阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第二章第五節:艱困與匱乏

       

                                  

        

第二章第五節:艱困與匱乏

    阿姜曼離開烏汶府之後,跟他座下的比丘和沙彌一起在色軍府WarichabhumBan Nong Lat村裡度過了下一個雨安居。當地的在家居士與女居士的反應,就好像有一位很吉祥的人大駕光臨一般,他們都非常興奮 —— 但不是那種瘋狂的表現,而是一種期盼 —— 一種棄惡揚善的期盼。他們放棄了鬼神的民間信仰而皈依佛法僧。在雨季結束時,阿姜曼再度展開行腳,直到烏隆府的Nong Bua LamphuBan Pheu區。這一年他在Ban Kho村度過雨安居,而下一個雨安居則是在廊開府的Tha Bo縣度過,他在這兩個府都修行了一段時間。

        如同前面提到的,阿姜曼大多時候是住在距離村莊很遙遠的荒野區,因為農村的人口相對較稀少,因此他比較容易將教學付諸實踐。未開採的森林四處環繞,裡面充滿著高大且仍未砍伐的樹木,野生動物到處可見。一入夜後,便可以聽見牠們無數的叫聲在森林中迴盪。聽到這些聲音,會被一種友好與友誼的感覺給吸引住。野生動物的天然叫聲並不是禪修的障礙,因為它們沒有具體的意義。但是人類的聲音就不一樣了,不管是聊天、唱歌、大喊或笑,具體的意義都立即頓現;而正是這個意義使得人類的聲音變成了禪修的障礙。比丘特別容易受到異性聲音的影響,如果禪定的功力不夠強,定力很容易就被摧毀。我必須跟各地的婦女致歉,因為我在此絕非有意批評或貶抑女性。我這裡指的是那種不成功的修行人,為的是使他能喚起對治這種影響的正念,而不只是逆來順受地屈服於對方。或許比丘喜歡住在山林中的其中一個理由就是為了避免這一類的事情,能持續追求心靈品質的完善,直到他們達到了梵行生活的終極目標。阿姜曼到他最後過世的那一天都很喜愛山林間的生活,而這一份喜愛協助他證得了他樂於與我們分享的「法」。

        阿姜曼說如果拿禪修與疾病相比,那幾乎可以說是一種致命的病,因為他承受的訓練很像身體與心理的折磨。他幾乎沒有一天可以放鬆、四處閒逛,或像其他比丘一樣那麼快活。這是因為無明煩惱與他的心如此快速地糾結在一起,他幾乎都快趕不上它們了。如果他的心稍不留神,無明便立即會給他帶來困擾。一旦它們掌控了他的心,它們就會握得愈來愈緊,到最後就會發現很難趕走它們。因此,他絕不能鬆懈他的防衛,他必須完全保持警醒,隨時準備一把就抓住無明,好讓它們沒有力量將他束縛住。他這樣精進地修行,直到他獲得足夠的成就才能稍稍放鬆。只有這樣,他才能發展出教導他人所必須的心的力量及身體的輕安。從那個時候起 —— 來自東北部各地的比丘、沙彌、在家人都來親近他。阿姜曼了解他們的處境,也非常悲憫他們。在某些時候,來訪他的人已多到沒有足夠的空間可容納了。他也必須考慮到其他人的安全,例如來參訪他的女眾與女性沙門。因為在那個時候,許多老虎及野生動物都在外圍地區出沒,而當地人煙卻很稀少。

        阿姜曼曾有一次待在烏隆府Ban PheuBan Namee Nayung村附近的一個石窟裡。由於當地附近有許多老虎經常出沒,對於訪客來說那裡肯定不是一處可以安全過夜的地方。當有訪客來時,阿姜曼請當地的居民打造一個高聳的竹製平台 —— 高到足以使任何飢餓的老虎都無法撲到上面去攻擊睡覺的人。阿姜曼禁止訪客在入夜後到地面,他擔心老虎會把他們給帶走並吞掉他們。他告訴訪客要攜帶容器,以備夜間上廁所時使用。由於晚上有這麼多兇猛的老虎,阿姜曼拒絕訪客長期居住,幾天後他就會請他們離開。這些老虎都不怕人類 —— 特別是婦女 —— 牠們只要一有機會就會攻擊。在某些夜晚,當阿姜曼在燈籠的燭光下經行時,他看到一隻大老虎大剌剌地追蹤一群水牛而經過他住的地方。當阿姜曼來回經行時,老虎一點都不怕他。牛群察覺到了老虎,本能地往村莊靠近。然而,就算當時有比丘經過,老虎還是肆無忌憚地追逐牠們。

        在阿姜曼的座下修行的比丘必須做好一切的準備,包括死亡的可能性,因為在他們修行的各處都充滿著危險。對於同修的比丘,他們必須放下自我的驕傲自尊與優越感,就好像同一副身體的四肢,大家和諧地生活在一起。他們的心接著會體驗到一定程度的滿足,不受心結五蓋所困擾,他們的禪定會開展得很快。當比丘在某些限制下生活受到了限制 —— 例如,在一處恐怖的地方生活,而該處食物缺乏,基本生活必需品又不足 —— 他的心智活動往往會受到正念的監督,持續將思惟的過程制約在手邊的事務上,心通常就能比預期還要更快入定。外在環境有危險與困難;內在的正念卻穩固地受到控制。在這樣的環境中,心可能就好比一名聽天由命的囚犯。除了這些因素,如果他走偏了,老師也會在那裡將他給導正。在身心內外被困難所包圍的環境下修行的比丘,他將會在他的心中看到一種超乎預期的進展。

