Saṁsāra and the Hindrances

revised on 2019-07-02

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 13th, 17th to 21st December 1960


How were we living in the round of existences (Saṁsāra)? Talking with the relative truth of person and living being; we were wandering-on by changing heads, such as from human head to dog head, pig head etc. In accordance with the Dependent Arising we are revolving around by birth, ageing and death (jāti, jarā and maraṇa). This is dukkha machine running on. We don’t know how to remove away the covering up phenomena. So saṁsāra is very long for us. There are five hindrances covering up the Dhamma and wisdom can’t penetrate.

These are the dhammas hinder the Path and Fruit knowledges. Even meet the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, if we can’t remove them the dukkha machine is running on. The mind process appears at the heart base. If the blood of the heart becomes muddle then the mind is also. If the blood becomes clear and the mind is also. And then the knowledge becomes clear.

The Buddha used some similes to explain the hindrances, for example, a bowl of colour water for greed (lobha). Originally water is clear. In the same way bhavaṅga citta (life-continuum) is clear. The heart blood is also clear. There are eight types of greedy mind, as an example with wrong view and without wrong view etc. It can discern impermanence in the khandha if the mind is clear like the pure water (i.e., far from the hindrances). An itch arises and passes away, hearing arises and passes away, smell arises and passes away, thought arises and passes away. All are passing away.

If you don’t discern it then it's mixed with hindrances. Therefore ñāṇa (knowledge) doesn’t have the chance to come in. The same as you can’t see your own face in the water. Anicca, dukkha, anatta, and asubha phenomena can’t appear. In accordance with the way of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna), if lobha mind comes in, first contemplate its impermanence. After that you’ll see the impermanence in the khandha.

Therefore the Buddha said that forgot what one had learnt (with hindrances) and remembered what one had forgotten (without hindrances). If the lobha mind arises and don’t know how to remove it, will connect to clinging (upādāna) and revolve in saṁsāra. If you know how to deal with it then becomes vipassanā. And then continue to discern the impermanence of whatever one is contemplating. Some blame their pāramīs when the hindrances come in. It’s nothing to do with the pāramīs but don’t know how to deal with the hindrances. These are arising now, but they don’t know and say what they think about it.


There are two types of dhamma: Dhamma of the outsiders and Dhamma of the Buddha. Vipassanā is the teaching of the Buddha. It can be practised, but you need a good teacher. If you meet a good teacher the path factors will be developed. Meeting a good teacher is like dawn arising. Developing path factors is like the sun arising. Without these two factors all beings are under the darkness. Therefore they are born, live and die in the darkness.

This is under the influence of ignorance and craving. According to the Dependent Arising process, beings arrive to the four woeful planes. I will talk about the hindrances the Buddha taught to King Ajātasattu. If greed (lobha) arises in the khandha it’s like someone in debts. There is no free time and the mind becomes unhappy. We can contemplate to find out, it’s like a person in debt or not.

We establish a family, wife and children increase. They are like money lenders; you have to work for them. It’s like repay the debts. This debt has to be paid until your death. Even you are dying and want to continue to pay the debt. The Buddha taught you to give up greed. But you all are keeping it with you. So you all are not Buddhists. How to free oneself from slavery? We love ourselves most because don’t know the faults of the khandha. We love the khandha most.

So practice insight on the khandha. Divide the khandha you get five of them. Wanting to kill taṇhā (craving) contemplate feeling (vedanā). Why? Because vedanā conditions taṇhā (vedanā paccaya taṇhā). When feeling ceases, craving also ceases—vedanā nirodha taṇhā nirodho. Then you are free from the list of the slave. The time you are not practicing is a slave mind. Contemplate the three feelings (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings).


(Sayadaw continued to talk on greed) It must be fed the medicine for vomiting to vomit out greed inside the khandha. This medicine is insight path factors. Every time greed arises contemplate its impermanence. After that, continue to contemplate the khandha where lobha is hiding. If lobha is staying in the heart longer and the slave life is longer. Right view is the medicine of vipassanā for vomiting lobha. (after that, Sayadaw talked about men working for their wives in a very humourous way, comparing them as oxen). There is no disease bigger than greed. No medicine can cure it, only with the medicine of the Buddha.

