阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第二章第八節:挖井事件

      

                 

             

第二章第八節:挖井事件

    當阿姜曼住在Ban Sam Phong的村莊時,發生了一件奇怪的事。當時是乾季,大約有六十到七十位沙彌與比丘住在那裡,但乾淨的水卻不夠用。於是比丘與當地的村民開會,決議就既有的井再深掘下去,以取得更多乾淨、可用的水。當決議達成之後,一個上座便去取得阿姜曼的同意進行工程。阿姜曼聽完後, 沉默了片刻,然後以嚴峻的語氣大聲喝叱:「不行,會有危險!」他就只有說這樣。這個上座對「會有危險!」這句話感到很困惑,他向阿姜曼頂禮後,便將這段對話轉述給其他比丘與在家人。但他們沒有理會阿姜曼,決定秘密進行計畫。

        水井離寺院有一段距離。中午時分,當他們以為阿姜曼在午休,便悄悄走出寺院去挖井。他們沒有挖得很深,而頂部邊緣的土壤卻塌陷並陷入井裡,在地面留下一個窟窿,鬆動的土壤破壞了井。每個人都嚇到了:由於對阿姜曼的警告不恭敬,且不具正念而未能取消計畫,因而造成土壤塌陷,過程中差點出了人命。他們很怕他會發現他們違背他的意思,他們極度的不安,並為自己犯下的錯感到愧疚,於是他們趕緊收集木材去修復井口,祈求阿姜曼能協助他們挖乾淨鬆軟的土壤,並修復水井,恢復使用。很幸運地,一旦他們祈求阿姜曼的幫助,一切都超乎想像的順利,也恢復正常了,有些人臉上甚至露出了微笑。當工作完成後,大家立刻逃離了現場,很怕阿姜曼會突然出現。比丘與沙彌回到寺院後,仍為他們所做的事而感到惴惴不安。愈接近傍晚集會的時間,他們就愈害怕。因為他們都清楚記得,過去這一類的事情發生的時候,阿姜曼是怎麼樣罵他們的。有時候,他們作了不該做的事,自己也忘了這件事,阿姜曼知道後都會提出來教訓人。這一起挖井事件是嚴重的不良行徑,是整個僧團背著阿姜曼作的事。他怎麼可能會不知道?他們都確信阿姜曼已經知道,並在傍晚的時候會提起這件事,或至少,就在第二天的早上。那一整天,他們的心都充塞著不安。

        但結果,當天傍晚並沒有集會。阿姜曼沒有罵他們,也沒提起這件事。阿姜曼很會教弟子,他很清楚這起事件以及比丘與沙彌犯下的諸多其他錯誤。但他也知道他們很不安,既然他們已經知道錯了,再去責備他們也只會不必要地加深他們的懊悔。

        阿姜曼清晨的固定行程就是靜坐到黎明破曉時起身,然後經行,到了托缽的時間,他就會先把大衣放在大廳裡。第二天早上,當阿姜曼離開他的經行步道進入大廳時,比丘們仍擔心他會怎麼處置他們。當他們在焦慮中等待時,阿姜曼語氣輕柔地轉圜了整個事件,並以令人寬心的方式舒緩了他們的壓力:「我們來這裡是為了學習佛法。我們不應該過於魯莽,也不應該極度恐懼。任何人都會犯錯 —— 但知錯能改,善莫大焉。佛陀在過去前生還是菩薩的時候也曾犯過錯,但他一意識到有錯,就會立刻努力改正自己的錯誤。這種心態是高尚的,但仍可能因愚痴而犯錯。從現在開始,在任何情況下你們都應該好好控制調御自己,一直以正念看顧好自己,因為這才是智者的修行方式。」

        這就是他說的一切。他以一種使人卸下心防的方式朝著在場的比丘們微笑,然後帶著他們照常托缽。那天傍晚沒有集會,阿姜曼僅告訴大家要精進。連著三個傍晚都沒有集會。在這段期間,所有的比丘與沙彌都仍害怕阿姜曼會因挖井事件而責罵他們。到了第四個傍晚,終於舉行了集會。不過,他還是對挖井事件隻字未提,彷彿完全不知這件事一般。經過了一段很長的時間,就在大家都已幾乎忘記,這件事竟意外地又被提起。沒有人告訴過他這件意外,因為整件事已被掩沒了。阿姜曼從未去過那個水井,而井也離寺院有相當的距離。他就如平時一般開始說法,從各種角度談論比丘的禪修,及有關舉止合宜、對老師與「法」的尊重等等。他說,這些都可讓那些來找老師訓練與修行的人其行為得到修正。他強調他們都應該特別重視因與果,因為這才是真正的「法」:「雖然你們不斷承受因欲望而生的壓力,仍不該讓它們冒出頭並侵入修行的領域中。不然的話,它們將摧毀『法』 —— 也就是經得起考驗的滅苦之道 —— 漸漸摧毀一切的希望。你們千萬不該忤逆『法』、僧團的戒律,或是一位值得受到尊敬老師的話,因為這等同於是毀滅你們自己,不服從只會增長損人不利己的壞習慣。水井周圍不只是黏土而已,底部也有沙層。挖得太深可能會導致沙層下陷,然後黏土就會崩塌而陷入井裡,可能就把人給活埋。這就是為什麼我要禁止你們挖井的理由。在許可或禁止任何工作之前,我都會先徹底觀察,在這裡修行的人都應該要想到這一點。有些事情放在心裡就好,我不覺得有必要將這些事情全講出來。」

