[NOTE: Like the previous article, "The Wisdom of Tathagatagarbha," this article is partly metaphorical. The part that is not metaphor is philosophy, the metaphor is religion, which for those who have one, is their philosophy.]
Most Tathagatagarbhaianists are, in spite of their great seriousness, rather casual about terminology. Except when writing academic papers, an event so rare there is no record of it ever having happened, most do not refer to themselves as Tathagatagarbhaianists, but rather as Tathists, based on the diminutive of Tathagatagarbha, Tath.
There is no Tathagatagarbhaian theology, although some theological questions have been considered. For example, Christians have asked if Tath, like the Christian God, is infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.
One Tathian answered that Tath does not have any attributes that are simply made up, like those the Christians have made up for their God. The Christians were not very pleased with that answer, even though it was honest. The Christians thought it was disrespectful, which, of course, it was.
A more serious, and perhaps better considered, response by another Tathian scholar, attempted to address the questions directly. "Tath," he wrote, "may be infinite, but indefinite would be the better term, because it can be said with certainty that Tath is as big as anything can be. Tath is definitely omnipresent because there is nowhere where Tath is not. Tath may also be described as omnipotent, if by omnipotent is meant all the power there is, because Tath is all there is, including all the power there is. Tath may also be described as omniscient if by omniscient is meant having all the knowledge there is, since Tath is all there is including all the knowledge there is. Tath, however, cannot be described as omniscient if omniscient means knowing everything that can be known or ever will be known, but is not known by anyone yet. No one can know what is not known, else it would not be the, 'unknown.'"
This answer also did not satisfy the Christians, and in fact frustrated them, and made them angry, perhaps because Tathians claim Tath is the only God and that all the other gods are simply fictions, including the Christian tripartite God. Some Christian leaders publicly made suggestions about what they thought ought to be done with Tathians, which sounded very much like Tathiancide, though the Christians denied it.
While academicians teach that Tathagatagarbhaianism, or Tathism, is just another religion, most Tathians vigorously oppose the classification. (The most consistent Tathians, to use their expression, "don't give a damn what anyone else calls it.")
In fact some deny that there is such a thing as Tathism at all. "It's just a term made up by those who despise and wish to repudiate those who love the truth and choose to live according to it, because they hate them. They hate them because they deny everything all the lying academics, teachers, religious leaders, politicians and authorities say. They deny there are any shortcuts to success and happiness, that anyone is compelled to do anything, by their genetics, their society, their teachers, their feelings, their desires, or anything else, because everything anyone does, they choose to do and are responsible for. They deny that anyone has a right to anything they have not earned by their own effort, and that to seek, or even desire, the unearned and undeserved is immoral. If those labeled Tathians must be called something, call them truthians."
It is true, there is nothing like Tathagatagarbhaian dogma, because there are no Tathagatagarbhaian authorities. There is disagreement among those labeled Tathians, because the one thing they agree on is that no one dictates the truth, that every individual must use their own mind and reason to discover and know the truth, and that the ultimate arbiter of what is true, and what is not, is reality itself. Individuals can learn things from others, but they must use their own reason to understand what they learn and their own judgment to determine if what they are taught is the truth. That is the reason every individual is responsible for all their own choices, thoughts, and actions.
It is not surprising, therefore, that those who are called Tathians, either by themselves or by others, sometimes express their principles differently as the following is somewhat different from the above.
"Tathagatagarbha means the eternal and absolute reality. Truth is whatever correctly describes any aspect of that reality, and that truth is as absolute as reality itself. Some think of Tath as reality, some think of Tath as the truth that describes reality. But Tath is not to be worshiped, there are no Tathian theologies, and Tath does not answer prayer." Another Tathian wrote. "Though more than a mere metaphor, Tath may be thought of as the personification of reality, or the personification of truth, or perhaps, as the sublime merging of reality and truth experienced by the human mind."
It is because some Tathian writers, such as the last, describe Tath in such exalted language, "as the sublime merging of reality and truth experienced by the human mind," that Tathians are sometimes accused of mysticism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tathians have a profound respect for the creative ability of the human mind. They believe that power extends far beyond the powers of invention, production, and scientific discovery, enabling humans to reach the greatest heights of imaginative and intellectual vision. It is not mysticism, however, it is romanticism.