        森林中的夜晚很嚇人,所以比丘都會強迫自己走出去經行,與恐懼對抗。到底誰會贏?誰又會輸呢?如果是恐懼輸了,那麼就會變得勇敢並凝神收攝入定;但如果是輸掉了,那麼唯一會呈現出來的就是劇烈的恐懼。在這種狀況下,強烈的恐懼帶來的效果會同時產生冷與熱的感覺,會想要大小便,感覺喘不過氣來,處在瀕死邊緣。會助長恐懼的東西就是老虎的吼聲,吼聲可能來自各個地方 —— 從山腳下,從山脊上,又或者從平原而來 —— 但比丘不會去注意是哪個方向,他只會想到:「有老虎要來把我吞掉了!」他獨自一人經行,因害怕而顫抖無助,他肯定老虎是特別為他而來的。他沒有想到這麼大一片的地方,老虎有四條腿,可能會走到別處;他只想到老虎會直接走到他所在的那一塊小地方 —— 直接為那個怕到發抖的膽小比丘而來。他完全忘了禪修,心裡只有一個念頭,像唸咒語一樣一遍又一遍重覆:「老虎來了!老虎來了!」這種負面的想法只會加劇他的恐懼,在他心中的「法」早已分崩離析,而如果,可能的話,老虎真的剛好在那個地方徘徊,他最好就是腦筋一片空白害怕僵直地站在那裡;而最壞的情況,就是可能發生不幸。

        用這種負面的態度來建設心靈是不對的,因為隨之而來的後果必然會在某些方面造成傷害。正確的做法是把心穩定地聚焦在「法」的某些面向,念死或其他的業處都可以。在這種情況下,不應該讓心向外奔馳去想像外界的恐懼事物,然後把那些概念帶回來嚇自己。不管發生什麼事,是生或是死,注意力都應該直接繫於平時所用的業處上。心中有「法」就像不會失去平衡的支柱一樣,甚至,儘管經歷了劇烈的恐懼,心也只會變得更強,在某種程度上變得令人驚訝到難以形容的勇敢。

        阿姜曼教導他的弟子們,想要修行穩固,就意味著要嘗試一切的冒險 —— 體與心靈方面。除了念住的基本業處 —— 「法」以外,一切都必須犧牲。不管發生什麼事,一切都順其自然。每一個人都注定會死 —— 這是世界的自然法則,沒有必要去違逆它,不可能藉由否定事物的自然秩序法則來找到真理。阿姜曼教導比丘在面對死亡時應該堅決與勇敢,他特別喜歡讓他的弟子住在有大批野生動物出沒的隱蔽荒野區,這樣他們才能發現禪修的功德利益,像這樣的地方可激發禪定與直觀智慧的開展。老虎可直接幫助「法」在心中激發 —— 特別是因為我們不相信法而對世尊不敬畏的時候,但我們真的會怕老虎,因為我們確信牠們真的很兇猛。這種確信對於圍堵這顆心與集中注意力在「法」上來說,是一種非常有效的助緣,利用恐懼作為禪修的動力,直到「法」在心中出現。結果,當「心」終於證悟了「法」,對世尊及其所傳的法的信心都會自然生起。當一個人在荒野的時候,在關鍵時刻,蟄伏中的「定」與「慧」將會被喚醒與啟動;如果不對心施加壓力,往往就會變得懶散並積累無明,直到它幾乎不能運作。老虎有助於除去無明,這種無明會滋長懶惰與散漫的態度,使我們忘了自己與生命的有限性。一旦這些潛伏的雜染都消失了,不管我們做什麼,都會有一種真正釋放的感覺,因為我們的心不用再背負著沉重的包袱。

        阿姜曼強調比丘應前往會激起恐懼而不是安逸的地方禪修;否則,他們是無法得到不可思議的成果。此外,無明會使他們誤入歧途,最後因迷失而看不見修行的路,那真的很令人遺憾。他向比丘們保證,除非他們生活在一個能迫使心向內關注自己的環境,不然的話就很難達到穩定的定境,他們的禪修也就因此會很辛苦;另一方面,結果一定會在他們總是警覺到有危險的可能性之處變好,因為正念 —— 導引努力的善巧 —— 必將現前。真心想要滅苦的人,如果住在一般人都認為是很恐怖的地方 —— 像偏僻的荒野區,一定不會屈服於死亡的恐懼。當面臨真的危機時,念住應該會保持在「法」之上,不會飄送到身心的領域之外,而是安住在「法」的境界裡。接著禪修者便可預期體驗到安全感以及被激發出的一種不可逆轉的堅忍。總之,除非是業力使他陽壽已盡,不然他絕不會在那個時候死掉 —— 不管他是怎麼想的。

        阿姜曼說,他在禪修上的啟發幾乎都來自於在危險環境中的生活,這也是為什麼他喜歡教他的弟子們在受到威脅的情況下要堅強,而不是只依靠一些抽象、模稜兩可的「人性本善」概念 —— 一種通常比真實還要更便利的虛構小說 —— 如此一來,他們誤以為可以在最短的時間內實現自己的抱負。依靠這種來自於過去相當模糊的人性本善概念,通常是軟弱與盲目服從的一種跡象 —— 一種可能是壓制而不是激發正念與觀智的態度。

