Nandaka’s Exhortation

revised on 2021-01-11

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 18th to 19th December 1961

[Note: Sayadaw based his talks from the suttas not necessarily the exact serial ways or took all of them as mentioned in the suttas. He only used the points from the suttas to explain the dhammas and about the practice.]

I condense the story of Nandaka and the bhikkhunīs told by Sayadaw. It was based on Nandaka’s Exhortation, Suttas No.146, Majjhima Nikāya.


The Buddha sent monks to teach the bhikkhunīs regularly. Everyone did it except Nandaka; he was never willing to give his service. Every time when his turn arrived, he gave various reasons not to go because they were his consorts in some of his past lives as kings. At the time of the Buddha many arahant had psychic powers to know people's past lives. Then one day the Buddha asked Ānanda who had been arranged to teach the bhikkhunīs. After the Buddha knew the situation, he ordered Nandaka to teach the bhikkhunīs.

Concern with the practice of vipassanā, I'll talk about Nandaka and 500 bhikkhunīs. There are 2 types of intimacy. In the past lives one had intimacy with one another. And then in this life one knows each other and become close relationship. He invited them that if they did not understand and not clear about what he said and could ask him. If he asked them they should answer. He talked about feeling by the sense doors. Here is form (visual object). It is particle element. These particle elements are formed by 8 fundamental elements. These are elements of earth, water, fire, air, color, smell, taste and nutriment. "Are the visual form permanence or impermanence?" "It is impermanence." "In that which is impermanence easeful (sukha) or stressful (dukkha)?" "It is stressful." "And is it fitting to regard what is impermanence, stressful as: 'This is mine, This is myself, This is what I am'?" "No, Venerable sir." "Why is that?" "Because we have already seen it well as it has come to be, with right discernment." "Even you all know it before, by hearing again is more beneficial." (After this Sayadaw continued to the other 5 sense objects, from sound to idea=dhamma ārammaṇa)

(Sayadaw continued to talk about the 6 sense doors after the 6 sense objects.). The eye is nicca or anicca and sukha or dukkha? It is anicca and dukkha, Venerable sir. If anicca and dukkha, can you say, this is mine, this I am and this is myself. No. Venerable sir, we had practiced and knew this before (The other 5 doors are also in the same way).

(After the 6 sense doors, Sayadaw continued to talk about the 6 consciousness arise from the contact of 6 sense objects and the 6 sense doors) When the eyes meet the form, eye consciousness arises. The eye consciousness is nicca or anicca and sukha or dukkha? It is anicca and dukkha, Venerable sir. If it is anicca and dukkha, can you say, this is mine, this I am and this is myself. No. Venerable sir, we had practiced and knew this before (The other 5 consciousness are also in the same way).

