To Realize Nirvana Is to realize the True Self: Buddhist realism and Its (Ultimately) Inherent Sympathy with Advaitic Idealism

Realize Nirvana Is to Realize the True “Self”:

Buddhist “Realism” and Its (Ultimately) Inherent Sympathy
with Advaitic “Idealism”


Avatar Adi Da Samraj

Traditional Buddhism (in all its forms, and especially
in its original, or classical, formulation) is based upon an analysis of
conditional existence. And that analysis is associated with two key propositions.
The first of these two key propositions is that the fundamental characteristic
of conditional existence (or conditional being) is (inherently, and necessarily)
that of suffering. And the second of these two key propositions
is that suffering (and, therefore, conditional existence, or conditional
being, itself) can be made to cease (or to become uncaused).

The Buddhist proposition that conditional existence is
(itself, or inherently) suffering is not based merely on the practical
observation that life can be difficult, and pain can be experienced, and
eventual death is inevitable for all. Rather, the Buddhist equation of
conditional existence and suffering is based on the summary insight (founded
on constant observation) that conditional existence (or every moment and
kind of conditional being or event) is only conditionally existing (or
existing due to some, necessarily transitory, cause).

Therefore, according to the Buddhist analysis, conditional
existence is (in addition to being always, and inherently, characterized
by suffering) also (and always, and inherently) characterized by change
(or impermanence) and by the lack of “self” (or of substantively real,
rather than merely apparently real, independence and separateness, or separability).
That is to say, because conditional existence is always only conditionally
existing (or existing only as a caused effect), no form or state of conditional
existence is permanent (or eternally existing), and no conditionally existing
thing or conditionally existing being substantively exists independently,
or separately, or separably, or absolutely (as if it were not a caused
and temporary and utterly dependently arising effect).

The purpose (or intended result) of this “realistic” Buddhist
analysis of conditional existence is not despair but disenchantment (or
release from un-“realistic” illusions about conditional existence). And,
for those who are deeply convinced of the fundamental factuality (or undeniability)
of this analysis, the Buddhist philosophical systems offer a “solution”
to the “problem” of conditional existence. That “solution” (in each and
all of its traditional forms) is the Dharma (Law, Teaching, Way, or Process)
of causing (or ceasing to cause) conditional existence (or conditional
being) itself.

The Ultimate Message of traditional Buddhist Dharma is
not merely that conditional existence is conditional (or caused, and, therefore,
incapable of either permanency or Ultimate Fulfillment), but that conditional
existence is not necessary. That is to say traditional Buddhist Dharma
affirms that whatever is caused can be uncaused (or cease to be caused).
Thus, the Buddhist Way is (fundamentally, and always) about understanding
and (via understanding, and its various associated means) releasing the
fundamental cause of conditional existence. And, according to the traditional
Buddhist analysis, the fundamental cause of conditional existence—or, more
precisely the fundamental cause of conditional being, as a human (or otherwise
dependently arising and conditionally or phenomenally, self-aware) “entity”—is
desire (or craving, or clinging).

Thus, fundamentally, traditional Buddhist Dharma is (in
any of its forms) a philosophically proposed method for the elimination
(or the uncausing) of desire. And the result sought by this method is both
the peace of desirelessness (or inherent freedom from either clinging or
avoidance relative to the positives and negatives of life) and the Awakening
to the Ultimate (or Nirvanic
Condition—Which Condition is Prior to all causes and all effects, and Which
Condition is (therefore) inherently without connection to (or limitation
by) conditional existence (and the categories, characteristics, and experiences
of conditional existence).