        比丘如果有了信心,「法」就會是他生命與修行的基本保證人。這句話的意思是說他真心願意為「法」而生,也願為「法」而死。他在任何情況下都不能驚慌,在恐怖的地方精進修行時,他必須勇敢地接受死亡。當危機步步逼近時 —— 不管情況看起來有多嚴重 —— 正念都應持續控制他的心,使其堅定不移,完全與禪修的業處合而為一。假設有大象、老虎、毒蛇威脅他:如果他是真心願為「法」犧牲生命,那麼這些東西就絕不敢傷害他。他不會怕死,他將會體驗到從那些動物之間走過去的勇氣。他會在內心深處對牠們產生一種驅散了一切危險感的深摯友愛,而不是感受到威脅。身為人類,我們心中有「法」,是動物所沒有的。因此,我們的心對任何形式的動物都會產生很大的影響力,而動物知不知道這一個事實並沒有什麼差別;我們心中存在一種能使牠們舒緩的神祕特質,這種特質強而有力,「法」的護衛力軟化了牠們的心,使牠們不會採取攻擊的行動。這種心的神秘力量是個人內在體驗的東西,其他的人除非有特殊的直覺力才能察覺得到。就算「法」在世界各地廣為流傳及研習,如果心在「法」中尚未達到任何程度的領悟,那麼它將仍會是一個謎。當「心」與「法」真的合而為一,一切有關心與法的各種疑惑都將自動消失,因為心的本質與法的本質都共享精緻、微妙的特質。一旦達到這樣的境界,正確的說法應該是:心即是法,法即是心。換言之,一旦無明被消除時,一切的矛盾都將止息。

        通常,如果心擴大了無明,我們就無法覺察其固有的價值。這是因為心已被無明徹底滲透,以致兩者間難以區辨,心的真正價值也因此被遮蔽了。如果因為我們不積極去找出解決之道而放縱這種情況無止盡地持續下去,那麼不管是心或法,對我們而言都不會有實際的價值。就算我們注定出生又死亡好幾百次,也不過是將一套髒衣服換成另一套髒衣服。不論我們換了多少套髒衣服,都改變不了我們汙穢的事實。如果脫下髒衣服並換成乾淨的衣服,這肯定是很大的改變。同樣地,心中善與惡的交替是一項很重要的難題,我們每一個人都應該承擔各自的責任,自我內在觀察。沒有別人能為我們扛起責任並帶給我們心靈平靜,我們每一個人都應該知道,這極其重要,不管是現在或未來,我們都必須獨自為自己的進步負責。那些唯一的例外就是:世尊及阿羅漢聖弟子,他們在心智上仔細地開展自己,直到抵達完全安全的境界。他們都所作已辦,且不受後有,這些都是我們可以皈依禮敬的聖者,為我們未來提供希望。就算是惡棍歹徒,如果尚有分辨是非善惡的能力,一樣會皈依佛、法、僧,他們至少還會感到一些悔恨,就如同好人或壞人都一樣會本能地依賴父母,所以各式各樣的人也都會本能地將佛陀視為庇護皈依的對象。

        阿姜曼運用了許多訓練的方法來確保比丘們都能在修行上清楚地看見成果。那些在他的指導下以不動搖的信心修行的人都能達到他們自己滿意的成果。循著他範例的力量,他們變得博學多聞及受人尊敬的老師。他們又把這些訓練方法傳授給自己的弟子,使他們透過自己的努力,也可以自己見證,到今天仍可實現佛教尚未完全滅失的「道」與「果」。當看到他的生活以及他在訓練別人時所用的方法,持平而論,他所依循的是一種匱乏的修行模式。他和他的弟子們生活在連基本必需品都缺乏的地方,過著一般人眼中清貧的生活,他們平日賴以維生的必需品通常都極其缺乏。那些平時過慣無憂無慮富足生活的人,一旦遇上這種生存上的不確定性,很可能會完全驚慌,這種艱困的生活模式中沒有任何可以吸引他們的地方,他們肯定難以適應。但比丘們自己,雖然過得像監獄裡的囚犯,但是為了「法」,他們自願這麼做。他們為了「法」而活,接受與修行有關的不便與艱困。這些條件,對那些不願過這種生活的人來說,會看作是一種折磨;但對比丘們而言,實際上卻是一處很有利於修行的道場。由於他們自願忍受艱困與貧乏,而這樣的生活條件本質上是有違人性,所以把這種修行稱作「匱乏的修行」是很貼切的。比丘們必須迫使自己去過這樣的生活,在所有日常的活動中,他們必須抗拒來自於生理與心理本能的壓力。

        為了加速修行,有時必須忍受禁食及飢餓。這段期間,比丘們儘管飢餓難耐,還是堅持修行。身體上的不適在此時是很明顯的,但忍受飢餓的目的是為了增益心智上的覺醒。事實上,禁食對某些特定性情的人來說是一種適合的方法。某些類型的人發現如果他們每天吃東西,身體雖然往往健壯有活力,但精神上的努力 —— 禪修 —— 卻在退化,他們的心智處於呆滯、沈悶、怯懦,所以解決是一定要的。而解決的方法之一就是每天或在一段時間裡、甚至是更長的時間,減少食量,甚至完全不吃,然後在一切的時段都仔細去觀察這些做法中哪一種能帶來最好的結果。一旦找到了適合的方法,就應該繼續深入。譬如說,一名比丘如果發現連續多日的禁食很適合他,那麼他就有必要按照這個方法去修。雖然這麼做很辛苦,但如果他一定要獲得滅苦的知識與技巧,那麼他就一定得要忍受。

