"I declare ONLY suffering and its cessation." — The Buddha, indeed

This topic is already discussed by Bhante @sujato in other thread here:

Although in the past thread Bhante agreed with Bhikkhu Bodhi’s opinion, perhaps now Bhante has changed his mind :thinking:

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Hello Venerable,

Well said.

Tks.

Unless I’m misunderstanding your point, this sounds like “If only water exists then by definition waves don’t exist.”

Dukkha manifests as forms; all forms are dukkha.
Same with perceptions, feelings, volitional formations, and consciousness.
All dukkha as various kinds and manifestations of experiences.
Those particular experiences are different and sometimes even pleasant, yet all are anicca, dukkha.

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Venerable, this is in accordance with my meager understanding and I thank you for eloquent explanation. It benefits my mind and gives me strength and faith. Sincerely thankful for your words. :pray:

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I think this can be further illustrated by how the Buddha taught the notion of duality. In order for there to be a ‘self’ there needs to be an ‘other’. In order for a ‘this’, there needs to be a ‘that’, here/there, exists/not exists etc. It is the constructed framework/conceptualizations and designations that enable this kind of labelling and perceiving of experience. Note that language itself is constructed to embody and mould perception via this dichotomy. This dichotomy is inherent in language, and language perpetuates perception in this mode…

Hence back to… Mind is the forerunner of all ‘things’. What we label as ‘existence’ is based upon a specific way of perceiving. Hence, if one reconditions perception in line with how the Buddha taught, one can transcend this to ‘see reality as it truly is’.

For me, ultimately, perception (via the khandas) is the key.

Hence the importance of samadhi, in being able to move beyond verbal constructions and constraints in perception and comprehension. For me this is the neccesary tool, to ‘crack the eggshell’. Until there is a crack in it, there is no awareness that the ‘eggshell’ even exists and determines the mode of perception. It is impossible to conceive of. It is for this reason that i believe samadhi is a vital condition and explains why it is the culminating factor on the N8fP. All other factors are necessary to culminate in Samma Samadhi > Knowledge and Vision > Liberation from the suffering inherent in the conditioned/constructed.

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Also, regarding how to fully know the four noble truths, there is a disagreement between SN and SA traditions. According to SN 56.30 (no SA counterpart) and SA 435-437 (SN 56.44 = SA 436-437), the SN version indicates that to know one of the four noble truths is also to know the rest of them, but the SA version indicates that the four must be known in sequence (p. 239):
Page 239 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (81.4 KB)

Which tradition is correct?

Ven, I know you said you wanted to drop this, but it may be a good way to learn about differences which in the end may be just different ways of putting it. That’s more important, perhaps, than learning about conceptual differences. If anything, I learn much more from it. So I’ll reply again. :slight_smile:

Our (perceived) disagreement may be the fact that the undeclared points about the Tathagata are undeclared for exactly these two reasons you mention. Ud6.4 brings that out very nicely: “They [who declare these things] (1) don’t understand what is beneficial or what is not beneficial, (2) nor what is the truth and what is not the truth.” I think the Buddha says they are unbeneficial exactly because they are not the truth. To assume any of them, will lead away from right view, because they’re false. I’m not sure what you are saying, but it seems to be a semantic issue primarily, not so much an issue of truth.

As to ‘exist’ versus ‘truly exist’, I suppose you understand that when I say ‘suffering exists’ (which the Buddha also said in SN12.17) I did not mean to posit a kind of self. All in all, I don’t think the Buddha was concerned with the nature of language to the extent you seem to think he was. He primarily was concerned with using confusing language when it could potentially affirm a self or entity, as in “the Tathagata exists after death”. Saying “suffering exists” doesn’t have that problem, it’s of a different nature. People don’t misunderstand that to imply a self.

Of relevance is that the term “Tathagata” came with a lot of baggage, because it was used by other religions already, as a number of suttas show. It’s likely that the Jains used the term, for example, to whom statements such as “the Tathagata exists after death” would have meant a soul that is liberated from samsara. Terms such as “dukkha” don’t come with such baggage.

I also do think the Buddha declared there to be no self. He does talk about such things. This is an interesting thing about Pali which may touch upon our discussions. Words like vijjati and upalabbhati literally mean ‘to find’, but as Gombrich discussed and as dictionaries gloss, they also mean ‘to exist’. When the Buddha said that no self or tathagata “can be found”, it therefore can also be translated as “does not exist”.