        「我說得已經夠明白,也足以讓你們都能了解;那為什麼你們表現得卻像是聽不懂?當我禁止某些事情,你們就偏要去做;如果我要你們去做某些事,你們卻唱反調。這已經不只是誤會 —— 你們都早已很清楚了。這種叛逆的行為突顯出你們個性中固執的一面,打從你們跟父母親一起住的時候,你們的父母都只是為了寵你們才會容忍你們的行為。而如今,它已成為根深蒂固的性格,深埋在你們這些已是成年比丘的人格特質中。更糟的是,你們當著老師和你所過的梵行生活面前炫耀這種性格。像你們這種年紀的比丘還這麼倔強固執是不可原諒的,不能將其視為幼稚行為而縱容,所以需要嚴厲的訓斥。如果你們仍執意這般倔強,這將更進一步強化你們性格中不幸的特質,使你們恰如其分地被冠上『頑固的頭陀比丘』的名牌。因此你們一切的必需品也都會被標示為『頑固比丘的所有物』。這個比丘很固執,那個比丘很無恥,那邊的那個比丘很呆滯 —— 直到整個僧團最後都變成冥頑不靈,而我最後也只剩一群頑固的弟子。一旦固執成為常態,世界將崩壞,『法』也肯定會趨向滅亡。你們有誰還想要當一個固執的比丘?你們有誰想要讓我成為一群固執學生的老師?如果是這樣,明天就再回去挖井吧!這樣泥土就會塌下來把你們給活埋。然後,你們會投生在一個固執的天界樂園,那裡的天神都會來讚嘆你們真正的偉大。當然,沒有任何的天神,包括梵天在內,曾看過或住過這樣一個特殊的天界。」

        之後,他聲音的語調就變得溫和許多,正如他說的主題一般,使聽眾全心全意反省他們頑固不服從的錯誤。在開示的期間,大家似乎都忘了呼吸。當開示一結束而散會,比丘們便馬上互相詢問是誰敢去通知阿姜曼而引起這次的訓誡,讓大家都快昏倒了。每個人都否認自己有說,因為大家都怕死他的責罵。這個事件是一個謎,沒人曉得阿姜曼是怎麼知道的。

        阿姜曼具有各式各樣神通,這些年來,他在這方面的能力似乎已進展到深不可測的程度。與他同住的比丘們都深知他的能力,所以他們在任何時候都會作好精神上的嚴格自我控制。他們不會讓「心」隨意四處遊蕩,因為他們飄走的心思很可能就會成為傍晚集會開示法義時的主題。當阿姜曼實際上是在訓斥他們時,他們在集會期間就一定要特別警覺。他停止說話時,有片刻的時間 —— 也許只是喘口氣,也許是觀察到了什麼 —— 如果他發現在比丘之間有任何迷失的念頭,他就會立刻把它提出來討論,而且聲音的語調會有巨大的變化,就好像他在模仿現場某比丘的妄念一般。雖然阿姜曼不會指名道姓,但他的語調會立即嚇到那個人,讓他變得非常害怕,以後再也不敢胡思亂想了。

        另一個要注意的時間就是他們跟著阿姜曼托缽的那個時段。那些不具正念的人一定會在下次的集會時聽到自己難以捉摸的念頭。有時候不得不聽人談起自己的心猿意馬,其他比丘又因為不知是誰而向與會的其他人偷瞥一下時,實在是一件非常尷尬的事。但一旦被人發現了,所有比丘與沙彌的反應都很正面,在散會後反而不會生氣或難過;有些人甚至會彼此笑著問:「今天說的是誰?今天又是誰被抓到了?」對於他們的妄念,他們可以對同修如此的坦誠,實在難能可貴。有錯的比丘當別人問起時就會立即坦承,而不是掩飾覆藏,他們會說:「我真是冥頑不靈,我就是忍不住會這樣想……,就算我知道我一定會因為這種想法而被喝叱。當那些想法浮現時,我忘了對阿姜曼的敬畏,只覺得自己被這種瘋狂的想法所淹沒,我真的活該被罵,對於失去自我控制這一點來說,這給我上了一堂寶貴的課。」

        寫下這些事也讓我自己感到不舒服,我在此要向讀者致歉。但,這些事都是真的 —— 它們真的發生過。收錄這些事是一項困難的決定。但如果我說的都是真的,那麼這個決定就是對的。它可以與一般的情況來比較,比丘的發露[1]懺悔,是為了消除未來再犯的一切焦慮與內疚的方法。因此,我想再談一些過去曾發生過的事,讓那些思惟可能也曾有過相同困擾的人一個好好想一想的機會。

        在大多數的情況下,修行中的比丘會因為與外界感官對象的事物而受到阿姜曼嚴厲的訶斥,比如說:景象(色)和聲音(聲)是最有可能引起後患的感官印象。而比丘最有可能會被責罵的情況就是在早上托缽的時候,走進聚落裡接受托缽是每個比丘應盡的義務(八正道的正命),在這些場合下,比丘遇到「色」與「聲」,就一定要(正)思惟它們。有些人對於遇到的一切會非常的迷戀,他們的思惟會因為沒有正知見而開始陷入一團昏亂,而這些就是他們分心的主要原因,就算比丘並不願去想念這些外境,它們還是會去誘惑「心」。等比丘恢復正念時,已是傍晚集會的時候了,他受到的譴責將使他試著更加自制。過一段時間後,他又會遇到之前相同誘人的對象並再次揭開傷口瘡疤。等回到寺院後,他會得到另一帖「強烈猛藥」,另一次的責備,敷在他的傷口上。許多與阿姜曼同住的比丘及沙彌,他們大部分的人都有這種潰爛的瘡疤,如果比丘沒有服用這帖藥,就會得到另一帖藥。他們走進聚落裡,面對引人的「色」與「聲」,仍躲不掉麻煩。結果,回到寺院後,等時機成熟,阿姜曼又會再次「電」他們。有無明的人,其思惟有好有壞是很正常的事。阿姜曼並不會喝叱每一個不善的思惟,他譴責的往往是那些會招致後患的有害思惟。他要他們以「法」的角度去思惟,運用正念與觀智,這樣他們才能超脫苦。他發現,比丘們老喜歡想著一些會招來麻煩的事,而未能以正思惟來減輕老師的負擔。由於有很多這樣的比丘跟他住在一起,所以幾乎每天傍晚都會聽到斥責聲。

