Breaking the Axle of the Taints


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 5th January 1959, 16th January 1961 and 24th October 1961

[Those 3 talks were delivered at different times, but they had connection and using the wheel symbol to explain the Dhamma and practice. The picture of the wheel was mainly connection with the 3rd talk but also can use it for the other 2 talks.]

a complete set of the wheel with 4 spokes; separated parts of the wheel
Fig 1 : a complete set of the wheel with 4 spokes
Fig 2 : separated parts of the wheel

The inner core, the axle
The inner wheel, the red circle
The 2 outer circles, 2 outer wheels
The inner blue and the outer black

After taken out the parts become 4 circular parts (Explaining the above wheel picture.)

There are all 5 parts in it:

1. Inner core — axle represents 3 āsava (taints); i.e, Taints of sensuality (kamāsava Taint of becoming -(bhavāsava) and Taint of view (ditthāsava). Combine together become tanhā and ditthi (craving and wrong view)
2. The red circle — inner wheel represents ignorance and craving (avijjā and tanhā)
3. The 4 spokes are types of kamma create by beings. 1 and 2 are wholesome and unwholesome kammas. 3 and 4 are rūpa and arūpa jhanas.
4. Outer blue circle — the outer wheel represents the 5 khandhas or khandha
5. Outer black circle or outermost wheel represents old age, sickness and death

which follow or rolling with the blue khandhas. It’s made by iron or metal to protect the blue which is made of wood not to become worn out.

T1

Sayadaw gave this talk for yogis to decide their experiences of the end of dukkha, Nibbāna and Fruition (phala). Near the end of dukkha, the yogi only experience dukkha arises and dukkha ceases and not seeing the khandhas. If yogiobserves vedana and not seeing vedana but only anicca.

The perception of vedana is disappeared. When dukkha ends and Nibbāna appears. Path consciousness (magga) is seeing dukkha ends and Nibbāna appears. Fruit consciousness is only seeing Nibbāna.

There are 2 kinds of Dependent Arising, mula and pavatti Paticcasamupadas. Sayadaw explained as the long and short ones. The whole 12 links is called mula Paticcasamupada. From viññanam to kammabhava is called pavatti Paticcasamupada. Sayadaw explained the Dependent Arising from the Samyutta Nikāya.

A wheel has 5 parts; from the centre of the wheel to the outward.

These are :

1. inner core axle
2. inner wheel (the red)
3. the spokes
4. Outer wheel (blue)
5. the outermost (black)

Axle is āsavas. Ignorance and craving are the turners of the wheel. Inner wheel is avijjā and tanhā. Spokes are kammas. The outer wheels are khandhas and old age, sickness and death.

If kamāsava is turning the wheel, beings are born in kamaloka (sensual planes), i.e human being and celestial beings. With avijāsava is turning the wheel and beings are born in the planes of misery (the 4 apāyabhūmi). Bhavāsava turns the wheel to Brahmaloka (the planes of Brahma gods) (in this talk Sayadaw gave 3 spokes only for kamma) The whole 12 links of D.A is about saṁsāra and develop samvega and urging one for practice. The 6 sense doors are factories produce the whole wheel.

The Buddha gave a very remarkable analogies of the wheel for D.A. Inner wheel ignorance and craving support the spokes-kammas and it support the outer wheel-khandhas. Axle-āsava is turning the inner wheel. If we are breaking down the spokes with satipatthāna bhavana and all the other parts—āsava, avijjā, tanhā and khandhas come to a stop. This is the end of dukkha—Nibbāna. Living beings are turning the wheel of āsava for dukkha. But the Buddha was turning the wheel of Dhamma for ending dukkha.

Kata Nyan — Knowledge knowing the ending of dukkha. There are 2 points to know directly. Knowing the ending of dukkha and the arising of Nibbāna. This is only the real Kata Nyan (There are 3 knowledges of the vipassanã process, i.e Sacca, Kicca and Kata Nyans respectively.

According to Sayadaw, Yathabhūta Nyan — seeing impermanence is Kicca Nyan. Penetration of the truth of dukkha, i.e from Nibbida Nyan onward knowledges are Kicca Nyan and Path Knowledge is Kata Nyan). When Kata Nyan is closing to arise yogi only seeing dukkha is revolving. Can’t see the mind and body but knowing dukkha arise and dukkha ceases.

At the time of dukkha ceases and at the same time Nibbāna arises. (Sometimes Sayadaw was using language to describe the yogi’s own experiences directly, may be it makes some scholars in doubt and confusion. But if we carefully contemplate can find out the truth.

