Two opposing suttas on 6 sense based experience?

One of the most common “definitions” in nibbāna while alive is the ending of greed, anger, and ignorance. This is known by a fully awakened one, an arahant. Their freedom is not limited by the khandhas and conditions, but their knowing/direct experience is through the consciousness aggregate, even if by afterwards reflecting on the temporary cessation of consciousness.

Otherwise, you have to make up another kind of consciousness or knowing not described in the suttas, which you appear to be relying on.

This is neither perception nor non-perception in the second quote which is one of the meditative absorption factors. This is setting aside mental abstraction. Ones eyes, ears, nose, mind, and such: intersects with the elements of space, light, and other myriad elements.

You will find contradiction weaved through out the Pali Canon. A great sense of urgency to uproot suffering at all costs paired with the determination to live a life at peace is the north star guiding principle and the sword which will help you chop away at the weeds of seeming contradiction as to lead you to the golden vein of dharma nested within a heart of Oak. This prevents one from becoming a word for word literalist and encourages one to investigate ones experience in alignment with the ehipassiko principle.

Mental abstraction has a function and that is to make sense of experience. There are those who work imbue meaning into terms and then those who seek meaning. Those who forge maps, and those who follow them. Those who have followed them half-way and then found the rest of the way on their own. Either way: if one is diligently and earnestly striving, they will come into contact with the path. Realisation and wisdom is realisation and wisdom all the same.


This was @dastharak’s first post, which I thought was nice. Clear, and with a focused question. But the thread has evolved (devolved?) into yet another unrestricted discussion on the nature of nibbāna. I personally have had enough of these for a good while. :smile:

If like me you prefer a more focused discussion, please address my actual points on the word āyatana and the wide range of meaning it has in the Pāli canon. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on that, and it would be of more interest to dastharak’s question as well:

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Really nice. Thanks Bhante :pray:

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This is one argument I don’t understand.

If Nibbana is a dimension that exists (on its own, I presume?), why is it important to believe in it?

Understanding the practical consequences that different views on Nibbana has on practice is an interesting topic. And I mean consequences beyond “wrong view = bad”. Like, how does one practice differently depending on views.

It must come down to how Nibbana-views affect interpretation of meditation experiences?

But I don’t understand why it’s bad to believe in the possibility of (all types of) consciousness ending? Like, am I going to wrongly think a meditation experience was impermanent? But I’m out of that meditation experience now! My experience has changed, how is it not impermanent? :melting_face: :slight_smile:

Thanks Bhikkhu Sunyo :pray: Your explanation makes sense especially regarding Ven. Ananda’s short commentary and the Buddha’s affirmation of the same. So I think it is reasonable to say that the cessation aspect of ‘the all’, while another verbalised, dependently arisen mind and the mental phenomena when taken as a concept, should rather be considered as a pointer towards a state rather than a description of the state itself.

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Thanks ‘Emptiness’. Conditioned and unconditioned is not given in the sutta itself. I would like to think further on that line if you explain it.

Thanks Nikolas. However one would argue that the strong definition of ‘the all’ would encompass every thought and concept including the concept of negation thus invalidating a possibility to talk about a cessation/outside/not (‘the all’). This is the core of the problem I present.

It depends on how concepts of negation are used.
While concepts and thoughts are conditioned, the only way to the cessation of conditions/the All/dukkha is the skillful use of the All/conditions on the N8FP, including skillful thoughts and concepts, including reflecting on and contemplating cessation/nibbāna in ways that lead to the extinction of greed, anger, and ignorance while the aggregates remain and to the ending of rebirth when they cease at death, as in MN9:

““A noble disciple understands the unskillful and its root, and the skillful and its root. That is, the deed and the motivating force behind the deed.”
Leading to:
“They’ve completely given up the underlying tendency to greed, got rid of the underlying tendency to repulsion, and eradicated the underlying tendency to the view and conceit ‘I am’. They’ve given up ignorance and given rise to knowledge, and make an end of suffering in this very life.”

Yet all this is conditional.
MN44: “But is the noble eightfold path conditioned or unconditioned?” “Ariyo panāyye, aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo saṅkhato udāhu asaṅkhato”ti?
“The noble eightfold path is conditioned.” “Ariyo kho, āvuso visākha, aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo saṅkhato”ti

The N8FP being conditional doesn’t invalidate its effectiveness, nor does the fact that it is itself extinguished with final nibbāna render it invalid as a path to extinguishment.

A post was split to a new topic: Eastern philosophy says there is no “self.” Science agrees

My present understanding is that: the negation/cessation/not(the all) is a pointer towards an outside/escape but not an outside of ‘the all’ by itself. So the pointer, just like the dhamma as the raft, exists within ‘the all’ not by rejecting ‘the all’ (as the Buddha would dismiss) but by accepting ‘the all’. However the content of the pointer is referring to a logical dilemma (making the rationalist philosophers panic). Hence an empirical procedure is presented i.e. the path. Like how people learn things through experience. It is not totally based on the blind faith, but with some indications that it is inline with the direction of the pointer.

