Teaching wich describing the non self chararcter of every thing.
(1st of 2 parts)
Here is the most abstruse, perfect and at the same time subtlest doctrine ever to have been expounded throughout mankind's history. Its special feature is rooted in the fact that it can only be taught, explored, taught, revealed and expounded by an omniscient Buddha, a "tathāgata", that is to say a perfect being.
It all happened twenty five centuries ago, when, by renouncing the world, sensuous pleasures, any ambition or project, the prince Siddhattha had been engrossed in various practices and spiritual exercises. Being always dissatisfied about the results they produced, he had an experience, reached a complete realisation, and in the wake of this attainment, taught that new doctrine, unheard of before and which is taught nowhere else save by his disciples who succeeded him.
It is essential to well understand that the doctrine of anatta, as it is taught and expounded in what we call theravāda, is totally unknown in any other system of thought or exegesis whatsoever, including the modern and so called speculative Buddhism also called mahayāna Buddhism.
From the very beginning, the monk Gotama, the awakened one, whom we call Buddha, has discovered this principle. He has discovered something entirely new in the course of evolution of all the spiritual traditions of humanity. He will display this discovery under the name anatta.
It is essential that, each of us, according to his or her own skills, at least succeeds in achieving a basic and accessible understanding of anatta.
Only the ones who achieved complete realisation, who reached arahanthood, that is to say complete awakening, master a very wide, complete and subtle capacity of reflection and investigation into this doctrine. The ones who have not reached this stage yet, can but have an incomplete and truncated understanding, their investigations' skills being more limited. As to the ones who never saw nibbāna during their living, they won't be able to correctly and effectively understand this doctrine... However, someone well versed into the scriptures, who is a very learned scholar, whom intellectual faculties have sufficiently developed, will be able to overview a fairly good idea about this thing, or we could say not too bad.
anatta is a Pali word, and not a Sanskrit word, which has absolutely nothing in common with its Sanskrit equivalent "anatman". If Buddha refused to make use of the Sanskrit language, if he chose to use his native dialect called "Magadha", there was a reason backing it.
Buddha is someone who claimed having reached omniscience, that is to say the capacity to know all in all. Being particularly strengthened by this omniscience (as claimed by him, but at the depth how can we be sure that it is true?), he made some choices, concerning as much what he endeavoured to avoid as what he wished to cultivate.
One of the 5 required conditions for a "tathāgata" ( a Buddha) to appear in this world is that he appears in a specific area of what, in present day India, we call "majjhimadesa", which means the central land, the land of the middle, as it is geographically located at a medium distance between the coastal areas, the mountains and the forests. It more less constitutes the heart of the Indian peninsula. Also, in this specific area, the Magadha dialect is being utilised. Later on, owing to the simple fact that Buddha's words have been put into written script that became canonised, we will use the word Pali, conveniently rendered into English by the word "canon". To refer to this dialect, we have therefore replaced the word "magadha" by the word "pāli".
In Pali, the literal meaning of the word anatta is divided into two parts described as follows:
"a", which is the privative particle, whose counterpart can be found into French language and "atta", which is the reflexive particle, translated into English by "self" and that doesn't really have any accurate equivalent into French. We usually say "en soi" ("in itself"). It is worth knowing that forms such as "m', t', s'" that we use in French will be genuinely expressed in Pali by the word "atta".
Buddha didn't use technical words. He refused to use Sanskrit words that refer to spiritual techniques, religious or mystic beliefs. He instead used words of everyday life, specifically used by the Magadha people. In Pali language, we indeed cannot find any specific vocabulary related to philosophical or religious teachings, ideas or concepts. As soon as one wished to teach such things, one had to use Sanskrit language. It is worthy of quotation that Sanskrit and Pali are very close to each other, but not necessarily identical.
"anatta" is therefore the conjunction of two particles: the privative particle and the particle designating the idea of "reflexivity", of reciprocity. If we wished to find an appropriate French word in order to synthesize anatta, we could say: "absence d'un soi" ("absence of a self"), "absence d'une nature propre" ("absence of a self-inherent nature").
