In a lot of Buddhist literature you will find passages suggesting that our Buddha nature is actually "nothingness" or "emptiness". I was wondering if this was true? I'm starting to doubt this claim because of the Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya is one of the three bodies of Buddha which is transcendent. While some say that the Dharmakaya "is" nothingness, others claim that it is neither part of space (emptiness and form) nor time. The idea is that everything, including nothingness (emptiness), originated out of the Dharmakaya. It's an impersonal force which holds everything together, originated everything, and maintains everything through a transcendent state.

My question: What is the proper understanding of the Dharmakaya and it's relationship with our Buddha nature? Is it the Buddha nature or not?


4 Answers 4


According to Yogacara, buddha nature is a seed in the mind basis of all. According to Madhyamika, buddha nature is the emptiness of the mind of a sentient being. It is not the dharmakaya.

Dharmakaya is divided into two (sometimes three): 1. the wisdom truth body, which is the omniscient mind of a buddha, and 2. the nature truth body, which is the emptiness of the mind of a buddha. We also call the nature truth body: 'emptiness [of the mind] without defilements' while buddha nature is 'the emptiness [of a mind with] defilements'. Just like the emptiness of the table is not the same phenomena as the emptiness of the cup, the emptiness of the mind of a sentient being (i.e. a non-buddha) is not the same as the emptiness of the omniscient mind of a buddha. Therefore, we can not say that buddha nature is the dharmakaya or that an arya buddha possesses buddha nature.

Moreover, in no traditional text have I seen the dharmakaya qualified as 'transcendent'.


In the old Pali Buddhism, the word 'sunnata' ('emptiness'/'voidness') does not mean 'nothingness' (ākiñcaññā) or 'empty space' (ākāsā). It refers to the state ('ta') of being 'empty (sunna) of self' & 'anything belonging/pertaining to self'. 'Sunnata' was also used to refer to a state empty of greed, hatred & delusion.

Thus, everything in the universe without exception, including Dharmakaya, Buddha Nature, etc, are inherently empty of self & anything pertaining to self.

In other words, the term "our Buddha nature" is wrong relationship with 'Emptiness' & Dharmakaya since, in view of emptiness & Dharmakaya, Buddha nature is not "ours".

And what is the emptiness mind-release? There is the case where a monk, having gone into the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or into an empty dwelling, considers this: 'This is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self. This is called the emptiness mind-release.

MN 43


Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty.

Suñña Sutta


the unprovoked mind-release is declared the foremost. And this unprovoked mind-release is empty of passion, empty of aversion, empty of delusion.

MN 43


He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality... becoming... ignorance'.

MN 121


The Awakening of Faith says that

that which is fully endowed with them [numberless excellent qualities] is called the Dharmakaya when manifested and the Tathagata-garbha when latent... Suchness or the Dharmakaya is not empty, but is endowed with numberless excellent qualities

So they're different names for suchness, the essence of mind, dependent on if we mean that the excellent qualities are latent or manifest.

Suchness in its nature is fully provided with all excellent qualities; namely, it is endowed with the light of great wisdom, the qualities of illuminating the entire universe, of true cognition and mind pure in its self-nature; of eternity, bliss, Self, and purity; of refreshing coolness, immutability, and freedom.


Dharmakaya is equivalent to Buddha Nature, God, Allah, Brahmin, etc.... the Ultimate source that is beyond existence and non-existence. The "Creator" (though it neither creates nor is created, it begets nor is begotten).

Emptiness is similar to it but it is not it.

Because emptiness is similar to it we cultivate peaceful mind until we achieve samadhi.

This is similar and brings us "closer" to enlightenment but nonetheless Emptiness is still falsity.

When we can initially let go of the peace of emptiness and leap beyond all Three Realms... then we are bodhisattvas... on the road to Buddhahood and learning to clear out the even more deep-seated attachments.

So basically the order of cultivation is:

  1. let go of existence attachment (Desire Realm and Form Realm)
  2. let go of nonexistence attachment (Formless realm)
  3. abide in the Ultimate
  • I don´t think it is appropriate to compare Buddha Nature with Allah or God. Buddhism is beyond duality and beyond the idea of a "creator" or "a begining". Dharmakaya is not equivalent to Buddha Nature as very well explained above by Tenzing Dorje. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 22:39
  • @carlos velasquez i am using pantheistic definition of such terms. I would rather believe that the original theologists/prophets pointed to this definition rather that some being who protects/punishes people
    – Ahmed
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 23:09

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