Points of Controversy

1.7. Of what does my “Past” Consist?

Controverted Point: That one’s past consists in bodily and mental aggregates.

Opponent: If you affirm that my past consisted in aggregates—as you do—you must also admit that the past exists—which you deny. This is also the position in the case of the organs and objects of sense, the elements, or all of the three taken together. Again, if you admit that my future will consist in aggregates—as you do—you must also admit that the future exists—which you deny.

This is also the position in the case of the organs and objects of sense, the elements, or all of the three taken together.

If you admit—as you do—that my present consists in aggregates and that it exists, you must also admit that my past, which consisted in aggregates, exists. Similarly for other present factors of experience. Similarly, again, for my future.

Again, if you admit a past consisting in aggregates—or other factors, such as sense-organs, etc.—which does not now exist, you must admit that the present consisting (as you agree) in aggregates, etc., no longer exists. Similarly as to a future consisting in aggregates, etc., but not existent.

Again, a little more specifically, if you admit that material qualities in the past formed my aggregates, sense-organs and objects, elements, or all of these together, then you must also admit that past material qualities exist.

And if you admit that material qualities in the future will form my aggregates, etc., you must also admit that future material qualities exist.

Again, if you admit that material qualities in the present form my bodily aggregate and the other factors, and that the present exists, you must also admit that my past material qualities, having consisted in bodily aggregate, etc., exist.

The same reasoning holds good, if, for “past”, “future” material quality be substituted.

Again, if you admit past material qualities existing as an aggregate, and hold the view that those past qualities do not exist, then you must admit that present material qualities existing as an aggregate, and other present factors, do not exist.

Similarly as to future material qualities existing as an aggregate, and other future factors, held by you to be non-existent.

This also holds good if, for “material qualities,” any of the four mental aggregates be substituted. For instance, if you admit that consciousness in the past formed my aggregate, sense-organs and objects, or elements all of which you would call real, then you must also admit that past consciousness exists. Similarly, if you admit that future consciousness will form my aggregate, etc., you must also admit that future consciousness exists. Again, if you admit that present consciousness forms my aggregate, with other factors, and that the present exists, you must also admit that my past consciousness, consisting in aggregate, sense-organ, and the rest, exists. So again for future consciousness.

Once more, if you declare, of past consciousness existing as an aggregate, and the rest, that that consciousness does not exist, then you must admit that present consciousness, existing as an aggregate, does not exist.

Similarly as to future consciousness.

Theravādin: Is it then wrong to say that my past and my future consisting in aggregates, elements, sense-organs and objects, do not exist?

Opponent: Yes

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

“These three modes in word, in term, or in name, bhikkhus, which are, and were, formerly held distinct, are not mixed, will not be confused, are not condemned by recluses and brahmins who are wise: which three? (1) Those aggregates, material and mental, which are past, have ceased, are changed, are reckoned, termed, named ‘have been’; they are not reckoned as ‘are’ (or ‘exist’), nor yet as ‘will be’. Similarly, (2) for those aggregates that ‘will be,’ and (3) for those that ‘are’.”

Is the Suttanta thus? Then it should surely be said that my past and future consisting in aggregates, elements, sense-organs and objects, exist.

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

“Whatsoever material qualities, bhikkhus, whether past, future, or present, are either internal or external, gross or subtle common or excellent, distant or near, are called the material aggregate. Whatsoever feeling, or other mental aggregate, whether past, etc. …”

Is the Suttanta thus?

Theravādin: Yes.

Opponent: Hence it should certainly not be said that “my past and future consisting in aggregates,” etc., do not exist.