阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第三章第一節:解脫心

      

      

          

第三章第一節:解脫心

    阿姜曼說他經常在東北部到曼谷之間往返,有時他會搭一小段火車到「終點站」,而其他的時間他都是行腳。這次的行程他抵達曼谷後,便在Wat Pathumwan寺那裡度過雨安居。在雨季期間,他經常在Wat Boromaniwat寺與尊者Chao Khun Upāli Guṇūpamācariya長老一起學習佛經。Chao Khun Upāli長老邀請阿姜曼在雨季後陪他一起去清邁府,於是在乾季時,他們搭乘前往清邁府的火車。在火車上阿姜曼幾乎一直入定,他在曼谷直轄市與華富里府的路程中躺下來休息,但當火車離開華富里府並抵達程逸府(Uttaradit)的丘陵區時,他便入定並一直維持到清邁府。在他開始禪修時,他發了一個願:「當火車抵達清邁府時他才要出定。」於是緊接著便完全專心於禪修上。約莫二十分鐘後,他的「心」便完全凝神收攝進入定的基礎。從這一刻起,他已不再察覺到火車是否有在移動,他的心只覺知到完全的寂靜。外界現象的一切覺知,包括身體的感覺,全都停止了。一切可能會干擾他的覺知,都從心中消失了,彷彿整個世界都已不復存在,所有的想念與內在感受也都跟著消失了。火車的噪音、其他乘客與所有種種剛開始與「心」有關的事物,全都從他的意識中消失了,只留下他的禪境。他入定後,外在的環境從他的意識中退去,一直到他到達清邁府一到了這裡,他先前的決意便使他恢復正常的意識狀態。

        當他睜開眼睛環顧四周,他看到了所在城市的房屋與建築物。就在他開始整理物品並準備離開火車時,他發現周圍的乘客和火車職員都驚訝地盯著他看。當他要下車時,火車的職員帶著微笑走過來幫他整理物品,而車廂內的其他人則一直好奇盯著他看。甚至在他離開車廂前,他還被問到是在哪個寺院修行的?要去哪裡?他回答他是一個居無定所的森林比丘,他打算遠赴北方的山區獨自行腳。大家都深受感動,有一些人問他會待在那裡?他們是否能帶他去那裡?他謝過他們,回說有人會接待他,因為他的旅遊同伴Chao Khun Upāli長老,他深受清邁府所有人民高度的尊敬,從市長到販夫走卒及一般大眾。沙彌、比丘與信眾都等著來迎接Chao Khun Upāli長老。甚至有汽車在等候著,而且是在當時很少見的車。官方政府與私人的車隊都等著要護送他們到Wat Chedi Luang寺。

        當大家都知道Chao Khun Upāli長老已經回到Wat Chedi Luang寺,都趕來頂禮並聽法。Chao Khun Upāli長老趁眾人都在場的機會,邀請阿姜曼為大家說法。阿姜曼的口條清晰、辯才無礙,深深吸引住聽眾,大家都希望不要結束。他從基礎開始講起,一步一步按部就班推向更高層的「法」,然後演說便在大家真摯的遺憾中結束。接著他向Chao Khun Upāli長老頂禮,離開中央講台下來休息。同時,Chao Khun Upāli長老在大眾前盛讚他的演說:「阿姜曼真是辯才無礙,很難找到跟他一樣的人。他闡述『心解脫』 —— 也就是解脫的心,完全自在的境界 —— 不會讓人有任何的疑惑。一切都那麼的清楚,我根本就比不上他獨特、引人的風格,這個頭陀比丘詞彙的流暢更是特別。聽他的演說是一種享受、學習的經驗。他的演說不會讓人覺得刻板或無趣。他說到一般、日常的事物 —— 也就是我們在任何時候都可以看到或聽到、但不會特別去利用的東西,只有在他提到時,我們才會特別去記得它們的重要性。阿姜曼以正念與觀智忠實地遵循佛陀所教導的(八)正道,是一位很重要的梵行比丘。他絕不會以不得體或是世俗化的方式來踐踏它(法)。他的演說採用了全方位的表達方式:時而幽默風趣、時而嚴肅、時而鏗鏘有力及切入重點。他以一種我們一般人都很難做到的方式闡述了「法」的深刻複雜性。他善於解析「法」的不同層面,並以一種能對我們的心產生深刻影響的方式來表達。他的註解如此精闢,以致於很難讓人跟上他的水準。我自己也需要向他請教一些我自己都無法解決的問題,而他也都能迅速熟練地以他的智慧解決這些問題。我從他各種建議中獲益匪淺。」

        「我來清邁府前就希望阿姜曼能陪我一起來,而他也爽快地答應了。雖然他並沒有特別對我提到這件事,但可能是因為他知道清邁府有許多適合修行的山林。像阿姜曼這樣的比丘已經很難遇得到了,雖然我是他的前輩,但我由衷崇敬他心中的『法』 —— 然而,他對我還是那麼地謙遜與親切,我有時候都會感到不好意思。」

        「他在前往僻靜之地修行前只打算在這裡停留一下。我必須尊重我朋友的意思,不敢擋他的路,因為真的很難找到這樣的比丘。他一心一意只專注在『法』上,我們都應該衷心祝福他能更上一層樓。在不久的將來,他就可以為我們大家帶來更大的利益。」

        「你們若有禪修上的問題,都可以去請教他,你們一定不會空手而回。但請不要去向他索討一些什麼有神奇法力的佛牌、符咒或能擋災之類的護身符,這些都已偏離了修行,因為這樣做都不是出於正當的目的而騷擾他。如果你們這樣做就會受到嚴厲的斥責 —— 別說我沒警告你們。」

        「阿姜曼不是那種比丘。他是真正的比丘,真誠地教導大家分辨對與錯、好與壞、善與惡。他的教導絕不會偏離『法』的正道。他對『法』的修行與知見都忠於世尊的教導,現今沒有人能如他一般,透過法義的討論,向我提出並傳揚如此不可思議的理念,這都是我親身的經歷。我心裡對他非常地敬重,但,我沒有告訴過他。但不管怎樣,他或許已經由他心通知道了我對他的敬意。」

        「阿姜曼是一位真正值得受到最高禮敬的比丘,而且毫無疑問的,也是『世間的無上福田』。他從未宣稱自己的道果,然而在與他私下討論佛法的過程中,對我來說已經很明顯了。我完全確信他在聖道中已穩定建立了三果的成就,這一點從他的言行中就可明顯得知。雖然他從未特別提到這種成就,但我很確定:因為他傳達給我的解脫知見與佛經裡面的記載完全一樣。但他對我只有表現出忠誠與尊敬,而我從未看過他有任何的驕慢或固執。他行事如此的謙卑,讓我不禁打從心底景仰他。」以上這些都是在阿姜曼說法結束並回到他的小禪屋後,Chao Khun Upāli長老對在家居士、沙彌與比丘所說的讚美之詞。後來,在場的比丘把這些內容轉述給阿姜曼;之後,阿姜曼在一個適當的場合,也把這些經過告訴了他的弟子。muttodaya的意思是「解脫心」,在阿姜曼的荼毘儀式中發送他生平略事的小冊子裡記載Chao Khun Upāli長老在清邁府稱讚他的美德時,有特別提到過。這個名字會被記住,且將會一代又一代口耳相傳到後世。根據在烏隆府Wat Bodhisomphon寺的Chao Khun Dhammachedi尊者所述,阿姜曼於一九二九至一九四〇年間都留在清邁府修行,之後才前往烏隆府。有關他在烏隆府的事情在後面會有交代。他在Wat Chedi Luang寺住了一陣子,阿姜曼向Chao Khun Upāli長老致謝並辭別,準備前往北部尋找適合獨自修行的荒野。Chao Khun Upāli長老隨即同意他的離去,於是阿姜曼離開了清邁直轄縣,並展開另一段行程。他殷切期盼長久以來渴望已久的理想僻靜之處,而這個完美的機會終於出現了。長久以來他都一直在教別人,這是他多年來第一次有時間獨自修行。起初,他經由Mae RimChiang Dao[1]行腳,並在那裡的山區與森林裡度過了雨季及乾季。

        他的努力已到達最後的關鍵階段,他告誡自己不論發生什麼事,都要認真努力達到最後的目標 —— 不論是生或死,不容許任何的事情再來干擾他。之前因為慈悲心,他盡全力去教導同修比丘 —— 這一點毫無疑問。他的教導成果已開始在他的一些弟子中展現出來,而現在應該是他對自己慈悲的時候了,該是教育並提升自己並超越那些仍需克服內心黑暗面的時候了。

        被社會義務與責任所絆住的生活,是一種焦躁不安與被壓到喘不過氣來的生活,根本就沒有能獨處的時間。我們必須承認這是一種永不間斷的掙扎,卻又不得不忍受。就算有人可能有足夠的正念與觀智,可避開一些負擔並減輕壓力,使他不致於被完全壓垮,但能夠禪修的機會還是很有限;所獲得的結果也可能極少,犯不著失望與費事。

        這趟在未開墾的荒野中短暫的獨自行程,是擺脫一切糾葛並獨處的一個好機會。對於某些志在斷除心中內外一切殘餘垢染、黏著的人來說,荒野、偏僻的森林就是居住與修行的好地方。他捨棄一切可能形成「未來有」(來生)種子的「執取」 —— 一切形式的苦源 —— 隨後帶來威脅並產生無盡的折磨。對於一個持之以恆精進的人來說,偏遠的森林很適合他集中心力在「存有」的組構因緣上 —— 也就是誘導我們誤入歧途的內心欺騙大師 —— 並在心中快速斬斷它們。而離涅槃彼岸還很遙遠的時候,與其他人事的糾葛是得不到什麼好處的;因為那就好比在一艘即將要下沉的船上再加重負載。當夢寐以求的梵行生活就近在眼前時,阿姜曼對「利他」的執著一點一滴消退了,取而代之的比較是「自利」的動機。他不再去考慮他人的苦難,他的決意堅定聚焦在清淨的領域中。

