I've read around a bit in the Critical Buddhism movement in Japan, which takes a stance that is very much like this one (from a user here at DharmaWheel in another thread):
To come back to the topic of the essay, then, perhaps a clarification is in order. On the "no-holds-barred" blog where I originally posted this, I took for granted that readers would know that when I said "bad for Buddhism" I meant bad for what I take to be the form of Buddhism most useful to reduce suffering: that is, a "full-strength" version of anatman that rejects any concept of "original enlightenment" or "substrate consciousness" or "true self." It is my position that those are ideas imported from Taoism or other Asian schools of thought, or vestiges of Brahmanical/Vedantic thought, and so weaken our understanding of anatman. If one takes there to be some kind of non-conceptual consciousness which transcends this world, then I think Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this version of Buddhism quite well, particularly in books like The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. So, I am beginning, in the ongoing discussion on the blog, from my previous essay "Samsara as the realm of Ideology: Naturalizing Buddhism," and other essays as well, where I have argued that such "subtle-atman" schools of Buddhism reproduce, rather than help eliminate, the causes of human suffering.
This is why I don't know that this is possible to pursue here. My interest is in whether, and how, we can help people see the truth of "full-strength" antaman without being abrasive and somewhat obnoxious. The dominant approach here seems to be what I call the "half-strength" version of anatman, which still believes in some kind of essence or consciousness that is permanent and separate from the phenomenal world--and while it may be possible to persuade someone of this version of anatman with kind words (I think Thich Nhat Hanh has succeeded at doing so for many Americans), this is not a goal I would be interested in, because it seems to me that it only makes it that much harder to later accept the full-strength understanding of anatman.
I'd like to consider these claims on their merits:
*anatman (sunyata) and tathagathagarbha are terms in opposition
*tathagatagarbha is not authentically Buddhist, but reflects the influence of another tradition
*hence tathagatagarbha represents a degradation of the teachings
I have my own thoughts on these issues. I'd like to learn what others think.
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