Very often, the word anatta, in literature, is translated by "le non-soi" ("non-self") or "le non-égo" ("non-ego"). This translation is quite inconvenient. Even if, in its wider or deducted meaning, the idea of anatta suggests the absence of an ego, a self or soul, the word anatta in itself doesn't mean "absence of an ego", "absence of a self" or "absence of a soul". There are other words designating this in Pali language. In English, we are compelled to use a word like "not self" or "none self" because British, have, in their vocabulary, a word designating the reflexive particle that is "self". For instance, "myself" means "moi-même", "himself" means "lui-même".
We can therefore likewise trace back, in Pali language, the adding of the particle "self" for designating "soi-même" ("oneself"). That's why British have legitimately translated the word anatta by "not self" or "none self".
The problem lies in the fact that, when we started to translate into French, we mostly translated from English sources. Therefore, naturally, French academic circles, who, for most of them, didn't understand well the teachings of the Enlightened one, have translated "not self" by "non soi". This is a mistake that unfortunately leads to a misunderstanding on the behalf of the majority of French readers.
Our views being already expressed, we can however claim that in Sanskrit language, the word "anatman" can indeed convey the idea of "absence of a self", "absence of a soul", "absence of an ego". But we deal with a Sanskrit word and not with a Pali one. Indeed, backing up with this Sanskrit word, translators took the abusive liberty to render into French the word "anatta" by "non soi", "non égo" or "non âme".
anatta, that is the absence of "in itself", applicable to everything, every idea, every characteristic and virtually all mental or material phenomena. From this starting point, we can, naturally, give details and explanations so as to understand that in such and such cases, such and such field, in this manner, should the anatta doctrine be expressed or perceived. The standard description that you probably already heard of lies, for instance, in saying: Let's take a cart. This cart undergoes the law of anatta. We cannot claim that a cart exists in a true sense. Indeed, if we take it to pieces and we spread it out on the ground, we can no longer claim that this is a cart. However, all its pieces are spread before us.
Here is outlined a quite superficial and easy way to try to make you understand the concept of anatta. But it yields the disadvantage to stand firm on this idea of absence of substance, seed or soul. And still, it is interesting to ascertain that when we ask this question to Buddha himself, and it is essential to find out what he himself expounded as being anatta, this latter didn't mention the cart's example. He was not the one who took this example. One of his disciples took this example in order to make himself understood by someone. We also sometimes take the example of a cow butchered into pieces on the butcher's block.
When Buddha expounds what he conceives to be endowed with this character of absence of "in itself" (absence of self inherent reality), he chooses a different and, we could have guessed so, remarkably effective option. He tells: "There is no "atta" in this body. Because if, in this body, there was a "atta", at this very moment, "atta" may have this power to decide or to choose that this body should assume this shape or shouldn't."
We can trace back this demonstration in numerous suttas. Throughout his life span, he very often used this method in order to make his talks understood. Here is the way he carries out...
Someone is convinced that in this body is seated a substance, a seed, an entity, or that in all cases this body and this mind are the emanation of an immutable, unconditioned and eternal principle.
Buddha tells this fellow:
«– Is that body motionless, immutable or does it undergo changes?
– It undergoes changes (old age, illness, decay, etc...), Lord.
– That which undergoes changes, is it a source of pleasure or a source of dissatisfaction?
– That which undergoes changes is a source of dissatisfaction, Lord.
– How can a source of dissatisfaction be considered as our property?»
One must be crazy to keep held in hands a burning coal, which is a source of intense pain. One would be silly to keep this body, source of transformations and dissatisfactions. Here is the specific point that Buddha, in his demonstration about anatta, focused on. That is the idea of total absence of control. That is not only the idea that there is neither a "owner", nor an "entity". That is also the idea of absence of control as anatta suggests the total absence of control or mastery.
For example, we would like to put an end to the ageing process. We would like to keep a young, dynamic, flexible and, in every possible way, beautiful and attractive body. However, there is an uncontrollable and natural ageing process taking place. There is no means at all to control that, not only because there is no one, no individual, no ego, but also because it's impossible to control that. It is explained by the simple fact that in this material body, there is no inner regent that controls its material constitution. Neither is there any "self control", nor is found a "self controlling" agent. Matter cannot control itself. The same process is applicable to mental phenomena, as these latter cannot control matter and matter cannot control these former either.
Here is fathomed out the somehow theoretical aspect of it. Let's try to figure it out in a more practical way, which befits daily life's realities...
Usually, we enjoy to wear clothes that are as beautiful and handsome as possible, convenient in all respects, noticeably to reach our professional aim. We will therefore make efforts to look handsome, especially when we go to work. We think, we conceive: "I clothe myself.", "I have chosen these clothes because I like this colour, that shape, I prefer trousers rather than skirts."
But in reality, but what is this all about? In reality, as a matter of fact, it is inconceivable to go to work naked, even in a hot country. Because, being naked, we fall prey to the aggressions of the insects, and moreover, in particular in our western civilisation, of other people's opinion. Indeed, no other choice is ever left to us. This is ineluctable, necessary and compulsory to wear clothes. Here is the starting point. This idea of the ineluctable character of things is what anatta implies.
From this point onward, we can dream up, we can extrapolate. We can try to make handsome, pleasant clothes and devout ourselves to a style by wearing them. We can work out some philosophical discourses about the social and sociological finality of clothes. At the beginning, it all starts with a basic need to cover up the body with some material.
The same law is applied to food, even in a more true fashion. It would still be possible, from a biological viewpoint, to live naked, some of us are doing it. But is it biologically possible to abstain from taking food? To eat nothing, beyond two days, two weeks or even two months? That's a low prospect! In one way or the other, we must feed up our bodily machine because no other choice is left to us. It is ineluctable, uncontrollable. The digestive function is totally uncontrollable. One can refrain from going to toilets for one hour, one can abstain from eating for a whole day, but soon or later on, whether one wants it or not, one will have to purge his intestines, beyond his/her own volition, one will have to feed the "machine" from above. This is ineluctable, and this ineluctable character, that is anatta.
If we believe to have chosen "Mac Donald's" because it is tastier than "Burger King", we are allowed to. If we believe that we have concocted some pizzas because we like pizzas, fair enough. Whatever the dye, the aesthetic quality or the embellishments that we can put into our life might be, the hard fact is that we eat for only one reason, not to die, not to be diseased, not to decay. However, through our attachment, erroneous views and desires, we will try to make that food enjoyable. This is inevitable. One must be mad to eat loathsome food. It is perfectly natural to go after tasty and pleasant foods.
When we really enjoy a delicious dish that we like, which we have prepared and we do believe that it is so because we have chosen it, in fact, we are only subject to quite a natural law: the need to feed ourselves, and the fact that we can't refrain from experiencing pleasure while cooking. Cooking tasty dishes is a natural tendency inherent to all of us. Admittedly, some people are less fond of food than others and more interested by clothes, everyone has got his own likes.
When we walk, some of us do some sport or train themselves in cultivating an athletic pace, but in all cases, we walk because there is no other option left to us except walking. We must walk to go to toilets, to the kitchen, to work too, to pick up mails in the mail's box as well, even if it is done on a short distance. Afterwards, we can put up all the embellishments we want: dressing in more comfortable shoes, doing gymnastic exercises, wearing clothes more befitting the discipline, no matter what it is!
We walk because walking is needed and this is the reason why, besides, Buddha includes walking among what he calls the four bodily postures. This is a bit unusual when we consider that Buddha includes walking, or a trip, as a bodily posture. We could think: "posture = motionless". Buddha tells that going on a trip is also a bodily posture. The proof for it lies in the fact that it is impossible to maintain a bodily posture for long. If we walk a long time, there will always occur a moment when we will have to stop or rather change the posture. We will then have to adopt a lying posture. If we remain laid down for long, there will always occur a moment when unbearable pains will manifest. Therefore, we will have to change the posture by sitting for example. If we remain seated for a long time, there will occur a moment when will be experienced a significant number of feelings of dissatisfactions, painful things within the bodily complex that are difficult to endure, we will have to change our posture, by standing for instance. What to say about standing for long while doing nothing, when, for instance, we queue up in an administrative office... At the worst, better to edge forward a hundred steps than to remain standing motionless.
In all this, no one took a decision. In all this, nobody has exerted any control on anything, contrarily, admittedly, to what we usually imagine.
anatta is specifically this ineluctable and uncontrollable character of all happenings of our lives and everything that we do. In fact, we cannot really say: "we do". It just happens, this is mechanics set in motion, that unfolds in elapsing time. But this is a cautious warning, one should abstain from claiming: "As it is an automatic machine, therefore, at last, man's life comes down to a robot piloted by an automatic pilot. Therefore nothing remains to be done whatsoever. I just have to let myself go as in all cases, everything is ruled in advance". This is false, nothing is ruled in advance! It just happens, it unfolds, admittedly, but it is not however defined, established or ruled in advance.
We will never find any laws, in mathematics, which can predict with perfect accuracy everything that or which will occur. Is there a proof backing such claim? Let's just try to remain doing nothing... We won't be able to!
Let's take the example of a boat: if we back up with the purely mechanistic and deterministic viewpoint, which asserts that everything is automatically ruled by some laws, the boat will therefore proceed where it has to. Indeed, there is a navigator. There is somebody holding the boat's helm. The boat has no power to decide, to choose. Obviously, there is somebody operating the helm. And however... Whilst accepting that the boat navigates on a straight line, it would still go somewhere and end its trip by beaching or by even colliding against a reef. As a matter of fact, it changed its direction and it proceeded to a different destination; it reached the deserved harbour. In fact, neither the boat itself nor its navigator, have exercised any control on anything.
In fact, it occurred in this way and not otherwise. That's why we should refrain from sticking to this erroneous belief in a kind of pre-established determinism. We could almost say that, here, a paradox is involved.
It is well understood that we are not the ones who keep a control over this "machine". If someone attends university and works hard, he will finally pass on his diploma. There is no control, there is no entity, but if he chose not to register on a university course, he wouldn't have passed and got his diploma.
Therefore, we should avoid the extremes of a pure determinism, on one hand, and also shun, on the other, the entire opposite view, which is a kind of absolutism, of perfection of behaviour. In this latter, there would be someone who decides, controls and chooses.
Here we face a sensitive issue. The problem related to spirituality. In today's world, whether in the East or the West, we can find what is called progress, technologies. We summarise this by the word "materialism".
And so, some of them come, with their robe, their traditional dresses, their turban, their bells, their trumpet, their crucifix, their candelabra, their candle, their incense sticks, their shaven head, their hat, etc. And they will tell you: "material welfare is good, but there is something better, which is spiritual development". How many times didn't we hear: "external wealth, that is good, but inner wealth is better". Who is telling us this? Pursuant to what spiritual growth is better than material growth? By virtue of what could spiritual development constitute the only alternative to all sufferings and pains endured in a given material existence?
It is interesting to see how the monk Gotama, the awakened one, Buddha, has dealt with this point. He did it in a quite unique manner, which is totally alien to everything that has been taught elsewhere. Buddha tells that, all beings, whoever and whatever they are, without exception, conceive "atta". It is therefore essential to back up with this assertion.
He tells: " All beings, whatever they are, from the moment that, of course, they are conscious, do conceive, comprehend, experience, live and imagine "atta". There are two ways to deal with this topic. There is the way of nihilists called "uccheda", and the way of eternalists called "sassata". Even if there are these two ways to deal with "atta", as a matter of fact, all deal with "atta".
And so, when we talk about transcending the ego, about non-ego or spirituality, whose aim and vocation lies in transcending materialism and egotism, we are still, whether we like it or not, indulging in the erroneous conception of "atta", in the wrong experience of "atta". To worldly beings, two ways to deal with "atta" do prevail.
The first one lies in dealing with "atta" by means of mental speculations. These latter are expressed in a twofold way, the so called nihilist conception and the eternalist one. The second one deals with "atta" by means of desire and fixation. There is a third way to deal with "atta", being far the most difficult and sensitive to be expounded, as it can be perceived only while experiencing satipaṭṭhāna vipassanā. Here is involved a way to deal with "atta" through identification. The ultimate and supreme identification.
And so, some of them believe that we live only once and tell us: "As in all cases, it is so, why not living to the sake of pleasure". These ones will usually dedicate this existence to the search for material pleasures. That is to say, pleasures that gratify the sphere of the five material senses: -pleasures of the eyes, the ears, the palate, the nose, the tactile sense and the skin. These latter think within themselves. "In all cases, at the end of this life, everything will be over, nothing will remain whatsoever". Those ones can also, of course, elaborate some concepts, some philosophies.
We can therefore globally comprehend all these concepts and philosophies under the generic rendering "political philosophies". That is to say a peculiar form of ideation, a certain form of ideology, which asserts that it is possible to experience in today's world, through a socio-political organisation, a specific form of happiness and welfare. We do believe that in this world of the living there is something, truly speaking, a spirit, a soul... We believe that things that we experience truly exist, that they are infused with life, that they bear a monolithic character, that they are fixed, immutable, solid, even if we are aware of their limited life-span.
These latter think this way: "All our experiences are ultimately true. Our social, professional, family successes or failures are all self-existing things. Our car, television etc. are all existing things upon which we retain a right of ownership. The Law, the Law system, are existing things. We must therefore reach happiness, sensuous happiness, through a structured and intelligent organisation of our pleasures, laws and rules". Those fellows therefore elaborate a compound of thoughts, concepts and philosophies ascribable, in a broad sense, to political philosophies. They will develop and conceive what we call a " materialistic society".
Some of them believe and imagine something surviving physical death. They believe in after life experiences. When the body will be reduced to dust and will be totally pulverised, a stream of consciousness will keep on experiencing things.
One of the most blatant (glaring) beliefs in these regards, is the one in what we can call "intermediate stages". Namely some stages into which, skinned from our physical body, there would remain some conscious aggregates that keep on experiencing things. In a sutta, it is interesting to notice that Buddha tells: "There is this belief in the intermediate stages". This belief, did he claim, is a wrong belief, which entangles the one who adheres to it into the net of false views, suffering and the cycle of becoming and rebirths.
In short, there is a belief that after death, something else and new is going to happen. The ones who believe in or imagine this, think that in reality there is no intrinsic truth to be found within phenomena. They think that the things that we perceive do not really exist the way we do perceive them, that they are illusory and empty of self-inherent reality. But whether beyond, within or outside of them or likened to an ultimate nature inherent to them, they imagine the existence of "atta". It is believed to be a thing, a principle, and a transcendent, immutable and pure truth that is never touched and affected by the relative truth in contingency with phenomena.
These ones distinguish two worlds:
These latter, as taught by Buddha, the ones believing in the dualistic doctrine, in this idea, are also blinded by the veil of false views and will be subject to many sufferings and to the rebirths cycle. They elaborate what we can call "spirituality" in a broad sense, or a "religious philosophy". Usually, those are people who will endeavour not to let themselves be spoiled by sensuous pleasures, so as to be committed to something that is allegedly superior, a specific form of discipline, ascetic training or yoga. All this is done to the sake of reaching spiritual experiences, which lie beyond the five sensuous spheres.
Buddha tells that in reality, they are not really aware of what they are doing. Obviously, what they do simply lies in transferring their consciousness to a more abstract state of pleasure and desire. Instead of revelling in the nice pleasures and sensations given by the bodily and material organs, these former pertaining to a strongly emotional and profound casual nature, they will choose another option. As their mind is inclined towards this eternalist conception, they will instead only cling to mental experiences. That is the intuitive sense, which is not a material sense but a mental one.
Buddha tells, that both of them commit the same mistake and that someone very "material" has the same chances to go around in circles in the rebirths' cycle as someone who is very "spiritual".
Buddha does establish no hierarchy. He doesn't say that the ones are baser than the others, he doesn't say that the ones are more intelligent and higher than the others. He simply says that both are mistaken. Whether we follow a political philosophy, steps through which we try to convey a meaning to this world, a sociological, political and economical truth, or else a step of self-purification, penance, yoga, spiritual uplifting or transcendence, he tells: "This is the same mistake".
Even if these steps apparently exclude one another, they both fit in the same type of reality, the same concept. It is here about an erroneous concept that it does exist in a way or the other an entity, whether found in this world or beyond, in this body or being this body itself, whatever it is. Whether it is a transcendent stage, a state of being, a state of consciousness, or simply the truth of cosmic matter, which, one day or the other, will have to totally disappear, in all cases, we find this concept of atta.
Whether it is a sensual experience, a thought or an idea, we imagine this latter to be, in a way or the other, an intrinsic reality, a self-inherent nature. As apart from "atta", there is not, in Pali language, any word to express this, it is here convenient to rather use the Sanskrit word "buddhatathata", which means: the intrinsic nature of what rests upon itself. This may not be a perfect grammatical translation, but it is however the idea that is conveyed by this word. You will also hear some "spiritual masters" giving a talk about something by telling you: "This is ineffable, this is transcendental, it is THIS and that's the way it is, when you have totally transcended the world of phenomena, the world of duality, of egotism, the material world, you have permeated the "SUCHNESS", the "SELF"".
Afterwards, everyone according to his religion; some of them will claim: "That, this is Brahma, the supreme being". Some others will say: "This is God" or: "This is Allah". Here, we will find a school that imagines that this being, "beinghood" and reality, indeed is a being. We find the ones who are telling you: "No, this is not a being who created the world, this is simply an impersonal reality, a fact, a state of being that is ..."HERE"... that simply IS!".
Thus, Buddha, owing to his omniscient knowledge, and mostly backed up with his own experience, has noticed that among eternalists, there are two ways to conceive the deity or "buddhahood": We find the ones who believe in a being, supreme, an eternal, immutable, omniscient, unconditioned and supreme God who has, in a way or the other, created the world. The world may be constituted of a compound of phenomena which follow one another, superimpose one another and among which, each of them is the fruit of the previous one. If by the way, we go back to immemorial times, there would be a primal moment, a primal cause that is the divine being.
This explanation given by Buddha is almost, in the same words, also well explained in the theological summa of Saint Thomas d'Aquin into which this latter almost paraphrases the monk Gotama.
Buddha tells that it's one of the two ways, obviously erroneous by nature, to conceive or explain "atta", the deity. In this case, Buddha will prefer to use a specific word. He will talk about "brahmā". Indeed, "atta" and "brahmā" are one and the same thing, but, when we back up with the viewpoint of a creative being, Buddha uses the word "brahmā" instead.
There is the other way to conceive the "beingness", the "suchness", "buddhahood", the "such isness". In this case, Buddha will rather use the word "atta". It lies in asserting that the world is a compound of phenomena, which follow one another, superimpose one another, since immemorial times, these latter being devoid of primal cause and end. But we can also find in this world, whether within or outside of phenomena, or as a nature inhabiting (inherent to) them, an eternal, transcendent, perfect, ineluctable and immutable principle.
You will find the above mentioned description in the "brahmājala sutta" into which Buddha, in an extraordinary manner, gives a clear account of all the conceptions and views being expressed throughout all the political and religious philosophical systems found world wide.
He tells: "There are altogether thirteen conceptions, which are the foundations of all teachings"; whether one of these latter is philosophy, politics, economics, sociology, religion, spirituality or else nihilism or eternalism. Buddha, who most certainly was not a god and obviously, despite of the claim of some, not the emanation of an eternal and immutable principle, perfectly understood that.
I beg you, study this sutta and do it under the guiding light of a direct and living experience of vipassanā and you will see how, twenty five centuries ago, this man, the monk Gotama, has, in a few sentences, summarised and integrated all that is taught and known today as Nazism, Communism, fascism, capitalism etc... In short, he has "classified" all the forms of beliefs that we can find, on one hand, among all the socio-political systems, all that has been taught in religious systems such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, including a part of Hindu teachings and, on the other, what is taught into what we call "mahayāna" Buddhism, also known as speculative or modern Buddhism.
Through his own life's experience, the monk Gotama has discovered that there is nothing like this as such. The world is desperately void. It is void of substance and truth. Anyway, Buddha doesn't use this word, save in a quite specific context. He doesn't speak about THE truth. We are longing for a kind of solidity, of steadiness. We have thus imagined to find it in material and social achievements or else, according to our sensitivity, in a spiritual realisation, a unitary experience of transcendence.
Unfortunately, according to Buddha, this unity, this "buddhahood", is still a transitory experience. Exactly in the same range of skills and the same manner (as the one which has been expounded above) as someone who has reached a certain level of social or professional achievement. From a certain viewpoint, there is no difference between the fact of having achieved a spiritual realization, on one hand, and having acquired a property on the other. Because in both cases, a minimum of efforts will then be needed to maintain them both. All this tends to prove that they are not eternal, as if those spiritual masters genuinely reached unity, then why do they need to do any further practices whatsoever? Any recitations whatsoever? Any prayers whatsoever? Why praying any longer? No need for any yogic practices whatsoever! If they still do perform it, it is pursuant to the need to reach this unitary experience (in the best of cases) again and again. The main goal is to maintain something.
When Buddha reached awakening, he did nothing then for maintaining anything whatsoever. Since he discovered that, indeed, there is NOTHING to maintain. There is one thing that men, gods, beings of the universe daily cultivate, at any moment, in any of their activities... It is their ignorance! They do cultivate their ignorance because they are sure that there does exist an ultimate, immutable, unconditioned, eternal essence, an eternal rest, a substance, an immortal and unconditioned essence, which remains undefiled by mental defilement, by pollution. Moreover, they get entangled in and attached to their experiences, whatever the nature these latter pertain to; musical, related to taste, spiritual or mystical.
Beware, please, don't read between the lines the books written by these "masters"', by these so-called self-realised beings, who have, you understood it at least I hope, at the most, reached something. You will find out that they are totally attached to their experiences, completely immersed into, identified to their "truth".
Even if it is good form to claim that there is a unity transcending all spiritual paths, we have seen not yet a rabbi shaving his head and reciting mantras; we haven't seen yet a Buddhist monk prostrating or bowing before a mosque while praying "Allah" either. And obviously tomorrow will still not be the day when we will see a Moslem putting up his hair in pigtails (bunches), wearing a hat and toppling over his chest before the wailing wall of Jerusalem...
Asians, with their spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. have a know-how, and beyond contest a very touching and appealing way to go on that pleases westerners strongly bogged down into materialism (the same thing applies to some South American spiritual traditions). The fact remains that it is the same thing; whoever they are, they all exactly behave the same way.
Buddha, in a sutta, brings to our acknowledgement the fact that a "spiritual master" is someone who talks only about two things: himself and his own experiences.
I beg you, read again your books about all these great Buddhist masters, Hindu masters, mystics of Christianity who are meditative persons inclined towards mysticism...
I don't refer here to these books that merely give a dry and terse account of a philosophical doctrine or belief, I am talking about books into which we try to touch readers' hearts. You will obviously notice that these masters only talk about two things: About transcendental and spiritual experiences that they have the skill and the style to make us believe that they reached them without really mentioning it and ultimately, what do they talk about except themselves?
There are several ways to talk about oneself and we could fill up a whole book if further details were given in these regards. One of the ways to talk about oneself is to talk about "buddhahood".
Origin: Teaching given in France
Author: Monk Sāsana
Translator: Thierry Lambrou
Date of translation: 2001
Update: 2005, June the 14th