Khemaka and the Sixty Monks

revised on 2019-06-14

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 31st Dec. 1957 & 25th-26th Jan. 1960

(c.f. S.22.89.Khemasuttaṃ)


Ven. Khemaka was praised by the Buddha as an excellent preacher. Sixty monks stayed at Kosambī and Khemaka at the Plum Forest. Khemaka was very sick and the monks sent the youngest monk Dāsaka to ask his health. Actually they wanted to listen to his talk. First time he answered that he's not well and vedanā were increasing. After Dāsaka went back and repeated the news to the others. They asked him to go back and asked Khemaka that did he take the 5-khandhas as me or mine (wrong view and craving). Khemaka answered that he did not take each of the khandhas as me or mine, but the whole as I am (conceit). Here Sayadaw added some instructions for practice to dispel the sense of I or mine. The body is conditioned by kamma, citta, utu (temperature) and āhāra (food), so it belongs to others. The mind and mental factors arise because of sense-objects and sense-doors (ārammaṇa and dvāra), so it also belongs to others. Then observe their anicca nature. Dāsaka went back and repeated what Khemaka had said and they listened and contemplated their bodies.

The third time, they sent Dāsaka back and asked him the question that if he didn't take the khandha as me or mine, then he was an arahant. Khemaka answered that he was not an arahant but the khandhas still existed and took it as I am (māna). This point showed him as a non-returner (anāgāmin). Dāsaka went back and repeated what Khemaka had said. After their contemplation they sent him back to ask Khemaka "Does he take each khandha as I am?" So Dāsaka went back for the fourth time. After hearing the question, he himself with Dāsaka went to Kosambī to see the monks. He did not take each khandha as me or mine, but took the whole khandhas as I or mine in speech only. He was already an anāgāmin.

Here Sayadaw mentioned a very important point for yogis. He said wrong view comes from composite and to dispel it, have to see them separately. He suggested yogis to choose one khandha for insight, e.g., vedanā vipassanā. Khemaka gave the simile of a lotus flower to explain the concept of I am (conceit) [Here Sayadaw might use it from the commentary. It did not mention in the main Pali Sutta. ] He said the lotus smell came from the whole flower, not from each of the several parts. In the same way defilement arise from the composite nature of the 5-khandhas or concept. To clean away the kilesas, yogi should contemplate each khandha as anicca. The clothes after which it is washed have the smell of soap. To dispel the smell, it have to be put them into a perfume box until the smell is gone away. So sekha – the learner (the lower ariyans) are like washed clothes. Arahant likes the washed clothes with perfume smell. During the whole time Khemaka instructed them, they were listening and observing their khandhas. So Khemaka himself and all the others became arahants. (This point is interesting. There are two factors for contemplation. Listening dhamma talks and contemplation at the same time can lead to realization. We can't take watching things and listening things as insignificance. These are also educations. Nowadays mass media have a lot of polluted or poisonous things which lead people to immoral standards in mind, speech and action. Moral values and standards are the foundation of all goodness.) In this talk Sayadaw gave an important point that how to decide oneself as 3-rooted person (tihetuka) or 2-rooted person. If someone observes one's body and discerns anicca, he is 3-rooted and is not 2-rooted. More sure way is in the beginning seeing impermanence sparsely; continue with the practice, and develops into inner light or one of the 10-insight corruptions. If can develop into this stage the yogi is sure he is tihetuka and continue diligently with the practice will end dukkha. (There are 10 insight corruptions: light, knowledge, rapture, tranquility, happiness, faith, exertion, mindfulness, equanimity and attachment. The yogi can take any one of the experiences as Path Knowledge and stop practicing.)


Khemaka answered that his illness got worse. He used the "I" or "mine" as a normal usage. He did not have the wrong view of I but still had the conceited I am. In the second time of answer he did not had I or mine regarded with the 5-khandhas (atta and attaniya – self and belong to self). It doesn't matter we can use my son, my daughter and my belongings. But don't think it as a reality. Sotāpanna knows by himself that the 5-khanhdas are not me and not mine but only exist as mind and body phenomena and impermanence of the truth of dukkha. This is sotāpanna knowledge. He just uses the "me" or "mine" only in speech and does not think it as a reality. The use of "I" in speech is not the main concern, only the view of taking it as a reality. I will talk about the way to dispel me or mine views. There are two views of I, the wrong view of I and conceit of I am. The great benefit of the falling away of diṭṭhi I was mentioned in the Mahā Vagga Saṃyutta. There was a pond which had the length, width and depth of 50-yojanas each respectively. (1 yojana=8 or 13 miles) It's full of water in it. With the tip of a blade of kusa grass draws out some water from it for 7 times and shakes it out. Seven drops of water will fall out. Compare these 7drops of water and the volume of water in the great pond. You will find the enormous differences. After becoming a sotāpanna the suffering he will still has to encounter is only 7 drops of water. If not the suffering waiting ahead for everyone is unspeakable. Any unwholesome dhamma is coming from the wrong view of me or mine. Such kind of speech as; what you think I am? Don't touch my belongings etc.

