Author: U Shwe Zan
Aung, D. Litt., (1871- 1932)
The Translator of 'The Compendium of Philosophy'
Copyright - Myanmar Book Centre & Book Promotion & Service Ltd., Bangkok, Thailand
Restriction: For your own private non-business study only and not to be re-published nor re-distributed.
Persons of the Dialogue: Agga, Sumana, Teja and Tissa
The scene is laid in the Nandavanta laura in the Sagaing hills.
Sumana. Good evening, Sir. How is Your Reverence keeping?
Agga. I am four score years old to-day, but I feel quite strong for my age. I thank you much for your very kind enquiry. May I know who you are?
Sumana. I am Sumana, a pupil of Dr. Ledi. Your longevity is the result of the purity of your silas.
Agga. Is your master hale and hearty.
Sumana. He, too, is advancing in years and is slightly infirm with age. But, though the flesh is weak, his spirit is as strong as ever.
Agga. He is comparatively young and it is my earnest hope that he will soon be restored to perfect health and be spared many more years to come so that he may be able to continue, with renewed vigour, the good work he has already done in the way of propagation of our religion. But will you tell me the object of your visit at this late hour in the after noon, for you stem rather intent upon something?
Sumana. I have come here on purpose and I have brought a friend of mine with me.
Agga. You are welcome to my cloister. I have made this little retreat my abode since my master's death at Mingun as it was very suit able for meditation. There were very few hermitages then, but a great many have sprung up, like mushrooms, since. What is your companion's name?
Sumana. He is Tissa, a pupil of the late Dr. Myobyingyi.
Agga. I extend the hospitality of this my humble roof to you also, Tissa. Your master made the Compendium of Philosophy his speciality and, if I am not mistaken, he is followed by the majority of students of Buddhism in Burma. Is it not?
Tissa. I should think so, Sir.
Agga. Sumana, you have as yet to specify the nature of your business.
Sumana. Sir, we have sought you here because, in all accounts we have heard of you, you are represented as the only disciple of Dr. Shwegyin, who still holds the antiquated view that Nibbana is something in the nature of a mental or spiritual. Perhaps we are disturbing your solitude. Are we interrupting your thoughts?
Agga. My thoughts flow as easily in conversation as when I am alone. I take your observations on my waster's view in good spirit. He spent practically a life-time over the question of Nibbana and the results of his labours in this field are embodied in a great work entitled the Mahanibbuta-nibbuta. His is a view hallowed by antiquity and I adhere to it.
Sumana. But, Sir, was it not a fact that Dr. Ingan, the late head of your sect, who was himself the disciple of your own master, had expressed his opinion that Ledi's news are sounder?
Agga. Yes. Ingan was a fine scholar. But it does not follow that he was cleverer than his master.
Sumana. Ledi's view that Nibbana is nothing but calm, tranquillity or peace (santi) has been accepted throughout the length and breadth of Burma.
Agga. Sumana, I am not alone in my persuasion that Nibbana is something more than mere calm (santi-matta). I have up here a friend of mine from Henzada. His name is Teja. His master, U Ukkamsamala., the late famous Doctor of Okpo, held that Nibbana is unique mind and body. Is it not, Teja?
Teja. Yes, Sir.
Agga. The annihilationistic school, however, teaches in effect that Nibbana is pure nothing.
Sumana. But this view of annihilation has been exploded by Buddhist writers. E.g., Sumangalasami, the well-known author of the famous Tikagyaw, distinctly says that Nibbana is not annihilation (tuccha or abbava)
Agga.Quite so. But the fact that every writer has had to insist on Nibbana being something shows, does it not, that this erroneous view has been held by many.
Even Ariyavamsa of Sagaing, the author of the Manisaramanjusa, a deep student, and an able exponent, of the Tikagyaw, as late as the 15th Century, seems to have leaned, in his Manidipa, to the annihilationistic view when he said that we should not use the expression 'Nibbana is attained' because there are still khandhas in the Sa-upadisesa Nibbana and because there is nothing left in the Anupadisesa to be attained. According to him the attainment of Nibbana consists in having Nibbana merely as an object of path and fruitional consciousnesses.
The common sense school holds the extreme opposite view that Nibbana is a paradise.
These two schools claim the ignorant majority.
Sumana. It is no good referring to the views of the ignorant.
Agga. Well, Sumana, I have brought this matter up at the outset with a double purpose: -
Teja (interposed.) We all are agreed that Nibbana is something, though we differ as to the nature of that.
Agga.Yes. Burma, I mean the Burmese Buddhist world of philosophy, is divided into three camps, so to speak. There is the Shwegyin school which holds that Nibbana is spiritual mind, while the Okpo school advances the view that it is unique mind and body. The Ledi school, however, teaches that it is neither mind nor body but purely calm.
Now, before deciding which of these three views is correct, a few preliminary questions shall have to be gone into. Our philosophers bring four categories, to wit, mind, mental properties, matter and Nibbana, under a more general concept of reality (paramattha). And Nibbana is a reality of realities.
Agga. Then, it is essential that we should first of all clearly understand what is meant by reality. Do you agree?
Agga. Pray, tell me, Sumana, what you understand by the term 'real.'
Sumana. I would define the real as that which is existent. This is in accordance with Buddhaghosa's explanation of the term in his commentary on the Kathavatthu in the sense of manifestation (bhutattho).
Agga. The word existent is rather ambiguous. Does it include that which has existed, that which exists and that which will exist?
Sumana. Yes, it does.
Agga. Do you, then, mean that which has existed in the past is still real?
Sumana. I should think so, for I can vividly imagine yesterday's fire to be existent.
Agga. Here you have confounded an image with a reality of which it is but a representation. The latter exists independent of your mind but the former does not. The image is a symbol of one individual object depicted to mind's eye (uggaha-nimitta). What is called the after-image patipbhaga-nimitta) in the language of meditation is a concept, being the symbol of many objects. Both symbols, however, are mere signs (nimitta-pannatti) because they exist only in our minds like hare's horns or tortoise' hairs.
Sumana. I own it. Rut the two fires are alike in their characteristics of heating or burning.
Agga. Does yesterday's fire burn any one to-day?
Sumana. Nay, it does not.
