Points of Controversy

16.4. Of Attending to All at Once

Controverted Point: That one can attend to everything simultaneously.

Theravādin: Do you imply that we know the consciousness by which we so attend? You deny. But I ask you again—now you assent. Then do we know as consciousness the consciousness by which we so attend? You deny. But I ask you again—now you assent. Then is the subject of consciousness its own object? You deny. But I ask you again—now you assent. Then do we experience mental reaction by the same mental reaction? Do we feel a feeling by that feeling? And so on for perception, volition, cognition, applied thought, sustained thought, zest, mindfulness, understanding? If you deny, you undo your previous affirmations… .

When we attend to the past as past, do we then attend to the future as future? You deny. But I ask you again—now you assent. But this commits you to a collocation of two parallel mental processes… . And this holds if I substitute “present” for “future.’… And if you claim that we can, while attending to the past as past, attend also to the future as such, and to the present as such, we get a collocation of three parallel mental processes… . And— we may ring the changes with the same argument on other permutations of the time relations… .

Pubbaseliyas and Aparaseliyas: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“‘All conditions are impermanent.’
When one sees this with wisdom,
Then one is disgusted with suffering:
This is the Path of Purity.

“‘All conditions are suffering.’
When one sees this with wisdom,
Then one is disgusted with suffering:
This is the Path of Purity.

“‘All dhammas are not-self.’
When one sees this with wisdom,
Then one is disgusted with suffering:
This is the Path of Purity.”

Hence we can attend to all at once.