The Five Darkness and the Five Lights

revised on 2019-06-14

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 4th May to 8th May, 1961(In Mandalay)

(These five talks are the same subject of the above 3 talks, entitled Breaking the Shells of Ignorance. But the times and places were different and also the contents.)


[Sayadaw mentioned that when the Bodhisatta meditated on the day of his enlightenment, with the development of vipassanā knowledge, his body emitted a kind of light (obhasa). It was so strong that spreading upwards to the Akaniṭṭha Brahma World and downwards to the Great Eight Hells. All living beings are under the influence of avijjā (darkness), born and die again and again without ending. Sayadaw gave 5 talks on avijjā and vijjā (ignorance and true knowledge) based on the Suttanipāta. (1) The First light is Kammassakatā Sammādiṭṭhi ~ Right view on kamma: Doing good has good result etc. Even many human beings don’t have this light. Sayadaw mentioned some of them, Christians, Muslims and hill tribes. ]

How were we be in the whole of saṁsāra? (Round of existence) The Buddha said those who never had the light and covered with only darkness born in the darkness, and were living in the darkness and dying in the darkness of ignorance. (He mentioned the Buddha’s Light.) With the Buddha’s Light, living beings knew that a Buddha had arisen. Some human beings had the chances to rely on this Light, but you of all were not having this chance. Under the influence of ignorance, we created kammas. Therefore, these 5-khandhas were never free from the shadow of darkness. We created kammas under ignorance, so born under its shadow. Whoever gets Dukkha Sacca is under the darkness and discerns Dukkha Sacca has the Light. Even you had a happy rebirth don’t take it as good luck. It’s sure that in many of your lives you did not get the Light. Now with the chances if you don’t get it and will never be. (Sayadaw gave 2 examples for under the influence of darkness with earth worm and butterfly. Many of his talks were foods for the heart.) In talking about the Noble Truth (Ariya Sacca), I can’t even spare dāna, sīla and samatha. Whatever worldly happiness, it is still under the avijjā. Brahma Worlds are under its shadows. Some people think human world is not good enough so want to go to the heavenly worlds. All these are changing the names only. (Sabbe Saṅkhāra Dukkha~ All conditioned phenomena are dukkha.) (Then he explained many things in daily life under the influence of avijjā.)

In the Discourse of Turning the Wheel of Dhamma, vijjā udapādi ~ means knowing the Noble Truth. Those who do not become vijjā are under the darkness. The province of ignorance is very wide. In the 31 realms of existence wherever you go, you are never free from its influence (except the 5 pure abodes of noble being connection with the fourth Jhāna.). Start getting the sotāpatti magga (the knowledge of stream entrance) and start getting the light. If not, you are going like an earth worm. If the 5-darkness covers up, the 5-lights will never come out. There are five kinds of Ignorance, but most people know only one. (1) Kammassakatā Ñāṇa ~ even this knowledge all the animals and other religions don’t have. Animal rebirths are uncountable; moving around in the 4-painful births. No. 1 ignorance is not a small one. Human beings, heavenly beings and Brahma gods have wrong view. Even you get this right view, still covering with the other 4 darkness.


[Another meaning of avijjā is not knowing of what should be known and knowing of what should not be known. Sayadaw mentioned modern science and technology developments as wrong knowledge (micchā ñāṇa). He gave examples of atomic bomb and large scale meat productions. We can say any knowledge harmful is micchā ñāṇa. (2) The second light is Nāma-rūpa Pariccheda 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 the 3-signs of universal characteristics. (5) Magga Ñāṇa ~ Nibbāna. In living beings 5-kinds of darkness (avijjā) covered up the above 5-kinds of light (vijjā). For the first darkness, Sayadaw gave the story of Todeyya Brahman who was stingy and not believed in kamma (Majjhimanikāya-aṭṭhakathā (Papañcasūdanī) / 5. Cūḷakammavibhaṅgasuttavaṇṇanā). Later died and born as a dog in his house. His son Subha treated this dog very well. One day the Buddha passed by his house and the dog was barking at him. The Buddha spoke to the dog that after death he would be born in hell. Subha heard this and met the Buddha. The Buddha suggested him to feed the dog with milk gruel and when it fell into sleepiness stroke its body gently. Later asked the dog where some of the treasures hid by Todeyya. Subha did what the Buddha said and then found the treasures hid by his father. The dog died and was born in hell. For the second kind of Light, Sayadaw did not mention much about it in this talk, because most of his disciples already had listened many years for his talks. He said simply the desire (chanda) to do something is the mind and the movements of the physical body is material. For the third, he said that understanding of Paṭiccasamuppāda is not enough, because it starts from avijjā > saṅkhāra…etc, it’s the letters of Dependent Arising (see the 12-Links). You must understand khandha Paṭiccasamuppāda. Every khandha Paṭiccasamuppāda arising starts from consciousness (viññāṇa) e.g., eye consciousness (seeing), ear consciousness (hearing) etc.]

