Practicing for Dying

revised on 2019-12-02

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 11th to 12th August 1962


[Here Sayadaw gave two talks on vedanā and how to deal with them, especially near dying. We shouldn’t waste our precious life as a human being by doing useless things and leading to painful rebirths. We should observe and study on people near dying.

Even we ourselves had experienced more or less these things with our family members or friends; it was quite painful to see people died painfully and in tragic ways. Their ways of dying were expressing their painful rebirths.

The flood water of ageing, sickness and death are waiting for us as arising. We need to prepare the maggin raft to cross over the ocean of saṁsāra to a safety place. He taught vedanānupassanā for dealing with taṇhā. And he already had taught cittānupassanā for dealing with diṭṭhi.

Taṇhā is sharper than diṭṭhi, and avijjā is powerful than taṇhā. Eradication of kilesa is from diṭṭhi to taṇhā and taṇhā to avijjā successively. Diṭṭhi constructs the lower khandha of painful births. And taṇhā constructs higher khandha of human to arūpa brahma worlds.

Vedanā can appear on the body and in the heart area (hadaya vatthu). It’s important to observe at the right places. It’s ñāta pariññā – theoretical knowledge and without this, it can’t do tīraṇa pariññā – development with contemplation.

There’re three kinds of vedanā: sukha, dukkha, upekkhā appear internally and externally of the body. Usually we only use sukha and dukkha in our daily life language, and not including upekkhā. In vipassanā contemplation if not observing at the right places and Nibbāna not arises. It will be impossible if the objects and mind (ñāṇa) are not in accordance with each other. It can’t cut off D.A. process.

Sayadaw explained the vipassanā process very simple and clear. He placed serially five small betel nuts on the table in front of him. The first to the third nuts were representing mundane path knowledges (all are discerning anicca; udayabbaya, bhaṅga and nibbidā ñāṇa.

The fourth is the Path Knowledge (not seeing anicca anymore and instead their ending or Nibbāna). It can’t kill kilesa perfectly yet (anusaya). It’s only the seed of ariya. The first to third knowledges are still the worldling mind. The fourth knowledge is ariya mind. From ① to ④ are ceasing successively, and complete with the eight path factors.

The knowledges following after the ④ are also seeing Nibbāna. The 5th is seeing Nibbāna and also killing taṇhā (i.e., the Fruition Knowledge kills anusaya). The knowledges of ① to ③ are very important, because it has connection with development – bhāvetabba. The fourth and 5th knowledges are arising naturally (the outcome of 1, 2 and 3 knowledges)]

The one with the ordinary dāna and sīla is a sleeping person. It is in sleep without preparing the maggin raft and doing things in accordance with taṇhā. This is sleeping with avijjā and taṇhā. Taṇhā is sharper than diṭṭhi. Avijjā is sharper than taṇhā. During the time of vedanā paccaya taṇhā (feeling conditions of craving), he was still a bodhisatta.

Wanting to become a Buddha, the bodhisatta was contemplating vedanā until it became ending. (Gave instruction on Vedanā). Vedanā arises on the body and also in the mind. Contemplate it at the arising place. As an example, on the body sukha vedanā arises and in the mind also happiness arises.

If arising on the body, then contemplate on the body; in the mind also in the same way. It can’t attain Nibbāna if the contemplation is not at the right place. It means the object of contemplation and contemplative mind are not at the same place. It also means D.A. process can’t be cut off.

Three insight knowledges must arise: ① udayabbaya ñāṇa – knowledge of rise and fall, ② bhaṅga ñāṇa – knowledge of dissolution, ③ nibbidā ñāṇa – knowledge of disenchantment. All three of them are contemplating of impermanence. ① to ③ are the knowledges of a worldling. All are the path factors of a worldling (5 maggan); known as all are in dissolution.

After ③ ceasing, one does not see the dissolution. At the ending of them, see Nibbāna arising. It’s the no.④ mind, i.e., the Path Knowledge. It is seeing Nibbāna, but still can’t kill kilesa yet. The fourth not see impermanence but still can’t kill the latent kilesa. The fourth is the seed of ariya. From ① to ④ can’t cut off kilesa are the same and only different in views.

After that maggin raft will appear. ④ arises for the cutting off the worldling status, not for the kilesa. After the ④ ceases and the eight path factors appear. It’s no.⑤ and also sees Nibbāna. It needs to ask who shows Nibbāna to him. ④ showing it and ⑤ seeing it. ④ is the cause and ⑤ is the result.

