Points of Controversy

9.2. Of the Deathless as an Object by which we are bound

Controverted Point: That the Deathless as an object of thought is a “fetter.”

Theravādin: If you say that, are you prepared to admit that the Deathless is the object of consciousness accompanied by “Fetters,” “Ties,” “Floods,” “Bonds,” “Hindrances,” “Infections,” “Graspings,” “Corruptions”? Is it not rather an object accompanied by the very opposite?

You affirm that, on account of the Deathless occupying the mind, lust, hate, ignorance may spring up. But are you prepared to admit that the Deathless itself conduces to occasions for lusting, to lusting after, wishing for, being inebriated, and captivated by, languishing for? That it conduces to occasions for hatred, anger, and resentment? That it conduces to occasions for delusion, for depriving of knowledge, for blinding vision, for suspending insight, for siding with trouble, for failing to win Nibbāna? Is it not rather the opposite of all these? How then can you say that, on account of the Deathless occupying the mind, lust, hate, and ignorance spring up? All these things you may truly predicate as springing up because of the occupation of the mind with material qualities (rūpa). But material qualities are not the Deathless.

You would not say that, whereas the Fetters spring up because of material qualities, the latter do not conduce to Fetters, Ties, Floods, and all such spiritual defects and dangers. How then can you affirm just the same of the Deathless: that, whereas the Fetters spring up because of it, it does not conduce to Fetters, and so forth? Or that, whereas lust, hate, and ignorance spring up because of the Deathless, nevertheless the Deathless is not an occasion for lusting and all the rest?

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

“He perceives Nibbāna as such, and having perceived it he imagines things about Nibbāna, with respect to Nibbāna, things as Nibbāna, that ‘Nibbāna is mine,’ dallying with the idea.”

Therefore the Deathless is an object of thought not yet freed from bondage.