Is Zen and Mahayana Based on Atman or Anatman?
Yesterday it seems that an OP removed a thread, luckily I always make backups of my replies.
I'll be pasting my replies here for all to see instead:
Tyler Jones
Yes, this is definitely true, particularly much of Chan and Zen is aiming at I AM and calling it Buddha Nature.
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{OP}Author
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Tyler Jones um yeah, that precisely what it seems like to me, but apparently no one here agrees with us….
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Soh Wei YuAdmin
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{OP}
I don’t disagree with Tyler Jones. But it depends on which teacher. Some Chan and Zen teachers clearly realised anatta. But many do not. The same goes for other traditons in Theravada or Tibetan.
Different Levels of Awakening Among Different Zen Schools
Different Levels of Awakening Among Different Zen Schools
Different Levels of Awakening Among Different Zen Schools
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Soh Wei YuAdmin
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{OP} but the founder of Chan in China, Bodhidharma was clearly into anatman.
The Doctrine of No Mind by Bodhidharma (无心论)
The Doctrine of No Mind by Bodhidharma (无心论)
The Doctrine of No Mind by Bodhidharma (无心论)
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Tyler Jones
Soh Wei Yu the more I look into it the more seems that Zongmi's influence was key in changing the current of Chinese Buddhism away from anatta/emptiness types of realization. Not only Bodhidharma but Zhiyi and Fazang seemed to understand anatta and emptiness.
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Soh Wei YuAdmin
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for modern day chan, look into ven hui lu and hong wen liang. Both are into anatta, total exertion and emptiness. But the latter holds japanese soto lineage
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Soh Wei YuAdmin
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Ven sheng yen and some of his successors like ven chi chern was also more into anatta but im not sure if ven sheng yen was influenced by japanese buddhism and soto during his stay there
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Tyler Jones Soh Wei Yu thanks for the specific references. 👍👍
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{OP}Author
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Nafis Rahman yes, your comments on contemporary teachers are congruent with my experience as well. Thanks for sharing these. I guess it wasn’t clear that the intent of my question is not so much whether individual contemporary people are teaching misunderstandings, but rather whether there are schools of Buddhism that actually have substantialist teachings to begin with. So, let’s agree that Awakening of Faith and Huang Po use substantialist language. Elsewhere in this thread, Tyler Jones also mentioned Zongmi and Soh Wei Yu mentioned Shantung. There are probably others we haven’t mentioned yet. They all introduce some kind of pseudo-atman, often drawing on Buddha nature or Thathagata-garbha to make those arguments. So, to get back to my original question, if we wanted to use the AtR language to describe these particular teachings, is it fair to say that they are aiming at various levels of I AM instead of anatta?
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Yin LingAdmin
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{OP} how does answering your Q help you in any way?
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Soh Wei YuAdmin
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Yin Ling This is just a speculation: I think {OP} may be biased towards Theravada* (see {OP} background beloow) or at the very least has some fundamental misunderstanding, and thinks many Mahayana traditions skew towards Atman. This is a misunderstanding.
* {OP background redacted}
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As Lankavatara Sutra explained in excerpts I posted below in the thread, Tathagatagarbha is empty of self and different from Hindu atman.
Also, the Mahayana sutra, Āryākṣayamatinirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra sets out the criteria for a sūtra of definitive meaning:
'Any sūtrānta which explains in a variety of different terms a self, a sentient being, a living being, a personality, a person, an individual, one born from a human, a human, an agent, an experiencer — teaching an owner in what is ownerless — those sutras are called "of provisional meaning". Any sūtrānta which teaches emptiness, the signless, the wishless, the unconditioned, the non-arisen, the unproduced, the insubstantial, the non-existence of self, the non-existence of sentient beings, the non-existence of living beings, the non-existence of individuals, the non-existence of an owner up to the doors of liberation, those are called "definitive meaning". This is taught in the sūtrāntas of of definitive meaning but is not taught in the sūtrāntas of the provisional meaning.'
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{OP}
Mahayana teachings should be understood to be the extension of the anatman insight into twofold emptiness and freedom from all extremes.