Even the Buddha could not help save some beings who had all the wrong views which came from sakkāya diṭṭhi – identity view (e.g., his cousin Devadatta, Saccaka etc.). "This is my self", "this is mine" are perversions of view. These are not only wrong views also perversions. So we must have right view. The views are becoming strong because of clinging to views. If continue to create kamma leading to the planes of misery. (Here Sayadaw gave many examples of painful rebirths of sentient beings. In animal kingdoms there are many uncountable varieties of them. All base on diṭṭhi. Human beings take every part of their bodies and identify with it, even every single of hairs. Not only know the 5-khandhas as "this is not myself" and "this is not mine", but also contemplate to see impermanence. It leads to emptiness (suññatā) by discerning anicca and then leading towards suññatā Nibbāna from impermanence of suññatā. Contemplate anyone of the khandhas by seeing impermanence and you will arrive at suññatā.

Dāsaka went back to the monks and they practiced in accordance with Khemaka's instruction. Contemplate the 5-khandhas as "this is not mine", "this is not myself" and then entered the stream. For the third time they sent back Dāsaka to ask Khemaka that if he took his khandhas as this was not mine and not my-self, so was he an arahant? Khemaka answered that he still took the mind and body as I am but not as me. Here are two points and important. The wrong view-- "I" has fallen away, but the conceit-- "I am" still exists. To cut off wrong view and contemplate to see impermanence, this process is not like a light bulb that becomes darkness after it's gone out. You have to see it as it's not there after arising. (There are these two differences. The first one is light substitute with darkness. The second discerns the emptiness of the phenomena.) In this way diṭṭhi falls away.


All the arising dhammas are anicca. The Buddha said that sabbe saṅkhāra anicca – all the conditioned phenomena are impermanent. Observe with knowledge and seeing that it's not there. The arising dhamma which is not itself anymore is its characteristic – lakkhaṇa. Combine together anicca – lakkhaṇa – characteristic of impermanence. Knowing is knowledge – ñāṇa. Combine together – anicca lakkhaṇa ñāṇa – the knowledge of the characteristic of impermanence. Whatever dhamma arises, knowing the arising as without a person or a being is free from wrong view, and then by contemplation and discern the characteristic of not there anymore. This is also free from wrong view. Therefore, when you are discerning of the characteristic of impermanence and become right view. In the same way the other two characteristic of dukkha and anatta have to be understood. Sabbe saṅkhāra dukkha – All conditioned things are suffering. Sabbe dhamma anatta – All dhamma (including Nibbāna) are not-self. So whatever arises is dukkha and anatta. Direct seeing of them is ñāṇa. Combing together – dukkha lakkhaṇa, anatta lakkhaṇa and dukkha lakkhaṇa ñāṇa, anatta lakkhaṇa. ñāṇa (Anicca exists that it can show anicca. Therefore, I have to say whatever arising is anicca, dukkha and anatta. The Buddha also mentioned it. If their nature don’t exist these characteristics, then they can’t show anicca lakkhaṇa, dukkha lakkhaṇa and anatta lakkhaṇa respectively.) If you don't know the illness you don't know a cure. In the contemplation, before is anicca lakkhaṇa and after knowing is right view. If you know continuously in this way, kilesas can't arise. Defilement arises between anicca and lakkhaṇa when yogi does not contemplate. If craving, conceit and wrong view arise, continue to clinging, action and lead to suffering. Every day we deposited a lot of kammas. It's good to ask that kamma is impermanent so it becomes fruitless? No, it's not fruitless. Craving and clinging (taṇhā, upādāna) are keeping it with them. If taṇhā never ceases, then kamma never ceases. Taṇhā releases kamma one by one after it has finished. Therefore, the Buddha referred to taṇhā as a tailor. It's like a tailor continuously connecting pieces of clothe together. When right view can come in between the arising dhamma, then taṇhā and upādāna cease and kamma also ceases. Even though kammas are arising and passing away by themselves, taṇhā and upādāna deposited all the kammic energy (power) with them. After killing them the deposited energy become fruitless. As an example the merits of the Bodhisatta became inoperative after his enlightenment and passed away. Therefore, taṇhā is the root cause of all the wholesome and unwholesome dhammas. After destroyed the root the tree died. After it died and can't bear flowers and fruits, then no more trees grew out again. So every time khandha arises and with right view comes in, diṭṭhi and taṇhā die away. If all wrong views die, and then become a stream enterer. If all taṇhā die then one becomes an arahant.

The fourth time the monks sent Dāsaka to ask Khemaka. But Khemaka went with Dāsaka to their place for instruction. They asked him, "Do you take 5-khandhas as I am or each of them as I am?" I don't take each one of them as I am but to the whole khandhas. An example is: does the smell come from the petals or the pollen etc. in a lotus flower? In reality it can be say the whole one. In the same way I don't take each one of the khandha as I am but the whole as I am. If you want to cut off the conceit, then contemplate the impermanence of the mind and body again. To give an example for conceit is after the clothes are washed clean, it still has the smell of the soap. Put them into a perfume box to take off the smell.

revised on 2019-06-14; cited from (posted on 2018-12-15)

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