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


Alara Kalama taught him to enter in state of neither perception nor non-perception. Uddaka Ramaputta or Alara Kalama shows previous systems for the cultivation of jhanas and wisdom. That existed before Buddha times.


kamma is not about justice neither the fruits are a mathematical consequence from previous efforts.
Truth is unveiled in an instant, and this is devoid of conditionants. At the end, all type of liberation should come by wisdom. While one is aware his own practice is a tool instread an end, no problem.

About artists etc remember Mozart and others. Every human has a door for the truth. Problem is we don’t know where.


Sounds nice.

What do you make of the fifth abode? the abode of non-percipient beings.

Well, I was just asking @karl_lew if he was practicing the eight liberations because I hadn’t heard of anyone practicing them. I wasn’t asking about him being an arahant or anything.


It seems pretty advanced to say the least! :slight_smile:
SN8.7 comes to mind (was a discussion on this sutta on dhammawheel a while back). This sutta, interestingly, gives a kind of statistical summary of the types of attainment a group of 500 arahants had back in the Buddha’s time.

For of these five hundred monks, sixty have the three knowledges, sixty have the six direct knowledges, sixty are freed both ways, and the rest are freed by wisdom.

Therefore, the clear majority (64%) of the arahants were “freed by wisdom” (had no more than 4th jhana I presume). 12% had the three knowledges (memory of past lives, divine eye and extinction of influxes). Another 12% had the six knowledges (previous three plus divine ear, telepathy and levitating/walking on water type powers). Finally, 12% were “freed both ways” (additionally liberated via the arupa jhanas as I understand it).

Generally, the arupa jhana path seemed to have been an added extra. Those “freed both ways” rank ahead of “those liberated by wisdom” in the various rankings of noble persons IIRC. However, I can’t recall a category of those liberated purely via the arupa jhanas and cessation of feeling and perception (being freed both ways seems always to come after, or at least at the same time as, this being freed by wisdom).

And, seemingly, even among arahants in the Buddha’s day, those “freed both ways” were relatively rare. Almost two-thirds of arahants in this sutta were in the vanilla “liberated by wisdom” category, just shy of a quarter had any psychic powers, and only less than an eighth were “freed both ways”.

Though are those “liberated both ways” also supposed to have all six direct knowledges (if so would bump those with psychic power up to 36%)?


From 19 suttas that discuss non-percipient, one reads:

  • There are gods named ‘non-percipient beings’.
  • These are all forms of identifying: ‘I am’, ‘I am this’, ‘I will be’, ‘I will not be’, ‘I will have form’, ‘I will be formless’, ‘I will be percipient’, ‘I will be non-percipient’, ‘I will be neither percipient nor non-percipient.’

From these I understand that I should not conceive myself to be a non-percipient being (“this is not my self…”).

From these I understand that if I greeted a non-percipient god, that god would not perceive and respond. Yet after climbing I feel compelled to thank the mountain as an avatar of Earth, which happens to be one of the Thirty-Three. I started thanking Earth early in my life, independent of Buddhism–it seemed and still seems appropriate to express gratitude. And Earth has never responded directly to my thanks nor would I expect any response. Therefore, I would say that to me the non-percipient gods include the eight Vasus, of whom Earth is one.

Thanks for running the stats on arahants–it points out many paths, not just two!


Indeed, so, when Dr. Wynne speaks of two (or more) paths, including one wholly samatha-based path where the goal was the apex of samatha practice–cessation–I just wonder where he gets it from.

Yes, indeed, everyone says this, but is it really substantiated by much EBT-wise?

Thank you for your response; but, when I asked,

I was actually thinking in another direction: I was wondering if you saw any connection between the nine abodes stopping just below cessation of perception and the addition of an abode of non-percipient beings located below any of the other formless abodes.


The second abode of sentient beings is associated with the first absorption. Specifically, AN​4.123 asserts that abiding in one of the four jhanas takes one to:

  1. when they die they’re reborn in the company of the gods of Brahmā’s Host.
  2. when they die they’re reborn in the company of the gods of streaming radiance.
  3. when they die they’re reborn in the company of the gods replete with glory.
  4. when they die they’re reborn in the company of the gods of abundant fruit.

Therefore, one might conclude that the second through fifth abodes of sentient beings correspond to the four jhanas, with fourth jhana being associated with the gods of abundant fruit who are presumably an example of non-percipient gods.

With regard to the nine abodes stopping before the cessation of perception and feeling, I understand this to mean that arahants abide nowhere. They are free.


Hence, cessation of feeling andperception, is nibbana.


This is interesting, I’d never thought of it this way before: I’d always associated the non-percipience of this realm with the cessation of perception and feeling. Then, are we saying that the fourth jhana is a wholly non-percipient state? Because that’d be right in the thick of the two-paths debate and Dr. Wynne’s position on the same: are the four jhanas one-pointed “absorption” practices? with each level more devoid of external sense perception than the previous.
In any case, non-percipient beings being from the fourth jhana jibes well with what you said here:

But, as for

I know that this is a logical conclusion which one could draw from the suttas, but is it anywhere stated a bit more explicitly?