“6/1/2012 8:17 AM: John: You know what is the difference between phase 5 and 6 insights?
6/1/2012 8:23 AM: John: Does stage 5 understand what that is being said in the YouTube of the water and h2o? (h2o: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q80MfH7xPPE )
6/1/2012 8:27 AM: John: About the essence of emptiness and DO [dependent originatio]. Phase 5 do not have this insight. That is what you fail to clearly understand and tell me. Be clear and understand the difference before going further.”
“5/21/2012 11:47 AM: John: Imo View is very important. I wrote a poem about uncontrivance last time. Without view it is not easy to penetrate the depth of uncontrivance through experience alone
5/21/2012 11:48 AM: John: The insight of anatta tells you how to get into direct and immediate recognition of effortless non-dual is an example
5/21/2012 11:53 AM: John: You have to undergo the phases of insights to know the importance
5/21/2012 11:54 AM: John: Through direct realization and experience alone is difficult even to have the insight of anatta, much less 2 fold emptiness
5/21/2012 11:57 AM: John: There are the very diligent students who practice faithfully according to anatta but is unable to penetrate the essence of emptiness. Means they realized and directly experienced anatta, in seeing just the seen and no-self anatta is clear. Just aggregates and no-self/Self
5/21/2012 12:01 PM: John: But they are unable to realize the truth that self is a label propelled by the tendencies of wrong view so they are unable to see the same "emptiness" view of self is also applied to whatever arises. These group of practitioners penetrate anatta and skewed towards experience but fail to strike a balance before the breadth and depth of the view is realized. Therefore what I want is to let you discover the difference so that you have better understanding of the view, experience and realization. You have to go through the phases and not rely on me too much but pointing is important. Means you can have direct experience of in seeing just the seen and clearly see the Essence of the 2 stanza yet not understand that self is a mere convention and convenient label. You will simply hold on to that experience and realization like the Theravada and get stuck there.”
“5/21/2012 3:13 PM: John: Realizing that self is simply a convenient label and applies to all phenomena is different from clearly seeing there is no one behind aggregates. This also means that you didn’t really undergo a period of desync between view and experience and therefore cannot clearly understand the importance and implications. Means you are fortunate enough to have direct experience with the help of the view. But you have not gone through the process of dropping all views and concepts in an early stage of practice to know its harm.”
“The nonexistence of the personal self was taught for the sake of the Shravakas and Pratyeka-buddhas. By contrast, the nonexistence of both the phenomenal and the personal self was set forth to enable Bodhisattvas to attain the wisdom of omniscience. It is true that the Shravakas and the Pratyekabuddhas understand dependent arising, the mere conditionedness of phenomena, but they do not meditate on the complete nonexistence of the phenomenal self. They concentrate instead on the complete nonexistence of the personal self as a means to eliminate the emotional afflictions experienced in the three worlds of samsara.” - Chandrakirti, quoted from the book Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara with Commentary by Jamgon Mipham
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What is an Authentic Buddhist Teaching?
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 anatta is to 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."
...
[24/3/19, 11:17:05 PM] John Tan: From the perspective of clarity, it is true that Buddhism anatta and emptiness is more profound and deep… lol. But still good to caution about respecting all religions and practice. Why empty clarity is only pointed out in buddhism. So although it is true about all points to pure consciousness, it is realizing the emptiness that is the prajna eye to allow us to clearly see the empty nature of clarity. Otherwise we will most likely land in alaya or [be] required to still in deep stillness of samadhi.”
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What is an Authentic Buddhist Teaching?
What is an Authentic Buddhist Teaching?
What is an Authentic Buddhist Teaching?
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{OP} As I said, the founder of Zen - Bodhidharma and many of the Zen patriarchs, as well as many masters since then, Mazu, Dogen, Rujing, Niutou Farong, in modern times we have Ch'an Master Hui Lu, Soto Zen teacher Hong Wen Liang, Ch'an Master Chi Chern, as well as many others in Japanese Zen, just off the top of my mind - there are many more I have not mentioned. In fact not just anatman, most if not all of these have had direct realization of twofold emptiness. Which means they are at least first bhumi if not higher at the very least.