Hatred (dosa) is like a person who has disease. It starts from the beginning to mature stage. Therefore it has to be contemplated in its beginning stage. The commentary mentioned that people who were hatred nature they became old, sick and distress earlier than before the time came. This comes from wrong view and has to contemplate impermanence (Sayadaw told the story of Therī Padācāra Paṭācārā, DhA 113, DhA 288~289; Thig 5.10, Thig 112-116; Thig 5.11, Thig 117-121; Thig 6.1 Thig 127-132 ??). You can’t contemplate other things without overcoming dosa. After extinguish it contemplate the khandha which dosa relies on. In the Majjhima Nikāya dosa is like a frog. If you poke its body with a stick it becomes bigger.

According to Dependent Arising, dosa starts at the end; i.e., dosa, soka, parideva etc. Without knowing dosa arises is including ignorance with it. Because of ignorance starts Dependent Arising in the beginning. Therefore dosa arises people suffer at the present and in the future. This disease can be cure with metta (loving kindness) and if you can’t then use vipassanā. At that time it's not easy for metta to come in. Contemplating impermanence is the best way.

Sloth and torpor (thīna and middha) is like a person in the prison. This person doesn’t know what happening outside the prison. These dhamma are more terrible than others. In the place of not knowing it is number one. Angry person knows his anger. In the same way greedy person knows his greed, even though he can’t overcome it. For both of them you can contemplate lobha and dosa. But for sloth and torpor you can’t do it. Therefore it’s like in a saṁsāric prison.


People who do regular meditation practices have the habitual actions (āciṇṇa kamma) near death and die with smile on their faces. In daily life whatever actions and movements we are doing, wrong view and craving (diṭṭhi and taṇhā) are always going together with the khandha. At that time we can’t ever see the changes within them. By using the methods of the Buddha and teachers giving us to watch and observe will see the changes in the khandha. At that time khandha and wisdom are going together. By seeing the ugliness of the khandha it becomes undesirable, disgusting and disenchanting. Continue to contemplate becomes disassociation with it. In this way Path Knowledge will arise. After that you can smile near death or can continue for the higher level of Path Knowledges.

Restlessness and worry/remorse (uddhacca and kukkucca) are like a slave. When the mind is restless it never follows our wishes and desires. We have to follow behind the restlessness. It’s the same as a slave.

A slave follows behind his master. Also like the bees, make hive on a dog’s tail (This is quite a strange example and funny indeed). Contemplate the impermanence of the restlessness. After overcome it, restart with the original object (e.g., vedanā, mind etc.). Kukkucca has two mind states. Remorse with unwholesome actions one had done before. Worry with wholesome actions one has not done yet. These mind states come in during meditation and dying moments (Sayadaw told the interesting story of Tambadāṭhika the executioner in the Dhammapada Text, DhA 100)


Already translated before as " Remorse, Worry and Dying " (20th December 1960) (Part 2-21)


If someone asks, “Where did you come from?” Everyone will answer that "from my mother’s womb". But the Buddha said that birth was the truth of suffering (Jāti pi dukkha sacca). So the right answer is "came from dukkha sacca". And then asks, “Where are you living now?” The answer will be in Mandalay, Taung Myo (Taung Myo is a small city south of Mandalay, also known as Amarapura where Mogok Sayadaw’s monastery is situated). Ageing is the truth of dukkha (jarā pi dukkha saccaṁ), so we are always living with the truth of dukkha.

We always think about all these as good coming and good living if we don’t have the truth of the eye. Vyādhi pi dukkha saccaṁ—sickness is the truth of dukkha. We think we are healthy but always living with illness. Again we know death is the truth of dukkha—Maraṇaṁ pi dukkha saccaṁ. Therefore we came from dukkha, live with dukkha, and will die with dukkha. The functions of the khandha are only these things. In the whole round of existence we are wandering-on with the truth of dukkha. We never had happiness among them. All these happen because of the covering up by hindrances (nīvaraṇa) that can’t see the way of freedom. So turn on the dukkha machine is nīvaraṇa dhamma. We can’t meet the Buddha and Dhamma is also by them.