Attani ca, bhikkhave, attaniye ca saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne - “A self or what belongs to a self actually or really is not found/does not exist.” (MN22)

saccato thetato tathāgate anupalabbhiyamāne - “A tathagata actually or really is not found/does not exist.” (SN22.86)

That these are statements about real insight into what does not exist, and not just about the limits of experience beyond which things may or may not exist, can be derived from the terms saccato thetato, which indicate truth and reality.

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Hello Venerable, I do not know about the pali, but I will say that in terms of formal logic a distinction can be made between “cannot be found” and “does not exist” and choosing whether to draw that distinction can have far reaching consequences. Drawing the distinction leads to a more conservative logic. Disregarding the distinction leads to a more liberal logic.

Transforming “cannot be found” into “does not exist” is a process which in formal logic is accomplished by something called double negation elimination. The crucial thing to understand is you are turning a lack of knowledge (a negation) into a formal statement of a positive proof of truth even though you do not have direct knowledge of it. This is, I think, a view in the Teachers language or at least that is my hypothesis.

It is possible not to take the step you are taking and the step has consequences. It is not a distinction without a difference. I’ll leave it at that.

:pray:

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Thanks. :slight_smile: I realize there is a distinction. That’s exactly what I tried to point out. My view is that the Buddha posed a positive proof of truth, as you call it. It wasn’t a lack of knowledge on his part, things just being beyond experience. He replied to accusations of annihilationism of a truly existing being (MN22), and to the assertion that he taught there is a true tathagata (i.e. self) (SN22.86), by saying “there is only suffering [not a true being or tathagata-essence]”. He did so because he had affirmative knowledge that such things do not exist. It’s not just that the existence or non-existence of such things falls outside the scope of his experience. Nor is it just an issue of semantics, because these words like “existing being” point to things that he knew do not exist.

In meditation he went through the entire range of possible experience and still didn’t find such things as a self, hence he knew they don’t exist at all. In this it is unlike denying there is a cup circling the moon, which you can’t really disprove even if it’s a silly proposition, because you can’t go to the moon. It’s more like looking inside an empty box and concluding there is no cup inside it. That is positive knowledge of absence, the type the Buddha had about a self, because he saw the entire “box” of personal existence/experience.

Venerable Vaddha may well agree with this, but I’m just trying to find where we disagree because I find it interesting.

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Ah! Then we are in agreement. I understand your point that you believe the Teacher had a positive proof that no self exists. He may well have have had such a positive proof. However, I do not think “cannot be found” is a direct positive proof. It is an indirect positive proof. Double negation elimination is exactly that → indirect positive proof.

In other words, one could say, “The Teacher directly knew that no self exists anywhere, anyplace, at anytime” and still refuse to take the step of double negation elimination and refuse to turn “cannot be found” into “no self exists” and be entirely consistent without any blame. In fact, this could be exactly what the Teacher meant when he said you could not arrive at the truth (here a positive direct truth) through logic. If it is a positive truth that there is no self anywhere, anyplace, at anytime, then this positive truth needs to be directly known and cannot be arrived at through logic. This could be him advocating for the conservative logic I’m talking about that does not take the step of double negation elimination.

:pray:

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If I wanted to convey the meaning proposed by Ven. Sunyo (which would require a two-clause construction), I think I should want the paññāpemi at the beginning or the end, rather than stuck in the middle. Something like this:

‘Dukkhañcev’atthi tassa nirodho cā’ ti paññāpemi.
I teach that there is only dukkha and the cessation thereof.

‘Dukkhamattampi dukkhanirodhamattampi hotī’ ti paññāpemi.
I teach that there is only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

‘Dukkhañca dukkhanirodhañca ṭhapetvā natthi kiñcī’ ti paññāpemi.
I teach that having set aside dukkha and the cessation of dukkha there is naught else.

‘Vinā dukkhena ca dukkhanirodhena ca natthi kiñcī’ ti paññāpemi.
I teach that apart from dukkha and the cessation of dukkha there is naught else.

Incidentally, the commentary and sub-commentary to MN22 seem to support Bhikkhu Bodhi’s original pre-Tricycle view:

Comy: “Formerly, that is when still in the environ of the Bodhi tree before turning the Wheel of the Dhamma; and also from the time of turning the Wheel when teaching Dhamma, it was only the Four Truths that I proclaimed.” In our sentence, the term ‘suffering’ includes also its roots, the origination; and the term ‘cessation’ also the path that leads to the cessation.

