阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第二章第六節:畢業教學

       

                                

            

第二章第六節:畢業教學

    有一次,一位追隨阿姜曼很久的弟子回憶說,在他指導下的許多沙彌和比丘bhikkhu都能表現出已解脫了無明。雖然大家都住在一起,卻沒有人有不如法的言行。不管是獨自一人,或與他人一起履行比丘的義務,或參與聚會,所有人都是平靜與安詳。沒有聽過比丘與阿姜曼討論禪修問題的那些人,只能從外觀去推測他們可能已是阿羅漢;但只有當他建議這些比丘如何在禪修上解決特定的問題時,真相才會昭然若揭。每個比丘都會根據各自的成就獲得建議:從基本的止與觀的技巧到更深層的定與內明。

        不論是指導個別弟子的問題或是對全體的開示,阿姜曼總是表現出一貫的堅定自信。他所開示的法都是他內在實證的經驗,聽眾都能全然領會。他從不依靠臆測,譬如「可能是這樣」或「可能是那樣」。聽眾也都相信他教的法潛藏在內心裡。雖然他們尚未達到,但只要他們努力不懈,有一天他們自己一定能證得。

        阿姜曼會根據聽眾的個性與理解的程度而調整他的談話內容,使在場的每個人都能因而獲得利益。他仔細解釋了所有階段的內容,以確保在禪修上不同程度的人都能理解並應用到各自的修行上,得到滿意的結果。當教導在家人的時候,他通常會強調佛法中適合在家人聽聞的部分 —— 例如:布施、持戒(道德)、禪定的開展 —— 做為他們修行的基礎。他解釋,這三種法都是生為人身的基本標準,也是佛法的基礎。能出生為人,必定於過去前生曾培育過這三種法。至少其中一項必須已臻成熟,才能催化為一個完整的人身。

        慷慨的布施是表達善意的一種方式。有高尚聖潔的心並關心需要幫助的人類與動物的人們,會根據對方的需要去犧牲並分享自己的幸福。不管是物質上的財施,法布施,任何知識技術的布施,都是一種使他人受惠、不求任何回報的付出,這也包括寬恕那些犯錯或行為偏差的人。那些有愛心並無私奉獻的人,不論其外貌如何,在同輩中肯定是傑出、親切的好人。一切的天神、人類、動物都會尊敬並珍惜此人。不論他去哪裡,都一定會遇到貴人相助。他們絕不會遭受嚴重的貧困與苦難。很明顯的,慈善家在社會上永不退流行,也鮮少被人厭惡。就算一個富有但小氣吝嗇的人也喜歡別人送他禮物 —— 那就更不要說那些希望受人幫助的不幸窮人了。由於布施的力量,那些已經開展出布施習慣的人一定不會出生在生活艱困的地方。布施與奉獻會一直維持世界的平衡與繁榮,只要人類重視犧牲奉獻與互相幫助,在世上的生命是有意義的。慷慨的人都一定好客熱情並樂於助人,使這個世界成為一個更美好的地方。就這個意義來說,布施對我們每個人都絕對重要,少了它,世上的生命將會變得乾涸與貧瘠。

        持戒(道德)是一道能有效防止人類傷害或破壞彼此的物質或精神財富的柵欄,也就是那些每個人都該有且不該流失的良好品德的基礎。沒有道德去保護及維護內在精神財富的人就像橫掃肆虐人類社會的大火。少了道德的防護制約,暴力與破壞就在世上猖獗橫行,沒有人可以安全棲身。只要人們相信物質財富的價值勝過道德,他們就不可能有真正的安全。這樣,就算世界的經濟蓬勃發展,財富堆到如太陽一般的高,仍然無法給世間帶來真正的幸福快樂。

        道德是佛陀將人性的完美予以具體化的基礎,他揭露出這個事實,以此為方法,讓一個對苦感到困惑與恐懼的世界,可依賴持戒的力量而生活在清涼、安心的信任之光裡。被無明盤踞的人往往會有讓世界陷入水深火熱的邪思惟,而最終自取其咎。如果放任這些邪思惟,將被無明所掌控,甚至道德全都蕩然無存,那麼他們必將創造出無數有毒的「怪獸」,遍及整個世界,吞噬路上一切的生物。像世尊一樣有無上正思惟的人,也就是心中已徹底斷除一切雜染無明的人,只會在世上製造出令人愉快的和平與幸福。與受無明唆使並造成我們每一個人都難以忍受的思惟模式相比,這種差別很明顯,我們都應該找出解決這個問題的方法,趁為時已晚之前及時阻止這種思惟的洪流。道德就像一帖良藥,能抵禦傳染病與慢性感染病。至少,罹患了「無明熱」的病人,在道德修持中可找到一些緩解的方法與痊癒的希望。不僅如此,它還可能有痊癒的療效。

        阿姜曼因為慈悲,經常教導在家人持戒的功德與不持戒的後患。這些開示都直入人心,令人印象深刻,聽過他對在家人的開示後,我發現我自己也忍不住想要持守五戒 —— 卻忘了,身為一名比丘,我都已經持守兩百二十七條具足戒了!聽他說話,我都被熱情征服了,失去好一陣子的正念。當我終於清醒過來,我感到相當地尷尬,因為怕別的比丘會認為我瘋了,所以我沒跟別人提過這件事。事實上,那個時候我真的有點瘋,因為我都忘了自己已剃度,還一度以為自己是持五戒的在家人。這是我們都會面臨的難題:當思惟錯誤,最終我們也會以錯誤的方式行動。因此,我們都必須在一切時刻都念念分明 —— 不管念頭是善或是惡,是對或是錯,都念念分明、清楚覺知。我們必須持續駕馭自己的念頭;不然的話,它們會很容易失去控制。

