Current debate between Analayo and Wynne on "two paths" to liberation

This is to discuss the current debate (which has gotten a little heated it seems, with calls of ad hominem) between Analayo and Alexander Wynne. The crux of the debate is the “two paths theory” (TPT), the idea that:

“Early Buddhist texts reflect a tension between two contrasting accounts of progress to liberating insight, one that just requires an intellectual understanding of the four noble truth, whereas the other envisions absorption attainment on its own as productive of such insight.”

Anyways, Analayo published a critique of this theory (which goes back to La Vallee Poussin and is defended by Wynne), in 2016:

Recently, Wynne responded strongly arguing in favor of TPT, accusing Analayo of being uncritical and of doing religious exegesis instead of critical scholarship (as well as of ad hominem against Poussin):

And now Analayo’s response in defense of himself:


I think that while it makes sense that there were various “camps” within early buddhist sangha who preferred different practices and that there are different ways to approach the buddhadharma, I don’t think that the texts support the idea that there were two totally different ways to reach liberation.

Anyways, I’m surprised Wynne was so prickly in his paper.


The only way to attain Nibbana is by understanding the Four Noble Truths. (following the Noble Eightfold Path)
However there are many kind of liberation. For instance some beleive merging with universal consciousness is the liberation.

let me shamelessly plug this Text-critical History is not Exegesis by Alexander Wynne

Analayo’s response (on methodology and TPT) is informative and interesting.

I incline toward the Wynne view. But mostly I think everbody should just shut up and meditate. :wink:


I was investigating a different two-paths-theory recently, namely the path of jhana/samadhi vs. not-self (including anatta). To my surprise there are only a handful of suttas in SN and AN that combine the two. The hundreds of others either have the one or the other. This continues even in the MN, even though one would think that the longer format invites more mixing of concepts.

So I think there is a lot of value in investigating several different-paths options. A likely outcome would be (I think) isolating different transmission lines of ancient teachers who focused on the approach they knew best, at some point feeding into the compilation and edition process of the sutta pitaka.


Hmm, maybe I’m misunderstanding something obvious (english’s not my native tongue) But I like the MN32 culminating in this compilation of perspectives:

“(…) Next I asked Mahākassapa the same question. He said: ‘It’s a mendicant who lives in the wilderness … and is accomplished in the knowledge and vision of freedom; and they praise these things. That’s the kind of mendicant who would beautify this park.’” “Good, good, Sāriputta! Kassapa answered in the right way for him. For Kassapa lives in the wilderness … and is accomplished in the knowledge and vision of freedom; and he praises these things.”

“Next I asked Mahāmoggallāna the same question. He said: ‘It’s when two mendicants engage in discussion about the teaching … That’s the kind of mendicant who would beautify this park.’“Good, good, Sāriputta! Moggallāna answered in the right way for him. For Moggallāna is a Dhamma speaker.”

When he had spoken, Moggallāna said to the Buddha: “Next, I asked Sāriputta: ‘Each of us has spoken from our heart. And now we ask you: Sāriputta, the sal forest park at Gosiṅga is lovely, the night is bright, the sal trees are in full blossom, and divine scents seem to float on the air. What kind of mendicant would beautify this park?’ When I had spoken, Sāriputta said to me: ‘Reverend Moggallāna, it’s when a mendicant masters their mind and is not mastered by it … That’s the kind of mendicant who would beautify this park.’“Good, good, Moggallāna! Sāriputta answered in the right way for him. For Sāriputta masters his mind and is not mastered by it …”

When he had spoken, Sāriputta asked the Buddha: “Sir, who has spoken well?” “You’ve all spoken well in your own way. However, listen to me also as to what kind of mendicant would beautify this sal forest park at Gosiṅga. It’s a mendicant who, after the meal, returns from alms-round, sits down cross-legged with their body straight, and establishes mindfulness right there, thinking: ‘I will not break this sitting posture until my mind is freed from the defilements by not grasping!’ That’s the kind of mendicant who would beautify this park.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, those venerables were happy with what the Buddha said.

For **_me_**, that story had answered any question which might (or might have) occur(ed) around this problem of multitude of facettes of path.

I do feel that Mahagosinga sutta promote diverse aspect of the path.
It is also interesting to note that, while other monks praise self-behaviour (like Anuruddha on divine eye, or Kassapa on wilderness), Moggallana and Sariputta seems to praise each other (Moggallana on dhamma speaker, and Sariputta on meditation master).


