I will first start with a criticism of the interview in question, then continue with a criticism of the mahayana non-dualism doctrine itself.
I now see what Nanananda is considering to be the self: it is consciousness. He has not understood that it is depdendently arisen and changing all the time because of not looking at it from the right angle.In the floodlights of paññā there is no room for the shadows of viññāṇa . The delusion of self love reflects a world, so there’s the two: an I and a world. Reflections on the eye, reflections on the ear, reflections on the mind: taking these reflections that fall on the senses as true, the materialists go looking for a world out there. When the Buddha called all of that a mere illusion, he meant all, including concepts. That’s why it is said sabbadhammakkhayaṃ pattovimutto upadhisaṅkhaye .  Mind and dhammas is the last resort of delusion. This is one of the most controversial of Bhante Ñāṇananda’s views.
As for Mahayana accusations:
“All those kinds of dualities, be it asti/nāsti or sabbaṃ ekattaṃ/sabbaṃ puthuttaṃ etc. were rejected by the Buddha: majjhena Tathāgato Dhammaṃ deseti – he taught the Dhamma by the middle. It’s not just the middle path. It’s not a mixture of 50% of each. We usually think that the middle is between two ends. It’s a rejection of both ends and an introduction of a novel standpoint.
His interpretation of paṭiccasamuppāda, which dramatically deviates from the traditional exegesis, has earned Bhante Ñāṇananda a few vehement critics. He amusedly mentions a recent letter sent by a monk where he was accused of ‘being a disgrace to the Theriya tradition’. This criticism, no doubt coming from a Theravāda dogmatist, is understandable seeing how accommodating Bhante Ñāṇananda is when it comes to teachings traditionally considered Mahāyāna, hence taboo for any self-respecting Theravādin. However, if one delves deeper, one would see that he is only trying to stay as close as possible to early Buddhist teachings.
“I didn’t quote from the Mahāyāna texts in the Nibbāna sermons,” he says, “because there was no need. All that was needed was already found in the Suttas. Teachers like Nāgārjuna brought to light what was already there but was hidden from view. Unfortunately his later followers turned it in to a vāda.”
He goes on to quote two of his favourite verses from Ven. Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamādhyamakakārikā (as usual, from memory):
And why not add a little postmodernism into the mix? It never hurts:Ven. Nāgārjuna was right: at the end, all is empty. We are not willing to accept that existence is a perversion. Existence is suffering precisely because it is a perversion.”
The simile given here by Nanananda to justify postmodernism is not correct. If the parent tells the kid "the world is flat", it is incorrect to say "that is true for the kid" and go on to conclude that "there are just different levels of truth" and etc. What is correct to say is that "the kid believes the world is flat". The world will still not be flat despite the kid believing in it. If the kid were to sail in a boat around the world, the kid would sail just the same as everybody else despite his belief that the world is flat. Or for example one might believe he is Napoleon.“What is considered the ‘truth’ is relative to each individual. Each person gives evidence in the court of reality based on his own level of experience. For example, parents often give false explanations to their little children. But these are true to the kids. When asked, the kid will tell what his parents told him. It’s true for the child, but not for us. In the famous commentarial story about Ven. Tissa Thera we find him seeing a woman as a skeleton, and saying so when asked by her husband. The venerable was closer to the truth.
“When we transcend one level of truth, the new level becomes what is true for us. The previous one is now false. What one experiences may not be what is experienced by the world in general, but that may well be truer. But how do we reach the ultimate truth? This is beautifully explained in the Dhātuvibhaṇga Sutta: Taṃ saccaṃ, yaṃ amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ. And from the Dvayatānupassanā Sutta: amosadhammaṃ nibbānaṃ tad ariyā saccato vidū. It is Nibbāna that is of non-falsifying nature, where there is no ‘thing’. Nibbāna is the highest truth because there is no other truth to transcend it.
In my opinion, the fact that Nanananda is using such silly arguments shows he is not exactly a high caliber thinker. I've seen better stuff here on DW from our regular postmodernist than Nanananda arguments. He wouldn't last a topic over here.
That is what Buddha says explicitly in many suttas. He asks "and what is nama" or "and what is rupa" and responds like that. Some suttas can be twisted, while some can simply be ignored altogether if they don't fit our views about what the historical Buddha supposedly taught.I ask Bhante Ñāṇananda how we should understand the connection between pancupādā - nakkhandha and nāma - rūpa. “It is quite common to hear that these two are the same: that rūpa - upādānakkhandha is the same as the rūpa in nama - rūpa , and the other four aggregates are nāma . That is like trying to measure distance in kilograms – a confusion.
