Annihilation and Yamaka

revised on 2019-05-26

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 14th to 15th July 1961


[These 2 talks were based on Yamaka again. But there were some differences in it, time and content. Here Sayadaw talked about Nibbāna as the arahant still alive and experience Nibbāna, i.e., Nirodho and Magga. After passing away, there is only nirodho without magga. But no dukkha only with sukha and peace exist. Interpret Nibbāna as nothingness, it becomes annihilation. Even some later Buddhists interpreted it as permanent identity. Because they have forgotten what the Buddha had said, i.e., sabbe dhammā anattā – All dhamma is not-self. All dhamma means everything, including Nibbāna.

In this talk Sayadaw gave example and simile to express the nature of Nibbāna which is remarkable and interesting; it's also in a very practical sense. He said every living being is burning with 2 kinds of fire; fire of defilements and body fire. If we contemplate these 2 fires in our daily life will understand dukkha very clear. For an arahant, he has no fire of defilements but still has the fire of the body. In his whole process of practice, he realized the first to the last Nibbāna step by step. Here again some scholars and Buddhists misinterpret the Suttas as some yogis had realizations without step by step. These are coming from not understanding the nature of the mind and the law of nature. He knows sukha and peacefulness of Nibbāna with direct experience. With comparison he understands the burden of the body very clear. It’s like the 2 stories building burning with fire. The ground building of the fire is extinguished but the upper story is still burning. In this situation, what will you do? Surely you will continue to extinguish the upper fire until all are gone and totally peaceful. In this example the ground fire is defilements and the upper fire is the body.

For an ordinary person, he may think that an arahant is already without defilements and his mind is peaceful, why he should passed away and would rather continue to live forever. Sāriputta once said that he was expecting for parinibbāna (passing away) after he became an arahant because carrying the body around was too heavy and burdensome. Even he preferred to carry Mount Meru on his back than the body. Someone who is severely sick wants to get well. In the same way anyone who really understands dukkha wants to free from it. A yogi practices and penetrates dukkha really wanting to transcend it. ]

No sun and moon in Nibbāna, therefore will not suffer wind and rain. Only peace exists and without other things. No connection with any kind of dukkha is Nibbāna. No sun and moon, the natural dukkha, and mind dukkha are not there. Fuel (khandhas) and fire (kilesas) are gone out is Nibbāna. It’s without dukkha and samudaya (5-khandhas and kilesas). Only nirodha and magga exist (Nibbāna and Path Knowledge). Dukkha ceases and sukha must appear. When you have a sore dukkha arises, and after cured sukha exists. It’s important to cure the sores of defilement and khandha. If they are cured, it will appear. Only by appreciation of knowledge (ñāṇa) and Nibbāna, the view of annihilation does not arise. Before the practice to know about them is the duty of the yogi. (Here, Sayadaw was quite different from other teachers. He emphasized very strongly to dispel wrong views with intellectual knowledge and understanding of suññatā dhamma and paṭiccasamuppāda before the practice. It has 2 main reasons behind this point. The first realization is abandoning diṭṭhi. There were evidences in the Buddha’s time and present day yogis who were practicing with wrong views had difficulties and problems during their practices.) After the arahant dies the impermanent khandha dukkha ceases and only sukha exists. Don’t know one’s own dukkha yet, so you don’t know Nibbāna. The khandha is always burning with fire. Only the yogi knows it. Therefore, he wants to free from the fuel and fire. The arahant doesn’t have kilesa fire (already gone out) but the fire of the body still exists. He had seen Nibbāna only. It would be better if the khandha fire also gone out.