        他擔心這一次無法抵達涅槃,因此他思惟:「現在我必須擔心自己 —— 對自己慈悲 —— 使身為Tathāgata尊者精進弟子的我,能無愧於他堅定不移的崇高美德。我是否真明白我來此的目的是為了跨越生死輪迴並抵達涅槃的目標 —— 從一切的焦慮與苦中解脫?如果是,那麼該用什麼方法才能超越世俗?世尊指出了這條路並教導我們『法』 —— 他到底給了我們什麼樣的指示?難道他是教我們去忘記我們的目標,然後就在我們對『法』有了一些謙卑的瞭解後便開始擔心這個、擔心那個?」

        「一開始,世尊在為數甚少的阿羅漢協助下弘法,使他的訊息得以快速傳播得愈來愈廣 —— 而且是用最正確的方式。但我還沒有達到同樣崇高的地位,所以目前我必須把自己的進展當成是首要的任務。當我所作已辦時,那麼『利他』將不可避免接踵而來。這樣的觀念對一個態度謹慎且不願浪費時間的人來說是相應的。我必須好好想清楚,這樣才能從中得到啟發。」

        「現在,我在『無明』與『道果』 —— 解脫之道 —— 的戰鬥中奮戰,為了最後的勝利:讓『心』得到解脫。直到現在,心分成了兩大陣營,但我的目標卻是使『道果』成為沒有爭議的盟主。如果我的堅持鬆懈了,我的洞察力不足,『心』便會從我的掌握中滑走,並落在無明卑劣的掌控下;它們會使『心』一直陷在永無止境的出生與失望的輪迴中。但如果我能堅持不懈並讓智慧犀利敏銳,『心』便能受到我的控制並成為我獲取『道果』的無價之寶。」

        「用我的生命去冒險並致力於全力攻擊無明的時刻已經來了,不能表現出猶疑或軟弱。如果我輸了,那麼就讓我在戰鬥中死去。我不允許自己在混亂中撤退,讓無明恥笑我 —— 因為那會是一個長久的恥辱。如果我勝利了,我將完全永遠自由。所以現在,我只有一條路可走:為了這場勝利,我必須盡全力打一場殊死戰,沒有其他的選擇!」

        這就是阿姜曼鼓舞自己為即將實現的目標而準備的一種敦促。這反映出他毫不妥協的決心,為了涅槃而日夜奮戰的義務 —— 無論行、住、坐、臥。除了躺下來睡覺以外,他的時間全都致力於精進修行。他的正念與觀智圍繞著一切外在的感官與內在思惟的過程,非常仔細地觀照每一件事,不放過任何一處死角。在這個修行的層次,不論身體的動作為何,正念與觀智就像一個不停旋轉的法輪一般和諧地運作。

        之後,當阿姜曼描述這段期間千辛萬苦的努力,他的聽眾都被他修行的功德給震懾住,因而肅然起敬,屏息凝氣,不敢稍動地坐著。這就好像阿姜曼打開了通往涅槃的大門,讓從未經歷涅槃的他們能一窺堂奧。事實上,那時的阿姜曼正處於加速朝向證悟涅槃的精進過程中。雖然那只是他發展過程中的一個階段,它仍深深感動了那些從未聽過這種事情的人,他們也總是被他驚人的成就給吸引住。

        阿姜曼說,他的心早已證得三果 —— 阿那含果;但,因為他對追隨者持續的義務,以致於沒有足夠的時間能如願地加速修行。只有當他有機會去清邁府的時候,才能讓他得以將修行發揮到極致並完成他的目標。

        清邁府的環境很有利於修行,他的心也已準備好了。在身體方面,他的狀況很好,適合從事各項活動。他熱情的企盼就像光芒四射的太陽,期望盡可能在最短的時間內持續趨向解脫彼岸。他將「法」與「無明」之間的內戰比作一隻獵犬,在全速奔跑並追逐獵物;而獵物在獵犬的口中被撕裂也只是時間上的問題,不可能有別的結果,因為「心」已經全副武裝穿上了無上正念mahāsati與無上觀智mahāpaññā的護身盔甲。它們絕不會有任何片刻的偏差,即使沒有刻意要保持警覺也一樣。到了這個程度,「正念」與「觀智」已經完全現前,自動處理內在所生起的一切。一旦它們的因緣被知悉、它們的真正本質被看清,此人就只是會「放下」。沒有必要像剛開始修行的時候那樣,再去掌控抓取、下命令。當已備妥習慣性的正念與觀智,就不用再為特定的方向或預先計畫好的決定而修這個或觀那個,也不用再同時注意要提防遺失什麼。「因與果」已經與自動運作的「正念」及「觀智」合而為一;所以,沒有必要主動去探索能激勵它們運作的理由與技術方法。除了睡覺以外,一切的日常活動對於無上的正念與觀智的層次而言都是活動的競技場,就像從地面終年湧出的溫泉一樣,不停地運作。

        思惟過程被當成是內觀的重點,為的是要找出這些思惟的真正緣起。五蘊中的後四項-- 受、想、行、識viññāṇa對於進階的正念與觀智而言是很適合的戰場。至於五蘊中的色蘊 —— 也就是色身 —— 當證得中階的觀智後就不再是問題了。這種中階的觀智對於想要證得聖道中的阿那含果而言,是一定要執行的任務。為了達到這個崇高的層次,就必須「念住」色身,仔細地觀照每一個環節,直到對於色身的邪見與貪愛染(執)著都永遠地消失。

        當達到最後的階段 —— 直逼阿羅漢,內觀四蘊就絕對必要,這是為了對於諸法如何因緣生起、暫住並消滅的現象能有一個深入與清晰的領悟。這三方面的內觀會在「無我」的真諦中匯聚,也就是諸法空無自性:無所謂的男與女,也無所謂的人、我。總而言之,沒有任何的「自我」、「真我」、「主體」、「自性」、「靈魂」等存在於「心法」中的任何地方。為了領悟四蘊的真實本質,就必須找出它們的基本法則,並以觀智去深入及清晰地釐清。光是去預測結果或去推測其本質是不夠的,這是大部分的人都會做的事 —— 人們就是喜歡臆測。

        理論上的理解,都是從學習而得,迥異於從觀智的基礎上而得的真正領悟,其差異猶如天壤之別。如果是透過記憶而得的知識為基礎的理解,這種人都非常的自以為是,總認為自己有高智商。事實上,他們全都被騙了!結果,他們變得過於自大,不願接受任何人的幫助與建議。

        尤其是當一群學者在研討佛法時,這種傲慢的傾向就相當地明顯,每一個人都想用自己的聰明理論辯贏對方,這種會議通常會被常見的自我中心態度所激化,而淪落到口舌上的辯論比賽,直到每一個人 —— 不論年齡、種族、性別、種性 —— 都忘了應當遵守「文明人」應遵守的禮節。

        基於觀智而生的領悟,已準備好根除會持續呈現驕慢的各種形式的戲論。觀智已準備好查出並揭露這些邪見,滲透每一個壁龕,直到整棟龐大的無明建物應聲轟然倒塌,沒有任何一個無明能成功抵擋最高層次的正念與觀智的滲透。

        在「法」的武器兵工廠中,正念與觀智是最重要的武器,從來就沒有任何無明能強悍地擊敗它們。世尊就是因為「正念」與「觀智」而成為「無上調御士」;他的弟子也因為「正念」與「觀智」而成為阿羅漢。他們都能深入觀透事物真正的本質。他們都不是靠讀經、推論或是臆測來剷除無明。在剛開始禪修的階段,由記憶而得的概念,可用來描繪出前進方向的邊界線;但,必須很謹慎,以免這種推論會導致假扮成真諦的偏執妄念。

        當世尊與阿羅漢弟子們向世人弘法時,他們就是在宣揚「觀智」的方法 —— 一種能使我們觀透諸法真正本質的方法。我們禪修者必須非常小心,留意不讓臆論大師趁虛而入,因它會變出各種把戲矇蔽觀智。如果我們不小心,就會錯把純粹的概念當成是真正的領悟,根本就沒有把心中的任何一個無明給剷除。我們可能會被有關救贖方面的知識所淹沒,但卻不能救自己。而這正是佛陀的意思,當他教導卡拉瑪人:「不要相信推論或臆測,不可因為是古老的傳統或因為是出自於可靠老師的教導就信以為真。該相信的是那些以智慧在自身就能發現的真理原則。這就是最真實不虛的知識。」佛陀及其阿羅漢弟子們並不需要靠任何人來認證他們的成就,因為「法」就存在於每一個在正道中循著佛陀教導而修行的人心中。

        阿姜曼說當他達到進階修行的最後階段時,他沉醉在其中,渾然不覺時間的流逝。他完全忘了日子,忘了睡覺,也忘了身體有多累。他毫無恐懼且堅定不移,他的心處於不斷對抗各式各樣的無明的處境,準備將把它們給連根拔除。從他離開清邁府的Wat Chedi Luang寺,他不允許有任何一天虛度。而沒多久,他抵達終極證悟的核心了。

