The Four Noble Truths

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 6th to 25th December 1957

(Sayadaw gave the extensive talks on the 4 Noble Truths with their 16 meaning. Each truth has 4 meanings. These were delivered in Mandalay City. Some disciples transcribed into books and had 2 volumes. I had made these notes from the tapes directly. It was not complete translation and just for personal use.

Every Buddhist should know the 4 Noble Truths to become a true Buddhist, especially on the meanings of dukkha sacca. Because in some suttas the Buddha himself mentioned that all Buddhas had arisen in the world (also for the future Buddhas) to teach dukkha and the ending of dukkha.

Understanding of dukkha intellectually is also very important. We have to use it in everyday life for contemplation. For the development of love and compassion for oneself and others. To have sense of urgency (saṁvega) for transcending dukkha.

Another important point I want to clear about is Sayadaw’s teaching on wrong views. Actually, every true Buddhist teaching was the Buddha’s teaching not our own. In one of his talks even Sayadaw emphasized it. He said his teachings were not his views and ideas. If they were then became adamma, which meant not the teachings of the Buddha. It misrepresented the Buddha that the results of them were not good.

All wrong views come out form the identity view – sakkāya ditthi. Some are serious ones and some not. For example, the fixed wrong views (niyata miccha – ditthi). (Here fixed means the results of these wrong views are rebirths in hells.). These are; akiriya ditthi – non – action, ahetuka ditthi – non – cause and natthika ditthi – non – causes and non – effects.

People believe in the law of kamma have the basic right view. But they also have identity view. It’s a type of wrong view hinder wisdom development. People have identity view can commit the 5 heavy kammas which leading to hells. Have identity view but also believe in kamma and doing wholesome kamma can take rebirths in the planes of bliss (sugati).

So people have identity view and believe in law of kamma can create wholesome and unwholesome kammas which can lead beings to the rebirths in bliss and misery. Here Sayadaw emphasized to destroy sakkāya ditthi which is the seed of rebirths, both bliss and misery. It depends on what kinds of kamma we create. At least become a Buddhist should has basic right view – believe in the law of kamma.)

  1. Dukkha Sacca – The Noble Truth of Dukkha.
  1. Pilanatha – Oppressive

[Torture and torment the owner, who attaches to them, i.e., mind and body. The Buddha gave an analogy of a mother gave birth to a twin, represented mind and body. The mind baby without hands and legs, a lunatic.

The body baby with blind eyes and has stomach problem. For a mother has a lot of difficulties and sufferings to look after these 2 children. Sayadaw mentioned about them with humor. So here nāma and rūpa torment someone attaching to them.]

There are 2 knowledges; anubodha ñāṇa and pativeda ñāṇa. By listening dhamma talks and study books – the suttas, and practice in accordance with the knowledge from the study and seeing impermanence. This is anubodha ñāṇa. Pativeda is penetrating the truth of dukkha. (Sayadaw talked about the analogy of the twin babies to elaborate the meaning of pilanatha.)

  1. Saṅkhatatha – Conditions by Craving – Tanhā

Mind and body are conditioning by tanhā. Both of them are oppressed by tanhā, the carpenter. In the beginning Sayadaw mentioned 2 qualities for enlightenment. These are listening to the sacca dhamma and wise attention (yoniso).

By listening sacca dhamma and kilesas become dry out. It’s like after drying out a wet log in the sun and burning it. After listening dhamma talk and practicing with right attention and kilesas brunt up. At the time of seeing impermanence is with the 5 factors of contemplative knowledge. At the time of seeing the ending of dukkha is with the 8 path factors.

This is seeing Nibbāna. (Sayadaw referred these points to Patthāna Pali). Saṅkhāre vipassanti and Nibbānaṁ maggassa phalassa seeing the formation with insight and seeing Nibbāna with the Path and Fruition Knowledges. Pilanatha is mind and body oppress the owner (The active part).

Saṅkhatatha is mind and body are oppressed by tanhā (The passive part). Beings get the khandhas are conditioned and controlled by tanhā. (Sayadaw gave a very good example of the ball player and the ball. Tanhā is like the ball player and the ball is the khandha).

