To Koṭṭhita
Koṭṭhita Sutta  (AN 4:173)

Then Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita went to Ven. Sāriputta and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Sāriputta, “With the remainderless fading & cessation of the six contact-media [vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, & intellection], is it the case that there is anything else?”

[Ven. Sāriputta:] “Don’t say that, my friend.”

[Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita:] “With the remainderless fading & cessation of the six contact-media, is it the case that there is not anything else?”

[Ven. Sāriputta:] “Don’t say that, my friend.”

[Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita:] “…is it the case that there both is & is not anything else?”

[Ven. Sāriputta:] “Don’t say that, my friend.”

[Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita:] “…is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?”

[Ven. Sāriputta:] “Don’t say that, my friend.”

[Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita:] “Being asked if, with the remainderless fading & cessation of the six contact-media, there is anything else, you say, ‘Don’t say that, my friend.’ Being asked if… there is not anything else… there both is & is not anything else… there neither is nor is not anything else, you say, ‘Don’t say that, my friend.’ Now, how is the meaning of your words to be understood?”

[Ven. Sāriputta:] “The statement, ‘With the remainderless fading & cessation of the six contact-media, is it the case that there is anything else?’ objectifies the non-objectified.1 The statement, ‘… is it the case that there is not anything else… is it the case that there both is & is not anything else… is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?’ objectifies the non-objectified. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes. However far objectification goes, that is how far the six contact media go. With the remainderless fading & cessation of the six contact-media, there comes to be the cessation of objectification, the stilling of objectification.”

Note

1. “Objectification” is a translation of papañca. Although in some circles papañca has come to mean a proliferation of thinking, in the Canon it refers not to the amount of thinking, but to a type of thinking marked by the classifications and perceptions it uses. As Sn 4:14 points out, the root of the classifications and perceptions of objectification is the thought, “I am the thinker.” This thought forms the motivation for the questions that Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita is presenting here: the sense of “I am the thinker” can cause either fear or desire for annihilation in the course of unbinding. Both concerns get in the way of the abandoning of clinging, which is essential for the attainment of unbinding, which is why the questions should not be asked.

DN 21 and MN 18 discuss the relationship between objectification and conflict. SN 43 lists non-objectification as one of many epithets for unbinding.

See also: DN 15; MN 49; SN 4:19; SN 35:23; SN 35:117; SN 43; AN 4:42; AN 8:30