        這一切說明了阿姜曼能知道別人在想什麼的他心通都是真的。至於那些該受指責的思惟,是意外而非刻意生起的,都是緣於偶失正念所致。不過,就傳授弟子知識與技術的老師來說,阿姜曼一發現有不當的時候,便會立刻發出警告,讓犯錯的人得以意識到自己的錯,並學會在未來能更善於控制自己。他不想讓他的弟子再被這樣的思惟給困住,因為那是一種會直接招致不幸的思惟慣性模式。

        阿姜曼對比丘們的教導很細膩,非常注重細節。僧團的戒律、禪定與智慧都有很詳盡的說明;而屬於更高深的「法」,則說得更鉅細靡遺。他住在沙里卡石窟的時候,就已開始精通各種層次的禪定,以及一切的中級智慧。至於最高層次的智慧,到阿姜曼的修行達到最後的階段時,我會再敘述。在東北部持續修行一段時間之後,他變得更加熟練。這使他能以他的專業去教導比丘各層次的禪定,以及中級的智慧。他們都依序來聆聽他的開示,而這些內容都從未偏離「定」與「慧」的真正法則。

       阿姜曼的禪定很奇特,也相當地不凡,不論是剎那定、近行定、甚至是安止定等都一樣。當他入剎那定時,只停留一下子,但也沒有回到一般的正常狀態;他接著會退出,然後入近行定。在那個境界中,他會接觸到外界無數的各類超自然現象;有時是鬼魂前來求助,有時是天神或龍神來參訪 —— 藉由禪定的溝通方式而接觸到無數的有情。這就是阿姜曼所使用的禪定溝通窗口,以此來接待一般人看不到、也聽不到的非人眾生。有時候他的「心」會飄離身體,進入欲界諸天及色界各層梵天裡遊覽;然後,他又會下地獄,去觀察那些被自己的惡業所折磨的無數眾生。

        所謂「上升」、「下降」等專有名詞都是相對於粗糙身體活動的一種通俗的比喻。它們與心的活動鮮有共通之處,因為「心」非常的微妙,難以用世俗的比喻來做比較。所謂「上升」與「下降」對色身而言都需要耗費一定程度的力氣;但就「心」而言,卻只是一種不費吹灰之力的形容。當我們說欲界諸天、色界梵天乃至涅槃時,就代表愈來愈「高級」以及愈來愈精妙微細的有情眾生;至於地獄則是愈來愈「墮落」的有情所構成。而我們實際上都是用物質、物理的標準去衡量測度有關精神或超自然方面的領域。我們可以這麼說,所謂的地獄和天堂,可各自被看作是較低級與較高級的意思,在某方面類似於一些凶狠的作奸犯科者與犯輕罪的人都被關在一座相同的監獄中,而這監獄位於一個守法市民所居住的城市裡。這兩種形式的罪犯本質上並沒有多大的差別,因為他們都一起住在同一間監獄裡;而罪犯與守法的市民在本質上也沒多大的差別,因為他們都是住在同一個國家土地上的人民,唯一不同之處就是他們被隔離開了。

        至少監獄裡的罪犯與一般大眾還能用他們正常的感官覺知到對方,但不同世界的有情就察覺不到彼此的存在。譬如地獄的眾生就無法覺知到欲界天裡的諸神;反之亦然。而這兩類眾生也無法覺知色界梵天世界。而說到人類,也覺知不到這些不同世界的眾生。即便來自這些眾生的每一個意識之流,當它們不斷穿梭在彼此的存在領域而混雜在一起的時候,他們也察覺不到其他的存在,就好像他們自己才是唯一的一群存在一樣。

        一般來說,我們的心無法感應到其他有情的想法。因為我們不具有這項能力,或許就會因此認定其他的眾生也都不存在。不管這種否定是如何的根深蒂固,我們都是錯的,因為所有的有情都有一顆心。就算我們感應不到對方的想法,也沒有權利去否定對方的存在。我們不能因看不見或聽不到非人的存在,就在感官的侷限性下認為這些有情不存在。如果我們真的這樣,那只是在欺騙自己。

        當我們說到欲界諸天及色界梵天是一系列垂直佇立在各層的天界時,一般人可能在粗淺的物質(物理)感官上很難去理解這一點 —— 就好比,一棟有很多樓層且需要樓梯或電梯的房子。但這些天界都是存在於超自然的領域裡,他們在超自然的領域中是以超自然的方法攀登上去:也就是說,他們透過品(戒)德的修行而開展出這種「心」的能力。當我們說到地獄是「在下面」時,並不是指地獄真的在深不可測的地底深淵,更確切的說法,是一種以精神的方法「墮落」到精神的末端,而那些能看得到地獄的人,都是藉由內在的心(通)靈能力而辦到的;但那些「墮入」地獄的眾生卻是因為自己的惡業力量才會在地獄裡。他們待在那裡,去承受因自己生前的惡行所加諸在他們身上的痛苦與折磨,直到他們的惡業消盡才能逃出,就像是監獄裡的罪犯必須等到服刑期滿才能獲釋一般。

        就在阿姜曼開始修行的時候,因為他的心性活躍且愛冒險,所以剎那定與近行定都混在一起了。只要他一入剎那定,便立刻開始在近行定中向外漫遊並遊覽各種現象。於是他開始在禪定中自我訓練,直到他能熟到控制自如,使「心」靜止,並能隨意向外探視各種現象。從那時起,不論他選擇修何種禪定,都能駕輕就熟。例如,他可以瞬間入近行定,然後在禪境中向外接觸各種現象;又或者他會集中心念並入安止定的一境性,如果有需要他會在此稍作休息。安止定是一種純然寧靜與安詳的完美定境,正因如此,很多的禪修者對這樣的境界都非常的迷戀不捨。阿姜曼說,他也一度沈醉在這種定境中,但由於他有與生俱來的智慧,所以並沒有在定境中停很久。他能夠自己解決這個問題,並在驕慢自滿生起前就先找到解決的方法。

