Points of Controversy

6.4. Of the Four Immaterial Spheres of Life and Thought

Controverted Point: That the sphere of infinite space is unconditioned.

Theravādin: Are you implying that it is in this respect identical with Nibbāna, the Shelter, the Cave, the Refuge, the Beyond, the Undying, the Deathless? Yon deny… Then you cannot so class it. If you affirm, we may then have two Unconditioneds, two Nibbānas… .

You admit, do you not, that the sphere of infinite space is a form of rebirth, a destination, an abode of beings, a sequel in living, a matrix of birth, a station for reborn consciousness, an acquiring of individuality? Then is the unconditioned to be so described? Of course not… .

Is there karma which brings us to rebirth in that sphere? “Yes,” you say. Then is there karma which brings about rebirth in the unconditioned? Of course you deny… . There are beings who for their deserts are reborn in that sphere of infinite space, but are there any who for their deserts are reborn in the unconditioned? Of course you deny… .

Do any beings become born, decay, die, decease, and spring up again in that sphere? Yes? But surely not in the unconditioned… .

Does mind in its four constituents exist in that sphere? Yes? But hardly in the unconditioned… . You cannot call the latter a plane of life with four constituents, as is the former.

Opponent: But did not the Exalted One say that the four Immaterial spheres are imperturbable? Surely then we may call them unconditioned.