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. 149 | 159] 10 January 1962

1. It is going too far to say that, to me, the sekha is essentially arahat, and that, rigorously, I exclude him from paticcasamuppāda anuloma. Where paticcasamuppāda is concerned, we are dealing with the difference between the puthujjana and the arahat, and the question of the sekha simply does not arise. He is in between. The sekha, like the two-faced Roman god Janus (whose month this is), is looking both ways, to the past and to the future. The past is anuloma, and the future is patiloma, and if it is too late to include the sekha in anuloma it is too early to include him in patiloma. Or if you wish he is something of both.

2. There is no 'but' and 'when' about the arahat's being paticcasamuppāda patiloma—he is paticcasamuppāda patiloma entirely, and in no way anuloma. Anuloma is avijjāpaccayā, and patiloma is avijjānirodha, and there is not the smallest trace of avijjā where the arahat is concerned. It is not possible to put 'him' back to anuloma, since, with cessation of avijjā, there is cessation of 'him' (attavāda, asmimāna)—ditth'eva dhamme saccato thetato Tathāgato anupalabbhamāne (S. iv,384).[1] There is certainly no 'outside the paticcasamuppāda context' as far as persons are concerned, since patiloma is cessation of the person. Thus it is only if we think of the arahat therī Sonā as a person, as somebody (sakkāya), that she seems to be putting herself back to anuloma when she says: pañcakkhandhā pariññātā titthanti chinnamūlakā (Therīgāthā 106).[2]

You suggest that when I describe the arahat I do so in terms other than negative to pañc'upādānakkhandhā; but when I describe him 'as such' I do not say he is saupādāna, any more than Sonā Therī when she describes herself 'as such'. But the fact is that no one, not even the Buddha, can describe an arahat in such a way as to be intelligible to a puthujjana; and the reason is, as you point out, that the whole of the puthujjana's experience is saupādāna, including his experience of the anupādāna arahat (whether he sees him, thinks about him, visualizes or imagines him, or hears him described). Your account of the difficulties that you encounter when you consider the arahat and his robe, as far as it goes, is quite correct. (I say 'as far as it goes' since to you the arahat's robe is to be worn 'by him', whereas to him it is to-be-worn, not 'by me' but 'on this body'.)

For a puthujjana even the terms khīnāsava, akataññū, and so on, to the extent that they are intelligible to him, are all saupādāna. In other words, it is impossible for a puthujjana to 'see' (= understand) an arahat—as soon as he does 'see' him he ceases to be a puthujjana. But this does not in the least mean that a puthujjana should not try to understand an arahat—he might succeed and then he would cease to be a puthujjana.

3. (i) Āneñja (na iñjatī ti āneñjam), which literally means 'not shaking', seems to have two quite distinct connotations in the Suttas. In the first place it refers either (as in A. IV,190: ii,184) to the four arūpa attainments or more strictly (as in M. 106) to the fourth jhāna and ākāsānañcāyatana and viññānañcāyatana—note that the second and third āneñjasappāya refer to both these last two; and these are attainable by the puthujjana, the sekha, and the arahat alike, provided, of course, that they make the effort. See, for example, A. IV,172 (which should be a continuation of 171: ii,159), where certain devā, having been nevasaññānāsaññāyatanūpagā are liable to return to this world (which cannot happen to an ariyasāvaka in the same position). And see A. III,114: i,267 for the same of the first three of the arūpa devā. In the second place it refers to arahattā. Anejo anupādāno sato bhikkhu paribbaje (Sn. 751). In both cases there is 'not shaking', but in two different senses. There is nothing mysterious about this; it is merely a question of Sutta usage.

