not the same as he who experiences?'

'He who does the deed is not the same as he who experiences:- this, brahmin, is the other extreme. The Tathaagata. not approaching either of these extremes, teaches you a Doctrine by a middle [way]:- conditioned by ignorance activitie, consciousness, and so on. Such is the arising of this entire mass of ill. But by the utter fading away and ceasing of ignorance activities cease, by the ceasing of activities consciousness ceases, and so on. Such is the ceasing of this entire mass of ill' (Sa.myuttanikaaya XII 46, in F. L. Woodward, trans., Book of Kindred Sayings, vol. 2, pp. 51-52). Also see second quotation in note 53 herein.

66. See note 51 herein.

67. Refer to section II, "Buddha-Nature qua Cause and Effect," herein, for explanation of the meaning of "auxiliary cause."

68. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, p. 37c, 11.16-23.

69. A few lines after the quotation in note 64 herein the MNS asserts, "The twelve-fold chain of dependent origination neither comes into nor goes out of existence, neither exists permanently nor becomes extinct. is neither identical nor different, neither comes hither nor goes thither. and is neither cause nor effect" (T, vol. 12, p. 524a, 11.11-12). The first four pairs of "neither... nor'' are commonly known as the eightfold negations, which are generally considered as a peculiar teaching of Madhyamika Buddhism. for the become will-known as a group largely through Naagaarjuna's Muulamadhyaamakakaarikaa.

70. Chung-kuan-lun su. T, vol. 42, p. 6b, 11.18-25.

71. See note 69 preceding.

72. Chi-tsang often links the eightfold negations with the Middle-way. For example, see Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45. pp. 25c-30b.

73. We have just observed that Chi-tsang makes little difference between "Buddha-nature" and "direct cause of Buddha-nature." From the preceding exposition. it should be clear that. Strictly speaking, it is the Middle-way which is the "Buddha-nature qua 'neither cause nor effect'":

Chi-tsang's Theory of the Five Aspects of Buddha-Nature Based on the MNS 1.Buddha-nature qua "cause" twelve-fold chain of dependent origination, 2. Buddha-nature qua "cause wisdom vis-a-vis cause", 3.Buddha-nature qua "effect" the most perfect enlightenment, 4. Buddha-nature qua "effect maahaparinirvaa.na vis-a-vis effect", 5. Buddha-nature qua "neither Middle-way (as exemplified by cause nor effect"the twelve fold chain of dependent origination, and so forth) See Chi-tsang's exposition of the five aspects in the Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, pp. 37c-38b. In his Ta-pan nieh-pan ching su, Chi-tsang further distinguishes between "neither cause nor effect" as applied to the "twelve fold chain of dependent origination" and the "Middle-way." Refer to Hirai Shunei, "Kichizo cho 'Daihatsu-nehan-gyo she' itsubun no kenkyuu," p. 63.

74. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, p. 39a,1.27-b,1.1.

75. Ibid., p. 39b, 11.15-25.

76. Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T, vol. 38, pp. 856c-857a.

77. Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45, p. 39c, 11.3-6.

78. See note 20 herein and next paragraph.

79. The ten evil deeds are killing, stealing, adultery, lying, double-tongue, coarse language, filthy language, covertousness, anger, and perverted views.

80. Sheng-men-ching pao-k'u, T, vol. 37, p. 67a, 1.22-b,1.2.

81. See section II, What Is "Buddha-nature"?

82. Nieh-p'an ching yu-k(ck), T, vol. 38, p. 231c, 11.12-20.

83. Refer to note 80 herein.

84. See Profound Teachings, T, vol. 45. p. 40a-b.

85. For detailed description of these two categories of beings, refer to ibid., p. 40b, ] 1.5-8, and Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T, vol. 38, p. 868a, 11.19-24.

86. The following remarks come after a series of citations from the Avata.msakasuutra, the Mahaasa.mnipaatasuutra, the MNS, and so forth, all of which, in Chi-tsang's opinion, likewise teach the presence of Buddha-nature in nonsentient objects.

87. "Cheng" and "i" are two forms of retribution, the former being the resultant person and the latter being the world in which the resultant person dwells, comprising both other sentient beings and nonsentient objects.

88. Profound Teachings, T. vol. 45, p. 40c, 11.12-23.

89. "General" and "specific" are two ways of looking at the relationship between Buddha-nature and the phenomenal world, the former emphasizing their oneness and the latter stressing their difference.

90. Ibid., p. 40c, 11.23-28.



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