Points of Controversy

3.11. Of Unconscious Life

Controverted Point: That there is consciousness among the denizens of the sphere called Unconscious.

Theravādin: But you surely cannot admit that such a being has conscious life or destiny, dwells among conscious beings, fares onward with conscious continuity from birth to birth, has consciousness as his birthright, has acquired a conscious personality? Is not the opposite of all these terms true of him? Is their life, etc., fivefold in its constituents? Is it not rather a life, destiny… acquisition of personality, of a single constituent? Hence, even if we grant your proposition, you cannot say that such a being, when consciously functioning, functions by just that act of consciousness you ascribe to him; nor do you claim this.

If, in Kv3.11.1, you substitute for “unconscious beings” “men,” you could and would describe the latter further as “having conscious life, and destiny, and so on.” And you would describe them, further, as having a life, destiny, habitation, further rebirth, constitution, acquisition of personality as determined for them by five organic constituents. But when I say you have committed yourself to all this with respect to unconscious beings, in virtue of your proposition, you deny. Similarly for Kv3.11.3, if we substitute “man” for “such a being.”

Let us assume the truth of your proposition, admitting, of course, that there is consciousness in the human sphere—why do you go on to affirm, for those devas, an unconscious life, destiny, habitation, further rebirth, constitution, acquisition of personality, but deny it for men? And why do you go on, further, to affirm a life, destiny, etc., of one organic constituent for those devas, but deny it for men? Why, finally, do you deny, for the unconscious beings, the functioning in consciousness by just that quota of consciousness you assign to them, but affirm it in the case of human beings?

Andhaka: If it is wrong to say “there is consciousness in the Unconscious devas,” let me remind you of a Suttanta in which the Exalted One said:

“There are devas, bhikkhus, called the Unconscious Beings; now those devas, when consciousness does arise, decease from that group.

But our view really is this, that they are only conscious sometimes.

Theravādin: That is to say, they are sometimes conscious beings, having conscious life, having fivefold organic life, and sometimes unconscious beings, having unconscious life, having a single organic life—which is absurd.

Again, at what time are they conscious, at what time not?

Andhaka: At decease and at rebirth, but not during life.

Theravādin: But then the same absurd transformation must happen.