        適合長期禁食的人會發現,他愈是努力禁食,他的心在面對曾經是敵人的各種感官對象時就愈加顯著與勇敢。他的心態是無畏懼的,他的注意力是敏銳的。當靜坐入定時,他的心完全專注於「法」,以致忘了時日;因為心接觸到「法」的時候,他就不會再關心時間的流逝及飢餓的苦。此時此刻,他只會覺知他體驗到與「法」相應層次的喜樂。在這種心的框架下,正好可以抓到無明,像懶散、自滿、焦慮不安等等,因為那個時候它們不夠活躍,禪修者可暫時擊敗它們。如果稍有遲疑,挑黃道吉日再去處理它們,無明就會先甦醒,給我們帶來更多的麻煩,很可能就沒辦法處理了。我們最終會淪為無明的「大象」,它們會騎坐在我們的脖子上鞭打我們 —— 我們的心 —— 使我們屈服。因為我們的心實際上已變成「大象」,無盡期地淪為無明的坐騎。對這位主人根深蒂固的恐懼令我們憂慮害怕,使我們不敢真的盡全力去反擊。

        就佛教的觀點,無明是「法」的敵人;然而,就世俗的角度來說,卻又被視為與「心」是形影不離的夥伴。我們這些修行的比丘有義務去擊敗已知是敵軍的思想與行為,在它們猛烈的攻擊中生存下來,從而擺脫它們陰險的掌控。就另一方面來說,那些順從無明的人也只能姑息養奸,任其蹂躪擺佈。這種在心理與情緒不安、奴隸般的束縛,其反作用力非常明顯,會波及到他們周圍的每一個人。不可避免地,無明以許多手段讓人受苦,讓人不得不認真關心起自己的福祉,並用盡一切可能的手段努力去反擊它。如果這意味著得要禁食與吃苦,那就這樣吧!他們一定會無怨無悔照著做。如果有必要的話,甚至願犧牲性命去彰顯佛法,而無明在這場勝利中將無立足之地。

        在阿姜曼的教導中,他總是鼓勵比丘們勇於努力消除壓迫心靈的苦。他自己徹底地觀透了無明及「法」,在他最後在心中清楚地看到結果浮現以前,以一種最全面周詳的方式來測試兩者。只有在達到這樣的成就之後,他才會回到東北部去弘揚他所證悟到的無上正法。

        阿姜曼的教學中有一項很突出、很重要的地方,那就是在他的教學生涯中,他不斷強調「五力」(三十七菩提分的五力):信力、精進力、念力、定力、慧力。他會這樣強調是因為他認為凡是擁有這五力的人就等於是有值得依靠的東西隨身。因此不管他身在何處,他都可以一直期望在禪修中取得穩健的進步。阿姜曼根據五力各自的特殊功能加以區分,以此激發出弟子們不屈不撓的精神。他對五力作出了如下由衷的詮釋:所謂的「信力」就是對佛陀說的「法」的信心與信仰;毫無疑問的,只要我們認真依法奉行,世上的每一個人都能完全接受正法之光。我們都必須接受有一天我們終將死亡的事實,但重點是:我們是被無明的惡性循環及業力果報的輪迴所擊敗?還是說,在我們死前就已克服並戰勝它們?沒有人願意被擊敗,即便是在運動競賽中的孩子也渴望勝利。因此我們應該振作起來,不該表現出未戰先降的樣子,被擊敗的人都必須一直忍受痛苦與煎熬,累積了這麼多的苦,仍找不到解決的方法。當他們試著想逃離苦難,唯一可行的解決方法似乎就是:死。這樣的死法正中敵人的下懷,這就是內心累積這麼多的苦,沒有多餘空間的結果。從慘敗中是得不到正面積極的結果。

        如果我們要光榮地死去,像世尊及阿羅漢一樣,那麼我們就必須跟他們一樣以同樣的信心、精進與忍耐去修行。我們必須跟他們一樣,對自己一切的身、語、意都保持正念。我們一定要很認真看待我們的修行,不能像一個沒有正念作支柱的人在面臨危機時一樣搖擺不定。我們必須在能夠產生佛陀所成就的圓滿結果這些因緣上堅定地建設我們的心。而偉大聖者的教法(sāsana),它教導人們從多方面去發展智慧,所以我們都應該深思。我們都不應該沉溺在愚癡中,就這樣無知地過一生。不會有人認為「愚痴」這個詞是一種讚美,愚痴的人是沒有用的,不管是成人、小孩、甚至是動物,如果他們很愚痴,那麼就幾乎一無是處。所以如果我們處於愚痴之中,有誰會來讚賞我們?我們都應該徹底分析這個議題,以免繼續深陷無知的泥淖中。在愚癡中打滾絕非滅苦之道,絕不可能期待這種人成為一位正遍知的頭陀比丘。