  1. Santapatha – Burning with Tanhā Fire

(Khandhas are always burning with the fire of tanhā. This was a very uplifting talk. Sayadaw emphasized that enlightenment was not difficult. Only need to listen sacca dhamma, wise attention (yoniso) and behavetabba – observe anicca continuously.

He already sent disciples on the half – way. The other half was the duties of the disciples. Now was the opportunity for enlightenment. Therefore, don’t waste the chances. If you miss it and will never come back again.)

Bhavetabba – Developing means, for e.g., of the 4 satipatthāna you can contemplate any one of them. Only seeing the kaya – body, vedana – feeling, etc. is not developing yet. Seeing their both arising and passing away is called bhavetabba. If only seeing kaya, vedana, etc. are not tirana pariññā, only ñāta pariññā yet. With contemplation and only seeing that much is not yet.

You have to discern impermanence. The real existence is only impermanence. (Here Sayadaw mentioned how to listen Dhamma. In the time of the Buddha, people got enlightenments by listening to the talks and at the same time observing the khandhas. And at the end of the talks and realized Nibbāna) You shouldn’t underestimate yourselves. Because Buddhas had arisen in the world in the past.

Now you are born as human beings in a Buddhist country, and also have the chances to listen sacca dhamma. You only need the development by contemplation. Now is the best chance for ending dukkha. If you miss this chance will like a pebble has been fallen into the water and never comes out again. Also it’s like food come near to one’s mouth and suddenly falls to the ground.

The nature of the khandha is to torture and for torture (active and passive). For these purposes we all have it. The khandha is always burning with fire (santapatha). It’s the fuel and 1500 kilesas are fire. Eradicate kilesa is like extinguishing the fire of kilesa.

Extinguished kilesa is Sa – upādisesa nibbānadhātu – Nibbāna element with residue or kilesa parinibbāna – the quenching of defilement. The arahant after dies is like the fuel become finished. After consuming of the fuel (both fire and fuel) is anupādisesa – nibbānadhātu – khandha parinibbāna – the quenching of the continuance of a ggregates.

(Sayadaw gave the example of mind/body process were like fire and fuel, burning and substituting again and again never end)

It’s more evident in hell beings. They are suffering by burning and disappearing, reappearing and burning again and again until their unwholesome kammas are finished. (Sayadaw in one of his talks mentioned some petas (hungry ghosts) had a very tiny hole of mouth and always in thirst. But they never die until their kammas were finished. They were alive with kammahara – foods of kamma.

So, kamma is one of the accinteyya dhamma – inconceivable. Four inconceivable dhammas were mentioned by the Buddha.

1. The Buddha range of the Buddhas
2. The jhana range a person in jhana
3. The mechanism and precise working results of kamma.
4. Conjecture about the origin, etc. of the world.

Later some Buddhists (may be philosophers and scholars) were thinking about the origin of the world. Instead of practicing for the transcending of dukkha. And became philosophers. They mixed the Buddha Dhamma with worldly matters)

  1. Viparinamatha – Changing Dukkha

Torture by changing from ageing, sickness and death. The 5 khandhas have the nature of change. Starting from the beginning of getting the khandha and ageing and death come with it. It always has these 2 nooses of ropes to hang us.

Whatever khandha you get has these 2 nooses. Another example is in the timber factory. The ageing of the iron chain (jara) pulling the timber trunk (khandha) on the death of saw machine (marana) and cutting it into pieces.

(Sayadaw continued to talk about the process of the practice with sacca ñāṇa, kicca ñāṇa and kata ñāṇa). Arriving at kata ñāṇa and dukkha. is ended, and no khandha is leaving behind. It’s not nothingness. No dukkha left but dukkha exists.

The Buddha in the Udana Pali said that Nibbāna was atthi – presence or really existed. (Sayadaw gave the example of an ulcer. With treatment and it’s cured. First with the ulcer is painful/dukkha and after without it is happiness/sukha. So it’s not nothingness but has sukha.). Another example is fire and heat. Fire is like kilesa and heat is dukkha without fire and heat is not nothingness. It becomes cool and peaceful.

