Huseng wrote:However, you admit that the atman is imagined and definitely non-existent. Otherwise if you say the atman is not inherently existent, then it exists through Causes & Conditions. Which is still a view of selfhood, albeit temporary and dependent. And we know that this is a wrong view.
There is a relative conventionally existent self. The Buddha himself used the personal first person reflexive pronoun. There is nothing wrong with saying "I" as it does refer to a person who may not possess inherit existence, but has a provisional and conventional relative existence.
This is not a wrong view because there is no assertion that either the aggregates are or based on an absolute atman.
The wrong view is not to conventionally refer to the aggregates together as an atman, but to assume that the aggregates themselves are real which contradicts both scripture and reason. As I will clarify:
So if you agree that the atman is not even a temporarily existing thing, that it is completely false and imagined, then why do you consider dharmas to likewise lack inherent existence, yet exist impermanently and dependently (upon other dharmas)?
You are moving in the direction of nihilism. Emptiness is dependent origination which means that the mode of existence of dharmas is through causes and conditions ergo things exist relatively and not absolutely. When we say that dharmas lack inherit existence, that is not to say they do not exist at all.
Because you don't see the full picture, does not make it nihilism. Allow me to explain.
Your definition of Dependent Origination and Causes & Conditions is a Hinayana understanding, which traces dharmas back to other dharmas, but does not realize that all such dharmas are unreal and cannot be attributed to such Causes & Conditions nor to spontaneity, as clearly stated in scripture.
Real Dependent Origination and the true Cause & Condition of everything appearing in the three times (past, present, and future) as taught in Mahayana Sutras is the "wonderful nature of True Suchness, the Treasury of the Tathagata", in other words the "wonderfully enlightened bright mind".
It is the defiled consciousness of Ordinary Beings which evolves in such a way to resemble external dharmas existing independently of mind. Nihilism would be to deny even mind which creates such illusions. But while these illusory flowers in the sky (form-skandha) are unreal, the mind which dreams of them is obviously real. Otherwise how could such things appear and how would there be perception of them?
To deny both would not stand to reason, but to affirm dharmas existing independently of mind, albeit temporary and dependent (on other dharmas), would not be in accord with scripture.
Yet your interpretation is Hinayana style, conceding that the atman is completely false and non-existent, but still affirming the existence of dharmas on account of other dharmas ("pot= clay + kiln + fire + mental perception") as Cause & Condition.
I have not posited that dharmas possess inherit existence. Therefore your charge here is dismissed.
Where did I say "inherent existence", and where is that taught in Hinayana? I said "on account of other dharmas as Cause & Condition", which is the Hinayana definition of Dependent Origination, and the way that you apply to your study of Mahayana.
Basic Mahayana doctrine? Is there really such a thing?
If there is not the least thing that the various schools agree on, how can they all be considered Mahayana? What groups them together as Mahayana and distinguishes their doctrines from the Hinayana? The answer in simple terms is the unreality of not only atman, but also all dharmas.
You have critically misunderstood emptiness as taught by Nagarjuna as you have adopted a view of nihilism.
Do you understand what svabhava means?
I understand. But if something has no inherent existence, what else can it have?
Therefore in many Sutras the Buddha teaches that that which can be returned somewhere is false and unreal (skandhas, dharmas). While that which can be returned to nowhere is ultimately true (bodhi-mind).
If that is so, how can it be reduced to nihilism?
So as Bodhidharma states in his Bloodstream Discourse;
"You can't know your real mind as long as you deceive yourself. As long as you're enthralled by a lifeless form, you're not free. If you don't believe me, deceiving yourself won't help. It's not the Buddha's fault."
As long as you are enthralled by the skandhas as real and external dharmas as independent of mind, even if not attached to them as inherently existing "self", you're not free.
It is explicated in many a Sutra. Not seeing mind and skewing it into materialism or nihilism is not the Buddha's fault.