        這就是阿姜曼個人對五力的詮釋。他在自己的修行中有效地運用它,也這樣教導他的弟子們。對於喚起正念與觀智、以及對修行堅定的態度來說,不啻是一種優秀的教導。它非常適合在「法」與「無明」的這場拉鋸競賽中,已充分準備想要贏得終極勝利的頭陀比丘。最終極的成就就是解脫涅槃,也就是長期以來所期盼的最高勝利。
 

                         

Upon leaving the province of Ubon Ratchathani, Ãcariya Mun spent the next rainy season retreat at the village of Ban Nong Lat in the Warichabhum district of Sakon Nakhon province accompanied by the many monks and novices under his guidance. The lay men and women there reacted as if a truly auspicious person had arrived. They were all very excited – not in a frenzied way, but in an anticipatory way – at the prospect of doing good and abandoning evil. They abandoned their worship of spirits and ghosts to pay homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. At the end of the rains, Ãcariya Mun went wandering again until he arrived in the province of Udon Thani where he traveled to the districts of Nong Bua Lamphu and Ban Pheu. He stayed at the village of Ban Kho for the rains retreat while spending the following rains in the Tha Bo district of Nong Khai province. He remained practicing for some time in both these provinces.

As mentioned previously, Ãcariya Mun lived mostly in wilderness areas where villages were spaced far apart. Since the countryside was relatively unpopulated then, he could easily put the teaching into practice. Virgin forests abounded, full of great, tall trees which were still uncut. Wild animals were everywhere. As soon as night fell, their myriad calls could be heard echoing through the forest. Listening to such sounds, one is carried away by a sense of camaraderie and friendliness. The natural sounds of wild animals are not a hindrance to meditation practice, for they carry no specific meaning. The same cannot be said for human sounds. Be it chatting, singing, shouting, or laughing, the specific meaning is immediately obvious; and it is this significance that makes human sounds a hindrance to meditation practice. Monks are especially vulnerable to the sounds of the opposite sex. If their samãdhi is not strong enough, concentration can easily be destroyed. I must apologize to women everywhere because my intention here is not to criticize women in any way. It is the unsuccessful meditator that I am addressing here so that he may arouse mindfulness as an antidote to counter these influences and not merely surrender meekly to them. It’s possible that one reason monks prefer to live in mountains and forests is that it allows them to avoid such things in order to relentlessly pursue the perfection of spiritual qualities until they reach the ultimate goal of the holy life. Ãcariya Mun enjoyed living in forests and mountains right up until the day he passed away, a preference which helped him to attain the Dhamma he has so generously shared with all of us.

Ãcariya Mun said that if his meditation practice were compared to an illness, it would be a near-fatal one, since the training he undertook resembled physical and mental torture. There was hardly a single day when he could just relax, look around, and enjoy himself as other monks seemed to do. This was because the kilesas became tangled up with his heart so quickly that he barely had a chance to catch them. Should his mind wander for only a moment, the kilesas immediately gave him trouble. Once they had established a hold on his heart, their grip became ever tighter until he found it difficult to dislodge them. Consequently, he could never let his guard down. He had to remain totally alert, always ready to pounce on the kilesas, so they couldn’t gain the strength to bind him into submission. He practiced diligently in this manner until he had gained sufficient contentment to be able to relax somewhat. Only then did he develop the strength of heart and ease of body necessary to teach others. From that time forward – monks, novices, and lay people from all over the Northeast sought him out. Ãcariya Mun understood their situation and was very sympathetic toward them all. At certain times, so many people came to see him that there wasn’t enough room for them to stay. He also had to consider the safety of others, such as the women and nuns who came to visit him. For in those days, many tigers and other wild animals were in the outlying areas, but there were very few people.

Ãcariya Mun once stayed in a cave near Ban Namee Nayung village in the Ban Pheu district of Udon Thani province. Since many large tigers frequented the area around the cave, it was definitely not a safe place for visitors to remain overnight. When visitors came, Ãcariya Mun had the villagers build a very high bamboo platform – high enough to be beyond the reach of any hungry tiger which might try to pounce upon the sleeping person. Ãcariya Mun forbade the visitors to come down to the ground after dark, fearing that a tiger would carry them off and devour them. He told them to carry up containers for their toilet needs during the night. With so many vicious tigers there at night, Ãcariya Mun refused to allow visitors to stay long. He sent them away after a few days. These tigers were not afraid of people – especially not of women – and would attack if given the opportunity. On some nights when Ãcariya Mun was walking in meditation by the light of candle lanterns, he saw a large tiger boldly stalk a buffalo herd as it went past his area. The tiger had no fear of Ãcariya Mun as he paced back and forth. Sensing the tiger, the buffaloes instinctively headed for the village. Nevertheless, the tiger was still bold enough that it continued to follow them, even while a monk walked close by.

Monks who trained under Ãcariya Mun had to be prepared for anything, including the possibility of death, for danger was all around the various places where they practiced. They also had to give up any pride in their own self-worth and any sense of superiority regarding their fellow monks, thus allowing for a harmonious living situation as if they were different limbs on the same body. Their hearts then experienced a measure of contentment and, untroubled by mental hindrances, their samãdhi quickly developed. When a monk is constrained by living under certain restrictions – for example, living in a frightening place where the food is limited and the basic requisites are scarce – his mental activity tends to be supervised by mindfulness, which continuously restricts the thinking processes to the matter at hand. The citta is usually able to attain samãdhi faster than would normally be expected. Outside there is danger and hardship; inside mindfulness is firmly in control. In such circumstances the citta might be compared to a prisoner who submits willingly to his fate. In addition to these factors, the teacher is also there to straighten him out should he go astray. The monk who practices while hemmed in by hardship on all sides will see an improvement in his citta that exceeds all expectations.

