I agree with Vidyaraja's analysis.
dude wrote:How can something that doesn't exist function?
There is reality beyond existence and non-existence. It can't be spoken of directly because it is not amongst phenomena and so does not exist in the same way phenomena do. In the early forms of Buddhist literature it was only ever referred to obliquely or elliptically, for the very simple reason that if the naming, grasping mind thinks about it or names it, it makes it something that it is not, and tries to bring it down to its level of understanding.
However in later forms of Buddhist literature it is spoken of in such terms as 'Buddha-nature' 'true nature' 'original mind' and other such terms.
Here are some excerpts from the Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra:
It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not non-existent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
May the ultimate nature of phenomena, limitless mind beyond extremes, he realised.
If one says, "This is it," there is nothing to show.
If one says, "This is not it," there is nothing to deny.
The true nature of phenomena,
which transcends conceptual understanding, is unconditioned.
May conviction he gained in the ultimate, perfect truth.
'Not existent' - the source of existence is not among the things that exist. But it is not non-existent - it is not mere absence, mere nothingness, but the 'basis of all samsara and nirvana'. It is not simply nothing, mere cessation, absence, even though it is very easy to interpret that way.
I think the Buddha's original insight represents a radical re-ordering of consciousness, a revolutionary change in the way the mind functions (for which, see Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha
, Peter Harvey.)
Consequently this teaching is comparable to the teachings of other mystical traditions. This doesn't mean they are the same
or that 'they all say the same thing'. At this level of understanding, qualifications such as 'the same' or 'different' are inapplicable and misleading as they are all unique in some ways. But I think this state of being is something much greater than 'personal tranquility' or 'the absence of stress' in the psycho-therapeutic sense that is depicted by Bachelor.
I also agree with Vidyaraja's description of 'eternalism'. 'Eternalism' is expressed in the Brahmajāla Sutta as the belief that 'the self and the world are eternal, fixed like a post or a barren mountain peak'. The problem with the idea of 'eternalism' is that it posits a separate self
which continues to exist, being continually re-born in perpetuity. But the idea of the 'the Unborn, Unconditioned, Uncreated' is something completely different to that. That is not 'eternalism' but a re-statement of the perennial idea of 'the eternal' within the human being.
Malcolm wrote: avidyā is not held to be the cause of existence in dependent origination, because that would make ignorance/avidyā unconditioned itself.
In nearly all the translations I am familiar with, avidyā is given as the first of the twelve nidanas, i.e. 'with Avidyā as condition, Saṅkhāra (Saṃskāra) arises'. I don't think there is any English equivalent for avidyā. It is not 'ignorance' of the civil law or of general knowledge, but the absence of the transfiguration of consciousness that the teaching presents. It refers to a way of being in the world, which has causes and consequences that cannot be fully described in purely scientific or secular terms. In other words, it is a metaphysical concept.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas