Over several threads on this forum over the last year or so I have prosecuted several interrelated theses that in hindsight appear to me much more interrelated and particular than I was able to recognise at the time.
To put it bluntly I have realised that my position with regard to the secular academic question of the situation with regard to the earliest discernable argument put forth that appears distinctly “buddhist” is broadly a mahayana orthodox and therevada heterodox position.
This has come as a shock to me as apart from early ramblings with D T Suzuki and Christmas Humphries and an inability to ever get past the first paragraph of either my Conze or my Vimalikirti, I really knew almost nothing about mahayana and all my really deep and thorough reading had been with Walshe and Nanamoli and Bodhi (and access to insight, and thanissaro and @sujato etc.
that contemporary therevada is a “late antique” school of thought preserving a canon of literature that is ancient turns out not to really provide the school with any evidence in support of their putative metaphysics developed commentarially.
conversely the correct assessment of the strata of these texts overwhelmingly supports the notion that the philosophical argument in the ebt canon is precisely the philosophy of the undeclarable and not the philosophy of, for want of a better term (as this is not what the term means in the ebt), “anatta”.
This personal discovery, on my part, of nagarjunas reading of the ebt canon, is um, well, sort of destabilising my understanding of myself in a positive way I guess
But it also alienates me from the professed views of some of the people I respect and value most here on the forum.
I earnestly hope that we can robustly and constructively discuss the implications of my position without animosity of hurt.
So to recap my coming out:
I now hold the view that the threevada school lost the original teachings of the buddha in that they failed to correctly interpret the abyakata and the mahayana movement, at least that part of it that “nagarjuna as mmk” is the locus of, has more or less the right idea with regards to the interpretation of the ebt canonical abayakata.
all of sunyata anatta etc is at best a special case or class of cases of the abyakata and not an explination of it nor the underwriter of it’s philosophical power.
it is also based on demonstrably later material (of course IMHO).
My plea for conventional realism is therefore twofold, first, that the buddha revealed a path to the resolution of all (in the sense of any) concepts, and second that nagarjuna better represents the historical argument of the Buddha than the therevada canon-with commentary does.
that there is a realistic historical picture by which this may be the case is my first appeal to conventional realism, i.e, that it is not totally unrealistic to be of the mind; "yes the threvada preserves a fairly conservative canon, nevertheless on the balance it appears that their interpretation of that canon is an early example of a narrowing and scholasticising of the teaching in a way that does not necessarily do it full justice. Nagarjuna is the emblem of this being pointed out, to the proto therevada by the proto mahayana.
it may not be true but its not impossible, thats what I am saying, its a “realistic” picture of a possible history of the flow of ideas.
The second pleas for conventional realism is more or less to speak against the anxiety that “by that logic anything is true” or “by that logic space and time aren’t real and nothing matters” etc.
That is not as I see it either the ebt position or nagarjuna on the abayakata; no particular positive thesis is made about concepts/objects/etc other than that they cannot fundamentally be eternal, non existent, all or none of the universe, etc etc, otherwise it would not be possible to point to relations of the sort, “without the action the consequence could not be” which we do in fact observe.
so an absolutist “logic” is rejected while a “modest” logic (of dependant types IMHO) is shown to be able to explain all that is necessary for liberation, without appeal to anything undeclared or undeclarable.
This then is my second realist claim, that it is not unrealistic to impute to the historical buddha and amazingly sophisticated and elegant and sublime metaphysical stance (or non-stance) that practically no one in secular western scholarship will accept as being even possible until Nagarjuna at the beginning of the common era.
If this picture is right then it really is the case that the Buddha invented Mahayana Buddhism and Nagarjuna merely pointed it out.
I am going to call the person who invented Therevada Buddhism Sariputta, not to indicate the chief disciple but more to gesture at what I take to be his lineage.
more to come.