        任何被「釘」在安止定中的修行人,如果他們不試著運用「觀智」去觀照,那麼他們的進步一定會很慢。因為在定中的身心都沈浸在這種喜樂,很多的禪修者很快就被這樣的禪定所桎梏。一種強烈的執著依戀就此形成,而定中的禪修者會渴望能享有更多的喜樂與平靜,但這份渴望會淹沒能拔除無明的「觀智」。未能及時從善知識那裡接受勸告的禪修者,都不會願意離開那種境界去領悟智慧之道。當持續依戀沉溺在那種禪境中一段時間後,各式各樣的驕慢自大便可能會開始滋生茁壯;比如說:他會誤認或執取「定」中的寧靜與喜樂的境界就是涅槃,就是「苦邊盡」。事實上,當心念凝神收攝至安止定的靜慮狀態時,焦點會在體驗到最明亮清晰的一境性,並就此全然安住在寧靜的喜樂中。但,導致生死輪迴的無明也同時凝聚在相同的焦點之上。如果智慧在此時不能拿來洞悉並消除無明,那麼就必然會有來生。因此,不管是在修哪一種境界的禪定,都應該同時伴隨「觀智」,在安止定中尤其如此。不然的話,「心」也只能體驗到不具判斷力與洞察力的平靜而已。

        由於要進一步達到三果不還的程度需要有足夠的智慧,所以到阿姜曼第二次東北行的時候就已經有相當豐富的中級智慧;否則,他在這一個層次中便無法做到有效的內觀。在達到那個程度以前,一定要運用「觀智」去成功地「念身」,這需要以不偏頗(客觀、不陷入兩極)的態度看到它們的可愛與可厭之處。在去除一切關於身體的疑惑與貪愛執著之後,「心」以「觀智」將引人之處與可厭之處給隔離開,穿透兩端交會的中間。然而,這一段過程,只不過是一個過渡階段。這可看成是參加一場考試並通過最低門檻,需要進一步學習才能達到最高的成績。那些阿那含向的修行人,仍必須以觀智繼續修持,才能完全成就阿那含果。假設這樣的人一死,他不用再經歷較低階的其他四層梵天,而會立即重生在第四禪天的第五層天或淨居天。

        阿姜曼曾提過因為當時沒有善知識告誡他,所以他在那個階段耽誤了好一段時間。當他自己努力熟悉三果的修行方法時,他必須非常地小心,不能有任何的差錯。在分析「法」的微妙時,他從經驗中知道,無明可能會破壞他的努力,因為無明就如同他用來對抗它們的「正念」與「觀智」一樣難以捉摸,這使人很難觀透「法」的每一個相續階段。他說這就好比身在一處充滿荊棘的灌木叢裡,想要努力成功地走出來,是一件多麼令人難以置信的事。而在他走出困境並慈悲教導我們之前,就已在艱苦的旅程中獨自嘗盡千辛萬苦。

        當時機成熟,他通常會跟我們分享他這一部分的修行經歷。當聽到他面臨非常人所能忍受的經歷及證悟到「法」的神奇微妙與深奧時,有兩次我都感動到流下眼淚。我不知是否有足夠的波羅蜜也能踏上他走過的足跡,又或者我會走向一般世人所走的路。但他的話給我很大的鼓舞,並總讓我下定決心堅持不懈。阿姜曼說,每當他加速努力運用觀智,他的「心」就會厭離人群而更專心在禪修上。他知道在那個階段他的修行需要加強;但他又不得不留下來教他的學生,使他們也可以開展在他們心中的某些法義。

        阿姜曼住在泰國的那空帕農府Sri Songkhram縣的Ban Sam Phong一帶有三、四年之久。他在那空帕農府Kham Cha-ee地區Ban Huay SaiNong SungKhok Klang等村落中待了一年。由於這些地方有重重疊疊的山峰,所以他特別喜歡這個地方。在Pat Kut附近一帶的山區有許多的地居天神 —— 還有老虎也特別多。夜幕低垂時,當天神因聽法而心生歡喜,老虎就會在他的住處四處出沒徘徊。

        在午夜的時候,老虎的吼聲響徹他住處附近的森林。在某幾個夜晚,會有一大群的老虎集體吼叫,很像是一群人彼此來回大喊。當那些「大貓」駭人的聲音迴盪在黑暗中,效果真的非常的嚇人。許多比丘及沙彌就因為害怕被老虎抓走吃掉,所以有好幾個晚上都無法入眠。阿姜曼發現可以利用比丘們對老虎的恐懼來激勵他們精進修持。於是,他會故作神秘地說:「你們當中如果有人放逸懶散,可得要當心了!山中的老虎最愛這種懶比丘,因為牠們發現懶比丘的肉最美味可口了。所以如果你們不想變成老虎的美食,最好努力精進。你們了解吧!老虎最怕那種精進的比丘,所以牠們絕不會去吃那種人。」比丘們聽到這樣的話,都會加倍精進,就好像他們的命都懸在一線之上。儘管老虎的吼聲在附近迴繞,他們仍強迫自己走出去經行。雖然他們還是很怕,但他們相信阿姜曼跟他們說的:「懶比丘可能會成為老虎的下一餐。」

        但事實上他們的險境更糟,因為在僧團裡沒有小禪房,每個人只有一座低到幾乎要觸及地面、只能讓一個人睡覺的小床座。如果老虎真的很餓,他們是沒有東西可以躲避遮護。阿姜曼說,有好幾次的晚上老虎跑進僧團,但牠們並沒有傷害任何人。他知道有天神在守護著他們,所以老虎不敢傷人。當諸神來聽法時,祂們表示祂們會守護僧團,不會讓任何事情騷擾比丘,或讓比丘受到傷害。那些天神也請求阿姜曼能長期留在那個地區。

