Wise Attention and Wisdom


revised on 2019-12-02


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; no date noted

Wise attention (yonisomanasikāra) means anicca exists and one can make the attention as anicca. For the other characteristics, it also is in this way (including asubha – loathsome/foul). With the wise attention, ñāṇa follows behind. With wise attention, ñāṇa cut off kilesa / defilements.

Wise attention is paramattha dhamma (ultimate reality). Ñāṇa cutting off kilesa is also a paramattha dhamma. Both of them are mental factors (cetasika). Wise attention is the first and cutting off kilesa is the second. Both of them are dhamma cutting off kilesa. These two points are important for people practicing vipassanā.

King Milinda asked Ven. Nāgasena; “What are the differences between wise attention and wisdom?” (Ven. Nāgasena gave the example of cutting off the rice plants with a sickle). Here wise attention is turning towards the object. Only with the including of ñāṇa that kilesa is cutting off. The vipassanā journey will be succeeded with both good attention and ñāṇa.

Only with both combine will see impermanence and kilesa will be cut off. (Connection with wise attention, Sayadaw told about the story of Prince Jayasena and Ven. Bhūmija. Jayasena asked four questions to Ven. Bhūmija, MN.126 Bhūmijasuttaṃ). These questions were:

① Some people making wishes, prayers and practice, but not attain the Path and Fruition Knowledges.

② Some people not making wishes nor prayers, but with practice and also not attain the Path and Fruit.

③ Some people sometimes making wishes and prayers and sometimes practice, also not attain Path and Fruit.

④ Some people not making wishes/prayers nor practice.

So not attain anything. What are the reasons behind these? Ven. Bhūmija answered; “With unwise attention will not attain anything and I never heard about these things from the Buddha. This is my view about them.” I refer to this story for the importance of wise attention.

For example, on the hand a painful feeling arises. If you don’t see its vanishing and it’s without ñāṇa. For the painful feeling you have the attention, so you know it. Painful, painful is satipaṭṭhāna (here the mental noting of the arising of pain). Not knowing the pain disappears is without ñāṇa.

You will know that it does not exist if you know the vanishing. You only know the existing before. You have to note this point. If you only knowing the pain (i.e., painful, painful) and it’s yoniso – wise attention. It’s not including wisdom yet. I am now talking about the important point.

The big pain disappears if the pain reduces. Only with wise attention not attains Nibbāna. Only ñāṇa can follow behind and will realize it. It’s the dhamma instantly leading to Nibbāna that I am talking about its important.

In the Satipaṭṭhānasaṁyutta, it mentioned that it will not attain Nibbāna with only satipaṭṭhāna, but it must include the satipaṭṭhāna bhavana. Satipaṭṭhāna only knows the arising dhamma and satipaṭṭhāna bhavana knows the vanishing. Satipaṭṭhāna is yoniso and satipaṭṭhāna bhavana is paññā.

Only just knowing the arising and not the vanishing, then no maggan follows. Therefore it doesn’t cut off D.A. process. I am talking about the important point for someone wanting to realize Nibbāna instantly. Therefore I am urging you all, for practicing to know the arising and vanishing. [Here wise attention (yoniso) is knowing a khandha arising and not as an entity, a self or a soul but as a conditioned phenomenon (dhamma).]

For example, while drinking water you feel that it’s good. You have to contemplate to know its goodness; and also think about its not existing (i.e., it’s existing and not existing). Knowing its goodness is satipaṭṭhāna. Knowing its goodness not existing is satipaṭṭhāna bhavana. In this way the D.A. process is cutting off. Another e.g., is; I am angry is satipaṭṭhāna. If you don’t know the angry mind disappears and not becomes bhavana. Only knowing anicca becomes bhavana.

Therefore I am exhorting you as have to know the arising and vanishing. Knowing the arising is wise attention and not including ñāṇa. Therefore whatever mind arises, have to know the arising and vanishing. (Sayadaw gave another example for the hungry mind) Knowing the hungry mind is with right attention. Not knowing the hungry mind disappears is not including ñāṇa, and continues the dependent arising process.

(Sayadaw continued about right and wrong attention / yoniso and ayoniso with the simile given by the Buddha. A man in need of oil would pile gravels in a tub and press it, even made a wish for results, having made no wish, both having made a wish and no wish, and neither having made a wish or nor having made no wish. He would be incapable of obtaining results).

Right attention is the main point. Wishes and prayers are not. With right attention and can follow with ñāṇa, and will arrive to Nibbāna. Practice is the main task and right practice is important. D.A. process is supporting this point. You don’t need to choose a place for practice. You can do the practice where the mind arises. The problem is you don’t do it. Mind will arise wherever you are.

(Sayadaw gave another example of a cow.) If you want milk by twisting the horn of a cow and can’t get it. Therefore it’s important to practice rightly. It’s bhāvetabba and getting magga if discerning impermanence. By getting magga and have the benefit of cutting off saṁsāra.


revised on 2019-12-02; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4362&p=36296#p36296 (posted on 2019-04-12)


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