        禪修就意味著在因果法則方面要把心訓練得聰敏與客觀,使我們能有效地安於自己內在的心路歷程及其相關事項,而不是放任「心」四處亂闖、亂撞。我們靠禪修來駕馭不羈的念頭,將它們導向正軌 —— 也就是一條走向平靜與知足之道。未經禪修訓練的心就等同於一隻未經訓練的動物,無法正確履行被指派的任務,也因此,可能變得沒什麼用處。它一定得經過訓練才能從事這些工作,並從工作中獲取最大的利益。同理,當我們從事日常活動時,我們的心也應該透過了解自己的方法來訓練,不論它們是「名」nāma或「色」,粗大或細小,可見或不可見。

        那些「定下心錨」使「心」能仔細反思自己在做什麼的人,當錯誤有可能會傷及自己或其他相關的人時,一定不會在不確定的情況下去冒不必要的危險。禪修的開展會帶來明確的利益,而且是即刻與未來的利益,但最重要的是我們在今生此時此刻所體驗到的一切。有培養禪修習性的人,不管他們想要把「心」置於何種境界,都一定會成功。他們不會半途而廢,且都是深思熟慮,並著眼於工作完成所帶來的利益。這樣,人們就能滿意回首於自己勞動的成果。因為有禪修的人都堅定地依靠理智,所以能毫無困難地自律。他們堅奉真理為一切「身」、「口」、「意」的指導原則,留意不讓自己陷入無明生起的種種誘惑:想去那裡、想去這裡、想要這樣做、想要那樣說、想要這樣想 —— 沒有對、錯、善、惡的準則。渴愛是一種相當有破壞性的雜染,往往使我們反覆陷入無盡的痛苦中。事實上,該怪的不是別人而是自己,所以我們只能徒留悔恨,期待下次做得更好。當有足夠的正念時,我們就可以逆轉這個傾向。但如果我們沒有足夠的正念去反思這些事,那麼我們所做的一切都會造成反效果,而且有時勢所難免。這就是無明真正的關鍵點 —— 它們不可避免地把我們帶往痛苦。

        若要和由煩惱kilesas所引起的不如法事務劃清界限,禪修是一種好方法。禪修的技術方法在實際的修行上可能會有些困難,但那是因為這些方法都是對「心」施加壓力,使「心」受到掌控,有點像是在馴服一隻猴子。禪修的技術方法實際上就是開發自覺的方法,這意味著在「觀察」一顆不滿足於靜止、就像一個被滾水燙傷的人跳了起來的心。觀察「心」需要正念,使我們能察覺到它的律動。這需要從諸多的「業處」中選擇一種來當作念住的對象,讓「心」在禪修期間保持穩定與寧靜。廣受歡迎並帶來善果的方法就是念住呼吸,而其他受歡迎的方法還包括像使用buddho(佛陀)、dhammo(法)、sangho(僧)等字的默念復誦,或順逆默念kesā」(頭髮)、「lomā」(身毛)、「nakhā」(指甲)、「dantā」(牙)、「taco」(皮),或「念死」,或任何看似最適合的業處都可以。「心」被迫在禪修期間只停在業處上,當「心」繫念於特定的業處,使之成為一個好的、安穩的念住對象時,平靜與喜樂就一定會隨之生起。

        一般所謂的「輕安」或「將入定的心」就是一種內在安定、平靜的境界,此時已不再與剛開始所專注的對象有所連結,僅因保持穩定而使心做好了準備。一旦「心」入了定,心就有足夠的能量能維繫在定境中,並獨立於前行的準備業處。之後,當「心」退出定境,如果時間還允許,「心」就會再度重新專注在最初的業處之上。當持續專心致力於這樣的修行,長期浸泡在苦中的「心」將會逐漸了解到自己的潛能並捨棄其不善巧之處。駕馭「心」在初期所經歷的掙扎艱辛,不久將會被一股修行的熱枕所取代。

        當「心」入了「定」,將會體驗到難忘的寧靜與祥和。就算只發生過一次,也是一種很振奮人心及難以抹滅的經驗。如果接下來不再發生,一種難以形容的失落感及渴望將會有很長的一段時間在心中縈繞。只有當更進一步愈來愈漸漸專注於微妙的定境,當初失去定境的挫敗才會被遺忘。

        當聽到禪修時,你可能感到苦惱,並覺得身心都無法適任而不願嘗試。你可能會這麼想:「命運肯定在作弄我,我不可能做得到。我家庭與工作上的責任與義務會造成困難,我還有很多的社會義務,像養育兒女及照顧兒孫。如果我浪費時間坐在那裡閉目靜坐,我一定無法維持家計,到最後可能會餓死。」