Feeling arises from eye consciousness is permanent or impermanent? It is impermanence, Venerable sir. If impermanent sukha or dukkha? Dukkha, Venerable sir. If it is anicca and dukkha, can you say, this is mine, this I am and this is myself. No, Venerable sir. There are 6 kinds of feeling. Feeling arise from the eye, from the ear, from the nose, from the tongue and from the mind door. Contemplate the impermanence of feeling is come from these Pali Suttas. If you extend them, it's 6 kinds. These are only in brief. You can extend more than that, 18 kinds also true (6 sense doors x 3types of feeling=18). Nandaka gave examples for his talk. Put oil and wick in a container and then lit the fire. Because of the fire, light arises or appears. There are 4 objects: oil, wick, fire, light. Feeling arises from the 3 impermanent objects. Therefore, feeling is also impermanence. Here eye, form, eye consciousness and feeling are similar to oil, wick, fire and light. The elements inside the 8 material phenomena are impermanent (form and eye sensitivity). Eye consciousness is also impermanent. Feeling arising from them is also impermanent. Therefore, it can't make feeling which comes from the 3 impermanence become permanence. Why? The 3 causes are impermanent. You can say feeling is anicca, dukkha and anatta. If the fire dies out, the light has to be dying out first. Why is that? Because it has to rely on the other 3. In the eye when eye consciousness arises, it arises together with feeling. Contemplate eye consciousness as impermanence. Can you say this is mine, this I am, this is myself. Don't say I see it. Feeling arises from the eye is by 3 causes. These causes are impermanent, so feeling must be impermanent. For example, a son dies, because the parents themselves are impermanent. Can you say why it happened to me? If you said this, then wrong view had followed you. Then you have permanent perception, knowing and view. With wrong view when a child dies or opposing us, then we are in sorrow, lamentation and stress. Now, you yourself are impermanent. You all are still alive because of the continuation of the impermanent conditions. Without these continuations you'll die. It is liked stopping the dynamo. If you can't move the conditioned out never see anicca. Anicca is covered up by continuity. Continuity means continuous replacements from behind. So can't see anicca. The replacements are so quick that can't see the inconstancy. Look at it in this way. Water is flowing from the north to the south direction. Drop colour paints of white, blue and yellow respectively. Stay a little below of the droppings and watch. After the white colour paint flows down and the blue one arrives, and then the yellow one. If you ask is it the same water? The first water is already flowing downwards by the evidence of the colour changes. If the water is always there then white, blue and yellow paints would never flow downwards. Here also the same way, eye consciousness is replacing the feelings. It is not the first feeling, but the later feeling. The first seeing disappears and replacing with the later one.

The same seeing means can't overcome the replacement that saying as seeing the same things. Then you can't leave (move) out the relationship. Seeing the same thing is view of permanence. This is the view to painful rebirth. If you want to dispel this view must know the differences of the replacement is one thing and the passing away is another thing. I'll explain the contemplation of the eye door. On the wall there are the numbers of 1,2,3,4. After you had seen number 1, and you see number 2. After you see number 2 and then you see number 3. If not in this way, you'll only see number 1 continuously. Do you see only number 1? After number 1 disappears you see number 2. After number 2 disappears you see number 3. In the same way you have to know that after the old ones are passing away and the new ones are arising. If not you can't even count the numbers, number 1 only. The first feeling can't feel the second feeling. We see it passing away, passing away...etc. Another seeing is here, also passing away here etc. It can’t move away from the place. Contemplate insight here. As an example, pain arises on the body. It is paining. It arises and passes away; another pain arises and passes away. It is passing away that has to replace; it is passing away that it has to replace...etc. Never forget this point. If you are watching at it, the knowledge of "It is not the same one before; It is not the same one before...etc." will develop. If you know it is not the same one before, you are seeing the impermanence. It is the method of uncover the continuity (santati) which covering up the anicca.

Nandaka was handling the point of the cause as impermanent, so did the result. After sense object, sense door and sense consciousness arise, that feeling can happen. Three causes are impermanent, so the result is impermanent. Before the concept of continuity arises, but it is impermanent. So contemplate anicca. His instruction was this way. With feeling on seeing, hearing…etc. never take them as permanence. The causes are impermanent and the results are also impermanent. What is the benefit of this way of knowing? During the seeing, affection does not arise. Therefore, clinging, action and birth are not happening. After seeing and follow by knowing which cut off dependent co-arising. This is not included in the Sutta. Without this point you may ask the question of why they became arahants. With seeing and become wanting, then craving comes in and follows the law of nature (dhammaniyama) to birth (jāti). If you can contemplate you will have the benefit to Nibbāna. Nibbāna becomes near with contemplation and far away without it. Vedanā nirodha taṇhā nirodho – with the cessation of feeling craving also ceases……jara-maraṇa nirodho – old age and death also cease. Becoming a Buddha was cut-off the Dependent Co-arising with the Path Knowledge. The Four Noble Truths arise together. Impermanence of feeling is dukkha sacca, contemplation knowledge is magga sacca, dying of craving is samudaya sacca, not becoming of birth, old age and death is nirodha sacca.

