Points of Controversy

1.6. Of Everything as persistently existing

Controverted Point: That everything exists.

1.6.1. To Purge Abstract Time-Ideas

Theravādin: You say that “all exists”. Hereby you are involved in these further admissions:

All exists everywhere, at all times, in every way, in all things, not in a combined state, the non-existent exists, the right view which looks upon your wrong view as wrong exists.

Again, taking all in terms of time, you affirm that the past exists, the future exists, the present exists. But is not the past something that has ceased—that is, departed, changed, gone away, gone utterly away? How then can you say “the past exists”? Again, is not the future something that is not yet born, not yet come to be, not yet come to pass, has not happened, not befallen, is not manifested? How then can you say “the future exists”?

The present, you say, exists; and the present is something that has as yet not ceased, not departed, not changed, not gone away, not utterly gone away. And the past, you say, “exists”; then you should say of the past also that it has not ceased, not departed, and so on.

Again, the present, you say, exists—that is, it is born, has become, has come to pass, happened, befallen, is manifested. And the future, you say, “exists”; then you should say of the future also that it is born, has become, and so on.

Again, the past, you say, exists, and yet that it has ceased, departed, and so on. And the present, you say, exists; then you should say of the present also that it has ceased, departed, and so on.

Once more, the future, you say, exists, and yet that it is not born, not become, and so on. And the present, you say, exists; then you should say of the present also that it is not born, not become, and so on.

Do past material qualities exist? “Yes,” you say. But if you describe these in terms of what “has ceased,” and so on, as aforesaid, how can you say “those past qualities exist”? Similarly, for future material qualities—if they in common with all that is future are not born, and so on, how can they be said to exist?

Similarly, the other more general admissions afore-stated apply also to material qualities in particular: if in saying “present material qualities exist,” you mean they have “not ceased to be,” etc., then if past material qualities “exist,” they also have “not ceased to be,” etc. And if, in saying present material qualities “exist,” you mean they are “born, are come to be,” etc., then, if future material qualities “exist,” they also are “born, are come to be,” etc. Again, if in saying “past material qualities exist,” you mean that they have “ceased, departed,” etc., then, if present material qualities “exist” they also have “ceased,” etc.

And if, in saying “future material qualities exist,” you mean they are “not yet born,” etc., then, if present material qualities “exist,” they also are “not yet born,” etc.

And all these arguments apply equally to each of the other four aggregates—to feeling, to perception, to mental coefficients, to consciousness.

For instance, if, in saying, “present consciousness exists,” you mean it has not ceased to be, not departed, etc., then, if past consciousness still“exists” it also has not “ceased to be, departed,” etc. And if, in saying “present consciousness exists” you mean it is born, is come to be, etc., then, if future consciousness, as you say, “exists” it also “is born, is come to be,” etc. Again, if, in saying “past consciousness exists,” you mean it has ceased, departed, etc., then, if present consciousness, as you say, “exists,” it also has ceased, departed,” etc. And if, in saying “future consciousness exists,” you mean it is not yet born, has not come to be, etc., then, when you say “present consciousness exists” it also is not yet born, has not come to be” etc.

In the expression “present material-aggregate,” in whichever order you use the two terms, if no distinction is made between each, if they are used as identical, of one import, as the same, as of the same content and origin, then when you say, that (A) present material-aggregate, on ceasing, gives up its present state, you must also admit that (A1) material-aggregate gives up its materiality. Similarly, when you say, that (a) present material-aggregate on ceasing does not give up its materiality, you must also admit that (a1) it does not give up its presence (present state).

Sarvāstivādin: But in the expression “white cloth,” in whichever order you use the terms, if no distinction is made between each, if they are used as identical, of one import, as the same, as one in content and origin, then when you say (A) “white cloth when it is being dyed loses its whiteness” you must also admit (A1) it loses its “clothness.”

Again, in the expression “white cloth” in whichever order you use the terms, if no distinction is made between each, if they are used as aforesaid, then when you say (a) “white cloth when it is being dyed does not give up its clothness” you must also admit that (a1) it does not give up its whiteness. …

Theravādin: If you assert that the material-aggregate retains its materiality, you must admit that the material-aggregate is permanent, persistent, eternal, not subject to change. You know that the opposite is true; hence it should not be said that materiality is retained.

Nibbāna does not abandon its state as Nibbāna—by this we mean Nibbāna is permanent, persistent, eternal, not subject to change. And you ought to mean this, too, in the case of material-aggregate, if you say that the latter does not abandon its materiality.

