阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第三章第二節:幽魂配偶

      

                          

      

第三章第二節:幽魂配偶

         阿姜曼達到最終的成就之後,在靜坐中回憶了一段他個人的往事 —— 一段他以前不太有興趣提的往事。這裡我要說的是有關阿姜曼過去前生的往事。我覺得如果遺漏這樣一則有趣的故事會很可惜,尤其是這類型的關係可能會如影隨形跟著你們每一個人,就算你們沒有注意到也是一樣。如果敘述這段故事有任何不當之處,就請責怪作者思慮不周吧。你可能已經猜到了,內容涉及到個人的隱私,阿姜曼只與他親近的弟子們說過。我曾試著壓抑將它寫出來的衝動,但我愈是壓抑,這股衝動就愈強。所以,我終於還是讓步了,寫出來之後,這股衝動才逐漸消退。我必須承認,我這樣是不應該的,但我希望讀者能見諒。但願,它能為身陷在不息的生死輪迴中的每一個人,提供一些值得思考的地方。

        這個是關於阿姜曼的一位前世幽魂配偶的故事。阿姜曼說在過去多生以前,他和他幽魂的妻子曾一同發下神聖的誓願,要一起努力朝向成佛之道。在他證阿羅漢果的前幾年,她偶爾會在阿姜曼入定時來看望他。在這些情況下,他會為她簡短的開示,然後便請她離開。她總是以一種無形的意念出現在他的面前,她跟大部分的有情不一樣,她並沒有可資識別的形貌。當他問到有關她這種無形的狀態時,她說由於她很掛念他,所以還沒有決定要投生到哪一個趣處。她很怕他會忘了他們之間的關係 —— 共同發願在未來成佛。由於依戀執著與失望,她不得不時時來看他。阿姜曼告訴她,他已經放棄了這個「願」,並決意要在今生證得涅槃。他不想再有下一生,因為這等於從過去到無盡的未來他都要背負起一切所受的苦。

        雖然她並未表露出她的感情,但她仍執著於他們之間的關係,對他的依戀也從未稍減。所以每隔一段相當的時間,她都會去拜訪他。但這一次,竟是阿姜曼想到了她,關心她的困境,畢竟他們一起度過了那麼多世,也經歷了許多的風風雨雨。證得阿羅漢果後,他深思了這件事,他想到他要見她,讓彼此都有一個新的認識。他想對她解釋一些事,從而消除之前的伴侶關係所造成執著的疑惑或焦慮。那一天的深夜,就在這些想法生起之後,這位前世的幽魂妻子就以她以往的無形狀態現身了。

        阿姜曼一開始便問她現在存在的境界。他想知道為什麼她不像其他天眾有明顯的形體?究竟她目前的狀況為何?這個無形的眾生回答說她住在廣大宇宙裡的一個渺渺茫茫的幽微靈界裡。她反覆提到,因為對他執著的焦慮,使她在這種境界中一直等待。由於她感應到他想要見她,所以當晚她就來了。

        在一般情況下,她不太敢常來看他。雖然她真的很想來看他,但她總是不好意思並躊躇不決。事實上,她的來訪對彼此都不會造成任何的傷害,因為他們都不是會傷害對方的人。但儘管如此,長久以來對他的感情使她躊躇不決究竟該不該來。阿姜曼也告訴她不要常來造訪,雖然不會有害,但這種造訪仍可能成為情感上的障礙,從而減緩了他的進步。「心」本質上是非常敏感的,很可能會被細膩的情感與執著所影響,進而干擾了修行。她認同阿姜曼的說法,所以她很少來看他。

        她相當清楚他已斷除了生與死的束縛,包括對以前的親朋好友 —— 當然也包括對他仍有所依戀與執著的幽魂配偶 —— 他都已無任何的牽掛。畢竟,這是對整個世間具有震撼性的事件。但,她反而不像他們過去以前一起修行時那般歡喜;這一次她感覺她不受重視,並產生負面的反應。她反而認為他不負責任,沒有考慮到在過去多生多世中與他一起分擔痛苦與努力的忠貞幽魂配偶。她現在感到絕望,獨自一人處於苦難中,執取著「苦」而放不下。而他已經超越了苦,卻留她一人去承受苦的負擔。她愈想愈覺得自己就像是一個失去智力的人,想要觸摸天上的月亮和星星,結果卻摔落到地面,死死地緊抱著苦不放,找不到走出悲慘不幸的路。