        事實上,阿姜曼對比丘們的告誡只是利用恐懼來激發他們修行的動力。就老虎而言,牠們似乎知道比丘們住的地方是一處安全的避風港。而各種不同的野生動物,也覺得沒必要防備那些走進僧團附近的獵人,因為當村民知道阿姜曼在的時候,都不太敢在附近打獵。他們都很怕會有現世報,他們害怕如果在僧團的附近開了槍,手中的槍就會突然爆炸而一命嗚呼。真的有夠神奇,每當他待在某一個地方,那個地方就會充滿老虎,而那些野獸不會撲殺當地村落附近所飼養的乳牛及水牛,也沒有人知道牠們在哪裡找食物。這些被阿姜曼提過的不尋常事件,到後來也都被當地的許多村民所證實。


[1] 顯露表白所犯之過失而無所隱覆。

                                         

The Well-digging Incident

A strange incident occurred while he was staying near the village of Ban Sam Phong. It was the dry season. About 60 to 70 monks and novices were living there, and there was not enough clean water available. The monks held a meeting with the villagers and decided that they would have to dig the existing well deeper in order to acquire a clean, adequate supply. After the decision was made, a senior monk requested permission from Ãcariya Mun to proceed with the work. After listening to the request, Ãcariya Mun remained quiet for a moment before he answered sternly in a rough voice, “No, it could be dangerous.” That was all he said. The senior monk was puzzled by the words “it could be dangerous.” After paying his respects to Ãcariya Mun, he related the conversation to the monks and the lay people. Instead of agreeing with Ãcariya Mun, they decided to proceed secretly with the plan.

The well was some distance from the monastery. At noon, when they thought Ãcariya Mun was resting, they quietly went out to dig. They had not dug very deep when the earth around the top edge gave way and collapsed into the well, leaving a gaping hole at ground level and ruining the well with loose earth. Everyone was terrified: Having disrespectfully ignored Ãcariya Mun’s warning, and showing a lack of mindfulness by failing to call off the project, they had caused the earth to cave in, almost killing someone in the process. They were afraid he would find out what they had done against his express wishes. They were extremely worried and felt chastened by their error. Together they quickly gathered wood to repair the mouth of the well, praying all the while for Ãcariya Mun’s assistance in their efforts to dig out the loose earth and restore the well for use again. Fortunately, once they appealed for Ãcariya Mun’s help, everything was put into good order with amazing ease so that some of them even ended up smiling. As soon as the work was completed everyone fled the scene, afraid that Ãcariya Mun might suddenly show up. Back in the monastery the monks and novices remained in a state of constant anxiety about what they had done. The closer it came to the evening meeting, the more apprehensive they became. They could all vividly remember Ãcariya Mun’s scoldings in the past when something of this nature had happened. Sometimes when they did something inappropriate and then forgot, Ãcariya Mun knew and eventually brought it up as a way of teaching a lesson. The well incident was a serious misdeed that was committed by the whole monastery behind his back. How could he possibly have not known about it? They were all certain that he knew and that he was bound to mention it that evening, or at the latest, the very next morning. They were preoccupied with these uncomfortable feelings for the rest of the day.

As it turned out, when the time arrived no meeting was called. Instead of scolding them, Ãcariya Mun mentioned nothing about the incident. Ãcariya Mun was very astute in teaching his disciples. He knew very well about the incident and about many other mistakes made by the monks and novices. But he also knew about their anxiety. Since they obviously realized their mistake, scolding them at this point would have needlessly increased their deep remorse.

Ãcariya Mun’s early morning routine was to rise from seated meditation at dawn, then do walking meditation until it was time to put on his robes at the meeting hall before going for alms. The next morning, when Ãcariya Mun left his walking path and entered the meeting hall, the monks were still worried about how he would deal with them. While they waited in anxious anticipation, Ãcariya Mun turned the whole affair around by speaking gently and in a comforting manner designed to relieve their distress:

“We came here to study Dhamma. We should not be unreasonably audacious, nor should we be excessively afraid. Anyone can make a mistake – the value lies in recognizing our mistakes. The Lord Buddha made mistakes before us. He realized where he had gone wrong and strove to correct his errors as soon as he became aware of them. This kind of intention is noble, but still through ignorance mistakes can happen. From now on you should all take care to control yourselves under all circumstances. Using mindfulness at all times to watch out for oneself is the way of the wise.”

That was all he said. He just smiled broadly at the monks in a disarming way and took them on almsround as usual. There was no meeting later that evening, Ãcariya Mun merely told everyone to be diligent in their practice. Three nights passed without a meeting. All during that time the monks and novices were still scared he would scold them about the well-digging incident. On the fourth night a meeting was called. But again, no mention was made of the incident, as though he knew nothing about it. A long time later, after everyone had forgotten about the matter, it quite unexpectedly cropped up. No one had ever told him about the mishap, for the whole affair had been hushed up. Ãcariya Mun himself never went to the well, which was quite a distance from the monastery.

He began a Dhamma discourse as he usually did, speaking about various aspects of a monk’s practice, about being reasonable and about having respect for the teacher and Dhamma. These, he said, led to the correct behavior of those coming to train and practice under a teacher. He stressed that they should especially take the issue of cause and effect very seriously, for this was the true Dhamma:

“Although you’re constantly under pressure from your desires, you shouldn’t allow them to surface and intrude into the sphere of practice. Otherwise, they will destroy Dhamma, the tried and true way to go beyond dukkha, gradually spoiling all of your hopes. Never should you go against Dhamma, the monastic discipline, or the word of a respected teacher, as this is equivalent to destroying yourselves. Disobedience merely gives impetus to those bad habits which are destructive to you and others as well. The earth around that well was more than just clay. There was also sand underneath. Digging too deeply can cause the sand, then the clay to collapse into the well, possibly burying and killing someone. That was why I forbade it. I thoroughly investigate everything before giving or refusing permission for any type of work. Those who are here for training should consider this. Some matters are exclusively internal, and I don’t feel it necessary to reveal every aspect of them.

