An unique experiment - First time on a buddhist forum


What if Khandhas are the world and since they arise in a chain of specific causes and effects (idapaccayata) so does the so called ‘world’?


Sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I was saying exactly that: khandha = loka = dukkha or in your terms, yes, the khandhas are the (epistemic/experiential) world. The argument for this is in Sue Hamilton’s book. But we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that the khandhas are also the “objective world” or “reality”. We have no way of knowing this from the epistemology of early Buddhism, all we have access to is experience, and to some extent the processes that give rise to experience.



Dear Jayarava

Thanks so much for your explanation, with which I certainly agree.

I’m just not sure about this quoted statement of yours.

Are you suggesting this focus is wholesome, or just explaining an unwholesome focus that developed?

Best wishes


Unfortunately, if that is an accurate summary of her view, I think she misses an important aspect here, made clear in the summary sentence of the First Noble Truth. I would re-word it:

‘at least in some contexts, Pāli suttas refer to one’s clung-to experience (dukkha), arising from clinging-to the apparatus of experience (the khandhas) as being one’s world (loka)’

I would agree with this:

though I would leave out ‘human’ as, to me, just like ‘world’, ‘human’ depends on mental qualities, thus the Buddha negated human regarding himself, or any of the other modes of ‘being’ asked about.

(the tense in the Buddha’s reply in this sutta, seems quite strange and I wonder if there has been corruption here by those still under the ‘I am conceit’.)


It was an historical observation. No value judgement was offered, nor should any be implied.


Fair enough. Her book does goes into side of things and one should place too much weight on one quote taken out of context. It’s still the most important book about the khandhas every published in English.


Thanks. I appreciate the first sentence, but value judging wholesome and unwholesome thought, word or deed and expressing it, is, for me, an act of wisdom and compassion and ought to be done. I understand it may not be so for you.


I think if you look at the references to suññatāvihāra in Pāli, you will have ample information to form a value judgement.


Isn’t there a contradiction in your text in bold?
If there were none, how is one going to be released from rebirth?

Furthermore, on experience, isn’t there both a mundane and supramundane type of experience?

The other issue on this thread is the title itself, it is framed under the “Self” which reinforces the justification to a self. That which is beyond cannot be called a self because it implies something existent, which has death as its result…It is clearly not in line with the middle-way.
Text always help: Ud8.3…

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated.
If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned.
But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.


MN22…in bold: on what is beyond…

“There can be, monk,” said the Blessed One. "In that case, monk, someone does not have this view: ‘The universe is the Self… eternally the same shall I abide in that very condition.’ He then hears a Perfect One expounding the Teaching for the removal of all grounds for views, of all prejudices, obsessions, dogmas and biases; for the stilling of all (kamma-) processes, for the relinquishing of all substrata (of existence), for the extirpation of craving, for dispassion, cessation, Nibbaana.
He then does not think:

I shall be annihilated, I shall be destroyed! No longer shall I exist!’ Hence he does not grieve, is not depressed, does not lament; he does not beat his breast nor does he weep, and no dejection befalls him. Thus, monk, is there absence of anxiety about unrealities, in the internal.


No, what I tried to say was that I was putting forward a proof of self, and that proof of self was my own self. You said you wanted an argument for the self existing. I am my argument, for the sake of that argument.

Your response reminds me of “Indian philosophers”, though.


Wow. This discussion is lively. Ignorant house-holder here. Question. Self? I get the no-self anatta thing but since this a “discussion” I have a question. What is it that gets reincarnated? Is that a self? Show me some of your scholarly sutta quotations. Or better yet. What do you think? Please, with Metta, help the ignorant one, (me), on this topic. You guys are awesome.


Self is an extreme…drop the label. Teaching teaches via the middle-way so one can see for oneself…the illusion.

reincarnated:…slightly off-topic…but relevant…cycle of rebirth due to delusion…under SN 22.87: notes on Consciousness (established or unestablished)…and it is not a self.