  1. Samudaya Sacca – The Noble Truth of the Cause of Dukkha.
  1. Ayuhanatha – Creating or Generating Dukkha.

(This is a penetrative talk on tanhā (samudaya). It gives someone fearful and disenchantment on tanhā. Tanhā is the culprit keeping all the results of kamma in saṁsāra to give vipakavattas (resultant round of existence). In the Sutta Nipāta the Buddha said, by not understanding on tanhā and beings were roaming in the round of rebirths. If penetrate tanhā will realize Nibbāna.)

( Sayadaw said, for someone the Buddha had arisen or not have to know in the following way). According to the D.A. process, vedana paccaya tanhā feeling conditions craving. This is someone not in practice. so the Buddha had not arisen for him. Vedana nirodha tanhā nirodho – with the cessation of feeling and craving ceases. This is someone with the practice.

So the Buddha had arisen for him and craving ceases. This is someone with the practice. So the Buddha had arisen for him. The differences between faith (saddhā) and wisdom (paññā) are here. The Buddha said, in all of the dhamma wisdom was the best. Because it could penetrate everything.

I have to talk about the evil things of tanhā. With this and not wanting it will arise. We are educating for tanhā to arise in worldly matters. From parents to children are in this way.

( Sayadaw called human beings as the species pushing down someone over the cliff. If we observe the world today the power of tanhā is stronger than ever. Always talking about money and sensual pleasures in all medias. And never about moral issues which make human really a human).

Human begins are always making companion with tanhā. Sometimes with greed ( lobha), sometimes with hatred (dosa) and sometimes with delusion (moha). Someone not practices always taking tanhā as companion.

Ayuhanatha means tanhā always making arrangements for living beings not to separate forever from dukkha objects and matters. If you don’t know about tanhā and will wander in saṁsāra. If you know it and will realize Nibbāna. Even spreading loving kindness (metta bhavana) and tanhā can come in for making trouble.

  1. Nidanatha – tanhā is the Cause of Dukkha.

It’ll give every kind of dukkha to living beings who accept tanhā. Vedana nirodha tanhā nirodho – with the cessation of feeling and craving also ceases. Seeing feeling not exists and craving not arises. This is the arising of the 5 path factors.

Because of magganga arise and tanhā not arises. Vipassanā is the cessation of tanhā by not arising. The 5 path factors is called the forerunner of knowledge (pubbabhaga magga). Completed with 8 factors is called the last knowledge.

(c)Samyogatha – Fetters or Yokes

Tanhā (samudaya) is entering a person to fetter or yoke him with dukkha like an ox. Taking anyone of the khandhas with clinging as I, I am and mine and become identity view – sakkāya ditthi. [Sayadaw talked about the vipassanā processes and vipassanā ñāṇa (seeing anicca) effect on kilesas.]

Vipassanā ñāṇa only suppress the coarse and mild defilements like the jhana samādhi. Only the Path Knowledge. eradicates the latent defilments – anusaya. Tanhā yokes the person with heavy loads like an ox. (Sayadaw talked about how tanhā effects human begins in society with humour.)

(d)Palibodhatha – Hinder or Disturb

Tanhā samudaya hinders or disturbs a person to free from dukkha. In the beginning Sayadaw talked to people not to cling to the 5 khandhas as this is me, this I am and this is mine. Mind/body are arising by conditions and causes. Contemplated oneself and other things as suññāta (emptiness) and to get the suññāta ñāṇa. He based on the sutta from Sutta Nipāta, Mogharāja’s Question to Buddha, which was about suññāta. Palibodha means hinder the path to Nibbāna.

Tanhā prefers the birth, ageing and death of saṁsāra. And it hinders path and fruit. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha compared tanhā to a mother and avijjā to a father.

3.Nirodha Sacca – The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha.

  1. Nisaranatha – Escaping from Dukkha.

Escape from the 3 rounds of existence – vattas. These are; kilesa, kamma and vipaka vattas. Sayadaw gave a very strong saṁvega talk, and sometimes it was humorous. A place free from the 3 rounds of existence.

Only we understand beings are revolving around the 3 vattas and wanting to escape from them. Therefore first, I’ll show how beings are in the endless cycle around the 3 vatta. Vatta – means a circle, revolving like a ball is called vatta.

