Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VI, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(86) Being consumed by fire

“Aditto lokasannivaso ragaggina dosaggina mohaggina jatiya jaraya maranena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upayasehi, tssa natthanno koci nibbapeta annatara mayati passantanam buddhanam bhagavantanam sattesu mahakaruna okkamati.”

Lokasannivaso – In regard to all beings, ragaggina – the fires of raga (passions), aditto – are burning them with a fury producing red flames. Dosaggina – the fiery anger, mohaggina – delusion, the mistaken view, jatiya – the fires of fresh rebirth, jaraya – the fires of decrepit old age, maranena – the fires of death, sokehi – the fires of worry and anxiety, paridevehi – the fires of grief, wailing and lamentation, dukkhehi – the miserable fires of physical distress, domanassehi – the fires of mental distress and unhappiness, upayasehi – the fires of extreme despair, aditto – are burning vehemently producing blazing flames. Having also seen living beings enveloped in such blaze, Great Compassion had arisen in the Buddha.

The above statement reveals that all beings are badly burnt and consumed by eleven aggis (fires) which may be enumerated as lust or passion, anger or hatred, erroneous conception, birth, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Among these, the fires of raga are those that are prone to pleasurable attachment. What is called tanha and lobha are also raga, passionate desires. How they are being burnt is: “Pleasurable attachment to the eye, the object which is seen, and the knowing-mind, may be said to be the fires of raga which are raging. From the stage of “seeing”, one becomes attached to his own “eyes” lovingly. Also, the object which is found agreeable by sight is found to be pleasurable. Particularly, pleasurable attachment to what is seen, is taking place. It is not only the ‘sight – ‘rupa’ – the beauty – that is seen and appreciated, but also the entire body of a woman or a man. Thus the sensation arises from sight or what is seen, is found pleasurable which in turn invokes desirable attachment to it. This feeling which occurs is nothing but the burning fires of raga. If the thing that is desired is not yet available, it will be craved for or yearned. He will think of trying to get it, maybe by hook or by crook. Sometimes, burning desire may occur to the extent of having a reaction in losing one’s own appetite to eat and of suffering from insomnia. He may also be planning to keep intact things which have been acquired. The arising of this pleasurable desire is the burning raga vehement passion.

Ordinary people, however, think of this burning sensation of raga as being pretty good. Therefore, they are always eagerly making efforts to enjoy such sensual pleasures with attachment. Whether in the matter of family affairs or business affairs or affairs relating to human relations, they are constantly worried. They may even probably think it enjoyable to be worrying as such. As a matter of fact, they are being consumed by the fires of raga. If raga were driven out or expelled, it will become obvious that all these imaginations which have to be invoked and anxieties which are cropping up, will be found as being similar to miseries suffered by a person from burns. Hence, ragaggina – the flaming red-hot raga, was perceived by the Buddha as being burning with a fury.

In the same way, when hearing takes place, the ear, the sound that is heard, and the knowing-mind are found to be pleasurable. This is the ‘raga’ which is burning. In matters relating to the odour, the nose, the knowing-mind that occurs, and when eating, the tongue, the taste and consciousness that arises, as also when touching and imagining, similar occurrences which are happening, may be considered as being subjected to burns. Briefly put, pleasurable attachment to all sensations which arise obviously at every moment of seeing, hearing, contacting (touching) and knowing, are nothing but the fires of raga that are burning. The flames of raga are raging furiously depending upon those that have arisen from the six sense-doors. It is just like inflammable material such as firewood and kerosene that easily catch fire. The more the material is highly combustible, the more the fire becomes vehement. In the same manner, the more the sense-objects are found highly pleasurable, the more the fires of raga become furious.

Similarly, the fires of anger are burning. It is more obvious when the mind becomes miserable with burning sensations as one gets angry. The man in anger, however, may feel pleased with the anger that has arisen in him. As regards moha, it is difficult to understand.

If a thought arises that everything which conspicuously occurs emanating from what is seen and heard, is permanent, everlasting, good and pleasurable, and that every such thing is “atta” or “Self”, it is simply “moha” In short, what is wrongly conceived is moha. Erroneous understanding or misconception which veils the truth of the knowledge of anicca, dukkha and anatta in respect of all phenomenal occurrences that arise from the six sense-doors is to be regarded as “moha ” in flames. The manner in which the fires of moha are burning is hard to be understood by ordinary worldlings. Only when the true characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta are clearly known, the way moha is burning can be realised. Thus “moha.” includes not knowing what is true, being under delusion, does things which ought not to be done, and plans which ought not to be planned, or speaks what ought not to be spoken. For such improper conduct or actions, disadvantages are bound to be met with in the present lifetime. Also, throughout Samsara, sufferings, such as miserable condition of Apaya life will be met. These are the sufferings of burns caused by the fires of “moha”.