"Sub-Comy: “There is no teaching of the Master that is unrelated to the Four Truths. By saying, ‘What I teach now as before, is suffering and the cessation of suffering,’ the Blessed One indicates this: ‘Never do I teach a self that is annihilated or destroyed, nor do I teach that there is any kind of self’.”

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Hi Venerable,

The commentary does support Bhikkhu Bodhi’s view in one way but do not in another, because it does interpret eva in the restrictive sense, meaning “only the four truths”.

I also think the last phrase of the sub-comy is not very different from what I propose, if at all. It understands the saying in MN22 to be is a specific reply to the accusation of annihilationism. That’s my point. In both this and the other case the Buddha is believed to “declare” an ontological/metaphysical position. It therefore makes sense that is reply is of such nature as well.

By saying, ‘What I teach now as before, is suffering and the cessation of suffering,’ the Blessed One indicates this: ‘Never do I teach a self that is annihilated or destroyed, nor do I teach that there is any kind of self’.”

I haven’t got the Pali of the sub comy here, so don’t know what the word for ‘teach’ is. I’ll go by this translation. Then, what does it mean to “teach a self”? It effectively means to declare the existence of a self. I don’t know what else it could mean. Hence, to “teach suffering” means to declare the existence of suffering in this context.

Suggesting how we would phrase something in Pali is interesting but not really an argument against my (or any) position. Rather, we would have to explain why a certain reading is inherently wrong. It could just be an alternative way of phrasing it, one which is more condensed or context-dependent, for example.

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The cessation of suffering is always the underlying theme. This is the north star which brings everything into focus.

To my uneducated layman mind atleast it seems to be a well expressed statement. I don’t see any mistakes. Especially in the following light,

“yaṁ kiñci vedayitaṁ taṁ dukkhasmin’ti”

When it is said “yaṁ kiñci vedayitaṁ” this encompasses whatever attabhava patilabha there is, resulting from ignorance and so forth. Including sukha sammata( Deva, Brahma) ones.

I especially like the above statement because ‘vedayitaṁ’ counters any accusation of annihilationism and “dukkhasmin’ti” any accusation of eternalism. IMO.

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I agree with this, yes. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘beyond the domain of experience (or language).’ I think this will help resolve some of the distinctions here in a way that does not become overly complicated or burdensome.

The Buddha knew everything that could be experienced, and he knew that all of that can be categorized as dukkha. This comes from an understanding of impermanence, which I would argue actually comes from an understanding of the four noble truths (i.e. the picking-up and the letting go of phenomena — craving and the cessation of craving). This is because so long as one does not get a glimpse of the nature of arising (craving) and ceasing (nirodha [of craving]), then actually things will not cease and there is a continuous stream of phenomena. But that’s a whole other topic. Back to the undeclared points.

By understanding the whole ‘gamut’ of the aggregates, also phrased in terms of the ‘stations’ of consciousness or states of existence, etc., the Buddha saw that all of that could be let go of and was, in fact, not worthy of holding on to. When you follow this all the way, it turns out nothing is an exception, including the experience of ‘there is nothing’ or even more subtle states than that. And he also analyzed the nature and conditional principles of experience to understand through experiential inference (or ‘insight’) the range, scope, domain, or nature of all experiences. The primary way he did this, in this context, is the six sense-domains. Of course, the aggregates, elements, and other frameworks are also relevant. But point being, these describe the principles of experience in terms of where and how it can arise. All of this is impermanent, ephemeral, and so it is unsatisfactory and will lead to suffering. As it is governed by principles of arising and ceasing, and it can be let go of to cease, it is not who we are; it is not self.

“In this world—with its gods, Māras and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans—whatever is seen, heard, thought, known, attained, sought, and explored by the mind: that I know.
Yaṁ, bhikkhave, sadevakassa lokassa samārakassa sabrahmakassa sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya diṭṭhaṁ sutaṁ mutaṁ viññātaṁ pattaṁ pariyesitaṁ anuvicaritaṁ manasā, tamahaṁ jānāmi.
That has been known by a Realized One, but a Realized One is not subject to it.
Taṁ tathāgatassa viditaṁ, taṁ tathāgato na upaṭṭhāsi.
AN 4.24

So, Ven. @Sunyo , there is a degree of positive proof (if I understand these terms correctly; I’m not a logician) in that the Buddha does claim to understand all of experience and the possibility of what could be experienced or is experienced. And so, in this sense, we can directly know that ‘all that is experienced, not being relished will become cool.’ And this is just dukkha that arises, and just dukkha that ceases. To become anxious about ‘me’ ceasing, or ‘you’ ceasing, is to fail to see that what is ceasing is not me, not mine, not my self. The Buddha is the ‘lokavidū’ — the world-knower. He knows the all, the world. He knows the end of the world. And just this is the end of suffering.

