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Abstract

Buddhists have discussed the concept of enlightenment since the time of the Buddha, but the notion that all sentient beings have buddha-nature is found in Mahāyāna Buddhism. For the Mahāyāna thinkers, one of the crucial questions at the center of how all beings can achieve enlightenment is this apparent paradox: frailty, ignorance, and delusions presumably exist concomitantly with buddha-nature in all sentient beings. This article provides a brief survey of the textual history of the buddha-nature literature followed by an in-depth discussion of buddha-nature in the terms set out by two influential Tibetan thinkers, Dolpopa and Gyaltsab; the debate between these thinkers is set in relation to extant discourses of Buddhist ontology, epistemology, and enlightenment within the Tibetan Buddhist scholastic tradition.