For Tathians, life is a great romantic adventure where no vision or ideal is impossible. Life, for Tathians, is a quest for the highest values in all things, the most alluringly exotic, the perfectly exquisite, the flawlessly elegant, the supremely graceful, the spectacularly beautiful, and the ruthlessly moral. It is a life that bravely faces every challenge, to achieve the noblest and grandest of objectives, to be the best one can be in all things, truly heroic and worthy of the greatest reward of all, which is romantic love.
Tathians and Others
Tathians seldom consider the lives of others because Tathians believe every individual must be free to live their own life as well as they can and as they choose. How others live is none of their business, "or anyone else's," a Tathian would quickly and firmly add.
"Every individual life is a unique adventure and each individual travels where no one else has traveled. Though they sometimes share paths with and enjoy the company of others on their journey, every individual's destination is their own which only they can reach and only they can fully know," one Tathian wrote.
If pressed, a Tathian will admit they believe most people throw their lives away and never make the effort to learn what life can be, wasting their lives on pointless pursuits of shallow pleasures, or chronic attempts to escape the meaninglessness of their lives.
While there is no Tathian authority, and no formal or accepted dogma, there are general principles that Tathians generally agree are a minimum for an individual to be moral, and therefor capable of living successfully and happily. Some of those principles are the following:
Every individual not only can, but must, consciously choose everything he thinks and does. Any attempt to evade the fact everything one does is by choice, such as blaming feelings, desires, impulses, genetics, society, one's boss, policy, duty, ill health, moods, or anything else, is immoral
Every individual has their own mind and is responsible for everything they think, choose, and do. Any attempt to evade that responsibility is immoral.
Every individual has the ability to learn all they need to learn to be all they can possibly be as a human being, and they must learn all they possibly can about as many things as they possibly can and they must do this as long as they live. Not leaning all one possibly can is immoral.
Every individual has the ability to think and reason well enough to make right choices about everything they must. Every individual must use their ability to reason about everything they believe, think, choose, and do; which means, they must never accept a contradiction, never surrender their reason to feelings, whims, desires, passions, or fears, and never just accept anything as true they do not themselves understand how and why it is true. Failing or evading to think as well as one possibly can about all things is immoral.
Every individual must use all their ability and effort to be and accomplish all they possibly can as a human being. Anything less is not only immoral but a failure to live the life that is possible, which will, at best, lead only to a life of regret and disappointment, but, more likely, to a life that ends in grief or despair. To do less than one's best in all things is immoral.
No one must ever seek what one has not produced, earned, or merited by one's own effort: not wealth, not goods, not services, not pleasure, not position, and not reputation. So long as one's wealth is produced by one's own effort, it may be traded for anything anyone else has produced. Acquiring or seeking anything by any means other than producing it, earning it, or buying it, is immoral
Freedom is a moral requirement for all individuals. Every individual must seek to be as free as possible, free to use their minds to think whatever they choose, free to make any choices they judge to be right, and free to work and produce in any way they choose. Anyone who fails to seek to be free, or seeks freedom by any means other than earning it by their own effort is immoral.
The only moral relationship between individuals is reason. Individuals may morally deal with one another by means of reason to their mutual benefit, socially, financially, in business or other cooperative efforts, or any other way they mutually choose. All other relationships are immoral.
Every individual is different from every other individual. No individual can know what is right for any other individual. Any attempt to interfere in the life of any other individual to influence his thoughts or choices, by any means except reason, is immoral.
About the Principles
I must point out that no two Tathists would express these principles in exactly the same way, and that any Tathist could expand on any of these principles almost indefinitely.
You will notice that none of these principles are like commandments, prescriptions, or proscriptions, but statements about the relationships between choices and consequences. Tathists regard morality as those principles determined by the nature of reality and the nature of human beings by which one can discover how to think, choose, and act to live successfully and happily in this world. They do not assume anyone must choose to live successfully and happily, because, obviously, most people do not.
