Points of Controversy

2.2. Of the Knowledge of the Arahant

Controverted Point: That the Arahant may lack knowledge.

Theravādin: You maintain that he does. Then you must also admit that the Arahant has ignorance—ignorance as flood, bond, latent bias, attack, fetter, hindrance. If you deny this, you cannot say he lacks knowledge.

You would certainly admit lack of knowledge, ignorance as “flood,” etc., in the case of the average man. How can you assert the former and deny the latter in the case of the Arahant?

You would deny that an Arahant from lack of knowledge would kill living things, take what is not given, speak lies, utter slander, speak harshly, indulge in idle talk, commit burglary, carry off plunder, be a highwayman, commit adultery, and destroy village or town; yet you would admit an average man might from lack of knowledge do such things. In fact you assert that an Arahant from lack of knowledge would pursue the opposite course from what an average man would do from lack of knowledge.

You deny that an Arahant lacks knowledge in respect of the Teacher, the Doctrine, the Saṅgha, of the ethical training, of the beginning of time, the end of time, both beginning and end, and of things as happening by way of assignable causes. You deny that herein he lacks knowledge. Yet you maintain your proposition… .

You admit that an average man who lacks knowledge lacks it in those respects, bat that an Arahant who lacks knowledge does not lack it in those respects. Must you not also admit that an average man, lacking in knowledge, does not lack it in those respects?

Can you maintain that the Arahant—one who has so put away passion, hate, ignorance, conceit, error, doubt, sloth, distraction, impudence, and indiscretion, that they are cut off at the root and made as the stump of a palm tree, incapable of rising again in future renewal, who has cultivated the means for putting away passions, and all the other factors of enlightenment to that end, who has consummated as having done with lust, hate, and delusion, and to whom all the terms for the Arahant may be applied—that such an one lacks knowledge?

Or how can you maintain your proposition with regard to one class of Arahant only—to those who are proficient in their own field—and not to another class—to those who are proficient in other things?

Did not the Exalted One say in the Suttanta:

“In him who knows, O bhikkhus, who sees do I declare the defilements to be extinct, not in him who knows not neither sees. And what, bhikkhus, in him who knows who sees, is the extinction of defilements? ‘Such is body, such its cause, so is its cessation; such are the four mental factors, such their cause, so is their cessation’—even this, O bhikkhus, is the extinguishing of defilements.”

How then can the Arahant who knows who sees lack knowledge?

Again, did not the Exalted One say in the Suttanta:

“In him who knows, O bhikkhus, who sees do I declare the defilements to be extinct, not in him who knows not, neither sees And what, bhikkhus, in him who knows who sees is the extinguishing of defilements? “This is Suffering!” herein, bhikkhus, for him who knows who sees is that extinguishing. “This is the cause of Suffering … this is the cessation of Suffering … this is the course leading to the cessation of Suffering”—herein, bhikkhus, for him who knows who sees is the extinguishing of defilements"?

How then can the Arahant who knows who sees lack knowledge?

Again, did not the Exalted One say in the Suttanta:

“The man, O bhikkhus, who does not understand and comprehend all, who has not emptied himself of all, and given up all, is not capable of extinguishing Suffering. And he, O bhikkhus, who understands, comprehends, empties himself of, and gives up all, he is capable of extinguishing Suffering.”

How then can the Arahant who knows who sees lack knowledge?

Again, did not the Exalted One say in the Suttanta:

“Together with attainment of vision,
Three things are abandoned:
Identity view, doubt
And misapprehension of behaviour and vows—if any remain.
Such a one is released from the fourfold doom,
And they cannot do any of the six heinous deeds.”

How then can the Arahant be said to lack knowledge?

Again, did not the Exalted One say in the Suttanta:

“Whenever, O bhikkhus, for the Ariyan disciple there doth arise the stainless, flawless eye of the Dhamma—that whatsoever is liable to happen is also liable to cease—together with the arising of that vision are these three fetters: identity view, doubt, and the misapprehension of behaviour and vows put away by him.”

How then can the Arahant be said to lack knowledge?

Puggalavādin: Is it wrong to say “the Arahant lacks knowledge”? May he not be ignorant of the name and lineage of a woman or a man, of a right or wrong road, or of how grasses, twigs, and forest plants are called? If this is so, surely, good sir, it is right to say that he lacks knowledge.

Theravādin: If you say that, in not knowing such things, the Arahant lacks “knowledge”, would you also say he lacks knowledge as to the fruition of Stream-Winning, Once-Returning, Never-Returning, Arahantship? Of course not—hence it should not be said that he lacks knowledge.