Tathātā “Thussness”

Although this is a Pali word is it emphasized more in Mahayana traditions as Wikipedia says?

Well, the Pali word ‘tathatā’ seems quite rare,

The ‘tā’ suffix makes it an abstract form of the word ‘tatha’ or ‘tathā’.
It’s related to the word ‘Tathāgata’ the ‘thus-gone’ one, or perhaps the ‘one like that’.

I found one instance in the Dependent Origination section of the Samyutta Nikaya, 12.20, ‘Paccayasutta’.

There, it’s translated as ‘real’ or ‘the actuality.’


Tathagatagarbha is a big thing in Mahayana. There are all sorts of disputes as to whether tathagatagarba is empty or essential, but it’s an interesting tradition with lots of cool applications and ideas. Dharmakaya and dharmadhatu. Very interesting when you see it taken up in things like deity possession.

In sanskrit language, ‘gata’ means ‘gone’ and ‘agata’ means ‘come’. So I understand its meaning to be that, ‘Tathagata’ is one who has gone to that place from where he came… or he is one who came from that place to where he was gone. Essentially for me it is pointing to immortality where there is no death. Tathata or thusness is opposite of impermanence I guess(not sure). In other words tathagata means one who is always there. We can understand him as dhamma(his teachings)… implying that his teachings are always available whether we can see them or we can’t. We know lord buddha says that one who sees dhamma sees me and one who sees me sees dhamma. So we can say his teachings=him or Dhamma=Buddha.

I’m sure the possible meanings of the term ‘Tathāgata’ have been discussed here extensively.

I’ll say that I don’t know what the word ‘thusness’ means, it doesn’t seem like an English word, perhaps an example of Buddhist Hybrid English.

There is the idea of a fire and then there is the fire in itself as witnessed through the 5 senses, as imputed by the 6th.

The idea of heat isn’t heat itself. This is suchness. The word is not the thing in itself.

Is ‘suchness’ the same as ‘thusness’?

I don’t think I will find these words in a dictionary.

Either or, something that is thus or such usually has a -ness to it. Because the fire is thus, or such, one can sense it. Because what I am is thus, I can experience a myriad of phenomenon.

There is the idea of a fire,
And then the fire as it is and as sensed by us in the flow of life. The myriad aspects of the fire, the heat, glow, shape, the heat, could be considered the -ness that are the fire-like qualities ascribed.

With my own experiential insight into suchness, it helped me in seeing clearly that the map is not the territory, the importance of distinguishing between the two, as well as recognising the function of a map and how maps come to be formed (through the exploration of territory). One can follow a map, or make a map, or follow a map half-way, and then find the rest of the way themselves (if fortunate).

Another interesting word is ‘dharmata’. It has some relations to Tathata.

It can be fun to make up words.
It reminds me of the beginning of a poem by ee cummings set to music by John Cage:

forever and sunsmell

wherelings whenlings
(daughters of ifbut offspring of hopefear
sons of unless and children of almost)
never shall guess the dimension of

Through context, we can begin to deduce the meaning.

Take this word ‘enlightenment’ for example.

It is the compound of enlighten, to illuminate, shine light on, and the word ment, which is argued online between some who say it is derived from mentis (mind) or mentum (direction?).

I take a route situated between both definitions, entertaining the implications of each, and then compare with other words ending in ‘ment’ to see if they align with my hypothesis that ‘ment’ in enlightenment is mind (mentis). Acknowledgment, agreement, embarrassment, nourishment, encouragement, enrichment, involvement, statement.

To me, it would make sense that ‘enlightenment’ is compounded with ‘mentis’, considering a lot of these words are in regard to a living being/mind in a particular context.

I would say: to become consciously aware of the functioning, processes, and ways of one’s mind-body, bt extension nature, causation, etc. With a dhammic-twist, discerning the noble way.

Language is creative (this is important to stress) and exploring how meaning comes to be inferred into words, contemplating the function of language, has proven an insightful journey that has bore fruit. The way a matter is perceived can make all the difference! To be flexible in one’s thinking whilst having the particulars of the noble path as one’s focus.

There was once a time where there was a need to describe what I was experiencing but no word immediately came to mind. Quite naturally, I compounded two words together articulating that which I wished to express. I cannot remember for the life of me what that word was now though.

Enlightenment may be, for some, referencing meditation experiences, whilst at the same time it can also be summarised as that very moment where one learns of something as actual - experiencing the immediate transformative effects of such a matter. Example: identifying the means that lead to the ends when it comes to uprooting suffering.

Although this has little to do with the original topic, the English word ‘enlightenment’ was originally used to describe European philosophical movements, most specifically as a translation of the German word ‘aufklarung’ (literally something like ‘clear up’. )

Later, when English language translators sought renderings for Pali words like ‘bodhi’ and ‘sambodhi’ , they hit upon ‘enlightenment’.