[17/6/18, 6:53:49 PM] John Tan: Chariot analogy is next step of anatta
[17/6/18, 6:54:32 PM] John Tan: It is THE view for practitioners that has arisen insight of anatta
[17/6/18, 6:54:40 PM] John Tan: But there is a catch
[17/6/18, 6:54:48 PM] John Tan: It is in the way it is presented
[17/6/18, 6:56:00 PM] John Tan: In fact anatta is the most key and base insight after knowing dzogchen, mahamudra, madhyamaka, zen
[17/6/18, 6:56:46 PM] John Tan: U need anatta to beam through dzogchen and mahamudra but to hv a stable base u need some further insight into mmk.
Hence, it is clear that the essence of Zen is Anatman, not I AM. I AM realization is just a preliminary realization in Buddhist traditions if they are led to it, and anyone who thinks they represent the finality of any form of Buddhism is deluded. Those that sees I AM as definitive are Hindus in disguise, not really representing the essence of Zen or Buddhism.
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{OP}
Zen masters on Anatman and No Mind
A monk asked, ‘Master, why do you say that mind is Buddha?’
Mazu said, ‘To stop babies from crying.’
The monk said, ‘What do you say when they stop crying?’
Mazu said, ‘No mind, no Buddha.’
Zen master Munan said, “There is nothing to Buddhism—just see directly, hear directly. When seeing directly, there is no seer; when hearing directly, there is no hearer.”
>Shidō Munan (至道無難,
1602-1676) was an early Tokugawa Zen master mostly active in Edo. He
was the teacher of Shōju Rōjin, who is in turn considered the main
teacher of Hakuin Ekaku. He is best known for the phrase that one must
"die while alive," made famous by D.T. Suzuki.
….
Another Zen Master said,
'You
get up in the morning, dress, wash your face, and so on; you call these
miscellaneous thoughts, but all that is necessary is that there be no
perceiver or perceived when you perceive—no hearer or heard when you
hear, no thinker or thought when you think. Buddhism is very easy and
very economical; it spares effort, but you yourself waste energy and
make your own hardships.'
(Foyan Qingyuan, in Instant Zen, p 70)
...
At the
time of his enlightenment, Zen Master Huangpo said, "When I hear the
sound of the bell ringing, there is no bell, and also no I, only
ringing-sound."
….
The
myriad forms of the entire universe are the seal of the single Dharma.
Whatever forms are seen are but the perception of mind. But mind is not
independently existent. It is co-dependent with form.
- Zen Master Mazu
….
“But how could one [even] gain the ability to know that it is no-mind [that sees, hears, feels, and knows]?"
"Just
try to find out in every detail: What appearance does mind have? And if
it can be apprehended: is [what is apprehended] mind or not? Is [mind]
inside or outside, or somewhere in between? As long as one looks for
mind in these three locations, one's search will end in failure. Indeed,
searching it anywhere will end in failure. That's exactly why it is
known as no-mind."”
“At
this, the disciple all at once greatly awakened and realized for the
first time that there is no thing apart from mind, and no mind apart
from things. All of his actions became utterly free. Having broken
through the net of all doubt, he was freed of all obstruction.”
Some Zen Masters’ Quotations on Anatman
Some Zen Masters’ Quotations on Anatman
Some Zen Masters’ Quotations on Anatman
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{OP}
“Dissolving the Mind
Though
purifying mind is the essence of practicing the Way, it is not done by
clinging at the mind as a glorified and absolute entity. It is not that
one simply goes inward by rejecting the external world. It is not that
the mind is pure and the world is impure. When mind is clear, the world
is a pure-field. When mind is deluded, the world is Samsara. Bodhidharma
said,
Seeing
with insight, form is not simply form, because form depends on mind.
And, mind is not simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and
form create and negate each other. … Mind and the world are opposites,
appearances arise where they meet. When your mind does not stir inside,
the world does not arise outside. When the world and the mind are both
transparent, this is the true insight.” (from the Wakeup Discourse)
Just
like the masters of Madhyamaka, Bodhidharma too pointed out that mind
and form are interdependently arising. Mind and form create each other.