        因為這樣,你就會心灰意冷,並錯失良機。這種思維模式深埋在每一個人的心裡,這很可能就是長久以來一直在阻礙你滅苦的那種思惟;如果你現在還不趕緊補救,它就會一直這樣。

        禪修實際上就是一種對治並緩解長期以來在心理上一直困擾我們的一切苦惱與困擾的方法。禪修跟世上的那種舒緩疼痛與不適的方法不同;比較像是在天氣炎熱時沐浴;天氣冷的時候穿上溫暖的衣服或坐在火堆旁;或我們飢餓的時候會吃與喝;或我們生病時吃藥來緩解症狀。這些都是世上各年齡層的人用來減輕痛苦的方法,沒有人會因為太麻煩或太困難而不做。各種民族與各種社會階層的人都一定是這樣照顧自己,就連動物也必須找食物來減緩不適並日復一日生存下去。同樣地,經由禪修而開發心智也是一種自我照顧很重要的方法,它是我們應該要特別感興趣的工作,因為它直接處理「心」的問題,也就是我們一切行為的中央協調樞紐。

        當涉及到與我們自身有關的一切時,「心」就會站在最前線。換言之,對一切來說,「心」絕對不可或缺。它(心)別無選擇,必須沒有差別且毫不猶疑地在一切情況下承擔起責任。不管發生什麼事,「心」都被迫介入並立即接管,不受是非或對錯等觀念所影響。雖然有些情況令人沮喪而難以忍受,「心」仍無畏一肩挑起責任,不顧風險及自身固有的侷限性。不僅如此,它一遍又一遍背誦一長串的念頭,直到有時幾乎無法吃飯與睡覺。儘管如此,在前方衝鋒陷陣的「心」拒絕承認失敗。當我們從事身體方面的活動,到了該休息的時候就會知道還有多少力氣。但我們的心理活動卻從不休息 —— 除非是我們暫時睡著了。即使如此,「心」仍堅持保持活躍,潛意識粗製濫造出無數不斷超出其應付能力的夢幻影像。於是,「心」以一種難以忍受的不滿存在,卻從未明白這種不滿與其繁重的工作負荷及因其產生出難以忍受的心理壓力有直接的關係。

        因為「心」總是處於備戰狀態,所以可稱其為「戰士」。不管是面對好的或壞的,它都會與之交戰,從未停下來反思,它與出現的每一件事都開戰。不管什麼東西出現,它都會毫無例外堅持與之開戰,不放過任何一件事。既然它不在乎路上會遇到什麼,那麼把「心」稱作「戰士」是很適當的。如果身體尚存,而「心」卻還未能面對現實接受困境,它就會無止盡地戰鬥下去,無法解脫。如果「心」無止盡的慾望沒有「法」來節制,那麼不管坐擁多龐大的財富,真正的幸福仍是遙不可及。物質財富本身並非真正的幸福之源,因為如果缺少內在的「法」,就猶如缺少一處可供休憩的綠洲,很容易就會變成不滿之源。

        智者跟我們保證過「法」就是監管物質財富與精神福祉的力量。不管我們有的財富是多或是少,如果我們心中有某程度的「法」,我們都將享有充分的幸福感。如果沒有「法」的支持而聽任慾望放肆,那麼即便握有如山一般高的財富,心也一定無法找到真正的幸福。聰明的人不會執著於財富,僅是用它來獲得身心愉悅的資助。如果「心」對於解脫之道不夠了解,或根本對「法」就沒興趣,那麼不管我們的選擇是什麼,所處的地方都會像是荒蕪之地。「心」及其財富最終會變成累積過多的廢物 —— 對我們的精神開展沒有用的東西。

        當一個修梵行的人在面臨逆境時,沒有任何東西會像「心」一樣堅韌且富有彈性。「心」若接受了適當的援助,它就會變成某種很奇妙的東西,在一切情況下都讓我們能引以為傲及滿意。從出生到現在,我們殘酷地剝削我們的「心」。如果我們以對待「心」的方式對待我們的車子,那麼將車子送去給維修廠再也沒有意義,因為它在很久以前早已經變成一堆廢金屬了。我們所使用的每一件東西都必須接受一定的維修與保養,以確保它能繼續使用。「心」也不例外,而且是一個需要受到好好照料與維護的極重要資源,就像我們對待其他財產一般。

        禪修是一種專為「心」所設計的療法。畢竟,「心」是我們最珍貴的資產,真有興趣對自己的「心」負起責任的我們,就該以正確及適當的方法來好好照顧它們。這意味著可經由適當的禪修技巧來訓練我們的心。就拿汽車來比喻:意思是去觀察「心」的各種不同零件組合,看有什麼地方有缺陷或損壞;然後將它送進車廠作一次心靈的大整修。而這必須靠靜坐,來觀察心的組合成分,或諸行(蘊),構成我們的「想」(思惟);確認思想的外觀是有益或有害的,是否在痛苦與折磨之火中有添加了燃料。因此,「觀」可以搞清楚「想」(思惟)中有價值與缺陷的地方。然後,我們應該把注意力轉向色身的組合成分;也就是,我們的身體。看看我們的身體是否隨著年齡的增長而不斷改善?還是隨著時間的流逝一年又一年週而復始地惡化?身體的狀況是否每一天愈來愈好?還是不可避免地每況愈下?我們是否沒有做好心理準備、以為自己還有很多時間而自滿?一旦我們死了,再行動都為時已晚。這就是禪修的意義所在:透過觀察自己的缺點,確認有什麼地方需要改進,進而告誡並指導自己。當我們以這樣的方式持續去「觀」,那麼無論是在禪修靜坐,抑或平時日常活動,「心」都會保持寧靜與泰然自若。對於生命,我們該學習不要自以為是,以免助長不快樂的火焰。而我們也將知道在思想與行動中如何穩健適當地處事,不會迷失而身陷可能招致災難的後患當中。

