Posted by: Soh
Last year, Thusness wrote in a discussion with a follower of early Buddhism who doesn't identify with Theravada,

"The key issue about authenticity is centered on the idea of whether authenticity is based on the 'words of Buddha' or the 'teaching of Buddha'. All the four tenet systems have claimed their authenticity and each generation based on their experience, studies and realizations attempt to integrate these four tenets. If (authenticity is) strictly based on the 'words of the Buddha' then Mahayana isn't by definition Buddhism, of course.

...Yes Nixon, Vajrayana has their culture incorporated into Buddhism. But when we talk about Mahayana teaching, I think the cultural aspect has to be put aside. Rather, we should look at Mahayana as a development based on the 'teaching'. It is a development over time about what exactly is the right understanding of the 'teaching'.

...Many are linked to political systems and which sect is in power and their 'closeness' to the ruler, so we also cannot assume popularity as authentic either.

...We have stripped out those magical elements and fantasies when talking about the teachings as well. Many are simply metaphorical. Great teachings often blend themselves into cultures and teachers often used their cultural background settings as a base to explain and make people understand the deeper 'meaning' of certain ideas. Now, we must also understand that 'logic' is not the only way of understanding. Some insights are triggered not with rational induction or deduction theory. So a development of a great teaching to allow someone to understand something deep requires us to have multifaceted discipline and instrument.

We are not just a rational being. We dream and fantasize.. to understand our nature, our suffering, our way of understanding, we got to know ourselves too. When attempting to know what Buddhism has developed into a particular trend, these are all needed. However for deciding whether what is authentic, these are not needed."

Thusness then discussed the Tathagatagarbha teachings:

"Tathagatagarbha is a potentiality, the idea that everyone has the capacity to actualize oneself to Buddhahood. Invented as part of a reaction towards the strong movement of Hindu culture. Hinduism is basically based on Brahman and Atman - the eternal Self, and Buddhism's anatta is a direct contradiction against that. It is for this reason that Mahayana developed. In all the four tenets, the middle way, the yogacara, the sutra school and Vaibhashika, all are based on the fundamental understand of the three universal characteristics.

That said, in every system, there is surely some of those hiccups that deviate from the definitive view. Even in Theravada, we see the Thai Forest traditions promoting Poo Roo - The One Who Knows, as ultimate. Many foreigners in the West that are less informed can mistaken that to represent the teaching of the Buddha too. There are those who go even further to say that Anatta implies 'not self' as the five aggregates are 'not self' and the essence of the teaching of natta is the find the True Self, quoting instead the Kevatta Sutta on the luminous mind and consciousness without features.

Buddha Nature is thus not a problem peculiar to Mahayana, in all traditions we see this.

To me, I'm a non-sectarian, so I am quite free not having prejudice for/against Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana. We get our experience and teaching to release, as well as to relief ourselves from our suffering from a great teaching.

To come to our understanding of what is the fundamental cause of our suffering, and the core teaching of Selflessness is not that straight forward. We experiment and test our paradigm to see if it works. It is a life experience and journey.

In my experience and journey, there is essential two paths. First is taking and seeking comfort in the ultimate and carrying it throughout, and the other, is looking into the fundamental core of suffering and understanding its nature. So there are basically these two - one relies on the essentialist practice that they need to have an ultimate, and the other says no... there is no need to, you just have to understand the nature of suffering. Therefore when we clearly see this, we realize that Buddhism is based on the latter, and the whole development of Theravada and Mahayana is based on such a system. Otherwise there is no difference from other (religions). As such it depends on an individual path and which core system one believes in.

For me, the essence view has in a certain sense proven to not be the way and I greatly appreciate the Buddha's path. To state otherwise would mean that Buddhism is using the view of an essence to solve suffering, which isn't true for me."

"I just appreciate Buddhism as a beautiful teaching and Buddha as my teacher, as a student doing something for a teacher... nothing more than that. I seldom participate in discussion as I am not a scholar and cannot contribute much."

"It's not in my nature to seek Buddhism. I have a strong Taoist background and passion for Hinduism when I was young. So philosophically and culturally, essencelessness is not a view that suits me. But it takes painful experiences to come to a willingness to let go, to see the truth of impermanence and anatta. To challenge and come to an understanding that you don't actually have to do this and that.... (or have an) ultimate here and there to release. But rather to truly accept and look deeply into impermanence, then you will let go and we can come to a new understanding of the relationship of suffering and the truth of suffering having to do with a fundamental paradigm we hold so dearly.

..Your mindset and experience can change, so is your understanding, and you just begin a new path with new understanding. Impermanence from personal, micro and macro view. You see when you see impermanence and use it as a door in practice, your view changes also, from Vipassana observing the minutest sensations in our bodily sensations to appreciating a view in current quantum physics, macro view, to observe events. So our idea changes and we adopt such understanding in our life over time. Sometimes it really depends and it needs the right condition and situation to trigger it, just like the case of financial crisis."
3 Responses
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    This is an excellent post from Thusness. He is a very humble, sincere, and clear speaker. Thank you for posting this.

    One thing I want to say is that I don't think Ajahn Chah was actually offering Poo Roo as the teaching of the Buddha. If you look at the talks he gave to his monks, like this one: I think it is pretty clear he was simply saying that by looking at your own mind (the one who knows, Poo Roo), you will be able to let go of the notion of self (at first it appears it is The One Who Knows, then there is only knowing, then just suchness). He mentioned in various places that nibbana is no self. However, apparently even some of his famous disciples like Ajahn Maha Boowa did have more of an essentialist understanding of awakening, at least from what I can tell.

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