Do you mean by “material-aggregate does not abandon its materiality,” that the aggregate is impermanent, non-persistent, temporary, subject to change? You assent. Well, then, you should affirm the same with regard to Nibbāna when you say: Nibbāna does not abandon its state as Nibbāna. …

If, in your statement “the past exists” (Kv1.6.2), you mean it retains its pastness or preterition, then in your statement “the future exists” (Kv1.6.2) you ought to mean: it retains its futurity, and in your statement “the present exists,” you ought to mean: it retains its presentness, or presence. Each of these affirmations involves a similar affirmation respecting the other two divisions of time.

If the past “exists” and retains its preterition, then must it be permanent, persistent, eternal, not subject to change; and this, you admit, is not right. When you say Nibbāna exists, and retains its state as Nibbāna, you mean: it is permanent and so on. So much also must you mean if you predicate the same respecting “the past.” Or, if you do not mean that the past is permanent and so on, when you say “it exists and retains its pretention,” then when you say this of Nibbāna, you imply that Nibbāna is impermanent and so on.

All the foregoing Kv1.6.9-Kv.1.6.12) applies equally to the particular past, future, and present things called “the five aggregates’—e.g:

If, in your statement “past consciousness exists,” you mean: it retains its preterition, then, in your statement “future consciousness exists,” you must mean: such consciousness retains its futurity; also, in your statement” present consciousness exists,” you must mean such consciousness retains its presence. And each of these affirmations involves a similar affirmation respecting the other two divisions of time. Again, if past consciousness exists and retains its pretention, then must it be permanent, persistent, eternal, not subject to change—and this you admit is not right. When you say, “Nibbāna exists and retains its state as Nibbāna,” you mean it is permanent and so on. So much also must you mean, if you predicate the same respecting past consciousness. Or, if you do not mean that past consciousness is permanent and so on, when you say “it exists and retains its pretention,” then when you say this of Nibbāna, you imply that Nibbāna is impermanent, not persistent, temporary, subject to change. …

Is the past a non-existent thing? If you say “yes,” you must reject your view that the past exists. If you say “the non-past exists,” then to say “there exists a past,” is equally wrong.

Again, is the future a non-existent thing? If you say “yes,” you must reject your view that the future exists. If you say “the non-future alone exists,” then to say “there exists the future,” is equally wrong.

Does that which has been future become present? If you assent, you must admit that that which was future is the same as that which is now present. You admit this? Then you must admit that anything which having been future, is present, will in turn, having been future, become once more present. You admit this? Then you must also admit that that which, not having been future, is not present, will not in turn have been future only to become present again.

This series of dilemmas is also applicable to “present” and “past,” thus: Does that which has been present become past? If so, you must admit that that which was present is the same as that which is past. If you do admit this, you must also admit that anything which having been present, is past will in turn have been present only to become past once more If you do admit this, you must also admit it as true for their contradictories.

Similarly for future, present, past: Does the future, having been, become present, and the present, having been, become past? If so, you must admit that these three are identical, and that the process of becoming the one after having been the other is repeated. If you do admit this, you must admit it as true for their contradictories.

1.6.3. Applications Of The Purged Time-Ideas

Do all the conditions of an act of visual perception: eye, visible objects, visual consciousness, light, attention, when past, exist? If you say “yes,” you should also admit that one sees the object that is past with an eye that is past. Similarly, for all the conditions of all other varieties of sense-perception that are past—to wit: ear, audible objects, auditory consciousness, space, attention; the nose, odours, olfactory consciousness, air, attention; the tongue, sapid objects, sapid consciousness, liquid, attention; body, touches, body-consciousness, extensity, attention; mind, objects of consciousness, reflection, the seat of mental activity, attention. For instance, taking the last: you should then also admit that one perceives the “past” object of consciousness with the “past” mind.

Similarly, if the conditions of a future act of sense-perception exist—e.g., eye, visible objects, visual consciousness, light, attention—then one should see future object with future eye, and so on. For if you say that the conditions of present visual and other perception exist, and that you see present objects with an eye, etc., that is present, so, if you maintain that the past conditions of sense-perception “exist,” must you say that with the past eye one sees past objects, etc.; and similarly for future conditions of sense-perception.

If you deny that with the past eye, visible objects, visual consciousness existing, one does not see past objects with past eyes, equally must you deny that, with the conditions for present vision existing, one does not see present objects with present eyes. Similarly for the other senses.