Yet, when you cling to form, you negate mind. And, when you cling to
mind, you negate form. Only when such dualistic notions are dissolved,
and only when both mind and the world are transparent (not turning to
obstructing concepts) the true insight arises.
In this regard, Bodhidharma said,
Using the mind to look for reality is delusion.
Not using the mind to look for reality is awareness.
(from the Wakeup Discourse)
So,
to effectively enter the Way, one has to go beyond the dualities
(conceptual constructs) of mind and form. As far as one looks for
reality as an object of mind, one is still trapped in the net of
delusion (of seeing mind and form as independent realities), never
breaking free from it. In that way, one holds reality as something other
than oneself, and even worse, one holds oneself as a spectator to a
separate reality!
When
the mind does not stir anymore and settles into its pristine clarity,
the world does not stir outside. The reality is revealed beyond the
divisions of Self and others, and mind and form. Thus, as you learn not
to use the mind to look for reality and simply rests in the natural
state of mind as it is, there is the dawn of pristine awareness –
knowing reality as it is, non-dually and non-conceptually.
When
the mind does not dissolve in this way to its original clarity,
whatever one sees is merely the stirring of conceptuality. Even if we
try to construct a Buddha’s mind, it only stirs and does not see
reality. Because, the Buddha’s mind is simply the uncompounded clarity
of Bodhi (awakening), free from stirring and constructions. So,
Bodhidharma said,
That
which ordinary knowledge understands is also said to be within the
boundaries of the norms. When you do not produce the mind of a common
man, or the mind of a sravaka or a bodhisattva, and when you do not even
produce a Buddha-mind or any mind at all, then for the first time you
can be said to have gone outside the boundaries of the norms. If no mind
at all arises, and if you do not produce understanding nor give rise to
delusion, then, for the first time, you can be said to have gone
outside of everything. (From the Record #1, of the Collection of
Bodhidharma’s Works3 retrieved from Dunhuang Caves)
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From Bendowa, by Zen Master Dogen
Question Ten:
Some have said: Do not concern yourself about birth-and-death. There is a way to promptly rid yourself of birth-and-death. It is by grasping the reason for the eternal immutability of the 'mind-nature.' The gist of it is this: although once the body is born it proceeds inevitably to death, the mind-nature never perishes. Once you can realize that the mind-nature, which does not transmigrate in birth-and-death, exists in your own body, you make it your fundamental nature. Hence the body, being only a temporary form, dies here and is reborn there without end, yet the mind is immutable, unchanging throughout past, present, and future. To know this is to be free from birth-and-death. By realizing this truth, you put a final end to the transmigratory cycle in which you have been turning. When your body dies, you enter the ocean of the original nature. When you return to your origin in this ocean, you become endowed with the wondrous virtue of the Buddha-patriarchs. But even if you are able to grasp this in your present life, because your present physical existence embodies erroneous karma from prior lives, you are not the same as the sages.
"Those who fail to grasp this truth are destined to turn forever in the cycle of birth-and-death. What is necessary, then, is simply to know without delay the meaning of the mind-nature's immutability. What can you expect to gain from idling your entire life away in purposeless sitting?"
What do you think of this statement? Is it essentially in accord with the Way of the Buddhas and patriarchs?
Answer 10:
You have just expounded the view of the Senika heresy. It is certainly not the Buddha Dharma.
According to this heresy, there is in the body a spiritual intelligence. As occasions arise this intelligence readily discriminates likes and dislikes and pros and cons, feels pain and irritation, and experiences suffering and pleasure - it is all owing to this spiritual intelligence. But when the body perishes, this spiritual intelligence separates from the body and is reborn in another place. While it seems to perish here, it has life elsewhere, and thus is immutable and imperishable. Such is the standpoint of the Senika heresy.
