Tát-āgathā: ‘That-Gone’

In the highest tradition of the Buddha-Dharma one does not worship The Buddha, which is easy enough. The struggle is to become a Tat-āgatha.

From the Diamond Sutra:

Moreover, the Tathagata has no formulated teaching to enunciate. Wherefore? Because the Tathagata has said that truth is uncontainable and inexpressible. It neither is nor is it not. Thus it is that this unformulated Principle is the foundation of the different systems of all the sages.

The literature of this period shows that Siddhartha Gautama’s formal schooling, that of a high-born Kshatriya Prince, was firmly in the classic Dharmic paradigm.

It was assigned to five established Hindu scholars. The first Upaniṣads would have been standard fare for every beleaguered student of his rank and of his day.

Siddhartha Gautama’s chosen name for himself was not as ‘The Buddha’ [a later appellation] but as the Tát-āgathā [literally, ‘That-Gone’] againthe same Tát [‘That’] of the Rig Veda.

A Tát-āgathā is one: ‘Entered in Tát’ [‘That’] or in its more literal and ambiguous translation: ‘That-Gone’ [also as ‘That-Come’].

It says nothing about any ‘Object’ [such as an imagined ‘That’]. It is all about the Subject. Or rather, the absence of it.

If you want to get to the intuition of ‘That-Gone’, you need to eject from the Self-Loop. And in this sense, and as with Brahman, as with Tát, Shūnyam is its child.

Unlike in the mystical Upaniṣadic verses, ‘Self’ in the Buddhist Sūtric articulation is consistently an empirical one. It is not simply to be asserted but directly observed in undeniable inferential link, as an identifiable Subject in counterpoint to an identified Object.

A-natman [‘No-‘Self’] is the key element that differentiates the literature of the Buddha-Dharma from its Vedic roots.

But this approach, that is starting with the notion of a ‘Self’ that in turn needs to be abandoned, the Teaching can get extraordinarily loopy. And that it is fully reflected in the Sūtric verses. You won’t find this complex circuitry in the Upanishadic resolution.

But the common element in both is the centrality of the Self-Negating Expression.