The Buddha Nature: True Self as Action

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The Buddha Nature: True Self as Action
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Citation: King, Sallie B. "The Buddha Nature: True Self as Action." Religious Studies 20, no. 2 (1984): 255–67. http://www.seattlebetsuin.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/King.Buddha-nature.pdf

Abstract

No abstract given. Here are the first relevant paragraphs:

Buddhism, and especially early Buddhism, is known for the anātman (no self) teaching. By any account, this teaching is central to both doctrine and practice from the beginning. Zen Buddhism (Chinese Ch'an), in contrast, is known for its teaching that the single most important thing in life is to discover the 'true self'. Is there a real, or only an apparent, conflict between these two versions of Buddhism? Certainly there is at the least a radical change in the linguistic formulation of the teaching. Examining the two teachings on the linguistic level, we note that the use of the term 'true' in the phrase 'true self' may indicate that we have here a conscious reformation of the place of the term 'self' in the tradition, or perhaps that the use of this phrase in Zen is the product of such a conscious formulation. Thus we may expect, upon investigation, to find an evolution from one teaching to the other, rather than a true doctrinal disparity. The apparent, or linguistic, conflict between the two, however, remains; hence we must also expect to find a doctrinal formulation at some point in this evolution in which the apparent conflict is consciously apprehended and resolved.
      That is, Buddhism embraces both the teaching that there is no self and the teaching that the goal of life is to discover the true self. Not only does Buddhism embrace these two formulations, but each in its own context is the central pivot of the teachings of the school or community concerned. Two questions arise here. (1) How can a single tradition affirm both no self and true self? How can the two ideas be reconciled? (This is the philosophical question.) (2) In linking early Buddhism and Zen we are discussing two religious movements separated by approximately 12 centuries and by their development in two vastly different cultures, the Indian and the Chinese. What is there in the course of this development that could account for the transition from talk of no self to talk of true self? (This is the question of intellectual history.) In the present essay I will attempt to show that it is by examining the Buddha nature (fo hsing 佛性) concept and understanding it as a term representing certain actions that these questions may be answered. (King, "The Buddha Nature," 255)