Based on the sutta quote below:

  1. Why are these called "The All": the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas?

  2. Why someone trying to explain "The All" as being something else would fail?

  3. What does "it lies beyond range" mean?

From Sabba Sutta:

"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."

  • I would say 'beyond the range' means beyond the intellect, beyond conceptual fabrication or beyond the categories of thought. It would be impossible to think what is beyond thought or speech and so we can only fail to imagine or describe it. . .
    – user14119
    Dec 20, 2018 at 11:08
  • If one would try to de-fine something beyond the All by himself he would not need to ask such pointless question containing the answer in it's question... Nobody can do you "(letting go) home work" (germ. Haus-aufgabe) for you to see as it is. Happy path-gaining if this could move your lazy back! Mudita Dec 20, 2018 at 12:02

6 Answers 6


From what we can guess from the clues in the suttas, when Buddha started his quest for Enlightenment, there were many competing spiritual teachings in existence (such as e.g. the Jain's) claiming to be The Truth, which were postulating theories about things that were however impossible to see for oneself and verify by the direct testing in the here and now.

In contrast with that, Buddha's approach has been to work with the immediately observable reality. Buddha insisted that True Dharma must have a firm foundation, something that can't be reasonably denied. This approach led the Buddha to the perspective of phenomenology. In this perspective, the seeker of Enlightenment starts with "the given", which is his own direct experience - the five senses, the experience of suffering etc., and then goes on to discover "how things work" from the first-hand, not through blind faith or mediation of a priest.

This is why, when the students of other sects were trying to pull the Buddha in the direction of metaphysics, by asking about such speculative concepts like "The All" -- which is usually assumed to mean the Universe -- the Buddha insisted on staying firmly grounded in the directly observable phenomenology of our five senses plus mind.

So The All means all that can ever be experienced by a sentient being, it is sentient being's personal totality of existence. Even though this phenomenological All seems radically simpler than the All we know from natural sciences, it is equally all-encompassing and has a huge advantage over the metaphysical theories in being directly observable, describable, and verifyable by anyone.

If someone were to try and deny the primacy of the phenomenological All, and postulate some other All, as for example the totality of everything that objectively exists, or perhaps the totality of everything that ever existed and will exist, or maybe the totality of everything that potentially may exist, one would get into infinite speculative arguments about philosophical categories of existence and non-existence, and other categories lying outside of immediate experience, which would lead to endless frustrating objections, clarifications, and debates that would most likely end up in exhaustion and disappointment rather than in Peace of Liberation.

  • I marked this answer up, even though, as usual, it contains no references. I also sense the Buddha's teaching of "The All" is related to ideas of "The All" held by other sects and religions. Possibly we need to do more research on this. Dec 20, 2018 at 3:22

Buddha's time in India there were many views about the world. This is similar to saying nowadays "The all mighty God" etc. These views are discussed in the Brahmajala Sutta. These wrong views lead you to a wrong destination. However, according to Buddhism the right view lead to Nibbana. What Buddha saying is nobody can comprehend anything beyond six senses.


  • this answer would be improved if you provided relevant quotes from the Bramajala Sutta. regards Dec 20, 2018 at 1:57
  • However I marked this answer up because it placed the teaching in a broader cultural context Dec 20, 2018 at 3:59

Why are these called "The All": the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas?

What else is there? Note: Here the word 'ideas' is a loose translation. The pali word is 'Dhamma'.

Why someone trying to explain "The All" as being something else would fail?

Because anything you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think comes under these categories.

What does "it lies beyond range" mean?

It means if you claim that there is something else other than these, it will be limited empty words and not backed by direct knowledge.

  • I marked this answer up because it inspired me to not believe in reincarnation Dec 20, 2018 at 7:45
  • 2
    Both reincarnation and the belief that all ends at death are rejected in Buddhism. Dec 20, 2018 at 8:35

0. History base knowledge about wrong and right view: See SarathW's Answer.


  1. Why are these called "The All": the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas?
  2. Why someone trying to explain "The All" as being something else would fail?
  3. What does "it lies beyond range" mean?

The wrong view has the wrong condition(s). The right view has the right condition(s). The all right condition is the dependent origination, because the conditioner and the conditioned relate each other in balance, nothing left out of the cycle of the condition.

the dependent origination explains "Thus arises this whole mass of dukkha".

Each conditioner of the dependent origination causes the whole conditioned effect. For the example, ... the (Six-)Saḷāyatanas-conditioner causes the whole conditioned Six-Phassa; The Six-Phassa-conditioner cause the conditioned six-vedanā ...