Nighttime in the forest is a frightening time, so a monk forces himself to go out and do walking meditation to fight that fear. Who will win and who will lose? If fear loses, then the citta becomes courageous and ‘converges’ into a state of calm. If the heart loses, then the only thing that emerges is intense fear. The effect of intense fear in such a situation is a sensation of simultaneously being both hot and cold, of needing to urinate and defecate, of feeling breathless and being on the verge of death. The thing that encourages fear is the sound of a tiger’s roar. The sound of roaring may come from anywhere – from the foot of the mountain, from up on the ridge, or from out on the plains – but the monk will pay no attention to the direction. He will think only: “A tiger is coming here to devour me!” Walking all alone in meditation and so afraid that he’s shaking and useless, he is sure that it’s coming specifically for him. Not considering the broad terrain, it doesn’t occur to him that the tiger has four feet and might just be going somewhere else. His only thought is that the tiger is coming straight for his tiny plot of land – straight for this cowardly monk who is shaken by fear. Having completely forgotten his meditation practice, he has only one thought in mind which he repeats over and over again like a mantra: “The tiger’s coming here, the tiger’s coming here.” This negative train of thought merely intensifies his fear. The Dhamma in his heart is ready to disintegrate, and if, perchance, the tiger really were to wander accidentally into that place, he’d stand there mindlessly scared stiff at best; and at worst, something very unfortunate could happen.

It’s wrong to establish the citta with such a negative attitude. The ensuing results are bound to be harmful in some way. The correct approach is to focus the citta firmly on some aspects of Dhamma, either the recollection of death or some other Dhamma theme. Under such circumstances, one should never allow the mind to focus outward to imagined external threats and then bring those notions back in to deceive oneself. Whatever happens, life or death, one’s attention must be kept squarely on the meditation subject that one normally uses. A citta having Dhamma as its mainstay doesn’t lose its balance. Moreover, despite experiencing intense fear the citta is clearly strengthened, becoming courageous in a way that’s amazing beyond description.

Ãcariya Mun taught his disciples that becoming firmly established in the practice means putting everything on the line – both body and mind. Everything must be sacrificed except that aspect of Dhamma which is the fundamental object of attention. Whatever occurs, allow nature to take its course. Everyone who is born must die – such is the nature of this world. There’s no point in trying to resist it. Truth can not be found by denying the natural order of things. Ãcariya Mun taught that a monk must be resolute and brave in the face of death. He was particularly interested in having his disciples live in isolated wilderness areas infested with wild animals so that they could discover the virtues of meditation. Such places encourage the development of samãdhi and intuitive wisdom. Tigers can definitely help to stimulate Dhamma in our hearts – especially if we don’t stand in awe of the Lord Buddha because we fail to trust his teaching, but we do stand in awe of tigers because we are convinced how vicious they can be. This conviction is a very effective aid for corralling the mind and focusing it on Dhamma, using fear as an incentive to meditate until Dhamma arises within. Consequently, when that inner Dhamma is finally realized, belief in the Lord Buddha and the Dhamma he taught will arise naturally. At that critical moment, when one is alone in the wilderness, dormant faculties of samãdhi and wisdom will be stirred into action. If there is nothing to put pressure on the citta, it tends to become lazy and amass kilesas until it can barely function. A tiger can help to remove those kilesas which foster such a lazy and easy-going attitude that we forget ourselves and our own mortality. Once those insidious defilements disappear, we feel a sense of genuine relief whatever we do, for our hearts no longer shoulder that heavy burden.

Ãcariya Mun emphasized that monks should go to practice meditation in places that arouse fear and avoid places that do not; otherwise, they were unlikely to achieve any strange and marvelous results. More than that, the kilesas might well lead them so far astray that they end up losing sight of the spiritual path, which would be regrettable. He assured his monks that unless they lived in an environment which forced them to focus internally on themselves they would find it difficult to attain a stable state of calm and their meditation practice would suffer accordingly. On the other hand, the results were bound to be good in places where they were always alert to the possibility of danger, since mindfulness – the skillful means for directing the effort – was inevitably close at hand. No one who genuinely hopes to transcend dukkha should succumb to the fear of death while living in what are imagined to be frightening places – like remote wilderness areas. When faced with a real crisis situation, the focus of attention should be kept on Dhamma and not sent outside of the sphere of one’s own body and mind, which are the dwelling-place of Dhamma. Then the meditator can expect to experience a pervading sense of security and an inspired mental fortitude that are incontrovertible. In any case, unless that person’s kamma dictates that his time is up, he will not die at that time – no matter what he thinks.

Ãcariya Mun said that his inspiration for meditation was derived almost exclusively from living in dangerous environments, which is why he liked to teach his disciples to be resolute in threatening situations. Instead of merely relying on something vague like ‘inherent virtuous tendencies’ – which are usually more a convenient fiction than a reality– in this way, they had a chance to realize their aspirations in the shortest possible time. Relying on the rather vague concept of virtuous tendencies from the past is usually a sign of weakness and resignation– an attitude more likely to suppress mindfulness and wisdom than to promote them.