The Realization of the Nirvanic Condition is the Ultimate
Goal of traditional Buddhism (in all its forms). In fact, positively descriptive
references to the Nirvanic Condition do appear even in the earliest Buddhist
texts (such as the Udana and the Digha Nikaya)—wherein,
for example (as quoted by K. N. Jayatilleke, in his book entitled TheMessageof
the Buddha
the Nirvanic Condition is described as “the Unborn, the Unoriginated, the
Unmade, the Uncompounded” (p. 125), “infinite consciousness” and “final
bliss” (p. 126), and “Consciousness, without distinguishing mark, infinite
and shining everywhere—here the material elements do not penetrate . .
. but here it is that the conditioned consciousness ceases to be” (p. 123).
However, especially the classical (or Hinayana) form of Buddhism is, in
general, rather characteristically associated with a refusal to positively
describe (or to propose direct descriptions of) the Nirvanic Condition—because
(according to the point of view of classical Buddhist “realism”) any direct
conceptual description of the Nirvanic Condition would necessarily be based
on the inherently limited (and limiting) categories of conditional mind,
and would (therefore) tend to be misleading, or (at least) not fruitful
relative to the actual attainment of the Nirvanic Condition. Therefore,
especially the classical formulations of Buddhism rather rigorously confine
themselves to a “realistic” analysis of conditional existence—as a caused
(or dependently arising) process, characterized by suffering (or the inherent
lack of capability for Ultimate Fulfillment), and by change (or the inherent
lack of capability for permanence), and by utter dependency (or “emptiness”—which
is the inherent lack of capability for substantive “selfness”, or independence,
or separation from the stream of causes and effects). And, on the basis
of right application to that analysis (which the, especially classical,
Buddhist schools recommend be made the subject of a profoundly meditative,
or “mindful”, observation of experience), it is traditionally presumed
that the inherently indescribable Nirvanic Condition will, in due course
(and without recourse to any “idealistic”, or positively descriptive, propositions),
be Realized.

However, because of their characteristic reluctance to
positively (or directly) describe the Nirvanic Condition (Itself), the
proponents of traditional (especially classical) Buddhism tend to exhibit
a rather dogmatic (and apparently non-comprehending) attitude when confronted
by the more “idealistic” (or positively descriptive) philosophical propositions
of other traditions (and of the more “idealistic” schools within the general
tradition of Buddhism itself). And the principal doctrine that is the usual
justification for the non-comprehending resistance of (especially classical)
Buddhism to other (generally “idealistic”, or positively descriptive) propositions
about the Nature of the Nirvanic Condition (or the Ultimate, or non-caused,
Reality) is the doctrine of “anatta” (or of the “no-self” characteristic).

The Buddhist doctrine of “anatta” (or of the “no-self”
characteristic) is, simply, an extension of the basic Buddhist perception
that what arises conditionally cannot be made either perfect or permanent,
but that it can, by a right (and tacit) understanding, be transcended.
Thus, the Buddhist doctrine of “anatta” thoroughly insists that whatever
is conditionally arising and changing and passing away cannot be “self’—because
whatever is “self’ must, by definition, be inherent (rather than caused)
and unchanging (or of fixed characteristics), and all that _ “self’ must
be within the “self’s” own power of determination. Likewise, the Buddhist
doctrine of “anatta” (which is inseparably connected to the Buddhist doctrines
of “suffering” and of “impermanence”) is rooted in a characteristic feeling-presumption,
that it is both ignorant and futile (and entirely an unnecessary bother)
to make efforts to perpetuate what is not “self” (or, in other words, to
cling to whatever is conditional, impermanent, and incapable of Ultimate
Fulfillment), but that it is always both intelligent and auspicious (and
conducive toward the Realization of Inherent Nirvanic Freedom) to discipline
and relinquish the motive and effort to perpetuate (or even to indulge
in) whatever is not “self’.

The doctrine of “anatta” is, simply that portion of the
original Buddhist analysis of conditional existence that is associated
with the observation that no conditionally existing being is self-originated
(or uncaused, eternal, and substantively separable, separate, and independent),
but all conditionally existing beings are ( conditionally existing beings)
dependently arising (or caused), and they are thoroughly dependent (for
their conditional existence) on the totality of even all causes. In fact,
that proposition (of “anatta”) is only one particular (and inseparable)
portion of a larger argument—which is that conditional existence is always
and only conditional (or caused, and limited, and changing, and dependent).
And the purpose of that larger argument is to provide a foundation (of
disenchantment) upon which the ultimate Buddhist argument may be found
to be convincing. And that ultimate Buddhist argument is that caused existence
can cease to be caused, such that Nirvanic (“Unborn”, or Most Prior, and
not at all caused) Existence may be Realized.

