This question may sound strange, but in my secular frustrations, I'm thinking about "the past" as some kind of womb which has nourished and given birth to "me" now.

Do Buddhists, of any sort, have a name for the past? How does it feature in any doctrines of Buddhist salvation?

Does anyone equate the past with the womb of the Tathagata?

  • this is probably my fav. quote from any sastra: "He should observe that all that had been conceived in the past was as hazy as a dream, that all that is being conceived in the present is like a flash of lightning, and that all that will be conceived in the future will be like clouds that rise up suddenly"
    – user2512
    Jan 28, 2016 at 2:47

2 Answers 2


None identify buddha nature with the past. Generally speaking and regardless of the school of thought, buddha nature points to you having (at present) the potential to achieve buddhahood.

Cittamatrin identify buddha-nature to the mind-basis-of-all (alaya vijnana) while Madhyamika identify it to suchness with defilements, that is the emptiness of the mind of a sentient being. The Lankavatara Sutra equates tathagatagarba with mind-basis-of-all.

In his commentary to Maitreya's Sublime Continuum, Gyaltsab Je (Madhyamika-Prasangika) writes:

Suchness with defilement is the basic element not liberated from the obscurations of mental afflictions, and is known as tathagata essence (Skt. tathagatagarbha).

Madhyamika-Svatantrika speak of emptiness of true existence while Madhyamika-Prasangika speak of emptiness of inherent existence. The Madhyamika idea is basically that if your mind was not empty, it would not be dependent, no change could occur in it, it could not be subject to transformation, it could not be separated from the obscuring factors, it could not come to be endowed with the two purities, would not be suitable to transform into the bodies of a buddha, and so forth.


Some of the terms I can think of:

  • Kamma:

    'I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir

  • ālaya-vijñāna (storehouse consciousness) -- the answers to this topic suggest that's a description of how Karma is stored in the mind (in the Yogacara "mind-only" school of Buddhism)

    See also Tathagatagarbha and Alayavijnana, which is too muddled to quote but which says that some schools relate these concepts (i.e. karmic seeds from the past, and Buddha-nature).

  • There's also Kālika (meaning "related to time") and Akalika ("not related to time"): it's the latter which is given as an attribute of the Dharma.

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