My question is: What does “what lies beyond all these things” refer to?
Both the atthakatha and tika are clear that it refers to the views and not the fields of contact. Bodhi translates accordingly:
When, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands as they really are the origin and passing away of the six bases of contact, their satisfaction, unsatisfactoriness, and the escape from them, then he understands what transcends all these views. (SuttaCentral)
It seems one might misconstrue (?) the meaning to imply there is a “world” beyond the fields of contact. Or would you say, nibbana is implied here?
My reading of “what lies beyond” is from the vital conditions as documented in SN12.23. Here is a peek into that which is beyond the origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape. It is freedom and the knowledge of the end of the noble search:
So ignorance is a vital condition for choices. Choices are a vital condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a vital condition for name and form. Name and form are vital conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are vital conditions for contact. Contact is a vital condition for feeling. Feeling is a vital condition for craving. Craving is a vital condition for grasping. Grasping is a vital condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a vital condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a vital condition for suffering. Suffering is a vital condition for faith. Faith is a vital condition for joy. Joy is a vital condition for rapture. Rapture is a vital condition for tranquility. Tranquility is a vital condition for bliss. Bliss is a vital condition for immersion. Immersion is a vital condition for truly knowing and seeing. Truly knowing and seeing is a vital condition for disillusionment. Disillusionment is a vital condition for dispassion. Dispassion is a vital condition for freedom. Freedom is a vital condition for the knowledge of ending.
"Contact, mendicants, is one end. The origin of contact is the second end. The cessation of contact is the middle. And craving is the seamstress, for craving weaves one to rebirth in this or that state of existence.
That’s how a mendicant directly knows what should be directly known and completely understands what should be completely understood. Knowing and understanding thus they make an end of suffering in this very life." ~ AN 6.61
“Mendicants, there are these four noble truths. What four? The noble truths of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.
And what is the noble truth of suffering? You should say: ‘The six interior sense fields’. What six? The sense fields of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. This is called the noble truth of suffering. …” SuttaCentral
I do not know the reasons why Bhante Sujato or Bhante Bodhi translated that sentence the way they did, but of course one could construe all sorts of meanings from it.
One can look at the pali and see that it implies ‘a higher understanding’,
It’s an understanding which is higher, it goes ‘beyond’ or above that inferior non-understanding.
His/that understanding is his/that transcendence from being stuck in contact, for there is the understanding of that which is superior ’ the non-craving in regard to all experience, the non- attachment to senses’
‘His’ view is a view which encompasses the world of ‘my point of view’.
The right view is structurally superior, higher, above, beyond, transcendent, encompassing.
Various views about the nature of the Self are expounded. Some relying on past life experiences and assumptions; others rely on logic/deduction:
84And what is the fourth ground on which they rely? It’s when some ascetic or brahmin relies on logic and inquiry. They speak of what they have worked out by logic, following a line of inquiry, expressing their own perspective: ‘That which is called “the eye” or “the ear” or “the nose” or “the tongue” or “the body”: that self is impermanent, not lasting, transient, perishable. That which is called “mind” or “sentience” or “consciousness”: that self is permanent, everlasting, eternal, SuttaCentral
The Buddha relies on the more accurate way of directly experiencing.
The pleasures of the sensuality are known. Their drawbacks therefore also become apparent. Giving up attachments and aversion (abhijja domanassa?) one becomes aware of sights, sounds, sensations, smells, taste and thoughts and sees their impermanence. This leads to revulsion, non-craving and cessation which is ‘release’ (nissarsna). Cessation here is the ceasing of all impermanent phenomena ie everything that’s dukkha. What’s impermanent, that’s dukkha. Ending suffering came from ending ignorance- by seeing tilakkhana. This was a result of practicing the N8FP ie the end of ignorance: this total process can be experienced and verified for oneself, even though it requires dedication and practice including a teacher and a teaching.
This person has gone beyond views. He knows how things truly are and doesn’t subscribe to any view which isn’t verifiable to himself through experience.
There he said to the monks, “This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant.”
When this was said, Ven. Udayin said to Ven. Sariputta, “But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?”
