Two Perspectives on ‘I’: the Manifestation of the Tathāgata and Tathāgatagarbha
All religions and philosophy have their own perspective on ‘I’.
Buddhism also has explained about ‘I’ in diverse ways based on no-self theory. This paper aimes at examining by comparison the meanings of tathāgatagarbha(如來藏) and the manifestation of the tathāgata(如來出現), which all understand ‘I’ through ‘my body’ in the affirmative.
The tathāgatagarbha theory which had originated from the practical needs in India has been developed out undergoing various transformation according to the times and the regions. This transformation would be summarized like the followings.
The Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, the first sūtra on the tathāgatagarbha theory in fact as well as in name, describes tathāgatagarbha as the possibility or basis of practice or nirvaṇa. In the Śrīmālāsūtra(<勝鬘經>), the following sūtra of the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, tathāgatagarbha becomes foundation of birth and death as well as nirvana. This sūtra, however, does not explain how tathāgatagarbha which is originally the base of nirvaṇa can be the base of birth and death as well, which came to be answered in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra(<楞伽經>) by assuming that tathāgatagarbha was same as ālayavijñāna that was already well known as the foundation of birth and death.
After this tathāgatagarbha theory had been transmitted to the East Asia, this also came to be changed from the practical base into the ontological base of both defiled and pure dharmas in the Dilun school(地論宗).
Zhiyan(智儼, 602~668CE) who established the foundation of the Huayan school included the tathāgatagarbha theory into his system of dependent co-arising of the dharma-realm(法界緣起) but he seems to interpret it as the base of birth and death rather than nirvaṇa.
On the contrary, the Hwaŏm school of Ŭisang(義湘, 625 ~ 702 CE) and his disciples regarded the tathāgatagarbha theory which could be any kind of base or foundation of birth and death or nirvaṇa, and whether practical or ontological base as the Three Vehicles’ theory and rejected it. In other words, they asserted the complete aboliton of the tathāgatagarbha theory which could be understood as a kind of dhātu theory in any case. At the same time, however, they embraced the tathāgatagarbha theory of the Three Vehicles doctrine by transforming it into the tathāgathagarbhabuddha theory of the One Vehicle doctrine. By understanding tathāgatagarbha as the tathāgatagarbha-buddha which is the manifestation of the tathāgatha, the basic proposition of the tathāgatagarbha theory, “all sentient beings have tathāgatagarbha” are changed like this, “my body is the very tathāgatagarbhabuddha” in the Hwaŏm school of Ŭisang and his disciples. Therefore the tathāgatagarbha theory went the process of occurrence, transmittion, transformation, aboliton and embracement and, due to these processes, all sentient beings become my body and tathāgatagarbha are changed into the tathāgatagarbha-buddha as the manifestation of the Tathāgata.
manifestation of the Tathāgata(如來出現),
arising of the tathāgata’s nature(如來性起),
Hwaŏm or Huayan (華嚴),