Beings, Non-Beings, and Buddhas: Contrasting Notions of tathāgatagarbha in the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta and *Mahābherī Sūtra

C.V. Jones


This article concerns a little studied text of the Mahāyānist tathāgatagarbha literature, namely the *Mahābherī Sūtra, and its relation to other Indian texts which advance forms of tathāgatagarbha doctrine. Its focus will be the contrast between the content of this sūtra and the only other text of the tathāgatagarbha tradition which discusses a particular issue: the unchanging mass of existing sentient beings, without the possibility of any decrease or increase in their number. This is an issue addressed also by the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta, which I shall argue presents a more sophisticated and likely later consideration, both of this matter and of tathāgatagarbha doctrine, than that exhibited by the *Mahābherī Sūtra. Though it is not clear that either text knew of the other, their different treatments of how one should understand the nature and number of existing sentient beings casts light on their respective places in two distinct strains – one very likely older than the other – of Indian tathāgatagarbha thought.

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