To say a monk has confidence that Dhamma is the basic guarantor of his life and practice means that he sincerely hopes to live and die by Dhamma. It is imperative that he not panic under any circumstance. He must be brave enough to accept death while practicing diligently in fearful places. When a crisis looms – no matter how serious it seems– mindfulness should be in continuous control of his heart so that it stays steadfastly firm and fully integrated with the object of meditation. Suppose an elephant, a tiger, or a snake threatens him: if he sincerely resolves to sacrifice his life for the sake of Dhamma those things won’t dare to cause him any harm. Having no fear of death, he will experience the courageous feeling that he can walk right up to those animals. Instead of feeling threatened, he will feel deep within his heart a profound friendship toward them which dispels any sense of danger. As human beings we possess Dhamma in our hearts, in a way that animals do not. For this reason, our hearts exert a powerful influence over animals of all types. It makes no difference that animals are incapable of knowing this fact; there exists in our hearts a mysterious quality that has a soothing effect on them. This quality is the potent, protective power of Dhamma which softens their hearts to the point where they don’t dare act threateningly. This mysterious power of the heart is something experienced internally by the individual. Others can be aware of it only if they have special intuitive knowledge. Even though Dhamma is taught and studied all over the world, it still remains a mystery if the heart has yet to attain any level of understanding in Dhamma. When the heart and Dhamma truly become one, all doubts concerning the heart and Dhamma disappear on their own because the nature of the heart and the nature of Dhamma share the same exquisite, subtle qualities. Once that state is reached, it is correct to say that the heart is Dhamma and Dhamma is the heart. In other words, all contradictions cease once the kilesas have been eliminated.

Normally the heart has become such an extension of the kilesas that we are unaware of its intrinsic value. This happens because the heart is so thoroughly impregnated with kilesas that the two become indistinguishable. The heart’s real value is then obscured from view. If we allow this condition to continue indefinitely because we are indifferent about finding a solution, neither our hearts nor Dhamma will have any actual value for us. Even were we to be born and die hundreds of times, it would simply be a matter of exchanging one set of dirty clothes for another set of dirty clothes. No matter how many times we change in and out of dirty clothes we cannot escape the fact that we remain filthy. Which is certainly very different from someone who takes off his dirty clothes and exchanges them for nice clean ones. Similarly, the interchange between good and evil within the heart is an important problem that each of us should take personal responsibility for and investigate within ourselves. No one else can carry this burden for us and so give us peace of mind. It’s extremely important that each and every one of us be aware that, in both the present and the future, we alone are responsible always for our own progress. The only exceptions are those, like the Lord Buddha and the Arahant disciples, who carefully developed themselves spiritually until they attained a state of total security. For them the job is completed, the ultimate goal secure. These are the Noble individuals that the rest of us take as our refuge, providing us hope for the future. Even miscreants who still understand the difference between right and wrong will take the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as their refuge. They at least have enough sense to feel some remorse. Just as good people and bad people alike feel a natural dependence on their parents, so people of all kinds instinctively look to the Buddha as a dependable refuge.

ÃCARIYA MUN EMPLOYED many training methods with his monks to ensure that they saw clear results in their practice. Those who practiced with unwavering faith in his instructions were able to achieve such results to their own satisfaction. By following the power of his example, they became knowledgeable, respected teachers themselves. They in turn have passed on these training methods to their own disciples, so that they too can witness for themselves, through their own efforts, that the paths and fruits of the Buddha’s teaching are still attainable today; that they have not completely disappeared. When looking at the life he lived and the methods he employed in training others, it is fair to say that Ãcariya Mun followed a practice of deprivation. He and his disciples lived in conditions of virtual poverty in places where even the basic necessities were lacking. The simple daily requisites they depended on were usually in short supply. Encountering such an uncertain existence, those accustomed to living in carefree abundance would probably be utterly dismayed. There being nothing in this difficult lifestyle to attract them, they would surely find it most disagreeable. But the monks themselves, though they lived like prison inmates, did so voluntarily for the sake of Dhamma. They lived for Dhamma, and accepted the inconvenience and hardship associated with its practice. These conditions, which are seen as torture by people who have never submitted to them, were actually a convenient spiritual training ground for the monks who practiced in this way. Due to their determination to endure hardship and poverty it is appropriate to call this the practice of deprivation; for such living conditions naturally go against the grain. Monks had to literally force themselves to live in this way. During all their normal daily activities, they were required to resist the physical and mental pressure to simply follow their natural inclinations.

Sometimes it was necessary to endure days of fasting and hunger for the purpose of accelerating the practice of meditation. These periods, when monks abstain from food altogether despite their hunger, are days of uninterrupted dedication to the practice. The physical discomfort at such times is obvious, but the purpose of enduring hunger is to increase mental vigilance. In truth, fasting is a very suitable method for certain temperaments. Some types of people find that if they eat food every day their bodies tend to be vigorous but the mental endeavor – meditation– fails to progress. Their minds remain sluggish, dull and timid, so a solution is needed. One solution is to try either reducing the intake of food each day or going without food altogether, fasting – sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a longer period – and carefully observing all the while the method that gives the best results. Once it becomes apparent that a certain method is suitable, that method should be pursued intensively. For instance, should a monk discover that fasting for many days at a stretch is suitable to his temperament, then it’s imperative that he accept the necessity of following that path. Though it may well be difficult, he must put up with it because he inevitably wants to gain the appropriate knowledge and skill to go beyond dukkha.