(ii) As regards the passage you quoted from Majjhima 106: ii,264, I understand it in this way. When a puthujjana attains nevasaññānāsaññāyatana that is clearly enough saupādāna, that is, sakkāya. When a sekha attains this, he sees that it is saupādāna, that it is sakkāya. Now the condition for upādāna is avijjā, that is to say, not seeing—not seeing upādāna as upādāna. But the sekha, unlike the puthujjana, does see this, so his upādāna is seen and is also, therefore, an-upādāna. (As I have said before, all one can say of the sekha is mā upādiyi.) Similar remarks apply to the frequent passages in the Suttas where the sekha sees or considers or is urged to consider the pañc'upādānakkhandhā as anicca and so on. The puthujjana cannot see pañc'upādānakkhandhā as anicca or anything else, since he does not see them at all.

4. About salāyatana and phassa. Within limits I follow your argument (except that I have no experience of the dibbacakkhu and cannot therefore usefully comment upon it), but I note that you seem to regard the cakkhundriya as 'subject'. The question remains, 'What do you mean by "subject"?'

In visual experience (considered alone) the eye does not appear (na pātubhavati) at all, either as cakkhundriya or as mamsacakkhu, since vision itself is not visible, and the eye does not see itself. Since visual experience alone neither reveals cakkhundriya nor mamsacakkhu there is (or should be) no justification for calling either of them subject. When other faculties (or a looking glass) are used the mamsacakkhu appears (pātubhavati), but it appears as a phenomenon (to avoid using the word 'object' for the moment) amongst other phenomena, and, as such, has no claim to be called subject. In neither case is there any subject to be found. This being so, when these two experiences, visual and the other, occur together (as is usual), although there is the constriction you speak of (I would rather call it a superposition) there is no reason whatsoever for any 'discrepancy between subject and object'; for we have not found any subject. And in the arahat (do I disconcert you?) no discrepancy is, in fact, experienced, and no dukkha. It is only in the puthujjana, for whom an apparent self is manifest, and who necessarily divides things into subject and object, that the discrepancy you speak of can arise. But it seems to me that perhaps you do not find the approach by way of the salāyatana as congenial to you as the approach by way of pañcakkhandhā, and I shall not pursue the question any further.

5. In my early days in Ceylon I myself was something of a 'tidy-chart' maker, and I hoped and believed that it was possible to include all that the Suttas said in a single system—preferably portrayed diagrammatically on one very large sheet of paper. In those innocent days—which however did not last very long—I believed that the Commentaries knew what they were talking about. And I had the idea that everything that happened to me was vipāka and everything that I did about it (my reaction, that is, to the vipāka) was fresh kamma, which in turn produced fresh vipāka, and so on ad inf. And this is as tidy as anyone could wish.

Then I came across the Sutta that I transcribe below. This, as you will see, was enough to shatter my illusions, and it came as a bit of a shock (though also as a bit of a relief). In due course after asking people about it and getting no satisfactory explanation, I decided that my 'tidy idea' could be true only in a general sense, and that, in any case, it could not possibly be of any vital importance in the essential part of the Dhamma. Since then I have stopped thinking about it. Here is the Sutta (Vedanā Samy. 21: iv,229-31):[3]

