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Key Term buddhadhātu
In Tibetan Script སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་ཁམས་
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration sangs rgyas kyi khams
Devanagari Sanskrit Script बुद्धधातु
Romanized Sanskrit buddhadhātu
Tibetan Phonetic Rendering sangye kyi kham
Chinese Script 佛性
Chinese Pinyin fó xìng
Japanese Transliteration busshō
English Standard buddha-element
Term Type Noun
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning A synonym for tathāgatagarbha widely used throughout the East Asian Buddhist traditions, as found in its translations as the Chinese term fó xìng and Japanese term busshō.
Has the Sense of This is most likely the direct source of the English term buddha-nature via its translation into Chinese and Japanese. These traditions tended to treat the Sanskrit terms dhātu, gotra, and garbha as synonyms when compounded with the term buddha, though the translation of buddhadhātu seems to have been adopted as the standard technical term to reference the buddha-nature doctrine, as it could cover a wider range of possible meanings. In other words, the term dhātu could more easily reference both the causal aspect of this nature, commonly associated with the term gotra, and the fruition aspect of this nature, commonly associated with the term garbha.
Related Terms tathāgatagarbha;dhātu
Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism In Sanskrit, “buddha-element,” or “buddha-nature”; the inherent potential of all sentient beings to achieve buddhahood. See page 151.
Other Definitions Literally, "buddha-element," a synonym for what Rongtön calls natural buddha-nature or undefiled suchness. It is the empty nature of the mind, identical in both sentient beings and buddhas. - Bernert, Christian, Perfect or Perfected? Rongtön on Buddha-Nature (2018), page 114.
Synonyms tathāgatagarbha
Earliest Mention The term first appears in the Mahāyāna recension of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, now available only in Chinese translation, which states that all sentient beings have the “buddha-element” (foxing). (The Chinese translation foxing literally means “buddha-nature” and the Chinese has often been mistakenly back-translated as the Sanskrit buddhatā; buddhadhātu is the accepted Sanskrit form.) The origin of the term may, however, be traced back as far as the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā, one of the earliest Mahāyāna Sūtras, where the fundamental substance of the mind is said to be luminous (prakṛtiś cittasya prabhāsvarā), drawing on a strand of Buddhism that has its antecedents in such statements as the Pāli Aṅguttaranikāya: “The mind, O monks, is luminous but defiled by adventitious defilements” (pabhassaraṃ idaṃ bhikkhave cittaṃ, tañ ca kho āgantukehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhaṃ). Because the bodhisattva realizes that the buddha-element is inherent in him at the moment that he arouses the aspiration for enlightenment (bodhicittotpāda) and enters the bodhisattvayāna, he achieves the profound endurance (kṣānti) that enables him to undertake the arduous training, over not one, but three, incalculable eons of time (asaṃkhyeyakalpa), that will lead to buddhahood. The buddhadhātu is a seminal concept of the Mahāyāna and leads to the development of such related doctrines as the “matrix of the tathāgatas” (tathāgatagarbha) and the “immaculate consciousness” (amalavijñāna). - Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (2014), pages 151-152.
Further Reading Material See also: King, Sallie B. Buddha Nature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991, pp. 173–74, note 5.