Taṇhā nirodha khandha nirodho Nibbānaṃ – the cessation of craving is the cessation of the aggregates which is Nibbāna. In the teaching process it is different, but in practice they happen together. Finished off the future dukkha to come is Nibbāna. This is the real Nibbāna. Nibbāna has peaceful characteristic. In contemplation eradicate craving and extinguish heat. If craving extinct heat also extinguishes. Is there any dukkha created by it? Without fire the heat also gone. The fire is gone out with the fuel. With fire and fuel, it is burning. Who had the experience of without fire and fuel? The one who contemplated had. Nibbāna is the job of a knowledge man (ñāṇa) and not an action (kammic action) or kamma. It is the duty of knowledge (ñāṇa). Therefore, is Nibbāna the way of action or knowledge is evident by this. Action (kamma) is the far cause (upanissāya=decisive support) and knowledge (ñāṇa) is the near cause (magga-paccayo=path condition). The Buddha said that the dhamma destroys defilement is the dhamma to Nibbāna. The Path Knowledge destroys kilesa and it companions; birth, old age and death will not come. The Path Knowledge experiences Nibbāna. Magga is ñāṇa. Therefore, if you do this job, not necessary to have doubt about can I realize Nibbāna or have any perfection (pāramī) If you can cut off kilesa and you will. Kilesa cuts off is Nibbāna. Samudaya (craving) forbid Nibbāna. What is the characteristic of samudaya? It has the nature of forbidding (palibodhato). Therefore, if he comes in, just forbidding. It can even forbid wholesome matters, even more so for Nibbāna. Only Path Knowledge overcomes it. Dāna and samatha can't do it. Even it can be given encouragement for the plenty in next life to come. Keeping precepts (sīla) are also for long life. It can interfere in these matters. It can be followed up to the knowledge of change of lineage (gotrabhū ñāṇa). It becomes sure that if you don't kill him (taṇhā) can't realize Nibbāna. It can do to living beings upside down in the 31 realms of existence. The bhikkhunīs only knew impermanence before. Now Nandaka taught them that impermanence gave birth to impermanence. The three causes are impermanent and the one result is also impermanent. Take this into your heart. He gave another simile. Tree has root, because of it the tree come into being. After the growth of the tree, its shadow appears. After the tree is destroyed, can the shadow of the tree which is created by it be survived? Which one is perished first? It's the shadow. Why? Tree still had the characteristic of continuity but the shadow doesn't. Here feeling (vedanā) is liked the shadow. It has been relied on the other three. If it has to be perished, has to be the first one.

I will explain in the way of conditional relations (paṭṭhāna). It becomes more profound. The material form (rūpa) is happening before-hand (purejāta=pre-nascence condition). Eye sensitively also before the feeling, therefore purejāta. Feeling arising depends on them. If these two not happen before, is there any contact (phassa)? Then instantly eye consciousness arises. It's pleasant to see it, and then the pleasant feeling arises. These two material phenomena arise before are pre-nascence condition. Mind and feeling are arising together (sahajāta=co-nascence condition).

If the two died before could they left behind? When the tree fell the shadow could not survive, it is become clear. Eye-sensitivity is the root, form is the tree, branches are consciousness and the shadow is feeling. If the tree fell can shadow be existed? The tree is older and easy to be old and die before. Explain by way of conditional relations is to dispel your doubt (vicikicchā). If you think why it is happening, then doubt comes in. It will hinder the Path Knowledge. In today talk, 3-causes are impermanent, so that the result is also. You must know this point clear. This instruction is for knowing. In practice, contemplate as after seeing, it is passing away. If you know directly it is not there and then dispel wrong view. After overcoming doubt and by contemplation and know that it is arising here and passing away here. Then it kills wrong view. By the way of conditional relations dispel doubt and contemplation of impermanence dispels wrong view. You must remember this point. After dispel wrong view and doubt by way of teaching, the practice can be completed. Without it, it's impossible. If something happens, then doubt will come in. In practice no need to use cause and effect. Just only arising here and passing away here. Not explaining these things before hand and during vipassanā practice it can be a hindrance. Not knowing the causes have doubt, and not knowing inconstancy (impermanence) have wrong view and all these will not die out. Any kinds of feeling only have these 3-causes. People think to know the Four Noble Truths have to work through one by one. It is not so. If you discern anicca, all these are working together. It's as the simile of a boat crossing a river. Each of the contemplation involves four together. By listening and knowing these things not fall into painful rebirth for one life.