One way of understanding this that I find useful is to think of the second instance above as a non-affirming negation. Our usual mode of thinking - one so ingrained that it is sometimes called a Law of Thought in the West that is traced back to Aristotle - is to think of every thing as either true or false. This is problematic for some things. Some examples:

  • The number seven is yellow.
  • The present King of France is bald.
  • “The fire is extinguished” followed by “where did the fire go?”

We run into problems when thinking every “thing”, when not found, necessarily gives some positive affirmation or information of some other “thing” that necessarily follows.

Looked at in this way, I think the second instance isn’t describing some positive other “thing” that comes about with the cessation of the first. Rather, it is a non-affirming negation. So it isn’t that one should not describe it, but rather one should describe it to be understood as a non-affirming negation of the first.

Thanks for the input yeshe. I would like to know if the non-affirming negation is an expression based on four fold logic system in the nikayas? I saw that it is used by the Prasangika’s.

One interpretation of denying any of the clauses of the four fold logic system in the nikayas - as the Teacher did several times in the EBTs - is to understand it as a non-affirming negation. That is, by denying the four fold statements: “it is, it isn’t, it is both, it is neither” is to give a non-affirming negation.

It is equivalent to saying:

  • “It is” has not been proven true.
  • “It isn’t” has not been proven true.
  • “It is both” has not been proven true.
  • “It is neither” has not been proven true.

Without implying any further positive affirming statement.

I’m not aware of the Teacher laying out the above in a specific sutta, but I’m also unaware of any inconsistency with the above and the EBTs.


FWIW @josephzizys, the above is more or less how I understand and reconcile the Yamaka sutta sn22.85, Anuradha sutta sn 22.86, and the Vaccha sutta MN 72. They are all non-affirming negations that do not imply further positive affirming statements.

In other words, in all three, the Teacher criticizes the questions/statements as premised on assuming some positive affirming proof of some “thing”; the Teacher objects to this by saying that the assumed premise has not actually been proven therefore the questions/statements are invalid.

The critical point to understand is that by saying:

In that case, Anurādha, since you don’t actually find the Realized One in the present life, is it appropriate to declare

There is no positive affirming statement that the Realized One doesn’t exist. There is no positive affirming statement whatsoever. I can paraphrase what’s been said as:

  • Anurādha, you have failed to prove your premise, therefore your further statements are not appropriate

Which is very different from:

  • Anurādha, you have proven the Tathagata does not exist in this very life, therefore your further statements about a future state are not appropriate

This is the difference between constructive logic and classical logic. Constructive logic is about what can be directly proven, whereas Classical logic is tied to an ontological commitment that all statements are either true or false and thus does not leave room for a non-affirming negation.

Classical logic is appealing because it is very hard for our human brains to settle any conclusion with no positive affirming statement. Classical logic is binary: everything is either true or it is false. Constructive logic is much more conservative. It allows for settling on a conclusion with no positive affirming statement.



Just to get back to the original post, if you understand ayatana as ‘occasion’ the second sutta (Kāmaguṇasutta) it pretty straightforwardly refers to the cessation of consciousness.

Edit: i.e. no contradiction, the six senses and their cessation can be known.

E.g. the temporary cessation of the 5 sense consciousnesses in the jhanas. The cessation of perception of consciousness arupa state, or perhaps seeing nibbana (as per the cessationist view).

Could you give a reference for the suttas btw? There are three suttas called Kāmaguṇasutta when I search suttacentral :slight_smile:

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Maybe you can clarify because I’m not understanding your point here.

Thanks for that @yeshe.tenley , i think you are definitely onto something here and furthur research and especially a survey or catalogue of examples would be of great value to the argument.

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You’re very welcome. As an additional aside, it is within this context and framework that I understand the doctrine of rebirth as compatible with the doctrine of anatta.

Over the years, I have met many dhamma friends who think the doctrine of anatta refutes rebirth. Often they express puzzlement on how a person can be said to be reborn if the doctrine of anatta affirms the non-existence of persons. There was a time when I too believed this and could not understand how to reconcile the two.

However, there is no problem if the doctrine of anatta is understood as a non-affirming negation. The three suttas discussed can all be understood in the same way as applying to persons as well as to the Tathagata. Hope this is some recompense for earlier reticence.


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think nothing of it @yeshe I am prone, as probably many on here can attest, to moments of grumpiness, in addition to my equally well known proneness to hyperbole, and my appalling naivety of pali grammar :slight_smile:

I hope you can forgive me for my earlier loss of temper.

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