The problem is when we then go into the domain of the undeclared points. All experience is of this nature, and all experience will grow cool. But what about after all of that ceases: does something exist? Or does nothing exist? Both? Neither?

All that we can say or know is simply that dukkha has arisen, and dukkha has ceased. That is all that happened. It is beyond the domain of experience and language to speculate about something beyond that which can be known, or that which can be experienced. We can speak about that which is experienced, the arising of it, the cessation of it, and the cessation of any views or notions created dependent on it. But we formulate some idea of a world external to the domain of experience which exists, does not exist, both, neither, then that itself is simply a concept: an experience of a view which is dependent on experience, and therefore the view itself is erroneous and contradicts its own nature. It is a way of applying the mind irrationally, away from the four noble truths, which does not lead to relinquishment but rather hides under the veil of ignorance.

So a Realized One sees what is to be seen, but does not conceive what is seen, does not conceive what is unseen, does not conceive what is to be seen, and does not conceive a seer.
Iti kho, bhikkhave, tathāgato daṭṭhā daṭṭhabbaṁ, diṭṭhaṁ na maññati, adiṭṭhaṁ na maññati, daṭṭhabbaṁ na maññati, daṭṭhāraṁ na maññati;
He knows what is to be known, but does not conceive what is known, does not conceive what is unknown, does not conceive what is to be known, and does not conceive a knower.
viññatvā viññātabbaṁ, viññātaṁ na maññati, aviññātaṁ na maññati, viññātabbaṁ na maññati, viññātāraṁ na maññati.
AN 4.24

We can know that this is what can be known, we can know that this will cease, and therefore we can know that any such view, notion, theory, or idea about it outside of just this fact of arising and ceasing is pure non-sense. It is a ‘conceiving of an unknown.’ None of it applies; it is unbeneficial, and leads to thinking in wrong terms outside of the realm of the four noble truths, i.e. the experience of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha. We can know that this is the whole domain of possible experience, i.e. we can know the whole extent of possible existence/experience/phenomena, rather than thinking “there could be something outside of what we currently know but which is within the range of possibility of knowing,” i.e. agnosticism or skepticism.

Any notion of something underneath experience, a kind of underlying fabric which is liable to experiences but is not them, is a sheer experiential concept. The same is true of the idea that this fabric is non-existent. That underneath experiences, there is nothing. Because this is just the same as conceptualizing about an existent fabric. A non-existent fabric is just as speculative, dependent, unhelpful. We can only know experience and the cessation of experience, and we can know that with the cessation of experience, all such views of existence or non-existence or both or neither do not apply and cease. And this means it is not agnosticism or the inability to truly know; there is knowing and seeing. Why? Because these views are dependent on experience itself, as that is all that is known. It is that which ‘exists.’ It does appear; it does arise; it does cease; it (dukkha) can be ‘annihilated.’ Ideas of sheer existence, pure non-existence, a state of both, or a state of neither, fall apart:

‘Suppose experiences were to totally and utterly cease without anything left over.
vedanā ca hi, āvuso, sabbena sabbaṁ sabbathā sabbaṁ aparisesā nirujjheyyuṁ.
When there is no experience at all, with the cessation of experience, would the thought “I am this” occur there?’”
Sabbaso vedanāya asati vedanānirodhā api nu kho tattha ‘ayamahamasmī’ti siyā”ti?
“No, sir.”
“No hetaṁ, bhante”.
“That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard self as that which is liable to experience.
“Tasmātihānanda, etena petaṁ nakkhamati: ‘na heva kho me vedanā attā, nopi appaṭisaṁvedano me attā, attā me vediyati, vedanādhammo hi me attā’ti samanupassituṁ.
Yato kho, ānanda, bhikkhu neva vedanaṁ attānaṁ samanupassati, nopi appaṭisaṁvedanaṁ attānaṁ samanupassati, nopi ‘attā me vediyati, vedanādhammo hi me attā’ti samanupassati.

