Training the Six Animals

revised on 2019-07-25

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 13th and 15th January 1961, 21st, 22nd March 1962

(The Buddha was the most remarkable teacher among all the spiritual teachers. In the Sutta Nikāya, he used similes, analogies, metaphors etc. to explain his teachings. It directly went into the hearts of listeners and effected strongly.

Sometimes it had subtle and profound meanings in itself and found out by the listeners with serious contemplation. We have to use the sutta teachings by serious contemplation to develop wisdom faculty and practice.

Sayadaw gave four talks based on the Salāyatanasaṃyutta, The simile of the Six Animals. The Buddha taught to the monks how to restraint the six sense-faculties. It’s about restraint and non restraint and their consequences.

In this sutta the Buddha gave the analogy or simile of the six animals which represented the six sense-faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind respectively.)


A man would catch six animals; a snake, a crocodile, a bird, a dog, a jackal and a monkey with different domains and feeding grounds, and tie them each with a strong rope. Having done so, he would tie all the ropes together with a knot in the middle and release them.

The six animals with different domains and feeding grounds would each pull in the direction of its own feeding ground and domain.

(It we contemplate this point it’s very funny and humorous and a lot of compassion to these animals. Human beings are also in the same situation even may be worse than animals.

The knot in the middle was representing ignorance and human being and the six ropes were taṇhā and connected with like six sense-faculties, here the six animals, if we take this simile into our human life will find out that how funny and stupid human beings are.)

The snake wanted to enter an anthill. The crocodile wanted to enter the water. The bird wanted to fly up into the sky. The dog wanted to enter a village. The jackal wanted to enter a charnel ground and the monkey wanted to enter a forest respectively.

And then the Buddha taught the monks how to train the six animals (i.e., eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind), binding all the six animals to a strong post or pillar. Then, the six animals, with different domains and feeding grounds, would each pull in the direction of its own.

After struggling for sometime all became worn out, fatigued and lied down at the post. Here the strong post represented mindfulness practice.

The Buddha’s business was to teach people until they understood. You all business is after understand have to practice. Making wealth is tiring. After death everything left behind and wasted (Sayadaw talked about the six animals represented like six sense-faculties.)

Each sense door connects with ignorance and craving. Therefore the khandha connects with avijjā and taṇhā. The six ropes are taṇhā. Tie the ropes together with a knot is ignorance. Herding the animals is yogi. All six of them are not the same nature and preferences.

(Sayadaw explained each animal nature corresponded to the six sense-faculties of the nature in human life.) You all come to this human world look after these animals. To free from their pulling away you must strike a strong vipassanā post in the ground.


This khandha is not following your wishes. You have to live together with this khandha without any goodness in itself. It’s getting old. Has to look after and by feeding it, but it still becomes sick.

The reason why both of our eyes don’t get the light of knowledge is the power of ignorance. Taṇhā is also very blindly carving to things. So always we are living with the truth of dukkha. This khandha is inflicting with pain and sores.

Just look at it whether it’s true or not because it’s the aggregates of feeling. Now, you are sitting. Can you sit without any change? Inner feeling flares up. It’s the vipāka vaṭṭa khandha—the resultant body of the rounds of existence (created by defilements and kamma).

With the matters of defecating and urination, hunger and thirst etc. a lot of things are going on with this body. In these situations, a person in vedanā (here referred to dukkha) is suitable for him to go through into the thorny bushes (here means the six thorny sense-objects). You can’t keep it anywhere for safety.

There is no feeling which gives you any good results. Pleasant feeling (sukha vedanā) connects to the greed of Dependent Arising. Unpleasant feeling (dukkha vedanā) connects to the anger of Dependent Arising.

Neutral feeling (upekkhā vedanā) connects to the delusion of Dependent Arising. Every feeling arises will be good only by contemplation. On the original feelings pierce by the thorns of six senses objects that pleasant mental feelings (somanassa), unpleasant mental feeling (domanassa) and neutral mental feeling (upekkhā) are arising again.

We must end the feeling. Inside us have full of feelings and then we are going into the outside thorny forest and new feelings arise. You can’t live without any feeling. It was like a monkey had a sore which he scratched randomly with hand and it becomes serious. The Buddha referred to the body in 40 different ways as diseases.

Therefore, what time you are free from it. We are living with the external and outer sores (Sayadaw explained each one of the thorns, i.e., sense objects with their examples). With outer thorns and feelings arise inside.

Your inner feelings (i.e., bodily feelings) are fulfilled by your past prayers and I can’t do anything for you. (For a popular example, later Buddhists want to be born again and again and they are making vows and prayers for that purpose).

We can make adjustment to the mental feelings. There are many thorns outside. The majority of common people know only the vedanā of near death on bed. They don’t know there are vedanā inside and outside.

Contemplate the impermanence of form, sound, smell etc. (i.e., seeing, hearing, etc. ). In this way knowledge arises and taṇhā will not follow behind vedanā. (By contemplation of seeing, hearing etc. not lead to taṇhā.)

For finishing all the vedanā by contemplation, you can contemplate the impermanence of sense objects and the knowing mind (consciousness). Therefore vedanā not arises and also finishing of taṇhā. If internal mental feeling arises can contemplate its impermanence and will not connect to taṇhā.


People with sores (defilements) have greed, anger and delusion dhammas latent in them. They don’t arise without contacting with sense objects. If you push through into the thorny bushes—the forest of sense objects then the latent dhammas arise as greed, anger and delusion.

Therefore we always have latent sores within us. The Buddha warned us not pushed ourselves into the thorny bushes.

If you go into the forest of sense objects and no greed, anger, and delusion arise is without faults. The Buddha gave an example how to look after the six animals. Bound each of these six animals with strong ropes and together made a knot.

The other five animals would follow behind the strongest one as pulling by it. (Sayadaw told the nature of six animals). Every day we have to look after the six sense-doors like the six animals. Always we are pulling away by one of the strongest one without our preferences. I will teach you the way to control them.


(Retold the nature of the six animals) We are bound with the six animals which have different nature and preference to the ropes of taṇhā and we're herding them by the knot of ignorance.

Strike a strong post on the ground and bind them there if you don’t want to die as being pulled by them. They have to come and lie down there. Therefore the Buddha taught us to live with one of the satipaṭṭhāna. Without it we are living and dying with the impermanence of lives. It does not become the knot of ignorance if you can contemplate before the taṇhā comes in.

You must contemplate whatever arises from the six senses doors (Sayadaw instructed contemplation of the mind—cittānupassanā). Living with lacking of mindfulness is a life of bad living and dying. Therefore the Buddha said that the way of mindfulness was very important.

revised on 2019-07-25; cited from (posted on 2018-12-27)

  • Content of Part 5 on "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"

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