But to learn this view and try to pass it off as the Buddha Dharma is more foolish than clutching a piece of broken roof tile supposing it to be a golden jewel. Nothing could compare with such a foolish, lamentable delusion. Hui-chung of the T'ang dynasty warned strongly against it. Is it not senseless to take this false view - that the mind abides and the form perishes - and equate it to the wondrous Dharma of the Buddhas; to think, while thus creating the fundamental cause of birth-and-death, that you are freed from birth-and-death? How deplorable! Just know it for a false, non-Buddhist view, and do not lend a ear to it.
I am compelled by the nature of the matter, and more by a sense of compassion, to try to deliver you from this false view. You must know that the Buddha Dharma preaches as a matter of course that body and mind are one and the same, that the essence and the form are not two. This is understood both in India and in China, so there can be no doubt about it. Need I add that the Buddhist doctrine of immutability teaches that all things are immutable, without any differentiation between body and mind. The Buddhist teaching of mutability states that all things are mutable, without any differentiation between essence and form. In view of this, how can anyone state that the body perishes and the mind abides? It would be contrary to the true Dharma.
Beyond this, you must also come to fully realize that birth-and-death is in and of itself nirvana. Buddhism never speaks of nirvana apart from birth-and-death. Indeed, when someone thinks that the mind, apart from the body, is immutable, not only does he mistake it for Buddha-wisdom, which is free from birth-and-death, but the very mind that makes such a discrimination is not immutable, is in fact even then turning in birth-and-death. A hopeless situation, is it not?
You should ponder this deeply: since the Buddha Dharma has always maintained the oneness of body and mind, why, if the body is born and perishes, would the mind alone, separated from the body, not be born and die as well? If at one time body and mind were one, and at another time not one, the preaching of the Buddha would be empty and untrue. Moreover, in thinking that birth-and-death is something we should turn from, you make the mistake of rejecting the Buddha Dharma itself. You must guard against such thinking.
Understand that what Buddhists call the Buddhist doctrine of the mind-nature, the great and universal aspect encompassing all phenomena, embraces the entire universe, without differentiating between essence and form, or concerning itself with birth or death. There is nothing - enlightenment and nirvana included - that is not the mind-nature. All dharmas, the "myriad forms dense and close" of the universe - are alike in being this one Mind. All are included without exception. All those dharmas, which serves as "gates" or entrances to the Way, are the same as one Mind. For a Buddhist to preach that there is no disparity between these dharma-gates indicates that he understands the mind-nature.
In this one Dharma [one Mind], how could there be any differentiate between body and mind, any separation of birth-and-death and nirvana? We are all originally children of the Buddha, we should not listen to madmen who spout non-Buddhist views.
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As John Tan said in 2007 about Dogen, “Dogen is a great Zen master that has penetrated deeply into a very deep level of anatman.”, “Read about Dogen… he is truly a great Zen master… ...[Dogen is] one of the very few Zen Masters that truly knows.”, “Whenever we read the most basic teachings of Buddha, it is most profound. Don't ever say we understand it. Especially when it comes to Dependent Origination, which is the most profound truth in Buddhism*. Never say that we understand it or have experienced it. Even after a few years of experience in non-duality, we can't understand it. The one great Zen master that came closest to it is Dogen, that sees temporality as buddha nature, that see transients as living truth of dharma and the full manifestation of buddha nature.”
"When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine many things with a confused mind, you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. But when you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that there is nothing that has unchanging self.
- Dogen"
“Buddha-nature
For Dōgen, Buddha-nature or Busshō (佛性) is the nature of reality and all Being. In the Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen writes that "whole-being is the Buddha-nature" and that even inanimate objects (rocks, sand, water) are an expression of Buddha-nature. He rejected any view that saw Buddha-nature as a permanent, substantial inner self or ground. Dōgen held that Buddha-nature was "vast emptiness", "the world of becoming" and that "impermanence is in itself Buddha-nature".[39] According to Dōgen:
Therefore, the very impermanency of grass and tree, thicket and forest is the Buddha nature. The very impermanency of men and things, body and mind, is the Buddha nature. Nature and lands, mountains and rivers, are impermanent because they are the Buddha nature. Supreme and complete enlightenment, because it is impermanent, is the Buddha nature.[40]”
Dōgen - Wikipedia
Dōgen - Wikipedia
Dōgen - Wikipedia
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{OP} The founder of Ch'an, Bodhidharma, chose Hui-ke as his successor after triggering the direct realisation of No Mind (Anatman) in him, and handed him a copy of the Lankavatara Sutra. Bodhidharma told him everything he needed to know was in this book, and Zen and the Lanka have been linked ever since, if they were not already linked in India. Bodhidharma instructed his disciples that the Lankavatara Sutra be used to seal the mind.
