The Pudgalavādins asserted that while there is no ātman, there exists a pudgala (person) or sattva (being) which is neither a conditioned dharma nor an unconditioned dharma.
Isn’t it the case that most of buddhist world are in fact Pudgalavadins in spirit?
All wrong views are dependent on sakkayaditthi, and since it is so, their proponents are attavadins. This is the case with The Pudgalavādins, and of course it is the case that most of buddhist world are in fact attavadins, including these good Buddhist who classifies doctrine of responsibility for one’s own action as pudggalavada.
Now, “there is no ātman” sounds like ucchedaditthi – annihilationist-view. Dhamma right view goes beyond such view and its opposition sassataditthi,; “all things are not-self”, or “world is empty of self” aren’t on the same level as direct negotiation of self, people are selfish and surely they see something over which they are selfish. In other words self in form of attavadupadana, is present in puthujjana experience:
“This world, Kaccāna, is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence. But this one [with right view] does not become engaged and cling through that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’ He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing. His knowledge about this is independent of others. It is in this way, Kaccāna, that there is right view.
For this reason I consider that any ‘appreciation of Buddhism by nuclear physicists’ on the grounds of similarity of views about aniccatà to be a misconception. It is worth noting that Oppenheimer’s dictum, which threatens to become celebrated, is based on a misunderstanding. The impossibility of making a definite assertion about an electron has nothing to do with the impossibility of making a definite assertion about ‘self’. The electron, in quantum theory, is defined in terms of probabilities, and a definite assertion about what is essentially indefinite (or rather, about an ‘indefiniteness’) cannot be made. But attā is not an indefiniteness; it is a deception, and a deception (a mirage, for example) can be as definite as you please—the only thing is, that it is not what one takes it for. To make any assertion, positive or negative, about attà is to accept the false coin at its face value. If you will re-read the Vacchagotta Sutta (Avyàkata Samy . 8: iv,395-7), you will see that the Buddha refrains both from asserting and from denying the existence of attā for this very reason. (In this connection, your implication that the Buddha asserted that there is no self requires modification. What the Buddha said was ‘sabbe dhammà anattā—no thing is self—, which is not quite the same. ‘Sabbe dhammà anattā’ means ‘if you look for a self you will not find one’, which means ‘self is a mirage, a deception’. It does not mean that the mirage, as such, does not exist.) L 37
Now, with that clarification we can come back to dialectic on puggala, there is absolutely no mystery about the term, the easiest way to understand the meaning of the word is to look at AN IX : 9
The sutta recognises 9 puggalas 8 ariyas + puthujjana. And since arahat is the puggala without ignorance, it means that “puggala” may or may not be associated with ignorance, therefore the best way of translating the term is an individual. “Person” should be reserved for sakkaya, which is entirely dependent on ignorance. Of course since language is a convention it is more or less arbitrary how we determine the meaning of certain terms, but since the worldly convention already recognises the case of an individual with multiple personalities and as far as I remember etymology of the world “person” is connected with the term “mask”, perhaps it better fits to represent ignorance then the term “individual”.
Seeing this way, sutta The Burden possess no difficulties, burden, bhārahāra is synonymous with sakkaya and pañc’upādānakkhandha and so always depends on ignorance while the carrier of the burden, an individual “this venerable one of such a a name and clan”, not necessarily since such puggala practicing the Dhamma, may freed himself from ignorance by laying down of the burden (of personality, sakkaya).
In practical terms there was an individual Sariputta, who carried the burden of personality sakkaya, but after hearing the Dhamma from Venerable Assaji:
The Perfect One has told the cause
Of causally arisen things;
And what brings their cessation, too:
Such is the doctrine preached by the Great Monk.
by the inside that: “All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation”; self-identification with impermanent aggregates was abandoned.
Further by practicing the Dhamma, Ven Sariputta became an individual without personality. The point is that puthujjana is not able to distinguish clearly between what is individual and what is personal so in latter schools we can see attempts to abolish the reality of things (in absolute sense) while the Suttas clearly recognise that there are things - such as puggala- but emphasis is put on impermanence. The point is that notion of selfhood is associated with permanence, Buddha by emphasizing impermanence of things says to puthujjana -and every puthujjana is an attavadin-, that he is a victim of wrong self-identification.
It is quite possible that the notion of paramattha sacca, ‘truth in the highest, or ultimate, or absolute, sense’ was in existence before the time of the Milindapa¤ha; but its use there (Pt. II, Ch. 1) is so clear and unambiguous that that book is the obvious point of departure for any discussion about it. The passage quotes the two lines (5 & 6) containing the simile of the chariot. They are used to justify the following argument. The word ‘chariot’ is the conventional name given to an assemblage of parts; but if each part is examined individually it cannot be said of any one of them that it is the chariot, nor do we find any chariot in the parts collectively, nor do we find any chariot outside the parts. Therefore, ‘in the highest sense’, there exists no chariot. Similarly, an ‘individual’ (the word puggala is used) is merely a conventional name given to an assemblage of parts (parts of the body, as well as khandhà), and, ‘in the highest sense’, there exists no individual. That is all.
- Let us first consider the validity of the argument. If a chariot is taken to pieces, and a man is then shown the pieces one by one, each time with the question ‘Is this a chariot?’, it is obvious that he will always say no. And if these pieces are gathered together in a heap, and he is shown the heap, then also he will say that there is no chariot. If, finally, he is asked whether apart from these pieces he sees any chariot, he will still say no. But suppose now that he is shown these pieces assembled together in such a way that the assemblage can be used for conveying a man from place to place; when he is asked he will undoubtedly assert that there is a chariot, that the chariot exists.