        她如此沮喪與無助,竭力忍受痛苦。她懇求他的幫助:「我現在徹底絕望了。何處才能找到幸福呢?我多麼想去觸摸天上的月亮和星星,但太可怕、太痛苦了。你就像高掛在天上的月亮和星星,閃閃發光,照亮每一個方向。你已安住在『法』中,你的存在永不黯淡與沉悶。你完全滿足,你的光芒遍照整個宇宙每一個角落。如果我還有福報,就請慈悲告訴我解脫之道。請帶給我光明、清淨的智慧知見,快把我從這無盡的生死輪迴中給救出來,讓我跟隨你一起證得涅槃,這樣我就不必再長久忍受痛苦。願這誓言夠強,使我得償所願,讓我速得解脫吧!」

        就在這個無形的眾生熱切表達出她想要證悟的希望,她因悲傷痛苦而哭泣顫抖。但阿姜曼回說他見她並不是要引起她對過去的遺憾:「想要祝福彼此的人都不該有這種想法。妳難道沒有修四梵住:慈悲喜捨?」

        這個無形的眾生回答:「我就是修四梵住修得太久了,所以讓我不禁想起我們一起修行時的親密。當大家都像你一樣只拯救自己,剩下的那一位就自然會感到失望。我在苦難中,只因為我被遺棄了,沒有人會關心我的福祉,我不覺得有任何方法可減輕我的痛苦。」

        他提醒她:「不論是自己或與他人一起修行,修行的目的都是為了要減輕苦惱或拔除自己的苦難,而不是增長它們,受其波動,讓妳沮喪,對不對?」

        「對,但有無明的人往往愚痴,根本不知哪一條路才是平坦、安全的正道。我們不知道自己做的是對還是錯,行為的結果是善或是惡?我們知道心中有苦,卻不知該如何滅苦。所以我們被遺忘,所以我們不得不擔心我們的不幸,就像你現在看到我這個樣子。」

        阿姜曼說這個無形的眾生很固執,一直在埋怨他。她怪他獨自一人逃離,對她沒有一絲憐憫 —— 而她卻長期以來陪他一起努力滅苦。她抱怨他不肯伸出援手,讓她也從苦中解脫。

        他試著安慰她:「當兩個人在同一張桌子前吃飯,一定會有一個人比對方更早吃完,不可能雙方都在同一時間吃飽。就以世尊成佛前與他的前妻為例 —— 耶輸陀羅,雖然他們生生世世一起培育各種美德(波羅蜜),但世尊是第一個滅苦的人,然後才回來教導他以前的伴侶,讓她也能安抵彼岸。妳應該好好想一想這一個啟示,並從中學習,而不是反而對正在盡全力幫助妳的人抱怨。我很認真在找度化妳的方法,但妳卻怪我無情與不負責任。這種想法很不善,只會徒增我們彼此間的不舒服。妳應該改變妳的態度,學習世尊成佛前的前妻 —— 這是一個對大家都很好的例子,一個能帶來真正幸福的例子。」

        「我要見妳的原因就是為了要幫妳,並不是要趕妳走。我一直都很支持妳在『法』中的進展。說我已經遺棄妳或不再關心妳的福祉,這都不是事實。我給妳的建議都是源自於充滿慈悲與清淨的心。如果妳能照著我的建議,盡全力去修行,我會因妳的進步而歡喜。而如果妳能得到完全滿意的結果,那麼我在寂靜中便放心了。」

        「我們原本的志向是要成佛,而這個目的就是要解脫生死輪迴,但後來我想要證得聲聞(sāvaka)道果的願力,其實也是朝向同一個目標邁進:從無明與邪見中解脫,從諸苦中獲得解脫,得到無上之樂 —— 涅槃。過去多生以來我都是走在這條正道上,包括我今生成為佛教的比丘,而我也都一直盡可能與妳保持互動。這一段期間,我以對妳最大的慈悲來教導妳。我從來就沒有想過要遺棄妳去尋找自己的救贖 —— 我一直都在關心妳,對妳充滿慈悲。我一直都希望能把妳從悲慘的生死輪迴中給救出來,引領妳走向涅槃。」