        此刻,他獨自一人動身出發,他的心就像一匹勇於冒險的純種馬,充滿了活力。它想要衝向高空、在空中翱翔、再潛入地底,然後再一次直衝高空。它想向外探索,去體驗世界上數不清的各種現象。他覺得他的心在瞬間便可掘出並移除一切的無明。他正念與觀智的愛冒險特質長期以來被社會責任所箝制,無法在它們比較喜歡的領域裡自由活動 —— 就是阿姜曼長久以來想要觀察並分析的那些事物。如今他有福了 —— 他脫離無明的機會來了,當正念與觀智徹底去探索整個三界的存有時,終於有機會讓它們去展現龐大的實力。

        阿姜曼內外徹底觀照,他的正念與觀智穿透了自己的每一處 —— 持續進出、上下解析 —— 始終不斷解析問題、使自己分離,當他用盡所有的力氣將每一種虛妄予以分割、砍斷、粉碎,然後便放下。感覺就像是一隻大魚,快樂地在汪洋中無拘無束游來游去。他回顧自己的整個過去,只看到黑暗的阻滯潛藏在彼處,充滿各種危險且無法避免的後果。一想到去找解救自己的方法,他的心就跳得更快。展望未來,他看到在他面前只有一處雄偉、空曠、一望無際、璀璨亮麗的光,而且完全是一種非常人所能理解、且難以言喻的光明。到了這般程度,我發現很難為讀者們再進一步解釋。我真的很遺憾我無法將阿姜曼說過能激勵人心的話都做適當的傳達。

        阿姜曼那一晚一直靜坐到深夜,沒過多久便穩定建立起無上的正念與無上的觀智。它們就像一個法輪,和諧一致繞著「心」以及與「心」有關的一切,不停地轉動。他一直住在山底下,那裡是一處被廣大又平坦的石地所覆蓋的區域。當他坐在當地唯一的一棵大樹底下時,四周空曠無人。這棵樹在白天時有茂密的樹蔭,所以他有時會到樹蔭底下禪修。

        我很抱歉我記不得那是哪一種樹,以及它正確的所在位置。當阿姜曼說到這一段驚人的往事時,我整個人已被他的大成就所淹沒,以致於記不住相關的細節,譬如說阿姜曼那時是住在什麼區或待過什麼鎮,甚至是山脈的名稱。聽著他偉大的成就,我不禁想到自己,人身難得今已得,難道我應該辜負生而為人的好機緣嗎?我是否也有足夠的波羅蜜,有朝一日也能親證最高的「法」呢?這麼想著,我便忘了其他的事。我自己也沒想到,有一天,我會寫他的傳記。

        黃昏時分,阿姜曼開始經行,同時專注在「十二因緣」paṭiccasamuppāda之上,因為它是這種層次的沉思最主要相關的題材。從產生緣起的根本無明開始,他就對「緣起」這個主題非常熱衷,他很快就觀照這一點而捨棄了其它的部分。到了晚上九點,當他坐下來的時候,他的心只集中在觀察無明,並開始從無明順向仔細觀察十二因緣,觀察每一個因緣彼此間相互的關聯性;然後再逆向回到無明。他就這樣沉思,前前後後、週而復始,深入內心深處;也就是造成生、死與其他煩惱的主要原因匯聚之處 —— 無明。

        那一夜,他靜坐到很晚,而關鍵性的時刻已經來臨。戰線已經形成:無上的正念與無上的觀智 —— 最鋒利的武器 —— 去攻打「無明」。但敵人卻特別善於擊退它們的前進,然後再反擊,使它們潰不成軍。自古以來,大家都不敢去挑戰無明的威勢,並縱容它享有至高且不容挑戰的權柄,去掌控所有眾生的生與死。但就在當晚午夜三點,阿姜曼積極展開他最後、傾全力的一擊;結果,魔王的威勢徹底遭到瓦解,掌控生死的權柄也全被推翻。魔王由於突然間的癱瘓及措手不及,以致無法再維持牠的統治權。就在此時此刻,無明已徹底被消滅了。

        阿姜曼敘述這重大性的一刻伴隨著一股看似能撼動全宇宙的震動,遍佈各處天界的有情立即對他至高的成就投以敬意,歡呼讚嘆聲迴盪在天地間,大家都喊道:「又一個釋迦牟尼的弟子出現在世間了!」大家為他的成就都作了見證,並在一番狂喜後,都急於向他道賀。然而,世人都沈溺在世俗的欲樂中,以致於就在片刻前,無上正法在一個人類的心中已甦醒這件事竟都渾然不覺。

        當如此神聖的一刻過去後,留下的只是涅槃。這清淨的「法」 —— 就是「心」真實、自然的狀態 —— 遍佈在阿姜曼的整個身與心,並向十方擴展其光明。這個經驗喚起了一種令人非常敬畏、驚嘆、難以言喻的感覺。他對世間慣有的憐憫,及教導他人的興趣幾乎全都消失了。他體認到無上正法對於人們而言實在太過深奧難解,也因為這樣,他感到灰心,不想再去教人。他只想在世俗中獨自享受這崇高無上的法樂。

        經過一段時間後,當晚阿姜曼思惟世尊的功德,他觀想:「這位無上的導師,正遍知一切真理,教導那些對『法』有恭敬心的人,他們也因而獲得解脫。在佛陀的教導中很明顯沒有虛妄。」當晚剩餘的時間,他不厭倦地對世尊無上的功德頂禮。

        阿姜曼一直都很慈悲 —— 他對人類的心靈狀態仍抱著很深的憐憫。但他的心剛剛才達到極為光明與純淨的清明,使他覺得很難去跟其他人解釋「法」的真實性。就算他嘗試去教,有煩惱的凡夫也可能不希望去證得這樣崇高的心境。甚至,就算聽到他最精妙的演說,他們還是會誹謗他講一些正常人都不會去討論的東西。他不太相信認同的人數能足以激起他的熱情去弘法,他大可以在餘生都過著隱士的生活。他已徹底證悟了終其一生夢寐以求的目標,就這一點來說他已經足夠了。他認為沒有必要再去背負著弘法的重責大任,因為這有可能最終會是一個善因不得善果的例子,也就是說:他的慈悲心對於那些輕蔑正法的人可能會帶來傷害性的惡果。

        這就是阿姜曼在親證無上正法之後的心態 —— 而那時他尚未注意到更寬廣的視野。最後,他的思惟都集中在世尊闡釋修行正道時的導師角色。回顧他的成就與走過的路,他瞭解到,他也是世上的人,就跟大家一樣;但他現在是唯一能證悟「法」的人,就因為這個特殊性,使得他與別人不一樣。當然,有利根的人比較容易能見「法」。由於他尚未打開視野,所以剛開始他瞧不起同修的心性 —— 而這是不公平的。

        世尊不是只為某個人的利益而揭示走向「道」、「果」、「涅槃」magga, phala, and Nibbāna的修行之路。不論是對於當代或後世的眾生,這種揭示都是一份世紀大禮。因世尊的教導而達到「道」、「果」、「涅槃」的人迄今已不計其數。就這一點而言,阿姜曼的成就當然不是唯一,儘管他當初忽略了其他人也有獲得類似成就的能力。

        仔細去回顧佛陀教導的各方面,他發現它適合世界各地的人,對於任何想要正確修行的人而言都很容易做得到。這些想法讓他再度產生想要幫助他人的意願。如果眾生易於接受他的指導,那麼指導來向他求教的人這個想法再一次讓他感到舒服。對於弘法一事,為了恭敬「法」,老師有責任拒絕所有對「法」不恭敬或不感興趣的人。有些人在聽法時會不由自主地發出噪音:他們對於聞法的機緣及法的尊貴性顯然都無動於衷。他們似乎不明白自己身處的場合及應有的行為,像這樣的人都將「法」看成是相當廉價之物。他們對於「法」、僧團、比丘們都表現出一種對「法」漠不關心的典型世俗態度。遇到這種情形,就不該說法:不然的話,老師就該受譴責,聽眾也得不到任何真正的利益。

        就在阿姜曼證悟無上的「法」並開始弘法之前,他用盡每一分力氣持續嚴苛地奮鬥,差一點就要死在山林裡。在經過像英雄般的努力之後,帶來了尊貴的「法」,然後又讓它就這樣消失在汪洋中,這種想法簡直是難以置信。曾幾何時發生過這樣的事?畢竟,比丘就是行事前會深思熟慮的類型。「法」是獨一無二的,所以一定要特別注意何時及該如何對大眾說「法」。如果不注意說法的適當時機,結果極可能會帶來傷害。

        弘法的目的是為了要幫助世人 —— 有點像醫師希望病人康復而開藥方去治療疾病及舒緩疼痛。但如果人們自己不願意接受幫助,比丘又何必傷腦筋該怎麼教?如果他的心中有真實「法」,那麼他一定很樂於隱世獨居。想教人的衝動會引發不舒服及壓力,但根本不需要為了舒緩壓力而刻意去找學生 —— 反正這種衝動也只會增加不滿的感覺。若對於世尊熱切努力證悟的「法」缺乏虔敬,像這樣的人,雖然自稱為老師,也不過是徒有虛名而已。

        阿姜曼說他有十足的信心能在身心方面都適應獨居,因為他的心已臻無上的寂滅,有了純正的「法」。「法」也意味著寂滅,一顆充滿「法」的心,其寧靜可超越一切。既然山林區有益於與「法」一起過著令人讚嘆的生活,阿姜曼自然樂於住在山林間。他認為教導別人應該是特殊的情況,當他與「法」同住時,這會是他偶一為之但非實際必須履行的義務。不然的話,他就不會享有每天如此自在的生活了。