Not regarding anything in this way, they don’t grasp at anything in the world. Not grasping, they’re not anxious. Not being anxious, they personally become extinguished.
So evaṁ na samanupassanto na ca kiñci loke upādiyati, anupādiyaṁ na paritassati, aparitassaṁ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati,
They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’
‘khīṇā jāti, vusitaṁ brahmacariyaṁ, kataṁ karaṇīyaṁ, nāparaṁ itthattāyā’ti pajānāti.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to say that a mendicant whose mind is freed like this holds the following views:
Evaṁ vimuttacittaṁ kho, ānanda, bhikkhuṁ yo evaṁ vadeyya:
‘A realized one still exists after death’; ‘A realized one no longer exists after death’; ‘A realized one both still exists and no longer exists after death’; ‘A realized one neither still exists nor no longer exists after death’.
‘hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā itissa diṭṭhī’ti, tadakallaṁ. ‘Na hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā itissa diṭṭhī’ti, tadakallaṁ. ‘Hoti ca na ca hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā itissa diṭṭhī’ti, tadakallaṁ. ‘Neva hoti na na hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā itissa diṭṭhī’ti, tadakallaṁ.
Why is that?
Taṁ kissa hetu?
A mendicant is freed by directly knowing this: how far labeling and the scope of labeling extend; how far terminology and the scope of terminology extend; how far description and the scope of description extend; how far understanding and the sphere of understanding extend; how far the cycle of rebirths and its continuation extend. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say that a mendicant freed by directly knowing this holds the view: ‘There is no such thing as knowing and seeing.’
Yāvatā, ānanda, adhivacanaṁ yāvatā adhivacanapatho, yāvatā nirutti yāvatā niruttipatho, yāvatā paññatti yāvatā paññattipatho, yāvatā paññā yāvatā paññāvacaraṁ, yāvatā vaṭṭaṁ, yāvatā vaṭṭati, tadabhiññāvimutto bhikkhu, tadabhiññāvimuttaṁ bhikkhuṁ ‘na jānāti na passati itissa diṭṭhī’ti, tadakallaṁ.

(I am so grateful for the Buddha :pray::buddha:)

I’d also like to briefly add here — apart from sheer textual sources — that I think part of this circles around the use of precise and specific language, and I think it is probably possible for somebody to understand this issue while also using language like ‘exists’ and ‘does not exist’ in certain contexts in un-nuanced ways. This, to my mind, is part of what makes the Buddha very special: he is a genius at explaining and revealing the Dhamma in a way that is pristine and precise. Because, as I used above, if by ‘exists’ we mean ‘appears’ and by ‘appears’ we mean ‘is experienced/felt/within the domain of what can be experienced’ then the Buddha did clearly say that the self does not exist, as all things that can be experienced are liable to cease and therefore not self. The more accurate way of phrasing this same thing is ‘not found,’ i.e. ‘is not (to be) experienced,’ or in terms of pointing out ‘the all’ or ‘the world’ and how it is not self. The mistaken ideas about ‘the all’ or ‘the world’ which abstract it from experience are the problem in notions of existence and non-existence. Because when we get more into the domain of views, ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ are much more subtle and pernicious than ‘that which is felt.’ This is why the suttas (such as DN 15 above) go to such length to break down and deconstruct people’s views and the concepts they use to relate to them. Either way, the undeclared points would need to be clear experientially (despite the particulars of the language used), and so it would be clear that to conceptualize in terms outside the domain of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha is problematic. I hope this is clear.

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May be I should clarify. I don’t think “yaṁ kiñci vedayitaṁ” mean ‘whatever can be experienced’. Rather ‘vedayitaṁ’ is used in the sense of fruit or result. For example, This ability to experience is also eating the fruits of previous ignorant actions, so to speak. Not only Vedana but sanna, vinnana etc the whole nine yards.

‘The self and the cosmos experience nothing but suffering.’
ittheke abhivadanti, ‘ekantadukkhī attā ca loko ca, idameva saccaṁ moghamaññan’ti—
MN102

Is this another of those wrong views that are explained because there is no self, but it experiences only suffering?

