All this time I’ve figured that Buddha-nature is on a par with boring assumptions that pantheism or panentheism, where you “just might as well posit” the omnipresence of “God,” whatever that would mean. If God is the Urgrund (and I think this is how every theology debugs the favorite local creator-god) then having the divine mind “present” at every point in space time doesn’t do much. If God is everywhere, or God is nature, then this is like saying “existence is everywhere in space.” It adds no attribute that is actually discernible, except maybe an explanation for why it is that sentient bodies can in principle occupy every point in space.
I thought Buddha-nature was like this. “Yeah, yeah. All of space is full of the consciousness of God, or Buddha.” I hated the idea—I felt it was just the adoption of one of the shittiest pseudo-mystical metaphysical facts of theism. “Great,” I thought. “Now we can spread Buddha’s sentience all over space as well as God’s.” Both yield the same happy idea, both have the same zero consequences, and both are either tautologous or untestable.
But then it hit me:
Option 1: The Buddha-nature idea is not empty like omnipresence. It says rather that all of physical space contains the material conditions for producing nervous systems that can cancel the biological artifacts on our volition and perception and realize the consciousness-like nature of unconditioned being that is the rarified sentience-aspect of the embodied subject, experienced and identified as Self. This universe is permeated with matter and laws that make intelligent animals that can learn to meditate and access their own internal ontological subjective foundation in distinction from reductive, motivating, and attention-trapping compulsions of evolutionary biology.
Option 2: The Buddha has seen through every point in space. Every place has been cracked up, because all of space has been transcended. Every point-prison has been opened. If the Buddha sees through all of space, then every place in space has been penetrated by his awareness. But awareness of a point is awareness at a point. Every place you see puts your awareness “there.” Your body is occupying Buddha-penetrated space. You are occupying liberated ground.
Bonus: Between the lame theistic omnipresence and the more interesting space-cracking or -occupying Buddhist principle (that is much deeper than mere omnipresence since it is really talking about a feature of the ground of the consciousness of space) lies the famous quote from Nicholas of Cusa:
God is an infinite circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
- From every point in space, a consciousness can look out.
- Because the consciousness-aspect of local, embodied, organismic sentience is an infinitely regressed, or absent, Witness. The innermost is unconditioned; unconditionality is the nature of consciousness (of the hard problem).