Similarly for future vision.

Does past coming-to-know exist? If you assent, you must admit that the function of knowing is done by that same past coming-to-know. And if you admit that, you must also admit that by that same past coming-to-know one understands Suffering, puts away its cause, realizes its cessation, practises the Path not by present cognition.

The same argument applies to future coming-to-know.

Does present coming-to-know, or cognition, exist, and is the function of knowing performed by that same present cognition? If you assent, you must admit that, past coming-to-know also existing Kv1.6.29, the function of knowing is performed by that same past cognition. So that if, by that present cognition, the nature of Suffering be understood, its cause put away, its cessation realized, the path leading thereto be practised, it is no less by that past cognition that all this is effected. The same reasoning precisely holds good to the extent to which you maintain that present coming-to-know exists. But you maintain that, whereas the past process-of-knowing exists, it is impossible to perform the function of knowing with it. Then, by parity of reasoning, surely it is equally impossible to know with the existing present process-of-knowing. More particularly, if you cannot carry out the Four Truths concerning Suffering Kv1.6.29, Kv1.6.31 with past existing cognition, neither can you do so with present existing cognition—which is absurd. Future knowing and present knowing are mutually involved in just the same way.

Do the corruptions of his past exist for the Arahant? You reply “yes.” But is the Arahant now lustful with that past, yet existing lust, hostile with that hate, ignorant with that delusion, vain with that conceit, errant with that error, perplexed with that doubt, torpid with that sloth, distracted with that excitement, shameless with that impudence, reckless with that indiscretion, all of which are past and yet “existing”?

Similarly, you say that the past five lower fetters and corruptions exist for the Never-Returner. But is he now holding that theory of soul, perplexed with that doubt, infected by that misapprehension of behaviour and vows, subject to residual sensuous passions and ill-will, that are past and yet “existing”?

Similarly, you say that the same past fetters, and grosser sensuous passions and coarser forms of ill-will “exist” for the Once-Returner. But is he now bound by those fetters, and subject to those grosser passions and coarse forms of ill-will?

Similarly, you say that the past three fetters and lust, hate and delusion entailing the rebirths of misery, exist for the Stream-Winner. But is he now bound by those fetters and those vices?

Granting that past lust exists for an average man, is he affected by that same lust? Yes? Then, surely, if past lust “exists” for an Arahant, he also is affected by that same lust? Similarly for the other nine corruptions Kv1.6.35. If you say that the average man is still ubject to corruptions or fetters, past, yet “existing,” you must also admit that past corruptions and fetters, in so far as they “exist” in those who have reached any stage of the path, involve their being subject to them at present. Conversely, if it is impossible for an Arahant, or one in any lower stage of the path, to be now subject to certain corruptions or to fetters which “exist” for him as past, it is equally impossible for the average man to be subject to a corruption or fetter which “exists” for him as “past.”

Do past hands exist? Then must you also admit that taking and laying down by them is also apparent as existences. Similarly for legs, feet, and their going to and fro, for joints of limbs, and their contracting and extending, for the stomach, and its hunger and thirst.

Does the past body exist? Then must you also admit that the past body undergoes lifting and lowering, annihilation and dissolution, the being shared by crows, vultures, and kites; also that poison weapons, fire may get access to the body; also that this past body may be liable to be bound by confinement by rope or chain, by village, town, or city jail, by fourfold restraint, and by the fifth, to wit, strangling.

Do the other past elements of the past body exist—its cohesiveness, heat, mobility? If you assent, then you mast admit that with each past element the past body still performs the corresponding function.

Do past and future as well as present material aggregates exist? If so, then there must be three material aggregates. And if you say that past and future as well as present fivefold aggregates exist, you must admit that there are fifteen aggregates. Similarly, you must admit three organs of sight, or thrice twelve organs and objects of sense. Similarly, you must admit three elements of sight, or eighteen elements multiplied by three time-divisions, fifty-four in all. Similarly, you must admit three visual controllers,or sixty-six controllers in all.

Would you say that a Wheel-turning monarch of the past or of the future, as well as one of the present, “exists”? But this amounts to saying that three Wheel-turning monarchs are actually living. The same implication lies in a similar assertion respecting Perfectly Enlightened Ones Buddhas.

Does the past exist? “Yes” you reply. Then, is the existent the past? You reply “the existent may be past, and may be not-past.” But herein you make out that the past may be the past and may be the not-past. Your position is wrong, and you are refuted.

