gregkavarnos wrote:While there are undoubtedly purposefully eternalist text exising within some Buddhist Canons I personally believe that the teachings within the Tathagatagarbha Sutras, the Lankvatara Sutra and or the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra are not necessarily eternalist. It is true though that if viewed through the prism of eternalism they may seem so. But then if one wears rose coloured glasses everything looks rose coloured, so that proves nothing...
Eternalism puts one in contradiction with the Four Dharma Seals, thus an eternalist reading of these texts (or eternalist texts themselves) is not a view that is based on Buddhdharma. Now, of course M. may trot out the now jaded arguement that Buddism is not necessarily Buddhadharma, to which I agree to an extent, but at the same time not ALL Buddhism is divorced from Buddhadharma AND not all non-Budhist views are necessarily Buddhadharma. No matter which spiritual/religious milieu one may belong to, it's always a good idea to carefully consider what is being propounded using a analysis based on the Four Dharma Seals as a measure of the validity of their view.
Imo, the question of eternalism and selfhood is perfectly overrated in Buddhism. Buddhists hear the word 'self' and before they've even taken a moment to consider how it is used they've braced themselves for adharma. What happens if you take the Dharmakaya to be eternalistic? What are the consequences? I don't subscribe to the view that getting a few abstract philosophical details wrong is such wrong view it will impede your chances of realisation
Or perhaps a better way to get at this is to ask: For whom is this relevant? . Imo, it's only relevant for those who have actually realised this and then apprehend it as self. And even so, rather than setting up a position of 'what is the Buddhist take' etc. I'd rather ask: What are the practical consequences? According to an arhat like Luangta Maha Boowa, the final strand of ignorance between arhatship and non-returning is so luminous and radiant that most people who get there will mistake it for a true self. That's a pretty select elite of people for whom the question of eternalism is relevant. It also tells us it's possible to hold the view of eternalism and actually get that far.
Someone else I know voiced the concern that people who awaken within a framework of eternalism are given a framework to really latch on to that realisation and make it into an ultimate prize and emptiness teachings don't encourage the same thing. I can see that and it's a fair call, but it's as much to do with personality of the practitioner and emptiness practitioners trade it in for a tendency towards annihilationalism.
OTOH, all these eternalist teachings, and I am cutting a wide swath here and including all Tathagatagarbha teachings and those that are based on them, provide a perspective with great practical value that madhyamika struggles to formulate. The whole 'innate wisdom' thing are very useful fingers pointing to the moon in terms of relaxing into the path and being able to let go. It's a very direct and intuitive approach.
As long as you let go of everything in the end, it isn't all it's cooked up to be along the way, imo. The great Chan master Mazu, who taught all kinds of eternalistic Tathagatagarbha stuff was asked: "Why do you teach that Mind is Buddha?" "to stop little children from crying." "What about after that?" "Neither mind nor Buddha." Problem solved.
As I see, we all carry views of alternating annihilationalism and eternalism on very subtle cognitive levels that see us departing from the middle way at a most basic level. Probably will do so all the way up until full liberation. Fretting too much about our intellectual views of all this is like polishing a turd. That's not where the real issue is.[/quote]