[L. 107a | 124] 8 December 1964

I recently received from Mr. Samaratunga your carefully prepared comments on my Notes on Dhamma. I read them with great interest and sent a reply to Mr. Samaratunga. I now hear from him that he has sent it on to you, so no doubt it will reach you in due course. Unfortunately, I find that I have made a slip that needs correcting. In my discussion of viññānam anidassanam anantam sabbatopaham, I said (as I remember) that 'the arahat's consciousness neither indicates nor originates a "self" or "subject".' This should be: 'neither indicates a "self" or a "subject" nor originates from a "self" or "subject"'. Actually, the meaning of anidassanam and sabbato-apaham is the same: it is simply that, since there is no more Ahan ti vā Maman ti vā Asmi ti vā[1] with the arahat, consciousness is no longer 'mine'. And anantam may be taken in the same sense—for the arahat consciousness is no longer limited by being 'my' consciousness (a determination is always a limiting, being a negation; and consciousness is now, in this respect, asankhata or non-determined). In the Asankhata Samyutta (iv,359-73) you will see that asankhata, anidassana, and nibbāna are all synonyms, and are all defined as rāgakkhaya dosakkhaya mohakkhaya, which, in the Itivuttaka (v,5: 38) is said to be saupādisesā nibbānadhātu.[2]

Edward Conze's translation as 'invisible infinite consciousness which shines everywhere' is quite wild (no doubt he has taken it without considering the Pali at all), and one is tempted to ask how consciousness can be 'invisible' if it 'shines everywhere'. But what, precisely, it is that Mahāyānists understand by nibbāna is very difficult to make out.

Footnotes to editorial notes:

[107a.1] '"I" or "mine" or "am"'. [Back]

[107a.2] Cf. L. 36. [Back]