Wow. I had not read this before. Thank you for this inspiring quote!
I would definitely heed the words and actions of such a fierce mendicant.
It is one thing to know the Dhamma, quite another to live it.


Hi @Karl_lew I like your emotion concerning that “fierce mendicant” much :slight_smile: : I’d had the same emotion when I’ve read that sutra - and I reread it casually for recalling that moment and to re-connect with that fierce mendicant in friendship and trust.


The fierceness is about single-mindedness of purpose and determination. Of course, this isn’t a recipe for all occasions but a useful one to have in your armament.


I have been following this debate for a while now, and something only just now struck me–
In several articles I’ve come across Dr. Wynne stating that at least one of the two (or, is it possibly more, now?) “paths to liberation” sees the cessation of perception and feeling as the ultimate goal.
Who are these people following this paths to which he makes reference? Is there literature which supports their existence and/or documents their teachings? Is it in the suttas? Or were these post-canonical developments?
I mean, I always sort of went along with the proposition (consensus?) that such a group or groups existed; but, now, I realize that, like the idea that the Buddha practiced anapana on the night of his awakening, I have yet to see scripture cited supporting it.


The cessation of perception and feeling is the eighth liberation.

Who follows that path? Well, I guess I do, since I read the suttas.

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Do you actually practice the eight liberations? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

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Why does need to see my list of contacts? Do you perhaps have an alternative link where I can download the files?

I practice listening to DN33 several times a week. And the eight liberations come up one by one and are attended to as spoken and heard. DN33 enumerates multiple sequences that end with the “cessation of perception and feeling.” They are all slightly different and exercise different considerations. For example DN33 also has nine progressive meditations, which start with the jhanas and end with the “cessation of perception and feeling.”

So I would say that I am studying the eight liberations as well as nine progressive meditations, which is different than being able to demonstrate them or even know them directly.

Also in DN33 are seven planes of consciousness, which, interestingly ends well below the cessation of perception and feeling. This therefore defines the extent of consciousness (i.e., that which makes choices) in the suttas.

Furthermore, DN33 discusses nine abodes of sentient beings, which includes the seven planes of consciousness and ends one below the cessation of perception and feeling. Therefore sentient beings can’t abide in the cessation of perception and feeling. I guess we can visit for a while. :thinking:


What does the above mean? What does ‘practicing’ these liberations mean for you, since the read the above to say that you equate ‘practicing’ a liberation with being liberated? Once you are liberated, why would you practice? It would be practice without a ‘practical’ goal. I imagine nearly everyone practicing any numeration of liberations is ultimately trying to reach that/those liberation(s). If one has already attained the liberation, why seek liberty?

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this can be his own imagination and speculation. Although he is right in the discussion because is quite clear the different ways or paths inside the Suttas.

There is also a good problem not mentioned for the Analayo view, if we deny the existence of those different ways. Because both the cultivation of jhanas and of wisdom existed before Buddha times. And what makes the Buddha so special is also seeing how he mastered all the possible ways to access into the truth, and how he taught to all type of beings in the way they needed.

That mastery exceed arhants or whoever. Precisely only a Buddha can do that.

Cessation of perception and feeling didn’t exist or rather couldn’t be achieved, before the Buddha introduced vipassana to the already present tranquility meditation and this is his unique contribution.

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Its inconceivable how anyone who has practiced sincerely, experienced samadhi (which requires you to be able to still the movements of the mind and notice what causes it to move/leave concentration) and personally noticing how the texts talk directly and blatantly about those causes, can think you can just intellectually understand the four noble truths and you’ll magically reap the fruits without putting in the time and effort into meditation.

That’s as absurd as an art historian, an expert on the field of studying master-artists, saying you can become an actual Renaissance level painter by merely studying, understanding intellectually the mechanics of color theory/line thickness/contrast/etc., without actually putting in the hands on work of drawing and painting.

There is a hands on skill here, there is a training on causes and effects at play here. Whether we are talking about knitting, basketball, drawing, or the training of the mind, we are dealing with a hands on training that requires constant effort to develop the skills to personally see these mental phenomenon at play, the interaction/causes that lead to arising of other things we experience.


Yes, but it’s enough to develop a career as an academic. Which is pretty pointless, like a expert on swimming who never got into the water.

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