Avijjā is not knowing of what should be known and knowing of what should not be known. It’s very bad dhamma. In the western countries there are many competitions. They know which are not good to know (He gave some examples.) Five darkness and 5 Lights come from the Suttanipāta and Paṭisambhidā Pali. Christians and Muslims do even not believe in kamma and its result. They only believe in permanent God and Mohammed. Don’t talk about the animals. Even in human beings very few populations believe in it. (He told the story of Todeyya Brahman). If you do merits offer with the knowledge of Sacca Ñāṇa (Noble Truth).


[In every talk Sayadaw always started with Saṁvega - sense of urgency to transcend Dukkha. He pointed out wrong views (diṭṭhis), on craving (taṇhā) or pointed out disciples’ mistakes and weakness in worldly life etc.; so that they may develop urgency for practice. And then he started the main point for the talk. He always based on the Truth of Dhamma (Sacca Dhamma) for the practice and realization. Wanting his disciples to remember what he taught, that every talk had repetitions. Sometimes he asked questions for their understanding. His style of teachings is very similar to the Buddha and some of his great disciples. Most of them were an hour talk. If a subject topic was not finished, in next talk he mentioned that again and made them remembered it.]

In our whole round of existence, we were covered up with ignorance that did not get the Path Knowledge. As much as many lives we were jumping into the fire of ageing and death. Therefore, we were always in suffering. Living beings are covering up with the 5 layer shells of ignorance (He compared it with the simile of a chick inside the egg.) Some had dispelled their wrong views intellectually but when they encountered with problems and difficulties, the second knowledge did not arise. These were evidences for the power of ignorance. Desire to do something is the mind (nāma). Following the desire to act is the body. This is roughly to know the mind and the body. 3. The knowledge of knowing cause and effect – not knowing the process of dependent arising of the khandhas is covering up by the darkness of ignorance. Even you can’t see the impermanence; whatever arising in the body is only the 5-khandhas. Knowing it as not a living being and not me is a little better. Every time khandhas arise knowing as it is only khandhas, and No. 2-ignorance fall away. The important of dependent arising is becoming clear. It’s not starting from avijjā (ignorance). It’s the letters of dependent arising (the12-links). It starts from sense-consciousness such as seeing, hearing, smelling etc. These are our present moment's processes. After seeing and wanting, then craving (taṇhā) arise. And then become clinging / attachment (upādāna) arises. Causes and effects are connecting or continuously arising. Where is there any person, living being or me? So No. 3 ignorance falls away.


[Sayadaw continued the third Light. He said some of his disciples, after listening to his talks, realized that their parents and grandparents died without knowledge about these kinds of Light. Knowing the khandhas arise and the continuity of causes and effects have these Lights (No. 2 and No. 3). Meeting together of inner and outer sense bases (āyatanas) (sense doors and sense objects), sense consciousness arises and then follow with vedanā, taṇhā, upādāna and kamma etc. So, wrong view and doubt are clear up. It’s the knowledge of cūla-sotāpanna and next life will not fall into painful rebirth. But it’s not very reliable and can be lost again in the future. He gave the story of Subrahmā Devata who was born as a deva because of his good kamma in the past (SN. 2. 17 Subrahmāsuttaṃ SA.i.88f.; DA.iii.750; MA.i.190f). But he also knew that after 7 days he would die and born in hell. But later with a teaching of the Buddha he entered the stream and changed his destination. For the fourth Light, it's to see the anicca khandha (impermanence of the aggregates). Any khandha arises, seeing its impermanence. The khandhas always show the 3-lakkhanas (anicca, dukkha, anatta). Why don’t we see it? Because of avijjā covers it up. Sayadaw said most of his disciples already arrived at this stage and was closer to the last Light. They must work hard to dispel this darkness. ]