The best way is direct experience, even though may be still have difficulty to express in words.) ① arises and ② ceases (① is dukkha arises and ② dukkha ceases). The Path Knowledge is seeing it. After that fruition minds arise. These minds are seeing Nibbāna.

Therefore Path Knowledge and Fruition Knowledge are very different. D.A. is dukkha khandha revolving continuously. Nibbāna is this dukkha khandhas stop revolving or this dukkha khandhas not exist.

There are 2 revolving of the D.A; sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the long one and sections 2 and 3 are the short one. These are also called mūla and pavatti Paticcasamupadas (D.A). Mūla Paticcasamupada is also important because only good understanding of the saṁsāric dukkha can have strong saṁvega—sense of urgency. And then we want to make the effort to end dukkha. The outer wheel (blue) represents the 5 khandhas and the iron sheet (black) is aging, sickness and death.


T2

[This talk with a few details in practice than the previous one. There are 3 āsava; kamāsava, bhavāsava and ditthāsava. These are like the axle of the wheel. Combine the 3 and become 2, tanhā and ditthi. Therefore, tanhā is more powerful than avijjā, which is the inner wheel.

How to break the āsava? Using the sword of wisdom, the Noble Eightfold Path. There are 2 stages to cut down the āsava. Vipassanā Nyan and Magga Nyan (Insight Knowledge and Path Knowledge). Vipassanã Nyan cuts down the other layers and Magga Nyan destroys the core—the axle.]

The khandhas never have happiness (sukha). It’s the truth of dukkha. Who construct this khandha? Birth, aging and death are the iron sheet wheel (the outer black wheel) Who is turning this wheel? The axle is turning it. It’s āsava axle.

Not knowing is āsava, you will say the axle and the wheel are very far (i.e the outer wheel). The axle and inner wheel are connecting. The inner wheel is ignorance and surrounded the axle.

How do you revolve in saṁsāra? The axle of āsava is surrounding by the inner wheel of avijjā and turning with birth, aging and death. The wholesome and unwholesome spokes (kamma) connect with birth, aging and death (the outer wheel) and ignorance (the inner wheel).

The spokes are sometimes going up and down during the turning or moving (Depending on the kammas of beings, but mostly in the planes of misery-dugati). The Buddha also mentioned that the permanent homes of living beings were mostly the planes of misery. If we are checking our own mind everyday we will understand what he said).

The outer wheel is moving accordingly to the axle. This is turning the round of existence—saṁsāra. Āsavasamudaya→ avijjāsamudayo (From Samyutta Nikāya) — Taints lead to ignorance. Avijjā paccaya Sankhara, Sankhara paccaya jati → jara, marana—Ignorance condition volitional formation → birth → aging and death. This is describing D.A in short way.

By the revolving of the taint of craving/tanhā (axle), the inner wheel of ignorance is turning. Because of ignorance volition formation arises and spokes come into existence. And then it connects with birth, aging, and death.

Therefore the Buddha warned us whatever offerings were made must for the destruction of the taints— āsavas. Idamme puññam āsavakhayaṁ ahaṁ hotu— may this merit for the destruction of the taints to me. Destruction of taints is Nibbāna. The destruction of taints is very important. Taints and ignorance are mutually connecting to each other. If one of them exists the other also. Taints have to be destroyed.

There are 3 of them;

1. Kamāsava — Taints of sensuality, clinging to the 5 cords of sensual pleasure (form, sound, smell, taste and touch).
2. Bhavāsava —Taints of becoming, desire for this and that life.
3. Ditthāsava—Taints of view, making things as me and mine.

If you break them (the axle) the wheel can’t move. The wandering round of existence (saṁsāra) can’t continue. The khandhas you get are foul or loathsome dukkha (asubha dukkha). In this situation you are adding more of the asubha dukkha of the loads of sons and daughters is very shameful indeed (to the ariyans’ eyes).

We are quite foolish and crazy people. When we were wandering in saṁsāra sometime had coffins and sometimes not. Sometime had clothes and sometime not. (As human beings and animals).

Therefore we are wandering with shame and dis- advantages. Let us do the job of breaking the axle. If we break the axle even though the whole wheel are connecting with it still can’t move on. The axle is greed and wrong view (lobha and ditthi). Therefore tanhā is more powerful than ignorance. We can only break the axle with the sword of the path (factors of the path).

