AUTHOR: Ovidiu Cristian NEDU
RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE AS ONTOLOGICAL THERAPY, IN MAHĀYĀNA BUDDHISM
Danubius, XXXVIII, Galaţi, 2020, pp. 501-528.
Mahāyāna Buddhism, hostile to any kind of conceptual construction (vikalpa), which is blamed for operating artificial delimitations within a homogenous and amorphous reality, presents its own doctrine not as a “truth” but rather as psychological “skill-in-means” (upāya), which aims at liberating humans from the illusory reality cast by their own mental discriminations. Thus, doctrine is denied all cognitive value, both in respect to a metaphysical level of reality and in respect to the mere empirical level. Its validity pertains to the psychological efficiency that it could display in the process of “counter-acting/opposing” the errors that ensnare humans. Therefore, the issue of religious truth is transferred from the cognitive sphere to the psychological and existential sphere, its value being of a rather therapeutic type.
The doctrine is considered as an antidote (pratipaksa) which has the sole role of denying the reality of the various mental constructions which create the sphere where the self inflicted human drama takes place. Thus, the doctrine is deprived not only of cognitive value but also of objectivity, its efficiency depending on the existence of some particular errors, of a particular type of bondage. The actual content of a religious teaching does not reflect an „objective truth” but rather a particular kind of error, which is denounced and rejected by the doctrine. Buddhist texts even utterly state that it is not possible to identify an own-meaning of the term „void” (sūnya), the main soteriological concept of Buddhism, which gets a sense only in association with another term, whom it could determine. Thus, religious teachings have more to do with subjective errors than with an objective truth.
Therefore, Buddhism does not hesitate to claim the voidness of its own path („the voidness of voidness” – sūnyatāsūnyatā), which is considered only as a temporary useful tool, which must be itself discarded during the process of liberation. The old school of Buddhism, Hīnayāna, is blamed for having developed an extremely elaborated psychological analysis which turned to be itself an obstacle on the path to liberation; this way, their religion itself opposed the accomplishment of the religious goal.
Mahāyāna Buddhism considers its own doctrine in a relativist, instrumental manner, rather existential and therapeutic than cognitive and metaphysical.