Agga. The reason is that you are not comparing the two actual fires of equal intensity of to-day.
Sumana. I am comparing my idea of yesterday's fire with the actual fire of to-day.
Agga. You cannot compare two disparate things, e.g., an idea with a reality; you have merely compared your idea of yesterday's fire with your idea of to-day's fire.
Tissa (interposed). But, Sir, is not a fire always fire by reason of its characteristics of burning?
Agga. Nay, that which no longer burns is not a fire at all.
Tissa. I mean that both yesterday's fire and to-day's fire are characterized by identical qualities of heating (teja).
Agga. This is only bringing individuals under a general, class concept. You may define the universal term fire as that which burns and then show that every individual fire comes within your definition. Logical definition is a legitimate mode of mental procedure.
Tissa. For this reason I say that fire is a reality because it never gives up its characteristics of burning.
Agga. The real fire burns but the concept fire does not. In omitting to make the distinction between a reality and a concept, I am afraid, Tissa, that you lean to the views of the Sabbathivadins.
Tissa. Pray, what are the views of this sect?
Agga. They hold that all past, present and future things exist because they do not give up the characteristics of khandhas (aggregates) If their views be correct, every concept would be real like Plato's Ideas. I take it for granted that every student of philosophy understands what I mean by Plato's ideas.
Tissa. Yes. Plato is a niccavadin who believes in the reality of his eternal and perfect ideas.
Agga. Space is an eternal idea of containing things. It always retains this feature. But you would not say that it is real for that reason. Again, time is always time and is never converted into space, but it is no more real than space is. Similarly with all other concepts. In fact, Platonic realism, which is really idealism or conceptualism or nominalism had been very ably refuted by the Elder Moggliputta Tissa. If you need the details of his argument, I must refer you to the Sabbamatthivada Katha in the Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy).
According to the orthodox view, the real is ever confined to the present. Yesterday's fire was real only while it was burning; and to morrow's fire will be real when it comes into being but not otherwise. In other words, the past fire which has burnt itself out is no longer real and the future fire which will burn is not yet real. Both the past and future things are at present but mere concepts, notions, ideas, mental views or aspects. I suppose you agree to this. Do you not?
Tissa. Yes, I do.
Agga. Then, Sumana will have to amend his definition of the real. Instead of defining it as that which is existent, it would be more accurate to define it as that which is existing.
Sumana. I have no objection to the proposed amendment. I acknowledge that the real is explained by a synonymous term vijjamana which is generally rendered into Burmese by" existing".
Agga. Yes. This useful word is formed from root vid—' to know', the passive suffix ya and the present participial ending mana. It literally means 'being known' at the present moment. To be known is to be evident and to he evident is to manifest. But a thing cannot manifest itself without a real being. Its intensive form samvijjamana has been intentionally adopted to emphasise the fact that neither the past nor the future thing is real but that the real is confined to the present only. So far we all are agreed that one condition of reality is that it must be existing.
Agga. But our idea of reality is not yet complete. For eternalists may understand the term 'existing' as existing for ever without a change. The other test of reality is, therefore, that it is in a continual flux, while concepts are constant.
Tissa. Is it not the other way about? Silver, when manufactured into different articles receives several names of cup, bowl, plate and so on in turn while the metal silver remains the same. In this illustration the metal silver corresponds to the reality while the names 'cup', 'bowl', etc., are mere concepts. Hence concepts change from 'cup' to 'bowl' and from 'bowl' to 'plate', but the metal remains unchanged.
Agga. Even the name silver, nay, the name metal itself, is but a concept. But I will not mince matters. I understand you to wean the ultimate constituents of matter when you say silver or metal. But when you say ' cup ', 'bowl'. etc., I shall understand you to confine yourself to the names only.
Tissa. Yes, that is exactly what I mean.
Agga. Now, to regard the ultimate constituents or contents of a piece of metal called silver as constant is heresy due to hallucinations of perception, view or judgement; for, did not the Buddha say that all things in the making are in a state of flux?
There is also a fallacy in your argument that concept 'cup' changes to concept 'bowl' which in turn changes to 'plate'. A concept, once formed, is never lost. It becomes a universal term held in reserve for application to similar individual objects at any future time. This fallacy has been well exploded in the Kathavatthu. Speaking of a certain white cloth which, say, is turned black, the heterodox opponent asked: Is the whiteness given up? The orthodox adherent answered it in the affirmative because white colour as a reality had been replaced by another reality, black colour. But when the question was: Is the clothness given up?, the orthodox answer was in the negative because "clothness" is a mere concept arising from a combination of single threads.
Tissa. I acknowledge that it is so.
Agga. Then, do you agree that for anything to be real the following two conditions must be satisfied?
(a) That it must be existing; and
(b) That it must be in a flow.
Tissa.. Yes, I do.
Agga. In that case, reality may be defined as an existing condition of flux. Therefore, mind, mental properties, matter and Nibbana, if allowed a real being, must satisfy the above definition. I mean that even Nibbana forms no exception. Otherwise it would not be real. You should be able to distinguish what I may call book-mind and lip-Nibbana from real ones. The book-mind and the lip-Nibbana are mere concepts which do not exist except in our minds and therefore do not have an independent flowing existence, actual change being the essential mark of distinction between a reality and a concept.
Sumana (interposed). But a sole reservation or exception has to be made in favour of Nibbana which is permanent. abiding and enduring.
Agga. You are a dualist. That is to say, you start with an assumption that there are two radically different kinds of realities, conditioned and unconditioned.
Sumana. I beg your pardon, Sir. Mine is not an assumption at all. I have based my views on the clear dictum of the Buddha. He said in the Anguttara Nikaya that 'there are two elements, conditioned and unconditioned. The marks of conditioned are three. Which three? Genesis is apparent; dissolution is apparent; a state of duration other than genesis and dissolution is also apparent. Similarly, the three marks of unconditioned are: genesis, dissolution and duration are not apparent.'