“What I did reveal was clear enough for you to understand; so why did you behave as if you didn’t? When I forbid something, you go ahead and do it anyway. If I tell you to do something, you do the opposite. This was not a matter of misunderstanding – you understood perfectly well. Being contrary like this displays the stubborn side of your character, dating from the time you lived with your parents who tolerated it just to keep you happy. It has now become an ingrained characteristic, buried deep inside monks who are now adults. To make matters worse, you flaunt it in the face of your teacher and the spiritual life you lead. Stubbornness in a monk of your age is unforgivable and cannot be tolerated as mere childish behavior. It deserves a stern reprimand. If you persist in being stubborn, it will further entrench this unfortunate trait in you, so that you will be appropriately branded as ‘obstinate dhutanga monks’. Thus all your requisites should be labeled ‘the belongings of an obstinate monk.’ This monk is stubborn, that monk is shameless, the monk over there is dazed – until the whole monastery ends up doggedly disobedient. And I end up with nothing but hardheaded students. Once obstinacy becomes the norm, the world will break up from the strain and the sãsana will surely be reduced to ruin. Which of you still want to be a hardheaded monk? Is there anyone here who wants me to be a teacher of hardheaded monks? If so, go back tomorrow and dig out that well again, so the earth can collapse and bury you there. Then you will be reborn in a hardheaded heavenly paradise where the devas can all come and admire your true greatness. Surely no group of devas, including those in the brahma realms, have ever seen or lived in such a peculiar paradise.”

After that the tone of his voice became gentler, as did the theme of his talk, enabling his audience to wholeheartedly reflect on the error of their stubborn disobedience. During the talk, it seemed as if everyone had forgotten to breathe. Once the talk was over and the meeting adjourned, the monks excitedly questioned one another to find out who might have dared inform Ãcariya Mun of the incident, prompting this severe scolding which nearly made them faint. Everyone denied informing him, as each dreaded a scolding as much as another. The incident passed without a definitive answer to how Ãcariya Mun knew.

Mun possessed a mastery of psychic skills concerning all sorts of phenomena. Over the years, his proficiency grew to such an extent that there seemed to be no limit to his abilities. As the monks living with him were well aware of these abilities, they took strict care to be mentally self-controlled at all times. They couldn’t afford to let their minds wander carelessly because their errant thoughts could become the subject of a Dhamma talk they might receive at the evening meeting. They needed to be especially vigilant during the meeting when Ãcariya Mun was actually speaking to them. In those brief moments when he stopped speaking – perhaps to catch his breath, perhaps to observe something – if he detected any stray thought among the monks, he immediately made an issue of it. The tone of his voice changed dramatically as he mimicked the unmindful thoughts of one of those present. Although Ãcariya Mun did not mention anyone by name, his tone immediately startled that individual who became quite frightened to ever dare think like that again.

Another time to be careful was when they followed him on almsround. Those who were unmindful then were bound to hear about their wayward thoughts at the next meeting. Sometimes it was very embarrassing to have to listen to a talk on one’s own wayward thoughts as other monks cast sidelong glances around the assembly, not knowing who among them was being reprimanded. But once discovered, all the monks and novices tended to react similarly in a positive manner. Instead of feeling angry or disappointed after leaving the meeting, all would appear cheerful and content; some even laughed as they inquired of each other: “Who was it today? Who got caught today?” It’s remarkable how honest they were with their fellow monks about their errant thoughts. Instead of trying to keep his indiscretion a secret, the guilty monk would confess as soon as someone asked: “I’m really stubborn and I couldn’t help thinking about … even though I knew I was bound to get told off for thinking like that. When those thoughts came up, I forgot all about my fear of Ãcariya Mun and just felt full of myself thinking such crazy thoughts. I deserved exactly what I got. It will teach me a good lesson about losing my self-control.”

I would like to apologize to the reader because I don’t feel very comfortable about writing down some of these matters. But these stories are factual – they actually happened. The decision to include them was a difficult one to make. But if what I recount is the truth, it should be all right. It could be compared to a situation in which a monk confesses to a disciplinary offense as a means of eliminating any sense of guilt or anxiety about its recurrence in the future. Thus, I would like to relate a few incidents from the past to serve as food for thought for all of you whose thoughts may cause you similar problems.

In most cases, practicing monks received a severe rebuke from Ãcariya Mun because of affairs pertaining to external sense objects. For example, sights and sounds are the most likely sense impressions to cause trouble. And the most likely occasion for monks to be scolded was the morning almsround. Walking to the village for alms is an essential duty of every monk. On these occasions, monks encounter sights and sounds, and are bound to think about them. Some become so infatuated with what they encounter that their thoughts swirl into disarray without their actual knowledge. These are the primary causes of mental distraction, enticing the mind even when one has no desire to think about them. By the time a monk regained mindfulness, it was time for the evening meeting and the tongue-lashing he received would prompt him to try to be more controlled. After a time, he again encountered the same enticing objects and reopened the sore. Upon returning to the monastery, he would receive another dose of ‘strong medicine’, in the form of another scolding, to apply to his sore. A great many monks and novices lived with Ãcariya Mun and most of them had such festering sores. If one monk didn’t get a dose of his medicine then another did. They went to the village and were confronted by attractive sights and sounds until they were unable to stay out of trouble. Consequently, upon their return to the monastery, when the opportunity arose, Ãcariya Mun would have another go at them. It’s natural for someone with kilesas to have a mixture of good and bad thoughts. Ãcariya Mun did not give a lecture for every bad thought. What he criticized was the tendency to think in harmful ways. He wanted them to think in terms of Dhamma, using mindfulness and wisdom, so that they could free themselves from dukkha. He found that, instead of easing their teacher’s burden with rightful thinking, monks preferred to think in ways that troubled him. Since many such monks lived with him, there were scoldings nearly every evening.