You will also notice that none of these principles directly pertain to relationships between individuals, or to societies, except the last two, which both make reason the only moral basis for such relationships. Tathists regard moral principles as pertaining only to individuals, because every individual must make their own choices using their own minds. As for social relationships, in a society comprised entirely of Tathists, that is, of moral individuals, since no one would ever seek the unearned, would only deal with others reasonably, and would never interfere in anyone else's life, there would be no social issues or problems. All so-called social problems are caused by the immoral, those who refuse to learn all they possibly can and to always base their choices on their best possible thinking, those seeking the unearned, refusing to take responsibility for their own lives, and attempting to interfere in the lives of others.
Since a society is simply a collection of people living in geographical proximity to one another, sharing certain cultural and economic characteristics, the character or nature of any society is determined entirely by the kind of people that are that society. There is no way to change a society in any way without attempting to make the people in that society different in some way, which means interfering in their lives. Since Tathists regard all interference in the lives of others immoral, as well as futile and destructive, Tathists regard all methods of social or political influence or manipulation philosophically unsound and morally reprehensible.
All real societies are comprised of mostly immoral individuals, and Tathists realize in any society they will only rarely be dealing with other Tathists, and most of their relationships in any society will be with those who are not fully moral, and that some will even be dangerous, possibly posing a threat to their life or wealth. A Tathist knows there is no real freedom if others are a threat to one's life and choices and just as every individual must seek to be free, every individual must protect himself from such threats, and defend himself if any such threats actually occur. The Tathist regards any method of protecting oneself moral, including killing those making the threat, but while a Tathist would not hesitate to use that method of defense when necessary, the Tathist will find the best and least expensive method of defense whenever possible. Killing is usually the least practical way of defense, even though it is perfectly moral.
These principles may seem hard, demanding, even ruthless. Tathists regard them as entirely reasonable.
One Tathist explained them this way:
"Yes they're hard and yes they are demanding, as hard and demanding as life itself. To evade them is to evade life. No Tathist regards them as limits or restrictions on their life, however, because they are the means of achieving and being all that life makes possible. Living by these principles of truth is the only way to live a life that is worth living."
Tathist Principles as Morality
"The Tathist principles are moral principles. An individual is moral only to the degree all his life and choices conform to those moral principles, and is immoral to the degree his life evades or defies them.
"Like all true principles, they are not limits or restrictions, but the keys that open the doors to possibilities that do not exist without them. Like the principles of mathematics that make it possible to answer questions about quantities and measurements which are impossible to answer without them, moral principles make it possible to know how to live successfully and without failure. Just as mathematical principles determine how mathematical problems must be solved successfully, and if the rules are violated, the mathematics will fail, so moral principles determine how one must choose and act to live successfully, and if the principles are violated, one's life will fail. Moral principles are not restrictions on life, they are the means to it."
It is true that Tathists regard most of the people in the world as immoral. One describes them this way:
"They are ignorant, stupid, and superstitious, because they have chosen to be. They are ignorant because they refuse to make the effort to learn all they can possibly learn, they are stupid because they refuse to learn how to think, or even think as well as they can, and they are superstitious because they will believe anything they are taught that makes them feel virtuous or promises them the unearned, or guarantees them protection from all their irrational fears."
Some Tathists might be recognized as Tathists, but most will not. There are, in truth, very few in the world, but more than you might suspect. Most simply live their lives by the principles they understand, and have little or no interest in how others live their lives, and certainly make no attempt to ever interfere in the lives of others.
I do not believe most Tathists would identify themselves as Tathists and I would be very suspicious of anyone who claimed to be a Tathist. First, no Tathist would ever expect anyone else to understand the Tathist principles, so would not expect anyone to understand what being a Tathist means. Secondly, and more importantly, Tathists do not identify themselves with any group, movement, ideology or religion, agency, class, race, nationality, or any other collective; Tathists only identify themselves as individuals, and sometimes by what they do, such as their profession. (Tathists only identify others in the same way they identify themselves, no matter how those others might identify themselves.)
Since Tathists regard the value and significance of every individual determined entirely by what each individual produces and achieves by their own effort, nothing an individual is associated with, joined to, or part of has anything to say about an individual's own virtues, except that, what one joins, if they do, as well as joining itself, indicates some moral flaws.
