Points of Controversy

2.8. Of the World as only a Cinderheap

Controverted Point: That all conditioned things are absolutely cinderheaps.

Theravādin: You affirm this; but is there not such a thing as pleasurable feeling, bodily pleasure, mental pleasure, celestial happiness, human happiness, the pleasures of gain, of being honoured, of riding-and-driving, of resting, the pleasures of ruling, of administrating, of domestic-and-secular life, of the religious life, pleasures involved in the defilements and pleasures that are not, the happiness of Nibbāna, both while stuff of life remains and when none remains, worldly and spiritual pleasures, happiness with zest and without zest, jhāna-happiness, the bliss of liberty, pleasures of sense-desire, and the happiness of renunciation, the bliss of solitude, of peace, of enlightenment? Of course. How then can you maintain your general affirmation?

Gokulikas: My proposition then is wrong? But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“All is on fire, O bhikkhus! How is everything on fire? The eye is on fire; visible objects, visual consciousness, visual contact and the pleasure, the pain, the neutral feeling therefrom—all is on fire. On fire wherewithal? I tell you, on fire with the fires of passion, hate, and ignorance; with the fires of birth, decay, and death; with the fires of sorrow, lamentation, suffering, grief, and despair. All the field of sense, all the field of mind, all the feeling therefrom is on fire with those fires.”

Surely then all conditioned things are mere cinderheaps absolutely.

Theravādin: But was it not also said by the Exalted One:

“There are these five pleasures of sense, bhikkhus—namely, visible objects seen through the eye as desirable, pleasing, delightful, lovely, adapted to sense-desire, seductive; audible objects, odorous, sapid, tangible objects, desirable, pleasing, delightful, lovely, opposite to sense-desire, seductive” …

Gokulikas: But was it not also said by the Exalted One:

“A gain is yours, O bhikkhus! well have ye won, for ye have discerned the hour for living the religious life. Hells have I seen, bhikkhus, belonging to the six fields of contact. Hereof whatsoever object is seen by the eye is undesired only, not desired; whatsoever object is sensed by ear, smell, taste, touch, mind, is undesired only, not desired; is unpleasant only, not pleasant; is unlovely only, not lovely.”

Theravādin: But was it not also said by the Exalted One:

“A gain is yours, bhikkhus! well have ye won, for ye have discerned the hour for living the religious life. Heavens have I seen, bhikkhus, belonging to the six fields of contact. Hereof whatsoever object is seen by the eye, or otherwise sensed, is desired only, not undesired; is pleasing only, not unpleasing; is lovely only, not unlovely.”

Gokulikas: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“The impermanent involves Suffering; all conditioned things are impermanent.”

Theravādin: But take giving: does that bring forth fruit that is undesired, unpleasant, disagreeable, adulterated? Does it bear, and result in, sorrow? Or take virtue, the keeping of feastdays, religious training, and religious life: do they bring forth such fruit, etc.? Do they not rather have the opposite result? How then can you affirm your general proposition?

Finally, was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Happy his solitude who, glad at heart,
Hath learnt the Dhamma and doth the vision see!
Happy is that benignity towards
The world which on no creature worketh harm.
Happy the freedom from all lust, the ascent
Past and beyond the needs of sense-desires.
He who doth crush the great “I am” conceit:
This, even this, is happiness supreme.
This happiness by happiness is won,
Unending happiness is this alone.
The Threefold Wisdom hath he made his own.
This, even this, is happiness supreme.”

You admit the Suttanta says this? How then can you maintain your proposition?