But to take apart the English word in an attempt to glean meaning of the Pali ( and Sanskrit) seems a bit misguided.

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What I share has a lot to do with the realisation of Tathata.

Despite the origin of the word or what it supposedly describes, language is creative, and what occurred during that European (human) enlightenment were realisations that people came to and shared with others which constituted the enlightenment - i.e. mass moments of learning.

What I am doing is a fruit of the bodhi process. There are those who use language and contemplate it; then those who create it.

Both are officially in the English language now. Merriam-Webster has both words, thusness and suchness, and they treat them as synonyms. They are just noun forms of thus and such.

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If a word finds sufficient usage, the lexicographers will pick up on it.

I suppose it depends if one is a prescriptive or descriptive lexicographer.

(As the French are wont to do, we can say non !)

Do you have a resource where I can learn about the nuances of language (pseudonyms, onomatopoeia, illiterates, nouns etc)?

That is one topic I have been needing to tick off on my list of things to learn.

Hmm. It’s the sort of thing that they teach in English departments at University, so I suppose they have textbooks a person could check out. As a writer, I tend to use dictionaries and style guides (Like the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Style Guide, etc.) to remind myself what the rest of the English-speaking audience more-or-less expects of me.

Language is a funny thing, though. When I grew up my mother had a habit of saying “unthaw” instead of “thaw out” when she was taking something out of the freezer to cook dinner. Linguists probably have a scientific term for the invention of these sorts of paradoxical expressions. Personally, I think language evolves like DNA evolves: Random mutation. Some mutations turn out to be useful or tolerable and are adopted by the population, and some aren’t very useful and die out quickly.

I learned “unthaw” from my mother as a child and had the habit of using it myself from time to time as an adult. Well, you can imagine what my wife’s response was when she heard me use this strange word “unthaw,” which literally means to refreeze something rather than “unfreeze” it. It was a perfectly fine word to me because I had learned it growing up. I’ve since abandoned it as an adult because I would be ribbed and razzed whenever I used it. And we joke about it with my mother when she comes to visit to this day.

But that’s how language changes. It’s a natural process like the evolution of species. Words are invented or borrowed from other languages, pronunciation changes, and even grammar changes over the long term. Now and again in history entirely new languages arise, which is basically when a dialect has change so much that people speaking other dialects can’t understand it anymore. It’s like speciation. Impermanence in action, but slow enough that people don’t realize it’s taking place. Or get upset and clingy when they realize that it is.

Which is something writers understand. We learn the “rules,” sometimes quite thoroughly by getting English degrees, so that we can break them in acceptable ways.

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I wonder if tathātā could not be considered an early instance of trope theory, in which the term “trope” identifies a particular that does not convey its universal instance type.

Thus, I suppose we could say that we perceive the “suchness” of a trope, whatever that may be, as proximate and relational, fluid and bound to change.

I have been looking at the Hāliddikānisutta (SN 22.3) among others that refer to tathāgata to suggest freedom from categorical definition. It seems to me that this is very much what the Diamond Sutra is about.

Householder, the form element is a shelter for consciousness. “Rūpadhātu kho, gahapati, viññāṇassa oko. One whose consciousness is shackled to greed for the form (feeling, consciousness, etc.) element is called a migrant going from shelter to shelter. Rūpadhāturāgavinibandhañca pana viññāṇaṁ ‘okasārī’ti > vuccati.

And how is one a migrant with no shelter? Kathañca, gahapati, anokasārī hoti?

The Realized One has given up any desire, greed, relishing, and craving for the form element; any attraction, grasping, mental fixation, insistence, and underlying tendencies. He has cut it off at the root, made it like a palm stump, obliterated it, so it’s unable to arise in the future.
Rūpadhātuyā kho, gahapati, yo chando yo rāgo yā nandī yā taṇhā ye upayupādānā cetaso adhiṭṭhānābhinivesānusayā te tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā anabhāvaṅkatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā. That’s why the Realized One is called a migrant with no shelter. Tasmā tathāgato ‘anokasārī’ti vuccati.

It seems ‘empty-ness’ might be possible to use (although I would guess the vast majority of English language speakers would not know what it meant),
but ‘thus-ness’ and ‘such-ness’ is a bridge too far.

As an experiment, I asked several people at my workplace what these words meant, none did and several thought I was joking.

I don’t know, I’m used to talking about stuff like the “ahness” of things, or les espaces quelconques (which I still call anywhere spaces, so no one knows what I’m talking about), so I like your making up of anything-ness. Somehow it makes perfect sense to me.

This might be the problem in a nutshell.

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