Perhaps no other subject-matter within Buddhism has caused the most ongoing contention than the issue of whether or not the Buddha denied the Divine Ātman. As we shall discover in this upcoming series in October, a form of atman was denounced, but “which one?” I can state with absolute certitude that our time spent with Kamaleswar Bhattacharya in his 2015 book, The Ātman-Brahman in Ancient Buddhism (English translation of his original 1973 French edition ), will decisively and definitively settle this age-old conundrum once and for all. For now though, just coming off our series on Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle that culminated in a beatific-union, the following is offered from Bhattacharya’s text—it also concerns that transcendent union, but through the eyes of the Upanishads involving union with Absolute Plenitude:
Starting from inert matter (anna), we raise ourselves to increasingly spiritual realities (which are, as well, increasingly “actual” manifestations of the ātman): life (prāṇa=vital breath), will (manas), consciousness (vijñāna); then we surpass consciousness itself to attain at last, beyond any intermediary, the vision of the Plenitude. That vision is called ānanda “Bliss” or abbaya “fearlessness”, since it transcends all the antinomies (dvandva) of the empirical world. It is reached only by the “negative way.” As we progress, we superimpose on the Absolute less and less limiting determinations. We pass through each stage by denying the “superimposition.” We say, “It is not so, not so…” (neti neti), so as to penetrate further. Do we then achieve a nothingness? No. For negation here is, in reality, a negation of negation. Negation thus leads, not to the void of nothingness but to Plenitude. Absolute being, which opens to us on completion of our evolution, comprises life, will and consciousness, although it goes beyond them.
The Beyond is the absolute fulfillment of our self-existence. It is ānanda, the truth behind matter, life, mind, intelligence that controls them all by exceeding them. We have no need to put an end to our phenomenal existence, it matters only that we lead our human life in a spirit of detachment, gaze fixed upon the supreme goal of our existence which is Being itself. (ibid, pgs. 9-10)
See you again soon!