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Book: Buddhism in Five Minutes

Chapter: 45. What is Buddha-Nature?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40763


Mahayana Buddhism was responsible for a great many doctrinal innovations that mainstream Buddhism in India rejected. Among these was the controversial but ultimately influential idea that all sentient beings, across their successive lives, possess at all times the nature of a buddha already, but that this is somehow hidden about them, obscured by afflictions or negative characteristics such as ignorance, desire, hatred, pride, and so forth. Forms of Buddhanature teaching pervade prominent types of Buddhism that developed in Tibet and in East Asia. But, in its original Indian context, Buddha-nature teaching was very radical, in essence because it at least seems to reimagine the purpose of Buddhist practice from the transformation or development of oneself—from a state of
affliction to a state of being liberated or “awakened”—to the discovery or disclosure of a nature that is already there, a perspective reminiscent of what is found in other Indian religious traditions such as Brahmanism or Jainism.

Chapter Contributors

  • Christopher Jones ( - cjones1) 'University of Cambridge'