     Once the Auspicious One was staying near Rājagaha, at the Squirrel's feeding-ground in the Bamboo Grove.
     Now at that time the Wanderer Sīvaka of the top knot approached the Auspicious One. Having approached, he exchanged courtesies and, having done so, sat down at one side. Sitting at one side the Wanderer Sīvaka of the top knot said this to the Auspicious One:
    —There are some recluses and divines, Master Gotama, of such a belief, of such a view: 'Whatever this individual experiences, be it pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, all that is due to former actions.' Herein what does Master Gotama say?
    —Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (1) with bile as their source. That can be known by oneself, Sīvaka, how some feelings arise here with bile as their source; and that is reckoned by the world as truth, Sīvaka, how some feelings arise here with bile as their source. Therein, Sīvaka, the recluses and divines who are of such a belief, of such a view: 'Whatever this individual experiences, be it pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, all that is due to former actions', they both go beyond what is known by themselves and go beyond what is reckoned as truth in the world. Therefore I say that these recluses and divines are in the wrong.
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (2) with phlegm as their source....
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (3) with wind as their source....
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (4) due to confluence of humours....
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (5) born from seasonal change....
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (6) born from improper care....
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (7) due to exertion....
     Some feelings, Sīvaka, arise here (8) born from the ripening of action.... Therefore I say that these recluses and divines are in the wrong.
6. Let us return to §2. Your letter encourages me to think that, in a way, you understand your own failure to understand the arahat. And it is because I thought this also before that I felt it was worthwhile to speak of the 'sterility of making tidy charts'. The making of tidy charts (even if they are accurate, which is rarely the case—a chart of the Dhamma tends to distort it just as a map-maker distorts the curved surface that he represents on a flat sheet), the making of tidy charts, I say, is sterile because it is essentially takka, and the Dhamma is atakkāvacara. To make tidy charts, though not in itself reprehensible, does not lead to understanding. But it is useless to say such a thing to a convinced tidy-chart-maker—such as a commentator, who is satisfied that the Dhamma is understood when it is charted.

In your case, however, though you do tend to make tidy charts (it is an attitude of mind), there is also another aspect. You seem to be well aware that there is a discrepancy in your present position in that you are disconcerted when the arahat is described 'as such', and you are perhaps prepared to allow my statement that this is due to failure to see that things can be significant without being 'mine', that they can be teleological without being appropriated. And I think, also, that you are aware that this, in fact, is the central problem and that all else (including the tidy charts) is secondary and unimportant. This attitude is not sterile; and from the first it has been my principal concern, directly or indirectly, to encourage it and make it stand out decisively. As you have noted I have consistently underlined this matter (in whatever terms it has been stated) and rejected any possibility of arriving at a compromise solution. It is because you have been prepared to listen to this one thing that I have continued the correspondence. The other things we have discussed, except in so far as they have a bearing in this, are of little importance. But it is one thing for me to insist on this matter and quite another for you to see it. Even bhikkhus who heard the Dhamma from the Buddha's own mouth had sometimes to go away and work it out for themselves. Tassa me Bhagavā kho ahan...patiladdho (Bojjhanga Samy. 30: v,89-90).[4]

Afternote: You say that, as far as you see it, the arahat's experience functions automatically. By this I presume that you mean it functions without any self or agent or master to direct it. But I do not say otherwise. All that I would add is that this automatically functioning experience has a complex teleological structure.

The puthujjana's experience, however, is still more complex, since there is also avijjā, and there is thus appropriation as well as teleology. But this, too, functions automatically, without any self or agent to direct it. On account of the appropriation, however, it appears to be directed by a self, agent, or master. Avijjā functions automatically, but conceals this fact from itself. Avijjā is an automatically functioning blindness to its automatic functioning. Removal of the blindness removes the appropriation but not the teleology.

 Editorial notes:

[149.1] S. iv,384: See PARAMATTHA SACCA §4 [a]. [Back to text]

[149.2] Thig. 106: See L. 36 and editorial note thereto. [Back to text]

[149.3] Sīvaka Sutta: The draft did not include a translation of this Sutta, which is provided here by the editors. See L. 107 and note. [Back to text]

[149.4] Tassa me...: It is likely that the letter sent to Sister Vajirā contained a more extensive extract from this discourse, wherein Ven. Udāyi tells the Buddha that his strong reverence for the Buddha has done much for him. 'The Auspicious One taught Dhamma to me: "This is matter, this is the arising of matter, this is the ceasing of matter...".' Ven. Udāyi relates how he then went into solitude and, reflecting on the fluctuations and vicissitudes of the five aggregates, he came to realize as it really is suffering, suffering's arising, suffering's ceasing, and the path leading to the ceasing of suffering. 'Then, lord, I fully understood Dhamma and attained the Path.' Having become sotāpanna, Ven. Udāyi then understood the way which would lead him to extinction. [Back to text]