According to the argument, the man was speaking in the conventional sense when he asserted the existence of the chariot, and in the highest sense when he denied it. But, clearly enough, the man (who has had no training in such subtleties) is using ordinary conventional language throughout; and the reason for the difference between his two statements is to be found in the fact that on one occasion he was shown a chariot and on the others he was not. If a chariot is taken to pieces (even in imagination) it ceases to be a chariot; for a chariot is, pre-cisely, a vehicle, and a heap of components is not a vehicle—it is a heap of components. (If the man is shown the heap of components and asked ‘Is this a heap of components?’, he will say yes.) In other words, a chariot is most certainly an assemblage of parts, but it is an assemblage of parts in a particular functional arrangement, and to alter this arrangement is to destroy the chariot. It is no great wonder that a chariot cannot be found if we have taken the precaution of destroying it before starting to look for it. If a man sees a chariot in working order and says ‘In the highest sense there is no chariot; for it is a mere assemblage of parts’, all he is saying is ‘It is possible to take this chariot to pieces and to gather them in a heap; and when this is done there will no longer be a chariot’. The argument, then, does not show the non-existence of the chariot; at best it merely asserts that an existing chariot can be destroyed. And when it is applied to an individual (i.e. a set of pañcakkhandhà) it is even less valid; for not only does it not show the non-existence of the individual, but since the functional arrangement of the pañcakkhandhà cannot be altered, even in imagination, it asserts an impossibility, that an existing individual can be destroyed. As applied to an individual (or a creature) the argument runs into contradiction; and to say of an individual ‘In the highest sense there is no individual; for it is a mere asemblage of khandhà’ is to be unintelligible.
- What, now, is the reason for this argument? Why has this notion of ‘truth in the highest sense’ been invented? We find the clue in the Visuddhimagga. This work (Ch. XVIII) quotes the last four lines (5, 6, 7, & 8) and then repeats in essence the argument of the Milinda-pañha, using the word satta as well as puggala. It goes on, however, to make clear what was only implicit in the Milindapañha, namely that the purpose of the argument is to remove the conceit ‘(I) am’ (asmimàna): if it is seen that ‘in the highest sense’, paramatthato, no creature exists, there will be no ground for conceiving that I exist. This allows us to understand why the argument was felt to be necessary. The assutavā puthujjana identifies himself with the individual or the creature, which he proceeds to regard as ‘self’. He learns, however, that the Buddha has said that ‘actually and in truth neither self nor what belongs to self are to be found’ (see the second Sutta passage in §4). Since he cannot conceive of the individual except in terms of ‘self’, he finds that in order to abolish ‘self’ he must abolish the individual; and he does it by this device. But the device, as we have seen, abolishes nothing. It is noteworthy that the passage in the Milindapañha makes no mention at all of ‘self’: the identification of ‘self’ with the individual is so much taken for granted that once it is established that ‘in the highest sense there is no individual’ no further discussion is thought to be necessary . Not the least of the dangers of the facile and fallacious notion ‘truth in the highest sense’ is its power to lull the unreflecting mind into a false sense of security . The unwary thinker comes to believe that he understands what, in fact, he does not understand, and thereby effectively blocks his own progress.
From Paramattha Sacca
Paramattha sacca - Ñāṇavīra Thera Dhamma Page
Regarding ethical responsibly for one’s own actions; there is no any contradiction with doctrine of anatta, contrary, it is precisely while the ignorance is present and things are seen as “this is mine, this I am, this is my self” any action performed by such an individual (puggala carrying the burden of sakkaya) has ethical value, it is only with the arahat, we can talk about cessation of ethics:
“Ignorance is comprised within these states. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance that body does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally; that speech does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally; that mind does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally.81 That field does not exist, that site does not exist, that base does not exist, that foundation does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally.”
SN 12: 25
It is so because the person, sakkaya is precisely this: a chain of deeds and results of deeds. And so long notion “I am” is present in experience, so long this chain will remain unbroken:
but as long as there is the attitude ‘I am’ there is organization of the five faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body.
Or as Ven Nanavira says: So long as there are the thoughts ‘I was born’, ‘I shall die’, there is birth and death: so long as the five khandhà are sa-upādànā, ‘somebody’ becomes manifest and breaks up.
Or in other words while the Tathagata is not to be found even here and now,
["The reason why the Tathāgata is not to be found (even here and now) is that he is rūpa-, vedanā-, saññā-, sankhāra-, and viññāna-sankhāya vimutto (ibid. 1 <S.iv,378-9>), i.e. free from reckoning as matter, feeling, perception, determinations, or consciousness.]
This is precisely not the case with the puthujjana, who, in this sense, actually and in truth is to be found." (Nanavira) and his state is that of being (bhava) which as we know from dependent arising depends on upādāna.
Regarding such notion as a “stream of consciousness”, while it isn’t as misleading as the term “Absolute Truth”, there is really no need to introduce it, since according to Suttas the very fact of dependence of consciousness on namarupa - and such dependence is only present while an ignorance is present - supports continuity of samsara:
Thus far, Ananda, may one be born or age or die or fall or arise, thus far is there a way of designation, thus far is there a way of language, thus far is there a way of description, thus far is there a sphere of understanding, thus far the round proceeds as manifestation in a situation,—so far, that is to say, as there is name-&-matter together with consciousness
. DN 15