So, I have told you contemplate with insight. The knowledge of insight(vipassanā magga) breaks it off as much as possible. The true path knowledge totally destroys it. Something like you want to get the core of the wood, firstly without trimming out the branches and the outer layers and can’t get it. You must remember this example.

First using the vipassanā sword cuts the outer layers, after that using the magga sword cuts the core part. (Continued to talk about the contemplation of the mind). Whatever mind arises contemplate as impermanence and become anicca / magga. Because of anicca the affection to the khandha-kamāsava not arises. This is me and mine, the wrong view not arises and becomes right view.

So, ditthāsava also falls away. It cuts off the upper layers of 3 āsava and continue the contemplation becomes disenchanted. Disenchantment develops by a lot of contemplation. When the knowledge become mature and it comes closer to the core.

Knowledge becomes sharper means can cut more to the axle. Becoming is not to be joyful. Destruction of it is no need to be sad about. It’s because all are truth of dukkha. Cutting the outer layer is taking time. Cutting the core doesn’t take much time for it. Path Knowledge comes only once.


T3

The Buddha said that using his knowledge to trace backwardly of any living being past lives would never end even he did it for his whole life. But he could point out each living being’s saṁsāric existences as the cause of ignorance and craving. The beginning of living beings are ignorance and craving. Explaining the above wheel picture:

①Inner core—the axle represents 3 āsavas ; i.e kamāsava, bhavāsara and ditthāsava. 3 combine together become tanhā and ditthi.
②The red circle—the inner wheel represents avijjā and tanhā.
③The 4 spokes represent types of kamma beings create :⑴Wholesome kamma ⑵Unwholesome kamma ⑶rūpajhana & ⑷arūpajhana.
④Outer blue circle—the outer wheel represents the 5 khandha, 4 khandhas and one khandha (i.e, Brahma gods with mind only and with body only)
⑤The black circle—the outermost wheel represents birth, aging, sickness & death which follow the khandha wheel.

From ① to ⑤ each support each other outwardly and whirling together going on and on in the saṁsāric journey. How to break the āsava? By the sword of wisdom — the Noble 8 Eightfold Path. There are 2 stages to cut down the āsavas.

Vipassanā Nyan and Magga Nyan—Insight and Path Knowledges. Vipassanā Nyan cut off the outer layers and Magga Nyan the core. Any type of kamma beings done always end up in birth, aging and death. To stop them for functioning, it’s important to destroy the core axle, i.e the āsavas and the inner wheel—(avijjā and tanhā).

To become a Buddha was knowning the D.A of the khandha arises and ceases.About the connection of dukkhas are D.A. It’s the truth of dukkha. Therefore the cessation of dukkha is Nirodha Sacca. Not knowing the 4 Noble Truths is ignorance. Have affection to things wherever you are in is tanhā.

Only knowing one’s own ugliness that want to make correction. The Buddha also said in this way. Except vipassanā and magga kammas, whatever you are doing cannot cut through the cycle of birth, aging and death. Whatever khandha you have only end up at aging and death.

Therefore don’t perform merits just for round of existence (Kusala Vatta).If you want just do only merits for no round of existence (Kusala vivatta) Wherever you are never free from dangers. Here the axle of āsava and the inner wheel of avijjā and tanhā are the most important parts.

By their turning that khandhas are whirling around. All merits done under the influence of ignorance and craving will end up at the dangers of aging and death.

The whole wheel will stop only the axle and the spokes are breaking apart. Inside the wheel only exist 2 of the Noble Truths; dukkha and its cause. (Dukkha Sacca and Samudaya Sacca)

(Here Sayadaw explained clearly and openly why he didn’t accept making merits for rebirths. He was always making people to understand dukkha and want to transcend it by talks and meditations before performing their dānas. There were a few collections of talk by him on this topic.)

Have to follow with knowledge from behind the feeling. If not, it connects with tanhā, upādāna kamma and whirling around. Whatever mind arises contemplate its impermanence. With contemplation tanhā, upādāna and kamma not arises, axle and spokes are broken.

From the 6 sense doors we are making spokes. When the spokes are not good and changing new spokes. From every sense door comes tanhā, upādāna and kamma and everyday it’s uncountable for us. From the factories of sense doors we are changing new spokes and the wheel is turning on non-stop.

Therefore you have to cut it down with the Path Knowledge. Do the job of the path factors. In this way the axle of ignorance and craving are broken, and the spokes of kamma not exist, and the wheel can’t turn on and on.


  • Content of "Dhmma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"

cited from https://www.oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4049&sid=0ec95ad79d768ce106c223fdf2cf5b55