        當我們擁有了「法」,領悟了「法」,並安住於「法」中,我們就不受世間法(世間八法)所干擾,也不會去找「苦」。有「法」在的地方,就會有平靜與喜樂。根據自然法則,「法」是安住在修行者的心裡,所以平靜與幸福也會在修行者的心中生起,而不會在別處生起。

        阿姜曼傳法的時候總是非常的謹慎,他絕不會不看對象就亂傳法,因為「法」本身絕不會不分對象。他都是依循已建立好的法則,以及佛經中所載的神聖傳統方法來修行,絕不會盲修瞎練,他的知見也不會錯亂 —— 因為他的正見是依循真諦按部就班生起。阿姜曼告誡修行的比丘應謹記傳法與戒律的份際,因為它們代表著佛陀及其修行方法,所以一定要避免不擇對象的傳法。他強調維持「道」與「果」的比丘 —— 同時也是維持傳法與戒律的比丘,一定是謙虛低調,且時時注意不令「身」、「口」、「意」偏離正道的人。這樣子的修行,一定可以獨當一面 —— 而且是永遠。

        阿姜曼對大家說完傳法時可能引起的爭議後,又將注意力轉向「內明」的本質。他說當「法」在心中明亮地生起時,也就是證悟的那一刻,是完全難以想像的一刻。「法」的真實本質會以完全無法預期的方式自我呈現,就好像無法想像且不可能事先預測一般。在那一刻,他覺得好像置之死地而後生 —— 一種獨特神奇的死亡及重生。這種覺悟的品質、內在的轉變,是他從未經歷過的一種覺知的狀態,即使它一直都在那裡,未曾改變。那時,突然間,它變得清晰明顯 —— 莊嚴且難以想像的神奇。正是因為這種典型的特質使得阿姜曼認為 —— 有些異乎尋常 —— 去教導他人瞭解無上的法是不太可能的事,因為他們不可能真的理解「法」。

        自從阿姜曼修行的初期,他就一直很主動積極。這種與眾不同的特徵在他最後證果的那一刻最明顯,也最讓他難以忘懷,使他後來也以此激勵他的弟子。一旦他的心徹底打破了一再的生死輪迴,便出現了三次大變革,環繞著新生起的解脫心而運轉。當第一次的大變革結束時,巴利語Pāli所謂的「lopo」(徹底斷除) —— 隨之生起,意即此刻的心已完成了徹底排除一切因緣造作的相對世間有為法[2]的工作;第二次的大變革結束時,即巴利語所謂的「vimutti」(全然的自在) —— 隨之生起,意即此刻的心已臻徹底解脫的職責;第三次的大變革結束時,即巴利語所謂的「anālayo」(全然的捨離) —— 隨之生起,意即此刻的心已徹底斷除貪染執著的職責。「心」與「法」此時是一樣的 —— 「心即是法」。不同於相對性的的世間因緣法(有為法),它非因緣所成,也就是『非有為法』(無為法)。這就是單純又清淨的解脫心,它是絕對唯一,其中沒有任何的相對性(因緣、緣生)、世俗諦(世間法)的任何軌跡。這個清淨純然的「法」只能完全被體驗一次,無法再更完美了。

        世尊及阿羅漢們也都只完全證悟過一次:「心」與「法」的性質完全相同,他們不需要再進一步去尋找什麼東西了。「五蘊」,也就是構成他們在世間的存在,就只是單純的五蘊而已,沒有垢染(執取)的成分。阿羅漢的五蘊跟以前還是一樣,在證得涅槃後並沒有發生任何的改變。例如:那些聽從老闆的命令持續負責思惟過程的五蘊,就是「心」。本質上,解脫心已經不會與任何的五蘊有所糾纏。「心」與「五蘊」各自獨立而存,是不同的現象,在它們固有的狀態中每一個都是真實的。它們不再試圖彼此欺瞞與擾亂對方,兩邊各以其不同的自然性質和平共存,各自執行其特有的功能,直到死亡時,每一個構成元素才各自分道揚鑣。

        當身體最後死亡時,清淨心將如燈火的燃料耗盡一般熄滅,就這樣「心」根據其真正的性質也就入滅了。在那之後,像五蘊等相對性(因緣、緣生)、世俗諦(世間法)等都與清淨心不再有任何的牽扯關聯了。事實上,沒有任何相對性、世俗的因緣會再伴隨去製造「未來有」。此刻,像這樣「法」的性質在阿姜曼的心中生起,並完成了三次動態性的大變革。而那是當阿姜曼的五蘊相對世俗諦因緣與「心」的完全解脫在最終各自永遠分道揚鑣前最後一場攜手合作的演出。

        整晚剩餘的時間,阿姜曼為他自己過去這麼無知感到驚愕;就像一個木偶一樣,無止盡地從一個存在被拖入另一個存在。他想到他終於來到這座如水晶般清澈、有奇妙甘甜的水池,他流下了眼淚。他終於抵達泛著粼粼波光的清淨「法池」,也是世尊及其阿羅漢弟子們在兩千五百年前遇到並向世人傳揚的「法池」。他找了好久,如今被他找到了,他不厭煩一次又一次向佛、法、僧頂禮來表達他由衷的敬意。如果那個時候有人看到他流著淚水不停禮拜,一定會認為這個比丘是因為承受極大的痛苦而淚流不止。他們也可能會懷疑他在向四方的神靈祈禱,祈求能減輕痛苦;又或者懷疑他瘋了,才會有這般異常的舉止。事實上,他只是剛剛清楚地見到了佛、法、僧的真諦,猶如偈語說的:「見法,即見如來,因此安住於佛、法、僧之中。」阿姜曼的行為只是單純表現出一個懷著崇高敬意的人會做的事情。

        那一晚十方所有的空居天神deva與地居天神以響亮且迴盪在整個世界的讚嘆聲來表達祂們的敬意,祂們都聚集來聽阿姜曼說法。但他仍忙著對「無上正法」的頂禮,以致於無法接待訪客。於是,他向聚集在虛空中的天神們示意,請祂們先行離開。天神們都帶著歡喜離開,因為祂們已目睹了一位清淨的聖人就在當晚證得涅槃。黎明時分,阿姜曼由禪坐中起身,仍沉思那難忘、神奇的「法」。他回想起最後解脫的時刻,回憶起那三大變革本質中的精妙處。他也帶著感恩回想起禪坐時為他遮蔭的大樹,以及總是供養他四事資具的當地村民。

        一開始,阿姜曼考慮放棄當天的晨間托缽,他覺得從證果而來的喜樂已足以支撐他身體的所需。但他不禁對那些曾為他付出那麼多的村民感到悲憫。所以,他雖不想吃東西,但還是去托缽。那天一大清早他進村後,目光便鎖定在那些之前他不太注意的人們身上。就在他專注看著那些將食物放進他缽裡的人們、房子周圍的家畜以及在泥巴中玩耍的小孩,他對他們全部生起了一種異乎尋常的慈悲。那一天,大家看見他走過來,都對他投以微笑,整個村莊看起來特別明亮與幸福。

        他回到山裡的靜修處時,他的心充滿著「法」,即便他還沒吃東西,但身體仍感到非常滿足。不管是「心」或「身」一點都不餓。然而,為了身體,他還是強迫自己吃東西,畢竟身體是需要營養才能維持。可是,食物,似乎沒什麼味道,已味同嚼蠟,這是因為法味已滲透瀰漫他的整個身體 —— 以及「心」,就如同佛陀說的:「法味勝過一切的美味。」

        諸神因渴望聽法,第二天晚上又來拜見阿姜曼。地居天和空居天的天神從十方一群又一群地來。每一群天神都敘述前一天晚上因「法」的不可思議力量所輻射出的神奇光芒。他們形容那是一種莊嚴的震動,且遍及世界體系中遼闊的天宮。這種震動伴隨著一道奇異的白光,使得上下四方都呈現一種難以形容的半透明狀,祂們對他說:

        「尊者,從您那裡湧出的『法』很明亮,使我們這些有神通的天神都能毫無障礙地看清整個宇宙,它的璀璨耀眼遠比一百個或甚至一千個太陽都還要亮,實在很難想像有誰會錯過這樣的奇觀。可能只有地球上那些汲汲營營於生活的人類和動物,才可能令人難以置信地盲目與神經大條,以致於不知昨晚的光輝。但各處的天神都感到驚訝、震驚、完全目瞪口呆,他們都發出讚嘆的歡呼聲來表達對您修行成就的歡喜。如果不是這種絕對驚人的成就,又豈會傳遍整個宇宙?」

        「尊者,您是一位具有聖德、大神通、大威勢的人,能成為許多有情的歸依庇護處,大家都能在您偉大的庇護下找到安樂。一切的有情 —— 不管是人類、天神或是梵天,也不管生活在水中、陸地或是空中的眾生 —— 能遇到這樣完美的成就真是千載難逢。尊者,我們認為是因為我們特別有福報才能遇到您,讓我們有如此珍貴的機會向您頂禮,並接受您慈悲的教導。我們感謝您的開示,它照亮了我們的心,指引我們修行之道,使我們逐漸瞭解如何提升自己。」

        當聚集的諸神最後回到了各自的天界後,阿姜曼開始沉思在證悟的過程中所經歷的各種巨大的困難。因為他的修行必然會經歷這些特殊的艱困,他把修行看成是鬼門關前的「法」。如果不是這麼接近死亡並奮力從苦中解脫,那麼可以肯定他永遠不會證得解脫。

 

[1] Mae Rim縣與Chiang Dao縣皆位於清邁府

[2] 譬如五蘊。

        