Agga. You seem to think that these marks stick to things like the outlines of an object. Yet they, like the outlines of an object, are mere. appearances to the mind. The word 'apparent' is the crux of this passage. The Pali word is pannayati from prefix pa, which is explained by pakarena—' in different aspects', and root na, 'to know'. It is quite legitimate for a monist to look upon the real as One, even as the truth is One, and to regard the Buddha as having spoken of it by the dual method from two view-points. To intellect from without the real appears in three different aspects. But to intuition from within these aspects disappear (na-pannayati). What is relative and conditioned to intellect becomes absolute and unconditioned to intuition. Our intellect divides the stationary track left behind the flowing reality and divides the immobile time passed over by it into a 'powder of moments' which we name nascent or genetic, static or durative and cessant or arrested. But intuition which follows the continuous flow from within the simple, indivisible reality dispenses with these time concepts. Consider a wave motion. You think that each wave is succeeded by another after under going the threefold process of beginning, lasting and subsiding. But what is it that moves on and on? Physicists will say force or energy. Now, if this force or energy be endowed with consciousness, if would feel itself as onward motion at every moment without interruption. It would not feel itself as now beginning, next fasting and then subsiding. An outside observer draws an imaginary line of break between the subsidence of a previous phase and the rising of a succeeding one and in doing so, he practically considers motion between any two such breaks as rest. In your view intellect and intuition are assumed not to differ in kind but in degrees but conditioned and unconditioned are held as radically different, whereas in my view intellect and intuition are held to be radically different as poles asunder but conditioned and unconditioned are treated as two different aspects of one reality.
Is it not, Sumana?
Sumana. Yes, Sir.
Agga. It is not an easy matter to decide which of these two views is correct, before we have a clear idea of what Nibbana is. But so far we have cleared our way for discussion on Nibbana. Now, Sumana, after all we have said on the distinction between a reality and a concept, do you still maintain that Nibbana is nothing but calm.?
Sumana. I do.
Agga. Pray, analyse your idea of calm.
Sumana. By calm I mean freedom from trouble or evil.
Agga. Then, calm is synonymous with the extinction of Ill. But if you go a step further in your analysis, you will find that this Ill is reduced to suffering or pain caused by desire. Therefore, your calm is the extinction of the fires of this desire.
Sumana. I own it, since Sariputta himself described Nibbana as extinction of corruptions.
Agga. I suppose you refer to the Zambukhadaka Sutta where the Arahant described Nibbana as extinction of lust, ill-will and ignorance.
Sumana. Yes, that is my authority.
Agga. Very well. If you read a little further on, you will find that Sariputta who lived face to face, i.e., in direct contact, with Nibbana described arahantship in identical terms. How now? Are the Nibbana and the Arahantship the same or different?
Sumana. Whether the same or different, Sir, what is the use of your splitting hairs in this matter?
Agga. But is it not good to know their identity or difference, Sumana?
Sumana. Well, Sir—the view of the vitandavadins is that arahant ship is so described because it comes into being after the extinction of corruptions. The consensus of opinion among the commentators, however, is that Nibbana is so described because corruptions are extinguished by it.
Agga. Which of these two views do you prefer? Sumana. Certainly the latter, Agga. The vitandavadins say that the arahantship is the result of the extinction of corruptions in the Path-moment, while the commentators refer to the Nibbana of the Path as the cause of the extinction of corruptions in arahantship; But what of the Nibbana of arahantship?
Sumana. I am rather perplexed over this question of yours.
Agga. Well, I must refer you to your own authority. Sariputta described this Nibbana as extinction of corruptions. But he also described arahantship in identical terms. Now, when a sane person describes two things in identical terms, must we not assume that the two things are really one and the same?
Sumana. Nay, that cannot be. When I describe an ass and a horse as animals I do not necessarily mean that the ass is the same as the horse.
Agga. Of course not. In your example you are simply bringing two different individuals tinder a higher concept. But you will not admit that extinction of corruptions is a higher concept than Nibbana.
Sumana. Assuredly not.
Agga. Sariputta first described Nibbana as extinction of corruptions. But Budhaghosa clearly said (Yo kho avuso ragakkhayo 'ti adivacanato khayo nibbananti cc, na arahantassapi khayamattiapajjanato; tam pi hi yo kho avuso ragakkhayo' ti adinayena nidittham. The Visuddhimagga ) that, lest this description should mislead any one to regard it as mere extinction, Sariputta again described the arahantship in the very same terms. It is, therefore, plain that he intended to show that the Nibbana he described was not a lip-Nibbana but a concrete real as distinguished from an abstraction. Hence the expression, to wit, 'extinction of lust', ' extinction of ill-will', and 'extinction of nescience,' are but synonyms of the real Nibbana. I mean they merely denote the three different aspects of one and the same reality.
Sumana. I am not quite convinced.
Agga. Now, does the expression, 'extinction of lust' include the extinction of ill-will and of ignorance, or does the expression 'extinction of ill-will' include the extinction of lust and ignorance, or does the expression 'extinction of ignorance' include the other two?
Sumana. Decidedly not.
Agga. Then, in your view, there would be a multiplicity of Nibbanas, whereas Nibbana is an indivisible whole.
Sumana. But are there not a plurality of Nibbanas? There are four degrees of ariyanship. And since we are taught that a lower grade Ariyan does not know things of the higher grades, it follows that his Nibbana is different from those of the higher.
Agga. I do not deny the plurality of Nibbanas for different individuals, aye, even for each individual at different times. What I do deny is the plurality of them for each individual at any one time.
Sumana. Then is not the extinction of lust Nibbana?
Agga.Dhammapala says that mere extinction is not Nibbana.(Khayamattam na Nibbanam. Saccasamkkeba.) If mere extinction of lust be Nibbana, even lower animals would have to be considered as having attained Nibbana on the subsidence of their sexual desire. Surely your Nibbana is too crude to be described.
Sumana. (curtly) I am not so vile as to identify Nibbana with the temporary absence of lust in lower animals. I meant the eradication, extirpation, extermination or extinction of lust.
Agga.Softly, good Sumana. Be not angry with me for having put to you what Buddhaghosa himself as in the Sammohavinodani, his commentary on the Vibhanga, would have asked his opponent worthy of his own steel. Philosophical discussion should not be a heated controversy, but it should be carried on in a cool and calm atmosphere.
Sumana. Prithee. good Sir, do not mind my temper. I wish I had shown a good temper after losing a bad one.