He will realize that, as in the case of the dumb show, he is involved with things that do not really exist.
Certainly not a solipsist or a philosophical idealist. And of course he is perfectly in line with the Buddha doctrine of just 4 aggregates not 5.And what is that duality? The same duality seen by the dog on a plank over water.” Bhante Ñāṇananda is referring to a simile he has often used in Dhamma discussions: A dog is crossing a plank over a stream. Half way through it looks into the water and sees another dog there. It wags its tail and the other responds. It snarls and the other reacts. It looks away to ignore, but when it looks again the water dog is still there looking on. The view of an existing self is also due to such unwise attention. “I think therefore I am” is the resulting wrong conclusion. Neither narcissistic love nor masochistic hate can solve the problem. Ignoring with a cynical sneer is to evade the problem. Therefore one has to thrash-down this problem of the elusive self-image to the basic confrontation between consciousness and name and form. “Reflect Rightly on the Reflection”, From topsy - turvydom to Wisdom “ Nāma - rūpa is a deception. It is unreal. But in the illusion of viññāna , wherever you look, it is there. What ever it may be, whether it’s a sight, or a sound, or a thought, it is just vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phassa, or manasikāra.
I keep saying many famous monks have simply not read the nikayas. They just haven't read them, period. B.Dhammanando has a long post in the past explaining that indeed many famous monks simply have not read them. I have claimed many times in the past that Nanananda or Nanavira have only read the first sutta out of chapter 2 from SN, maybe a couple more from that chapter 2. They've never read a page of chapter 3 - the book of aggregates. I have caught them and their followers many times with the chicken in the bag and no matter what they say, I know they just haven't read that book of aggregates. They are not fooling anyone. It's like one would say the teach about Jesus in the biology book. Of course a person who has actually read the book will laugh about that. Reading the Book of Aggregates chapter is the thing that destroys any possible claims that these philosophies have anything to do with what the historical Buddha taught.But here again there is a common mis interpretation: when listing the nāma - dhammas, some start from phassa, vedanā. They put phassa to the front. But phassa has to be at the back.” He says the above in Sinhala, where the word for ‘back’ is ‘ passa ’. The pun is lost in translation. As for putting phassa first, it is often seen in the Abhidhamma literature when listing the cetasikas.
“They say so because in paṭiccasamuppāda, phassa comes before vedanā . That doesn’t apply here. In the Suttas, such as the Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta , the ordering is never in that form. The Buddha and the Arahants were not mistaken; logically one can have phassa first, but psychologically it is vedanā that is primary. It is through vedanā that one recognizes the four 696 Nibbàna Ý The Mind Stilled great elements, not through phassa. The self notion hinges on vedanā . That is why it deserves to be the first. “ So one develops a saññā according to vedanā, based on which one has cetanā , at which point the ‘per sonality’ is taken for granted. This creates the duality necessary for phassa.
The fact that feeling comes from contact is repeated so many times in the suttas. It is also given as an example in a discussion with a brahmin where Buddha was making a case for his teaching being real, easy to be seen in real life, not based on stories about deiteis like those of the Bhramins. He said that no matter what views they have, all can agree that "feeling comes from contact". It is such a clear thing that I too always use it as an example when speaking with other people. You can never debate that. Feeling comes from contact, the same as rain comes from clouds. It's such a clear thing that it's incredible how Nanananda could get that wrong.
Take for example a car parking sensor. There is the parking sensor and there are things that are sensed by it. There are only 2 elements here so no contact is produced. Being no contact, there is no feeling, no volition, no perception. Only when there are 3 elements can there be contact. In the case of living beings, we have for example: the eye, eye-sights and eye-consciousness. "The meeting of the 3 means contact." Because of the existence of this contact, feelings, volition and perception appears. If there would be no contact, there would be no feeling whatsoever, just like in the case of cars or computers. This is the difference between living beings and non-living things.
You can explain this to anyone and they will understand. It's so simple and so clear that it's even used by the Buddha as an example of a thing that is not debatable no matter what ones views are. (in the sutta with the bhramins)
I've only finished my criticism of 2 and a half pages out of 5. It is mainly dealing with inconsistency regarding the suttas. I will continue latter with the second part and with a 3rd post dealing with mahayana philosophy itself.