Ignorance and Craving


revised on 2021-03-16


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; no date noted

[Avijjā and taṇhā are the roots of saṁsāra. People have ignorance used to do unwholesome actions, and with craving wholesome actions (such as dāna and sīla). Therefore, avijjā leads beings to lower saṁsāra (woeful planes) and taṇhā to higher saṁsāra (blissful planes). Which one of them is the more fearful one? Taṇhā is cunning and avijjā is straightforward. Taṇhā is sharper than avijjā.

Taṇhā is very good in deceiving people. Because of its effects (ie., painful results) and ignorance can lead to saṁvega. Because of its effects (i.e., pleasant results)and taṇhā leads to heedlessness. (For the comparison of them, Sayadaw gave the examples of the monk Devadatta and the god king Sakka. Their characters and background stories were very good for contemplation.) Avijjā and taṇhā take root in the five khandhas. Therefore, with insight on the five khandhas, avijjā becomes vijjā and taṇhā becomes alobha]

Avijjā and taṇhā are the water roots of dukkha. They support the khandha tree to grow. Whatever khandha tree grows out are only ageing, sickness and death. Practicing vipassanā is cutting off the two water roots. Avijjā is no knowledge about the truth. Taṇhā is clinging to the planes of existence.

Therefore, someone has strong avijjā and without knowing, usually does unwholesome things. Someone with taṇhā usually does wholesome things. Instantly you do not clear about why taṇhā doing wholesome things. It will stay with the lower round of existences if done unwholesome things.

The eight great hells to 120 small hells will be one’s own properties. With taṇhā and done wholesome things (dāna, sīla, etc.) are for the plenty of fortunes in the next life with conveniences.

This is the water root of higher round of existence. As dukkha sacca both of them are not much different. It is ignorance (avijjā) which has no knowledge about the four noble truths. Taṇhā is craving for one’s khandha, properties and future lives.

Avijjā encourages unwholesome dhammas (Sayadaw made some points of them in human life e.g., actions for livelihood. And he continued to explain some of the causes for making merits with taṇhā). This is the root of higher saṁsāra and not wanting to be free from vatta (round of existence). Therefore, without cutting off both of them (avijjā and taṇhā), it is wandering to and fro between upstream and downstream of higher and lower saṁsāra. Having affection for the next khandha, so that one does merits in this life; and asking helps for the blissful saṁsāra and not wanting to include freedom from the vatta.

Next time, do it with the desire of freedom from the vatta if you make merits. Avijjā is doing things blindly. And taṇhā is doing things for the comfort of the khandha. Someone has taṇhā not wanting to do vipassanā because vipassanā does cut off taṇhā. With an ordinary ear we take taṇhā as good.

We don’t know dukkha sacca that want to be long life and plenty of things. Avijjā and taṇhā, which one is more fearful? Taṇhā is cunning and more fearsome.

You will not free from vatta if you have taṇhā. Before, we didn’t know about taṇhā and were very afraid of avijjā. Beings fall into hells have saṁvega (sense of urgency) and want to be freed from dukkha. Beings in deva and brahma heavens don’t have this desire. Taṇhā persuades them with goodness (i.e., heavenly and jhanic pleasures) and the desire of wanting to be freed from saṁsāra not arises.

(This point is very interesting. Because of bhava-taṇhā, some Buddhists created special heavens for coming and going after the enlightenments. This became saṁsāra with taṇhā or bhava-taṇhā. Is Nibbāna conditioned or unconditioned?)

The results of avijjā lead to saṁvega. The results of taṇhā turn toward pleasures and enjoyments.

(We will know the cunning, harmfulness and dangers of taṇhā if we contemplate deeply on taṇhā with the suttas teachings. If combining with wrong view, even there are unthinkable of their consequences. With diṭṭhi-taṇhā, beings can do any evil things they can think about. Therefore, the Buddha was warning us urgently for, first to abandon diṭṭhi, later taṇhā and avijjā)

Avijjā and taṇhā take roots in the khandha.

(For this point, Sayadaw gave the example of playing with a caned ball. Khandha is like the caned ball; avijjā and taṇhā are like right and left feet kicking the ball up and down. In one of his talks, he gave another example of the footballer and the ball i.e., soccer.

The Burmese caned ball was a good example for ignorance and craving to the khandha. This was an excellent talk on ignorance and craving for frequent contemplation. This talk gave us a lot of insight into the Buddha’s Teachings and its differences from the other traditions.)


revised on 2021-03-16; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4371&p=36316#p36316 (posted on 2019-04-13)


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