The Blessed One then addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Come, bhikkhus, let us go to the Black Rock on the Isigili Slope, where the clansman Vakkali has used the knife.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied. Then the Blessed One, together with a number of bhikkhus, went to the Black Rock on the Isigili Slope. The Blessed One saw in the distance the Venerable Vakkali lying on the bed with his shoulder turned.

Now on that occasion a cloud of smoke, a swirl of darkness, was moving to the east, then to the west, to the north, to the south, upwards, downwards, and to the intermediate quarters. The Blessed One then addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Do you see, bhikkhus, that cloud of smoke, that swirl of darkness, moving to the east, then to the west, to the north, to the south, upwards, downwards, and to the intermediate quarters?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“That, bhikkhus, is Mara the Evil One searching for the consciousness of the clansman Vakkali, wondering:
‘Where now has the consciousness of the clansman Vakkali been established?’

However, bhikkhus, with consciousness unestablished, the clansman Vakkali has attained final Nibbāna.”

On self…MN22:

“If there were a self, monks, would there be my self’s property?” — “So it is, Lord.” — “Or if there is a self’s property, would there by my self?” — “So it is, Lord.” — “Since in truth and in fact, self and self’s property do not obtain, O monks, then this ground for views, ‘The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide, in that very condition’ — is it not, monks, an entirely and perfectly foolish idea?” — "What else should it be, Lord? It is an entirely and perfectly foolish idea.


First, there is no self now (but ‘only’ aggregates are present). So far, rebirth has been happening, despite the lack of a self.

Aggregates arise and pass away- this happens in strings of cause and effect, and it is this kind of cause driven continuity that is seen in a string of dominoes, which ‘moves forward’, from life to life.

with metta


We have had similar back-and-forths before. Sometimes I slip into the very same position, but what I more often find irritating about the argument of “there is no self (=atman?)” is that it is

  • either an experienced reality of the speaker (=arahant in the Buddhist sense)
  • or a conviction based on words, based on experiences of an arahant of the past

I will just assume that we (usually) don’t have self-proclaimed arahants on SC. So what is the second position really? First of all, can we please agree that “There is no self” is not to be found in the Buddhist texts.

So if we summarize faithfully what the enlightened position according to the texts are, should we not do it with the same context that the EBT used?

But secondly, what is it that I do when I repeat insights that are expressions of full enlightenment? Is it a sati, a kind of practice, an expression of conviction/belief? Like when a curious newcomer asks “What is Nibbana?” and the learned meditator follows the reflex to repeat the definitions of the texts - or even worse, one’s own ideas.

Again, I do that myself enough too, I just suspect that there is something very deluded in the background, as if by repeating the words of an enlightened position it would bring me closer to enlightenment. I believe that a more skillful way is to say “This is what we find in the texts, and this is what I have realized for myself (e.g. meditation made me calmer)”


Not that I can see. Which version of rebirth would you like to be released from?

Nope. Just experience. “Supramundane experience” is just a fancy word for spooky experiences. There is nothing beyond experience that we can get to via meditation. Meditation , at least at this end of the spectrum, is all about withdrawing from experience; the acme of this is not "Supramundane experience"but no experience at all.

Feeling/thinking that one is a self, is also an experience. That feeling arises when the conditions are present, and it ceases when the conditions are absent. That’s all. There is nothing to say beyond this. It doesn’t really mean much to argue about “self” until one actually experiences the cessation of self while conscious. After that, no argument is necessary.

The people arguing about the existence or non-existence of the self are chasing a red herring. Always have been. Which is kind of the point of looking for self in the khandhas. The khandhas are experience. You look for the experience of self in experience. And you see that it is conditioned, not illusory or non-existent, but conditioned.

Re Ud8,3

What does it mean to say that there is “an unborn”. See, it’s quite hard to say something like that in Pāli. What the Pāli actually says is atthi ajātaṃ “there is unborn”. Now whether, in English we choose to have “an” or “the” or something else to make grammatical English is up to us, but you don’t get any articles in Pāḷi. So in the translation you are getting something which is not present in the original text.

The usual reading is the metaphysical one: that something exists, that it is a transcendental reality. But the Buddha mocked people who believe in some forms of transcendental reality (e.g. Tevijjā Sutta DN 13 - as famously commented on by Richard Gombrich).