What does the Laṅkāvatāra Sutra teach? Laṅkāvatāra Sutra:
"Similarly, that tathagatagarbha taught in the sutras spoken by the Bhagavan, since the completely pure luminous clear nature is completely pure from the beginning, possessing the thirty two marks, the Bhagavan said it exists inside of the bodies of sentient beings. When the Bhagavan described that– like an extremely valuable jewel thoroughly wrapped in a soiled cloth, is thoroughly wrapped by cloth of the aggregates, ayatanas and elements, becoming impure by the conceptuality of the thorough conceptuality suppressed by the passion, anger and ignorance – as permanent, stable and eternal, how is the Bhagavan’s teaching this as the tathagatagarbha is not similar with as the assertion of self of the non-Buddhists?
Bhagavan, the non-Buddhists make assertion a Self as 'A permanent creator, without qualities, pervasive and imperishable.'
The Bhagavan replied:
'Mahamati, my teaching of tathagatagarbha is not equivalent with the assertion of the Self of the non-Buddhists. Mahamati, the Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddhas, having demonstrated the meaning of the words "emptiness, reality limit, nirvana, non-arisen, signless", etc. as tathagatagarbha for the purpose of the immature complete forsaking the perishable abodes, demonstrate the expertiential range of the non-appearing abode of complete non-conceptuality by demonstrating the door of tathagatagarbha. Mahamati, a self should not be perceived as real by Bodhisattva Mahasattvas enlightened in the future or presently. Mahamati, for example, a potter, makes one mass of atoms of clay into various kinds containers from his hands, craft, a stick, thread and effort. Mahamati, similarly, although Tathagatas avoid the nature of conceptual selflessness in dharmas, they also appropriately demonstrate tathagatagarbha or demonstrate emptiness by various kinds [of demonstrations] possessing prajña and skillful means; like a potter, they demonstrate with various enumerations of words and letters. As such, because of that, Mahamati, the demonstration of Tathagatagarbha is not similar with the Self demonstrated by the non-Buddhists. Mahamati, the Tathagatas as such, in order to guide those grasping to assertions of the Self of the Non-Buddhists, will demonstrate tathagatagarbha with the demonstration of tathagatagarbha. How else will the sentient beings who have fallen into a conceptual view of a Self, possess the thought to abide in the three liberations and quickly attain the complete manifestation of Buddha in unsurpassed perfect, complete enlightenment?"
The Laṅkāvatāra also states:
"O Mahāmati, with a view to casting aside the heterodox theory, you must treat the tathāgatagarbha as not self [anātman]."
Thus, anyone who fails to grasp the essence here fails to attain Zen. Those who realize the luminous essence but distort Tathagatagarbha and luminosity into a non-Buddhist Hindu Atman teaching has far deviated from Zen and Bodhidharma's teachings and cannot be taken to be representative of the essence of Zen.
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Soh Wei YuAdmin
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Of course, there are lineage teachers in each tradition of Buddhism that falls into Atman view. They are not few. However, they are clearly misrepresenting the essence of their own traditions.
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Original thread:

I'm wondering if you all agree that certain forms of Buddhism, particularly those that emphasize Buddha nature or Tathagata-garbha, but also some forms of Tibetan Buddhism, are actually aiming at I AM rather than anatta. Thanks for your opinions!
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  • Ali Eb
    Buddhism has a lot of BS, just like any other religion and practice.
    • Pierce Salguero
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      I agree, and just wrote a whole book about that. But that's not actually my question here. I'm not meaning this as a judgement on any particular school of Buddhism as better or worse or what have you. Just wondering if others share my impression about the goals expressed in certain Buddhist schools. Thanks.
