Importance of Anicca and Momentary Nibbāna

revised on 2021-01-11

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 11th October 1961

[ On 28th June 1961, Sayadaw gave a talk in Mogok. He never gave the names of his talk, but in the beginning, he always mentioned what he would talk about. I had translated it as “Searching for the Right Things” (Part 6-8). In this talk he pointed out the following Dhamma points which Buddhists heard about it only in his time. It seemed to be very true. Every time when there were conditions and chances, Min-goon Tipiṭaka Sayadaw mentioned as follows: “Mogok Sayadaw has the ability or skill to take out all the meanings in a Pāḷi verse of the Buddha. He had this amazing skill. These Pāḷi verses were also explained by commentators and sub-commentator before him. But what Mogok Sayadaw’s explanations of them were more natural and complete. He had the skill of taken out all the meanings without leaving any traces of meaning behind. Even he could express other meanings which were still not in the commentary and sub-commentary.”

The Dhamma points which Mogok Sayadaw mentioned in the talk were; “impermanence is dukkha sacca, contemplating with knowing it is magga sacca, the dying of taṇhā is samudaya sacca and no khandhas appearing is nirodha sacca.” Before him no-one had mentioned it or talked about it. All the four points of truth appear by knowing one point of dukkha sacca. Therefore, people die before they ever hear of this knowledge of truth. Another point mentioned by Sayadaw in some of his talks was “You attain momentary Nibbāna by discerning of anicca.” This point we can see it in this present talk. Even we may think it has no significance, but if you check it with the 12 links of D. A. process and it was very significant. Without discerning of momentary nibbāna will never realize of permanent Nibbāna. I think this point was not mentioned either by anyone before Sayadaw did. Therefore, the Buddha exhorted to Ven. Ānanda as D. A. was profound and difficult. Even some well-known eastern and western scholars misinterpreted it with wrong understanding.

Another point—anicca and momentary Nibbāna is connection with pain. The Buddha taught us let the body be painful and not the mind. During the moment of seeing anicca (e.g. dukkha vedanā), no khandha (vedanā) exists and do not connect to taṇhā, dosa and moha which are the three unwholesome roots. So, the mind is not in pain even though the body still could be painful, the mind can bear it.]

There are two types of knowledge (ñāṇa) which are inside the Buddha teaching (i.e., the Buddha’s Sāsana) and outside the Buddha teaching. (here referred to two types of right view). For example, when someone does dāna and takes it as if “I do it and I’ll get it”. Here self-view (atta diṭṭhi) is sticking with the making merit. The I-ness is interfering with the merit. It was a right action but it connected with the self-view. It’s called the taint of view (diṭṭhāsava) and will give the result in the province of taint and known as kammassakatā ñāṇa (right view believe in the law of kamma). This knowledge can’t dispel self-view. Freedom from the taint is Nibbāna. Nibbāna does not accept self-view. You have to perform dāna but including with the knowledge of truth (saccānulomika ñāṇa). It’s the knowledge coming from vipassanā contemplation of the khandha—i.e., in accordance with truth or knowledge seeing the truth. You have to change the mind as in this way; “I perform this dāna for the sake of freedom from the impermanent dukkha sacca.” In this way the dāna includes both knowledges of kammassakatā and saccānulomika ñāṇa (faith in the law of kamma with the knowledge of truth). It will lead to the result of vivaṭṭa Nibbāna—i.e., Nibbāna—no round of existence. It becomes the dāna of inside the Buddha Teaching. Therefore, only after the vipassanā contemplation and perform dānas.

[In this case Sayadaw was quite different from others. Before learning from Sayadaw, most people had done merits for the sake of taṇhā. Therefore, we all are still here because Nibbāna will never accept selfish and greedy living beings. Someone wanted to offer a meditation hall or dwellings for saṅgha, Sayadaw accepted it only after some preparations. He let them come and practice vipassanā under his guidance and Dhamma talks for a while, then sharing the merits for two different times: the first one for the donor and family, so that they could concentrate on it without disturbances. The second time for the majority of people who came to his place for this purpose. There are many important Dhamma points we can learn from Sayadaw’s wisdom.]