⑤ is seeing Nibbāna and killing taṇhā. ④ only seeing it and can’t kill taṇhā. ① to ③ are seeing anicca but taṇhā not dies. ④ is seeing Nibbāna and taṇhā also not dies. ⑤ seeing Nibbāna and taṇhā dies. If ① arises must leading to ⑤ and it’s sure. The task is finished with these five points. (The Buddha Dhamma is clear-cut and in details, and not like other teachings with uncertainty and walking in the darkness.)


Death and birth (cuti and paṭisandhi) are only far away from each other in realms of existence (e.g., dies as human and reborn as devata. As dhamma they are very close to each other. After death and hell birth arises (as an example for painful birth).

This dying kamma is near to death. This near kamma is making this birth. The kamma you had done before such as building pagoda and monastery were quite far away. Therefore, the near kamma gives the result. (The good kammas of the past had done before not arise at the time of death).

So, it’s called āsanna kamma (maraṇāsanna kamma, near death kamma). Who has done it? At near dying; it’s overwhelming with vedanā and dukkha vedanā is unbearable. The mind also becomes unbearable. You have to separate vedanā with anatta (instead, we combine vedanā with atta). For that I want you do the contemplation from now on, so that at the time of death, you’ll know that it’s vedanā or the impermanence of anatta.

I want you all to practice hard earlier to overcome vedanā and seeing their vanishing of anatta. At near death it becomes anatta mind. Anatta is a knowledge. After that death comes and becomes arahant at the same time.

Even not become an arahant, after death to a blissful birth. If you can’t bear dukkha vedanā and near death the five mind moments of dosa arise (as anguished state). Death and dosa mind are near to each other at that time. Therefore, the wholesome kammas you have done before can’t give the result. Instead the near kamma gives the result. It’s called āsanna kamma (near death kamma).

Therefore, it needs to contemplate vedanā to become anatta. (Sayadaw gave the example of the āsanna kamma with the older bulls near the entrance of a cow pen. The older bulls come out first when the cow pen is opened in the early morning because they are near the entrance. Here older bulls are āsanna kamma and the entrance is death)

Other habitual kamma (āciṇṇaka kamma) are far away. But they’ll give the results later. Now at this time you’re in good health and with contemplation to know the impermanence of vedanā. Later if vedanā come, you will see the vanishing of it. And you will die as a magga/phala person because you discern impermanence with the contemplation at near death.

It’s a great loss if you do not exercise for dying (we should take this point very serious). For someone in practice, even not becomes an arahant and near death it can be. Why is that? Because near death has strong determination.

At that time you will not pay attention to family matters and has strong effort. (Some disciples of Sayadaw cut off communication with their family members when they were near death. They shut themselves in their rooms, listening to Sayadaw’s talks and contemplating their khandhas and died).

You will encounter with the worse situation if you are taking it easy and relax now. With the practicing kamma at near death, it's also these vedanā. The practice kamma before death was just normal desire (chanda), viriya and paññā. Now at near death the chanda, viriya and paññā are becoming stronger (Because it’s the last hope).

As like cittānupassanā is important (in daily life), and near the entrance of death vedanānupassanā is also important. Vedanā arising is anatta and vanishing is also anatta. They are arising and vanishing in accordance with their nature. The mind is seeing anatta and becomes āsanna kamma. And then becomes arahant; if not and takes rebirth in the blissful plane.

(Sayadaw told the differences between human beings and devata). Devata doesn’t have bile, phlegm, mucus and blood like human being. So, the mind of a devata is bright and clear. Human has a lot of phlegm and mucus full of the volume of a condensed milk which can affect the mind base. In the celestial realm and continues the contemplation, with a blip discerns impermanence.

It doesn’t have any obstruction because devata body doesn’t have phlegm, mucus, bile, blood, etc. There is only one mind separated (i.e., between death and birth) them. It can enter the stream instantly. You can remember your merit only without the coarse vedanā (i.e., painful feeling), otherwise you can’t if it’s coarse.

Now, you know that people not doing the practice will be in danger. I am telling you clearly that by doing the practice will be successful, including the benefit and the faults without it. At near dying by reciting the Metta Sutta is impossible because can’t hear anymore (depend on the situations).