Agga. You say you have meant the eradication of lust. You acknowledge, do you not, that there is such a thing as what Buddhists call 'adoptive intellect' (gotrabhu-nana) having Nibbana for its object. Now we are told that corruptions neither had been eradicated before, nor are being eradicated at that moment. And if Nibbana be extinction of corruptions, how can this intellect in question have the extinction of corruptions as its object before their eradication?
Sumana. Of course, Nibbana at that moment exists only as an idea of the future extinction of corruptions in the mind of the 'adopted' person.
Agga. Then his is merely an idea-Nibbana which is a concept.
Sumana. Nevertheless, Nibbana, I mean the real Nibbana, is the extinction of corruptions by the Path-intuition at the moment next after the 'adoptive' intellect.
Agga. Now, please to answer my questions carefully. Have corruptions already expired or are they being extinguished at that moment? Or are there any corruptions at that moment to be put away later?
Sumana. Well—corruptions are undergoing the process of extinction at the moment of the Path-intuition.
Agga. How can the Path-intuition which, according to you, is in the act of extinguishing corruptions have the extinction of them as its object? The fact is Sumana, corruptions cannot coexist with intuition, even as darkness cannot exist side by side with light.
Sumana. That is precisely what I meant. Just as light dispels darkness, so intuition removes corruptions.
Agga. You should not press this analogy too far. I will give you another illustration. If you cut down a tree from which fruits have been gathered, do you destroy the past year's fruits which have been long enjoyed or the present year's fruits which have been gathered or the future year's fruits which have as yet to be borne?
Sumana. I do not destroy any fruits at all but only the tree. Agga. But the tree is the cause of future fruits. Therefore, intuition does not destroy the past or present corruptions but only the root-cause of future corruptions.
Sumana. That, I admit. This root-cause is desire (tanha) and if it be removed, its evil effects would be destroyed. Therefore, the extinction of desire is synonymous with that of evils.
Agga. A synonym is but a name.
Sumana. But it is the name of the real Nibbana.
Agga. We have as yet to determine the nature of that reality, the several synonyms of Nibbana merely expressing the various qualities of it.
Sumana. But is not a reality determined by its own qualities as a white paper is determined by its whiteness, etc.?
Agga. A quality is that which is abstracted by the mind from a reality, like whiteness mentally abstracted from paper.
Sumana. But whiteness is a colour which is a reality.
Agga. Yes, it is treated as a reality distinct from sound, etc., according to Buddhist analysis. But as whiteness cannot exist apart from paper or other like objects, analysis is merely logical. Hence I say your abstract qualities of Nibbana cannot exist by themselves.
Sumana. But does not health exist in this world?
Agga. When a disease is cured, health ensues. But this health is not mere lip-health or paper health.
Sumana. Therefore I say that health is real.
Agga. You do not see my point, Sumana. Let me give you a very common illustration. When a sick child who dreads medicine tells his mother that he is well, his health is lip-health. Or again, when a physician tells his patient under treatment that he is all right, the patient's health is but lip-health in the mouth of the physician. There is a Burmese saying; 'According to the physician it matters not, only the patient cannot bear'. Health apart from sound body is therefore, merely an idea, notion or concept. To be real, it must be bound up with sound body. So any Nibbanic quality, say, your calm, to be real, must be bound up with sound khandhas. For this reason the author of the Visuddhimaggatika says; Nibbana also is even again bound up with khandhas. (Nibbanampi khandhapatibaddhameva.)
Sumana. The expression 'bound up with body' (kayapatibaddha) is applied to garments. Here garment is not body and body not garment. Hence Nibbana cannot be khandhas.
Agga. You have missed the force of the prefix pati—'again' in the expression patibaddha. A garment is actually worn or can be reworn on body. Otherwise it would become a torn cloth. Just as body is indispensable to garment, so are Khandhas to Nibbana. This view is confirmed by a Buddhist writer as follows:— 'Indeed, because Nibbana is conceived in dependence upon khandhas it is made known even through our body". (Nibbanampi hi khandhe paticca pannapanato sariram yeva pannapesi Saratthadipani.)
Sumana. I cannot assent to your proposition. The expression 'bound tip with khandhas' should be interpreted to mean 'spoken of in connection with khandhas', because we say that 'Nibbana is a cessation of khandhas'.
Agga. Pardon me, friend, if I call this a piece of pure sophistry. Why? Because a worse quibble I have not heard.
If I were to say that disease is body-bound, you would admit that body coexists with disease. But when I say that health is body-bound, you reply that health is merely spoken of in connection with body as though it were, in reality, the destruction of body itself.
Sumana. Did not Buddhaghosa, say: 'Matter and mind make up the five khandhas which constitute the reality of Ill: the previous desire which produces Ill is the reality of its root-cause; and the non-occurrence of both constitutes the reality of the cessation of Ill.' ? ( Ruparupam pancakhandham; tam hoti dukkhasaccam; tam samutthapika purimatanha: samudayassccam; ubhinnam apavatti nirodhasaccam. Sammohavinodani
Agga. The crux of this passage lies in the expression 'previous desire'. Ill proper (dukkha-dukkha) is the sensation of pain (dukkha vedana) i.e., pain felt by sentient beings. There is no such thing as positive pleasure in this world. It is but the negation of pain as cold is the negation of heat in science. We call this relative pleasure 'pain reversed' (viparinama-dukkha). Mental indifference to pain and pleasure is hedonic neutrality (upekkha-vedana). But just as there is heat in hat cold or Lukewarm water, every feeling, bodily or mental, is reducible to pain. Matter cannot feel this pain. Moreover, it is neither good nor bad. Yet it is described as Ill in the universal proposition :—'All things in the making are ill.' This ill in matter is often called the evils of evolution (sankhara-dukkha). But we agree with your master that they are described as ill because they are instrumental in giving pain to sentient beings who are still imbued with desire. One is pained when he does not get what he desires or gets what he does not desire. 'The word Ill in this connection is used in the sense of fearful or dangerous (bhayatthena dukkha, as when we speak of a deadly or dangerous weapon. But they cause no harm to anyone where desire is not.
Sumana. What! Does not a dangerous weapon cause pain against the sufferer's desire?
