Points of Controversy

8.10. Of Vital Power

Controverted Point: That there is no such thing as a. material vital power.

Theravādin: If there is not, you imply also that, in material (organic) phenomena, there is no such thing as “a term of life, or a subsisting, no going on, being kept going on, no progress, procedure or preservation of them’—but you deny that; in fact, you maintain the opposite. Hence your proposition falls through.

With regard to the immaterial, you affirm both the existence of immaterial vital power and also its continuity, going on, etc. Why do you affirm the latter only, and deny the former?

You admit that the life-term of immaterial organic phenomena is immaterial vital power: why not admit the corresponding counterpart in the case of material organic power? Why is it wrong to deny the latter when you admit the former?

You say that, for you, the life-term of material organic phenomena is an immaterial vital power? Would you then maintain the contrary? No? Why not? Both vital powers, you say, are immaterial. It seems to me you could with equal plausibility say that both were material.

You will admit that vital power is still present in one who has fallen into a cataleptic trance. Yet you could not call his vital power (he being unconscious) immaterial. In which aggregates is the vital power included? In that of mental coefficients, you say? But is that aggregate existent in one who has attained trance? “No,” you say? I repeat my question. “Yes,” you now say. But if anyone in trance has mental coefficients, he will also have the other mental aggregates—feeling, perception, cognitive consciousness. “No,” you say? I repeat my question. “Yes,” you now say. Then that person cannot be in a cataleptic trance.

If there be no material vital power, no vital power can exist for the inmates of the unconscious sphere,for how can they have an immaterial (or mental) vital power? The argument above as to mental coefficients, which you say they have, applies to them also. They cannot be as they are and yet possess all five aggregates, as in a fivemode existence.

If vital power be wholly psychical, it must be affected by mental conditions; for instance, you will admit that vital power, springing from a consciousness that seeks rebirth, must, when that consciousness breaks off, be itself broken off in part. Now, would you say the same of a purely mental phase such as “contact” (or mental reaction to stimulus)? Why not? You mean that contact would be broken off, not in part, but entirely? Now, would you say the same of vital power it being, as you say, not material? You deny… .

Pubbaseliyas and Sammitīyas: Are there then two vital powers (material and immaterial)?

Theravādin: Yes.

Pubbaseliyas and Sammitīyas: Then you are committed to this—that we live with two lives, die with two deaths?

Theravādin: No, that cannot truly be said… .