A Heart Released

venerable Ãcariya Mun said that he often traveled back and forth from the Northeast to Bangkok, sometimes taking the train to ‘the end of the line’, which extended only part of the distance in those days. All other times he walked dhutanga. Upon arriving in Bangkok on this trip, he went to Wat Pathumwan monastery, and stayed there through the rains retreat. During the rains he frequently studied Dhamma texts with the Venerable Chao Khun Upãli Guõýpamãcariya at his monastery, Wat Boromaniwat.1 Chao Khun Upãli invited Ãcariya Mun to accompany him to Chiang Mai after the rains. So, during the dry season, they went to Chiang Mai by train. On the train Ãcariya Mun remained in samãdhi almost the whole time. Between Bangkok and Lopburi he laid down to rest; but after the train departed Lopburi and reached the foothills of Uttaradit, he entered samãdhi and remained there for the duration of the trip to Chiang Mai. At the start of his meditation, he made a decision to withdraw from it only upon arrival at Chiang Mai, and then focused exclusively on his meditation. After approximately twenty minutes, his citta completely ‘converged’ into the very base of samãdhi. From that moment on, he was no longer aware of whether the train was moving or not. Absolute stillness was all that his heart knew; all awareness of external phenomena, including his body, completely ceased. Any perception, that might have disturbed it, vanished from the citta, as though the world no longer existed, having disappeared along with all thoughts and inner sensations. The noise of the train, the other passengers, and all the things that were associated with the citta earlier were extinguished from his awareness. All that remained was his state of samãdhi. The external environment faded out of consciousness from the moment his citta first ‘converged’ until he arrived in Chiang Mai, where his previous determination restored him to his normal state of consciousness.

When he opened his eyes to look around, he saw the surrounding buildings and houses of the city. As he began collecting his things in preparation for leaving the train, he noticed that the passengers and railway officials around him were staring at him in astonishment. When it was time to disembark, the railway officials approached him and, smiling cheerfully, helped him with his things, while everyone else in the passenger carriage stared curiously at him. Even before he had stepped off the train, he was asked what monastery he was from and where he was going. He replied that he was a forest-dwelling monk without a fixed residence, and that he intended to go wandering alone in the remote mountains of the North. Inspired by faith in him, some of them asked where he would stay and whether anyone had agreed to take him there. He thanked them, replying that there was someone to receive him since his traveling companion was Chao Khun Upãli, a very senior monk and one who was highly respected by all in Chiang Mai, from the governor to the merchants and the general public. So it happened that a crowd of monks, novices, and lay supporters awaited to receive Chao Khun Upãli. There were even automobiles in waiting, which were quite rare in those days. Official government cars as well as private ones were there to escort them to Wat Chedi Luang monastery.

Once people learned that Chao Khun Upãli had returned to reside at Wat Chedi Luang, they came to pay their respects and hear him expound the Dhamma. Chao Khun Upãli took advantage of the many people present to invite Ãcariya Mun to give a discourse on Dhamma. Speaking eloquently, Ãcariya Mun enthralled the large audience so much that they wished it would not end. Starting from the basics, he gradually climbed step by step to the higher levels of Dhamma, where he ended his discourse to the sincere regret of all who were absorbed in his presentation. He then paid his respects to Chao Khun Upãli before he left center stage to find a place to relax by himself. Meanwhile, Chao Khun Upãli praised his talk before the whole assembly:  “Ãcariya Mun expounds Dhamma so eloquently that it is difficult to find anyone to equal him. He clarifies muttodaya – the heart released, the land of absolute freedom – in a way that leaves no room for doubt. Everything is so precisely illustrated that I myself couldn’t possibly match his unique, engrossing style. The rhetorical fluency of this dhutanga monk is most extraordinary. Listening to him is a pleasurable, learning experience. His discourses never become stale or boring. He speaks of common, everyday things – things we see and hear all the time but never pay attention to utilize. We recall their significance only after he mentions them. Ãcariya Mun is an important kammaååhãna monk who uses mindfulness and wisdom to faithfully follow the path taught by the Buddha. He never tramples upon it in an unseemly, worldly manner. His talks employ a full range of expression: sometimes casual, sometimes serious, sometimes emphatic, stressing specific points. He elaborates the profound complexities of Dhamma in a way the rest of us are hard pressed to do so candidly. He is quite capable of analyzing the disparate aspects of Dhamma and articulates them in a way that deeply affects our hearts. His commentary is so brilliant that it’s hard to keep up with him. I myself have needed to ask him questions about problems I couldn’t solve on my own, and he quickly and adeptly solved those problems with his wisdom. I have benefited in innumerable ways from his counsel.

“Since I was coming to Chiang Mai I wanted Ãcariya Mun to accompany me, and he readily agreed. Although he did not specifically mention this to me, he probably agreed to come here because he knows Chiang Mai abounds in mountains and forests suitable for the spiritual life. Monks like Ãcariya Mun are extremely hard to find. Even though I am his senior, I wholly revere the Dhamma within him – and yet, he is still so humble and gracious towards me that I sometimes feel embarrassed. He has intended to stay here for only a short while before going off in search of seclusion. I must allow my friend to follow his inclinations as I dare not contradict them, for it is rare indeed to find such a monk. With his intentions being solely focused on Dhamma, we should wish him the best as he strives to improve himself. He can then be of greater benefit to us all in the near future.

“Those of you who have problems with your meditation practice, please go to him and seek his advice. You certainly won’t be disappointed. But please don’t ask him for powerful amulets, magic spells, or lucky charms to ward off danger, for they are all outside the way of practice. You will just make yourself a nuisance to him for no good reason. You may well receive a reprimand – don’t say I never warned you!

Ãcariya Mun is not that kind of monk. He is a genuine monk, sincerely teaching people to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and evil. His teaching never deviates from the path of Dhamma. His way of practice and knowledge of Dhamma are true to the teachings of the Lord Buddha. No one else nowadays can convey such incredible ideas as he has presented me from our discussions on Dhamma. That has been my experience. I hold an immense respect for him in my heart, but, I have never told him this. Nevertheless, he may already know of it from his powers of intuition.

“Ãcariya Mun is a monk truly worthy of the highest respect, and is unquestionably ‘an incomparable field of merit for the world’. He himself never makes claims of noble attainments, though they are apparent to me when we discuss Dhamma in private. I am wholly convinced that he is firmly established in the third level of the Noble Dhamma. It is obvious from the way he expresses himself. Although he has never made statements of his specific level of attainment, I know for certain what it is: for the knowledge of Dhamma he has conveyed to me is absolutely consistent with that level as described in the Buddhist texts. He has shown me nothing but loyalty and respect, and I have never known him to be in any way stubborn or disdainful. He conducts himself with such humility that I cannot help but admire him from the bottom of my heart.” These were the words of praise that Chao Khun Upãli addressed to the lay followers, monks, and novices after Ãcariya Mun gave his Dhamma talk and returned to his hut. Afterwards, monks who were present reported this speech to Ãcariya Mun, who later recounted the story to his disciples when a good opportunity arose. The term muttodaya means “a heart released”. Its mention in the short biographical sketch distributed at Ãcariya Mun’s cremation stems from that occasion in Chiang Mai when Chao Khun Upãli praised his noble virtues. The name stuck and was then passed down to future generations by word of mouth. According to Chao Khun Dhammachedi of Wat Bodhisomphon monastery in Udon Thani, Ãcariya Mun remained practicing in Chiang Mai from 1929 to 1940 when he left for the province of Udon Thani. More will be written later concerning his stay in Udon Thani. HAVING LIVED AT Wat Chedi Luang monastery for some time, Ãcariya Mun paid his respects to Chao Khun Upãli and took leave to wander in search of solitude in the remote wilderness areas of the North. Chao Khun Upãli readily gave his permission; and so Ãcariya Mun departed alone from Chiang Mai, beginning another journey. He had eagerly awaited the ideal seclusion he needed for a long time, and the perfect opportunity finally arose. Having been long involved in teaching others, it was the first time in many years that he had time alone. Initially, he wandered through the Mae Rim district in Chiang Dao, staying in the forested mountains there throughout the dry and rainy seasons.

His efforts had reached the crucial, final stage. He exhorted himself to strive earnestly to reach the final goal, whatever happened – live or die. Nothing whatsoever would be allowed to interfere. Out of compassion he had taught his fellow monks to the best of his ability – of this he had no doubt. The results of his guidance had already begun to show in some of his disciples. Now it was time to have compassion for himself, to educate and lift himself above and beyond those obscuring inner factors which still needed to be overcome.

The life of someone with social obligations and responsibilities is a life of distraction and of almost unbearable stress, never allowing adequate time for being alone. One must admit that this kind of life is a perpetual struggle to be endured, even though a person may have enough mindfulness and wisdom to avoid this burden somewhat and alleviate the stress so that it doesn’t overwhelm him. The opportunities to practice meditation are limited; the results are likely to be minimal and not worth all the disappointments and difficulties.