        「妳這種不正常的反應 —— 誤解我對妳的福祉一點都不關心而離棄妳,妳為此感到受傷 —— 這種誤解對妳或對我都沒有任何的好處。從現在起,妳不該再有這種想法。不能讓這些想法產生並蹂躪妳的心,因為它們最後只會帶來無盡的苦難 —— 這個結果與我的目標不符,因為我是真心想要幫妳擺脫困境。」

        「對妳不關心而自己先逃?我又能逃去哪裡?而我又對誰不關心了?現在我正盡最大的努力提供妳一切可能的幫助。就如同現在,我教妳的每一件事難道不是完全出於慈悲的關懷嗎?我給妳不斷的鼓勵都是直接來自於心中溢滿出來的慈悲,它勝過了汪洋大海,是一種毫無保留傾注的慈悲,不用擔心它會枯竭。請瞭解我一直都想要幫助妳,請接受我教給妳的法。如果妳信任我,並依法奉行,妳將能親自體驗內在的甜蜜果實。」

        「從我出家當比丘的那一天起,我便很認真修行解脫之道 —— 從未對任何人生起惡念。我想要見妳的動機不是要欺騙或傷害妳,而是盡全力來幫助妳。如果妳不肯相信我,妳將很難再找到一個完全值得信任的人。妳說妳感應到那一晚宇宙間的震動,那個震動,難道妳認為是一種『假象』嗎?難道說這就是妳因此而猶豫不敢接受我慈悲忠告的原因嗎? 如果妳瞭解『法』的確是真理,妳就應該將那晚發生的震動當作是妳信心的一種決定性的因緣,並對於自己有許多功德而感到歡悅。妳還是可以聽聞法的開示,就算妳目前仍處於這無形的狀態而看似不可能。能現在教導妳,我會看成是我的福報。現在有人將妳從顛倒邪見所造成的絕望深淵中給救出來,妳應該為自己的福報而感到慶幸。如果妳能正思惟這件事,我會很高興。這種思惟不會讓妳被苦所束縛,不會讓妳找不到出路;也不會將『法』貶抑成世俗的廉價品,或將慈悲關懷看成是有敵意的傷害。」

        當她聽到阿姜曼慈悲的開導後,彷彿沐浴在天界的甘露中,漸漸恢復了平靜,並陶醉在他所開示的「法」中。她的心很快便平靜下來,舉止也變得恭敬了。

        他說完後,她對他懺悔了錯誤:「我對您的愛與不能自已的思念竟造成了這麼多的困擾,我一度以為是您拋棄了我,丟下我就這樣走了。我感到相當的絕望,沒有人可以求助,不斷想到自己是多麼的無用和遭受拒絕。但現在我已接收到了『法』的光,我的心很清涼與滿足,我已經可以放下痛苦的包袱,因為您的『法』就像是天界的甘露洗滌了我的心,使我的心淨化並明亮。請原諒我的愚痴帶給您的困擾,我發願在未來際會更加的謹慎 —— 絕不再犯同樣的錯誤了。」

        她說完後,阿姜曼勸她不要再執著過往的一切,應該要去轉生到更好的善趣。她很恭敬地遵照他的建議,接著提出最後的請求:「如果我轉生到善趣,不知是否可以再像過去一樣來聽您說法?可否請您答應我?」

        當阿姜曼同意後,她就立刻消失了。

        無形的幽魂已經走了,阿姜曼的心也抽離出定境,時間是凌晨五點左右,天已經快亮了。從前晚八點開始入定,整個晚上與無形的幽魂對話了好幾個小時。後來過沒多久,同樣的幽魂又再次來訪,但這次她卻是以美麗的天女之身現形,儘管參訪的對象是她特別尊敬的比丘,她還是依照天神的慣例不做任何的打扮。

        當她抵達後,便向他解釋了她目前的狀況:「聽過您的開示以後,我已徹底解除了所有的疑惑,並從作繭自縛的煩惱泥淖中獲得解脫。我現在已投生到充滿歡樂的忉利天(Tāvatiṁsa)了,正享受著我們前世還是人類時一起行善所得的樂果。雖然我承受著自己的善行所帶來的善果,但還是不由得想起您。尊者,最初就是因為您鼓勵我行善,如果是我自己一個人,絕不可能有這種智慧去圓滿完成這些功德。」