Agga. But pain is caused by the desire on the part of a person who uses a dangerous weapon, just as barbarous Huns are instigated by desire to cause harm to humanity. Thus, whatever ill there is in this world is traced to this real culprit desire. Convict him by all means and you may even condemn the contaminated khandhas even as you would condemn a diseased tissue or body. But when the disease is cured, why condemn the sound body? Your condemnation of all khandhas, good or bad, reminds me of those erring rishis of old who detested body and mortified it or who detested mind and stifled it. Only, you are a degree worse than either because you combine the evils of both and seek your own annihilation.
Sumana. But is not your sane mind in sound body equally subject to change as unsound mind in diseased body?
Agga. Yes, it is.
Sumana. Then what is changeful is bad ( Yam aniccam tam dukkham) and is, therefore, a thing, to be got rid of.
Agga. I have already told you that Ill is due to desire. What is changeful would be bad when it is due to desire. But the change in itself being but a characteristic mark of all realities is not bad.
Sumana. I do not approve of your statement that change is not bad and your implication that Nibbana is changing.
Agga. Dead bodies do not move. Therefore, change is but the sign of health or life. Nibbana is described as amata or accuta the deathless. The Pali amata corresponds to Sanskrit amrita or European word ambrosia, all of which mean 'deathless'. Hence all realities, including Nibbana, are in a continual flux'. (Nadi soto viya)
If you look at this flow from outside, as we average people do with intellect, the change appears to be a succession of solidified or congealed states. But if you look into it. i.e., view it from within, as Ariyans do with intuition, the same change presents itself as a continuous motion as in the wave illustration which I adduced. For this reason, Buddhaghosa says: 'The one body of the Buddha is not subject to change.'( Eko Buddhassa rupakayo viparinamato natthi. Visuddhimagga.)
You see from this quotation how radically different is intuition from intellect. What is regarded by intellect as changeful (viparinama dhamma) is regarded by intuition as unchangeful (aviparinama-dhamma).
Similarly with other contrasts, such as, relative (sapaccaya) and absolute (apaccaya). In this way you should understand the words unborn (ajata), unmade (akata), unmanifest (abhuta) and unconditioned (asankhata) in the language of the Udana from the inward point of view.
The monistic view which I now advocate has the advantage over the dualistic in that it is able to reconcile many apparent contradictions in scriptures without twisting the meanings of words. For example, all realities are, doubtless, caused. The denial of this fact would land us in the heresy of chance (ahetuka-ditthi. Therefore, Nibbana is caused, but it may be said to be uncaused in so far as Ariyans are concerned because they do not consider the aspect of causation while intuiting Nibbana. Again, for us who can only observe from without, Nibbana must be present in time. And yet Ariyans Intuit it as out of time (kalavimutta) because they simply abide in their own intuition (pativijjha viharati.) without reference to time concepts.
Sumana. Do you mean to say that the same mind and body which are conditioned when observed from without become unconditioned when intuited from within?
Agga. In one sense. Yes. Because if you were a contemporary observer of an Arahant from outside, you would not be able to discriminate between his personality and those of non-Arahants. We hear of Arahants and non-Arahants being mistaken, one for the other. But the Arahant himself would see his personality from within as unconditioned. If you say he sees exactly as we do, you are simply transferring your frail mind to him.
In another sense, I would reply No. For if you were to follow the history of that individual Arahant, his previous conditioned personality could not possibly be identical with unconditioned personality after arahantship was attained, since at no two consecutive moments is any reality the same.
Sumana. Then in your view, the world (sankhara) would be Nibbana.
Agga. What think you of the following passage?
'A well-trained practitioner having a good view of the waxing and waning of conditioned things directly faces Nibbana ( Samma patipanno sankharanam udayabayam sampassamano nibbanam sacchikaroti. Mindapanha.)'
Sumana. Those who clearly see the growth and decay of conditioned reality attain to the second Insight called Udayabbaya-nana and this leads by successive insights to the Path-intuition which has Nibbana for its object.
Agga. I agree. Those who attain the second Insight still discern the flowing process from outside and therefore see the reality as conditioned. This insight is often mistaken for intuition. The latter is a 'good view' of the same process of flowing from inside. Those who thus see the reality from within as unconditioned are in direct contact with Nibbana. Thus a wrong view of the real gives rise to Sankhara; a correct view (Sammaditthi), Nibbana.
Sumana. I very much doubt the correctness of your interpretation.
Agga. Can mind attend to two objects at the same time?
Sumana. Doubtless not.
Agga. Then how can a practitioner have a good view of conditioned things and at the same time directly face the unconditioned, unless both conditioned and unconditioned are merged in one flowing reality? Therefore, what I do maintain is that conditioned or unconditioned reality is our own personality respectively with or without corruptions, the only differentia being the quality of the extinction of corruptions.
Sumana. How can personality be Nibbana?
Agga. The Buddha said: 'Even in this sentient, conscious body which is but a fathom in measure I declare this world, its cause, its cessation and the path thereto' ( Imasmim yeva kalevare byamamatte samanake savinnanake lokanceva pannapemi lokasamudayanceva lokanirodhanca lokanirodhagaminipadanca. Sagatha-Vagga-Samyutta.)
Here the reality is analysed into four different aspects. But it is plain that you should not look for Nibbana outside your own system. It is not something already existing before you attain it.
Neither is it a locality which awaits your arrival as Nagasena in Milindapanha pointed out, by an example of fire produced by the friction of two pieces of wood, that there is no space in which Nibbana that exists like a fire so produced is inherent (nissitokaso or nikkhitokaso). This fire example however clearly shows that there must be a locus when the fire is produced. And that locus for Nibbana is no other than our own personality purged from corruptions.
Sumana. But did not the Buddha say that Nibbana is external to us (bahiddha-dhammo).?
