Prior to the end of Buddhism in its homeland of India, Vedanta philosophers raised the question of how bondage and liberation are possible if Buddhists believe there is no self or âtman, and things exist only momentarily. I am not sure modern Buddhists would find it easy to answer this question given their belief that there is fundamentally nothing beyond the psychophysical body, and phenomenal reality has only momentary duration.
Given the modern Buddhist penchant to read only half of Buddhism, the half that is concerned with the conditioned, finite world, it should not be surprising that modern Buddhists have no idea how bondage and liberation are possible. If we had to rely on a secular Buddhist like Stephen Batchelor to provide a coherent answer to the question, we would be out of luck. Nothing adds up, in other words, when we scout the transcendent and believe reality is momentary all the way down! Certainly, there is nothing of any measure redemptive with such a view—and there should be.
Over the years I have seen this view gradually gain dominance in Buddhism. The Zennist blog is sometimes attacked as being Vedantic although this objection bears little or no relation with the actual historical facts. If anything, the Buddhist objection to Vedanta, surprisingly, was that Vedanta stole Buddhist theories making Vedanta essentially crypto-Buddhist! The implication here is that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between Buddhism and Vedanta.
Of course modern Buddhists don’t want to accept this as close to being the historical truth and certain sects of Buddhism don’t want to accept this view either, fighting against it tooth and nail. Their belief all hinges on no self theory or anâtmavâda which as they present it (which is totally wrong), makes the Vedanta question impossible to answer. The scholars and monks who support this wrong headed view seem to have spent little time and have given even less intelligent thought to the older discourses in which the term anattâ/anâtman is used. From the huge number of discourses in which anattâ/anâtman appears we learn that we are not to regard the Five Aggregates of material shape, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies and consciousness as our self. They are anattâ/anâtman:—not the âtman. This then makes the Vedanta question easy to answer. Bondage arises by attaching to what is not the self (i.e., the Five Aggregates). Liberation is abandoning the Five Aggregates.