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Chinese name
Chinese 真如
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet chân như
Korean name
Hangul 진여
Japanese name
Kanji 真如
Hiragana しんにょ

Tathatā (Sanskrit, Pali तथता tathatā; Chinese: 真如) is variously translated as "thusness" or "suchness". It is a central concept in Buddhism, and is of particular significance in Zen Buddhism. The synonym dharmatā is also often used.

While alive the Buddha referred to himself as Tathagata, which can mean either "One who has thus come" or "One who has thus gone",[1] and interpreted correctly can be read as "One who has arrived at suchness". Tathatā as a central concept of Buddhism expresses appreciation of the ten suchnesses in any given moment.[citation needed] As no moment is exactly the same, each one can be savored for what occurs at that precise time, whether it is thought of as being "good" or "bad".

In the early texts, it is described as an aspect of nibbānā.[2]

Ch'an (Jap. Zen)

In Ch'an stories, Tathatā is often best revealed in the seemingly mundane or meaningless, such as noticing the way the wind blows through a field of grass, or watching someone's face light up as they smile. According to Ch'an hagiography, Shakyamuni Buddha transmitted the awareness of Tathata directly to Mahakasyapa in what has come to be rendered in English as the Flower Sermon. In another story, Shakyamuni asked his disciples "How long is a human life?" As none of them could offer the correct answer he told them "Life is but a breath".[3] Here we can see the Buddha expressing the impermanent nature of the world, where each individual moment is different from the last. Molloy[4] states, "We know we are experiencing the 'thatness' of reality when we experience something and say to ourselves, 'Yes, that's it; that is the way things are.' In the moment, we recognize that reality is wondrously beautiful but also that its patterns are fragile and passing."

The Ch'an master Thich Nhat Hanh wrote "People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle." [5]

Mahayana Buddhism

The term Tathatā in the East Asian Mahayana tradition is seen as representing the base reality and can be used to terminate the use of words. A 5th-century Chinese Mahayana scripture entitled "Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana" describes the concept more fully: "In its very origin suchness is of itself endowed with sublime attributes. It manifests the highest wisdom which shines throughout the world, it has true knowledge and a mind resting simply in its own being. It is eternal, blissful, its own self-being and the purest simplicity; it is invigorating, immutable, free... Because it possesses all these attributes and is deprived of nothing, it is designated both as the Womb of Tathagata and the Dharma Body of Tathagata."[6][1]

Robinson (1957: pp. 306) echoing Suzuki (1930) conveys how the Lankavatara Sutra perceives dharmata through the portal of shunyata:

The Lankavatara is always careful to balance sunyata with Tathatā, or to insist that when the world is viewed as sunya, empty, it is grasped in its suchness.


  1. ^ Oxford dictionary of Buddhism; P296
  2. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Paradox of Becoming, page 167.
  3. ^ Zen speaks, shouts of nothingness; p24; Anchor books 1994
  4. ^ Molloy, M. "Experiencing The World's Religions." page 130. Mayfield Publishing Co., 1999.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Berry, T. "Religions of India: Hinduism, Yoga, Buddhism" page 170. Columbia University Press, 1992.
  7. ^ Robinson, Richard H. (1957). 'Some Logical Aspects of Nagarjuna's System', Philosophy East & West, Volume 6, no. 4, p.306.

See also