The Lost of Knowledge

revised on 2024-06-10

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 7th June 1962

In normal times, you think nothing is happening to you. You only know it by exposing it to yourself. It’s important to know your losses. With each day passed, you reduce your lifespan by one day. The energy of kamma is also reduced by one day. With the growth of ageing, your knowledge becomes dull, and so you are losing knowledge. Losing kammic energy is not so important, but losing knowledge is painful. You can still continue by losing kamma (increasing your merits by doing wholesomeness). Losing knowledge, you can’t reconnect it again. Because the ways of kamma always exist, but the ways of knowledge do not. (i.e., The most difficult thing for a Buddha to arise in the world). With only knowledge, you can go to Nibbāna, but not kamma (here means not directly, only as one of the supporting conditions). At the time when your knowledge is sharp, you can use it to reach Nibbāna. Kamma can only send you to become a khandha (here as a human khandha with merits) but not for the ending of the khandha. Kamma sends you to dukkha sacca but ñāṇa to sukha sacca (nibbāna). People don’t know that if someone has good luck (merits) they will have dukkha. They’re expecting when they’ll have good luck. With older age, one becomes poor in kamma and ñāṇa.

Only ñāṇa can cut off kamma when it's the worst with the blunt ñāṇa. Could you find the most valuable thing (i.e., nibbāna) with poor kamma and ñāṇa? You’ll know it by relating it to U Hlaing (who was having difficulty in the practice because he was over eighty).

(Sayadaw continued the talk based on the Q and A between Mahākoṭṭhita and Sāriputta, ?? MN.43 Mahāvedallasuttaṃ ?? ). It’s important to have right attention on the khandha. Don’t you hear the voices which come out from the khandha every time there is a cause? As examples – it’s good, it’s not good (vedanākkhandha). It’s saṅkhārakkhandha if you want to give, want to offer, etc. (gave examples for each of the khandha). With wrong attention, diṭṭhi arises. Don’t abandon sammuti-sacca and also you have to know about paramattha sacca. Sammuti sacca is right only in not telling lies. Paramattha sacca is right towards Nibbāna. Contemplating the mother does not lead to Nibbāna; only contemplating the khandha will help you realize Nibbāna. (In this sutta, Sāriputta taught 11 ways of right attentions — yoniso) By condensing all of them, you only have anicca, dukkha, and anatta. Whatever khandha you contemplate, you will see the arising and vanishing process (i.e., any one of the satipaṭṭhānas). Discerning anicca leads to right attention.

(Here Sayadaw taught vedanānupassanā). If I ask you – Is anicca the khandha? It’s not the khandha. Therefore, if you see anicca, you are abandoning the khandha (because no khandha exists there). Do you still desire the khandha after seeing anicca? Desiring the khandha does not arise, thus it cuts off taṇhā, upādāna, and kamma (see D.A process). Therefore, it abandons the khandha, taṇhā, and the next life of birth (jāti). So, how beneficial is anicca? Diṭṭhi arises with the cause of the khandha. When the khandha does not arise, it abandons diṭṭhi. Dying with anicca, one becomes a sotāpanna in heaven. Therefore, you have to practice a lot for discerning anicca (become habitual like one of Goenkaji’s disciples who practiced with him in India for a three-month retreat. After that, he continues to maintain his awareness of anicca every day as a businessman).

If you can follow anicca to its end, you will find Nibbāna. Therefore, if you can discern anicca with yoniso and follow the process, you become a sotāpanna. Even when someone becomes an arahant, they need to incline towards Nibbāna with the attention on anicca. (i.e., referring to staying in the fruition state.) If not, people are confused by the objects of kāmaguṇa – Even aniccas appear chaotic. Inclining the mind towards a place where no aniccas exist is very clear (the emptiness of Nibbāna).

