The Art of Living and Dying


revised on 2021-01-11


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 25th to 30th September 1961

[Here are six talks on dying—the first three talks based on Channovāda Sutta: Advice to Channa (MN 144 Channovādasuttaṃ) and the last three talks based on Anāthapiṇḍika (MN 143 Anāthapiṇḍikovādasuttaṃ), both suttas are in the Uparipaṇṇāsapāli—Saḷāyatanavagga, Majjhima N. In the Channovāda Sutta—Ven. Channa was gravely ill and wanted to take his life with a knife because he took himself as an arahant. Ven. Sāriputta and his younger brother Ven. Cunda went to see him. Ven. Sāriputta asked him questions for wanting to know his practice. Channa overestimated his attainment but Ven. Sāriputta knew that he was not arahant. Ven. Cunda also knew it because both of them were arahants. So Cunda reminded Channa about what the Buddha had constantly given attention to monks as an instruction. When someone’s mind was shaking, he was in dependent, if not shaking he was independence. So, there was tranquility in him with no bias. Without bias there was no coming and going. Without coming and going there was no passing away and re-appearing. Without passing away and reappearing there was no here nor beyond nor in between. This was the end of Dukkha.

After Sāriputta and Cunda left, Channa took his own life. Instantly he knew his over estimation and quickly continued the contemplation and became arahant before passed away. He was success because already has experience before with his practice. According to Sayadaw it was the importance of discerning of anicca before that could overcome difficulties.

In the Anāthapiṇḍika Sutta—upāsaka Anāthapiṇḍika was gravely ill and Ven. Sāriputta and Ven. Ānanda went to see him. Sāriputta knew that he would not survive, so giving him a series of talk related to the practice. The objects of practice were—six sense bases, six sense objects, six consciousnesses, six contacts, six elements, five khandhas, this world and the world beyond, what is seen, heard, sensed and cognized. What Sāriputta taught him was with the practice he should not cling them by training the mind not depending on them. After hearing this talk the upāsaka cried because he never heard these kinds of talk before. Sāriputta comforted him by saying that this kind of Talk was good for the monks only not to lay people. He requested Sāriputta for this kind of talk also should give to lay people, because some could have the potentials for realization. Anāthapiṇḍika usually went to see the Buddha three times a day but the Buddha never gave him this kind of talk. The Buddha himself could have some reasons for it—one reason was Anāthapiṇḍika himself was not matured enough to this kind of talk for the higher realization. (He was already a sotāpanna).

Ask the people, "Do they know how to die?" I expect most people's answer will be "No," or they may even answer, "I don't want to die." Not to mention death, they don't even know how to live themselves. If they do not know how to live with their own lives, it will become more difficult for them to face death. The Buddha’s education is the art of living and dying. The above two suttas is about living and dying. Upāsaka Anāthapiṇḍika’s life was an example for living and Ven. Channa’s life for dying. There were a lot of Dhammas for living and dying in the Pāli-Nikāyas. Dying is very important for everyone, because the dying moment will decide our future existences.]

Entering into the fruition attainment—phala samāpatti is from the process of impermanence the mind in a blip is inclining towards Nibbāna element. (This referred to Sāriputta and Cunda who were staying on the mountain Vulture Peak for seclusion.) The Buddha had the skill of entering into the fruition attainment within in-breath and out-breath. He could control or govern his mind to this level. (told the story of Channa). Ven. Sāriputta questioned Channa on his attainment ; Do you take consciousness which arises from the contact of object and sense-base as me or mine?”

Ven. Channa’s answer: NO, I don’t take it in these ways Bhante. He has discerned impermanence that not taking them as me or mine. So, he had right view, but not an arahant yet. This was only insight knowledge (vipassanā ñāṇa). The worldlings (i.e., practicing yogis) also can have it. Whatever mind arises if you discern its not-existing is right view. Vipassanā ñāṇa means discerning of the not-existing of the arising phenomena; i.e., seeing from the existing phenomena to its not-existing phenomena (its arising and its vanishing).

Two minds can’t exist in a parallel event or at the same time. The contemplating mind has to follow later that only can see the not existing of its phenomena. It’s not contemplating the non-existence of phenomena. Non-existence of phenomena are just concepts (e.g., God, tortoise hairs, man, etc.) From the existence of a phenomenon to its non-existence is an ultimate concept (tissari-paññatti). It’s one kind of concepts, and not the concept of non-existence. As an example—for U Mar Din if you touch anywhere on the body, you will not find it (this talk was given to upāsaka U Mar Din). You can’t find it because it’s non-existing.

