In this article, I considered some acceptance aspects in tibetan buddhism of terminology and concept of buddha nature in the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā.
The Theg chen rgyud bla ma'i don bsdus pa is the very first tibetan commentary of Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā, and had been translated by rNgog Lo tsā ba Blo ldan shes rab (1059-1109) in India. To examine rNgog Blo ldan shes rab's interpretation, so it is the initial step to understand controversy in tibetan buddhism about buddha nature.
Based on extant tibetan texts, I could in the second part of this article verify some following philological facts : first the title of Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā as well as the name of writer, Maitreya has been mentioned in works of Ratnākaraśānti (from the late 10th to early 11th century) and Abhayākaragupta (d. 1125) in the early 11th century. Second the first introduction into Tibet of Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā whose formation was in India, it was through tibetan translation by Atiśa (982-1054) and Nag tsho Tshul khrims rgyal ba (1011-1064) in the late 11th century. rNgog Blo ldan shes rab personally inherited the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā in Kashmir, India, from Sajjana (late 11th century) whose teacher was Ānandakīrti. The latter figure was a pupil of Maitrīpa (b.1007/1010) who had rediscovered the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā.
rNgog Blo ldan shes rab since then translated the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā with Sajjana, and bequeathed the first tibetan commentary of the original Sanskrit text. Third according to the Deb ther sngon po of 'Gos Lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal (1392-1481), the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā had been translated in Tibet a total of six times until in the 15th century.
In the third part I examined how rNgog Blo ldan shes rab understands three aspects of buddha nature, i.e. dharmakāya, tathatā and gotra in the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā, of verses I. 27 & 28. rNgog Blo ldan shes rab judges whether dharmakāya, tathatā, and gotra are to be understood as nominal (btags pa) or actual (dngos po) with regard to their existence in sentient beings and the Buddha. rNgog Blo ldan shes rab's commentary is closely related with his understanding of “nominal designation” (Skt.
upacāra, Tib. nye bar btags pa) in a passage of “because its result has been nominally designated as the Buddha's gotra (bauddhe gotre tatphalasyopacārād), [the Buddha] taught all sentient beings have the Buddha nature.”(I. 27) This suggests that all sentient beings has the spiritual potential (gotra) inside as Dynamis, as cause of attaining Buddhahood.
rNgog Blo ldan shes rab extends the nominal designation into dimension of dharmakāya and tathatā, beyond dimension of gotra. According to him, buddha nature (Skt. tathāgatagarbha, sugatagarbha) is nothing less than dharmakāya and the immaculated tathatā. On the contrary to this sattvagarbha is the stained tathatā (samalā tathatā) and gotra, the latent cause of buddha nature. He has highlighted the possibility of buddha nature through terms of thob tu rung and btags pa, whereas Sa bzang Mati Paṇ chen 'Jam dbyangs Blo gros rgyal mtshan (1294-1376) has underlined “the enjoyment” (nye bar spyod pa) whose original concept is btags pa of rNgog Blo ldan shes rab's interpretation, to say that gotra is none other than dharmakāya, even though gotra has some kind of “adventitious stains” (āgantukāvaraṇa). This modification of Sa bzang Mati Paṇ chen is an hermeneutical device to approve the fact that all sentient beings have buddha nature inside and so is even in the ultimate existence (paramārtha).
rNgog Blo ldan shes rab explains all of three aspects of buddha nature, i.e.
dharmakāya, tathatā and gotra as emptiness. This is a crucial point which is suggesting how rNgog Blo ldan shes rab understands buddha nature. He pushfully utilizes the concept of btags pa as hermeneutical device, to make understand organically the śūnyatā and buddha nature.