Astus wrote:The five aggregates are indeed impermanent, not self and empty.
You forgot dukkha.
Astus wrote:That is their true nature. That is our true nature. But if you look for something beyond that, a universal essence, that's "adding a head on top of your head".
Our true nature is impermanent, without a self, empty, and merely the 5 skandhas? Sounds like nihilism and materialism more than a spiritual doctrine of Awakening to me. Aside from that, the 5 skandhas are all immanent and yet Buddhism often speaks of "transcendent wisdom." What is this wisdom that is transcendent if all that exists is the 5 skandhas?
It seems your view on this matter is indeed a view that has existed within Buddhism, but not the only view. Dolpopa for instance studied Buddhism and nothing but from childhood until the end of his life and didn't come to the same conclusion. In fact he wrote a massive tome which is filled with numerous citations from sutras, tantras, shastras, and commentaries which support his position. I'll quote two pieces from his Fourth Council to highlight his thoughts on the issue:
They claim that what is empty of self-nature is the ultimate profound mode of reality, such as absolute truth, the expanse of reality, the true nature, and thusness. Without dividing the two truths into two kingdoms, they claim that whatever is manifest is relative truth and whatever is empty is absolute truth. They say that the manifest and the empty are in essence indivisible, so there is a single essence, but with different facets.
If everything manifest is relative samsara, the manifestation
of the absolute would also be relative samsara
If everything empty is absolute nirvana, all that is empty
of self-nature would be absolute nirvana.
If that is claimed, the consequence would be that all sufferings
and their sources would also be absolute nirvana
If even that is claimed, they would be taintless, and also
pure, self, great bliss, and permanent.
All the absolute qualities such as the powers, which are as
numerous as the sands of the river Ganges, would also be complete.
Those [sufferings and their sources] would be the ultimate
which are to be taken up.
They would be the ultimate source of refuge for living
They would be the ultimate omniscient gnosis.
They would also be the imperishable adamantine buddhabody.
It would be totally incorrect to reject [those sufferings and
their sources] with the antidote.
To reject them would mean that the Truth of the Path
would really be meaningless.
The attainment of buddhahood would be totally impossible.
Dharma and Sangha would also be impossible.
In this [position] there are also infinite other faults and flaws.
Therefore, the ultimate [reality] in all profound sutras and tantras which finely present thusness, and so forth, is empty of other, never empty of self-nature.
It is absolute, never relative.
It is the true nature, never the phenomena.
It is the middle, never the extreme.
It is nirvana, never samsara.
It is gnosis, never consciousness.
It is pure, never impure.
It is a sublime self, never a nothingness.
It is great bliss, never suffering.
It is permanent and stable, never impermanent.
It is self-arisen, never arisen due to another.
It is the fully established, never the imagined.
It is natural, never fabricated.
It is primordial, never incidental.
It is Buddha, never a sentient being.
It is the essence, never the husk.
It is definitive in meaning, never provisional in meaning.
It is ultimate, never transient.
It is the ground and result, never the Truth of the Path.
It is the ground of purification, never the object of
It is the mode of reality, never the mode of delusion.
It is the sublime other, never the outer and inner.
It is true, never false.
It is perfect, never perverse.
It is the ground of emptiness, never just empty.
It is the ground of separation, never just a separation.
It is the ground of absence, never just an absence.
It is an established phenomenon, never an absolute negation.
It is virtue, never nonvirtue.
It is authentic, never inauthentic.
It is correct, never incorrect.
It is immaculate, never stain.
Of course this is Tibetan Buddhism, not Zen. Interestingly enough I was reading Thomas Cleary's book on various documents about Kensho last night, and in it he stated:
When Zen texts speak of emptiness, voidness, equanimity, purity, or the spacelike nature of mind, it is this aspect of "substance" to which they refer. The emptiness, voidness, equanimity, purity, and spacelike quality refer to the nonconceptual, nonemotional nature of the experience of the substance or "body" of the true mind.
Immediately following Chinul goes onto quote the Awakening of Faith:
The substance of true suchness is neither more nor less in ordinary people, learners, those awakened to conditionality, enlightening beings, and the Buddhas. It was not originated in the past and will not perish in the future; it is ultimately eternal.
Chinul then goes onto say himself:
According to this scripture and treatise, the basic substance of the true mind transcends causality and pervades time. It is neither profane nor sacred; it has no oppositions. Like space itself, it is omnipresent; its subtle substance is stable and utterly peaceful, beyond all conceptual elaboration. It is unoriginated, imperishable, neither existent nor nonexistent. It is unmoving, unstirring, profoundly still and eternal.
This is called the inner host that has always been there, or the person before the prehistoric Buddhas, or the self before the aeon of emptiness. Uniformly equanimous, it is totally flawless and unblemished. All things, pure and impure-mountains, rivers, earth, grasses, trees, forests, all forms and appearances- all come forth from this.