The existing phenomena are arising—udaya, not-existing is vanishing—baya, hence it’s udayabbaya ñāṇa or vipassanā ñāṇa—insight knowledge. People didn’t see these Pāli-passages and didn’t know what has been said. Mind with mind cannot see the arising and vanishing at the same time. But one mind sees the arising phenomenon and the following mind sees the vanishing phenomenon; observing at it in a blip and not seeing it there.

Before it has been seen here, but with the knowledge (ñāṇa which is the contemplating mind) mind looks at it and not see it. This is the view in the practice. Not-existing is anicca (impermanence) and the knowing mind (contemplating mind) is magga (the five path factors). You see the existing phenomenon to its not-existing phenomenon. It’s not totally non-existence. This is very important words in regard to vipassanā knowledge. From the side of knowledge (ñāṇa) all of them are in this way.

Ven. Cunda told Ven. Channa as with the dependency the mind was wavering and with the independence it was not wavering. Ven. Channa was with craving (taṇhā) he had dependence on the khandha. He had affliction on the khandha. So, he didn’t want to suffer with dukkha vedanā that talking about to take his life with the knife. This was talking about taṇhā attached to the khandha. Taṇhā is wavering if the khandha is shaking (i.e., afflicted). Far or near distances are not the main point. With dependence, it will shake.

(Sayadaw retold the story of Ven. Channa). You have to know the arisings of phenomenon and also not the existing of it. This is right view. The view of the insight knowledge (vipassanā magga view) is this view. It’s not the view of the path factors which is supramundane path factors (lokuttara magga). You can contemplate anyone of the four satipaṭṭhānas. It’s important to discern the vanishing phenomena. The Buddha had said that if you contemplate one of them it includes all of them. Why the Buddha was asking the monks to try the practice? He wanted them to have the right view. When with the arising of vedanā you’re wavering by attaching to the khandha.

Sense objects and sense bases are connected with wrong view and craving (diṭṭhi-taṇhā—see the Nandakovādasuttaṃ Sutta in Majjhima N., MN 146). Worldlings don’t like to be in calmness. They want to be in wavering. The saying of the couple is living and dying together means smiling and grimacing together (man and woman who have strong attachment to each other). Smiling is taṇhā and not a peaceful happiness.

After that you’ll be in grimace because D.A. process is continued. If you are able to end smiling and the grimace will be ended. You don’t see the original nature of the khandha, so that you could smile; and when you see it, you have to be in grimace. Its own nature is changing—vipariṇāma. Only by knowing it original nature that smile and grimace will be finished. This is by insight practice. Don't smile when it arises; and don't grimace when it vanishes. You must contemplate at it with the equanimity of insight—vipassanā upekkhā.

You have to know the arising and vanishing of the phenomena. This is the nature of the khandha. The original nature of the khandha is arising and vanishing. It’s free from the smile and grimace that it’s also insight (vipassanā) and also equanimity (upekkhā).

The view of insight is discerning of impermanence, and the view of transcendental knowledge (lokuttara magga) is the view of no arising and vanishing of Nibbāna. These are the differences between them. You have to practice until the khandha disappears and only with the knowledge leaving behind (i.e., the contemplating mind with the eight path factors or the path factored mind). It’s peaceful because with no khandha and kilesa. Remember it as you have arrived at Nibbāna with body and mind tranquility (i.e., kāya and citta passaddhi). The commentary mentioned it as kāya passaddhi (body tranquility), citta passaddhi (mind tranquility) and kilesa passaddhi (non-kilesa tranquility).

Only with the contemplating mind (the eight-path factored mind) is leaving behind the process (therefore, the mind experiences perfect peace and happiness—i.e., Nibbāna.) You follow the process of arising and vanishing by focusing on them. After that you’ll become disenchanted and disgusted with them, and then it’ll come to you as no arising and vanishing will be good—with that decision the arising and vanishing phenomena come to an end. The body, mind and defilement calm down which the commentary mentioned as kāya, citta and kilesa-passaddhis respectively. You note it as the path knowledge (i.e., maggaṅga).