A person whose temperament is suited to long-term fasting will notice that the more he fasts the more prominent and courageous his heart is in confronting the various objects of the senses that were once its enemies. His mental attitude is bold, his focus sharp. While sitting in samãdhi his heart can become so absorbed in Dhamma that it forgets the time of day; for when the heart contacts Dhamma there is no longer any concern with the passage of time or pangs of hunger. At that time, he is aware only of the delight experienced at that level of Dhamma which he has achieved. In this frame of mind, the conditions are right for catching up with kilesas, such as laziness, complacency, and restlessness, since they are inactive enough then for the meditator to get the better of them for the time being. If we hesitate, waiting around for a more auspicious time to tackle them, the kilesas will awaken first and give us more trouble. It’s quite likely we’d be unable to handle them then. We could easily end up being ‘elephants’ for the kilesas, as they mount us, straddle our necks, and beat us – our hearts – into submission. For in truth our hearts have been the ‘elephants’ and the kilesas the ‘mahouts’ for an infinitely long time. A deep-rooted fear of this master makes us so apprehensive that we never really dare to fight back with the best of our abilities.

From the Buddha’s perspective, the kilesas are the enemies of Dhamma; yet, from the vantage point of the world, the kilesas are considered our hearts’ inseparable companions. It is incumbent upon us, who practice the Buddha’s teaching, to battle the thoughts and deeds that are known to be our enemies, so that we can survive their onslaught, and thus become free of their insidious control. On the other hand, those who are satisfied to follow the kilesas have no choice but to pamper them, dutifully obeying their every command. The repercussions of such slavery are all too obvious in the mental and emotional agitation affecting those people and everyone around them. Inevitably, the kilesas cause people to suffer in a multitude of harmful ways, making it imperative for someone sincerely caring about his own well-being to fight back diligently using every available means. If this means abstaining from eating food and suffering accordingly, then so be it; one has no regrets. If necessary, even life itself will be sacrificed to honor the Buddha’s teaching, and the kilesas will have no share in the triumph.

In his teachings, Ãcariya Mun encouraged his monks to be courageous in their efforts to transcend the dukkha oppressing their hearts. He himself had thoroughly investigated the kilesas and Dhamma, testing both in a most comprehensive fashion before he finally saw the results emerge clearly in his own heart. Only after this attainment did he return to the Northeast to teach the incomparable Dhamma that he then understood so well.

ONE PROMINENT ASPECT of Ãcariya Mun’s teaching, which he stressed continuously during his career, was the Dhamma of the five powers:faith, diligent effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. He said the reason for emphasizing these five factors was that a person who possessed them would always have something worthwhile to count on, no matter where he went; and, therefore, he could always expect to make steady progress in his practice. Ãcariya Mun separated them according to their specific functions, using them to inspire an indomitable spirit in his disciples. He gave them his own heartfelt interpretation as follows:Saddhã is faith in the Dhamma that the Lord Buddha presented to the world. There’s no doubt that each of us in this world is perfectly capable of receiving the light of Dhamma – provided we practice the way in earnest. We all accept the fact that we will have to die some day. The key issue is: will we die defeated by the cycle of kilesas and the cycle of kamma and its results? Or, will we overcome them, defeating them all before we die? No one wants to be defeated. Even children who compete at sports are keen on winning. So we should rouse ourselves and not act as if defeated already. The defeated must always endure suffering and anguish, accumulating so much dukkha that they cannot find a way out. When they do seek escape from their misery, the only viable solution seems to be: It’s better to die. Death under those conditions is precisely defeat at the hands of one’s enemy. It is a result of piling up so much dukkha inside that there’s no room for anything else. Positive results cannot be gained from abject defeat.

If we are to die victorious, like the Lord Buddha and the Arahants, then we must practice with the same faith, effort, and forbearance as they did. We must be mindful in all our bodily and mental activities, as they were. We must take our task very seriously and not waver uncertainly like someone facing a crisis without mindfulness to anchor him. We should establish our hearts firmly in those causes that give rise to the satisfactory results that the Buddha himself attained. The sãsana【譯按:sãsana指教義。】 is the teaching of a great sage who taught people that they too can develop wisdom in all its many aspects. So we should reflect on what he taught. We should not wallow in stupidity, living our whole lives in ignorance. No one considers the word ‘stupid’ to be a compliment. Stupid people are no use. Adults, children, even animals – if they are stupid, they are hardly any use at all. So if we remain stupid, who’s going to admire us for it? We should all analyze this matter thoroughly to avoid remaining bogged down in ignorance. Wallowing in ignorance is not the way to overcome dukkha, and it is definitely not becoming for a dhutanga monk– who is expected to skillfully analyze everything.

This was Ãcariya Mun’s own personal interpretation of the five powers. He used it effectively in his own practice and taught it to his disciples as well. It is excellent instruction for inspiring mindfulness and wisdom, and an uncompromising attitude towards practice. It is highly suitable for dhutanga monks who are fully prepared to compete for the ultimate victory in the contest between Dhamma and the kilesas. This ultimate attainment is the freedom of Nibbãna, the long-wished-for supreme victory.