Taṇhā the Tailor


revised on 2019-07-02


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 29th December 1960

[Near the end of the talk Sayadaw made a very interesting point on the existence of Nibbānic element. His logic was simple by using the four Noble Truth and their functions in the direct experiences of yogis. From these points we can know what Nibbāna is.]

The Buddha taught on how a Dhamma preacher mind should be in teaching to people.

① May they be well and can listen to this talk.
② With metta in mind, may they understand what I have to talk.
③ May they can practice accordingly after understanding of the Dhamma.

If a monk possesses these three states of mind and teaching to people is a good teaching. From your side is after listening to the talk, practice and better become a stream-enterer (sotāpanna) to arahant. I will listen to the talk; try to understand it and practice for the realization of the highest level. You must have the aspiration to achieve the highest level.

If you underestimate yourself then you will achieve the lower level. Aspire to achieve the middle and higher levels which you can achieve accordingly. There were some evidences of existing stories. The Buddha always encouraged to the monks for the achievement of highest levels to end dukkha. (Sayadaw told the story of Ven. Nandaka for this talk.) Nandaka was very well known in teaching by using similes and examples in the time of the Buddha.

Yesterday I had explained some of the similes by him. There are six sense-doors sensitivities (pasāda rūpa) in the body, six sense-objects outside. We take these things as me and mine. Taṇhā is connecting them between them, joining the sense-objects and sense-doors. Taṇhā is the cause of dukkha (Samudaya sacca). Its existence is the cause of suffering. You must cut it off with the knife of path factors. In this way it can’t connect the inside and outside, so that samudaya sacca dies out. These two dukkhas cease and Nibbāna appears.

The monks taught five hundred bhikkhunīs before Nandaka, but no one had the realization because they had the desire for Nandaka’s talk. Nandaka and the bhikkhunīs had kammic links for many lives time. He gave the simile of a dead cow. The cow body like the internal bases (ajjhattā āyatanā) and the hide outside like external bases (bahiddhā āyatanā). Skin muscles, connective tissues and attachments between them are like taṇhā. In the same way in practice must cut off taṇhā with the knife of bojjhaṅga or maggaṅga (factors of awakening or factors of the path).

They asked him how to contemplate and cut it off? He asked them in the following way.

“Is form permanent or impermanent?”
“It’s impermanent, Ven. Sir.”

“It’s impermanent, dukkha or sukha?”
“It’s dukkha, Ven. Sir.”

“If so, can you say this is mine, this I am, and this is myself?”
“It’s not, Ven. Sir.”

“In the same way, the eye… etc. Contemplate the impermanence of the both sides.
When it is cutting off, it is taṇhā which connecting them in the middle. In this case impermanence still has any bodily form?”
“No, Ven. Sir.”

“Can taṇhā connect them without it?”
“No, Ven. Sir.”

Taṇhā can exist only by connecting them. Can’t connect, then it ceases to exist. Taṇhā dies away by contemplation of mind and body; because it cut off the phenomena which taṇhā is connecting them. Taṇhā can exist by connecting the internal and external. By contemplation of impermanence diṭṭhi and taṇhā die out. The knife is like maggaṅga or bojjhaṅga.

Practice hard with right effort (sammā-vāyāma). Hold the knife and cut it off. Don’t leave it there, only with the hand of right effort and by holding the knife of right view that taṇhā will cut off. In the five path factors; mindfulness (sati) effort (viriya) and concentration (samādhi) are the hand and right view (sammā diṭṭhi), right intention (sammā saṅkappa) are the knife.

You can’t do it by prayers. You can’t cut it with the mouth (These two points are practicing by most Buddhists in the later period of Buddhism). Without taṇhā arises clinging, action and birth are cutting off. If you practice with one of the satipaṭṭhāna and will be succeeded Taṇhā connects to all the five khandhas. Therefore if you contemplate one of them taṇhā dies out.

In the Dependent Arising; connecting death and birth are craving, clinging and action. Death is dukkha and birth is dukkha. Sense-objects and sense-doors are also truth of dukkha. In practice don’t forget the dictum, “Be mindful, put effort to contemplate with wisdom.” Whatever dhamma arises be mindful of it and contemplate persistently with wisdom. Impermanence is dukkha sacca, contemplation is magga sacca and the death of taṇhā is samudaya sacca.

In the four Noble Truths if dukkha and samudaya die out only nirodha and magga are leaving behind or the peacefulness and knowingness are leaving behind. Therefore, it is impossible that nothing exists in Nibbāna (some Buddhists and non-Buddhists take Nibbāna as nothingness). During his life an arahant has nirodha and magga or peace and knowing (He can stay in fruition state if he wishes).

There is no magga khandha anymore after he put down his burdened khandha (when an arahant passed away). But the peaceful happiness (santi sukha) of Nibbāna is leaving behind or undying is leaving behind. Staying with happiness is Nibbāna. (Sayadaw continued to the end of Nandaka’s story).

All the bhikkhunīs realized the Dhamma respectively according to their aspirations. This story testified this point. There are four piles of excrements (kilesas). If any one of them left over, it's still not well yet. Therefore you have to clean out all of them.


revised on 2019-07-02; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4036&p=35651#p35651 (posted on 2018-12-27)


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