        「能有幸重生在光輝燦爛的天界裡,我非常地滿足,不再有憤怒或怨懟。當我回想您一直以來對我無盡的慈悲,在我們生命中選擇分離對我而言就變得很重要 —— 從工作到飲食、朋友乃至男女伴侶等相關的一切,都必然會分離。而愛別離卻是通往平靜、無憂境界的重要關鍵,配偶的選擇特別重要,因為可能會讓人變得更好,也可能變得更糟。所以選擇配偶一定要特別謹慎,因為我們與對方分享的每一刻歡樂與痛苦,一路上都必然會影響雙方。」

        「那些有善眷屬的人,就算在智能、個性及行為等方面都不是那麼的優,但如果他(她)的眷屬能成為他(她)的善知識,在各方面都能指導他(她),入世方面使家庭平安幸福;出世方面能滋養其心靈,那麼此人還是很有福報的。因為他們可以從每一件事中都獲益匪淺,所以不會覺得自己是在黑暗中盲目地摸索,也不會對未來的果報感到不安與不確定。如果每一個伴侶都是善知識,那麼他們可以成就彼此,使家庭變成了實質的天堂樂園,讓大家時時刻刻都平靜、滿足,並從苦惱中解脫。像這樣的家庭總是開朗歡樂,不受喜怒無常或陰晴不定的火爆脾氣所侵擾。家人都會致力於營造如下的氛圍:每一個人都平靜、沈穩,堅守已經確立的理性原則 —— 不會任意妄為,想怎樣就怎樣,做出一些會破壞和諧與滿足等違背道德原則的行為。所有的夫妻打從建立起親屬關係開始,就已彼此攜手合作,共創未來。他們從現在到未來會一起作出善業或惡業,一起製造出快樂與痛苦,道德與邪惡,天堂與地獄 —— 是一種完整持續的共同體。」

        「有幸能與您共度了那麼多世,現在我已瞭解到自己的處境。尊者,經由您的指導,善良已成為我性格中不可或缺的部分。您總是平安地引領我遠離各種危險,絕不會讓我誤入歧途或蒙羞。因此,我生生世世都是一個善良的人。您對我的恩德,我實在無法形容心中的感動有多深。我現已經知道過去的愚痴所造成的傷害,請您慈悲,原諒我的罪過,使我們之間不再有揮之不去的芥蒂。」

        阿姜曼接受了她的懺悔,原諒了她。接著,他鼓勵她繼續精進修行。當他說完後,她恭敬地向他頂禮,然後退開一小段距離,充滿歡喜地飛到空中。

        還有一些是在她還是無形幽魂時的怨恨,但由於這些抱怨太詭異而沒有記錄下來,所以我沒有詳述他們之間的對話;這一點請各位見諒。我這裡所寫的內容,我也不是真的很滿意;但我覺得如果少了這一段發人深省的故事,就會有缺憾。

                            

Sitting in meditation after his final attainment, Ãcariya Mun recalled a certain personal matter from his past one which he had not taken much interest in before. Here I would like to tell a story relevant to Ãcariya Mun’s past. I feel it would be a shame to leave out such an intriguing story, especially as this type of relationship may be following every one of you like a shadow, even though you are unaware of it. Should the story be deemed in any way unseemly, please blame the author for not being properly circumspect. As you may already have guessed, this is a private matter that was discussed only by Ãcariya Mun and his inner circle of disciples. I have tried to suppress the urge to write about it here, but the more I tried to suppress it, the stronger this urge became. So I finally gave in and, after writing it down, the urge gradually subsided. I must confess that I’m at fault here, but I hope the reader forgives me. Hopefully, it will provide everyone, caught in the perpetual cycle of birth and death, something worthwhile to think about.

This story concerns Ãcariya Mun’s longtime spiritual partner.17 Ãcariya Mun said that in previous lives he and his spiritual partner had both made a solemn vow to work together toward the attainment of Buddhahood. During the years prior to his final attainment, she occasionally came to visit him while he was in samãdhi. On those occasions, he gave her a brief Dhamma talk, then sent her away. She always appeared to him as a disembodied consciousness. Unlike beings from most realms of existence, she had no discernible form. When he inquired about her formless state, she replied that she was so worried about him she had not yet decided to take up existence in any specific realm. She feared that he would forget their relationship – their mutual resolve to attain Buddhahood in the future. So out of concern, and a sense of disappointment, she felt compelled to come and check on him from time to time. Ãcariya Mun told her then that he had already given up that vow, resolving instead to practice for Nibbãna in this lifetime. He had no wish to be born again, which was equivalent to carrying all the misery he had suffered in past lives indefinitely into the future

Although she had never revealed her feelings, she remained worried about their relationship, and her longing for him never waned. So once in a long while she paid him a visit. But on this occasion, it was Ãcariya Mun who thought of her, being concerned about her plight, since they had gone through so many hardships together in previous lives. Contemplating this affair after his attainment, it occurred to him that he would like to meet her so they could reach a new understanding. He wanted to explain matters to her, and thus remove any lingering doubts or anxieties regarding their former partnership. Late that very night and soon after this thought occurred to him, his spiritual partner arrived in her familiar formless state.

Ãcariya Mun began by asking her about her present realm of existence. He wanted to know why she had no discernible form like beings from other celestial realms, and what exactly was her present condition. The formless being answered that she lived in one of the minor ethereal states of being in the vast sentient universe. She reiterated that she was waiting in that realm because of anxiety concerning him. Having become aware of his desire to meet her, she came to him that night

Ordinarily, she didn’t dare to visit him very often. Though sincerely wanting to see him, she always felt shy and hesitant. In truth, her visits were in no way damaging to either of them for they were not of such a nature as to be harmful. But still, her long-standing affection for him made her hesitant about coming. Ãcariya Mun had also told her not to visit too often, for although not harmful, such visits could nevertheless become an emotional impediment, thus slowing his progress. The heart being very sensitive by nature, it could well be affected by subtle emotional attachments, which could then interfere with the practice of meditation. Convinced that this was true, she seldom came to visit him

She was quite aware that he had severed his connection to birth and death, including former friends and relatives – and of course the spiritual partner who was counting on him – with no lingering regrets whatsoever. After all, it was an event that had a dramatic effect throughout the world systems. But rather than rejoice with delight, as she would have done in the past when they were together, this time she felt slighted, prompting an unorthodox reaction. She thought instead that he was being irresponsible, neglecting to consider the loyal spiritual companion who had shared his suffering, struggling together with him through so many lifetimes. She felt devastated now, left alone in misfortune, clutching dukkha but unable to let go. He had already gone beyond dukkha, leaving her behind to endure the burden of suffering. The more she thought about it, the more she felt like one bereft of wisdom who, nonetheless, wanted to reach up to touch the moon and the stars. In the end, she fell back to earth clutching her misery, unable to find a way out of such grievous misfortune.

Despondent, hapless being that she was, and struggling to endure her misery, she pleaded with him for assistance: “I am desperately disappointed. Where can I possibly find happiness? I so want to reach up and touch the moon and the stars in the sky! It’s just terrible, and so painful. You yourself are like the moon and the stars up in the sky shining brightly in every direction. Having established yourself in Dhamma, your existence is never bleak, never dreary. You’re so completely content and your aura radiates throughout every part of the universe. If I am still fortunate enough, please kindly show me the way of Dhamma. Please help me bring forth the bright, pure knowledge of wisdom,18 releasing me quickly from the cycle of repeated birth and death, to follow you in the attainment of Nibbãna so that I will not have to endure this agony much longer. May this vow be strong enough to produce the results my heart desires, allowing me to attain the grace of enlightenment as soon as possible.”

Convulsed with sobs of anguish, such was the fervent plea of that sorrowful formless being as she expressed her hopes of gaining enlightenment. Ãcariya Mun replied that his intention in wishing to see her was not to elicit regrets about the past: “People who wish each other well should not think in that way. Haven’t you practiced the four brahmavihãras: mettã, karuõã, muditã, and upekkhã?19

The formless spirit replied: “I have practiced them for so long that I can’t help thinking about the closeness we once shared practicing them together. When a person saves only himself, as you have, it is quite natural for those left behind to be disappointed. I’m in misery because I have been abandoned without any concern for my welfare. I still can’t see any possibility of easing my pain.” He cautioned her: “Whether practicing on your own or in concert with others, goodness is developed for the purpose of reducing anxiety and suffering within yourself, not for increasing them until, being agitated, you become all upset. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes, but the tendency of people with kilesas is to somehow muddle through【得過且過】, not knowing which path is the right one for a smooth, safe passage. We don’t know if what we are doing is right or wrong, or whether the result will be happiness or suffering. We know the pain in our hearts, but we don’t know the way out of it. So we are left to fret about our misfortune, as you see me doing now.”

