Ordination advice / Pure Consciousness

I’d like to remind you that the Upanṣads also teach not self, and they point away from the “illusion of self” in certain ways. The Brihadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad teaches that one has to give up all duality, all sense of subject-object, the individual Ātman, and their ātman must merge into a non-dual, non-separate sense of Pure Consciousness. They also point to everything not being the self—not that, not that. Their conclusion of course is that there is still an essence, but the not-self idea is there as well. Does this sound similar?

The idea that separateness of our true self is an illusion is also a common Upaniṣadic and Vedanta theme. Everything is really non-dual/one Pure Consciousness, and all the separateness is a trick.

I’m not going to claim to know exactly what these people meant, but I can certianly know that we should not be following it. Whether or not it was some miraculous huge metaphor that looks exactly like what Vedanta says is never possible to know, and almost nobody will admit they are teaching a “Self,” because that’s a no-no word in Buddhism. But I would recommend you check out a recent post I made where I tried to explore the actual specific claims about the citta right here. There, it turns out that the description is identical to the wrong view in MN 38 that the Buddha scolded Sāti for and said he had not penetrated a modicum of Dhamma.

We may think that these issues of consciousness are minor issues. But back to MN 38, how did the Buddha respond to someone who was saying something similar? He called him a misguided man / fool several times, scolded him in front of the entire group of monks, said he had not understood anything of his teaching, and he is now remembered in history as “the monk with wrong view that the Buddha scolded.” All for saying this thing about consciousness that he was personally convinced of. So maybe this is a big deal, according to how the Buddha responded.

I hear you, and I think this is important. But another good thing to remember: in the time of the Buddha, there were tons of ascetics who were celibate, practiced meditation, followed lots of precepts and rules, were diligent, were famous teachers, were believed to be arahants even, and yet they were not even close to Right View. They were just dedicated, virtuous samaṇas. Why can’t there be advanced, virtuous meditators nowadays like that? Are the sages of the Upaniṣads just a rare type of human that can no longer exist, and anyone within Buddhism must have right view just because they wear robes? Of course not.
People may not always use the same terminology of the suttas, or they may teach methods that are extra-canonical, and that’s fine. But when people contradict the ideas, we should be responsible and set them aside. This is the instruction of the Buddha. He said to compare to the suttas in the four great standards. Is our teacher the Buddha, or is it a tradition of a handful of monks 2,600 years later?
We can take what is valuable and respect people, while also understanding that their teaching is dangerous and misleading. We need to be responsible with these things, not excuse wrong views, in my opinion. But it’s up for every individual to decide—not everyone has to even agree with the Buddha! There are plenty of ascetics in all kinds of religions and philosophical systems. What we can’t do is mix them up and say it’s all the same.

All the best
Mettā!

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