Therefore, the doctrine of “anatta” is simply (or specifically,
and only) a “realistic” proposition about phenomenal (or conditional) being.
The doctrine of “anatta” is not (itself) an “idealistic” (or even metaphysical)
proposition. Rather, the doctrine of “anatta” is an inseparable part of
a consistently “realistic” argument that, characteristically, refuses to
make “idealistic” (or even metaphysical) propositions. Therefore, the doctrine
of “anatta” is not an inherently metaphysical (or negatively “idealistic”)
statement such as: “There is no Absolute Atman (or Ultimate Absolute Nature
of Being).” Rather, the doctrine of “anatta” is, simply (or specifically,
and only), intended to be a “realistic” argument for the relinquishment
of desire for conditional existence. And, because that relinquishment is
proposed (in the classical Buddhist formulation) to be the very means whereby
the Nirvanic Condition may be Realized, it can (rightly) be said that the
doctrine of “anatta” is a “realistic” Buddhist means for proposing (or
pointing toward, but not conceptually defining) the Nirvanic Condition
(or the Ultimate Absolute Reality Itself).

Many proponents of the classical formulations of Buddhism
argue that the doctrine of “anatta” is a specific denial of the Truth or
Reality of the Brahmanic Atman (or the Ultimate and Non-Dual and inherently
non-caused Reality, as described in the schools of traditional Indian Advaitism,
suggested, using different technical terms, in many of the Mahayana schools,
including the Vajrayana schools, of traditional Buddhism). However, the
dogmatic refusal to (at least tacitly) affirm or comprehend the Brahmanic
Atman (and other positively descriptive, or “idealistic”, propositions
of the Ultimate Absolute Condition) is immediately transcended as soon
as there is a fully correct understanding of both the “anatta” doctrine
and the “Brahmanic Atman” doctrine (and the likenesses to the doctrine
of the Brahmanic Atman, which are to be found even in the more “idealistic”
schools of the Buddhist tradition itself).

The Advaitic doctrine of the true (Brahmanic, or Ultimate)
Atman is a description of the Ultimate Absolute Condition That Is Identical
to Brahman (the un-caused, or Self-Existing, and Ultimate, and Infinitely
Self-Radiant Reality That Is the Perfectly Subjective Source-Condition
of conditional existence). That Ultimate (or Brahmanic) Atman (Which Is
the Most Prior, and Realizable, Condition of every apparent, or conditionally
existing, being) is not a part of the conditional self, but It Is the Absolute
and Un-conditional State (or true Self-Condition), in Which the conditionally
manifested being (or dependently arising psycho-physical “entity”) is (apparently)
arising. Indeed, the Brahmanic Atman corresponds (in Reality and by definition)
to the Buddhist definition of true “self’ (properly, spelled with a capital
“S”). Therefore, the proposed Atman That Is Brahman Is, by means of an
“idealistic” (or positively descriptive) conception, the Very and Same
Reality That is (even via such “realistic” Buddhist conceptions as the
“anatta” doctrine) referred (or pointed) to as the Nirvanic Condition.

The Brahmanic Atman is inherently empty of conditionality,
separateness, change, limitation, suffering, and desire. Therefore, it
is not possible to “cling to” the Brahmanic Atman (Itself). The Brahmanic
Atman can be Realized only by transcending the conditional self (and all
clinging to conditional existence). Therefore, the Brahmanic Atman can
be Realized only As the Nirvanic Absolute (Inherently Most Prior to conditional
existence). For this reason, there is an inherent Sympathy (and a necessary
equation to be made) between the Buddhist proposition of the Nirvanic Condition
and the Advaitic proposition of the Brahmanic Atman. This Sympathy (and
this equation) is obvious to all actual Realizers (whatever their tradition
may be) of That Which Inherently Transcends conditional existence. And
all others (not yet Thus Realized) are best served if they (most tolerantly)
regard the doctrine of “anatta” (which appeals to the “realistic” logic
of causation) and the doctrine of the “Brahmanic Atman” (which appeals
to the logic of Prior Being) as two distinct but (fundamentally) compatible
(and even complementary) arguments (one “realistic” and the other “idealistic”)
for the Realization of the Unconditional Reality That Is Obvious When the
conditional reality is transcended.



1. As Avatar Adi Da goes on to describe in this paragraph,
the “Nirvanic” Condition is a Buddhist term for the Unqualified Reality
beyond suffering, ego, birth, and death.

2. K. N. Jayatilleke, The Message ofthe
Buddha. A posthumous work edited by Ninian Smart. New York: The
Free Press, 1975

2 out of print editions:
| * | barnes
and noble
| * | powells
| * | alibris
| * | others
| * | barnes
and noble
| * | powells
| * | alibris
| * | others

3. “Advaita” is Sanskrit for “non-dual”. “Advaitism”
is one of the foremost Hindu philosophical and Spiritual traditions.