The fist number of L. refer to the standard CtP edition published in 1987. The following number shows correspondence between letters in the new 2010 edition. Note that on this website CtP is available only 1987 edition with minor additions.

[L. 146 |156] 21 November 1961

Dear Upāsikā,[1]

Your argument as I understand it assumes that the anāgāmī is liable to phassa, and concludes that, since all phassa is sa-āsava sa-upādāna therefore the anāgāmī has upādāna. I shall do my best to do as you ask and refute you.

1. I shall take your second question first. 'Is there phassa apart from being sa-āsava sa-upādāna?' The answer is: no, there is not.

2. 'Is the anāgāmī liable to phassa or not?' It is evident that your argument depends upon an affirmative answer to this question, and that this, in turn, depends upon the absurdities of a negative answer—i.e. that the anāgāmī is not liable to phassa, which can be truly said only of the arahat. It follows from this that your argument is dependent upon the assumption that the question is one that can be answered categorically—if the answer 'no' is absurd, then the answer 'yes' must be correct.

In the Anguttara (III, 67: i,197; IV,42: ii,46) the Buddha speaks of four kinds of questions: those that can be answered categorically, those that require a discriminating answer, those that require a counter question, and those that must be put aside. Perhaps the question, 'Is the anāgāmī liable to phassa or not?' cannot be answered categorically and is one that must be set aside.

We know that the puthujjana is liable to phassa, and that the arahat is not. But your question asks about the anāgāmī, who is neither puthujjana nor arahat. It is quite true that if I deny that the anāgāmī is liable to phassa I confound him with the arahat; but it is no less true that if I allow that he is liable to phassa I fail to distinguish him from the puthujjana. Thus the question cannot be answered.

To this it can be objected that since both puthujjana and anāgāmī are liable to re-birth, that since neither of them has reached the goal and become arahat, in this respect at least, they are indistinguishable, and consequently that the question can in fact be answered affirmatively. It will be noticed, however, that we are now no longer debating whether or not the anāgāmī is liable to phassa, but whether or not your question 'Is the anāgāmī liable to phassa?' is answerable. And whether we decide that it is answerable or not depends upon whether we regard the paticcasamuppāda formulation as a Universal Law (which will include the sekha) or as a pedagogical device (which treats the sekha as irrelevant). In this way we establish that your argument does not in any way invalidate my view of paticcasamuppāda; at most it represents a rival point of view; and we are free to choose between them.

3. Can we go further and show that the 'Universal Law' point of view, with its positive assertion that the anāgāmī has upādāna, may be at variance with the Suttas? Consider this passage: Evam eva kho...pahīyetha; api ca te evam assa, Dīgharattam vata bho aham iminā cittena nikato vañcito paladdho; aham hi rūpam yeva upādiyamāno upādiyim... .[2] We know (M. 44: i,299) that yo pañcas'upādānakkhandhesu chandarāgo[3] is upādāna; and cakkhuppāda is the arising of the dhammacakkhu of the sotāpanna: yam kiñci samudayadhammam sabbam tam nirodhadhammanti.[4] If, then, we adopt the 'Universal Law' point of view and press the question 'Does the anāgāmī have upādāna?' we meet with the answer that upādāna (including, presumably, kām'upādāna) is put aside even by the sotāpanna; and from this we arrive at the inconvenient conclusion that the sotāpanna is an arahat. If, on the other hand, we adopt the 'pedagogical device' point of view, we regard the question 'Does the sotāpanna, does the anāgāmī, have upādāna?' as thapaniya, and we refrain from asking it; and in this way these difficulties do not arise. When a puthujjana obtains the dhammacakkhu he there and then ceases to be a puthujjana and (in due course) becomes arahat.

4. Is sammāditthi to be reckoned as ditthupādāna? If the foregoing discussion is accepted this question will not arise; for we are no longer called upon to decide whether or not the ditthisampanna (sotāpanna) or anāgāmī possesses upādāna. If not, the following remarks may be relevant.

Though I do not know of any Sutta where ditthupādāna is specified in detail, reference to Majjhima 11: i,66 shows that whereas samanabrāhmanā other than the Buddha may be capable of teaching pariññā of the first three upādāna, it is only the Buddha who can teach pariññā of attavādupādāna. But if ditthupādāna includes sammāditthi then it is beyond the scope of outside samanabrāhmanā to teach pariññā of ditthupādāna, since sammāditthi is found only within the Buddha's Teaching. From this one might conclude that sammāditthi is not to be reckoned as ditthupādāna.

5. Saupādisesā. Majjhima 10: i,63 and other Suttas say sati vā upādisese anāgāmitā.[5] This, obviously, refers to the anāgāmī. But Itivuttaka 44: 38 speaks of saupādisesā nibbānadhātu and anupādisesā nibbānadhātu. It is clear enough that upādisesā cannot refer to the same thing in these two different contexts; for in the first the upādisesā of the anāgāmī is what distinguishes him from the arahat (i.e. some impurity) and in the second upādisesā is what distinguishes the 'living' arahat from the 'dead' arahat. (N.B. It is, strictly, no less improper to apply the word 'life' to an arahat than it is the word 'death'.) It is perhaps tempting to look for some significant connexion between the word upādisesā and the word upādāna, and to attempt to explain these contexts in terms of upādāna (possibly also with reference to the phrases catunnam mahābhūtānam upādāya rūpam[6] and tanhupādinna kāye[7] of Majjhima 28: i,185); but as the Ven. Ñānamoli Thera pointed out to me the words saupādisesā and anupādisesā occur in Majjhima 105: ii,257 & 259, where they can hardly mean more than 'with something remaining' and 'without something remaining' or 'with/without residue'. This seems to indicate that we are not entitled to deduce from sati vā upādisese anāgāmitā that the anāgāmī is sa-upādāna—all that it implies is that the anāgāmī still has something (i.e. some infection) left that the arahat does not.

Editorial notes:

[146.1] upāsikā: See the P.S. to L. 100. This Section has been edited from rough drafts of letters to Sister Vajirā, the final copies having been burnt by their recipient. See L. 99 , 100 , 101 . On the verso of one page of Sister Vajirā's letters to him the Ven. Ñānavīra had drafted a paragraph, apparently in response to her request for additional notes (in the same letter which she began 'That I burnt your letters and notes was the most dangerous act that I ever committed'—see note 3 to L. 100). This fragmentary reply is reproduced, reduced from foolscap, on pp. 489-490. 'The last sentence of para II' seems to refer to the second paragraph of L. 149 (which predates Sister Vajirā's request by about ten days) and which itself seems to refer to PHASSA [d]. It will be noticed that most of the draft reproduced here is, in the event, an early version of the third paragraph of ATTĀ. In fact, a considerable part of the Shorter Notes in Notes on Dhamma seems to be material reworked from those letters to Sister Vajirā which 'perished in the great flames'. [Back to text]

[146.2] Evam eva kho...: See PARAMATTHA SACCA §4. [Back to text]

[146.3] Yo pañcas'...: See PARAMATTHA SACCA §3. [Back to text]

[146.4] Yam kiñci...: See L. 1 and L. 38. [Back to text]

[146.5] sati vā: 'Or, if there is a remainder, non-returning'. [Back to text]

[146.6] catunnam...: See Additional Texts 1. [Back to text]

[146.7] tanhupādinna...: 'the body, taken up by craving'. [Back to text]