Agga. Ah! Yes, because it is now outside us who have not yet attained it." (Sabbasnkharato bahibhutam nibbanam. Uparipannasa tika.) But did not the Buddha himself equally say that the deathless element free from upadhis (of kamma, kilesa, khandha and kamma) is in direct contact with our own system?' (Kayena amatam dhatum phusitva nirupadhim. Itivuttaka. ) Again in the Canki Sutta of the Majjhimapannasa the Buddha said that one is in direct contact with Nibbana at the same time he intuits it.'( Kayena c'eva paramam saccam sacchikaroti pannaya ca tam pativijjha passati. Majjhimapannasa.) This passage alone is sufficient to prove that when one abides in an intuition (pativijjha viharati as Budddhaghosa said in the Atthasalini), i.e., when one enters Nibbana by penetrative wisdom, Nibbana as an object of intuition can no longer be external to him who is within it. To a Nibbanic being there is no division as external or internal (abheda)!. The dual classification, in fact all classification, is meant for us who have not yet attained intuition and therefore view realities from outside. Do you agree or do you not?
Nana. I admit the absence of any distinction whatsoever in Nibbana. But Nibbana is defined by Buddhaghosa in Sammohavinodani as that in which the rounds of evils (rodha) cease to exist.
Agga. Yes. But it clearly shows that Nibbana or Nirodha is not mere cessation. It is the locus (not the locality)' where evils cease. And this locus is no other than personality purged from corruptions.
Sumana. How will you reconcile this view of yours with the usual explanation of the word cessation (nirodha) by 'not becoming' (anuppadana)?
Agga. From the tree illustration you will remember that the cessation is that of future corruptions. But it is not mere unbecoming of future corruptions, for there must be a locus in the form of our personality wherein future corruptions arise no more.
Sumana. I admit that what you have said about Nibbana being our personality relates to the Sa-upadisesa Nibbana. But I still maintain that there is no becoming whatsoever in the An-upadisesa Nibbana where no residual stuff of life is said to remain.
Agga. All authorities are agreed that both forms of Nibbana are but two aspects (pariyayas, as they appear to us, of one real Nibbana as it is lived by an Arahant. But let us try to clearly understand what is meant by upadi.
This word is often confused with upadhi. The latter is derived from upa and root dha—' to bear, conduct or carry' and is applied to four things, namely, corruptions, sensual desires, aggregates (khandhas) and kamma as we have seen above. There are passages as in the Mahaniddesa in which Nibbana is described as the locus in which all upadhis have been given up". (Sabbupadhinisaggo ...... Nibbanam.) In the Sagathavagga Samyutta the Brahma who has attained Nibbana is described as a nirupadhi. ( Brahmano parinibbuto ...... nirupadhi.) So also in Majjhima-pannasa'.(Sitibhutam nirupadhim ,,,,,, dhiram, tam brumi brahmanam.) As upadhi includes khandhas an arahant who is a nirupadhi must be free from unsound khandhas.
Sumana. I beg your pardon. The word upadhi in 'nirupadhi' as applied to an arahant must be confined to kilesupadhi. Or if you want to extend it to khandhupadhi also, you may do so only by anticipation i.e. you call an arahant a nirupadhi by anticipation since he is sure to give up the upadhi of khandhas soon on attainment of the Anupadisesa Nibbana.
Agga. Let that be for a moment. But upadhi is derived from upa and the verb adiyati—' to be grasped' and means the five khandhas grasped at by four upadanas. (Catuhi upadanehi upadiyatiti upadi, pancupadanakkhandha. Abhidhammatthasangaha-tika.) Now there is a school of thought in Burma which holds that our khandhas are upadanakkhandhas with reference to us mortals who are not yet free from upadana but they are mere khandhas with reference to the Buddha and Arahants who are free. According to this school the same set of khandhas appear differently to the two sets of viewers. But the orthodox view according to the Dhammasangani is that the worldly mind and material body alone are upadaniya and the transcendent, spiritual consciousness which is beyond the reach of upadanas is anupadaniya. If the upadaniya corresponds to the upadanakkhandhas, as held by your master, it follows that the anupadaniya, namely the transcendent consciousness, obtains in the Anupadisesa Nibbana.
And yet ninety-nine per cent, of Burman Buddhists, however, understand this word upadi to mean all kinds of khandhas. But let us hear Buddhaghosa who writes:-
'The Anupadisesa Nibbana is so-called because of the non-becoming of the five khandhas which have been 'grasped at' as effects by the kamma attended by desire, pride and error. ( Upadinnakanam pancannam khandhanam apavattivasena anupadisesanibbanam kathitam. Commentary on Sagathovagga Samyutta.)
It is therefore, clear that only the upadinnaka khandhas cease to exist in the Anupadisesa Nibbana. Transcendental consciousness (Lokuttara citta) not being born of such a kamma, cannot be said to be upadinnaka. Hence we may conclude that the anupadinnaka khandhas, to wit, the fruitional consciousness of arahantship obtains in the Anupadisesa Nibbana as in the Saupadisesa.
Hence Buddhaghosa's dictum that by Nibbana is meant the fruitional consciousness of an Arahant.( Idha (nibbanam) arahattaphalam adhippetam tampi hi ......nibbanan ti. Khuddaka Patha-atthakatha.)
Sumana. Against Buddhaghosa we may oppose the Buddha himself who said:—
'Here, i. e. in this Nibbana, both mind and matter cease without a residuum. ( Ettha rupanca namanca asesam uparujjhanti. Digha Nikaya.)
Agga. You read the Buddha's word literally. But Buddhaghosa knew better than you or I how to interpret the Buddha's language and thought correctly. If you cannot reconcile the two, you have only yourself to blame. The trend of your argument reminds me of the recent controversy on the subject of water elephant. Suppose a naturalist were to tell you that there is no elephant in water and suppose that his pupil tells you that by elephant his master meant land elephant, would you be justified in your conclusion that there is no water elephant?
Sumana. Assuredly not.
Agga. Then why conclude that there are no anupadinnaka khandhas in Nibbana when Buddhaghosa tells us that by mind and matter in this connection the Buddha meant the upadinnaka khandhas?Many persons who have never even dreamt of the existence of water elephants deny their existence. A few persons possess dried specimens of this miniature water creature which, in all its appearance is a quadruped with well formed tusks and trunk. The former distrust their senses and cry 'A faked one!' On examining the anatomy of this little animal under a microscope, it is found to he a true structure even as specimens of paleontological flora and fauna preserved in rocks and earth. Would you still doubt the existence of this genus of the little animal?