        禪修的功德利益(好處)多到不勝枚舉,所以阿姜曼常以適合在家人的修行水準來對他們開示。而他對比丘與沙彌的開示就很不一樣。我在此記錄下這些,以使他的教學增添風味。有些人會發現我似乎囊括了太多的東西,或甚至讓人反感;但如果我沒有傳達出他整個教學,那麼說明就會不完整。我已經努力彙整這些教學,並希望讀者們能批評指教,讓我從中受益並得到鼓勵。因此不論你們的批評是不是善意,我都會虛心接受;但請不要責怪阿姜曼,因為他沒有參與撰寫本書。

        阿姜曼只有對他親近的弟子開示過較高深的教學,但作者實在有些忍不住,故而走訪以前曾追隨過阿姜曼的學生,並蒐集他們的口述。我記錄下這些資訊,是讓讀者可一窺他的禪修,即使內容不是很完整。阿姜曼的修行模式相當的堅定與嚴格,不論是在嚴格的頭陀行或完美聖潔的品德,以及熟練的內觀技巧上,可以肯定地說,他的弟子們都無法與他相比。到今天為止,仍無能出其右者。

        阿姜曼曾說過,當他住在烏隆府及廊開府的山裡時,空居天及地居天的諸神有時會來參訪他並聽他說法。有一些天神會固定每兩個禮拜來一次,有些是只有一個月來一次。從那個地區來的諸神並不像那些清邁府的地居天神一樣常來參訪他。在適當的時候我會陳述這些經驗,但現在讓我繼續接下來的內容,以免混淆主題。

        阿姜曼說了一個住著龍神的大城市,這座城市位於寮國龍坡邦的西邊山區下。當他住在那裡的時候,龍王經常帶著牠的隨從一起來聽法,而有時候是一大群。空居與地居諸神在聽法時都會提出很多的問題,但龍神的問題往往遠比諸神少得多。然而,這一類非人族群,在聽法時仍是抱著一樣的恭敬心。阿姜曼住在山腳下的那段期間,龍王幾乎每晚都會來參訪他。只有在特殊的情況下,龍王才會帶領大批的隨從一起來,而阿姜曼總會事先知道牠們即將來訪。由於地處偏僻,阿姜曼在那個時候很少與人接觸,所以他可以特別招待龍神與諸神。龍神來訪的時間不會太晚,差不多是在晚上十點或十一點左右,這可能是因為他住的地方很偏僻的緣故。龍神們為了表達對阿姜曼至深的敬意,牠們請求阿姜曼憐憫牠們並一直生活在該處。牠們甚至會安排日夜保護他,輪流看顧他。牠們不會靠得太近,始終保持一段方便的距離,近到能觀察可能突發的一切狀況;另一方面,諸神通常會比龍神還要晚來參訪他 —— 大約都是在凌晨一、兩點左右的時候。如果他遠離村莊,住在山裡的時候,諸神有時就會來得比較早,差不多是晚間十點或十一點左右。這並沒有一定的時間,但諸神通常都是在午夜以後來訪。

        阿姜曼中年的時候,他日常生活的例行模式如下:吃過飯後他會經行到中午,然後稍事歇息一下。在休息的時候,他會靜坐一個半小時,然後再繼續經行到下午四點。接著,他會清掃居住環境,洗澡,然後繼續經行到傍晚七或八點,之後他會回到小屋再次靜坐。如果靜坐之後沒有下雨,他會繼續經行到深夜。又或者時間已經很晚,他才會回去就寢。他通常是在晚上十一點就寢,凌晨三點起床。阿姜曼通常會事先知道諸神即將來訪,如果祂們是在午夜以後來訪,他會在接見祂們之前先休息。如果祂們是預計在午夜十一點到凌晨之間來訪,他就會入定等候祂們。以上就是他那段期間的整個生活作息。

        當空居與地居諸神都希望在同一個晚上來訪時,阿姜曼會先接待第一批訪客,為祂們說法,回答祂們的問題,然後告訴祂們下一批訪客就快來了。第一批訪客就會及時離去,後到的天神會在一定的距離恭敬等候,然後才進入。接著他會開始為第二批天神說適合祂們聽聞的法。有時候諸神之王devarāja會主動請求特定的主題,阿姜曼就會集中心念在特定的佛法主題之上。當他心中覺得產生了這方面的知見時,便開始說法。有時諸神之王會請求阿姜曼講述一部他不熟悉的古老經典。於是阿姜曼會問祂們如果翻成現代的用語是什麼意思,諸神之王也會跟他解釋。通常阿姜曼會理解諸神所請求的經典,但有時他會作進一步的確認。也有時候,諸神會請求他講述一部他以為他很確定的經典,但他一開始說時,諸神就會告訴他誤會了,那不是祂們要聽的經典。為了使他想起來,諸神會誦出該部經典中的一些偈語。通常他聽到一、兩段偈語後,就能正確地想起是哪一部經典。只有當他確定主題正確後,他才開始說法。