This solitary excursion into the untamed wilderness was an ideal opportunity for him to disengage and live alone, aloof from all entanglements. Wild, remote forests are just the right kinds of places to live and practice for someone aiming to sever all residual attachments, both internal and external, from his heart. He can discard all the remaining concerns that might form the seeds of future existence – the source of all forms of dukkha that brings menace in its wake and causes endless suffering. Remote forests are the right environment in which a persistent and diligent person can zero in on the fundamental causes of existence–the great internal masters of deception leading us astray–and excise them quickly from his heart. While one is still far from reaching the shores of Nibbãna, little benefit can be gained from involvement in other people’s affairs; for that is comparable to overloading a barge that is ready to sink even before it starts going. When the coveted goal of the holy life seemed within reach, Ãcariya Mun’s compassionate concern for others dropped away, replaced by motivations of a more personal nature. He was no longer considering the suffering of others. His resolve was focused firmly on the realm of purity and he was concerned, lest he not reach it this time. Thus he reflected:

“Now I must worry about myself – pity myself – so that as a diligent disciple of the Tathãgata, I can live up to his exalted virtue of unwavering perseverance. Am I fully aware that I have come here striving to cross beyond the world of saÿsãra and attain the goal of Nibbãna – the freedom from all anxiety and dukkha? If so, what methods should be used by someone attempting to cross beyond the conventional world? The Lord Buddha first led the way and then taught us the Dhamma – what kind of guidance did he give? Did he teach us to forget our purpose and start worrying about this and that as soon as we have gained a modest understanding of Dhamma?

“In the beginning, the Lord Buddha publicly proclaimed the sãsana with the help of a small number of Arahants, getting his message rapidly spread far and wide – most properly so. But I am not in the same exalted position, so I must view my own development as paramount right now. When I have perfected myself, then benefits to others will inevitably follow. This view befits one who is circumspect and reluctant to waste time. I must reflect on this carefully, so I can learn a lesson from it.

“Right now, I am striving for victory in a battle between the kilesas and magga, the way of Dhamma, in order to win freedom for the citta. Until now its loyalties have been divided between these two rivals, but I aim to make Dhamma its undisputed master. If my persistence slackens and my powers of discernment are inadequate, the citta will slip from my grasp and fall under the ignoble influence of the kilesas; and they will ensure that the citta keeps turning in a never-ending cycle of birth and despair. But if I can keep up my persistence and keep my wisdom sharp, the citta will come under my control and be my own priceless treasure for the taking.

“The time has come for me to put my life on the line and engage the kilesas in a fierce all out assault, showing no hesitation or weakness. If I lose, then let me die while battling it out. I will not allow myself to retreat in disarray so that the kilesas can ridicule me – that will be a lasting disgrace. If I am victorious, I shall remain perfectly free for all eternity. So now, there is only one path for me to take: I must fight to the death with all my might for the sake of this victory. There is no other choice.”

This is the kind of exhortation that Ãcariya Mun used to embolden himself for the impending realization of the goal he had set for himself. It reflected his uncompromising decision to accept the obligation of striving for Nibbãna steadfastly both day and night – whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down. Except when he rested to sleep, his time was wholly devoted to diligent effort. His mindfulness and wisdom circled around all external sensations and all internal thought processes, meticulously investigating everything without leaving any aspect unexplored. At this level of practice, mindfulness and wisdom act in unison like a Wheel of Dhamma, turning continuously in motion, irrespective of the body’s action.

Later, when Ãcariya Mun described his tremendous efforts during that time, his audience was so awe-struck by his Dhamma exploits that they sat motionless with bated breath. It was as though Ãcariya Mun had opened the door to Nibbãna, allowing them a glimpse inside, without their having ever experienced Nibbãna before. In truth, Ãcariya Mun was then in the process of accelerating his efforts toward the realization of Nibbãna. Although only a stage in the course of his development, it nevertheless moved those who had never before heard of such a thing, and they were always carried away by the awesome power of his achievement.

ÃCARIYA MUN SAID that his citta had long attained the third ariya level of Anãgãmï; but, because of his continual obligations to his followers, he had no time to speed up his efforts as he wished. Only when he had the opportunity to go to Chiang Mai was he able to maximize his practice and accomplish his objective.

Chiang Mai’s environment was conducive and his citta was well prepared. Physically, he was in excellent shape, fit to exert himself in every activity. His fervent hope was like the radiant sun, streaming forth continuously to reach the shore free of dukkha in the shortest possible time. He compared his inner struggle between Dhamma and the kilesas to a hunting dog, which, at full run, corners its prey; and it is only a matter of time before the prey is torn to shreds in the jaws of the chasing hound. There could be no other ending, for the citta was armed with mahãsati and mahãpaññã – supreme-mindfulness and supreme-wisdom. They never lapse for a single moment, even when one has no intent to be vigilant. At this level, mindfulness and wisdom are fully present, reacting automatically to all matters arising within oneself. As soon as their cause is known and their true nature is clearly understood, one simply lets go of them. It is not necessary then to be in command, giving orders, as is the case in the initial stages of practice. When equipped with habitual mindfulness and wisdom, there is no need for specific directions and calculated decisions to practice this or to investigate that, while having to simultaneously guard against lapses in attention. “Reason and result” are integrated into the nature of automatic mindfulness and automatic wisdom; so, it is unnecessary to search on one’s own for reasons and skillful methods to encourage their operation. With the exception of sleep, all daily activities are the working arenas for this level of mahãsati and mahãpaññã. Just like spring water that flows steadily out of the ground all year round, they work ceaselessly.

The thinking process is taken as the focal point of the investigation, in order to find the true source of these thoughts. The four nãma khandhas – vedanã, saññã, sankhãra, and viññãõa – are the appropriate battleground for this superior degree of mindfulness and wisdom. As for the rýpa khandha – the physical body – it ceased to be a problem when one achieved the intermediate level of wisdom. This form of wisdom performs the tasks necessary for realizing the Anãgãmï stage of the Nobel Path. To attain this exalted level, one must focus on the physical body, investigating it scrupulously in every detail until all misunderstandings and concerns about the body are forever banished.

When one comes to the final stage – the path to Arahantship, it is absolutely essential to investigate the nãma khandhas so that one gains a deep and clear understanding about how all phenomena arise, briefly exist, and then vanish. These three aspects of the investigation converge in the truth of anattã. This means examining all phenomena as being empty of a permanent self: empty of being a man or woman, empty of being me or them. No self-entity – whatsoever – exists anywhere within mental phenomena.2 To comprehend the true nature of the nãma khandhas, one must discover the fundamental principles underlying them and understand them deeply and clearly with wisdom. It’s not enough that we anticipate results or speculate about their nature, as is the common tendency of most people – people who just prefer to do guesswork.

A theoretical understanding, acquired from learning, differs from a genuine understanding based on wisdom as the earth differs from the sky. People whose understanding is founded upon knowledge gained through memorization are very preoccupied with their own ideas, always assuming that they are highly intelligent. In truth, they are completely deluded. Consequently, they become overly conceited and are reluctant to accept help and advice from anyone.

This arrogant tendency is quite apparent when a group of scholars discusses Dhamma, each one constantly trying to champion his own intellectual theories. These meetings usually degenerate into verbal sparring matches, spurred on by this common attitude of self-importance, until everyone – regardless of age, race, gender, or clan – forgets to observe the proper etiquette expected of such ‘civilized’ people.

Understanding, based on wisdom, is ready to uproot all types of speculative views that continually manifest our conceit. Wisdom is prepared to ferret out and expose these erroneous views, penetrating every niche until the whole edifice of these kilesas comes crashing down. There is not one kilesa that can successfully withstand the penetration of the highest degree of mindfulness and wisdom.

In the Dhamma’s arsenal, mindfulness and wisdom are the foremost weapons. Never have the kilesas been intrepid enough to defeat them. The Lord Buddha became the Supreme Teacher because of mindfulness and wisdom. His disciples became Arahants because of mindfulness and wisdom. Because of mindfulness and wisdom, they were able to see with insight into the true nature of things. They didn’t uproot their kilesas by using learning, supposition, or mere guesswork. In the initial stages of practice, concepts recalled from memory can be used to delineate the boundaries of the way forward; but, one must exercise great caution lest this kind of conjecture causes delusion appearing in the guise of genuine truth.

When the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples proclaimed the Truth of his teaching to the world, they were proclaiming the way of wisdom – the way that brings us to see the true nature of all phenomena. We practitioners of meditation must be extremely careful that the master of speculation doesn’t sneak in and conjure up his tricks in place of wisdom. If we aren’t, we will be led to mistake mere concepts for true understanding, without ever removing a single kilesa from our hearts. We may find ourselves inundated with knowledge about salvation, yet unable to save ourselves. This is exactly what the Lord Buddha meant when he advised the people of Kãlãma not to believe in speculation or conjecture, and not to believe teachings handed down from the past or teachers who are considered to be reliable; but to believe that the principles of truth can be discovered within themselves – by the wisdom within themselves. This is the surest kind of knowledge there is. The Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples didn’t need anyone to validate the authenticity of their attainment, for sandiååhiko is there within everyone who practices the Buddha’s teaching in the right way.

Ãcariya Mun said that when he came to this last level of advanced practice, he became so intrigued with it that he lost all sense of time. He completely forgot the time of day, forgot to sleep, and then forgot how tired he was. Fearless and unshakable, his citta was constantly in position to oppose every type of kilesa, ready to excise them by their roots. From the time he left Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, he did not allow a single day to pass in vain. And before long, he reached the point of ultimate understanding.

At the moment he set off alone, his citta began to express the dynamic characteristics of a daring thoroughbred stallion. It wanted to soar high and glide through the air, dive underground and then shoot up into the sky again. It felt inclined to venture out to experience the many countless variety of phenomena in the universe. He felt as if his citta was about to dig up and remove all of the kilesas in a single instant. The adventurous nature of his mindfulness and wisdom had long been hemmed in by social obligations. They were unable to move freely about in their preferred domain – the observation and analysis of just those things Ãcariya Mun had wanted to know about for such a long time. Now he was blessed – blessed with the opportunity of leaping away and vanishing, finally able to give mindfulness and wisdom the chance to display their considerable prowess as they explored throughout the three worlds of existence.