  • Soh Wei Yu
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    The definitive view of Buddha nature for all the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism as far as I know is empty clarity*, rather than I AM.
    However, not many teachers and practitioners realise empty clarity.
    And furthermore there are the outliers like the more extreme form of Shentong which skews towards I AM: https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/.../shentong-vs...
    Excerpt:
    As for what is the definitive meaning of Buddha-Nature, the Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith wrote:
    The term bdag nyid, atman, just means, in this case, "nature", i.e. referring to the nature of reality free from extremes as being permanent, blissful, pure and self. The luminosity of the mind is understood to be this.
    There are various ways to interpret the Uttaratantra and tathāgatagarbha doctrine, one way is definitive in meaning, the other is provisional, according to Gorampa Sonam Senge, thus the tathāgatagarbha sutras become definitive or provisional depending on how they are understood. He states:
    In the context of showing the faults of a literal [interpretation] – it's equivalence with the Non-Buddhist Self is that the assertion of unique eternal all pervading cognizing awareness of the Saṃkhya, the unique eternal pristine clarity of the Pashupattis, the unique all pervading intellect of the Vaiśnavas, the impermanent condition, the measure of one’s body, in the permanent self-nature of the Jains, and the white, brilliant, shining pellet the size of an atom, existing in each individual’s heart of the Vedantins are the same.
    The definitive interpretation he renders as follows:
    Therefor, the Sugatagarbha is defined as the union of clarity and emptiness but not simply emptiness without clarity, because that [kind of emptiness] is not suitable to be a basis for bondage and liberation. Also it is not simple clarity without emptiness, that is the conditioned part, because the Sugatagarbha is taught as unconditioned.
    Khyentse Wangpo, often cited as a gzhan stong pa, basically says that the treatises of Maitreya elucidate the luminosity of the mind, i.e. its purity, whereas Nāgarjuna's treatises illustrate the empty nature of the mind, and that these two together, luminosity and emptiness free from extremes are to be understood as noncontradictory, which we can understand from the famous Prajñāpāramita citation "There is no mind in the mind, the nature of the mind is luminosity".
    Shentong vs Rangtong?
    AWAKENINGTOREALITY.COM
    Shentong vs Rangtong?
    Shentong vs Rangtong?
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  • Yin Ling
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    The true purpose of Buddha nature teaching is not I Am. But ppl misunderstood it.
    It was taught by the Buddha to calm those who are afraid of accepting emptiness, and also to give hope to those who think they do not have what it takes to realise the truth. Also to teach us to view every sentient beings equally.
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  • Tommy McNally
    Garab Dorje reifies awareness?! 😂
    I can understand how one could misunderstand Tathagatagarbha teachings if they lacked the View, but your suggestion that Garab Dorje's writings reify awareness in any way genuinely made me laugh out loud, and I'm not saying that in a patronising or insulting way. You're talking about the guy who transmitted Atiyoga to Guru Rinpoche. That alone should point, quite clearly, to the fact that it's a bit more advanced than what is, relatively speaking, an entry level attainment like "I AM".
    This is why certain teachings and texts are 'secret'; they're too easy to misunderstand, and in a manner which will, to put it bluntly, fuck your practice up and lead you into wrong views. Again, not being a dick about this or trying to patronise you in any way, but tread carefully because this confused way of approaching teachings like the Tathagatagarbha or Atiyoga will drag you deeper into samsara.
    I'm not as scholarly or well-read as many on here so I can't give you scriptural references or quotes, but I've been practicing for over 25 years and speak from direct experience. Tathagatagarbha teachings in particular only became clear to me in the last maybe three years, so I can totally understand how the confusion could arise.
    Directly experiencing and recognising Buddha Nature is very, very different from recognising the illusion of a permanent, stable "I". However, if someone like me can recognise it, then so can you and I sincerely hope that you can.
    If you're reading Garab Dorje, then put his teachings on "The Three Statements..." into practice and find out for yourself why I burst out laughing when you suggested he was reifying awareness.
