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Pedro on his "Difficulty" about use of concepts "Atma" and "Soul"

Nov 21, 2004 08:50 AM
by Daniel H. Caldwell


You wrote:

"My difficulty, expressed earlier this year on
theos-talk, is to understand how a Buddhist 
teacher uses concepts like 'Atma' and 'Soul' 
while explaining the human constitution to
Sinnett. I am still trying to work on this one."

Pedro, I would suggest that you read and
study Paul Williams' book MAHAYANA
BUDDHISM, especially Chapter 5 on "The
tathagatagarbha (Buddha-essence/Buddha-nature),
pp. 96-115.

See for example what Williams writes on page 99:

"[The Mahayana Maha-parinirvana Sutra]...teaches
a really existing, permanent sentient
beings. It is this element which enables sentient
beings to become otherwise fulfils
several of the requirments of a Self in the Indian
tradition. Whether this is called the Real, True,
Transcendental Self or not is as such immaterial,
but what is historically interesting is that this
sutra in prepared to use the word
'Self' (atman) for this element...."

And on page 101 Williams quotes from the
Buddhist scripture Srimula Sutras that
describes the "dharmakaya" as:

"beginningless, uncreate, unborn, undying,
free from death; permanent, steadfast,calm
eternal, intrinsically pure...."

Does that sound like the "Self" (atman)?

Then turning to Tibetan Buddhism, here is
a book review of one school that teaches something very
similar to what is given in the Secret

"The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the 
Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (Suny Series, Buddhist 
Studies) The Buddha from Dolpo examines the life and thought of the 
Tibetan Buddhist master, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361). Known 
as 'The Buddha from Dolpo,' he was one of the most important and 
original thinkers in Tibetan history, and perhaps the greatest expert 
on the tantric teachings of the Kalacakra or 'Wheel of Time.' Based 
largely upon esoteric Buddhist knowledge believed to be preserved in 
the legendary land of Shambhala, Dolpopa's theories continue to 
excite controversy in Tibetan Buddhism after almost 700 
years.. 'Dolpopa emphasized two contrasting definitions of the 
Buddhist teachings of emptiness: 'emptiness of self-nature,' which 
applies only to the, level of relative truth, and 'emptiness of 
other,' which applies only to the level of absolute truth. Dolpopa 
identified ultimate reality as the Buddha-nature inherent in all 
living beings. This view of an 'emptiness of other,' known in Tibetan 
as Zhentong, is Dolpopa's main spiritual legacy.. "

And David Reigle has written:


"Some seven centuries ago there arose in Tibet a school of teachings 
which has many parallels to Theosophy. This is the Jonangpa school. 
Like Theosophy which attempted to restore teachings from "the 
universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world" 
[1] it attempted to restore teachings of the earlier Golden Age. Like 
Theosophy which teaches as its first fundamental proposition "an 
omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle on which all 
speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human 
conception," [2] it teaches a principle which is permanent, stable, 
quiescent, and eternal, which is devoid of anything but itself, 
or "empty of other" (gzhan stong), and which therefore transcends 
even the most subtle conceptualization."


More from David Reigle:


The Jonangpa teachings are based primarily on Kalacakra and the works 
of Maitreya. I have elsewhere provided evidence linking the "Book of 
Dzyan" on which The Secret Doctrine is based and the lost mula 
Kalacakra Tantra. [8] An important passage from a letter of H.P. 
Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett also links the Book of Dzyan and the work 
of Maitreya: [9] 

I have finished an enormous Introductory Chapter, or Preamble, 
Prologue, call it what you will; just to show the reader that the 
text [of The Secret Doctrine] as it goes, every Section beginning 
with a page of translation from the Book of Dzyan and the Secret Book 
of "Maytreya Buddha" Champai chhos Nga (in prose, not the five books 
in verse known, which are a blind) are not fiction.

Blavatsky here refers to a secret book of Maitreya as opposed to the 
five books known. It is noteworthy that there came to Tibet from 
India two schools of interpretation of the Maytreya works: a 
doctrinal or analytical school whose textual exegesis is still 
current, and a meditative or practice school thought to have 
disappeared several centuries ago. According to Leonard van der 
Kuijp, this school did not die out but rather became the basis of the 
Jonangpa teachings: [10] 

As such, future research may show two things. Firstly, the forerunner 
of the so-called Jo-nang-pa position and the 'Great madhyamaka' was 
the meditative, practical school that grew up around these teachings 
of Maitreya[natha]. In course of time, other texts which expressed 
similar sentiments, or which were interpreted as maintaining similar 
ideas, were added to the original corpus of texts on which this 
tradition based itself. In the second place, it may become possible 
to show that Dol-po-pa's efforts could be characterized as an attempt 
to redress the 'Meditative School' according to the normative 
methodology of the 'Analytical School'.

The specific book of Maitreya on which the fundamental Jonangpa 
doctrine of shen-tong or "empty of other" is based is the Ratna-gotra-
vibhaga, also called the Uttara-tantra. This book contains a 
synthesis of the tathagata-garbha or "Buddha-matrix" teaching. The 
tathagata-garbha teaching of a universal matrix or Buddha-nature, 
which all people have, is so different from other Buddhist teachings 
that Buddhist writers disagreed on how to classify it. In Tibet, it 
was classified by some writers as a Madhyamaka teaching, and by 
others as a Yogacara teaching, though it did not fit well in either 
category. An early Chinese writer, Fa-tsang (643-712), put it in its 
own separate category beyond the three accepted ones of Hinayana, 
Madhyamaka, and Yogacara. [11] Analogously, H.P. Blavatsky speaks of 
a seventh school of Indian philosophy (darsana) beyond the six 
accepted ones, the esoteric school: [12] ..
[quoted from:


I think these leads may help you in understanding
this subject.


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