Every day I remind you to observe the khandha with knowledge (ñāṇa) is to know the truth of the khandha (saccānulomika ñāṇa). Every Buddhist should know about it and only that will have benefit up to Nibbāna. (Sayadaw continued on the Cūḷataṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta, MN. 37) In this sutta, Sakka—the king of gods asked the Buddha for the quickest way to Nibbāna. Craving (taṇhā) will be finished by contemplating the three types of feeling (i.e., pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings) accordingly (whichever one arises). There are nine kinds of feelings arisen from the six senses of doors—i.e., which is from the eye, ear, nose and tongue are upekkhā feelings, from the body are pleasant and unpleasant feelings and from the mind are pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings. Insight knowledge (vipassanā ñāṇa) which discerns impermanence (anicca) abandons the preceding khandha (because seeing the disappearance of it) and the following taṇhā (because taṇhā, upādāna and kamma not arise) (see the 12 links of D. A. process). This happens during the contemplation. In the middle of the process, the practicing yogi is alive with the contemplative knowledge (i.e., vipassanā ñāṇa)—khandha disappears/ ñāṇa / the cessation of taṇhā. With the practice, even you don't realise Nibbāna now; at least, near death, you can contemplate anicca to khandha. It will abandon the khandha and kamma (with taṇhā and upādāna) and at near death can realize the Dhamma.

Before my time, usually we would ask people (i.e. dying people) to recall or reflect on their merits while they were dying. You only have to contemplate anicca and at the moment of contemplation no chances for defilements (kilesa) to arise that you attain momentary Nibbāna. This is not let craving (taṇhā) ceased permanently. It’s a momentary cessation that a momentary attainment of Nibbāna.

Someone without practice is connecting with craving, clinging and actions continuously (That is so terrible and frightening indeed. Therefore, the Buddha said that no-one could trace the beginning of a living being and their frequent existences were the four woeful planes.) I want you to die with momentary Nibbāna (i.e., anicca). This person dies with the attainment of Nibbāna and not to be worried about it. Momentary Nibbāna is sure for him/her. He takes rebirth in a sugati (good destination) after death. The cause of seeing impermanence send him there. He appears in the bosom of a female devata who is his/her mother. According to the 24 conditional relations, it’s called without delay or proximity condition (anantara paccaya).

There is no other mind state between death consciousness and rebirth consciousness and then the knowledge of seeing anicca arises instantly. It’s followed by seeing impermanence, its disenchantment and the ending of it, and then enter the stream (become a sotāpanna). This is someone dies with momentary Nibbāna. That was the exhortation of the Buddha. Don’t be in low spirit and reduce your effort on it. Therefore, you have to practice for the discerning of anicca. Even according to the Buddha someone entered to the stream was earlier than before the knowledge of existence as a devata. (The mind process of becoming a sotāpanna was quicker than someone knew himself as a devata.) Dying here with the momentary Nibbāna and attain the permanent Nibbāna over there. (someone died with the discernment of anicca at human world and became a sotāpanna instantly there in Heaven.) My only concern is you don’t do the practice. This is the great benefit of discerning of impermanence.

(Here Sayadaw explained the nature of impermanent feeling with a very simple example.) You scratch your arm with a finger nail, and you must see it as after the sensation arises and it disappears.

[If you observe a sound also will see its impermanent nature. In many Sayadaw’s talks, he talked about anicca very often. Some Buddhists, especially meditators, took it as impossible without strong samādhi. Without samādhi, it was just thinking. This point was wrong. Ordinary and coarser phenomena are easy to discern with continuous careful attention with natural sati and calmness of the mind. But for very refined phenomena, it needs strong vipassanā samādhi. Such as the whole-body dissolve without an entity. Depending on the context Sayadaw mentioned anicca in general and specific ways. Sayadaw had penetrative and analytical wisdom.]

This is vipassanā magga (insight path factors—seeing anicca with the five path factors of paññā and samādhi.) I’ll continue to explain the lokuttara magga (supramundane path factors—seeing Nibbāna with the eight path factors of sīla, samādhi, and paññā.) It abandons the khandha (five khandhas) and craving (taṇhā) by seeing Nibbāna. It’s extra one thing only as seeing Nibbāna. You have to follow to the ending of khandha anicca if you discern them. If there is impermanence existed, there also must have the ending of it. You can’t see the abandonment of craving (taṇhā). At the ending of anicca you’ll see the non-existence of the khandha. The ending of the khandha is Nibbāna. These are the sign posts of the way of vipassanā process. Anyone can know it himself as arriving there or not with practice.

revised on 2021-01-11

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