So much of what we read and study in regard to Buddhism and Zen can sometimes rest on error. In medical terms, this is called “anchoring errors.” This is when a physician gives an initial diagnosis, which is actually wrong. The attending physician that takes care of the patient assumes the initial diagnosis is accurate. The patient ends up in a serious, life threatening condition, because of the first misdiagnosis.
There is hardly a day that goes by when preparing to write a blog for The Zennist I don’t come across an example of anchoring. The most pervasive one is that the Buddha denied a self. Nobody is really interested in reading what the Buddha actually said with regard to self or, to use another example, rebirth. Nope, it’s don’t rock the boat of long established error. If someone asks you if the Buddha really denied the self, don’t say, no he didn’t. Just nod your head as if to say yes. Or you could try to avoid saying either yes or no. Confuse the asker. Above all don’t tell the asker the truth: The Buddha taught his followers not to identify their self with what is not the self, such as the Five Aggregates consisting of material shape, feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness.
When it comes to rebirth the big anchoring here is the assumption that the soul or âtman transmigrates and since Buddhism doesn’t believe in the Hindu âtman, how can there be rebirth?
First of all, the only thing that transmigrates in Buddhism is consciousness (S., vijñâna), not the âtman. This consciousness that transmigrates is laden with volitional impressions (yours of course). Eventually, it latches onto name & form (nâmarûpa). Whoops! Now you are entangled in an embryo some where in the galaxy or maybe another one with in inhabitable planet.
Few Buddhist graduate students and scholars dare to write books threatening to rock the boat of “anchoring errors.” A few get by, however. One was Joaquin Perez-Remon who wrote, Self and Non-Self in Early Pali Buddhism and the other was Peter Masefield who wrote, Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism. One that I can imagine in the future will be a dissertation that corrects the anchor error that âtman means self, or refers to an individual or a person. It does not. It will show that the Buddha’s teaching is much more sophisticated than is presently understood, that âtman means self, or refers to an individual or a person. It does not.