Sumana. Certainly not. But it cannot he the same kind of elephant which we know on land.
Agga. Quite so. In the same way the anupadinnaka khandhas can not possibly be the same as the upadinnaka.
Sumana. If the anupadinnaka khandhasobtain in Nibbana, why did some authorities speak of the complete cessation of khandhas (Khandha parinibbana) at Kusinara?
Agga. If Buddhaghosa's interpretation of the Buddha's word be correct only the upadinnaka khandhascease on finally passing away from the world. Just as an event which we call death (sammuti-marana) does not interrupt the natural flow of the reality of life in this world, so the final death (pacchima-cuti) of an Arahant does not interrupt the flow of the reality of Nibbana from the Saupadisea to the Anupadisesa form.
Sumana. Then you mean that the fruitional consciousness of an Arahant survives after finally passing away from this world?
Agga. Yes. It is the survival of the fittest flowing on and on with out interruption, any break in its continuity being but an invention of our intellect.
Sumana. In that case this surviving consciousness would be Nama.
Agga. Yes. Buddhaghosa says: Namadhammas include four mental khandhas as well as Nibbana. (Namadhammati cattaro arupino khandha ca nibbananca. Commentary on Mula-Ya-maka.)
Sumana. Is it not that four immaterial khandhas are called Nama because it bends (nameti) the mind to it and that Nibbana is also called Nama because (spiritual) mind tends (namiyati) to it.
Agga. This grammatical distinction is due to your view of the mind as subject and of Nibbana as object. But the latter cannot be an object without a subject. The fact is that the subject and the object are merged in an intuition. This follows from Buddhaghosa's dictum that Nibbana is the fruitional consciousness itself. Nibbana is not thought but lived. Else Nibbana would he merely lip-bliss.
Sumana. Am I to understand you to say that individuals exist in Nibbana.?
Agga. It all depends upon what you mean by 'individual'. If you mean a soul in the sense in which it is generally understood in the West, I would reply No, because the ego idea is but a concept. But if you use the word as a mere label for realities, I would say Yes. Sariputta was a distinct individual from Moggallana on this side of the veil. Why should not their continuations be individually distinct on the other side?
Each lives his own Nibbana. (Paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi.) But it does not follow that they draw a line of demarcation between meum and tuum on the other side any more than they do on this side.
Sumana. I cannot agree to individual existence in Nibbana.
Agga. Sumana, you are a good controversialist. What do you make of the orthodox question whether the Khandhas are one thing, Nibbana another and the soul a third; and the heterodox negative reply in Kathavattu?
Sumana. I return your compliments. We must go a little way back in order to understand the controverted point.
Sumana. The believer in the soul committed himself to an opinion that the soul is neither conditioned nor unconditioned. The orthodox adherent pointed out that the Buddha taught only two things—conditioned and unconditioned—but not a third.
Agga. I would say two aspects instead of two things. But be pleased to proceed with your own explanation.
Sumana. Then the orthodox questioned whether khandhas are conditioned and Nibbana unconditioned. The heterodox reply was in the affirmative. Finally, the question you have referred to was put. And the opponent was cornered and obliged to negative his position that the soul is a third class of things neither conditioned nor unconditioned since it is but a metaphysical abstraction not having a distinct, in dependent existence like realities mentioned. He thereby confirms the distinction between conditioned khandhas and unconditioned Nibbana.
Agga. A very plausible explanation. But the final question and answer on analysis resolve themselves into:—
Are Khandhas and Nibbana different? No.
Are Khandhas and soul different? No.
Are Nibbana and soul different? No.
You would like to answer the first of these sub-questions in the affirmative because of your conviction that Khandhas and Nibbana are radically different. But you are called in not to alter the form of the answer but only to interpret it. As the soul is but a metaphysical abstraction as you have pointed out, there are only two terms left to he compared. And their difference is negatived because a conditioned and unconditioned are but two aspects of one and the same reality.
Sumana. I cannot accept your explanation.
Agga. What think you of another conversation between the orthodox and his opponent relating to the existence or non-existence of an individual in Nibbana? When asked whether persons (puggalas) who have attained Nibbana exist therein or not, the first heterodox reply was in the affirmative. But when pressed with the further question whether such a person is a permanent soul, the reply was in the negative. Then the opponent shifted his ground and changed his first affirmative answer to negative, But when again pressed with the question whether such a person was annihilated, he was equally compelled to negate annihilation.
Sumana. The opponent was on the horns of dilemma because of his belief in the soul which is really non-existent.
Agga. The dilemma is quite independent of the question of soul. If you believe that realities are perduring or abiding without change, you would equally commit yourself to the heresy of eternalism. If, on the other hand, you say that they are annihilated, you would equally adopt the opposite heresy of annihilation. To escape the horns you must say that realities are in a continuous flow.
Sumana. In the case of realities not surviving the final death, there can be no question of these two heresies because it is only in respect to the soul (atta) that these heresies obtain.
Agga. But how can a person who believes in the theory of immortal soul possibly commit himself again to the opposite theory of its annihilation? By atta is meant permanent self corresponding to the immortal soul of Europeans. Therefore in our view the attavada is identical with the sassata-ditthi to which is opposed the uccheda-ditthi. Hence the latter view is impossible in respect to atta.
Again if your views be correct, the opponent having answered that a permanent soul does not exist in Nibbana, there would be no necessity on the part of the orthodox for the further question whether such a nonexistent soul is annihilated.
Sumana. I forgot. The second question in the Kathavatthu, viz., Is a person who has attained Nibbana annihilated?, was asked by the heterodox believer in the theory of immortal soul.
Agga. Admitting for argument sake that it was the heterodox question, the orthodox negative reply would rather confirm the view that such a person is not annihilated.
Sumana.. The orthodox negatived the annihilation of a person because Person does not exist at all, except as a concept, to be annihilated.
Agga. Plausible. But for reasons already given, that is not the traditional view. According to able translators of Buddhaghosa's commentary on the Kathavatthu, both questions were asked by the orthodox; and they are logical, for when the heterodox replied that the Nibbanic being is not immortal, it was perfectly legitimate for the orthodox to press his opponent with the further question as to annihilation, as explained by me above.