    Go practice.
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    • Pierce Salguero
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      It's passages like this that are confusing, for someone like myself who doesn't have any background in Tibetan Buddhism. From the English translation here, it really sounds like he's reifying awareness. I'm prepared to be told that this is a misunderstanding on the part of the translator, or that I'm reading it out of context, or what have you. But, please, I'm not interested in being pressured to practice your form of practice just because I happen to have a passing question about it. Cheers.
      May be an image of text that says 'All appearances are instances of the magical presence of the Bodhichitta, the ground where wisdom's light shines unobstruct- edly. This self-luminous awareness is the Supreme Being, the great spirit, the authentic reality ofall notional selves. Knowing this, we are not burdened by hopes and fears, or distracted by protracted and distractingsearches We do not wander from place to place. We simply abide in the true condition.'
      • Pierce Salguero
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        (And, by the way, by saying that this text seems to be reifying awareness is not to say that it's describing I Am. Other passages which aren't reifying demonstrate that it's clearly beyond that.)
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      • Tommy McNally
        Pierce Salguero Let me put it simply: You do not understand the material you are reading. To understand it, you need to engage in the appropriate practices, which you've already said you're not interested in doing.
        I can already see the futility in trying to discuss this with you. You ask a question and then tell me what you're "prepared to be told"? 😂 That's not how it works.
        Anyway, I'm not going to waste either of our time on this because you've made it clear that you just want confirmation of your flawed beliefs.
      • Pierce Salguero
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        Tommy McNally I obviously touched a nerve here and I’m sorry you got triggered. I don’t have any beliefs around this. I am just asking a question about something I don’t know too much about about, addressed to knowledgeable people who know more than I do about it. If that kind of question is not welcome in this group, and one has to have deeply practiced a technique in order to ask any questions about it, then that’s news to me. In any event, no need to reply if you’re not up for civil conversation. 🙏
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      • Tommy McNally
        Pierce Salguero Not at all! 😂 You asked a question and I gave an answer based on experience. You then decided to tell me what you were "prepared to be told", which isn't exactly an open minded attitude to take if you're genuinely looking to learn.
        At no point did I suggest that someone needs to have "deeply practiced" to ask questions. That's a bizarre claim to make. I said that practice is necessary to understand concepts like Tathagatagarbha, because an intellectual understanding alone is insufficient, and it's all you're likely to get from asking questions in a Facebook group.
        If you're reading, for example, Garab Dorje then it needs to be understood in the context of Atiyoga, which is notoriously difficult to understand without either a teacher or being of unusually high capabilities with a karmic predisposition towards it.
        I'll respond to your replies, if you choose to do so, when I have time.
      • Pierce Salguero
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        Tommy McNally yeah, well, maybe it’s me that’s being triggered then, because it sure looks to me like above you are laughing at someone for asking an elementary question and are considering them a “waste of time” for not practicing your own particular chosen form of Buddhism.
        Anyway, look, I am not asking a practice question here, so not looking for advice on how I should practice. I have a genuine curiosity whether certain schools of Buddhism reify awareness into a pseudo-atman or experience into a pseudo-Brahman. From cursory reading of some of the Buddhist traditions I’m not so familiar with, the language appears to me to be doing so.
        I don’t think that’s some kind of crazy outlandish question that’s laughable. If there are schools of Buddhism that can reify the Buddha into an omniscient, omnipotent savior deity (like Jodo Shinshu and Nichiren apparently does), I can imagine that it’s perfectly reasonable that some schools might be reifying the I Am.
        For sure it’s a minority position, but Soh Wei Yu’s response seems to indicate that I am right that at least one school of Tibetan Buddhism does in fact do this. I’m interested to know if there are others.
        If you have anything to say in response to that specific question, I’d love to hear your reply.
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      • Soh Wei Yu
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        Pierce Salguero sounds like a bad translation. Where did you get that?
      • Gospel of Garab Dorje: The Highest, Secret Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism
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        Gospel of Garab Dorje: The Highest, Secret Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism
        Gospel of Garab Dorje: The Highest, Secret Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism