How to Use Desire and Conceit?

revised on 2019-08-12

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 30th August 1961

[ At one time, Ānanda was staying at Kosambī. A certain bhikkhunī fell in love for him and sent a man to inform him that she was sick. So he visited her. As soon as she saw him from a distance, lay down on a bed and covered her head with a blanket.

Ven. Ānanda came near to her and knew her real intention. And then he gave the following instruction to her. He said to her, this body supported by foods and should use it for Nibbāna. This body created by craving and should use it to destroy māna (conceit).

Sayadaw said it needs to comment on this instruction. This body is conditioning by four factors, i.e., kamma, mind (citta), temperature (utu) and foods (āhāra). It's born by kamma, so like a mother. It is developed by foods, so like a nurse. We want to eat foods, so we eat. In this case we should observe our desire or the taste during consuming.

In this way we use foods for the realization of Nibbāna. It can be also used foods with wrong view. As some ascetics eat little or abstaining from foods for some periods. The right way for consuming foods is contemplating desire or the taste during eating. ]

[Not every of desire and conceit are unwholesome, there are also wholesome desire and conceit. Use these wholesome taṇhā and māna to develop the practice. For an example, some yogi’s discern anicca, some reach toward the state of disenchantment (nibbidā) and some realize the end of dukkha (i.e., Nibbāna).

If they can achieve these things, I also want to succeed. This is wholesome desire. With these kinds of desire try hard in the practice and can destroy taṇhā. These kinds of taṇhā destroy taṇhā. Māna also can be used in the same way. Why should I not since some yogi can do it? In this way, push you yourself for practice. All these wholesome kinds of taṇhā and māna can cut off D. A. process and should develop it.

By ending this talk Sayadaw said that there were three ways can develop one’s practice. By saṁvega (sense of urgency), taṇhā and māna; three of them cannot do the practice at the same time. Saṁvega is the best of them. There were many stories of realizing Nibbāna with saṁvega during the time of the Buddha and up to this present day. (For example, the Bodhisatta himself and Ven. Yasa). This talk was based on a discourse in the Catukka Aṅguttara Nikāya. ]

Human and celestial worlds are good because we are looking at these things with the eye of taṇhā. And then create kammas with the arrangements of taṇhā and receive the khandhas with the dangers of ageing, sickness and death. Now, can you separate yourselves from the khandhas with dukkha sacca? Ignorance → craving → kamma → khandhas with the danger of ageing, sickness and death.

You have to know that khandhas are under the influence of kamma and kamma is under the influence of taṇhā. (Sayadaw continued the story of Ven. Ānanda and a bhikkhunī) This body is sustained by foods, so use it to reach toward Nibbāna. This body comes into being through craving, so kill craving to reach toward Nibbāna. This body comes into being through conceit, so use it to abandon conceit.

It’s not clear instantly. So I’ll explain it. This body exists by kamma, citta, utu and āhāra. Kamma had already finished it job. Now we are alive by āhāra. Kamma likes a mother and āhāra is a nurse. We want to eat foods and so we eat. We have to contemplate the impermanence of taṇhā with the eating. We can reach toward Nibbāna with eating. Contemplate the vanishing of the knowing mind of eating with the eating. Contemplate taṇhā if taṇhā comes in between them. Eating little and abstaining from foods, these are the practice of people with wrong view. It is the practice of torturing oneself. They can’t contemplate the good or bad mind states so that they fall into the planes of misery. If you can’t contemplate on feeling, then contemplate the impermanence of the delighting mind (i.e., taṇhā).

What have to contemplate, the foods or the mind state arises from it? Contemplate our reaction to foods. There are also good taṇhā and māna in vipassanā contemplation. Contemplate the cause of taṇhā, and taṇhā dies. You may ask; “Is taṇhā not unwholesome mind?” The answer of the commentary was it was not giving the result of birth. This kind of taṇhā cut off becoming.

In practice we need these kinds of taṇhā and māna. Most of your taṇhā and māna are arising at the wrong place. We can also use saṁvega (sense of urgency) in our practice. Therefore there are three ways of realization. You never realize the Dhamma if you don’t use any one of them. You can’t use all of these. They can’t arise together, only one of them is always in strength (bala). If saṁvega arises, taṇhā and māna do not arise. The other two are also in this way. Among three of them, if you use one of it and practice hard, you will realize the Dhamma in this life.

[ Note on saṁvega: Ajahn Thanissaro wrote on this Pali word in his essay — "Affirming the Truths of the Heart". "saṁvega was what the young Prince Siddhartha felt on his first exposure to aging, illness, and death. It's a hard word to translate because it covers such a complex range — at least three clusters of feelings at once: the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it's normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle."

The Pali word saṁvega became a Burmese word like anicca, dukkha and anatta, but usually used as saṁvega nyan (nyan is for the Pali word of ñāṇa). So it is a kind of knowledge which is very important for Buddhists to develop. This needs study or listening of Dhamma and frequent contemplation. For some people whose sense of saṁvega is so strong that they want to abandon any worldly matters and even give up their lives for the path to the end of dukkha. People will live a meaningful life for themselves and others if they have the sense of saṁvega. "So the Buddhist attitude toward life cultivates saṁvega — a clear acceptance of the meaninglessness of the cycle of birth, aging, and death — and develops it into pasāda: a confident path to the Deathless." ]

revised on 2019-08-12; cited from (posted on 2019-01-14)

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