Near death mostly dukkha vedanā arises. One dies with anger or anguish without the habitual kamma (Sayadaw gave the story of the 30 monks at the time of the Buddha to illustrate the benefit of habitual kamma.) Thirty monks were practicing in a forest. A tiger came and took for a monk every night. At last they knew the situation and they had to alarm each other if the tiger came back again. It came back again and dragged a monk away. The other monks were chasing to save the victim until they couldn’t follow anymore. They reminded the victim to rely on his practice. The victim overcame the dukkha vedanā because of his habitual practice (kamma) and became arahant before passing away.

At the time of seeing anicca even vedanā not appears in the yogi mind. Separate vedanā with contemplation and discern anicca/anatta. All conditioned phenomena are anicca and dukkha. All dhammas are anatta. Do you still see vedanā? You only see the vanishing. Later he became an arahant before passing away. It was not by vedanā, but with anicca, dukkha and anatta.

You will see this only if you are practicing now. One will die with anger or anguish if no contemplation, whereas he will have the path factors with contemplation. You have to prepare for it if you don’t want to die with an unpleasant death. At near death you can’t rely on other things.

Before that, you have to prepare for the anicca, dukkha and anatta. Near death even not die with anguish and with the attachment to family members and wealth becomes peta (hungry ghost). Die with delusion of unclear mind becomes animal. You have to suffer by the arrangement of āsanna kamma. Vedanā are killing the whole world (With stupidity, the whole world is chasing the killers out of love.).

Therefore, it’s very important. Near death is overwhelming by vedanā. So, don’t take it lightly. With it the wholesome mind can’t arise. Someone has the preparation and it doesn’t have power over him. Even it can send to Nibbāna. Vedanā is also a nutriment (āhāra).

(The Buddha taught four kinds of nutriments. These are: ① Phassa – contact ② Cetanā – volition ③ Consciousness ④ Foods. Another meaning of āhāra is the cause carries the result with it. ① to ③ are mind nutriments, and ④ is physical. With phassa different types of vedanā arise.

Cetanā conditions rebirth – linking consciousness (one of the important causes). Here consciousness is (rebirth) consciousness and it conditions mind/matter (nāma/rūpa). It increases new matters with foods. One frees from saṁsāra with clear knowing of these four āhāras. One who can abandon foods becomes anāgāmin; furthermore he becomes arahant if overcoming phassa/vedanā.

One can abandon taṇhā and becomes arahant if seeing the faults of cetanā (kamma). It has the danger of contact with sense objects with phassa existing. It has the danger of becoming (bhava) while cetanā exists. It has the danger of connecting mind/matter when consciousness exists. We have to eat foods to free from the other three dangers. Abandon taṇhā which we are conditioned by them. This is from Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalabhivamsa’s talk.)

So, we’re alive with vedanā. How hell beings survive in hell? Nobody comes to feed them. They’re suffering with dukkha vedanā. Their vedanā are āhāra. At the time of the Buddha there were large petas. Their bodies were as high as a palm tree.

Their mouths were tiny as a needle hole. It made by kammas. Kammaniyama acinteyyo – the law of kamma is unthinkable. They didn’t have the kamma to eat foods. They were alive with vedanāhāra. (In one of his talks also referring it as kammāhāra).

It includes mind if you contemplate vedanā, and vice versa. Then, contemplate the one more distinctive to you, and it’s easy to catch on. In regards to vedanā; when it’s pleasant – oh! it’s good! When painful, Ahh! it’s pain. (Sayadaw gave some examples of them). With vedanā, it starts becoming uncomfortable; it does not become severe (i.e., painful feeling) if you can contemplate it. (This point is important for dealing with vedanā. See the following.)

You contemplate the beginning of vedanā and big vedanā not arises. Sitting and watching the in-breath and out-breath, the vedanā will arise. It's not there when you observe it because contemplative mind can arise only after it's passing away. Vedanā is arising and vanishing (khaya/vaya). Contemplative mind is magga.

After that, three kinds of vedanā arise accordingly. You can contemplate at every time of its arising, and it becomes khaya – vaya/anicca and magga. Vanishing is as an object benefitting the magga. With watching and observing – anicca/magga are arising accordingly.

revised on 2019-12-02; cited from (posted on 2019-04-12)

  • Content of Part 11 on "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"

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