Where is doubt (vicikicchā) coming from? Let us find the cause. In the Majjhima Nikāya, Mūlapaṇṇāsa (MN 2: Sabbāsava Sutta?), the Buddha said that it came from not paying attention to what should be paid attention and paying attention to what should not be paid attention. Come from unwise attention (ayonisomanasikāra). Wrong view is delusion dhamma (moha). It’s including in the 12 unwholesome minds. Only can destroy wrong view and doubt will realize Nibbāna. After they have gone can realize the other higher Path Knowledges. Then, the seed to woeful planes is destroyed.

For the development of wise attention it needs to associate with the wise and listening Dhamma talks. There are three kinds of doubt concerning for oneself. Where are we coming from? What happen to us now? After death where are we going? Every day what you all are doing is like a sky walker walking on a tight rope which is nearly falling apart (A very good simile to warn Buddhists and other faiths, who have the fortunate chances to come to this human world and doing foolish and stupid things). If your wrong views are not destroyed I have to always warn you of its importance. If you can’t dispel doubt then wrong view can’t fall away. Without it falling away can’t free from the wandering on in the painful planes (apāya-bhūmi).

Therefore they (diṭṭhi and vicikicchā) are more dangerous than the atomic bombs fell on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities. These atomic bombs make you die only once. But they make you die for many times (Sayadaw was using the Dependent Arising to explain the three doubts mentioned above). From the fruits of ignorance and kammic formation (avijjā and saṅkhāra) the five khandhas tree grows out. From the tree bears fruits. And then from the fruits a tree grows out again on and on without end. Therefore we have to deal with the present tree the khandha and make it not to bear fruits again. Don’t listen to this talk just for merit, but to remember for knowledge and practice.

Contemplate impermanence if doubt comes. With contemplation ignorance becomes knowledge (avijjā becomes vijjā) and kammic formation and rebirth consciousness not arise. Without the seed no tree grows out (Here the seed is rebirth consciousness and the tree is the five khandhas). After that, contemplate the five khandhas.


If you are having doubt in the practice and like a person going on a journey. And having doubt on the teaching of Dependent Arising such as concerning oneself of the past, the present and the future. According to the Abhidhamma there are eight doubts. Today I have to end my talk on the hindrances and will talk on the Dependent Arising in the wider sense. Having doubt on the khandha develops ignorance and kammic formation (avijjā and saṅkhāra) is wandering—on like a circle. Ignorance and kammic formation → khandha → ignorance and k-formation → khandha…etc… on and on (This is the condensed form). Therefore the Buddha said you can’t find the beginning of a being or saṁsāra. If you ask the cause of it then can be answered.

Ignorance and kammic formation are the main point. These are the causes for the khandha. Because of samudaya sacca (avijjā and saṅkhāra) dukkha sacca arises (i.e., the khandha). Therefore only samudaya sacca and dukkha sacca are wandering-on (Sayadaw gave the simile of the seed and the tree). Because of the hindrances nirodha sacca and magga sacca cannot come in. In saṁsāra only the bad cause and the bad result were wandering-on. There were never the good cause and the good result. Condense the Dependent Arising, it's only that much.

The causes for death are (avijjā and saṅkhāra) and the result of death is (khandha). You have to look for the good cause (the Path Factors) and the good result (Nibbāna) before arriving to ageing and sickness. If you look for it between sickness and death will never succeed. (Sayadaw told the story of Ven. Anuradha for dispelling doubt)

He had been closed to the Buddha and practised before. But it was evident that he has not been overcome his doubt. He had doubt and couldn’t answer the questions posed by the outsiders. You have to contemplate to discern the arising and passing away of the phenomena. Anuradha himself was by penetration of dukkha arising and dukkha passing away that became a stream enterer (sotāpanna) and then an arahant. (This was after the Buddha helping him dispelled his wrong view and doubt).

The Path Knowledge of not wanting dukkha will arise only by penetration of dukkha. Dukkha ceases means no khandha exists. The Path Knowledge is not seeing the Khandha. Path Knowledge is the cause of sukha and the result of sukha is Nibbāna.

revised on 2019-07-02; cited from (posted on 2018-12-19)

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