(Sayadaw in a talk gave a simile of a ball player and a ball represented tanhā and khandha. He explained the 3 vattas by using D.A. process. His demonstration of a being tortured and oppressed by 3 vatts were quite interesting).

Beings have to suffer until their kileasa and kammas vattas are finished. I’ll talk the benefits of escaping from vattas. Living beings are running around in circle, becoming nausea and dizziness. But they are not tired and happy about with it.

After beings are dying and dying and changing heads to heads (He gave some stories of changing heads. Some people only know about the evolution but not the de – evolution. They taught us that men developed from monkeys. But they don’t know men also can be in de – evolution or degenerate into monkeys. Both are including in the law of kamma.

Now human beings are at the point of de – evolution stage). People don’t want to be freed from dukkha. The 3 vattas are including in the 3 crazy types; rāgaumattaka – lunatics of lust, dosaunmattaka – lunatics of ager and mohaumattaka – lunatics of delusion.

  1. Vivekatha – Seclusion

It has the secluded nature. If you looking at mind and body with ñāṇa eyes and they are in disturbances with the impermanence. If will be very clear about them with the practice (i.e., sankhata and asankhatā or mind/body and Nibbāna).

If you practice with the contemplation of feeling and it includes cittanupassanā and dhammanupassanā. The life span of a feeling is only ① and ②. At ① is arising and at ② is vanishing. It’s during the one mind moment.

Contemplation of feeling arises in the body and the contemplative mind (ñāṇa) arises at mano (mind base). At the time of contemplation will see its non – existence. Vipassanā has to be made effort. You have to think and to be mindful. It needs a lot of effort in the practice to see impermanence.

Therefore in the matter of seeing Nibbāna have to be worked hard and persevered. When in Nibbāna it’s not tired. At the time of seeing anicca is seeing disturbances. Free from disturbances is Nibbāna. If vipassana ñāṇa becomes more mature and seeing impermanence in more detailed with more disturbances.

Don’t say about seeing and knowing Nibbāna. If you don’t see the disturbances of impermanence even can’t speculate about it (i.e., nibbān). It’s better to see a lot of impermanence and have strong disenchantment with it. With these and rise up to the knowledge of not wanting it. At the time if you can make the decision – as it’s real dukkha. and all the impermanences come to an end with a blip!

Because of the disappearance of defilements and impermanences also disappear. The Path Knowledge is seeing the no disturbances. It is not the mind cutting off kileasa. It’s the 8 Path Factors doing the job. The mind is including as conascence conditions – sahajātapaccayo.

Don’t take Nibbāna as seeing the nothingness. The death of kilesa Nibbāna has the nature of good looking at it. Will find the nature of good staying with the passing away of the arahant – (parinibbāna). If you are looking at whichever place of the 31 realms of existence and will only find disturbances with anicca.

These are the causes of defilements (kilesas). It’s free from the disturbances of kilesa that Nibbāna is clear away of all other things. In Nibbāna doesn’t has the mind and body as we have. If you ask; “It is the mind or the body?”

The answer is mind dhamma (nāma dhamma). It’s not the kind of nāma (mind) dhamma has the arising, presence and dissolution (uppāda, thiti and bhanga).

It’s the place where the enlightened yogis are frequently taking enjoyment in it. This is the place where the dhamma of Nibbāna is leading there. These dhammas have to incline towards it. Our mind (nāma) has to incline towards the objects (i.e., the worldly mind). The other minds (i.e., supramundane mind or fruitions) have to incline towards Nibbānic mind (nāma).

Someone enters into the attainment of cessation – nirodha samāpatti or cessation of perception and feeling – saññāvedayitanirodha can incline his/her mind to Nibbāna for 7 days. The nāma dhamma of Nibbāna and the fruition knowledge are arising together without separation. (Sayadaw gave the following example).

In the center of Mandalay Zay – cho Bazzar there is a big clock tower. All the cars come from whichever directions have to look at the clock there. it’s like this clock. In the same way yogis experienced Nibbāna and it was impossible for them not to see it again. It’s the best of the best. All ariyas if they have free of time and always inclining towards it.