Encounter with the Buddha's Teaching was a decisive support condition (upanissāya). These people had done merits to transcend round of existence (vivaṭṭa dānas) in this Buddha's dispensation (sāsana). (Sayadaw mentioned the past lives of Nandaka and bhikkhunīs). Very long in saṁsāra is not good. Now, you all are having the supportive conditions of your past lives that met me. Now, it needs to develop the path conditions (magga paccayo). Don't misuse the chances and opportunities of meeting with the Buddha's Teachings and a good teacher. (From here mentioned the difficulties of born as human beings, encounter the Buddha's Teachings, hearing the teachings on truths (sacca dhammas) and understanding them. The Buddha compared these with two similes. The first one is dropping a needle from the Brahma World and hitting the other needle in the human world is very difficult. But the above mentioned chances are more difficult than that. The second one is a blind turtle in the ocean come to the ocean surface only once in every hundred years. There is a wooden yoke with a hole on it, and floating on the ocean water. In these kinds of situations, even one day the turtle's head can catch up in the hole of the wooden yoke. But the above mentioned chances are more difficult than that.)

Now you all come up to this place (mostly from painful rebirths) with a lot of difficulties. If you lost these chances you will encounter more difficulties. You come here in your old age (referred to old disciples in the audience) but with the ignorance father and craving mother wasting all your precious times before like a happy blind and crazy person. If you continue to do things for the growth of saṁsāra, you will go back to difficult situation. Don't live your lives carelessly. Try to practice for the knowledge of the khandha. Done away with your dukkha before and don't live a cold life. This is foolishness and under the sway of ignorance and craving. With ignorance is wrong knowledge. It is at the bad side and used it as knowledge. It covers up the good sides. For example, the knowledge of making atomic bomb (Sayadaw also mentioned the cruelty of meat industry), you all think it as outstanding. Use it in worldly matter is ignorance and transcending the world is wisdom. Under the influence of worldly or wrong knowledge, take materially progress as fortunate development in foreign countries without the sāsana and progress in materials. May be you think that they are clever. It's not praiseworthy. It is with the development of wrong knowledge and degeneration of right knowledge. (Today world situations support this point.)

Regarding on feeling someone who is sharp wisdom faculty contemplates the neutral feeling in seeing. Those who has slow faculty is able to do it later at the active stage (i.e., vīthi cittas). Generally speaking, sharp person is at the eye-consciousness while slow person at the later stage of pleasant or unpleasant phenomena. Whatever phenomenon is suitable for contemplation. That is sharp witted person (khippābhiññā, khippa-ābhiññā) at eye-consciousness and slow-witted person (dandhābhiññā, dandha-ābhiññā) at cognitive process such as lobha, domanassa etc. It depends on sharp and slow vipassanā faculties. It can be done it at the eye-consciousness with the experienced practice. (continued the Sutta, the simile of tree and shadow). Feeling (shadow of the tree) arises later but disappears first because it depends on others. Whatever feeling arises you have to contemplate. Greed, anger and delusion will arise without contemplation. If you contemplate they will die away. Combine all feelings only 3 kinds, with extension 6 kinds and 18 kinds. The benefit of contemplation of feeling is as follow. There is a dead cow. Suppose a skilled butcher carve it up with a sharp carving knife. There is skin, muscles and connective tissues between the outer hide and inner flesh. These connect the hide and inner flesh. After the carving, the hide and the cow are separated. The concept of cow disappears or not? These are attached to each other before by skin, muscles and connective tissues. Cut them off by using the knife of the path factors or enlightenment factors. Craving pulls the external base (āyatana) and internal base together. Therefore, the concept of cow does not disappear. You don't need to afraid the internal and external bases. Have to be afraid of craving which attached to them. It is important to cut off craving. To cut off others also depend on craving.