        在極為罕見的情況下,來自各界的空居與地居諸神會同時與龍神一起來聽法,這跟人類社會中不同的團體一起出現去拜訪老師的情形並不一樣。如果這種情況經常發生,他通常會隨大家的方便在不同時間安排他們來聽法。根據阿姜曼的說法,就算他住在深山叢林中,他還是沒有太多的空閒時間,因為他還是要處理這麼多來自不同天界的訪客。如果某個特別的夜晚,沒有任何空居天神來參訪他,就一定會有來自某處或其他地方的地居天神來找他,所以他很少有屬於自己的時間。還好,在這種偏僻的地方不太會有人來造訪。但如果他待在村莊或城鎮裡,就會有來自各地的人來拜訪他,而他就會在下午或傍晚時分接見這些人,然後再教導比丘及沙彌。

 

    

Once a senior disciple of Ãcariya Mun recalled that the many monks and novices living under his guidance tended to behave as though free from kilesas. Although they lived together in a large group, no one behaved in an unseemly manner. Whether they were on their own, in the company of others performing their duties, or attending a meeting, all were calm and composed. Those, who had never heard the monks discuss their levels of meditation with Ãcariya Mun, might well suspect from observing them that they were all full-fledged Arahants. The truth became apparent only when he advised the monks on how to solve specific problems in their meditation. Each monk was advised according to his level of achievement: from basic concentration and wisdom techniques to the higher levels of concentration and insight.

Whether addressing the problems of individual disciples or instructing the whole assembly, Ãcariya Mun always displayed the same uncompromising self-assurance. His audience was fully aware that the Dhamma he expounded was something he had actually realized within himself. He never relied on speculative assessments, such as, ‘it could be like this’ or ‘it might be like that’. Those listening were also fully convinced that the Dhamma he taught existed potentially within all of them. Even though they had not achieved it yet, surely they would realize it for themselves one day, provided they did not falter in their efforts.

Ãcariya Mun modified his talks according to the character and the level of his listeners’ understanding, so that everyone who was present gained some benefit from the assembly. He was careful in explaining the teaching in all its stages, ensuring that listeners at different levels of meditation were able to understand and apply it to their individual practice in order to attain satisfactory results. When teaching lay people, he usually emphasized aspects of Dhamma that were suitable to their situation – such as, generosity, moral virtue(之前), and meditative development– as the basis for their practice. He explained that these three dhammas are the basic criteria needed for birth in the human world and so are the foundation of the sãsana. Someone born as a human being must necessarily have cultivated these three dhammas in the past. At least one of them must have been previously developed to serve as a catalyst for being born fully human.

Generosity is a means of demonstrating one’s goodwill. People, who are noble-hearted and considerate toward fellow human beings and animals in-need, sacrifice and share some of their own good fortune according to their means. Whether it’s a gift of material goods, a gift of Dhamma, or a gift of knowledge of any sort, it is a gift freely given to benefit others without expectation of anything in return, except the good results of the act of giving itself. This also includes the generous gesture of forgiving those who behave wrongly or offensively. Those who are benevolent and prone to selfless giving are bound to be gracious people who stand out among their peers, irrespective of their physical appearance. Devas, humans, and animals all revere and cherish them. Wherever they go there will always be someone willing to help them. They never suffer acute poverty and hardship. Quite clearly, philanthropists in society are never out of fashion and rarely disliked. Even a wealthy, but stingy person looks forward to gifts from others – not to mention the hapless poor who have little hope of someone helping them. Due to the power of generosity, those who have developed a habit of giving will never be born into a world where they must live in hardship. Donors and their generosity have always served to maintain balance and prosperity in the world. As long as people still value selfsacrifice and extend a helping hand to one another, life on this earth will always have meaning. Generous people are inevitably hospitable and supportive, which makes the world a better place to live. In this sense, generosity is absolutely essential for us all. Without it, life in this world would be a parched and barren existence.

Moral virtue is effectively a barrier that prevents people from abusing or destroying each other’s material and spiritual wealth. It’s the very basis of those special good qualities that every human being should have, and should never let slip away. People who do not have moral virtue to protect and maintain their inner wealth are like a fire raging through human society. Without morality’s protective restraint, mistreatment and destruction would run rampant in the world to the point where there would hardly be an island of security left where a person could rest in peace. As long as people believe that material wealth is more valuable than moral virtue, they will have no real security. In such a case, even if the world economy were to flourish until material wealth was piled as high as the sun, the sun’s heat would be no match for the scorching heat of an immoral world.

Moral virtue is the true foundation of human perfection that was personified by the Lord Buddha. He uncovered this truth, presenting it as a means by which a world confused and fearful of dukkha might rely on its restraining power to live in the cool, soothing glow of trust. Left to their own devices, people with kilesas will tend to think in ways that make the world oppressively hot. If these thoughts are allowed free rein, powered by the kilesas and untempered by even a hint of moral virtue, they will surely create innumerable poisonous ‘monsters’ that will spread throughout the world to devour everything in their path. The thoughts of a supremely virtuous person like the Lord Buddha, who totally eliminated the kilesas from his heart, produce only welcome peace and happiness in the world. Compare this with the thought patterns instigated by the kilesas that cause us, and everyone else, unimaginable trouble. The difference is obvious enough that we should want to search for a way to resolve this problem and stem the tide of such thoughts before it is too late. Moral virtue is like a medicine that counteracts infectious diseases as well as chronic ones. At the very least, a patient who is sick with the ‘kilesa-fever’ can find some measure of relief and hope of recovery in the practice of moral virtue. More than that, it may just effect a complete cure.