Ãcariya Mun investigated thoroughly, internally and externally. His mindfulness and wisdom penetrated all around – constantly moving in and out, up and down – all the while resolving issues, detaching himself, and then letting go as he cut, slashed, and pulverized every manner of falsehood with all the strength he could muster. Feeling unbound as a giant fish swimming happily in the ocean, he looked back on his entire past and saw only dark obstructive times lurking there, fraught with all kinds of dangerous, inevitable consequences. His heart beat faster at the prospect of finding a way to save himself. Looking to the future, he saw before him only a majestic, empty expanse of brilliant illumination – a view that completely surpasses any conventional understanding and is utterly beyond all description. So much so, that I find it difficult to elaborate any further for the benefit of the reader. I sincerely regret that I am unable to do justice to all the inspiring things Ãcariya Mun said.

Ãcariya Mun sat in meditation late that night, not too long after supreme-mindfulness and supreme-wisdom had reached the peak of their performance. Like a Wheel of Dhamma, they moved in unison as they rotated non-stop around the citta and everything related to it. He was residing at the base of a mountain, in a broad, open area covered with enormous flat rocks. Clear, open space surrounded him as he sat at the foot of a solitary tree – the only tree in that entire area. This tree had abundant cool shade during the day, so he sometimes went to meditate under it.

I regret that I cannot recall what type of tree it was, or its exact location. As Ãcariya Mun described this amazing event, I was so thoroughly overwhelmed by the magnitude of his achievement that I failed to remember any of the pertinent details – what district and township he Biography of âcariya Mun 156 was in, or even the name of the mountain range. Hearing him talk of his great victory, I couldn’t help thinking about myself. Was I going to simply waste my birth as a human being, carelessly throwing away the wonderful opportunity it gave me? Did I have enough spiritual potential to one day succeed in realizing that same Supreme Dhamma? Reflecting in this manner, I forgot everything else. I had no idea that, someday, I would be writing his biography.

At dusk Ãcariya Mun began walking meditation, focusing on paåiccasamuppãda, as the theme of primary relevance to this level of contemplation. 6 Starting with avijjã paccaya sankhãra, he became so intrigued by the subject of ‘dependent origination’ that he was soon investigating it to the exclusion of all else. By the time he sat down at about nine o’clock, his mind was concentrated solely on scrutinizing avijjã, examining each of the interdependent conditions through to the logical conclusion, then reversing the order to arrive back at avijjã. Contemplating thus, he deliberated back and forth, over and over – inside the citta – the focal point where birth, death, and kilesas converge with the principal cause – avijjã.

Seated in meditation late that night, the crucial moment had arrived. The battle lines were drawn: supreme-mindfulness and supreme-wisdom – the razor sharp weapons – against avijjã, an enemy especially adroit at repulsing their advances then counterattacking, leaving its opponents in total disarray. Since time immemorial no one has dared to challenge its might, allowing avijjã to reign supreme and unopposed over the ‘kingdom of birth and death’ inside the hearts of all living beings. But at three a.m. that night when Ãcariya Mun launched his final, all out assault, the result was the total destruction of the king’s mighty throne and the complete overthrow of his reign in the kingdom of birth and death. Suddenly impotent and deprived of room to maneuver, the king could not maintain his sovereignty. At that moment avijjã perished, victim to a lightning strike of magnificent brilliance.

Ãcariya Mun described how that fateful moment was accompanied by a tremor that appeared to shake the entire universe. Celestial beings throughout this vast expanse immediately paid tribute to his supreme accomplishment, roaring an exclamation of approval that reverberated across the sentient universe, and proclaimed the appearance of another disciple of the Tathãgata in the world. Overjoyed to have witnessed this A Heart Released 157 event, they were eager to offer their congratulations. Human beings, however, were unaware of the momentous event that had just taken place. Occupied with worldly pleasures, they were too oblivious to care that, only a moment before, the Supreme Dhamma had arisen in the heart of a fellow human being.

When the awesome moment passed, what remained was visuddhidhamma. 7 This pure Dhamma – the true, natural state of the citta – suffused Ãcariya Mun’s body and mind, and extended its light in all directions. The experience aroused an indescribable feeling of great awe and wonder. His customary compassion for the world virtually disappeared, and with it, his interest in teaching other people. He was convinced that this Supreme Dhamma was far too profound and overwhelming in its greatness for people to ever truly understand. So he became disheartened in this respect, feeling disinclined to teach others. He felt it was enough to simply enjoy this wonderful Dhamma alone while still living in the midst of the conventional world.

Ãcariya Mun reflected at length that night on the beneficence of the Lord Buddha. This Supreme Teacher, having fully realized the Truth, taught people who were receptive to his message so that they too could attain genuine deliverance. It was obvious that not a single falsehood was concealed anywhere within the Buddha’s teaching. He spent the rest of that night tirelessly paying homage to the supreme virtues of the Lord Buddha.

Ãcariya Mun had always been compassionate – he was deeply sympathetic to the spiritual state of fellow human beings. But his citta had just attained a clarity that was so extraordinary in its brilliance and purity that he felt he could not possibly explain the true nature of this Dhamma to others. Even if he tried, ordinary people with kilesas could never hope to attain this exalted state of mind. More than that, hearing him speak in such superlatives, they could accuse him of insanity for daring to teach the world something that no good, sane person would ever discuss. He believed it unlikely that there would be enough sympathetic people to generate his enthusiasm for teaching. He was free to live a life of solitude for the remainder of his years. It was sufficient that he had fully realized his life-long ambition. He saw no reason to burden himself with difficult teaching responsibilities. It could end up being an example of good causes with bad effects: that is, his compassionate intentions could well turn into harmful results for contemptuous people.

Such was Ãcariya Mun’s frame of mind shortly after attaining the Supreme Dhamma – a time when he had yet to focus on the wider picture. Eventually, his thoughts gathered on the Lord Buddha’s guiding role in revealing the correct path of practice. Reviewing his attainment of Dhamma and the path he took, he saw that he, too, was a human being in the world just like everyone else, and undistinguished from others by any special characteristic that would make him the only person capable of understanding this Dhamma. Certainly, others with strong spiritual tendencies were capable of this understanding. By failing to broaden his perspective, his initial outlook had tended to disparage the spiritual tendencies of his fellow human beings – which was unfair.

The Lord Buddha did not reveal the path of practice leading to magga, phala and Nibbãna for the benefit of only one individual. This revelation was a gift for the whole world, both his contemporaries and succeeding generations. In total, the number of those who have reached magga, phala and Nibbãna, following the Buddha’s teaching, is enormous beyond reckoning. In this respect, Ãcariya Mun’s achievement was definitely not unique, though he initially overlooked the capacity of others for similar achievement.

Carefully reviewing all aspects of the Buddha’s teaching, he saw its relevance for people the world over, and its accessibility to anyone willing to practice correctly. These thoughts gave him a renewed desire to help others. Once again, he felt comfortable with the idea of teaching people who came to him for guidance, provided they were receptive to his instructions. For in teaching Dhamma, the teacher has an obligation to treat Dhamma with respect by refusing to instruct anyone who is disrespectful or indifferent to what is being taught. Some people can’t help making noise while listening to Dhamma: they are obviously apathetic to the value of the Dhamma and the opportunity they have for hearing it. They appear oblivious to where they are or how they are expected to behave at that time. Such people see Dhamma as something quite ordinary. They have adopted a typically worldly attitude of being thoroughly indifferent to Dhamma, to the monastery, and to the monks. They see the whole lot as just commonplace. Under such circumstances, it is unconscionable to teach Dhamma: the teacher is then censurable and the audience fails to gain any real benefit.

Before he realized the Supreme Dhamma and then made it available to others, Ãcariya Mun nearly gave up his life in the forests and mountains as he struggled relentlessly with every ounce of strength. After such heroic effort, the notion of bringing this precious Dhamma and having it simply dissipate in the ocean was inconceivable. When has that ever happened? After all, a monk is the type of person who considers everything scrupulously before he acts. Dhamma exists in a class by itself, so special attention must be paid to when and how it is presented to a public audience. Should these considerations be neglected in the presentation of Dhamma, the outcome might well prove harmful.

Dhamma is taught for the purpose of helping people in the world – much like a doctor, desiring the well-being of his patients, prescribes medications to cure sickness and relieve pain. But when people are unwilling to accept help, why should a monk worry about teaching them? If he really has true Dhamma in his heart, he is perfectly content to live in solitude. It’s unnecessary for him to seek students in order to alleviate the discomfort and stress caused by an irrepressible urge to teach others the way – an urge which merely adds to a person’s sense of discontent, anyway. Lacking sincerity in the Dhamma that the Lord Buddha strove so earnestly to realize, such a person, though he calls himself a teacher, is one only in name.

Ãcariya Mun said he had complete confidence that he was mentally and physically attuned to living alone because his heart was supremely tranquil, possessing genuine Dhamma. Dhamma means tranquillity. A heart filled with Dhamma is a heart whose serenity transcends everything. Ãcariya Mun naturally preferred living in forested mountain areas since these places were conducive to dwelling sublimely with Dhamma.8 He considered teaching others to be a special situation. It was an obligation he performed occasionally and not an actual necessity as was living by Dhamma– an essential aspect of his life to the very end. Otherwise, he would not have enjoyed a convenient daily existence.

When we possess Dhamma, understand Dhamma, and abide in Dhamma, we are unperturbed by things in the world, and so do not go searching for dukkha. Where Dhamma abides, there is happiness and tranquility. According to natural principles, Dhamma abides in the hearts of those who practice it; so happiness and tranquility arise in the hearts of those practitioners. It cannot arise in any other place.

