Buddha Nature

By Sallie B. King

Subjects: Buddhism, Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Buddhist Studies
Paperback : 9780791404287, 205 pages, January 1991
Hardcover : 9780791404270, 205 pages, January 1991

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Table of contents



Chapter One: Introduction

A. The Role of the Buddha Nature Concept
B. Terms
C. History
D. The Text of the Buddha Nature Treatise
E. The Buddha Nature Treatise and Chinese Buddhist Thought

Chapter Two: The Concept of Buddha Nature

A. Taking the Semantic Ascent
B. Refutation of Other Views
C. The Essence of Buddha Nature


1. The Buddha Nature as Three Causes
2. The Three Natures (Trisvabhava)
3. Tathagatagarbha


Chapter Three: Soteriology: Buddha Nature as the Practice of Buddhism

A. Asrayaparavrtti
B. Dharmakaya and Nirvana
C. Trikaya : Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya
D. The Relationship Between Person and Buddha

Chapter Four: Dereification of Self and Mind

A. The "Own-Nature" of Buddha Nature
B. Atmaparamita
C. Self
D. Pure Mind
E. Dharmakaya and "Self"
F. Mind

Chapter Five: Ontology: Monism vs. Nondualism

A. All Sentient Beings Possess the Buddha Nature
B. The Paramita
C. Sunya-Asunya
D. Buddha Nature Exists Aboriginally
E. Unborn and Unchanging

Chapter Six: Engaging in Spiritual Cultivation

Chapter Seven: Buddha Nature and the Concept of Person

A. The Ontological-Metaphysical Dimension
B. The Existential Dimension
C. A Final Question

Chapter Eight: Retrospective and Prospective

A. Retrospective: Summary of the Text
B. The Buddha Nature Treatise and Chinese Buddhist Thought
C. Buddha Nature Thought and Western Buddhism





This volume presents the first book-length study in English of the concept of Buddha nature as discussed in the Buddha Nature Treatise (Fo Xing Lun), attributed to Vasubandhu and translated into Chinese by Paramartha in the sixth century. The author provides a detailed discussion of one of the most important concepts in East Asian Buddhism, a topic little addressed in Western studies of Buddhism until now, and places the Buddha nature concept in the context of Buddhist intellectual history. King then carefully explains the traditional Buddhist language in the text, and embeds Buddha nature in a family of concepts and values which as a group are foundational to the development of the major indigenous schools of Chinese Buddhism. In addition, she refutes the accusations that the idea of Buddha nature introduces a crypto-Atman into Buddhist thought, and that it represents a form of monism akin to the Brahmanism of the Upanisads. In doing this, King defends Buddha nature in terms of purely Buddhist philosophical principles. Finally, the author engages the Buddha nature concept in dialogue with Western philosophy by asking what it teaches us about what a human being, or person, is.

Sallie B. King is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is the author of Passionate Journey: The Spiritual Autobiography of Satomi Myodo.


"It intelligently treats a text of crucial importance and brings up all the issues involved — offering interpretations on them. To anyone interested in Chinese Buddhism it should be engaging reading. " — John P. Keenan

"Sallie King's work combines Buddhological detail with relevant philosophical concepts and distinctions. Buddha nature is one of the most important concepts in Mahayana Buddhism. " — Frank J. Hoffman