Points of Controversy

3.12. Of the Plane Where Consciousness Neither Is Nor Is Not

Controverted Point: That it is wrong to say that, in the plane wherein consciousness neither is nor is not, there is consciousness.

Theravādin: But you would not describe that plane as one of life, destiny, habitation of beings, continued existence, birth, acquired personality that is unconscious? Nor as a life, etc., of one constituent only? Would you not call it a life of four constituents?

If we deny consciousness among the Unconscious Beings, and call that sphere a life, destiny … personality without consciousness, how can you deny consciousness to this plane where consciousness neither is nor is not, without describing it in the same terms? Or how can we speak of that sphere as a life of a single organic constituent without describing this plane in the same terms? If your proposition be right, and yet you describe this plane as conscious life, etc., then similarly, in refusing consciousness to the Unconscious sphere, you must describe that sphere as conscious life, etc., which is absurd. So also for the fourfold organic life. For if you deny consciousness to this plane, and yet call it a life of four mental constituents, then your proposition obviously falls through.

You grant me that this plane, wherein consciousness neither is nor is not, is a life of four constituents, saying the while that there is no consciousness in this plane—you allow, do you not, that in the lower plane called “infinity of space” there is consciousness? And that there is consciousness in the next higher planes: “infinity of consciousness,” and “nothingness.” Why not then for our fourth and highest plane? How can you admit consciousness for those three and not for this, while you allow that each is a life of four mental constituents?

Do you object to this: in this plane consciousness either is or is not? Yes? but why, when, you admit the co-presence of those four constituents? Why, again, when you admit them in the case of the other three planes, and allow that there, too, consciousness either is or is not?

You admit that the plane in question is that wherein is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness, and yet you maintain that it is wrong to say: in that plane consciousness neither is nor is not! But take neutral feeling—is it wrong to say that neutral feeling is either feeling or not feeling? “Yes,” you admit, “that cannot truly be said.” Then how can the other be said?