A Fire Ghost

revised on 2024-06-09

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 22nd * 23rd August 1961

Tape 1

The Buddha is like a doctor and you all are patients with kilesa diseases. He will prescribe you the medicines and how to abstain from the diseases. Sīla means abstinence. It’ll alleviate the kilesa and not cure the diseases. Only by taking the medicine of vipassanā can the disease be cured. If you can contemplate the anicca of any arising phenomenon and taṇhā, upādāna and kamma can’t arise. Because of the medicine of vipassanā magga kilesa dies away. Sīla is included in the vipassanā maggas. Therefore, at the time of vipassanā is staying practice with special sīla (visesabhāgiya sīla). King Milinda asked the monk Nāgasena on Nibbāna— Could a worldling know about Nibbāna? It can be understood with speculation. When the hermit Sumedha made the aspiration to become a Buddha, he made the speculation as if there is heat then there is coolness. It’s the same with you: every time you burn with kilesa heat, the extinction of this heat of defilements is Nibbāna. Could you know about it by speculation or guessing? This kind of guessing does not become the wrong view of annihilation. You don’t know the khandha and Nibbāna if do not understand dependent arising (paṭiccasamuppāda). By not understanding the arising of the khandha, you view it as a person, a being, etc.

Not knowing the cessation of the arising khandha means one will not know about Nibbāna. Therefore, without understanding D.A., one will not know and not attain Nibbāna. Knowing the arising of D.A. is knowing about the khandha and its cessation is knowing Nibbāna. I myself do not dare to teach away from the path of Dependent Origination because deviating from D.A. becomes unreal Dhamma. Then, it becomes superficial teaching. It’s possible to be free from identity view, permanent view, and annihilated view by discerning that one dhamma arises and one dhamma ceases. This is knowing the nature of emptiness (suññata), if not can’t know it. (Some Chinese Buddhists heard about the suññata in the Theravada teaching and take it as Mahāyana teaching. They don’t know that there are differences. There are some teachings also the same— such as bodhisatta and bodhisattava, etc.) Identity view does not fall away without listening to the suññata dhamma. Even when practiced, without getting rid of the "identity view (sakkāya)", it still hinders development. Is this the impermanence of "me" and "mine"?

It’s seeing suññata if you discern anicca. Asking you to contemplate anicca is to let you know clearly there are no me and no mine in the khandha. If discerning the processes of D.A. is knowing the truth of dukkha (dukkha sacca). The knowledge is the truth of the path (magga sacca). At the time of knowing action not to arise is the cessation of the cause of dukkha (samudaya sacca). The cessation of the khandha is nirodha sacca— the cessation of dukkha. So you know the four truths. This is based on D.A. teaching (i.e., without it, it's impossible). The Buddha using the simile of a fire explained Nibbāna to the brahmin Aggivaccha (MN. 72). The khandha is always burning with the fire of defilements and ageing. People become fire ghosts (petas). They have to always condition the khandhas. When it’s cold make it warm (put heat) and vice versa. Making prayers and asking for things are fire woods (fuels), i.e., making merits for fire. The khandha is fuel, kilesa is fire and kamma is the one who sets fire. You all take kamma as kam-mother and kam-father (i.e., rely on wholesome kammas or merits, here kam is the Burmese word for kamma.) Kamma puts fire continuously without break. If you can’t make it ceases and wandering in rounds of existence (saṁsāra) as fire ghosts.

Tape 2

The reason in this life you don’t understand D.A. is starting from the not knowing about the khandha. After you lost the D.A. process and you can’t find anicca. You live with ignorance (avijjā) and accompany with diṭṭhi. Without cutting off the D.A. process, birth (jāti) becomes your friend. Ignorance and wrong views will die if you know the arising dhammas. And then birth and death cease and Nibbāna arises. Understanding of the D.A. process will understand dukkha and its cessation. If you know the arising phenomena and know the truth of dukkha. you know the passing away is knowing the cessation of dukkha, i.e., knowing nirodha sacca. Therefore, if you contemplate blindly you won't know dukkha and do not understand Nibbāna. In vipassanā contemplation you can contemplate all the arising dhammas or khandhas up to taṇhā → upādāna →kamma (here, it does not refer to verbal and physical actions, but to volition — cetanā) (For its evidence Sayadaw recited the Pāli words in a sutta).

It’ll burn you all the time if the khandha and kilesa are together, as if the fuels and fire are together. Therefore, the khandha is a burning khandha. Men with bhāva-taṇhā are looking for woods (fuels). The cessation of kilesa fire and khandha fire is Nibbāna. You can’t ask where the cessation of fuel and fire burning has gone. (It seems a foolish question). It can be only answered as-the fire is extinguished. (Not more or unnecessary). There is a question that arises— Does Nibbāna exist or not exist? The burning of the aggregates (khandha) and defilements (kilesa) is real, but there is also no burning of them. The knowledge (ñāṇa) which knows the cessation of khandha and kilesa is still exist, but the khandha and kilesa not exist.

The existence of aggregates (khandha) is the truth of suffering (dukkha sacca), and the non-existence is the truth of cessation (nirodha sacca).

[Note: In these two talks Sayadaw compared humans as fire ghosts is a suitable analogy for nowadays human beings. Because they are more like fire ghosts than humans. Observing at the international level shows that extreme lobha, dosa, and moha burn incessantly. Palestinian and Israeli conflict is more than half a century old and it is becoming more violent and serious. They are burning with dosa fire (hatred). This can lead to hell beings, animals and ghosts. Mahāmoggallāna met some fire ghosts at Vultures’ Peak. This 21st century started with violence, it happened more and more continuously. If we observe the animal kingdom, animals are always searching for food and eat all the time non-stop except when they sleep (e.g., chicken, fish, cat, etc.) If you feed them once, they always come and ask from you. Humans have other things to do. So they are a little better than animals, if not become worse than animals. Therefore, the Buddha said that the four apāya bhūmis are frequent homes of living beings. They are always burning with kilesa fire of lobha, dosa, moha, māna, diṭṭhi, etc. without Dhamma education even we don’t know that we are fire ghosts and always looking for fire to burn ourselves.]

revised on 2024-06-09

  • Content of Part 14 on "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"

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