Imagine there is a fire: A person might start to ask "does the fire really exists ? in what way it really exists ?" and just contemplate in this direction. Buddha said the solution is not to do this. Buddha said the solution is to see how the fire works (oxigen, fuel etc.). He said to understand the aggregates and how they actually work and interact with each other. He went in this direction. Questioning weather the fire exists or not is simply not the way to go. The fire (the 5 aggregates that make up a being) is there and continues to burn until no more fuel will be put in it. His "special insight" or "higher teachings" are about how this fire actually works and how to shut it down. It is not about questioning weather the fire exist or not and going in the existentialist direction.
It may seem intuitive that when it comes to questions as big as how the world works, it seems intuitive to go in such an existentialist direction with your thinking. The 3 main mundane views that have always existed in different forms are idealism, materialism and constructivism/postmodernism. These are the 3 directions one can look for an answer. It seems intuitive that in order to find out how things really are, one has to contemplate this very nature of existence and go in this direction with his thinking. Buddha solution was not this. He said this will only lead to vexation and madness and will solve nothing.
When Buddhism is introduced into a new space, it adapts to that kind of place. That is how in the west there has developed:
- secular buddhism where there is no rebirth
- meditation-zen-type of buddhism where you just "focus on the breath and magic wil happen if you do it long enough"
- existentialist buddhism
Existentialist Buddhism was developed by Nanavira Thera who tried combining western phenomenological existentialism with buddhist concepts such as dependent origination resulting in the 1-life interpretation of DO. And the focus is still on the existentialist side and in these kind of books, you will see like 50% of quotes coming from the suttas and 50% from Heigeld and Satre. Other famous followers of him are Nanamoli and Nanalanda witch present slightly different variations of existentialism combined with buddhist concepts.
Existentialism - noun, Philosophy.
a philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
Buddha is by all means a realist and rationalist. He is the exact opposite of what these kind of thinkers are. He went into a completely different direction with his thinking and said there is nothing to found in the existentialist direction. The defining feature of existentialist/postmodernist is that after a while, they end up making no sense whatsoever, as the Sokal affair has shown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair
In these kind of writings, you will find elementary logical mistakes made at least every paragraph. And what do we do when there are like 10 elementary logical mistakes in a page of writing ? We just call them "a paradox". It sounds so much better when you say "a paradox". It sounds so much more easy to digest than "elementary logical mistake". And what do we do in general when we have such "paradox" problems ? We say "Buddha teachings are paradoxical, that is why so few understand them". We adopt an anti-logic attitude such as all existentialist before us.
We end up attacking logic and common sense. We end up believing in a thing that makes no sense, that is full of "paradoxes" and we don't ask questions about them. Why ? Because we do not even have a positive attitude towards logic and common sense in the first place. We always say "logic has it's limits" and after that you need to put faith. Faith in who ? Faith in Heidegger, Jaspers and Sartre. Not in the Buddha who said not to go in that direction with thinking otherwise we end up in vexation and madness.
PS: Buddha said his writing are complete, with nothing more to add to them. He said he has not taught the dhamma with a tight first. He said his dhamma is well expanded, clear, complete. This is why the Sutta Pitaka has 10.000 pages. It covers every single wrong interpretation a person might have about anything. Right view is not something interpretative. It is like a science book, not like a interpretative political book. The way this world works is very fixed, it's as non-interpretative as the engine of your car. No matter how you think about it, the aggregates and the world will work the same. "Even if there is a Buddha or not, all works the same." This is why in my opinion, adding very long existentialist books on top of what Buddha taught can only lead in the wrong direction.
So what are your opinions about this ? Can anything good come out of combining buddhism with phenological existentialism of Heidegger, Jaspers or Satre ?