03/22 Bussho



The Buddha-nature

Butsu means Buddha and sho means nature, so bussho means Buddha-nature. The Chinese characters read in Japanese as bussho represent the meaning of the Sanskrit word buddhata, or Buddha-nature; this was usually understood as the potential we have to attain the truth, or as something which we have inherently and which grows naturally day by day. But Master Dogen was not satisfied by such interpretations. In his view, the Buddha-nature is neither a potential nor a natural attribute, but a state or condition of body and mind at a present moment. Therefore, he saw the Buddha-nature neither as something that we might realize in the future, nor as something that we have inherently in our body and mind. From this standpoint, Master Dogen affirmed and at the same time denied the proposition “We all have the Buddha-nature.” He also affirmed and at the same time denied the proposition “We all don’t have the Buddha-nature.” At first sight, these views appear contradictory, but through his dialectic explanation of the Buddha-nature in this chapter, Master Dogen succeeded in interpreting the concept of the Buddha-nature from the standpoint of action or reality.