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I think this is how one should think about it

‘What duality are you speaking about?’ ‘This is stress. This is the origination of stress’: this is one contemplation. ‘This is the cessation of stress. This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’: this is a second contemplation. Dvayatanupassana Sutta: The Contemplation of Dualities

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Hi Venerable, thanks for the clarification. That will also help me explain my ideas better next time, to avoid confusion.

Because if I understood you correctly, then I think we’ve just been talking past one another, at least for the most part. You say the Buddha avoided making definite statements about the existence of things that can’t be experienced, and I fully agree with that. Your thoughts help me clarify what I meant from the start.

When I quoted the Buddha as saying, “I declare there is only suffering”, I didn’t mean him to say that everything in the universe is suffering. Rocks and tables are not suffering, for example. I think that goes without saying. Nor did I mean that nothing but suffering exists in the universe. What I meant is that everything that can be experienced is suffering—or in other words, “there is only suffering [to the being/to experience/to life]”. I already assumed that the Buddha was only interested in describing the inner perspective of beings and not in making metaphysical statements about the existence of insentient objects or anything outside of experience. That’s not just my assumption, though, it’s also that of the suttas.

This frame of reference of the individual being is where the Buddha always comes from in these kind of discussions. In SN12.51 it is said, for example, that after the enlightened being dies “only bodily remains will be left”. Well, other beings and things are also still left, we could object. But the description only concerns that one enlightened being, not all other stuff in the universe.

The same applies to the tetralemma on existence, such as in AN4.173. When Koṭṭhika asks whether after the cessation of the six senses something else still exists, he doesn’t mean to ask about rocks or chairs, because it’s clear they still exists. He asks whether something else still exists for that individual to be experienced. The same is true for the statement of Vajirā in SN5.10. She says only suffering arises, exists, and vanishes. That has to be taken in context of Māra’s question about a perceived being or self.

The statements in MN22 and SN22.86 about “I declare only suffering and its cessation” likewise are in context of a being.

Even the Kaccāyanagotta Sutta (SN12.15) is all about the existence of the individual being. It mentions the arising and cessation of ‘the world’, but this is to be understood as the six senses, i.e. the being. See SN35.116, where ‘the world’ is defined as such, showing what the Buddha was concerned with. Even the wrong notions of ‘existence’ and ‘nonexistence’ in the Kaccāyanagotta Sutta are about the being and its experiences, not about entities in general, including entities in the external world. At some point they got understood to describe the latter, probably first by Nāgārjuna. His ideas became very influential, but they go beyond what the Buddha was denying. Siderits and Katsura’s comment on their translation of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā:

The two extreme views the Buddha refers to in ‘The Instructing of Katyāyana’ are also called eternalism and annihilationism. Nāgārjuna here interprets these to refer respectively to the view that things exist having intrinsic nature and the view that the lack of intrinsic nature means that things are utterly unreal. The argument is that the first leads to the conclusion that ultimately real things are eternal, while the second leads to the conclusion that ultimately nothing whatsoever exists. So even if the Buddha did not explicitly claim that his was a middle path between the existence and the nonexistence of entities in general and was instead only discussing the existence or nonexistence of the person [i.e. the eternal existence and annihilation of the person], Nāgārjuna takes this to be a plausible extension of the Buddha’s remarks to Katyāyana.

I don’t think this is a plausible extension even philosophically, let alone textually. The wrong views in the Kaccāyanagotta Sutta are about the eternal existence and annihilation of beings/persons, not about the existence of general entities. Absolute knowledge about the former is within the scope of experience (by seeing that there is no self inside), while absolute knowledge about the latter is not. You can’t ever prove definitely that rocks and chairs truly exist or not, for example, or whether they’re all just figments of imagination. So the Buddha wouldn’t even say such views about the (non)existence of entities are wrong. That’s how much he was concerned only with what can be experienced. Eternalism and annihilationism can be seen to be wrong, though.

Eternalism and annihilationism are also what the first two of the four statements on the Tathāgata after death are about, although they are phrased in such a way that even to deny them would affirm one of them. To say ‘no’ when asked ‘does a tathagata still exist after death?’ will sound like annihilationism, for example, as does saying ‘yes’ to ‘does a tathagata no longer exist after death?’ That is why the Buddha avoids phrasing things in such a way, because they all imply a self. This is indeed something to do with the flaws of language.

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Rocks and tables are experiences, and as such they are included in suffering. It is precisely for this reason that the six senses are the world, quite literally.

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