If we talk about the power of ignorance, 31-realms of existence are the graveyards of living beings. Brahma worlds are for wise people, human and celestial worlds are for good people and the 4 painful places are for foolish people. 31-realms are the provinces of ignorance. These places are his arrangements for them. Even some people are worshipping the Brahma God (The Creator). They are worshipping the ignorance. His directions are cemeteries. Don’t choose any of them. All are without blessings (Because of Dukkha Sacca). Among the 31-realms, wherever place you like and it is only foolishness. Ignorance is like a fisherman setting up the 3-nets of kāma (sensual planes), rūpa (material jhāna planes) and arūpa (immaterial jhāna planes) for the fishes (living beings). Whatever living beings come into these nets are beaten to death by his (jarā-maraṇa) old age and death men. Which one of the nets is better than others? Even many human beings don’t have the first Light. They think foods and drinks are created by God. Births are created by God. They don’t believe in kamma and result. Therefore, other faiths are covering-up with all the 5-darkness of ignorance. In the Buddha First Discourse – vijjā udapādi ~ true knowledge arises, ñāṇaṁ udapādi, āloko udapādi ~ Light arose are this fifth Light.

The No. 2 Knowledge of mind and body is similar to the boatman and the boat. With only by the boatman (the mind) can’t arrive to the other shore and with only by the boat (body) is also the same. (3) Understanding of the Dependent Arising ~ these are natural procedures (Dhammaniyāma) and continuation of cause and effect phenomena. There is no me, no person, no living beings. And with this knowledge, doubt is overcome. This third ignorance is falling away. Don’t be only satisfied with the 1, 2, and3 Lights. During with these Lights can be fallen back into darkness again. For example Subrahmā Devata arrived in heaven by the first Light. With avijjā, saṅkhāra ~ doing black kamma is sure to fall into painful rebirth. The fourth ignorance covers-up the 3-lakkhanas. So you can’t discern impermanence. Here in this group (Sayadaw’s disciples) many discern anicca but still avijjā left over. So darkness can be come back, except the practice of vipassanā all other matters are the business of ignorance. I am very glad if you discern anicca. Why? Only dimness is left. If you put more effort, it will totally light up, and sure to be free from the dangers of painful births and 31-realms of existence.


Becoming vijjā is seeing Nibbāna. On the way to Nibbāna by going with the sign posts are better. By knowing the levels on the way are no need to put everything on pāramīs. Only need to fulfill the level. You all start from the fourth level (i.e. contemplate impermanence because most of his disciples know the lights of 1, 2, 3 by listening to his talks for many years already.) You have to contemplate for discerning them. If you see it, don’t be negligent and will be realize the fifth light of Sotāpatti magga (Knowledge of Stream Entrance). It’s important for the fourth to mature. How to make it maturity? (He gave the example of building a fire by rubbing of 2-pieces of bamboo.) If, it’s becoming hot, it’s the sign of the fire for coming out. If you are continuing without stopping for rubbing it, and it’s sure the fire will come out. For the fire to come out or not is depending on the effort of that person. Therefore, the fourth is like rubbing the 2-pieces of bamboo, the fifth like the coming out of fire. Without the fourth, then the fifth is impossible. The text of Nāmarūpa Pariccheda (a Pali Text) mentioned that by contemplation and discerning more anicca and the gapping become narrowing between them. Later the contemplative mind disbands anicca and run into the unconditioned Nibbāna. The contemplative mind goes straight towards impermanence means it’s becoming mature. At that time don’t let any matters come in and continue to do the contemplation. Later with a blip the contemplative mind is discarding the impermanence. The khandhas only have impermanence, so you will only see impermanence. The 2 aniccas are saṅkhāras ~ conditioned phenomena (i.e., the object and the mind). The mind (ñāṇa) runs into Nibbāna and the ending of anicca. Therefore Nibbāna is near, and not far from us.

