Breaking the Shells of Ignorance

revised on 2019-05-26

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 20th June to 22nd June, 1960 (In Amarapura)

(In these talks, Sayadaw talked about the 5-kinds of light:

1. Kammassakatā Sammādiṭṭhi – belief in kamma and its result. Good action has the good result etc.
2. Nāma-rūpapariccheda Ñāṇa – knowledge of the mind and body.
3. Paccaya pariggaha Ñāṇa – knowledge of cause and effect process.
4. Vipassanā Ñāṇa or Lakkhaṇa Ñāṇa – knowledge of anicca.
5. Magga Ñāṇa – Nibbāna.)


The 5-layer shells of ignorance are the 5-darkness. In the Discourse of Turning the Wheel of Dhamma, āloko udapādi – "light arose" means breaking away the 5-layer of shells of the darkness. (1) If you believe in action (kamma) and the result of it, the first layer of ignorance (avijjā) is broken. (2) Understanding of the mind and body, the second layer of ignorance is broken. Mind is the master and body is the slave. (3) The third is understanding the Dependent Arising or the connection of cause and effect process appearing from the 6-sense doors. Then the third layer of ignorance is broken. Sāriputta by hearing the short teaching of cause and effect and entered the stream. If the shells of ignorance of (1) (2) (3) are broken and call cūla-sotāpanna (Definition by the commentary – small stream enterer, because with sotāpanna both share the same view.) Free from the painful rebirth for next life. Dispel wrong view by knowing is ñāta pariññā. In next life not fall into painful rebirth, but the 5-layers of darkness can recover up again. Therefore, must dispel it by practice. (4) The fourth is by practice and seeing impermanence and ignorance will break off. If you can’t discern it, the process of continuity covers up impermanence. Then you have to go back to No. 3. (5) If the process of impermanence is ended, the fifth layer of ignorance is broken.


[(This is an important talk on vipassanā practice. Talk about more detailed on anicca. Sayadaw quoted from Milindapañha. King Milinda requested Ven. Nāgasena to teach him how to develop vipassanā. He gave a simile. A tiger during hunting a prey, it hides himself in a bush where other animals used to come. When an animal approaches near, it jumps on the prey and kills it. If he is chasing the animal may be never catch it. In this simile, the tiger is yogi, watching is sati, bush is samādhi, jumping on and killing the prey is paññā. Watching and seeing the animal approaching is sati, killing the prey is sampajāna ~ clear comprehension. So the whole process is sati – sampajāna ~ mindfulness and clear comprehension.

After that Sayadaw continued the instruction based on Sāriputta’s saying: "Kāyaṃ imaṃ sammasatha, parijānātha punappunaṃ; Kāye sabhāvaṃ disvāna, dukkhassantaṃ karissathā" (Milindapañha/ Kammakāraṅgapañho) ~ Observe this mind-body process again and again continuously will see it arising and ceasing nature clearly with knowledge. And then strive on until dukkha come to an end. According to Sayadaw, Nāgasena’s instruction is for beginners, because in the beginning of practice samādhi is not very strong enough, so that only can discern the body coarse sensations. After long periods of practice and samādhi develop, that can discern the subtler sensations more and more as it shows its true nature. Discerning more will understand another nature as dukkha; dukkha will come to an end with continue practice. This is Sāriputta’s instruction.) Nāgasena’s instruction is Sati-Sampajāna. Sāriputta’s instruction is bhāvetabba and pahātabba (Developing and abandoning). Developing the insight knowledges and abandoning of kilesas. After discerning anicca, observing again and again continuously (bhāvetabba) until dukkha end (pahātabba). ]

Watching is sati. Caught on the prey of impermanence is Sampajāna. Sampajāna means seeing rightly. It is paññā. Samatha and vipassanā are including together. You have sati so you can catch on it. If you can catch on the arising and passing away, the fourth ignorance is fallen away. Of the 5-layers of ignorance it’s important for the fourth avijjā to be fallen away. Impermanence is always there. It’s also equal to Ehi-passiko. After that no need to watch. Nodding your head at whatever the khandha is showing you. Watching at it is Nāgasena’s instruction. After that nodding your head only is Sāriputta’s instruction. Bhāvetabba ~ by developing of seeing one’s own dukkha and knowing that it’s a great dukkha. With this making decision, then dukkha ceases. Watching and catching is for beginner in vipassanā. Sāriputta asked to observe the dhamma which is showing us its nature again and again. And then you will know the story of your khandhas thoroughly. Sāriputta taught up to Dukkha Sacca. This knowledge comes in when you see impermanence again and again. And then suddenly with a blip and there is nothing to contemplate. You will know that the greatest dukkha is not there anymore. It’s the Path Knowledge of Nibbāna. It’s true that no khandha is Nibbāna. Impermanent khandha is vipāka vaṭṭa (Resultant Round of Existence). Impermanence cease is free from the vaṭṭa. Therefore, in the mind it appears like lightness and happiness. This is no need for pāramitās (perfection). Only need for effort (viriya). The fourth ignorance can be broken by watching and catching. The fifth is only by knowing Dukkha thoroughly. When the Path Knowledge arises, what happen in the body? By seeing Dukkha continuously and this Dukkha ending will arise, and then follow by the knowledge of not wanting it. At the time taṇhā (craving) is extinguished with a blip and it ceases. It’s like cooling by pouring with 1,000 buckets of cold water.


(In this talk Sayadaw mentioned in brief the 10 insight corruptions when anicca lakkhaṇa ñāṇa become mature.) During seeing impermanence goose flesh can be raised up. Don’t be afraid. Vipassanā Knowledge become sharp with goose flesh and gladness arise. Physical body becomes light. Don’t take care of these things. Contemplate only impermanence. The body seems to be disappeared and rising up. In the process of practice, level fourth is important. The one who discern anicca can make this decision that in this life will transcend dukkha. It needs to see the impermanence without break and don’t relax in your effort. The passing away of phenomenon is before, and the seeing is after. Whatever is arising, have to know it not there, not there. At this level only the last layer of ignorance exists. Your duty is just contemplating impermanence. Nothing has to do. The Dhamma will carry on its own functioning. Without the knowledge of past lives, you don’t know where you came from. But one thing is sure, that was dhamma sent you to here. In the same way the knowledge of impermanence will send you to the Path Knowledge. The place where its cessation occurs is disbanding or abandoning the ignorance and the craving of the khandha. Khandhas disappear. Not only disbanding the present khandha but also the future one. The fourth level disbands kilesa only, not the khandhas. Path Knowledge does both. By abandoning the khandhas and it disappears because khandha has the body. By abandoning taṇhā and its energy power is gone because taṇhā has no body.

revised on 2019-05-26; cited from (posted on 2018-12-14)

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