Ãcariya Mun said that the formless spirit was adamant in her complaints about him. She accused him of making his escape alone, showing no pity for her – she who for so long had struggled together with him to go beyond dukkha. She complained that he had made no effort to assist her so that she too could gain release from suffering.

He tried to console her: “When two people eat food together at the same table, inevitably one will be full before the other. It’s not possible for both to be fully satiated at the same moment. Take the case of the Lord Buddha and his former spouse, Yasodhara. Although for many ages they had jointly developed goodness of all kinds, the Lord Buddha was the first to transcend dukkha, returning then to teach his former spouse so that later she also crossed over to the other shore. You should consider this lesson carefully and learn from it, instead of complaining about the person who’s right now trying his best to find a way to help you. I am earnestly searching for a means to help you cross over, yet you accuse me of being heartless and irresponsible. Such thoughts are very inappropriate. They will merely increase the discomfort for both of us. You should change your attitude, following the example of the Lord Buddha’s former spouse – an excellent example for everyone, and one giving rise to true happiness.

“My reason for meeting you is to assist you, not to drive you away. I have always supported your development in Dhamma. To say that I have abandoned you and no longer care for your welfare is simply not true. My advice to you emanates from a heart whose loving kindness and compassion are absolutely pure. If you follow this advice, practicing it to the best of your ability, I will rejoice in your progress. And should you receive completely satisfactory results, I will rest contented in equanimity.

“Our original aspiration to achieve Buddhahood was made for the express purpose of crossing beyond the cycle of rebirth. My subsequent desire to attain the status of sãvaka21 instead, was actually a desire aimed toward the same goal: a state free of kilesas and ãsava,22 free of all dukkha, the Supreme Happiness, Nibbãna. As I‘ve followed the righteous path through many different lives, including my present status as a Buddhist monk, I have always done my utmost to keep in touch with you. Throughout this time, I have taught you as best I could with the immense loving compassion that I feel for you. Never was there a moment when I thought of forsaking you to seek only my own salvation – my thoughts were constantly full of concern, full of sympathy for you. I have always hoped to free you from the misery of birth in saÿsãra, leading you in the direction of Nibbãna.

“Your abnormal reaction – feeling offended because you suppose that I’ve abandoned you without any concern for your well-being – is of no benefit to either of us. From now on, you should refrain from such thinking. Don’t allow these thoughts to arise and trample all over your heart, for they will bring only endless misery in their wake – a result incompatible with my objective, as I strive with heartfelt compassion to help you out.

“Escaping without a care? Where have I escaped to? And who is it I don’t care about? At this moment I am doing my utmost to give you every possible assistance. Doesn’t everything I’ve taught you arise solely out of such compassionate concern as I am showing you right now? The constant encouragement I have provided comes straight from a heart full to the brim with a compassion that exceeds all the water in the great oceans, a compassion that pours forth unsparingly, without concern that it might run dry. Please understand that helping you has always been my intention and accept this Dhamma teaching that I offer. If you just trust me and practice accordingly, you will experience the fruits of inner happiness for yourself.

“From the day I first ordained as a monk, I have sincerely practiced the way of Dhamma – never for a moment have I thought ill of anyone. My motive in wanting to meet with you was not to deceive you, or cause you harm, but to assist you as best I can with all my heart. If you refuse to trust me, it will be difficult for you to find anyone else so worthy of your complete faith. You said you were aware of the universe trembling that night. That trembling, do you think it was caused by the ‘Dhamma of deception’ arising in the world? Is that why you’re so hesitant about taking to heart the advice I have so graciously offered you? If you understand that Dhamma is indeed the Dhamma of Truth, then you should consider the trembling of the universe that night as a decisive factor in your faith, and take comfort in the fact that you still have great resources of merit. You are still able to listen to a timely exposition of Dhamma, even though your birth in that formless realm of existence should render such a thing impossible. I consider it my good fortune to be able to teach you now. You should feel proud of your own good fortune in having someone to come and rescue you from the hopeless gloom that your misguided thinking has caused. If you can think positively like this, I shall be very pleased. Such thinking will not allow dukkha to bind you so tightly that you can’t find a way out. It won’t allow Dhamma to be seen as something mundane, or compassionate concern to be seen as something malevolent.”

As she listened to Ãcariya Mun present these reasoned arguments with such loving compassion, his spiritual partner felt as though she was being bathed in a stream of celestial water. Gradually she regained her composure. Enchanted by his discourse, her mind soon became calm, her manner respectful.