It is better to cut off craving directly. You all take things outside as mine, and inside also mine. Attachment to inside and outside is craving. Therefore, have to cut off craving. Nandaka talked about the cutting off craving. At the same time bhikkhunīs were listening and contemplating. By the contemplation of impermanence of feeling, craving cannot come in. Let us cut off the craving of tissues and muscles by enlightenment factors.

In this sutta, talking about the factors of enlightenment only (Bojjhaṅga), and without mentioned factors of the path. But note it in this way. Talking about factors of enlightenment is to understand the Noble Truth. Path factors are to arrive at Nibbāna. They are the same idea. Don't take it as differently. If you practice Satipaṭṭhāna; the enlightenment factors, the path factors, the powers and the faculties are all included. With the 37 Requisites of Enlightenment factors (Bodhipakkhiya-damma) and all the mental factors are in it. Bodhi is ñāṇa (knowledge) and pakkhiya is the groups to know the truth. It's impossible by one only. Only by combination can know the truth, so Bodhipakkhiya. If you ask: Should we have to do each one of them? All are included in your contemplation of impermanence. In the Sutta mentioned differently and people think you have to do all of them. I will explain them. For example, you contemplate the impermanence of feeling; mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), and right view (dhammavicaya) are there. But effort (viriya), rapture (pīti) and tranquility (passaddhi) are together with samādhi. You should understand the equanimity factors of Bojjhaṅga in this way. When you see impermanence, no wanting and no anger arise. You are contemplating with equanimity of insight (vipassanupekkhā). Therefore, it also includes upekkhā. Just know it with impermanence, no pleasant or unpleasant happening and without confusion (moha). The sense object is neutral (upekkhā). (Outside objects are nothing to do with good or bad, only our reaction to it.) The contemplating mind becomes equanimity of insight (vipassanupekkhā). It is insight knowledge and also equanimity. Where these things come from? It was in the Development of the Faculties (Indriya-bhāvanā Sutta, MN 152, M iii 298, M 3.5.10 ). Only arriving at the Path Knowledge, it becomes the Bodhipakkhiya Damma. Vipassanā knowledges are the groups on the way to Nibbāna. Like a journey on the way and to the end. Arriving at the Path Knowledge becomes penetration of the truth. Being enlightened starts from the beginning of the process. The cause for enlightenment is vipassanā bodhi. In the Saṁyutta Nikāya, the Buddha answered that (the question was posed by a monk) the way to Nibbāna was vipassanā (Sayadaw had given a talk on this). Therefore, you will finish the journey by insight. In the Mahāvagga Saṁyutta, with Satipaṭṭhāna practice it becomes bodhi. You don't need to do the Bojjhaṅga specially. It is the Four Satipaṭṭhāna Practice. Observe and see your khandhas as Dukkha Sacca with your knowledge (ñāṇa).

Dependent on the sharpness of your knowledge the phenomena will show itself. In Mahā Vagga, the Buddha said, if monks did the Satipaṭṭhāna all were included. By changing the name don't think it as not include. Sammā-diṭṭhi means right seeing and dhammavicaya means analytical seeing or not mix-up in seeing. Both of them are mental factors of wisdom. By doing Satipaṭṭhāna all Bojjhaṅga are included. Their ears listened to the dhamma talk and the mind observed the khandhas. And then the mind became sharp (referred to the bhikkhunīs). In practice also the same. During the contemplation was insight knowledge, after became sharper and came the transcendental knowledge. In the end of the talk the bhikkhunīs realized the Dhamma according to each of their aspiration. If your aspiration is low, the desire and effort are small. With higher aspiration of mind is reaching higher standard. Therefore, practitioners should correct their mind for ending khandha dukkha in this lift time. Without decisive support conditions and path conditions (upanissāya and magga paccaya) can't end Dukkha.

revised on 2021-01-11; cited from (posted on 2016-07-23)

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