Ajahn Sumedho's quote about the Unconditioned


Hi SarathW1
It was not written by Ajahn Sumedho. It is a transcription of a dhamma talk given by Ajahn Sumedho.


I have seen some other mistakes in his other transcripts but I did not want to discuss them here as I could not substantiate them. It is good if we have someone close to Ajahn Sumedho to clarify these issues.
The issue brought up in OP is not a minor issue. That statement completely misrepresents the Buddha.
Monks such as Ajahn Sumedho are the face of Western Buddhism. Their words matters.


I am no sutta scholar. However, I have heard numerous times that the Buddha would tailor his messages and instructions to that which his audience needed to hear. That the important thing is to help the listener/questioner understand. As such, some statements may appear to be off the point or vary over time.

I think that the more specific and minute the focus on individual words, the more likely that discrepancies will be found. That is why the ‘body’ of work is so important.

With regards to Ajahn Sumhedo, I have received immense benefit when I absorb the flavour and messages of his teachings. I think this level of deconstruction, ie focusing on one word… within thousands in that talk, may actually obscure the real message rather than lead to greater insight. Indeed it is precisely because he goes outside of the standard repeated phraseology, that I have been able to see things in a different light > leading to greater understanding and insight.

with Metta



The matter questioned in OP is very critical which deny the state of Nibbana.
What is the point of attaining Nibbana if we are going to re-emerge from it.


If there is no self, then there is no ‘you’ to worry about what happens after Nibbanna


The is why Buddha refuse to answer these type of questions. But with that statement it appears Ajahn Sumedho is trying to answer a question which Buddha refuse to do.
This question is already solved by Bhante Sujato and no point of arguing about it.
Thank God he is here!


Perhaps the issue is then about how much material is transcribed and published. For people like myself who live in isolated places and rely on the internet for any Dhamma contact, the streaming and transcription of talks is wonderful. However it comes at the price of so much material being online, and being circulated in part or whole. It would be impossible to subject each word of every talk to such a strict Standard, that there are no seeming inconsistencies. Perhaps when reading the transcripts of talks (spontaneous speech for a specific person or audience), then they should be read as such and a corresponding weight applied. Simmilarly, what is specifically composed for publication would be read and weighted accordingly.


It appears you do not understand the weight of this matter.


The belief in a God who is the source of our blessings is incompatible with the EBTs. I hereby find you in violation of the Code of Buddhist Dogmatics, section 7, subsection 39. :slight_smile:


It depend on which God you are talking about. I am talking about the gods in Rupavacara planes.


Did they send Sujato?


I think so!:grinning:


How about AN 10.58

All phenomena gain their footing in the deathless.
All phenomena have Unbinding as their final end.


chandamūlakā, āvuso, sabbe dhammā
“‘Friends, (1) all things are rooted in desire. AN10.58

Sorry, I think there is a different translation here. Incidentally I think ‘Dhamma’ makes most sense as in ‘teachings’, rather than ‘phenomena’ (there was a thread on this) in this context.

The ‘rooted in nibbana’ comes from the below sentence, which on SC is translated as:

(9) They culminate in the deathless. (10) Their consummation is nibbāna.’ AN10.58

with metta


I would expect there to be multiple translations. The key in this situation is how Ajahn Sumedho understands it as opposed to you or I. The translation on SC is also referring to phenomena.


By “emptiness” here, do you mean the empty space of the mind?


Well it won’t be possible to even make an informed guess without hearing the talk it came from. There are a few possible explanations.

This (see below) isn’t one of them, hopefully, as it is not in line with the Dhamma-Vinaya, though that might be of little consequence to some.


Yes (without getting into ultimate conventional explanations).

Example: keep watching the breath and when the in-breath fades away, and the mindfulness is still focused on the same ‘spot’, what is it ‘watching’? The ‘gap’ between the first breath and the second, or between any two experiences, is empty of phenomena, is akasa.

No one would say someone watching a breath for the first few minutes sees a gap and this being Nibbana, have attained stream entry. That isn’t possible and it isn’t Nibbāna.

Also this use of the word ‘conditioned’- it sounds more psychological and it least could be confused with it, IMO.

With metta


I think ‘things’ or ‘phenomena’ are correct. The sutta answers various questions regarding the nature of phenomena. ‘All Teachings are rooted in desire’ doesn’t seem to be in place when the rest of the discourse goes on to describe and explain various other attributes regarding phenomena. Thanissaro’s note explains more.

Would you happen to have a link to the thread in which this was discussed ?


I’m quite aligned with the ‘some things aren’t necessarily profitably explored through the clunky medium of language (or at least not without incredibly sensitive use on the both the ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’ side of things) and the even clunkier medium of internet forum’ line already hinted towards by some above.

As such, I’ll only stop by long enough to note a possible link between two statements I don’t understand that may or may not be relevant to the OP:

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. (Ajahn Sumedho’s quote)

There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned. If, monks there were not that unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, you could not know an escape here from the born, become, made, and conditioned. But because there is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, therefore you do know an escape from the born, become, made, and conditioned. (Ud8.3)

Elsewhere, Bhante Sujato has noted that, “It is generally agreed that the background stories in the Udana are somewhat later than the bulk of the nikayas”, but going by his and Ajahn Brahmali’s authenticity text, the ‘inspired utterances’ themselves, seem to be accepted as belonging to the early layers of material. That said, 1) my lack of understanding may have obscured some much clearer distinction between these two statements from me, or 2) this udana may be an exception (authenticity-wise) and more importantly, 3) Vstakan’s ‘multiple mutually corroborating references/statements’ point above, is certainly one I favour.