Out of his compassion, Ãcariya Mun used to instruct lay people on both the merits of moral virtue and the faults of having no moral standard. These instructions went straight to the heart and were so impressive that, in hearing his advice to lay people, I found myself thinking that I too would like to keep the five moral precepts – forgetting that, as a monk, I was already observing 227 monastic rules! I was overcome with enthusiasm to hear him talk and lost my mindfulness for a moment. When I finally came to my senses, I was rather embarrassed, and did not mention it to anyone for fear that other monks might think me a bit crazy. In fact, I was a little bit crazy at that time since I forgot my own shaved head and thought about keeping the layman’s five precepts. This is a problem we all face: when thinking in ways that are wrong, we end up acting wrongly in that manner as well. Therefore, we should be aware of our thoughts at all times – aware of whether they are good or bad, right or wrong. We must constantly rein in our own thoughts; otherwise, they can easily spin out of control.

Meditative development means training the mind to be clever and unbiased with respect to basic principles of cause and effect, so that we can effectively come to terms with our own inner processes, and all other related matters as well. Instead of abandoning the mind to unbridled exuberance, we rely on meditation to rein in our unruly thoughts and bring them into line with what is reasonable – which is the path to calm and contentment. The mind that has yet to undergo meditation training is similar to an untrained animal that cannot yet properly perform its appointed tasks and is, therefore, not as useful as it might be. It must be trained to do those jobs in order to gain maximum benefit from its work. Likewise, our minds should undergo training as a means of understanding ourselves as we carry out all our daily tasks, be they mental or physical, significant or trivial, gross or subtle.

Those who develop meditation as a solid anchor for the mind enjoy reflecting carefully on whatever they do. They are not likely to take unnecessary chances in a situation they are unsure of, when a mistake could hurt them or someone else who is involved. Meditative development brings definite benefits, both immediately and in the future, but the most significant are those we experience here and now in the present. People who develop an aptitude for meditation will be successful at whatever they put their minds to. Their affairs are not conducted halfheartedly, but are well thought out with an eye to the expected benefits of a job well-done. In this way, people can always look back with satisfaction on the fruits of their labor. Since they are firmly grounded in reason, people who meditate have no difficulty controlling themselves. They adhere to Truth as the guiding principle for all they do, say, and think. They are mindful not to leave themselves open to the myriad temptations that habitually arise from the kilesa of craving – wanting to go there, wanting to come here, wanting to do this, wanting to say this or think that– which give no guidance whatsoever to right and wrong, good and bad. Craving is a very destructive defilement that tends to lead us repeatedly into misery in countless ways. In truth, we have no one to blame but ourselves, so we are left to accept the consequences as something regrettable, trying to do better the next time. When sufficient mindfulness is maintained we can reverse this trend. But if we do not have enough mindfulness to reflect prudently on these matters, everything we do will have adverse effects, sometimes irrevocably so. This is the real crux of the kilesas – they inevitably lead us toward misfortune.

Meditation is a good means for making a clean break with the unseemly business of the kilesas. Meditation techniques are arguably somewhat difficult to practice, but that’s because they are designed to put pressure on the mind and bring it under control, much like trying to bring a monkey under control in order to tame it. Meditation techniques are actually methods for developing self-awareness. This means observing the mind which is not content to just remain still but tends instead to jump about like someone who’s been scalded with hot water. Observing the mind requires mindfulness to keep us aware of its movement. This is aided by using one of a number of Dhamma themes as an object of attention to keep the mind stable and calm during meditation. A very popular method and one that gives good results is mindfulness of breathing. Other popular themes include the use of a word such as “buddho”, “dhammo”, “sangho”,30 or kesã, lomã, nakhã, dantã, taco in forward and reverse order, or meditation on death, or whatever theme seems most suitable. The mind must be forced to stay exclusively with that object during meditation. Calm and happiness are bound to arise when the mind depends on a particular Dhamma theme as a good and safe object of attention.

What is commonly referred to as a ‘calm citta’ or a ‘citta integrated in samãdhi’ is a state of inner stability that is no longer associated with the initial object of attention, which merely prepared the citta by holding it steady. Once the citta has entered into samãdhi, there exists enough momentum for the citta to remain in this state of calm, independent of the preparatory object, whose function is temporarily discontinued while the citta rests peacefully. Later when the citta withdraws from samãdhi, if time permits, attention is refocused on the initial Dhamma theme. When this is practiced consistently with dedication and sustained effort, a mind long steeped in dukkha will gradually awaken to its own potential and abandon its unskillful ways. The struggle to control the mind, which one experiences in the beginning stages of training, will be replaced by a keen interest in the task at hand.

The citta becomes unforgettably calm and peaceful once it enters samãdhi. Even if this happens only once, it will be an invigorating and indelible experience. Should it fail to occur again in subsequent attempts at meditation, an indescribable sense of loss and longing will linger in the citta for a long time. Only with further progress, as one becomes more and more absorbed in increasingly subtler states of calm, will the frustration of losing the initial state of calm be forgotten.

WHEN HEARING ABOUT MEDITATION, you may fret and feel mentally and physically inadequate to the task, and be reluctant to try. You may be tempted to think:Fate has surely conspired against me. I can’t possibly manage it. My duties and responsibilities both at home and at work make it difficult. There are all the social obligations, raising children and looking after grandchildren. If I waste time sitting with eyes closed in meditation, I’ll never be able to keep up and make ends meet and I’ll probably end up starving to death!

Thus, you become discouraged and miss a good opportunity. This way of thinking is buried deep within everyone’s psyche. It may be just the sort of thinking that has prevented you from ridding yourself of dukkha all along; and it will continue to do so if you don’t try to remedy it now.

