Points of Controversy

2.10. Of a Buddha’s Everyday Usage

Controverted Point: That the Exalted Buddha’s ordinary speech was supramundane.

Does this not involve the further statement that his speech impinged only on the spiritual, but not on the mundane ear; and that the spiritual, not the mundane, intelligence responded to it, and thus that disciples alone were aware of it, not average persons? You do not admit this… . No, you know that the Exalted Buddha’s speech struck on the mundane hearing of men, was responded to by mundane intelligence, and that average persons were aware of it

The terms he used, are they supramundane— Path, Fruit, Nibbāna, Path and Fruit of Stream-Winning, Once-Returning, Never-Returning, Arahantship, earnest application in mindfulness, supreme endeavour, steps to magic potency, controlling power or faculty, force, factor of enlightenment?

Were there any who heard his everyday speech? But you deny that a supramundane object is known by way of the ear, impinges on the ear, comes into the avenue of hearing. Therefore you cannot affirm that men “heard” his everyday speech.

Were there any who were ravished by his everyday speech? We know that there were such. But is a supramundane thing an occasion of sensuous desire, ravishing, entrancing, intoxicating, captivating, enervating? Is it not rather the opposite?…

Further, there were some who were offended by his habitual speech But is a supramundane thing an occasion of hate, of anger, of resentment? Is it not rather the opposite?…

Further, there were some who were baffled by his habitual speech. But is a supramundane thing an occasion of obfuscation, causing want of insight and blindness, extinguishing understanding, provoking vexation, not conducing to Nibbāna? Is it not rather the opposite? …

Now those who heard the Exalted Buddha’s habitual speech, did they all develop the paths? Yes, you say? But foolish average people heard him—matricides, too, and parricides, slayers of Arahants, shedders of holy blood, schismatics—therefore you are affirming that these developed the paths!…

Theravādin: But you may with one golden wand point out both a heap of paddy and a heap of gold. So the Exalted One, with his supramundane habitual speech, habitually spoke about both mundane and supramundane doctrine.

Theravādin: It is no less possible to point out both paddy and gold with a wand of castor-oil wood. So the Exalted One, with his mundane habitual speech, habitually spoke about both mundane and supramundane matter.

Now some of you say that the habitual speech of the Exalted One the Buddha was mundane when speaking to one so conversing, supramundane when speaking to one so conversing. But this implies that his words impinged on mundane hearing when he spoke of worldly things, and on the supramundane hearing when he spoke of supramundane things; also that his hearers understood with their mundane intelligence in the former case, and with their supramundane intelligence in the latter; also that average persons understood in the former case, disciples in the latter. To which you do not agree.

Andhaka: It is wrong then, according to you, to say that the Exalted Buddha’s customary speech was mundane when he spoke of mundane matters, supramundane when he spoke of supramundane matters. But did he not use both kinds of speech? You assent. Then surely what you maintain is untenable.

Again, your proposition involves this further admission: that the speech of anyone becomes that of which he is speaking—that if you speak of Path, your word becomes Path; similarly of what is not Path, of Fruit, of Nibbāna, of the Conditioned, of matter, of mind and their opposites.