zavk wrote:Bhikkhu Thanissaro seem to also take the view that is better to think of Buddhism in the plural as the title of his book, Buddhist Religions, suggests.
On the surface that's not a bad idea. But when you dig a little deeper the lines can begin to blur:
Nanavira Thera wrote:I think I told you some time ago (in connexion with Huxley and chemical mysticism) that the Mahāyānist view can be summed up in two propositions, the first common to all mystics, and the second supposed to represent the Buddha's solution to the problem raised by the first.
(i) Behind the ordinary appearance of things there lies Reality, which it is the task of the Yogi to seek. Existentialist philosophers do not go as far as this: if they admit such a Reality—Jaspers, for example—they qualify it by saying that it is necessarily out of reach. See Preface (m).
(ii) Reality is the non-existence of things. In other words, things do not really exist, they only appear to do so on account of our ignorance (avijjā). (George Borrow tells of a Spanish gypsy in the last century whose grandfather held this view, so it hardly needs a Buddha to declare it. It seems to be closely allied to the Hindu notion of māyā—that all is illusion.)
Now the Pali texts say that the Buddha taught anicca/dukkha/anattā, and the average Theravādin, monk or layman, seems to take for granted that aniccatā, or impermanence, means that things are perpetually changing, that they do not remain the same for two consecutive moments. Failing to make the necessary distinctions (see PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [c]), they understand this as implying perpetual flux of everything all the time. This, of course, destroys the principle of self-identity, 'A is A'; for unless something endures unchanged for at least a certain interval of time you cannot even make the assertion 'this is A' since the word 'is' has lost its meaning. Bypassing dukkha as something we all know about, they arrive at anattā as meaning 'without self-identity'. (This is Mr. Wettimuny's theme, following Dahlke. I do not think he is aware that he is putting himself among the Mahāyānists.) Granted the premise that anicca means 'in continuous flux', this conclusion is impeccable. Unfortunately, in doing away with the principle of self-identity, you do away with things—including change, which is also a thing. This means that for the puthujjana, who does not see aniccatā, things exist, and for the arahat, who has seen aniccatā, things do not exist. Thus the Mahāyānist contention is proved.
Blatently off topic, but as it's my birthday I hope the mods will make an allowance.