On the whole I think the texts means to say that there is a dhamma that is ajāta, etc. And a dhamma is the ārammaṇa for mano: the sense object associated with the mental sense. In the state of cessation (nirodha) or emptiness (suññatāvihāra) you are in a state in which no sense experience is arising or ceasing; and no cognitive experience is arising or ceasing. Everything is still, you are aware, but nothing is happening. Being in that state (śūnyatāyām as the Heart Sutra says), there is no you, no world, no space, no time, no anything. And it this experience, above all others, that constitutes liberation. Though of course there are multiple sects within the Pāli texts all talking about it in different ways. And also other religieux talking about it in their way (of which the Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad and the Sāṃkhyakārika are well known examples).

Alternatively, maybe we are talking about those folks who say that after meditating they have no sense of self; experience just comes and goes with no sense of agency, ownership, or location in space. In that case the sense of self doesn’t arise and doesn’t cease.

Alex Wynne has argued, we got these practices from the Brahmins in the first place. Not sure I entirely agree, but there is no doubt that many people were experiencing cessation and interpreting it in different ways. Some went for metaphysics (transcendental realities etc) and others, e.g. the Buddha, decided against that and described it in terms of what is absent. Later Buddhists actually did a much better job of describing it.

Now when you try to describe that experience to someone, how are you going to do it. If you say it is like nothing, you give the wrong impression. Because it’s not nothing, you’re alive and aware, it’s just that nothing is arising. And since there is no sense time and space the experience itself cannot be described in terms of space and time.

Remember, even Māra can cite the suttas (and these days I think he is very active indeed on that front). One has to do more that cite cuttas and assume that they reinforce your argument. That text, Ud8.3, is cited very often, but I’ve never had the sense that it is well understood. But it is used to support metaphysical speculations by people who want to believe that Buddhism does something other than snuff out our suffering by making sure that we are not reborn ever again. We do not go to a higher reality, we are extinguished (nibbāna) and beyond that nothing can be said (avyakāta). Or at least this is what the suttas tell us.

You are the one calling yourself “emptiness”. So why are you proposing something which is not empty?


The reason of your bold highlighted text is because they are saying the same thing, not different or non existent as you suggested. Nibbana is that transcendent experience which is supramundane.
Am not sure of the requirement or the need of version of rebirth, rebirth is just rebirth and too, is also illusionary and suffering.

Under meditation, this would be under Jhanas. There are 8 of them and are termed as Attainments, profitable and also mundane under Consciousness.
Yet, Supramundane are also profitable and there are 4 of them which relates to their 4 number fruition under Consciousness.

Have you noticed the word “Consciousness” being bought in to replace “experience”?
The point is that there are these experiences which are unconditioned experiences, if not, the entire teaching would be of no use.

The experience via a self (conceit I-am) is only a mundane subjective experience, ie, an illusionary one…remember under “DO”…the very first one is Ignorance/delusion.
There are many text that specifically points to that boundary zone/area and some beyond our mundane experience.

Again, there are contradictions here. if the experience is conditioned, then it must follow that it too is an illusion and existent…therefore cannot be depended upon.

The word “Conditioned”…maybe one should ask What is under conditioned?

Meanwhile…MN49 points to that experience beyond the mundane:

Consciousness without surface,
endless, radiant all around,
has not been experienced through the earthness of earth … the liquidity of liquid … the fieriness of fire … the windiness of wind … the allness of the all.

SN35.23: points to the All…

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All.

SN22.53: points to release of Consciousness…

If a monk abandons passion for the property of consciousness, then owing to the abandonment of passion, the support is cut off, and there is no landing of consciousness. Consciousness, thus not having landed, not increasing, not concocting, is released. Owing to its release, it is steady. Owing to its steadiness, it is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, he (the monk) is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.

DN15: points to directly known

Having directly known that, the monk is released. [To say that,] ‘The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know is his opinion,’ that would be mistaken.