When he finished speaking, she admitted her mistake: “My affection and my hopeless yearning for you have caused so much trouble. I believed that you had discarded me, going your own way, which left me feeling neglected. I became terribly disappointed. I couldn’t stop thinking how useless and rejected I felt, with no one to turn to. But now that I have received the light of Dhamma, my heart is cool and contented. I can now put down the burden of misery that I’ve been carrying, for your Dhamma is like a divine nectar washing over my heart, cleansing it and making it bright. Please forgive me whatever wrong I have done to you through my ignorance. I am determined to be more careful in the future – never shall I make such a mistake again.”

When she finished speaking, Ãcariya Mun advised her to take birth in a more appropriate realm of existence, telling her to cease worrying about the past. Respectfully, she promised to follow his advice, then made one final request: “Once I have taken birth in a suitable realm, may I come and listen to your advice as before? Please give me your blessing for this.” Once Ãcariya Mun had granted her request, she immediately vanished.

The formless spirit having departed, Ãcariya Mun’s citta withdrew from samãdhi. It was nearly five a.m. and almost light. He had not rested the entire night. Having begun sitting in samãdhi at around eight p.m., he had spoken with the formless spirit for many hours into the night. Not long afterwards, the same spirit came to visit him again. This time she came in the bodily form of a beautiful deva, although in deference to the especially revered monk she was visiting, she was not adorned in the ornamental style customary of the devas.

Upon arriving, she explained to him her new situation: “After listening to your explanation, which removed all my doubts and relieved me of the misery that was tormenting me, I came to birth in the Tãvatiÿsa heavenly realm – a celestial sphere full of delightful pleasures, all of which I now enjoy as a result of the goodness we performed together as human beings. Although I experience this pleasant existence as a consequence of my own good deeds, I can’t help remembering that you, venerable sir, were the one who initially encouraged me to do good. On my own, I would never have had the wisdom capable of accomplishing this to my complete satisfaction.

“Feeling fortunate enough to be reborn in heavenly splendor, I am wholly contented, and no longer angry or resentful. As I reflect back on the immense kindness you’ve always shown me, it becomes apparent to me how important it is for us to choose discretely in our lives – concerning everything from our work to our food to our friends and companions, both male and female. Such discretion is crucial for leading a smooth, untroubled existence. This is especially true when choosing a spouse to depend on, for better or for worse. Choosing a spouse merits special attention, for we share everything with that person – even our very breath. Every happiness and every sorrow along the way will necessarily affect both parties.

“Those who have a good partner, even though they may be inadequate in terms of their intelligence, their temperament, or their behavior, are still blest to have someone who can guide and encourage them in dealing with all their affairs – both their secular affairs, which promote peace and stability in the family, and their spiritual affairs, which nourish the heart. All other matters will benefit as well, so they won’t feel they are groping blindly in the dark, never certain how these matters will turn out. Each partner being a good person, they compliment each other to create a virtual paradise within the family, allowing everyone to remain peaceful, contented, and free from strife at all times. Always cheerful, such a household is undisturbed by temperamental outbursts. All members contribute in creating this atmosphere: each is calm and composed, firmly established in the principles of reason – instead of just doing whatever they like, which is contrary to the very moral principles that insure their continued peace and contentment. Married couples work together to construct their own future. Together they create good and bad kamma. They create happiness and misery, virtue and evil, heaven and hell, from the very beginning of their relationship onwards to the present and into the future – an unbroken continuum.

“Being blessed with the chance to accompany you through many lives, I’ve come to realize this in my own situation. By your guidance, venerable sir, I have made goodness an integral part of my character. You have always steered me safely through every danger, never letting me stray in the direction of evil or disgrace. Consequently, I’ve remained a good person during all those lifetimes. I cannot tell you how deeply moved I am by all the kindness you’ve shown me. I now realize the harm caused by my past mistakes. Please kindly forgive my transgressions so that no lingering animosity remains between us.”

Assenting to the deva’s request, Ãcariya Mun forgave her. He then gave her an inspiring talk, encouraging her to perfect herself spiritually. When he had finished, she paid him her respects, moved off a short distance, and floated blissfully up into the sky.

Some of the resentful comments she made when she was still a formless spirit were too strange to record here, so I’ve been unable to recount every detail of their conversation; and for that I ask your forgiveness. I am not really that satisfied with what has been written here either, but I feel that without it a thought-provoking story would have been left out.