Without the fourth ignorance will be discerned anicca. Among the 5-ignorance, the fourth is the important one. It makes you not knowing the reality of existence. It’s hiding between anicca and ñāṇa (knowledge). Sometimes you discern it and sometimes not. At the time avijjā is thinner you see it and when it’s thick you can’t. How to correct it? I am sitting quite a long time now and can’t see impermanence. Maybe I have no pāramīs. Don’t think it in this way. It needs the method to expel avijjā. Return to the Paṭiccasamuppāda process, the third light. Whatever arises now is for dying. With this knowledge the fourth ignorance falls away. This is important for the yogis. If not, indolence will come in the practice. May be you will think I don’t have the pāramīs and get up and run away from the problem. Now, you watch and observe it. If you don’t see anicca, it’s sure that ignorance is covering up them. You should retreat back to look for the arising of Paṭiccasamuppāda ~ the third light. As an example return to the breath, there is a wanting to breathe in and out. If you see it arising and ignorance falls away. After that, continue to contemplate all the new arising. These 2 points are very important. I am concerning that near the end of the practice, you will give up. Even you can’t find the newly arising dhamma, the breath is always there. The desires to breathe in and out, both of them are impermanence. After getting the evidence, whatever follow behind are anicca. Return to the third and arrive back to the fourth. Sometimes it seems that nothing is happening. By not knowing how to expel ignorance and take it on pāramīs is wrong.

Without seeing the No. 3, you can’t come to No. 4 (not seeing or knowing the arising). Without the No. 3, darkness (wrong view) falls away, by sitting the whole day and it doesn’t work. Follow to catch on the arising Paṭiccasamuppāda khandha. If seeing consciousness arises just know it. When hearing consciousness arises just know it. If you can catch on it, ignorance falls away. If not the whole day sitting will not work. If you find out the beginning again will be continued to catch on the arising process. No. 4 is the mind staying with anicca. If you discern the increasing rate of the impermanence, the fourth ignorance has fallen away. But after that don’t let the mind to think of “I will get Nibbāna”. When this mind-state arises, ignorance comes back. The rate of anicca is going down. In my experience of teaching people, most of them fell back at this place. The wanting taṇhā come in and hinder the practice. Therefore, fall back to No. 3. Whatever the rate of impermanence, the mind (ñāṇa) has to follow it. Don’t let any mind-state come in. I am concerning your falling back, if not I will not talk about it. This point is very important. It's a place where the practice can be gone down. The yogis’ duty is to contemplate for maturity. To see Nibbāna is the duty of discernment (Ñāṇa). From near the No. 5 go down to No. 3 is quite a loss. Therefore No. 4 is quite important. By seeing more on dukkha and wanting to escape from it.

It’s like sharpening a knife. Continuing to sharpen the knife, it becomes sharper and sharper by itself. It has nothing to do with our wishes. Nibbāna is also the same, nothing to do with prayers. Only concern with the effort (It’s interesting to know that in the factors of enlightenment: viriya is 9times, sati 8times, paññā 5times, ekaggatā-samādhi 4times, saddhā 2times etc). Don’t forget the simile of rubbing 2 bamboos to build a fire. The contemplative mind (ñāṇa) is turning towards Nibbāna ~ Is that means khandhas don’t have anicca? Not at all! The Buddha already mentioned that, Sabbe-saṅkhāra anicca – all conditioned phenomena are anicca. Discernment (ñāṇa) becomes mature that the fifth ignorance falls apart and Nibbāna appears. If it’s not changed into Nibbāna, then it's still not mature yet. Continue to contemplate anicca. After the Path Knowledge (Magga Ñāṇa – Nibbāna), it's not difficult for entering the fruition state. Like a fire which already has the power of acceleration.

revised on 2019-06-14; cited from (posted on 2018-12-14)

  • Content of Part 2 on "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"

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