Points of Controversy

1.3. Of the Higher Life

Controverted Point: That there is no higher life among the devas.

The Theravādin speaks:

You deny the practice of the higher life among devas; yet you deny also that they are physically, mentally, or morally defective: that they are, all of them, stupid, deaf and dumb, unintelligent, communicating by signs, and incapable of discerning the meaning of what is well or badly spoken; that they all lack faith in the Buddha, the Doctrine, the Saṅgha; that they did not attend the Exalted Buddha; ask him questions and delight in his answers; that they are all of them handicapped by their actions, by the corruptions, by the effect of their actions; that they are all faithless, devoid of purpose and understanding, incapable of reaching the right Saṅgha of the Path in things that are good; that they are matricides, parricides, murderers of saints, shedders of holy blood, schismatics; that they all take life, steal, are unchaste, liars,slanderers, revilers, idle talkers, given to covetousness, ill-will and erroneous opinion.

No, you maintain on the other hand that they are, and practise the opposite of all this. How then can you say there is no religious life among them?

The Sammitīya speaks:

You maintain the thesis in the affirmative, and yet you deny that devas practise renouncing the world, the tonsure, wearing the yellow robes, carrying the beggar’s bowl; you deny that either a Supremely Awakened one, or those enlightened for self only, or the pair of chief disciples, appear among the devas. Where then is their “religious life”?

Theravādin speaks:

We agree that among the gods these practices and advents are not found. But is the religious life found only where these things are observed—the renunciation, the tonsure and the rest—and not where they are not observed? Only there, you say; and yet when I ask: “Does he who renounces the world, and so forth, lead the religious life, and does he who does not renounce the world, etc., not lead the religious life,” you do not agree.

Again, do you maintain that only where Buddhas arise is there religious life, and that where they do not arise, there is none? You vacillate in your reply. Now the Exalted One was born in Lumbini, became supremely enlightened at the foot of the Bodhi Tree, and set turning the Dhamma-Wheel at Benares. Is the religious life to be observed in those places only and not elsewhere?

I ask a similar question with regard to the Middle Country, where there have been advents of those awakened for self alone, and with regard to the Magadhese, where there was the advent of a chief pair of disciples.

Sammitīya: You claim that the religious life is practiced among devas, yet you deny that it is universally practised, for instance, among the devas of the “unconscious sphere.”

Theravādin: This is only what we should both claim and deny for mankind, for instance, that whereas the religious life is practised among men, it is not practised among the untutored barbarians of the border countries, where there is no rebirth of such as become religieux of either sex, or of believing laymen and lay women.

Sammitīya: You say with respect to the religious life in deva-worlds, “There are spheres where it exists, there are other spheres where it does not”: are both these conditions represented in the unconscious sphere, and both in the worlds of conscious devas? If not, then where does it exist and where does it not exist?

Theravādin: The religious life exists only among such devas as are conscious.

Theravādin: You admit that the religious life is practiced among men.

Sammitīya: In certain places only, not in others.

Theravādin: Do you mean to say that both kind of places are represented in the outlying border countries, among untrained barbarians, where none are born who become religieux or pious laymen and lay women? If not, how can you claim that the religious life is practised at all? Where is it practised?

Sammitīya: In the Middle Country, not in the outlying border countries.

Sammitīya: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“In three respects, bhikkhus, do the people of India excel both those of North Kuru and the Three-and-Thirty gods: in courage, in mindfulness, and in the religious life.”

Is the Suttanta thus? Does it not show there is no religious life among devas?

Theravādin: Did not the Exalted One say at Savatthi:

“Here the religious life is practised”

And does this show that it was only practised at Savatthi, and not elsewhere?

Again, the Never-Returner, for whom the five “lower fetters” are done away with, but not, as yet, the five “upper fetters,” deceases “here,” is reborn “there”—where for him does the fruit of his works arise? “There,” and only there, you say. How then can you deny religious life among the devas?

For when such an one is reborn “there,” it is there that he “gets rid of the burden,” there that he comprehends the nature of Suffering, there that he puts away the corruptions, there that he realizes the cessation of Suffering, there that he has intuition of the immutable. What then do you mean when you say, “There is no religious life among the devas?”

Sammitīya: Because it was here that he practised that Path of which he there realizes the fruit.

Theravādin: If you admit that the Never-Returner realizes fruit there by the Path practised here, you must also admit that the Stream-Winner realizes fruit here by path practice there. You must, similarly, admit that the Once- Returner and the person completing existence here, realize here the fruit won by path-practice there.

Furthser, since you do admit that the Stream-Winner realizes fruit here won by path-practice here, you must admit that the Never-Returner may, similarly, realize fruit there won by path-practice there. Again, just as you admit that the Once-Returner and the person completing existence may, by path-practice here, realize fruit here, so must you similarly admit that the Never-Returner may realize fruit there won by path-practice there.

If you declare that a person who, “leaving this life, attains consummation in the Pure Abodes,” practises the path without putting away the corruptions, you must admit it no less in the case of a person who has worked for the realization of the fruit of Stream-Winning, or the fruit of the One-Return, or the fruit of Arahantship.

Again, if you declare that a person who has worked for the realization of the fruit of Stream-Winning, or for the fruit of the One-Return, or for that of Arahantship, practices the path and puts away the corruptions simultaneously, you must also admit as much in his case who, leaving this life, attains consummation in the Pure Abodes.

You are admitting by the position taken up with regard to the thesis, that a Never-Returning person, when he is reborn there, has “done that which was to be done,” is in the condition of having practised. But this is tantamount to declaring that the Arahant is reborn—that the Arahant goes from one life to another, goes from one destination to another, goes from one cycle to another of renewed life, goes from one rebirth to another—which of course you deny.

You cannot, again, admit those qualifications in the Never-Returner and deny him those of “one who has got rid of the burden, “when he is reborn there; for then you must admit that he will there practise the path again to get rid of the burden.

Similarly, whatever other attainments in the religious life you withhold from the Never-Returner on his final rebirth there: understanding of Suffering, putting away of corruptions, realization of the cessation of Suffering, intuition of the immutable—you compel him, in order to win them, to “practise the path” among the devas as deva. Else you declare implicitly that he there completes existence without winning one or the other of them.

Sammitīya: Just as a deer wounded by an arrow, though he may run far, yet dies of his hurt, even so does the Never-Returner, by the path here practised, realize there he fruit thereof.

Theravādin: The deer wounded by an arrow, though he run far, yet dies of his hurt with the arrow in him. But does the Never-Returner, when by the path here practised he there realizes the fruit thereof, bear the arrow with him?

Sammitīya: No, that cannot truly be said.