Meditation is actually a way to counteract and alleviate all the mental irritations and difficulties that have plagued us for so long. Meditation is not unlike other methods used in the world to relieve pain and discomfort; like bathing when we feel hot, and putting on warm clothes or lighting a fire when we feel cold. When hungry, we eat and drink; when ill, we take medicine to relieve the symptoms. All these are methods that the world has used to relieve pain and discomfort over the ages without anyone ever dismissing them as being too burdensome or too difficult to do. People of every ethnic and social group are obliged to look after themselves in this way. Even animals have to take care of themselves by searching for food to alleviate their discomfort and survive from day to day. Similarly, mental development through meditation is a very important means of taking care of ourselves. It is work that we should be especially interested in because it deals directly with the mind, which is the central coordinator for all our actions.

The mind is in the front line when it comes to anything relating to ourselves. In other words, the citta is absolutely essential in everything. It has no choice but to accept the burden of responsibility in all circumstances without discrimination or hesitation. Whatever happens, the mind feels compelled to step in and immediately take charge, unfazed by ideas of good and bad or right and wrong. Although some situations are so depressing they’re nearly unbearable, the mind still boldly rushes in to shoulder the burden, heedless of the risks and its own inherent limitations. More than that, it recites its litany of thoughts over and over again until eating and sleeping become almost impossible at times. Still, the mind charges ahead refusing to admit failure. When engaging in physical activity, we know our relative strengths and when the time is right to take a rest. But our mental activities never take a break – except briefly when we fall asleep. Even then, the mind insists on remaining active, subconsciously churning out countless dream images that continue overloading its capacity to cope. So the mind lives with a sense of intolerable dissatisfaction, never realizing that this dissatisfaction arises in direct relationship to its heavy work load and the unbearable mental aggravation it generates.

Because it is always embattled, the mind could well be called a warrior’. It struggles with what is good and it struggles with what is bad. Never pausing to reflect, it engages everything that comes along. Whatever preoccupations arise, it insists on confronting them all without exception, unwilling to let anything pass unchallenged. So it’s appropriate to call the mind a ‘warrior’, since it recklessly confronts everything that comes across its path. If the mind does not come to terms with this dilemma while the body is still alive, it will keep on fighting these battles indefinitely, unable to extricate itself. Should the heart’s endless desires be indulged in without Dhamma to act as a moderating influence, real happiness will always be out of reach, regardless of how abundant material wealth may be. Material wealth itself is not a true source of happiness, and can readily become a source of discontent for the heart lacking inner Dhamma to serve as an oasis of rest.

The wise have assured us that Dhamma is the power which oversees both material wealth and spiritual well-being. Regardless of how much or how little wealth we acquire, we will enjoy a sufficient measure of happiness if we possess some measure of Dhamma in our hearts. Unsupported by Dhamma and left to its own desires, the heart will be incapable of finding genuine happiness, even with a mountain of valuable possessions on hand. These are merely physical and emotional supports that intelligent people can use wisely for their own pleasure. If the heart is not intelligent in the way of Dhamma, or Dhamma is absent altogether, the place where we live will resemble a wasteland, no matter what our choice. The heart and all its wealth will then end up as just so much accumulated waste – stuff that is useless for our spiritual development.

When it comes to being stoic in the face of adversity, nothing is as tough and resilient as the heart. Receiving proper assistance, it becomes something marvelous in which we can take pride and satisfaction under all circumstances. From the time of birth to the present moment, we have exploited our hearts and minds – mercilessly. Were we to treat a car like we treat our minds, it would be pointless to take to a garage for repairs, for it would have become a pile of scrap metal long ago. Everything that we utilize must receive some sort of upkeep and repair to ensure that it continues providing useful service. The mind is no exception. It’s an extremely important resource that should be well looked after and maintained, just as we do with all our other possessions.

Meditation is a therapy designed exclusively for the mind. All of us who are truly interested in taking responsibility for our minds – which, after all, are our most priceless possessions – should care for them in the correct and proper way. This means training our minds with suitable meditation techniques. To use the car comparison: it means examining the mind’s various component parts to see if anything is defective or damaged; and then taking it into the garage for a spiritual overhaul. This entails sitting in meditation, examining the mental components, or sankhãras, that make up our thoughts; then determining whether the thoughts that surface are fundamentally good or harmful, adding fuel to the fires of pain and suffering. Thus, an investigation is undertaken to ascertain which thoughts have value and which are flawed. Then we should turn our attention to the physical components; that is, our bodies. Do our bodies keep improving with age or are they deteriorating as time goes by – the old year inevitably turning into a new one, over and over again? Does the body continue regenerating or does it inevitably wear down and grow older with each successive day? Should we be complacent about this by failing to mentally prepare ourselves while there’s still time? Once we are dead, it will be too late to act. This is what meditation is all about: cautioning and instructing ourselves by examining our shortcomings to determine what areas need improvement. When we investigate constantly in this manner, either while sitting in meditation or while going about our daily tasks, the mind will remain calm and unperturbed. We will learn not to be arrogantly overconfident about life, and thus avoid fueling the flames of discontent. And we will know how to exercise proper moderation in our thoughts and deeds so that we don’t forget ourselves and get caught up in things which may have disastrous consequences.