(Sayadaw gave the simile of 2 stories building is on fire.) After becoming an arahant all kilesa fire are gone. Therefore, living with a very long life and helping living beings is better. This is the thinking of an ordinary person mind state (a worldling), not an arahant mind. (In India after the Buddha passed away and sometimes later some Buddhists developed new ideas and thinking into his teachings.) Here are the differences between the arahant and an ordinary folk (i.e., puthujjana=worldling). This kind of thinking and talking are the mind of a worldling. Therefore, arahants wanted to put down their burdened khandhas, because they had already seen the peacefulness of Nibbāna and the burning khandhas. (They had seen Nibbāna already for 4 times in their step by step practice; also by entering into fruition states every day.) It’s the same as someone has an ulcer wants to be cured. (It reminds me about Chao Khoon Nor, a well known practicing monk in Thailand. He lived in a dwelling place which was closed all the time and practiced there for 45 years. He only came out for the morning and evening pūjas. He developed throat cancer later in his life. I had seen a book documented his illness with colour photos which were frightening. It seems he could bear the physical pain.) But it’s also not good for them to suicide. Most Buddhists originally have permanent view (sassata-diṭṭhi) but they have annihilation view due to not understanding Nibbāna. Ask to contemplate impermanence is let you know about the sores. If you don’t discern impermanence yet can’t talk about Nibbāna. You discern anicca and knowing the unhealthiness. If you know the unhealthiness can know the healthiness by justification. Don’t know the truth of dukkha thoroughly (penetratingly) never realize the cessation of it (nirodha sacca). At first, discern dukkha if you want to realize Nibbāna. If you don’t appreciate Nibbāna surely you have the view of annihilation (uccheda diṭṭhi). Arahant is seeing 2 sights. He wanted to put down the burden because he had seen the real happiness. It’s not foolishness.


Only discerning dukkha you are on the right track. Don’t discern it you can’t appreciate sukha, and also never realize Nibbāna. (Sayadaw recounted the story of Yamaka.) Without a teacher to explain these things, people will think that there is nothing in Nibbāna. No appreciation of Nibbāna, people have uccheda diṭṭhi (view of annihilation). Yamaka contemplated anicca and anatta but couldn’t succeed because couldn’t let go of his view. The body has fire element therefore it becomes ageing. (He recited the Pali gāthā by Sāriputta after his arahantship.) After the realization he wanted to lay down his body. He had seen the burning of the khandha and the cessation of it, so that he wanted to be free. This is also an evidence of the existence of Nibbāna. For the worldlings even they are burning with fire, still looking for more fire to burn them. They are having family lives and praying for the becoming (Having bhava taṇhā). Buddhists who don’t want Nibbāna and have faith in Buddhism but they have uccheda diṭṭhi (This point is important to some Buddhists for reflection. They can have both wrong views; i.e., they have bhava taṇhā – permanent view and frightening of annihilation.)

Yogis can know Nibbāna by justification. By discerning anicca, then he knows that there is a place without anicca. Impermanence is truth of dukkha, and then there is truth of sukha without the anicca. Wanting to reach Nibbāna have to come out from the province of impermanence. First have to discern anicca. This will know dukkha. With knowing dukkha, the knowledge of not wanting will arise. Then the dukkha sacca of impermanence will come to an end. This ending is Nibbāna. Therefore, from sotāpanna to arahant had seen the ending of impermanent dukkha for 4 times. He had seen the freedom of dukkha and couldn’t take pleasure in living with the khandhas. There are 2 ways for reaching Nibbāna, by seeing directly and later reaching there. (i.e., with practice and after death.) Therefore, an arahant after the realization prefer to die. Sāriputta himself was like this. When Sāriputta went to see the Buddha and asking permission to lay down his khandhas, and the Buddha kept quiet. There were some reasons about this. By giving permission means killing, whereas without permission means Sāriputta still had kilesa. Therefore, the Buddha told him that he had to know it by himself. If you have discerned impermanence you are on the middle way.

The Buddha said that Nibbāna, the unborn (ajāta) and unmade (abbhuta), was existed. In each of the Buddha’s Dispensation 80 billion and 100,000 living beings were in Nibbāna.

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

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