…back later on “unborn”


End of the day, they are just words, pointing to it but can never be the actual experience itself…no matter how perfectly translated they are, it is just words and can never be substituted for the experience itself.
There are other words under Ud8.1 such as unestablished, unevolving, no birth and no death.
Ud8.3 uses unborn, unbecome, unmade and unfabricated.
My understanding is that these words align with what is termed under the teaching as the Middle-way…it avoids the extremes and goes right through the middle…for reasons so one can see it for oneself…the right view.

Well, first thing is anything beyond the mundane, language or words to describe are very limited just as the text states. More like mis-understanding and grasping on words…can you provide a quotation on D13 and the comments in question by R Gombrich?

Sounds just like the Ud8.1 & Ud8.3 isn’t it.
It is said under the text that the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness under AN10.81.

But under those conditions, they are just within the confines of the mind and are not the actual full experience itself. More like a preview. The differences here are these cannot fulfil the task of release leading to letting go / uncling.

For there to be Nibbana there must be that which experiences it.
For there to be ignorance/Delusion that must depend on.

DN15: on cannot express it…

He does know & see what lies beyond, even though - as Ven. Sariputta said to Ven. MahaKotthita - he cannot express it, in as much as it lies beyond objectification.


Personally, I like this explanation. It fits well with the middle way of “not self” but also “not annihilation”.


So the text under discussion is this “We are not in search of some transcendental reality beyond experience;”

Note the word “reality”.

Actually there are four associated with the rūpaloka. And another four āyatanas associated with the arūpaloka. It is incorrect to refer to the āyatanas as jhānas.

“Consciousness” is meaningless for two reasons: 1. there is no parallel entity in Pāḷi; 2. it is an abstraction.

There is a name for this logical fallacy–“it must exist according to our doctrine, therefore it does exist”–but it has slipped my mine. Suffice to say that this is not reasoning, this is theology.

Again, this is a logical fallacy of the same time. It’s a post hoc procrustean rationalisation. No one ever said, in Pāḷi anyway, that conditioned experience is an illusion. The idea that form is like an illusion (rūpam māyopamaṃ) is a simile. Experiences are neither real nor unreal, at least in the primitive ontology that we find in Iron Age Indian Buddhism. If you insist that experience is an illusion then you are asserting a non-Buddhist ideology.

As I now cite with depressing regularity, the idea that existence (atthitā) and non-existence (n’atthitā) apply to the world of experience (loka) is a fallacy. Even in modern terms, the ontology of experience is not a simple matter.

Referring to the Pāli worldview, the problem is that we have experiences. No one can doubt this. But two wrong views come from considering experience to be real or unreal. The Buddha on the other hand teaches the middle way: that experience arises and passes away.

Labelling an experience “supramundane” (for which I don’t believe there is a Pāḷi equivalent) is simply a red herring. If you are having an experience then it arose and it will cease. The only exception to this is precisely no experience, or cessation. Nibbāna means “snuffed out” for a reason. In nirodha no experience arises and no experience passes away. Etc. I’m just repeating myself now.

To speculate about the metaphysics of nirodha is to make a category error. Nirodha is profound and transformative, but it is not some transcendent reality. It changes the way that we perceive vedanā and we stop clinging. These are epistemic changes.

In (any) Buddhist terms this is a micchādiṭṭhi. There is no “that which experiences” in any experience. Experience is experience. A first person perspective on experience is simply part of experience (which can cease). If you look for “that which experiences” all you find is more experience. Buddhaghosa got this right

Dukkham eva hi, na koci dukkito
kārako na, kiriyā va vajjati
atthi nibbuti, na nibbuto pumā
maggam atthi, gamako no vajjati (Vism XVI.90)

There is just suffering, no one is a “sufferer”;
There are actions, no actor is found.
There is extinguishing, nobody is extinguished;
There is a path, no traveller is found.

The metaphysical speculations such as the existence/non-existence duality or the real/illusion duality or even the mundane/supramundane duality cannot apply to experience.

Your approach, which will no doubt find supporters and be popular, but it relies on a whole series of axioms, articles of faith, assumptions, post hoc rationalisations, and logical fallacies. This is Buddhism as a religion, its not the Dharma as a path to liberation.

Certainty is another kind of experience. It also arises and ceases.