Why is that? Because it gives you comfort. Therefore you can call it happiness – sukha (The Buddha defined it as the Supreme Happiness. Transcend all worldly happiness including jhana). All worldly matters give you dukkha but Nibbāna has the characteristic of happiness, peace and joy.

Is Nibbāna has the body or not? If, it has the body must has to be changed and perished. If without the body and how can it stays put? It has no body, no form, no shape and no image. By looking at it is happy and peaceful. This is someone still has the body (still alive with the body).

It is a very special place. Nibbāna is the noblest thing. If no dukkha that the worldings also have to like it. It’s the best thing for the Buddha. Therefore there are no other things better than that.

  1. Asaṅkhatatha – Unconditioned

(Sayadaw explained saṅkhata dukkha and asaṅkhata Nibbāna in a very skillful way. He could talk about conditioned dhamma in worldly life with penetration. So, we can see the foolishness and stupidity of human beings. Conditioned phenomena are really dukkha. but all living beings are like a blind elephant pushing blindly through the very thick and dangerous forest. It’s quite a tragedy.)

It’s free from continuous conditioning, and originally stable nature. Everything under the conditioning end up with dissolution. Only you understand the conditioned nature and prefer the unconditioned. The 5 khandhas survive and arise with the conditions of kamma, citta, utu and ahara (action, mind, temperature and food).

Therefore the conditions are masters and the 5 khandhas are slaves. Someone can clear away saṅkhata dhamma will see asaṅkhata. This is looking at its nature. Nibbāna has the nature of peacefulness. The Path factors looking at it also peaceful, because it have no kilesas. This is arriving at Nibbāna with inclining. The real arriving is only becoming an arahant and passing away.

At once time the Buddha with a monk ascended on a mountain and both of them were looking down to the very deep cliff. The monk exclaimed as it was very terrifying. But the Buddha responded to him as not knowing the truth was more terrifying than that. This only died once but if you didn’t know the truth would die again and again.

(And then Sayadaw explained about many different types of khandha dukkha came from the conditioning. Every Buddhist should understand about dukkha intellectually and reflect on it very often. If not our knowledge on dukkha is still on the animal level.

Understand rightly on dukkha develop love, compassion and wisdom. In the commentary mentioned 3 kinds of dukkha. There only took saṅkhāra dukkha as paramattha dukkha. Except dukkha – dukkhata, the other two saṅkhāra and viparinama dukkhas are can be used as conventional and ultimate dukkhas.

Here Sayadaw was using the saṅkhāra dukkha as the conventional dukkha to explain many things in life. It gives the sense of strong saṁvega.)

This body is not good, so we have to make correction of it. Everyday we have to condition it in many different ways. Even we take these things as a pleasure (the power of ignorance). Today I’ll talk about the quenching – nibbhuta nature of Nirodha Sacca. (He gave the example from the Aggivaccha Sutta)

Nibbāna dhamma is like the fuels finished and the fire extinguished. No khandhas left behind (both mind and body). It’s only staying with quenching. The cycle of saṁsāra is with fuels and fire going together. Therefore the nature of Nibbāna is quenching and clear (Because of no aggregates). Jhanas are peaceful but has body, so not clear away with things.

  1. Amatatha – Deathless

With the khandhas every living being brings with them ageing, sickness and death. They are like torturers and the khandhas are sufferers. Beings are always burning with 11 kinds of fire; lobha, dosa, moha, ageing, sickness, death, soka, parideva, dukkha., domanassa and upayasa. Nibbāna has no ageing and death, and always exists.

Khandhas are like a poisonous tree. The nature of ageing and death poisons are existing together with the khandhas. The oppressed khandhas and the oppressive dhammas are going together. (Here Sayadaw talked about feelings in an extensive way).

Living beings are sinking in the pleasant feelings (Like the ants are sinking and sticking in honey). Everyday beings are doing things for enjoying in pleasant feelings. Feeling is like the poison and a murderer. If you looking at the D.A. process and will find that because of feeling and tanhā, upādāna and kamma come to be.

(Sayadaw ending his talk with the contemplation of feeling). Seeing impermanence of feeling is seeing your own death. After comes disenchantment, its ending and escape from death. It’s the deathl`ess of Nibbāna – Amatatha.

