I am considering saving up pennies to get a translation of Shantideva's Boddhisattva path. Thing is...there are several translations and I don't know which one is the best. Can anyone tell me the pros and cons of each version? Or what they liked about the one they have (or don't and wish they'd gotten a different one)?
Creation, have you read the book What the Buddha Taught? It's very good, and you can find it cheap used on Amazon. The book draws from the earliest sutras written down by direct students of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. There is a great chapter specifically on anatta.
No later teachings of Mahayana, Chan, Zen, Vajrayana, Dzogchen, etc go beyond what the historical Buddha taught. They simply build on it. All the tantras and sutras which talk about Mind, Buddha-nature, Rigpa, Clear light, Original Face, etc all assume that the reader has the basic understanding of the original early teachings. Unfortunately many people simply read the later stuff and get the wrong idea, even sincere Buddhists.
It is clear that you and Thusness describe stages beyond this, so my issue is mainly terminological: Why not call this realization anatta? Where is there still a self that is clung to in Ajahn Maha Bua's description?
It seems to me that what you call anatta is the realization of the inseparability of form and emptiness, which I would consider beyond anatta.
The clearest way I can try to explain it is through the analogy of the mirror. There is a mirror, and there are reflections. First, there is realization of the mirror as the mirror itself by detaching from reflections (the I AM) and experienced as a pure formless witness which is separate from all reflections. The witness is then dropped as a center and expanded to include everything. The experience is then that the mirror and reflections are nondual. The mirror and reflections are one and the same. The mirror, or pure awareness, is like the cosmic vast space-like container from which reflections (form) arise and subside, like a vast emptiness which is also a fullness. This is the substantialist nondual that Xabir talks about. Anatta is the realization that there is no mirror apart from reflections. Reflections do not arise from the mirror. Reflections are the mirror, and there is no mirror apart from reflections (no empty source, no vast space-like container, just reflections). Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. There is no form apart from emptiness, and no emptiness apart from form.
So in the Bahiya Sutta when the Buddha said "In the seen, there is only the seen, in the heard, there is only the heard" that is the anatta realization (well, actually the realization of anatta is that this has always been so, but we have not noticed it). There is no awareness separate from the impermanent colors, sounds, thoughts, sensations, feelings, etc. Awareness does not exist on its own but rather through an interdependent relationship, like you cannot have awareness of vision without something to see, the eyeball functioning properly, the visual cortex processing it, etc.
I found this quoted on the wikipedia page for anatta a while ago and just remembered about it. I post it here for the benefit of those interested. It was spoken by the highly regarded Thai arhat Ajahn Maha Bua.
It is the clearest exposition of why taking the luminosity of the empty mind a permanent self is an error that I have come across. I get no sense that he is just describing something someone told him but he hasn't really experienced himself (like I get from so many internet posts by Buddhists). Also, notice the lack of sectarian "Hindus have this belief and they are wrong" talk that may or may not mischaracterize the actual position of any particular Hindu sage. Just a genuine arhat speaking from his deep wisdom.
He is not talking about anatta there, but yes it is a really wonderful description of the luminosity of mind.
The mistake is in the assumptions underlying "motivation" (ascribed to Advaitins) and the "interpretation" of the non-dual experience.
Those who don't understand the difference between Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman will not understand this. Those who know the difference but hide it to win "points" get negative points in my books, because that is just dishonesty (to try and win and argument and massage the ego).
So you're saying that people like Alex Weith have not actually experienced Nirguna Brahman or are misinterpreting the experience? On what are you basing this assumption? Read this that he wrote:
"What I realized also is that authoritative self-realized students of direct students of both Ramana Maharishi and Nisargadatta Maharaj called me a 'Jnani', inviting me to give satsangs and write books, while I had not yet understood the simplest core principles of Buddhism. I realized also that the vast majority of Buddhist teachers, East and West, never went beyond the same initial insights (that Adhyashanti calls "an abiding awakening"), confusing the Atma with the ego, assuming that transcending the ego or self-center (ahamkara in Sanskrit) was identical to what the Buddha had called Anatta (Non-Atma).
It would seem therefore that the Buddha had realized the Self at a certain stage of his acetic years (it is not that difficult after all) and was not yet satisfied. As paradoxical as it may seem, his "divide and conquer strategy" aimed at a systematic deconstruction of the Self (Atma, Atta), reduced to -and divided into- what he then called the five aggregates of clinging and the six sense-spheres, does lead to further and deeper insights into the nature of reality. As far as I can tell, this makes me a Buddhist, not because I find Buddhism cool and trendy, but because I am unable to find other teachings and traditions that provide a complete set of tools and strategies aimed at unlocking these ultimate mysteries, even if mystics from various traditions did stumble on the same stages and insights often unknowingly."