Ãcariya Mun was always extremely circumspect when teaching Dhamma. He never taught indiscriminately, for Dhamma itself is never indiscriminate. He never practiced Dhamma in a random fashion but always followed well-established principles, practicing within the confines of the Noble tradition recorded in the Buddhist scriptures. Understanding did not arise in him in a random fashion either – it arose in progressive stages following the principles of truth. Ãcariya Mun advised practicing monks to guard against being indiscriminate by always keeping the strictures of the Teaching and the Discipline in mind, since they represent the Buddha and the path of practice he followed. He stressed that the monk who maintains magga and phala – and maintains the Teaching and the Discipline – is one who is humble and unassuming, and always careful not to let his actions, his speech, or his thoughts go astray. Practicing thus, he will be able to stand on his own – indefinitely

Having addressed the issue of teaching Dhamma to others, Ãcariya Mun again turned his attention to the nature of his inner Dhamma. He said that the moment of realization, when Dhamma arises in all its glory within the citta, is a moment that’s completely unimaginable. Dhamma’s true nature reveals itself in a totally unexpected manner, as it is inconceivable and impossible to speculate about beforehand. At that moment, he felt as though he had died and been born again into a new life – a uniquely amazing death and rebirth. The quality of awareness, intrinsic to this transformation, was a state of knowing that he had never before experienced, even though it had always been there, unchanging. Suddenly, then, it became apparent – spectacular, and inconceivably amazing. It was this quintessential quality that caused Ãcariya Mun to consider – somewhat unconventionally – that it would not be possible to teach others this Dhamma because they would never be able to truly understand it.

Since his early days of practice, Ãcariya Mun always possessed a very dynamic character. That distinguishing characteristic was evident at the moment of his final attainment, which was so unforgettable for him that he would later tell this story to inspire his disciples. Once his citta had completely overthrown the cycle of repeated birth and death, it appeared to make three revolutions, circling around the newly-arisen vivaååa-citta.9 Upon conclusion of the first revolution, the Pãli term A Heart Released 161 lopo – cutting off – arose together with its essential meaning: at that moment the citta had completed the function of totally excluding all vestiges of relative, conventional reality. Upon conclusion of the second revolution, the Pãli term vimutti – absolute freedom – arose together with its essential meaning: at that moment the citta had completed the function of attaining total release. Upon conclusion of the third revolution, the Pãli term anãlayo – total detachment – arose together with its essential meaning: at that moment the citta had completed the function of wholly severing all attachments. Citta and Dhamma were then one and the same – ekacitta ekadhamma. The true nature of the citta is synonymous with the true nature of Dhamma. Unlike relative, conventional reality, there is no duality. This is vimuttidhamma pure and simple.10 It is absolute in its singularity and devoid of any trace of relative, conventional reality within. This pure Dhamma is fully realized only once. It never requires further perfection.

The Lord Buddha and the Arahants become fully enlightened only once: the citta and Dhamma being exactly of the same nature, they have no need to search further. The khandhas, that make up their conventional existence, are then just khandhas pure and simple – they contain no defiling elements. The khandhas of an Arahant remain the same as before, for the attainment of Nibbãna does not alter them in any way. For example, those khandhas responsible for thought processes continue to perform this function at the behest of their boss, the citta. By nature, the release of vimutti is already freed of any intermingling with the khandhas, the citta and the khandhas each existing as separate, distinct phenomena, each one true within its own natural state. They no longer seek to deceive or disrupt one another. Both sides exist peacefully in their distinct natural states, performing their specific functions until, at death, each constituent element goes its own separate way.

When the body finally dies, the purified citta attains yathãdïpo ca nibbuto: just as the flame in a lamp is extinguished when all of the fuel is exhausted, so too goes the citta according to its true nature.12 Relative, conventional realities like the khandhas are no longer involved with the purified citta beyond that point. In truth, nothing of the relative, conventional world accompanies this citta to create a cause for coming to birth in the future. Such was the essence of Dhamma that arose in Ãcariya Mun’s citta at the moment it completed the three revolutions Biography of âcariya Mun 162 expressing its dynamic character. That was the final occasion when the relative reality of the khandhas and the absolute freedom of the citta joined forces before finally separating to go their separate ways – forever.

Throughout the remainder of that night Ãcariya Mun considered with a sense of dismay how pathetically ignorant he had been in the past, being dragged endlessly from one existence to another – like a puppet. He wept as he thought of how he finally came upon a pool of crystal-clear, wondrous-tasting water. He had reached that sparkling pool of pure Dhamma that the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples encountered and then proclaimed to the world over 2500 years ago. Having at long last encountered it himself, he tirelessly paid heartfelt homage, prostrating himself over and over again to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. Should people have seen him then, tears streaming down his face as he prostrated over and over again, surely they would have assumed that this monk was suffering immensely, shedding tears so profusely. They probably would have suspected him of beseeching the guardian spirits, living in all directions, to help ease his pain; or else of being on the verge of madness, for his behavior was extremely unusual. In fact, he had just arrived at the truth of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha with utmost clarity, as epitomized in the maxim: He who sees the Dhamma, sees the Tathãgata, and thus abides in the presence of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. Ãcariya Mun was simply engaged in the kind of conduct befitting someone who is overwhelmed by a sincere sense of gratitude.

That night celestial devas of all realms and terrestrial devas from every direction, paid tribute in a resounding exclamation of approval that reverberated throughout the world systems, and then gathered to listen to Ãcariya Mun expound the Dhamma. But being still fully engaged in his immediate commitment to the Supreme Dhamma, he was not yet ready to receive visitors. So, he signaled to the assembled devas that he was occupied, indicating they should return on a later occasion. The devas then left, thoroughly delighted that they had seen a visuddhi-deva on the very night when he attained Nibbãna.15 At dawn, Ãcariya Mun rose from his meditation seat, reflecting still on the unforgettably amazing Dhamma. Thinking back to the moment of final release, he recalled the three revolutions together with the profound subtlety of their essential meanings. He also reflected with appreciation on the tree that had sheltered him as he sat in meditation, and the local villagers who had always supported him with food and other basic needs.

At first, Ãcariya Mun considered foregoing his morning almsround that day. He reckoned that the happiness he felt from his attainment was all that he needed for sustenance. But he could not help feeling compassion for the local villagers who had done so much for him. So, while he had no desire to eat, he nevertheless went on almsround. Entering the village that morning he fixed his gaze firmly on the people, having paid little attention to them before. As he gazed intently at the people who came forward to put food in his bowl, and at those milling around the houses with children at play in the dirt, he experienced an extraordinary sense of love and compassion for them all. The whole village appeared to be especially bright and cheerful that day, with smiling faces beaming at him as people saw him come.

Upon return at his mountain retreat, his heart felt replete with Dhamma, while his body felt fully satisfied even though he had yet to eat. Neither body nor citta was the least bit hungry. Nonetheless, he forced himself to eat for the body’s sake, since it requires nourishment to sustain its life. The food, however, appeared to have no taste. The taste of Dhamma alone permeated the whole of his body – and his heart. As the Buddha said: The taste of Dhamma surpasses all other tastes.16 Upon return at his mountain retreat, his heart felt replete with Dhamma, while his body felt fully satisfied even though he had yet to eat. Neither body nor citta was the least bit hungry. Nonetheless, he forced himself to eat for the body’s sake, since it requires nourishment to sustain its life. The food, however, appeared to have no taste. The taste of Dhamma alone permeated the whole of his body – and his heart. As the Buddha said: The taste of Dhamma surpasses all other tastes.

Eager to hear Dhamma, all the devas came to visit Ãcariya Mun the following night. Both terrestrial devas and celestial devas arrived in groups, hailing from nearly every direction. Each group described the amazing radiance caused by the incredible power of his Dhamma the previous night. They compared it to a magnificent tremor that passed through all the celestial abodes in the vast realms of all the world systems. This tremor was accompanied by a fantastic incandescence that rendered the length and breadth of the upper and lower realms ineffably translucent. They told him:

“Those of us with intuitive knowledge were able to see unobstructed throughout the entire universe due to the luminous quality of the Dhamma pouring forth from your person, venerable sir. Its brilliance was far more radiant than the light of a hundred or even a thousand suns. It is truly unbearable to think that there were those who missed seeing such a wonder. Only humans and animals, living futile earthbound existences, could be so incredibly blind and unperceptive as to have been unaware of last night’s splendor. Devas everywhere were so stunned, astonished, and utterly amazed that they let out an emphatic exclamation of approval to express their exultation at the perfection of your achievement. If it were not such an absolutely amazing achievement, how could knowledge of it have been so widespread?

“You, venerable sir, are a person of saintly virtue, majestic power, and vast influence, capable of being a refuge to a great number of beings in numerous realms of existence. All will be able to find blessed comfort in the shadow of your greatness. Beings of every class – be they humans, devas, or brahmas, living underwater, on land, or in the air – are rarely fortunate enough to encounter such perfection. We devas consider ourselves especially blessed to have met you, venerable sir, having the precious opportunity to pay our respects to you and to receive your beneficent teaching. We are grateful to you for expounding the Dhamma to brighten our hearts, leading us on the path of practice so that we can gradually become aware of how to improve ourselves.”

When the assemblies of devas finally returned to their respective realms, Ãcariya Mun began to reflect on the tremendous difficulties he had experienced in his effort to realize this Dhamma. Because his practice had entailed such exceptional hardship, he regarded it as Dhamma at the threshold of death. Had he not come so close to death, while struggling to reach freedom from dukkha, then surely he would never have attained that freedom.