You have to practice hard according to the processes of the knowledge. Have to discern the vanishing phenomena (this is the knowledge of dissolution of formations—bhaṅgānupassanā ñāṇa—this stage is the climax of anicca). If you see them a lot, you will become disenchanted with them. Even becoming of disenchanting with them, you still have to observe them. (even become don’t want to see them and stop the practice.) With the strong disenchantment and the knowledge of not wanting them will arise. All the other knowledges are included here.

(The Buddha did not mention all of them in many suttas only three of them—rise and fall, disenchantment and path knowledge—the commentary mentioned ten of them.)

You’ll not get the next khandha (i.e., new one) if you die with no attaching to the khandha.

(The following talks were related to the Anāthapiṇḍikovada Sutta)

With attachment beings take rebirths at places where they have attached to it. The monk Tissa had attachment to the robe (a new robe for a monk) that became a louse in the new robe. Some died with the attachment to their wives and children born as dogs, snakes, etc. People are buying things because they desire for them and this is attachment. So, they can become louses, cockroaches, etc. if no attachment will not become again. (showed it with the chart of D.A. process). Only with insight knowledge comes in there will be no attachment. Attachment will be ceased by seeing impermanence. You must contemplate with insight to the attached phenomena if you want Nibbāna. There is no attachment by knowing them as impermanent, suffering and non-self. The most affectionate phenomenon is one’s own khandha. Therefore, all is finished if we exterminate it (one’s affectionate khandha).

(Sayadaw told the story in the Anāthapiṇḍikovada Sutta)

What is not clinging? With practice not clinging to the object only become non-attachment. Non-attachment comes by knowing the nature of the khandha. Knowing the nature of khandha is insight knowledge. They have the nature of impermanent, suffering, non-self and the truth of suffering (dukkha sacca). Because of our human surroundings, such as parents, teachers, etc. its original nature lost. In these ways inversions come in (vipallāsa) and seeing them with distortions. Clinging will arise if you see not its original nature, with that next life will come. Close your eyes and contemplate feelings which arise on the body, you can’t see man, woman, etc., attachment of craving and clinging (taṇhā and upādāna) fall away.

(Ven. Sāriputta gave instruction to Anāthapiṇḍika)

You must not cling to form, feeling, perception, formation and consciousness—the five khandhas; what is seen, heard, sensed and cognized; and all the dhammas. If you discern impermanence note it as emptiness—suññatā. It becomes emptiness.

We all have to die and must do the practice on the existing khandha for not clinging to it. The way of not clinging is to know it as useless. You’ll cling to it if you take it as useful. Because of the clinging and khandha comes into being. The practice of not clinging to the existing khandha is the most important one. You have to use the knowledge eye— ñāṇa-cakkhu to observe the existing khandha, and will see its impermanence, suffering, non-self, loathsome and truth of suffering (dukkha-sacca). You can see it only with right view.

Clinging—upādāna is the truth of the cause of suffering—samudaya-sacca. The clinging—khandha—upādānakkhandha is the truth of suffering—dukkha-sacca. If you have clinging, dukkha will arise. The objects are emptiness—suññatā, the sense bases are also emptiness and clinging fall off. The Buddha Dhamma (Sāsana) will disappear if no one teaches emptiness and you also don’t have the ear to listen to them. (This point is more evident in later traditions which get lost in rite, ritual and superstitions.)

(Anāthapiṇḍika passed away and reborn in Tusita Heaven as a young beautiful devata. When the night was well advanced, he went to see the Buddha and addressed him with stanzas.)

He addressed to the Blessed One that only the Noble Eightfold Path extinguished defilements and leading to Nibbāna. The path factors arise by observing with knowledge (ñāṇa) on the khandha’s original nature. King Milinda asked Ven. Nāgasena as explained for him how impermanence of phenomena leading to Nibbāna. Ven. Nāgasena didn’t answer them from what he had heard from others. His answer was his own direct experience. Contemplating knowledge is turning towards rising and falling by progressing towards Nibbāna. After that all the khandhas disappear and leaving behind with the contemplating knowledge. The contemplating knowledge is from the impermanence side it turns towards no impermanence. With all the impermanence is truth of suffering (dukkha sacca) and without them is nirodha sacca—the ending of dukkha. From the side of dukkha sacca it turns towards nirodha sacca, but the khandha still exists (this is the yogi’s body, but the mind do not experience it).


revised on 2021-01-11


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