I picked up a copy of Paticcasamuppada - Practical Dependent Origination by Ven. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (of Thailand)
I'd like to begin with these comments from the venerable Buddhadasa's book. He writes that p. 6
therefore teaching Paticcasamupada in such a way that there is a self persisting over a series of lives is contrary to the principle of dependent origination."
This is, of course, evident to anyone who has had even a cursory look at the Tipitaka; anatta is really the bedrock of Dhamma. However, in the next sentence he says that
"dependent origination is on no way concerned with morality which must depend upon a theory of Eternalism".
This I don't follow. Kamma is simply a conditioned phenomenon - and it is just natural law that certain types of action lead to certain results. We can think of this as a moral law without evoking any self. In the following paragraph p.6 he says that an incorrectly explained theory has been taught for a thousand years. On p8 he explains with regard to this that the
"during the time the commentaries were composed there arose a widespread tendency to explain matters of ultimate truths in terms of the Eternalist theory."
He lays the blame for all this on Buddhaghosa (ancient composer of the Visuddhimagga and many important commentaries) p8
."the same person who collected all the commentaries together so that total blind acceptance..will allow only one voice to be heard."
He is not sure how this wrongview arose but he speculates that it either happened because of lack of insight OR he thinks that it was a deliberate plot to destroy Buddhism for Brahmins who believed in atta (self)see page 51-52. He notes that there is no written evidence before the time of the Visuddhimagga [written by Buddhaghosa] where Paticcasamupada was explained wrongly. And that at the time of the third council (long before Buddhaghosa ) if one had "
He equates such wrong views with the Visuddhimagga.said there was a self that spun around in the cycle of birth and death and rebirth as in the case of Bhikkhu Sati he was held to be holding wrong views in the sense of Eternalism and was made to leave the order."
He does kindly note that Buddhaghosa p60 "is a man of great knowledge." He then says,
BUT I don't agree with him at all regarding Dependent Origination because he spoke of it in terms of a soul and so it became Brahministic."
And he carries on (p63) to note that he
"is not going to defile of defame or villify
Buddhaghosa..I only want to make some observations. Buddhaghosa was born a Brahmin..and he completed a study of the three vedas like any other Brahmin. His spirit was that of a Brahmin..if he later came to explain the Buddhist theory of Dependent Origination as a form of Brahminism it is most reasonable to supsect that he was careless and forgetful so that he cannot be considered to be an Arahat."
So to sum up venerable Buddhadasa is suggesting that Buddhaghosa taught an Eternalistic (self, atta) version of the Paticcasamuppada. Is that true? I think it is best to let the ancient texts speak for themselves.
From the relevant section of the Visuddhimagga Chapter XV11 Dependent origination 113:
Now another point about the book. On page 62 Venerable Buddhadasa says that by explaining Paticcasamuppada as happening over several lives and suggesting that"but how does a man who is confused about these things perform these three kinds of formations? Firstly, when he is confused about death, instead of taking death thus 'death in every case is break up of aggregates(khandas, not-self)' he figures that it is lasting being's transmigration to another incarnation and so on".
115 "when he is confused about the round of rebirths, instead of taking the round of rebirths as pictured thus: 'an endless chain of aggregates(khandas) of elements(dhatus) bases(ayatanas) that carries on unbrokenly is what is called 'the round or rebirths' he figures that it is a lasting being that goes from this world to another world, that comes from another world to this world."
117 "when he is confused about independently-arisen states, instead of taking the occurence of formations to be due to ignorance etc., he figures that it is a self that knows or does not know, that acts and causes action..."
161 "a mere state that has got its conditions ushers in the ensuing existence; While it does not migrate from the past, with no cause in the past it is not. So a mere material and immaterial state, arisen when it has obtained its conditions, that is spoken of, saying that it comes into the next becoming; it is not a lasting being, not a soul. And it has neither transmigrated from the past nor yet is it manifested here without cause from that . . ."
273 "Becomings wheel reveals no known beginning; no maker, no experiencer there; Void with a twelve-fold voidness,"
313 "one who sees this rightly abandons the self view by understanding the absence of a maker. One who sees it wrongly clings to the moral -inefficacy of action view because he does not perceive that the causative function of ignorance etc us established as a law.."
314 "and so let a wise man with mindfulness so practice that he may begin to find a footing in the deeps of the dependent origination"
"kamma in this life gives rise to results in some far off future life it as if there are no kammic results(vipaka) at all which we receive in the birth in which the deed was done.....to suggest that defilements and kamma from a past life become effective in this, a later life, is impossible"
Firstly, I'd like to say that truly there is no one who receives results but that results arise by conditions (just to be pedantic). From the Visuddhimagga
Secondly he doesn't acknowledge that the commentaries (and tipitaka) say that the results of kamma can indeed arise in this life,..(or at the time of death or in future lives). They say it is pretty much unpredictable (except to the Buddha) when the results will arise because of the many other172"Experiencer is a convention for mere
arising of fruit (vipaka);"
conditions that support or impede kamma. Here is a quote from the Tipitaka:
" Threefold, however, is the fruit of karma: ripening
during the life-time (dittha-dhamma-vedaníya-kamma),
ripening in the next birth (upapajja-vedaníya-kamma),
ripening in later births (aparápariya-vedaníya kamma)
...." (A.VI, 63).