You are similarly involved if you say that, whereas the future exists, the existent may be future and may not be future. So also for “the present.” Similarly, if you affirm that Nibbāna exists, but that the existent may be Nibbāna, may not be Nibbāna: this amounts to saying that Nibbāna is or may be not Nibbāna, not-Nibbāna is, or may be Nibbāna.

Sarvāstivādin: Is it wrong to say “the past exists,” “the future exists”?

Theravādin: Yes.

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

“Whatsoever material quality, bhikkhus, whether past, future or present, is either internal or external, gross or subtle, common or excellent, distant or near, is called the material aggregate. Whatsoever feeling, whether past, future, or present, or which the foregoing may be said, is termed the aggregate of feeling. So also are the other three aggregates.”

Surely then the past exists, the future exists.

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

“These three modes in word, term, or name, bhikkhus, which have been distinct in the past, are now distinct, and will be distinct, are not condemned by recluses and brahmins who are wise. Which three? (1) That material aggregate which is past, which has ceased, which is changed, is reckoned, termed, named “has been”; it is not reckoned as “exists,” nor as “will be.” And so for the aggregates of feeling, perception, mental coefficients, consciousness. (2) That material aggregate which is not yet born, and which has not appeared, is reckoned, termed, named “will be,” but is not reckoned as “exists “nor as “has been.” And so for the mental aggregates. (3) That material body which has come to birth, has appeared, is reckoned, termed, named “exists,” but is not reckoned as “has been,” nor as “will be.” And so for the mental aggregates. Verily these three modes in word, term, or name, bhikkhus, are distinct, have been distinct in the past, are not, will not, be condemned by recluses and brahmins who are wise.

Bhikkhus, the folk of Ukkala, Lenten speakers of old, Casualists, Deniers of the Deed, Sceptics—even they, too, judged that these three modes of reckoning, terming, or naming, should not he condemned or repudiated. And why was that? Because they were afraid of blame, of unpopularity, of incurring opposition.”

Again, did not the venerable Phagguna say to the Exalted One:

“Does the eye (or sight), lord, still exist by which past Buddhas, who have completed existence, have cut off the multipliers of life, have cut off its cycle, have exhausted it, and utterly passed beyond all Suffering, might be revealed? Or does the ear, the nose, the tongue, the co-ordinating sense, still exist with which one might do this”? “No, Phagguna, the eye does not exist, nor any sense by which past Buddlias, who have so wrought, might be revealed.”

Is the Suttanta thus? Then it must surely not be said that “the past is,” “the future is.”

Again, was it not said by the venerable Nandaba:

“Formerly there was greed within him, that was bad; that this no longer exists is good. Formerly there were hate and delusion, that was bad; that these no longer exist, that is good.”

Is the Suttanta thus? Surely then it should not be said that “the past exists.”

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

“If bhikkhus, there be lust after, pleasure in, craving for, edible food, consciousness establishes itself and grows there. Wherever consciousness establishes itself and grows, there doth exist an entry for mind and body. Wherever an entry for mind-and body doth exist, there do grow mental coefficients. Wherever mental coefficients do grow, there re-becoming in the future doth exist. Wherever re-becoming in the future doth exist, there do follow future birth, decay, and dying. Wherever future birth, decay, and dying do exist, I, bhikkhus, do declare that to be accompanied by grief, anguish, and despair. And whether the “food” be edible, or contact, or act of will, or consciousness, I declare it to be accompanied by grief anguish, and despair.”

Is the Suttanta thus? Hence must it not surely be said “the future exists”?

Theravādin: But was it not also said by the Exalted One:

“If there be no lust after, pleasure in, craving for, edible food, consciousness doth not establish itself or grow there. Wherever consciousness doth not establish itself and grow, there doth not exist an entry for mind and body. Wherever an entry for mind and body doth not exist, there doth exist no growth of mental coefficients. Wherever growth of mental coefficients doth not exist, there doth exist no future re-becoming. Wherever future re-becoming doth not exist, there doth exist no future birth, no decay and dying. Wherever there doth exist in the future no birth, decay, or dying, I declare, bhikkhus, that such edible food is not attend d by grief, anguish, and despair. Or whether the “food” be contact, or act of will, or consciousness, I declare it to be unattended by grief anguish, and despair.”

Is the Suttanta thus? Surely then it should not he said that “the future exists.”