…there is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling. And, having seen [that] with discernment, his mental fermentations are completely ended. So by this line of reasoning it may be known how Unbinding is pleasant.” AN 9.34: Unbinding (English) - Navaka Nipāta - SuttaCentral
Somewhat tangentially following this thought, I notice that Sariputta himself is a bit torn on the issue of past lives:
“Not for knowledge of past lives, nor even for clairvoyance; not for psychic powers, or reading the minds of others, nor for knowing people’s passing away and being reborn; not for purifying the power of clairaudience, did I have any wish.” --Thag17.2 (Sariputta)
Past lives are to be realized through recollection. --DN33 (Sariputta)
I do wonder how Sariputta dealt with past lives in his own practice. He is advocating in DN33 something for which he has no personal wish for…
Vision of past lives can arise spontaneously (tevijja) with enlightenment or as a separate ability developed intentionally, or otherwise. Clearly he’s not attached to it. Seeing one’s past lives can be motiving for one’s practice- as it shows the danger of the endless rounds of samsara and the suffering involved. There’s a sutta where the Buddha asks past lives to be seen as Aggregates, which means they are anicca, and not self. Seeing past lives also have a samadhi aspect to its development so it would be beneficial is someone is able to tap into them…
Sex fields of contact’s (phassayatana) origin and ending (samudayañca atthaṅgamañca).
A somewhat broader exposition of the above is:
“What do you think, Rahula, is the eye permanent or impermanent?” –“Impermanent, venerable sir.”–“Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?”–“Suffering, venerable sir.”–“Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”–“No, venerable sir.”
“Are forms permanent or impermanent?… Is eye-consciousness … Is eye-contact … Is anything included in feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness arisen with eye-contact as condition permanent or impermanent?”–“Impermanent, venerable sir.” The rest as in the preceding paragraph. SuttaCentral
[similarly for the other sense bases]
so i have heard. At Sāvatthī. “Mendicants, develop immersion. A mendicant who has immersion truly understands. What do they truly understand? The origin and ending of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness.
And what is the origin (samudayañca) of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness? It’s when a mendicant approves, welcomes, and keeps clinging. SN22.5
This leads to the knowing the gratification (assāda) of the senses:
What do they approve, welcome, and keep clinging to? They approve, welcome, and keep clinging to form. This gives rise to relishing. Relishing forms is grasping. Their grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition that gives rise to old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. SN22.5 SuttaCentral
And what is the ending (atthaṅgamañca)of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness?
It’s when a mendicant doesn’t approve, welcome, or keep clinging. SN22.5
At Sāvatthī. “What do you think, Rāhula? Is eye contact permanent or impermanent?” “Impermanent, sir.” … “… ear contact … nose contact … tongue contact … body contact … Is mind contact permanent or impermanent?” “Impermanent, sir.” … “Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with eye contact, ear contact, nose contact, tongue contact, body contact, and mind contact. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. …” SuttaCentral
After that it could be discussed in two ways - as simply the ending of desire etc. Or as the ending of all experience, that is nibbana.
“Bhikkhus, there are these three elements of escape (nissarana). What three? The escape from sensual desires, that is, renunciation; the escape from form, that is, the formless; and the escape from whatever has come to be, from whatever is conditioned and dependently arisen, that is, cessation.
This was said by the Lord…
“There is, bhikkhus, a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned. If, bhikkhus, there were no not-born, not-brought-to-being, not-made, not-conditioned, no escape (nissaraṇa) would be discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned. But since there is a not-born, a not-brought-to-being, a not-made, a not-conditioned, therefore an escape is discerned from what is born, brought-to-being, made, conditioned.” SuttaCentral
Indeed! Anyone can! You just have to put in the work
a recluse or a brahmin, by means of ardour, endeavour, application, diligence, and right reflection, attains to such a degree of mental concentration that with his mind thus concentrated, purified, clarified, unblemished, devoid of corruptions, he recollects his numerous past lives
Concentration here is the translation of cetosamadhi. The prefix ceto- of signifies it is a samatha samadhi ie not leading to vipassana/insight. Special powers to see the past all arise from samatha or samatha in the context of vipassana.