All of this serves to illustrate that Ãcariya Mun’s subtle ability to know the thoughts of others was very real.  As for those reprehensible thoughts, they did not arise intentionally but accidentally, due to occasional lapses in mindfulness. Nevertheless, as a teacher imparting knowledge and skill to his students, Ãcariya Mun quickly sounded a warning when he noticed something inappropriate, so that the perpetrator could become conscious of his lapse and learn to be more selfcontrolled in the future. He did not want his students to get trapped into such thinking again, for it promotes habitual thought patterns that lead directly to misfortune.

Ãcariya Mun’s teaching for the monks was thoroughly meticulous, showing great attention to detail. The rules of monastic discipline were taught in detail and samãdhi and wisdom, belonging to the higher Dhamma, were taught in even greater depth. During the time he lived in Sarika Cave, he had already begun to master all levels of samãdhi and all intermediate levels of wisdom. As for the highest levels of wisdom, I shall write about them later in the story when Ãcariya Mun’s practice finally reached that stage. After continuing his training in the Northeast region for a while longer, he became even more proficient. This enabled him to use his expertise to teach the monks about all levels of samãdhi, plus the intermediate levels of wisdom. They in turn listened intently to his expositions, which never deviated from the authentic principles of samãdhi and wisdom.

Ãcariya Mun’s samãdhi was strange and quite extraordinary, whether it was khaõika samãdhi, upacãra samãdhi or appanã samãdhi.34 When his citta entered into khaõika samãdhi, it remained only for a moment, and instead of returning to its normal state, it then withdrew and entered upacãra samãdhi. In that state, he came into contact with a countless variety of external phenomena. Sometimes he was involved with ghosts, sometimes devas, sometimes nãgas – innumerable worlds of existence were contacted by this type of samãdhi. It was this access level samãdhi that Ãcariya Mun used to receive visitors whose forms were invisible to normal sight and whose voices were inaudible to normal hearing. Sometimes his citta floated up out of his body and went off to look at the heavenly realms and the different levels of the brahma world; then, it traveled down into the regions of hell to look at the multitude of beings tormented by the results of their own kamma.

The terms ‘going up’ and ‘going down’ are relative, conventional figures of speech, referring to the behavior of gross physical bodies. They have very little in common with the behavior of the citta, which is something so subtle that it is beyond temporal comparison. In terms of the physical body, going up and going down require a degree of earnest effort, but in terms of the citta, they are merely figures of speech with no degree of effort involved. When we say that the heavens, the brahma realms, and Nibbãna are progressively ‘higher’ and more refined levels of existence or that the realms of hell consist of progressively ‘lower’ levels of existence, we are in fact using a physical, material standard to measure that which exists in a spiritual, psychic dimension. We might say that hell and heaven, which are considered to be lower and higher respectively, are in some respects analogous to hardened criminals and petty offenders who live together in the same prison, which itself is located in a community of law-abiding citizens. There’s no distinction in kind between the two types of prisoners because they all live together in the same prison. And there’s no distinction in kind between them and law-abiding citizens because they are all human beings living on the same land in the same country. What distinguishes them is the fact that they’ve been kept separated.

At least the prison inmates and the general public can use their normal sense faculties to be aware of each other. But beings in the different spheres of existence are unaware of each other. Those living in the hell realms are unable to perceive those who are in the heavenly realms; and vice versa. Both groups are unable to perceive the brahma world. And human beings, in turn, are unaware of all who are in these different realms of existence. Even though the flows of consciousness from each of these beings intermingle constantly as they pass through one another’s sphere of existence, they are as oblivious of others as if theirs is the only group in existence.

Ordinarily, our minds are unable to know the thoughts of others. Because of this inability, we might then reason that they do not really exist. No matter how persistent these denials might be, we would be wrong because all living beings possess a mind. Even though we are not aware of the thoughts of other beings, we have no right to deny that they exist simply because we can’t perceive them. We cannot afford to hold hostage within the limitations of our sense faculties the existence of things which are too subtle to see and hear. If we do, we are just fooling ourselves.

When we say that the heavens and the brahma worlds are arranged vertically in a series of realms, one shouldn’t understand this in the gross material sense – such as, a house with many stories requiring the use of stairs or an elevator. These realms exist in a spiritual dimension and they are ascended in the spiritual sense by spiritual means: that is, by the heart which has developed this sort of capability through the practice of virtue. When we say that hell is ‘down below’, this does not mean descending into an abyss. Rather, it refers to descent by spiritual means to a spiritual destination. And those who are able to observe the hell realms do so by virtue of their own internal psychic faculties. But those beings who ‘fall’ into these realms do so through the power of their own evil kamma. They remain there, experiencing whatever torment and agony is imposed on them by their own misdeeds, until they have completed their punishment and are released, in the same way that prison inmates are released at the end of their sentences.

From the very beginning of Ãcariya Mun’s practice, upacãra samãdhi and khaõika samãdhi were bound together because the nature of his citta was inherently active and adventurous. As soon as his citta entered khaõika samãdhi, it instantly began to roam and experience the different phenomena existing in the sphere of upacãra. So he trained himself in samãdhi until he was proficient enough to make his citta stay still or go out to experience various phenomena as he wished. From then on it was easy for him to practice the samãdhi of his choice. For instance, he could enter momentarily into khaõika samãdhi and then move out to access samãdhi in order to experience various phenomena, or he could focus intensively and enter into the full absorption of appanã samãdhi, where he would rest for as long as necessary. Appanã samãdhi is a state of perfect calm that’s absolutely serene and peaceful. Because of this, meditators may become attached to it. Ãcariya Mun said that he was attached to this type of samãdhi for awhile, but not for long, since he was by nature inclined toward wisdom. So he was able to resolve this matter himself and find a way out before complacency set in.