The three kinds of fires – raga, dosa and moha – just now stated, are the fires of akusala kilesa. Then comes the fires of jati, etc., birth or existence, etc., which are in fact the fires of Samsaric miseries. There are eight of these. Of these eight, the three (3), viz: birth (jati), old age (jara) and death (marana) – the three kinds of fires – are conspicuous. However, there is food for thought relating to the fires of jati to how fresh existence which has come into being suffers the burning heat. To put it briefly, in every existence, throughout one’s lifetime, the miseries which a person encounters are caused by the fires of jati (birth). Miseries in hell are to be suffered because of one’s rebirth in hell. Likewise, the miserable conditions of the animal life and of Petas are met with because of rebirths in the animal world as dogs, pigs, fowls, birds, etc., or, as Petas, as the case may be. Those who are born of the poor parents will probably be stricken with poverty throughout their lifetime. Persons who become Devas or Brahmas are also suffering misery in their respective existences merely because they have been reborn in those existences. A question may arise from which source this burning heat of miseries has come. It may be explained as follows:

It has so happened because of the resultant effect of kilesa and kamma which tend to cause to become a “being” (bhava). These kilesa and kamma proceed or originate from one’s own dependence upon the resultant effect of consciousness of sight which obviously comes into view through the medium of the eye at the time of seeing, and of the consciousness of sound through the ear at the moment of hearing, etc. That is the reason why all consciousness or the knowing mind of the object of sight and sound appearing and occurring through the eye and the ear at every moment of seeing, hearing, etc., is to be-stated as the burning fire of jati which brings forth new existences. To be quite candid, the new existence of the fire of jati occurs from the upsurge of kilesa and the effect of kamma based upon the act of seeing and so on. This fire of jati having had the opportunity to take place at every moment of seeing, hearing, etc., whenever seeing, hearing, etc., are occurring; it may be said that the fire of jati is burning. The fires of jara (old age) and marana (death) are occurring and burning in the same manner. The only prominent thing is that old age and death are clearly noticeable and visible in their true nature as conditions worsen.

According to what has been stated, the manner of the outbreak of fires of jati, etc., is as described in the preaching contained in Aditta Sutta which run as “cakkhu adittam rupa aditta cakkhuvinnanam adittam etc.” In the prologue of this mahakarunasamapatti since it has been stated ordinarily as: “lokasanniva” which conveys the meaning of ‘Burning the living being’, it can be interpreted to mean that the fires of jati, etc., are burning in every existence wherever a being may be born. As such, all miseries which are faced and suffered throughout the lifetime, for having first come into being in every existence (bhava), are the burns caused by the fire of jati that has initially conceived or projected. In every existence, getting gradually advanced in age with the obvious signs of grey hairs, short-sightedness or blurring vision, and becoming hard of hearing (deaf), is due to the burning heat of jara (old age). Eventually, the inevitable death which takes place, is the burning heat of the fire of marana. In every kind of existence, these fires of jara and marana which are burning, are quite conspicuous.

Next, anxiety, grief, wailing, bereavement and lamentation due to the loss and death of relatives, loss and destruction of property or of business enterprise, etc., are the burning fires of grief and lamentation. Also in every existence, generally various kinds of physical sufferings are to be faced. There are also heart-breaking moments with extreme anxiety. These happenings are the fires of domanassa (dejection) and upayasa (despair) which one has to undergo unavoidably. For having observed that the beings are undergoing severe misery and suffering in the raging fires (altogether eleven in kind), explanation has been given as stated below to show how Buddha was moved to pity.

Annatara maya – Except me, the Buddha, tassa nibbapeta – capable of extinguishing all these burning fires, anno koci – any other single person, natthi – cannot be found, or, rather, is not in existence. Iti – Such being the case, passantanam – having perceived, buddhanam bhagavantanam – in the persons of Buddhas, sattesu – towards living beings, mahakaruna – great compassion, okkamati – has occurred.

All living beings are subjected to the eleven kinds of fires such as raga and so forth. Therefore, the Buddha had Great Compassion towards those living beings realising that there was no one except him to come to their succour. Yes, indeed, these beings are really pitiable. Since, not only one but eleven fires are burning them up; the miseries they have to undergo must be awfully terrible. There is no one who could give instructions to these poor pitiable being to escape from the burning flames except the Compassionate Supreme Buddha. Knowing fully well the fate of all living beings, pity had arisen in the heart of the Buddha, and this feeling of deep compassion had caused him to give his teaching revealing the way to happiness, and guiding them to follow the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path – Sila, Samadhi and Panna -, for the entire period of forty-five years of his teachings. We are now recounting His Noble Teachings and giving instructions to you all.

Having already covered a wide range relating to the occurrence of mahakaruna in the mind of the Lord Buddha, let us now develop the feeling of karuna after reflecting upon the miserable conditions of the living beings who are suffering from various kinds of “fires” and distress, as has been illustrated in the foregoing. Now please follow the recitation:

“Living beings are pierced by the arrows of raga, etc. They are also caught in the nets of ditthi and tanha. They are drifting in the current in the mid-stream of ditthi and tanha, and are burnt by the fires of raga, etc. Hence, may all those pitiable living beings be liberated from misery.”

The method of developing karuna as has just been stated is for the sake of gaining perfection and merits. However, in the case of a person with special perfection (Paramitas), he could achieve appana-jhana even while developing in the manner stated. If purposely desirous of developing so as to gain karuna-jhana, it should not be developed starting from a beloved person, etc., as is done in the case of developing metta. It should not also be developed commencing from a person of the opposite sex. Nor should karuna be developed beginning from a person who is already dead and gone. Karuna must be bestowed first upon a pitiable person who is in dire distress by developing pity and reciting as: “May he be free from misery.” Only when jhana has been achieved by developing as stated, one should proceed to develop karuna towards the person who is dear to him. Thereafter, a neutral person should be radiated with karuna. The last person towards whom karuna should be developed is a person hostile to you (an enemy). While developing karuna towards an enemy, if anger arises, this feeling of anger should be suppressed as in the case of developing metta, and then only afterwards, karuna be developed towards a beloved person, a neutral person, an enemy, and oneself, equally balanced on all four of them with pity so as to be accomplished – with simasambheda. After that, according to the fourth method, practice should be made with diligence to complete the realisation or achievement of all three kinds of karuna-jhana. Well, it is now fairly comprehensive in describing the manner of developing karuna. So let us proceed to instruct relating to the manner of developing muditta.