I found MN44 quite helpful here in explaining the cessation. Specifically, cessation is non-volitional. There is no “I will”. There is no “I am”:

“But ma’am, how does someone attain the cessation of perception and feeling?”

“A mendicant who is entering such an attainment does not think: ‘I will enter the cessation of perception and feeling’ or ‘I am entering the cessation of perception and feeling’ or ‘I have entered the cessation of perception and feeling.’ Rather, their mind has been previously developed so as to lead to such a state.”

“But ma’am, which cease first for a mendicant who is entering the cessation of perception and feeling: physical, verbal, or mental processes?”

“Verbal processes cease first, then physical, then mental.”

It’s clear to me how verbal processes can cease before physical (I have experienced speechlessness from physical exertion while climbing). It is less clear to me how the cessation of mental processes is distinguished from sleep. The only clue I have here is that sati includes remembrance while I do not remember my sleep. These are subtleties I hope will become clear with further practice.

Regarding the OP and two-path controversy, the advocacy of two-paths strikes me a bit like saying we could only survive on veins or arteries alone.


By extinguishing cravings.

Cessation of feeling and perception is a name for a state in which is different from death :skull: in that the warmth of the body and life is not ended.


In this state, one isn’t percipient of anything and is ‘unconscious’ but different from its other forms (sleep, coma).


Currently the only differences I can measure are:

  1. Head nodding during sitting meditation. Nodding is an indicator of sleep.
  2. Remembrance of time passage. After general anasthesia I have had no sense of elapsed time.

Not sure how this relates to the two-path debate however…


A major difference should be:

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, I say that the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and does not see. For one who knows what, for one who sees what, does the destruction of the taints come about? ‘Such is form, such its origin, such its passing away; such is feeling … such is perception … such are volitional formations … such is consciousness, such its origin, such its passing away’: it is for one who knows thus, for one who sees thus, that the destruction of the taints comes about. SuttaCentral


maybe sources like this:

“Furthermore, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, Sariputta entered & remained in the cessation of feeling & perception. Seeing with discernment, his fermentations were totally ended.”

although in that case, it would be a confussion about pursuing the supports instead its releases. That final release would come from the discernment of cessation of feeling & perception instead from the cessation of feeling & perception in itself.

The issue of discernment is the real and main point regarding different paths.


Not sure what’s meant by ‘who’ but jhana practitioners like Pa Uk Sayadaw, and Amathagavesi traditions practice these liberations.

It’s not possible to get into the state of cessation of feeling and perception without wisdom; it’s traditionally said that only anagamins and arahanths could get into it. It would seem that practicing to be an anagamin would break the fetters of sensuality and ill will. This enables them to go beyond the six senses when going up the ladder of the liberations. It’s not possible to go above the 4th formless attainment normally and insight is required to go beyond into nibbana.


I suppose Wynne’s “two paths” thesis is more a contention of there being early traditions of both jhana and non-jhana paths to arahantship rather than really about the “freed both ways” v “freed by wisdom” attainments. Wynne relies heavily in his argument on SN 12.68, SN 12.70, and AN 6.46, but IMO even these suttas don’t appear to unequivocally support his hypothesis (lots more in the testy Analayo-Wynne exchange linked to in the OP).

MN70 does describe the difference between “freed both ways” and “freed by wisdom”:

And what person is freed both ways?
It’s a person who has direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements have come to an end.

And what person is freed by wisdom?
It’s a person who does not have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, their defilements have come to an end.

However, AN9.44 and AN9.45 together confuse me somewhat on the issue. I’m not sure if I fully understand the distinction between “freed by wisdom” and “freed both ways”. However, I did come across a lengthy note by Piya Tan on the issue, which has lots of references.


Thank you. I had not read MN111–it rather nicely complements DN33 as . :pray:

He understood: ‘There is no escape beyond.’

Presumably one who is freed both ways would be thoroughly acquainted with the eight liberations (i.e., both ways) and by this would be capable of teaching and guiding far more people than one simply freed by wisdom.

From this I am inclined to understand that Sariputta was freed both ways.


Even AN9.43 [body witness] has a similar definition. My feeling is that all three have been corrupted. I wonder what the parallels state!

I thought Pita Tan’s study of it was quite thorough!


Actually the differences emerge here:

  • Personal-witness:

They meditate directly experiencing that dimension in every way. –AN9.43

  • Wisdom:

And they understand that with wisdom. –AN9.44

  • Both ways:

They meditate directly experiencing that dimension in every way. And they understand that with wisdom. –AN9.45

So “Both-ways” = “Personal-witness” + “Wisdom”

I understand the above as:

  • Those freed as personal-witness lack universal wisdom (e.g., limited ability to understand and teach others)
  • Those freed by wisdom lack a depth of personal understanding (e.g., past lives)
  • Those freed both ways are world teachers.

Basically, there are two paths, but each alone is weaker than the two combined.