Anyone who is transfixed in appanã samãdhi will make slow progress if they do not try to apply wisdom to examine it. Because it fills one with such happiness, many meditators are held fast by this kind of samãdhi. A strong, lingering attachment forms, and the meditator yearns for more, overwhelming any inclination to examine things with wisdom, which is the way to eradicate all kilesas. Meditators who fail to receive timely advice from a wise person will be reluctant to disengage themselves and realize the path of wisdom. When the citta remains attached for a long time in such samãdhi, conceits of various kinds may develop; such as, believing that this calm and happy state is none other than Nibbãna, the end of dukkha. In truth, when the citta ‘converges’ into the onepointedness of appanã samãdhi so that its focal point is experienced with the utmost clarity, it dwells fully absorbed in serene happiness. But, the kilesas that cause birth in all realms of existence simultaneously converge at the same focal point as well. If wisdom is not used to penetrate and destroy those kilesas, there is no doubt that future rebirths will take place. Therefore, regardless of the level of samãdhi one practices, wisdom should be incorporated into the practice as well. This is especially true of appanã samãdhi. Otherwise, the citta will only experience tranquility without evincing a capacity for resourcefulness and discernment.

BY THE TIME OF HIS SECOND TRIP to the Northeast, Ãcariya Mun was wellexperienced in the intermediate level of wisdom, since sufficient wisdom is necessary for having advanced to the Anãgãmï level of Dhamma. Otherwise, he would not have been capable of effective investigation at that level. Before reaching that level, one must employ wisdom to successfully pass through body contemplation. This requires seeing the attractive as well as the repulsive aspects of the body without getting caught up in either extreme. The citta uses wisdom to isolate the attractive and repulsive aspects and then passes through the midpoint where these two extremes meet, having resolved all doubt and attachment concerning the body. This passage, however, is nothing more than a transitional stage along the way. It is analogous to taking an examination and passing with the minimum requirement, necessitating further study to achieve the maximum grade. Those who have penetrated to the Anãgãmï level of understanding must still train their wisdom until it reaches an even more refined degree of expertise before it can be said that they are full-fledged Anãgãmïs. Should such a person then die, he would immediately be reborn in the fifth or akaniååha plane of the brahma world without having to pass through the four lower brahma planes.

Ãcariya Mun recounted how he was delayed at that level for quite some time because he had no one to advise him. As he struggled to familiarize himself with the Anãgãmï level of practice, he had to be very careful not to make any mistakes. He knew from his experience in analyzing subtle aspects of Dhamma that the kilesas might undermine his efforts, for they were as equally subtle as the mindfulness and wisdom he was using to counter them. This made it very difficult to penetrate each successive level of Dhamma. He said it was absolutely incredible how hard he struggled to negotiate that dense, thorny thicket. Before he made his way through to come and kindly teach the rest of us, he suffered great hardship, making the arduous journey all alone.

When the occasion was right, he used to describe this part of his practice to us. I myself was moved to tears in two instances while listening to his description of the terrible ordeal he faced at that time, and the amazingly subtle and profound nature of the Dhamma he attained. I wondered whether I had enough inherent virtue to enable me to crawl along in his footsteps, or whether I was destined to go the way of ordinary people in the world. But his words were very encouraging and always helped to sustain my resolve to persevere. Ãcariya Mun said that whenever he accelerated his efforts to apply wisdom, his citta became weary of association with others and he became even more committed to his meditation practice. He knew at that stage that his practice still needed strengthening; yet he felt obliged to stay and train his disciples so that they might also develop some Dhamma principles in their hearts.

ÃCARIYA MUN LIVED for three or four years in the area of Ban Sam Phong village in Sri Songkhram district, Nakhon Phanom province. He spent one year at Ban Huay Sai village in Kham Cha-ee district of the same province, as well as the villages of Nong Sung and Khok Klang. He particularly liked staying in those places since they were all very mountainous. Nearby in the Pak Kut mountains were many devas – and tigers there were particularly abundant. When night descended, tigers would wander around his living area while the devas came to rejoice in hearing the Dhamma.

In the middle of the night, the roars of huge tigers echoed through the forest close to where he lived. On some nights a whole host of them roared together, much like a crowd of people yelling back and forth to one another. When the terrifying sounds of those enormous cats resounded through the darkness, the effect was indeed very frightening. There were nights when the monks and novices failed to get any sleep, fearing that the tigers would come to snatch and devour them. Ãcariya Mun cleverly found ways to use their fear of tigers to spur the monks to practice diligently. Rather enigmatically, he would say: “Anyone who’s efforts are lazy – watch out! The tigers in this mountain range really love lazy monks. They find them especially tasty eating! So if you want to avoid becoming a tasty meal for a tiger, you had better be diligent. You see, tigers are actually afraid of anyone who’s diligently striving, so they won’t eat that person.” After hearing this, all the monks redoubled their efforts as though their very lives depended on it. They forced themselves to go out and do walking meditation, despite the roar of tigers all around the vicinity. Although they remained afraid, they believed what Ãcariya Mun told them: that lazy monks could expect to be a tiger’s next meal.

Their precarious situation was made even worse by the fact that they didn’t have huts as they would in a monastery – only small platforms just big enough to sleep on which were very low to the ground. If a tiger became hungry there’d be no contest. Ãcariya Mun related that on some nights huge tigers wandered into the monk’s area, but then simply walked harmlessly past. He knew that tigers normally would not dare do anything for the devas were always on guard. When devas came for a Dhamma talk, they mentioned to him that they were protecting the area and would not let anything trouble the monks or cause them harm. Those devas also invited Ãcariya Mun to remain in the area for a long time.

In truth, Ãcariya Mun’s admonition to the monks was simply a means of arousing fear so that they would take an increased interest in their practice. As for the tigers, they seemed to know that the monks’ living area was a safe haven. Various kinds of wild animals, too, felt no need to be wary of hunters entering the monks’ vicinity, for when the villagers knew where Ãcariya Mun was staying, they rarely dared to hunt the area. They were concerned about the dreadful moral consequences. They were terrified that if anyone shot a gun in that area it would explode in his hands and kill him. Strangely enough, whenever he went to stay in an area teeming with tigers, those beasts would stop killing the domesticated cows and buffaloes around the local villages. Nobody knew where they went to obtain their food. These remarkable incidents were related by Ãcariya Mun himself and later confirmed by many villagers in those localities where he had stayed