Ajahn Sumedho's quote about the Unconditioned

I just read this quote from Ajahn Sumedho (Ajahn Chah lineage):

The things arise out of the Unconditioned, and they go back to the Unconditioned.

Two questions:

  1. Can someone confirm that this is an actual quote from Ajahn Sumedho instead of a fake quote?

  2. Would you say the quote is in agreement with the EBTs?


Absolutely not.


What is the source and is there a link to the net?

My guess is that is not a real quote. Luang Por Sumedho can use some unconventional or perhaps unorthodox (by theravada standards) language describing “ultimate reality” or conciousness however which I wouldn’t get too worried about. Did you see this on facebook or twitter? :slight_smile:

Looks like he did saythis:

In your practice, as you begin to understand and experience letting go, you begin to realise what Buddhas know: sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe dhamma anatta. It’s not just the words - even a parrot can say the words - but that’s not an enlightened parrot, is it? Insight is different from conceptual knowledge. But now you’re penetrating, going deep into this, breaking through the illusion of self as being anything at all; or nothing - if you believe that you don’t have a self - that’s another belief. I believe I don’t have a self. We believe in no self’. You see that the Buddha pointed to the way between those two extremes: of believing you have a self and believing that you don’t have a self. You cannot find anything in the five khandhas which is a permanent self or soul: things arise out of the Unconditioned, they go back to the Unconditioned. Therefore it is through letting go rather than through adapting any other attitude, that we no longer seek to attach to mortal conditions.



Yep, just found it too.


I should say that on the whole it is a pretty nice Dhamma talk. And if you say that Unconditioned is equal to non-existence, then the controversial passage become more orthodox as well. You can even make it compatible with the Ten Unanswerables by saying that, well, Parmenides told that non-existence exists in some way, so it is not like complete non-existence.But if you look deeper into that conundrum of existing/non-existing, you start running circles, which is maybe why the Buddha and Ven. Sariputta warned against pondering on issues like this one.

So, I think this is an unskilful saying, but it can be interpreted as more or less compatible with the early texts if Unconditioned = non-being.


I think this is an unskilful saying.
There is a Sutta which clearly demonstrate his statement is not true. (I can’t locate it right now)
This is the lack of his understanding and his knowledge of Sutta.
I expect prominent monks who write books to be familiar with the Sutta.
At least he would have asked another knowledgeable monk to review his writing.
However this will not diminish my respect for him considering his contribution to the Buddha Dhamma.

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Yeah, sure, it takes some mental gymnastics to make it orthodox, so yeah, I am afraid Ven. Sumedho didn’t show nice rhetoric skills here. I also think that this is a transcript of an oral discourse, so badly formulated propositions are more easily forgivable here.

I would also add - and this is not directed at you or anyone in particular, it just occurred to me - that we should not conclude from this quote to what the views of Ven. Sumedho himself are, I would rather be cautious. Just as we don’t conclude to the views of the Buddha based on one orf two obscure sayings in an odd Sutta or two, we should not make any conclusions here. If we find a few quotes like this one, well, then maybe…


This is another reason why we should read EBT and why Sutta Central project is so critical to the spread of true Dhamma.

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I attended a dhamma talk by Ajahn Sumehdo earlier this year and found him pretty impressive. I don’t mean impressive in the sense of displaying a lot of scholastic knowledge of the ancient texts, but rather in the sense of projecting a pretty convincing air of unperturbed joy, happiness and concern for others, including the ability to answer people’s questions compassionately and insightfully.

My impression is that the bhikkhus in his tradition focus on living in line with the discipline and meditating a lot, and that when they offer views about what the practice reveals about the mind and reality, they are basing those views on their own direct experience and their best effort at putting those experiences into words. They are not regurgitating the conceptual framework they have read in texts.

The words are just words. They help point toward the release of the heart. Sometimes they help a lot and sometimes they don’t, but the przctitioner has to untangle the experiential knot themselves.


This is typical of people sharing things on the internet to agree with their own views which are antithetical to the Buddha’s teachings.

It’s like the people from the Secret using, “What you think you become” to mean that whatever you think will poof out of thin air with the law of attraction.

When you read alternate translations of that passage and you see that the Buddha merely meant that whatever we focus on and don’t let go, our minds lean in that direction and keep going that way and so we should be very careful where we place and keep our attention and if we allow it to wander with the waves of the mind, we will be overtaken in the ocean eventually and drown.

Likewise, if we focus on wholesome objects, our mind will incline in that direction and so we should steer the ship of the mind instead of allowing it to crash into the rocks and shatter.

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But what they think is not inline with the Sutta. This is no difference to the idea that the Nibbana is a consciousness outside the five aggregate.
This is even worse type of an idea to think that the ignorance is emanate from Nibbana.

Are you enlightened? I’m not. Unless we are, then we don’t know whether the formulations in our favorite suttas are a better or worse representation of what’s really going on than Ajahn Sumedho’s explanations.

Ajahn Sumedho is in his eighties and has been cultivating his mind diligently for decades. His thoughts merit some deference.


I am not enlightened but I am not stupid enough to say that the ignorance emanate from wisdom (Nibbana).

What is Nibbana, if it is not unconditioned

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The literal translation is ‘quenching, extinguishment’. I think it is actually pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

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Communication in the modern era as changed from 2500 years ago, monks communicate to their best ability from their own conditioning of words to their understanding of their audiences supposed conditioning of words, no easy task, and yet people seem so quick to engage in ridicule of such a wise Ajahn from distinctive and yes mixture of all sort sangha of teachings and understandings.

As far as I have seen in this thread, everyone has been very carful not to criticize or even ridicule Ven. Sumedho himself or his general views, we only discussed this particular statement using the Four Great Standards. I think this method of discussion was recommended by the Buddha HImself, so what’s the problem?


That which is the destruction of greed hatred and delusion is Nibbana.

is not greed hatred and delusion a condition of the human experience