So, if one, who questioned, explains the All, whole, into the dependent origination as the Buddha did, that one is able to explain the whole from the beginning to the end follow to the dependent origination such as the Buddha can explain every view in Sutta. Tī. Sī Brahmajālasuttaṃ.

But if one, who questioned, explains the All, whole, out of the dependent origination, that one would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would feel hard to answer (fail). Why? Because it is beyond that one's abilities, he exactly answers the wrong condition (fail), i.e. God condition the being.

SN KhandhaVagga and SN ṢaḷāyatanaVagga, such as SabbaSutta, come after SN Nidānavagga, the dependent origination because they are the whole elements which cycling in the dependent origination.

  • I marked this answer up because it inspired me to not believe in reincarnation Dec 20, 2018 at 3:57
  • 3
    @Dhammadhatu That the sad news. Actually, the reader should take the middle path between the reincarnation and un-incarnation. Why is the reader still losing the path and bias to the black forest?
    – Bonn
    Dec 20, 2018 at 4:04
  1. Why are these called "The All": the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas?

Ven. Bodhi's note citing the Commentary to SN 35.23:

Spk: The all (sabba) is fourfold: (i) the all-inclusive all (sabbasabba ), i.e., everything knowable, all of which comes into range of the Buddha's knowledge of omniscience; (ii) the all of the sense bases (aatanasabba), i.e., the phenomena of the four planes; (iii) the all of personal identity (sakkyasabba ), i.e., the phenomena of the three planes; and (iv) the partial all (padesasabba), i.e., the five physical sense objects. Each of these, from (i) to (iv), has a successively narrower range than its predecessor. In this sutta the all of the sense bases is intended. The four planes are the three mundane planes (sensuous/form/formless planes) and the supramundane plane (the four paths, their fruits, and Nibbana)."

The Comy.'s explanation above could also help answering your 2 subsequent questions.

  • @Andrei Volkov, this is a back-to-back instance where I got downvoted for no reason. I also sent another notification to ChrisW on my other post. I suspect some ongoing activity by someone with malicious intent against me. Possibly a kind of "revenge voting" or something.
    – santa100
    Dec 20, 2018 at 2:44
  • yes I can see that you and a certain other user have extensively downvoted each other. Perhaps we should try setting up a chat with the two of you and one of the moderators?
    – Andriy Volkov
    Dec 20, 2018 at 3:03
  • I marked the answer down because it merely repeats what is said in the sutta. I read nothing compelling in the answer. Dec 20, 2018 at 3:11
  • Ah hah, turns out it's @Dhammadhatu. Well, from now on, you better provide an explanation for your downvote or be prepared to get the proper countermeasures.
    – santa100
    Dec 20, 2018 at 3:14
  • I am reading Volkov's answer now and it could be on the right path. I think there is more to "The All" than your copy & paste of what is self-evident in the sutta. Possibly Brahmanism needs to be searched for "The All". Dec 20, 2018 at 3:17

Buddhism's methodology is trying to make people aware of what they are not instead of giving them informations of what they are. But this doesn't mean that Buddhism denies some of the other traditions view of the universe. I watched Thich Nhat Hanh's dhamma talks and he said many times that "we are waves in an ocean". So in a practical sense, every meditator can come to this point. Especially If you reach to the really advance stages in your spiritual path, you start to be more aware of the spiritual essence of things than their form identities all the time. And ofcourse, the experience of Nibbana itself will lead people to this "oneness" idea easily. I think there is nothing wrong with that If you are deeply involved in the practical side of the Buddhism: Which is meditation/mindfulness.

I think the reason for Buddha's methodology of telling people what they are not is to avoid people's tendencies to make the spiritual path to a belief/worshipping based religion. For example he used words like "Emptiness". "Nibbana". You can not worship Emptiness, Nibbana..You can only worship the god. Maybe Buddha's methodology saved Buddhism from transforming to a dry/harmful religion like some of the other religions that most of us know. This doesn't stopped many Buddhists misunderstandings of the core of the Buddhism but the core of the teachings of the Buddha is still alive and being practised by many monk and lay people in the world. And this leads to some people's complete freedom from suffering. So these things proves that this methodology works well. The vast majority of the humans will never get involved with true spirituality but that is not Buddhism's fault.

  • interwaving... hmm? Let us bow down to the waves nature of inter-being. Are waves included in "the All"? Just curious... Dec 20, 2018 at 13:46

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