I have been reading Peter Masefield's English translation of the commentary to the Udana (Udâna Commentary, tr. P. Masefield, 2 volumes, 1994, 1995 Pali Text Society) and I must say, it rings Mahayana. I wonder sometimes if the hesitation to translate all commentarial literature stems from a latent fear in the scholarly community that it might cut against Theravadism with it negative, no-self doctrine. As I see it, a lot of scholars have placed their bets on no self (or no soul), refusing to understand that the no self doctrine really means the five aggregates are not my self—not that there is flatly no perdurable self which would, obviously, be the doctrine of annihilationism/materialism.
If anyone strongly believes scholar/translators are more infallible than fallible they are sadly mistaken—at best they straddle both sides, equally. Their academic background only equips them to be less prejudicial than they might normally be. Often, what passes as a scholarly truth is only a proclamation based upon opinions, and certainly not the truth. This is the way it is with the so-called no self doctrine which has been promulgated by a number of scholars and monk-scholars who, from their own prejudices, appear to incline towards materialism which I hasten to inject is anti-religious and anti-Buddhist.
Such a prejudice would have us believe that the popularity of Buddhism, when the Buddha was still alive, stemmed from a teaching which basically said, “You’re just a container that contains nothing; when the container falls apart, that’s it.” But this is not the way it was. It was quite the opposite. The basic doctrine the Buddha taught was that the first-person (âtma/attâ) was not the container (i.e., the psychophysical organism consisting of material shape, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies and consciousness), and by detaching from the container by a path of ‘container’ transcendence the first-person could, eventually, become free of their karmic inertia which doomed them to a life of going from one container to the next (i.e., samsara).
Much of what is published today about Buddhism is not Buddhism. It is materialism hidden by a thin veneer of Buddhist terms and cherry picked discourses of the Buddha which seem to support materialism. Transcendence is missing from its sermons as well as the Buddha’s teaching that the psychophysical organism, rather than the soul, is the bad guy; which is more like a trap that ensnares the careless and not so wary sentient being.
The real danger that faces Buddhism, and our world, for that matter, is materialism and those who are under its spell who have a latent fear that their many next lives to come, are going to be burdened with suffering; who will not see the light, except to mistake darkness for light. Oh, I forgot to mention that in the Udana Commentary (UdA 340) it says, tathâgato'ti attâ (the Tathagata is the Self).