Sumana. Let that be. But the answers of the opponent are not of much value.
Agga. Then let us reverse the position by attending to the Buddha's own answers to King Kosala's questions in the Samyutta respecting the existence of individual beings in Nibbana.
The first pair of his answers was: 'Neither do I declare that such a being is existent nor do I declare that he is non-existent.' The Buddha indulged in this apparent paradox in order to avoid the two extreme views of eternalism and annihilation. But if there were no such a being at all in Nibbana, what necessity was there for the Buddha to re-affirm his existence?
Sumana. But did not the Buddha tell the King that such a Nibbanic being is altogether freed from mind and body?
Agga. Assuredly not. He said that such a being is free or freed from concepts of mind and matter (rupasankha-vimutto. . . . vinnanasankhavimutto) instead of saying free from mind and matter (rupa-vimutto ... vinnana-vimutto). He further told the King that such a Nibbanic being is deep like an ocean and is difficult to understand. But this remark is intended for all who cannot avoid concepts. The author of the Netti used the word sankhaye (in extinction) instead of sankha (from concepts). This makes all the difference in the world. He regards the Nibbanic being as free in the extinction of colour, sound, odour, taste, touch and knowablity Cupasankhaye vimutto...... dhammasankhaye vimutto). In this view the Nibbanic being is a colourless, soundless, odourless, tasteless, intangible and unknowable being. How can Nibbana which is included in the cognizable objects (dhammayatana) be realised in the extinction of dhammarammanas? Free from what? If you take Nibbana as an object of transcendental consciousness, it would be a manifest contradiction to say that it is extinct as such. But if you take it to be a subject identical with the fruitional consciousness of an Arahant, how can it subsist without an object? I have more than once repeated that the subject and the object are merged in one reality, Nibbana, which is simply lived without a thought of any of its aspects which would strike an outside observer.
Sumana. I understand you to hold that the mental khandhas obtain in Nibbana. But did not some writers say that it is emancipated from khandhas (khandha-nissato)?
Agga. The Compendium has khandha-sangaha-nissata, literally 'Freed from the reckoning of khandhas'. You should understand it in the sense of freedom from the upadinnaka,-khandhas or in that of freedom from concepts of khandhas.
Sumana. But did not the Buddha say in the Udana that there is no earth, no water, no fire, no air, no sun, no moon, etc., in Nibbana?
Agga. Yes, because there are no concepts of all these objects to a Nibbanic being.
Sumana. Will you now summarise your position?
Agga. The Nibbana of a being is his own mind purged from corruptions. It forms no exception to the law of reality. That is, it is a continuous flowing existence. Though the Nibbana of yesterday is not that of today, Nibbana is spoken of as permanent (i. e. sassate or dhuva) in the sense that once attained it never reverts to a worldly state. These two words are not to be understood in the sense in which they are used by the heterodox believers to designate a permanent abiding soul. They must be understood rather in the sense in which modern statesmen use the word 'permanent' when they speak of permanent peace as one that will never be again disturbed by a state of war.
Sumana. Granted that there is such a purified spiritual mind in Nibbana. Would you allow the existence of body also therein.?
Agga. We know that transcendental consciousness is always associated with body. But we are taught to believe also that mind can exist independently of body in the Arupa world and that the arahant exists also in that world. It is difficult to decide whether the Arahants develop their spiritual bodies as well as on the other side of the veil. The author of the Anutika says that Nibbana is something like subtle matter? (Nibbanam pana sukhuma-rupa-gatikam.) Whether he refers to the spiritual substance of mind or body is not clear. At this stage of our discussion I would hand over the argument to my friend from Henzada as his master held that there is unique body as well in Nibbana.
Teja. Yes, my master cited the Sutta of the Tiloka-Cakravatti in support of his contention. The Buddha told us that when he was that universal monarch he built mansions and invited the previous Buddhas and Arahants from Nibbana and that their doubles (nimmita-rupas) came.
Sunmana. How do you know that these were not the mental creations of the King himself?
Teja. Because they are said to have conversed on philosophy (abhidhamma) which the King at that time did not understand. If they were his own creations, they would not be able to go beyond his mind. That is, be could not possibly suggest philosophical ideas which were not in his mind. Hence we must assume that the real Buddhas and Arahants who were ever living their own flowing Nibbanas, created their own doubles just as the Buddha himself in his lifetime in this world is said to have created a double for preaching philosophy to the gods in the Tavatimsa heaven during his temporary absence on earth.
Sumana. Supposing they were living as pure spiritual minds, could they not materialise bodies for such occasions?
Sumana. There is some difficulty in the supposition that Nibbanic beings ever associate themselves with the concerns of this world. U Agga has told us that a Nibbanic being consists of the fruitional consciousness of the highest Ariyanship solely occupied with its own tranquillity, calm or peace as its object. How would it be possible for such a self-absorbed being to hear the appeals of Tiloka from this earth?. Or if he be supposed to be endowed with supernormal powers to know the wishes of worldly people, as by telepathy, his Nibbanic flow would be interrupted.
Teja. The time of such interruption would he so short as to be negligible. In any case such interruption, if any would be no more than that of the Saupadisesa by Kiriya-cittas, (non-effective thoughts).
Agga. Even assuming that a Nibbanic being cannot or will not think of this world, it does not invalidate my argument for spiritual existence in Nibbana.
Tissa. I have taken very little active part in this lively discussion. But methinks the moon-lit hills of Sagaing are illumined with greater radiance and lustre to-night even as the beauty and brilliancy of the moon-lit groves of Gosing was enhanced by the righteous discourse on philosophy between the Great Moggallana and another.
Teja. I have also been, more or less, a listener. These hills, secluded from the noisy bustle of the world, seem to me to resound with a sweet resonance which will produce reverberating echoes throughout the length and breadth of the country, aye, the whole of the Buddhist world.
Agga. It augurs well that both of you appreciate our friendly exchange of views and I have no misgivings that something good will come of our meeting on this auspicious occasion. Sumana, I am very pleased to have an opportunity of discussing with you the question of questions. A problem, rationally approached, is on its fair way to proper solution. I trust that you will hear the message of Nibbana to the world. Brethren, the night has far advanced and it is time for us to retire. Good night to all.
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