Points of Controversy

1.5. Of Renouncing Evil

Controverted Point: That the average man renounces sensuous passions and ill-will.

Theravādin: You maintain that, as average man, he does renounce them. Now by “renouncing” I imply that he renounces for ever, without remainder, severing all connection with them, them and their roots, and all desire for them, and all latent bias toward them; renounces them by Ariyan insight, by the Ariyan path; renounces them while experiencing the immutable; renounces them while realizing the Fruit of the Never-Returner. This you deny.

And if, for “renouncing,” you substitute “arresting,” I claim the same implications, and you deny them.

The person who works for the realization of the Never-Returner’s Fruit: he renounces, he arrests in this thorough-going way—on that we are agreed. But does the average man? You deny this no less than I.

But if you apply these words “renounce,” “arrest” in your limited meaning to the average man, you must also apply them, as meaning just so much and no more, to the candidate for the Fruit of the Never-Returner.

By what path (or means) does your average man renounce sensuous passions and ill-will?

Sammitīya: By the path that belongs to the Rūpa-sphere

Theravādin: Now does that path lead men out of the round of rebirth? Does it go to extinction of Suffering, to Enlightenment, to disaccumulation? Is it clear of defilements, fetters, ties, floods, bonds, hindrances, uninfected, clear of what makes for grasping and for corruption? Is it not true, on the other hand, that this path is not any of these things? How, then, can you say that by it an average man renounces sensuous passions and ill-will?

You agree that the path practised by the person who works for the realization of the Never-Returner’s Fruit possesses all those qualities. But you should agree that that path belonging to the Rūpa-sphere possesses the same qualities since you claim that by it the average man renounces even as the Never-Returner renounces. But you admit it has the opposite qualities? Then, by parity of reasoning, you should find those opposite qualities in the path practised by the Never-Returner since you claim that by it the latter arrives at the same renunciation as does the average man.

You say that an average man, who is done with lusting after sensuous pleasures, as soon as he has comprehended the truth, becomes forthwith established in the fruition of the Never-Returner—why not add in Arahantship? Why stop short of this?

You must also admit that he has been practising the First, Second, and Third Paths at the same time, realizing the respective Fruits at the same time, and experiencing a combination of the respective contacts, feelings, perceptions, volitions, cognitions, believings, endeavours, reflections, and samādhis all at different stages of evolution which characterize each upward step.

Or, if he does not arrive at the Third Fruit in this way, by what path does he arrive? “By the path of the Never-Returner,” say you? Yet you deny that the renouncing of the three fetters—theory of a self, doubt, and the misapprehension of behaviour and vows—belongs to the work of the Never-Returning Path. No, you must admit it since you leave your average man no other path, although it was said, was it not, by the Exalted One that the Fruit of the First Path was got by the renouncing of those three fetters?

Once more, you deny that, by that Third Path, gross, sensuous desires and the coarser forms of ill-will are renounced. No, but you are bound to admit this, for was it not said by the Exalted One that the Fruit of the Second Path was got by the reducing sensuous passions and ill-will to a minimum?

Finally, by your previous assertion concerning the average man’s comprehending the truth Kv1.5.11, you are bound to admit, though you deny it, that all who comprehend the truth, the Dhamma, are established in the Never- Returner’s Fruit as soon as that comprehension arises.

Sammitīya: But if the controverted question is to be answered by “No,” was it not said by the Exalted One:

“In days of old on earth there lived
Six teachers whom men flocked to hear.
No flesh they ate for pity’s sake,
Freed from the bonds of sense-desires.
No taste had they for fleshly lusts.
In Brahma-heaven they found rebirth.

“Disciples too of them there were,
Souls by the hundred not a few.
No flesh they ate for pity’s sake,
Freed from the bonds of sense-desires.
No taste had they for fleshly lusts.
In Brahma-heaven they found rebirth.”

Is the Suttanta thus?

Theravādin: Yes. But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Verily, bhikkhus, I say unto you that this teacher, Sunetta, though he lived long maintaining life on earth, did not get released from birth, decay, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and despair. Why urns he not released from suffering? Because he had not enlightenment nor penetration concerning four things. What were they? The virtue, the samādhi, the understanding, the emancipation of the Ariyan. Once, bhikkhus, these four are understood and penetrated, then is the thirst for becoming cut off, then is the lust for becoming perished, then is there no more coming back to be. …

“The virtuous habit and the mind intent,
Insight and utmost range of liberty:
All these are known to Gotama renowned.
His understanding mastering all its truth,
The Buddha to the Brethren taught the Dhamma;
Our Teacher, Seer, Ender of all Suffering,
Perfected life and wholly passed away”?

Is the Suttanta thus? Hence it is not right to say “the average man as such renounces sensuous passions and ill-will.”