  1. Magga Sacca – The Truth of the Path
  1. Niyanatha – Escape from the 3 Vattas, and leading to Nibbāna.

Dhamma carries someone from the 3 vattas towards Nibbāna. For this purpose Sayadaw was using Vedananupassanā in practice.

Every time feeling arises contemplate to see impermanence. Every time seeing impermanence free from the 3 vattas. The contemplative mind (magganga) arise at the mind base (mano). Tanhā (craving) is a mental factor (cetasika). Also it arises at the mind base. Every time ñāṇa comes in and tanhā can’t arise and free from the vattas.

First, seeing impermanence is a cula – sotāpanna and will safe from one life to the planes of misery. But at near death still āsanna kamma (death proximate kamma) can come in. So near death if you can contemplate impermanence is not a problem.

(So, near death still can maintain the power of anicca is not becoming a problem for dying. For the maintenance of anicca we need a regular practice. Therefore, Sayadaw encouraged disciples to practice until it’s safety, i.e., becomes a sotāpanna.)

Must continue the contemplation to become disenchantment. If the knowledge of not wanting arises and defilements die away. With the cessation of feeling kilesa vitta disappears.

Sayadaw gave the example of cutting a tree. Yathabhūta Nyan cuts the tree at the top points, Nibbida Nyan near the base. And the Path Knowledge. is digging out the root.

(b)Hetuttha – Straight towards Nibbāna

Magga Sacca is the straight forwards dhamma and Samudaya Sacca (tanhā is the crooked dhamma. With the comparison of both will understand them. With the straight forwards dhamma and going straightly will arrive to the place. With the crooked dhamma can’t arrive there. By knowing the straight forwards one and can let go of the crooked one.

(Sayadaw using the monkey trap to express the cunning of tanhā). A monkey out of greed was taking the foods in a trap. It was set up by a hunter with pitch inside. Because of that the monkey’s 2 hands, 2 legs and the head were sticking with the pitch, inside the trap. In the same way the 5 khandhas are sticking with the pitch of tanhā.

  1. Dassanatha – Vision

The path leads to the vision of Nibbāna and penetrate the 4 Noble Truths. (Sayadaw using the Nacked Ascetic Kassapa Sutta to dispel wrong view and the vision of Nibbāna). I’ll explain the vision of Nibbāna. If become knowledge – vijjā, it is not only seeing Nibbāna, but also the 4 Noble Truth at the same time. Sammāditthi – The eyes of knowledge is better than the eyes of the Brahma gods.

For seeing the 4 Noble Truths is very difficult. Brahma gods can see things clearly with their divine eyes although they can’t penetrate it. If the practice not becomes the vision of Nibbāna (dassanatha) and it can still fall into the dangers of misery. (Sayadaw gave some examples of this dangers and urged his disciples to practice hard).

After it becomes vision – dassanatha and will has stability without changes. You are only going upwardly without falling down again.

  1. Adhipadeyatha – Predominance, Governing

Unshakable – after enlightenments; sīla, samādhi and paññā become adhisīla, adhisamādhi and adhipaññā (higher virtuous behavior, higher concentration and wisdom). Nobody can comes and destroy it. There were many stories in the time of the Buddha,

Mara – the evil one had tested his disciples and never succeeded. Only by seeing Nibbāna which is the ending of dukkha will become adipadeyatha. With ordinary sila, samādhi and paññā when encounter with the coarse objects still can be fallen apart.

(For the adhisamādhi Sayadaw gave the example with Devadatta) He had jhana samādhi and psychic power but not sammā samādhi (adhisamādhi) or paññā samādhi. So he ended up in ruin. (Sayadaw continued to talk about the influence of tanhā by using the Nadi Sutta).

Living beings with tanhā and clinging to things which are unstable and unreliable. Devedatta was a good example. Even jhana and abhinñā are unreliable and no need to talk about the worldly pleasures. (Sayadaw continued to talk on cittānupassanā).

Whatever mind arises contemplate impermanence. After that continue to contemplate its disenchantment (Nibbidā Nyan) to arise. From the knowledge of impermanence to the knowledge of disenchantment is not easy. It takes a very long time to develop. But someone mature in paramita it doesn’t take very long.

cited from (posted on 2019-03-03)

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