Buddha-nature - Etymology

Etymology

Buddha-nature (Classical Chinese: 佛性, modern pinyin fó xìng) literally corresponds to the Sanskrit Buddha-dhātu - "Buddha Element", "Buddha-Principle", but seems to have been used most frequently to translate the Sanskrit "Tathāgatagarbha". The Sanskrit term "tathāgatagarbha" may be parsed into tathāgata ("the one thus gone", referring to the Buddha) and garbha ("root/embryo"). The latter has the meanings: "embryo", "essence"; whilst the former may be parsed into "tathā" ("he who has there" and "āgata" (semantic field: "come", "arrived") and/or "gata" ("gone").

For the various equivalents of the Sanskrit term "tathāgatagarbha" in other languages (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese), see Glossary of Buddhism, "tathagatagarbha"

The usual term for ‘buddha nature’ in the Mahayana teachings is tathagatagarbha, but in the Vajrayana the term is sugatagarbha.

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