Darkness and Light – Avijjā and Vijjā

In the Buddha Dhamma, there are five kinds of darkness and five kinds of light. Mogok Sayadaw also based his teachings on this and gave several talks on them. This subject is also related to his talk on the loss of knowledge. The five darknesses are: Ignorance of the law of kamma, Ignorance about the mind and body, Ignorance of the cause and effect process, Ignorance of anicca, dukkha, and anatta phenomena, and Ignorance of eternal peace – Nibbāna. The opposite of these five darknesses is the five lights. Even most human beings are covered with the first darkness. If someone does not have the first light, they cannot have the other lights because it develops from one to five. This is one of the main reasons or causes of so much problems and suffering in today's world. Even most world leaders and governments don’t have the first light and they are covered with all the darkness. People elected them to solve problems and suffering but nowadays they are creating more and more of them.

The other lights, from the 2nd to the 5th, appear with the Buddha and exist where the Dhamma is present; only then can beings possess them. The 2nd and 3rd lights are very important for human beings.

Because of not having these lights, humans can even perform evil actions combined with lobha (greed) and dosa (hatred). We can see its impact and results at international levels with many ongoing wars in various parts of the world today. Therefore, the Buddha urgently warned humans to eradicate wrong views. There was a funny story related to diṭṭhi that illustrates how it can make a person become a fool, which is due to ignorance and delusion.

There were some Westerners conducting research in a very remote area where the inhabitants had never seen a car before. They went to the village with a Land Rover. As they neared the village, the sound of the car made the villagers come out to see what was happening. They saw the car coming towards them; it had two big headlights and was making sounds – Wu! Wu! Among the villagers, one who seemed intelligent made a remark to the crowd, “It must be a strange animal. It has two big eyes and is making sounds Wu! Wu! and coming towards us.” All the others agreed with him and responded, “It may be. It may be.”

These villagers are better off than the fool or lunatic mentioned in the following story. These people had only wrong thinking with wrong views but no wrong actions. The following story was mentioned in the Dhamma talk by Sitagu Sayadaw on the Simile of Foam in the Saṁyutta Nikāya. He discussed how consciousness (viññāṇa) is like a magician but also included the concept of wrong view with ignorance. All worldlings possess all the defilements.

A dullard was sitting at the bank of a big lake and watching the forest ducks enjoying themselves on the water. After some time, an imposter came to the place. The dullard asked him, “Who is the owner of these ducks?” The imposter responded, “These ducks belong to me.” The dullard requested him to sell them to him. He pretended to have no desire to sell them. At last, he told the dullard that he urgently needed money and agreed to sell them. The dullard continued to watch the ducks on the bank. When evening came, the ducks flew away from the lake.

The dullard followed behind them and cried, “My ducks! My ducks!” In the same way, human beings and other beings regard the five khandhas, political power, wealth, family members, etc., as "My ducks! My ducks!" Therefore, humans must always be careful with all their actions, which can create problems and suffering in today's world because most are blind men covered with all the darkness (avijjā). To see clearly all the problems and sufferings, it is necessary to have light (vijjā). Dhamma education can help human beings see clearly.

In the Dhammapada of chapter VI: The Wise – the Buddha utters the verse: 80 relating to Sāmaṇera Paṇḍita.

“Irrigators guide
the water.
Fletchers shape
the arrow shaft.
Carpenters shape
the wood.
The wise control
Verse: (80)

Here, the Buddha describes the three qualities of the mind with three similes: similar to water, the arrow shaft, and wood. Each human has two ways they can choose: making the water flow downstream or upstream, shaping the arrow shaft to be crooked or straight, and crafting the wood to look ugly or beautiful.

Humans can direct their minds in downward or upward ways. Following the lower ways, they will end up in hells (avīcis). Following the upward ways, they will end up in Nibbāna. If they make their minds crooked, they will end up with great suffering, but making their minds straight will lead to great happiness. If they allow their minds to become coarser, the human world will become ugly, resembling Hell. Through the training of their minds, it can become a beautiful world, akin to Heaven.

revised on 2024-06-10

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

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