A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada
or The Doctrine of Dependent Origination
Chapter 10 - Story Of Yamaka
Yamaka believed that the Arahat was annihilated after his death. He clung to his view although other bhikkhus pointed out its falsity. Then, Sariputta summoned him. Questioned by the elder thera, Yamaka admitted that all the five khandhas are impermanent and suffering, that it would be a mistake to regard them as ones possession or self. Sariputta told him to see the five khandhas as they really are. He would then become disillusioned, detached and liberated.
While hearing the sermon, Yamaka attained the sotapanna stage. He was now free from false beliefs. Sariputta then questioned him again. In response to the theras questions, Yamaka said that he did not identify the Arahat with the physical body, the perception, the feeling, conformations (sankhara) or the consciousness. Nor did he believe that the Arahat existed elsewhere without the rupa, vedana or any other khandha. Therefore, since the Arahat or a living entity is not to be found in the five khandhas even before death, it makes no sense to speak of the Arahats annihilation after his parinibbana.
Yamaka confessed his mistaken view. He was now free from it and he knew what to say about the destiny of the Arahat. If someone were to ask him, "What happens when the Arahat passes away?", he would answer, "The death of the Arahat means the complete cessation of suffering inherent in the impermanent five khandhas."
This statement about the Arahat was confirmed by Sariputta. The thera likened the khandhas to the murderer who poses as a friend and said that identifying the khandhas with atta is like welcoming the murderer, etc.
Here, the thera Yamaka at first believed that the Arahat was annihilated after death, that there was nothing left. This belief presupposes the illusion of ego entity and so the annihilation view of Nibbana is called ucchedaditthi, the view that Nibbana means the negation of atta after death. When he realized the truth and attained sotapanna, Yamaka said that the death of the Arahat means the complete extinction of suffering inherent in the impermanent five khandhas.
To sum up the way to the cessation of suffering, failure to note seeing, hearing and other psycho physical phenomena leads to the arising of avijja, tanha, upadana, kamma, and sankhara that in turn cause birth, old age and death in future. Mindfulness of all phenomena forestalls the five present causes viz., avijja, etc., and the five consequences that involve suffering.