The benefits of meditation are too numerous to address, so Ãcariya Mun kept his explanations to the lay audience at a level appropriate to their practice. His explanations to monks and novices were of a very different caliber. I have written down just enough here to give the flavor of his teaching. Some people may find that I’ve included certain things that seem excessive, or even distasteful; but the account would be incomplete if I did not convey all aspects of his teaching. I have made the effort to compile these teachings in the hope that the readers will encourage me with the benefit of their criticism. So you are welcome to criticize me for whatever you find to be inappropriate; but, please do not blame Ãcariya Mun because he had no part in writing the book.

Ãcariya Mun conducted higher Dhamma teaching only within the circle of his close disciples. But the author has somewhat of an irrepressible nature and cannot sit still; so, I have gone around, collecting oral accounts from all the ãcariyas today who lived with Ãcariya Mun in the past and are his disciples. I’ve recorded this information so that the reader may know something of his practice, even though it is not a complete account. Ãcariya Mun’s mode of practice was so uniquely resolute and uncompromising that one could surely say that none of his disciples can match him in the austerities he performed, the noble virtues he perfected, and the inner knowledge he so skillfully mastered. To this day he remains unexcelled.

ÃCARIYA MUN SAID that when he stayed in the forests and mountains of Udon Thani and Nong Khai, devas from the upper and lower realms occasionally came to hear Dhamma from him. Some groups came regularly every two weeks, others only once a month. Devas from that area did not come to see him nearly as often as those from Chiang Mai province. I shall relate those experiences in due course; but, for now, let me continue following the sequence of events so as not to confuse matters.

Ãcariya Mun spoke of a huge city of nãgas, located under the mountain west of the Laotian city of Luang Prabang. While he lived there, the chief of those nãgas regularly brought his followers to hear Dhamma, occasionally in large numbers. The nãgas tended to ask far fewer questions of him than the devas of the upper and lower realms, who always had many questions for him. All these groups, however, listened to what he had to say with equal respect. During the time Ãcariya Mun lived at the base of that mountain, the chief nãga came almost every night to visit him. Only on special occasions did he bring a large following; and in that case, Ãcariya Mun always knew of their arrival in advance. Due to the remote location, he had little contact with people at that time, so he was able to be of particular service to the nãgas and devas. The nãgas did not visit very late at night – they came at maybe ten or eleven p.m. – which was probably due to his remote location. As a sign of their profound respect, the nãgas invited Ãcariya Mun to remain living there out of compassion for them. They even arranged to protect him both day and night, taking turns to keep watch. They never came too close, maintaining a convenient distance always, yet close enough to observe anything that might happen. The devas, on the other hand, usually came later than the nãgas – at about one or two a.m. If he was living in the mountains, far from a village, the devas sometimes came earlier, say ten or eleven p.m. There was never a sure time, but normally the devas came after midnight.

DURING MIDDLE AGE, Ãcariya Mun’s normal daily routine was as follows:

After the meal he walked meditation until noon and then took a short rest. Rested, he sat in meditation for an hour and a half before continuing his walking meditation until four p.m. After that, he swept the area around his dwelling, bathed, and again practiced walking meditation until about seven or eight p.m., when he entered his hut to sit again. If it did not rain after seated meditation, he walked again, until late at night. Or, if it was already very late, he retired for the night. He normally retired at eleven p.m. and awoke at three a.m. Ãcariya Mun usually knew in advance when the devas would visit. If they were going to arrive later than midnight, he rested before receiving them. If they were expected to arrive between eleven p.m. and midnight, he first entered into samãdhi and waited there for them. This is the daily routine that he maintained throughout that period of his life.

WHEN BOTH HEAVENLY and terrestrial devas wished to come on the same night, Ãcariya Mun would receive the first group, give them a Dhamma talk, answer their questions, and then tell them that another group was soon coming. The first group then left in a timely manner and the other devas entered from where they’d been respectfully waiting at a distance. He then began speaking to the second group, discoursing on a Dhamma theme he deemed suitable for their temperament and level of understanding. Sometimes the chief of the deva group requested a certain topic. Ãcariya Mun then focused his attention on that specific Dhamma theme. When he felt his heart in possession of this knowledge, he began his discourse. Sometimes the deva leader requested an discourse on a sutta, using an archaic title with which Ãcariya Mun was unfamiliar. So Ãcariya Mun asked and was told the present-day title. Usually Ãcariya Mun could figure out for himself the suttas that were being requested; but occasionally he had to ask for clarification. At other times, the devas requested a sutta by a title of which he felt certain. But, as soon as he began to elucidate it, they informed him that he had made a mistake; that it was not the one they requested. To refresh his memory, they recited some verses from the sutta. After one or two verses he could usually remember it correctly. He began his discourse only when he was sure he had the right topic.

On rare occasions, the devas from the upper and lower realms all came to listen to Dhamma at the same time as the nãgas. This is not unlike various groups of humans all showing up to visit a teacher simultaneously. When this happened often, he scheduled their arrivals at different times for the convenience of all concerned. According to Ãcariya Mun, even though he lived deep in the forests and mountains, he did not have much free time because he had to deal with so many groups of devas from different realms of existence. If on a particular night no devas from the celestial realms came to see him, then there were bound to be terrestrial devas from one location or another; so, he had little free time at night. Fortunately, there were few human visitors in those remote places. If he stayed near a village or a town, however, then human inhabitants from the area came to see him. He received these people in the afternoon or early evening, teaching the monks and novices afterwards.