It is true that Tathists never think in terms of charity, empathy, or sentimentalism, especially not sentimentalism which they regard as one of the worst of irrational emotions. You would be very wrong, however, if you thought Tathists were either unfeeling or cold. It is because Tathists regard feelings as so profoundly important that they are always on guard to insure the sources of their feelings are rational ones.
The Tathist holds the truth above all other things, because it is truth that describes reality and any defiance or evasion of truth is a violation of reality. Until one holds the truth above all other things, above all feelings, all desires, all allegiances or commitments, one can never be free and is doomed to perpetual servitude to any irrational feeling, whim, or passion to which one sacrifices their reason and will.
The beginning of freedom, which the Tathist regards as a moral requirement, is to free oneself from all those emotions, which uncontrolled, are demons which possess and control the individual, but under their control become servants, providing one strength, enthusiasm, motivation, pleasure, and joy in every aspect of life.
I've known Tathists who have exhibited incredible patience with those who seemed hopelessly inept or unable to learn, but whom the Tathist believed were truly doing their best to improve and be all they could be. I've seen the tears of Tathists when those they had hopes for disappointed them, tears not for their own disappointment, but for the tragedy of a life wasted.
Others often consider Tathists as stand-offish or aloof, because they have no interest in meddling in the lives of others, and seldom share the interests of others or enjoy their insipid pleasures, though they never discourage others from pursuing whatever interests or pleases them.
They are sometimes considered unfeeling and ruthless, because it is impossible to insult a Tathist or provoke one to anger by verbal abuse, name-calling, or even slander, because Tathists really do not care what anyone else thinks or says about them. Their complete self-assurance and self-confidence that requires no one else's approval or agreement with anything they think or do makes them immune to the irrational sensitivities of the childish, the petty, the neurotic, the thin-skinned, and the vindictive—which almost all individuals are.
They will never tolerate dishonesty or any attempt by anyone to influence or manipulate them into doing or thinking anything they do not choose to do or think, but they are always ready to listen to reason about anything, even if it seems to contradict what they believe. Their view is, if they are mistaken about something, they want to learn it as quickly as possible. Since any views they hold which might be mistaken, are held honestly, admitting they have been wrong about something is considered a virtue, not something to be ashamed of. To discover a new truth is an achievement, not a flaw.
Most Tathists are not recognized, but when they are, they are frequently feared or hated. The fear is totally irrational and based on the ignorance of those who cannot understand the truly moral. The immoral, the stupid and ignorant, fear the moral because they do not understand those who do not need the approval or agreement, or anything else from others, as all those like themselves do. They cannot imagine how anyone can live without others to reassure them they are worth something, to teach them what to do, to be there when they have failed, to help them get through the day, to tell them what is important, what they should like, or admire, or live for. They hate the Tathist because they cannot imagine that anyone can be totally self-confident and certain of their own ability to know what is right and wrong, to be totally responsible for all their own choices and actions, and competent to live their lives successfully without anyone else's help or guidance. Such people frighten the immoral, because the only meaning they find in life is in others, and they cannot find that in the moral. The immoral need to be needed. Tathists do not need anyone, and for that they are despised.
Can I Be A Tathist?
I've been asked if anyone can be a Tathist. The simple but hard truth is, probably not. Most of the Tathists I have ever known have been Tathists all their lives, even if they never call themselves Tathists. The principles they live by are not principles they learned from someone else, but principles they discovered in the very active pursuit of their own lives.
Tathism is not something one joins, becomes a member of, or embraces. Tathism is not really a thing, but the identification of a certain way of looking at life that holds the truth above all things, revered as the only thing that is truly sacred. Anyone who lives by those principles, which are nothing more than a description of the true nature of reality, is a Tathist.
There may be some who will read this and recognize the principles described here are those they've always lived by, that they have always been Tathists. No one needs to identify themselves as a Tathist, however, because a Tathist is just a human being living life as humanly and completely as it is possible to live.
One thing you can be sure of, no Tathist will ever try to convince you to be a Tathist. If you ever meet one, and they have the time and inclination, they will be glad to answer any questions you have about their views, or how they live, but you may be disappointed to discover they will have no interest in convincing you to agree or approve of their views and life, and they certainly won't judge you for yours. If asked, they will gladly explain what is wrong with your views if they differ from Tathist principles—but you'll have to ask.