Two Ways of Dying

revised on 2021-07-28

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 29th August 1962

Listening to dhamma talks is for the freedom of death (This was true for Sayadaw and his disciples. Is it true for all Buddhists? Some Buddhists expounded new ideas and philosophy for the becoming – bhava – taṇhā). During the listening of talk, we are moving towards death.

I’ll teach you the way of dying. (Told the story of Ven. Phugguna, the sick monk at near death) Khandha accepts everything which you all fear of. Therefore, it becomes worsening if you’re staying longer with it. All dukkha are accumulated with it. Someone not knowing the truth is a crazy and blind person.

Do you still have desire for this useless khandha? (Sayadaw mentioned some problems of the khandha.) It’s not beneficial to look after the khandha. It’s only moving towards ageing, sickness and death. It is dukkha sacca to collect wealth and other things for this khandha without any benefit. But it’s never arising to our mind as enough is enough.

Ven. Phugguna died as an anāgāmin (non-returner). His eye, etc., bodily faculties were clear and bright and looked like an alive person. There are two ways of dying; → ① Die with listening to talks ② Contemplation on one’s khandha and die. You have to listen to the kind of dhamma talks to understand dukkha sacca.

(This is very important point to keep in mind because Ven. Sāriputta gave a talk to his friend, the brahman who was dying with samatha and reborn as a Brahma god. Later he had to go there again and gave another talk on truth (sacca dhamma). He also gave sacca dhamma to Anāthapiṇḍika at his death bed. It should be this kind of talks).

If the dying person had time and listened to the Buddha’s talk or one of the disciples’ talk (Here Ven. Phugguna listened to the Buddha’s talk) If you don’t have time for these and contemplate by yourself near death. Painful feeling will usually arise at near death dukkha. Contemplate it as impermanent, oppressive, dukkha sacca khandha and follow with maggan.

Therefore, it is dying with magga in this way. Someone in pain is the nature of dukkha vedanā. With the arising and vanishing that vedanā disappears. Vedanā is anicca and contemplative mind is anicca ñāṇa. It’s not easy to listen to talk near death. You have to look for a person to give talk.

Also he must be a person can give sacca dhamma. (Nowadays is easy because we can access recorded tapes on Dhamma. Some of Mogok Sayadaw’s close disciples were dying by listening to his recorded tapes. In Sayadaw’s Biography, once time he mentioned to a disciple the benefit of recorded tapes and recorder.

If we can use it properly even it can send us to Nibbāna, and blissful births. Using it wrongly send us to hells, animals and ghosts realms. Nowadays media are choosing the second way. Doors to hells, animals and ghost realms are opening to most of us).

Therefore the best way of dying is with one’s own contemplation or practice. King Milinda asked; “Can All attain Nibbāna?” The answer was not all.

The one who can attain Nibbāna is:

① What should have to be known with penetration must penetrate it. What should have to know with analysis has to analyze.

② What should have to abandon has to abandon.
③ What should must realize has to realize.
④ What should have to develope has to develope.

(All these are about the Noble Truths). One who knows the truths will attain Nibbāna. [This is no. ① point].

There only is zero left if you don’t even try one of them. And then I myself can’t help you. If you try one dukkha sacca, all are included. (This was from Saccasaṁyutta) The maggan analyze it as dukkha sacca. So it includes magga sacca. Magga arises and samudaya ceases. Khadhanirodho nibbānaṁ – the cessation of khandha is Nibbāna. And nirodha sacca appears.


On sickness and dying Here we can see two talks on dying. These were given over a month before his death. These are good for reflection on sickness and dying food for the heart. In Sayadaw’s last year of life (i.e., 1962) his style of talks was changing slightly. Most of them had the sense of strong saṃvega on ageing, sickness, death and sufferings. He was very concerned about the Dhamma welfare of his listeners. Always urging them to practice diligently to transcend dukkha and there was not much time for them. It was also a hint for his disciples of his passing away in the near future.

I had seen a Chinese documentary film on sickness and dying of old people. There were two groups of them: ordinary people and Buddhist yogis. The first group had no Dhamma knowledge and practice. When they were close to death or at dying with chronic diseases such as incurable cancer which made them suffered a lot physically and mentally. They were straggling for their lives with difficult breathing and so forth. It is very painful for your heart to see their difficult conditions and suffering.

The scene of old Buddhist yogis made your heart feeling with joy and inspiration. Their dying and death were quite remarkable. Some of them were in sitting postures and passed away calmly. It seemed to be they were like mature yogis. Some of them were in lying postures and with the smile on their faces which like in Sayadaw’s talk – dying with the smile and grimace. I don’t know their ways of practice, and it could be from Pure Land System. Among these yogis I recognize one of them. She was Miss Song Kuei Lin who died in 2010 at the age of 50 with severe cancer of the womb. I had listened to her video lecture on her tragic story. It resulted from her over sensual pleasure with men. When she found out about her deadly cancer, by then, she had already had relationship with more than 40 men.

Everything had its causes. When she was young in her teens she was influenced by polluted media – such as films, TV, etc. She was wrongly educated by these negative media and followed the wrong way of life. Later she married a man and has a son with him. This man later ended up in a prison. The son also born with mental disability. Because of her terminal cancer, she only had three months to live. She also had an old mother to look after. I can feel and understand her miserable conditions with sufferings. We can use Dhamma to contemplate and reflect on her life.

In the Maṅgala Sutta (Discourse on Blessings) the first two blessings were - not consort with the fools and consort with the wise. Her life of degradation began with a life of consorting with fools - and here that includes unhealthy media and men. Here we can see the penetrative wisdom of the Buddha. With this kind of polluted mind and actions she could never meet a good husband and gave birth to an abnormal son were nothing strange about it. It happened accordingly to the natural law of mind and kamma actions (kamma) – negative forces only attract negative phenomena.

Every living being carrying wholesome and unwholesome kammic energies with them in the round of existence. The last three months of her life were giving her the opportunity to change its destiny towards some direction. In 2010 a small group of people came to her NE province and gave some public lectures for a few days in the provincial city. All of these personal lectures were based on personal experiences, knowledge of Chinese culture and moral education that have dramatically changed the lives of these people. Fortunately, she came to these talks and introduced herself to the group, becoming one of the educators herself. These people were from all walks of life – some doctors, scholars, businessmen and women, etc.

This association with the wise changed her life of three months. Her mind and actions were in the right direction which alleviates some of her mental pain. In this group there were some who highly educated with other skills helping her with the disease and mental pain. Even her physical pain and the cancer situation was feeling a little better. They introduced her to the pure land practice and with it, she ended her life wisely in a very short period. Some of her practice were – confession, repentance, service and Dhamma practices. At last, she died peacefully and her physical condition was not looked like a patient at all. Her face was calm, and the body limbs were soft and pliable. All these were the signs of good rebirth.

There are two important blessings which changed her miserable life into a peaceful ending. These are consorting with the wise and directing oneself rightly. Without association with wise and compassionate kalyāṇa-mittas, her life ending could be very miserable, and it would lead to the bad destination.

Ageing, sickness and death are our great teachers and divine messengers. [Here divine messengers refer to the Devadūta Sutta (MN 130: Devadūta Sutta, Majjhima-nikāya).] True wisdom and compassion arise only by understanding dukkha profoundly. Wisdom and compassion are inseparable like two sides of a coin.

The art of living and dying are very important for everyone. We can only get this kind of precious education from the Buddha Dhamma. Everyone should train themselves with the Dhamma, otherwise we will all regret it later.

revised on 2021-07-28; cited from (posted on 2019-04-12)

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