Points of Controversy

10.3. Of Path-Culture and the Senses

Controverted Point: That one may develop the Path while enjoying the fivefold cognitions of sense.

Theravādin: But you will admit—(i.) that the five kinds of sense-consciousness have a seat and an object that have already sprung up; (ii.) that their seat and object are antecedent; (iii.) that their seat is of the subject while their object is external, that seat and object are not yet broken up while operative; (iv.) that seat and object are of different varieties; (v.) that they do not enjoy mutually their respective ranges and fields; (vi.) that they come to pass not without co-ordinated application or attention; (vii.) that they are not unmixed; (viii.) are not without order in time; (ix.) are without order of contiguity; and (x.) without any ideation? Now if all this be true, your proposition cannot be true.

Consider visual consciousness and one of the Path-subjects—Emptiness—does the former come to pass concerning the latter? If you deny, you are opposing your thesis. If you assent, I ask whether it is right doctrine to say not only:

“Because of the eye and the visible object visual consciousness arises,”

but also:

Because of the eye and Emptiness visual consciousness arises?

Is the Suttanta thus? Of course not.

Again, if your proposition be true, you must also affirm that visual consciousness arises concerning the past and the future. Also that it arises not solely because of visible object, but also concerning mental contact, feeling, perception, volition, thought, the organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and the objects of hearing, smell, taste, touch—impossible affirmations.

Now you can admit that representative (ideational) consciousness does arise concerning Emptiness, concerning the past and the future, concerning phases of mind, factors of experience, as stated just now.

And one may develop a Path while enjoying representative cognition concerning any one of those matters, but not during the enjoyment of sense-consciousness, which as such is not concerned with them.

Mahāsaṅghikas: Well, but was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu sees an object with the eye, he does not grasp at the general characters nor at the details of it, … or hears a sound, … or smells, … tastes, … touches a tangible…

Surely here there is Path-practice by one who is enjoying the five sorts of sense-consciousness?…