Points of Controversy

19.7. Of Assurance which is not Final

Controverted Point: That the average man may possess final assurance.

Theravādin: Do you mean that he has that assurance even if he commit the worst crimes—matricide, parricide, Arahanticide, wounding a Buddha, breaking up the Saṅgha? “No,” you say.

Again, could an average man holding that assurance feel doubt about it? “Yes,” you say. Then he cannot feel assured.

Surely you agree that, if he feel assured, he cannot feel doubt. Now has he put away doubt? “No,” you say. But think! You now assent. Then has he put away doubt by the First Path? or the Second, Third, or Fourth Path? How, then?

Uttarapāthakas: By a bad path.

Theravādin: Do you tell me that a bad path leads aright, goes to the destruction of lust, hate, etc., goes to enlightenment, is immune from defilements, is undefiled? Is it not the opposite of all this?…

Could the Annihilationist view be adopted by a person assured and convinced of the truth of the Eternalist view? “Yes,” you say. Surely then the assurance of the average man in his Annihilationist convictions is no “infinite assurance.”

If you now deny in reply to my question, I ask again, has he put away the Annihilationist view? If so, by which of the Four Paths? You reply, as before, “By a bad paTheravādin: ” That is to say, by a bad path he puts away a bad view… .

A similar argument may be put forward for an Annhilationist who adopts the Eternalist view.

Uttarapāthakas: If I am wrong, was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Take the case, bhikkhus, of a person whose mental states are entirely black-hearted and immoral—he it is who, once immersed, is so once for all.”

Surely then any average man can attain infinite assurance.

Theravādin: Is that which you have quoted your reason for maintaining your proposition? You admit it is. Now the Exalted One said further:

“Take the case, bhikkhus, of a person who, having come to the surface, is immersed.

Now is this supposed to be happening all the time? Of course not… . But again he said:

“Take the case, bhikkhus, of a person who, having emerged, so remains; of one who, having emerged, discerns, glances around; of one who, having emerged, swims across; of one who, having emerged, wins a footing on the shore.”

Now is each of these persons doing so all the time?

And does any of these cases furnish you with a reason for saying that any average person can have final assurance in his convictions?