阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第四章第一節:清邁的歲月

       

           

         

第四章第一節:清邁的歲月

    阿姜曼在北部的清邁府行腳多年,這些年他都在清邁府不同的地方度過雨安居。他曾在以下的地方各度過一次雨安居:Mae Rim縣的Ban Chom TaengMae Taeng縣的Ban PongPhrao縣的Ban Kloi以及清萊府(Chiang Rai)Mae Suai縣的Ban Pu PhrayaMae Sai縣的Mae Thong Thip。他也在以下地方結過雨安居:清邁直轄縣裡的Wat Chedi Luang寺、Mae Suai縣的山裡與鄰近的程逸府。除了雨安居的期間,他在清邁府和清萊府各地共行腳了十一年,所以不太可能照時間順序一一細數他所經過的村落社區。在接下來的記述中,我只會提及與本傳記有直接關係的村落名稱。

        阿姜曼除了待在Wat Chedi Luang寺的那段期間以外,他總是獨自一人行腳,而且都是在危險隨處可見的荒山野嶺。就是行腳比丘的殊勝,以及一路走來生起對「法」的諸多內明,都使得阿姜曼的傳記變得如此重要。在所有獨自行腳的比丘傳記中,這樣奇特又精彩的傳記可說是獨一無二。一般來說,這樣的生活模式會被認為嚴峻與孤獨。生活在惡劣的環境中,受到危險的壓迫,無法正常吃飯或睡覺,恐懼感令人窒息。但阿姜曼卻安於這種孤寂的生活,他發現這樣有利於去除心中的無明,而他一直憑著在僻靜處的努力修行來實現這個目標。

        只是到了後來,其他的比丘開始尋找他。例如,廊開府Tha Bo的阿姜,在Wat Tham Klong Phen寺的阿姜Saan與阿姜高,他們在那段時期與阿姜曼一起生活了一段不算太長的時間。在訓練他們一段時間後,阿姜曼指示他們去與村落相隔甚遠、人口稀少的森林中找一處隱蔽的地方 —— 或許在山腳下,或許在山脊。那個地區的村落非常的小,有的只有四到五間房屋,有的九到十間 —— 恰好足以支持日復一日的托缽。

        那一段期間追隨阿姜曼的梵行比丘都是堅忍、無畏的人,他們都不斷展現出願為法忘軀的態度。因此,阿姜曼喜歡送他們去充滿野生動物(例如老虎)的地方,因為像這樣的地方往往能自動驅散貢高我慢,並能激發出正念與觀智。這比起其他的方法能更快提升心的力量。

在這些幾乎是毫無人居的山區中,阿姜曼只感到安詳與寧靜,並怡然自得地從中獲得力量。雖然幾乎沒有與人接觸,他仍如以往一般接受天神、梵天、龍和其他境界的有情的拜訪,就像是一位熟悉外語的人,能經常地與外國朋友交談接觸。由於他長久以來都善於與非人接觸,待在山區的這些時日,可說是對這些天界的有情特別有益處。

        這也利益到當地山區的部落居民。他們通常是坦率、誠實、平靜的人們。一旦他們知道阿姜曼的戒德與對他所傳的法有所體悟後,他們非常地尊敬他,甚至願意為他犧牲自己的生命。山地部落和森林部落,例如EkorKhamuMuseur、苗族等,通常被認為是邋遢、不具內涵、原始的部落。但阿姜曼發現他們俊美,外貌整潔,待人有禮,舉止合宜,總是以極大的敬意對待長輩與部落的首領。他們維持著良好的部落精神,那時村落裡幾乎沒有任何人會製造麻煩。他們是如此的信賴長輩,尤其是首領。當他說話時,每一個人都會注意傾聽,並順從地遵循他的意願。他們不會固執己見,是一群容易受教的人。

        那些被稱作荒野、未開化的叢林,事實上居住著一群善良、正直誠實、有道德的人。在那裡,不像人類文明的都市叢林,幾乎沒聽過竊盜與搶劫。由樹木與野生動物所組成的叢林根本不像人類文明叢林那樣危險 —— 文明社會裡充滿著不斷攻擊人的各種貪、嗔、痴。它們造成很深的內部傷口,逐漸侵蝕身體與心理的健康,直到傷勢嚴重。這種傷害很難治療,常見的狀況是大多數人懶得去找適當的治療方法與照顧傷勢。雖然這些因煩惱造成的傷口往往快速潰爛,然而那些受苦的人卻常忽視他們的傷口,只一廂情願希望這些傷口自行癒合。

        這種存在於人類心中有如叢林般的無數煩惱 —— 不論是男、女、比丘、沙彌,都一樣。阿姜曼說,他利用荒野中的生活來削減心中狂亂的叢林,不然就可能會變得猖狂與不安,心就無法經歷祥和與寧靜。至少獨自生活在荒野能平息煩惱,足以讓他感到舒適與放鬆。他認為,這是使用人類與生俱來的智慧唯一明智的好方法,也唯有如此才不枉此生為人的好因緣。

        在荒野追隨阿姜曼的比丘往往特別勇敢且不畏犧牲,所以他會根據比丘吃苦的能耐以及環境的嚴苛情形來訓練他們。阿姜曼發現適合自己的訓練方法,也適合他們。如果有必要,他們寧願犧牲生命來達成目標。而只要還活著,他們就會全心全力探求為「法」而奮鬥,只為了超脫世俗並終止永無止境的生死輪迴與痛苦。

        阿姜曼對於在清邁府遇到的這些比丘,他用的訓練方法不同於以往,而是更加嚴格與不容妥協。來找他的比丘們大部分都是個性堅毅的人,他們極其專注於內心生起的各種無明煩惱,嘗試將它(煩惱)削弱並扼止它們。他們並不擔心他的訓誡過於苛刻或強烈。事實上,他的語氣會隨著「法」的討論變深入而更強,那些專注於定境的比丘也能因此加深定境;至於專注於觀禪的比丘,則隨著他說理的每一個細微處去發掘開展智慧的新方法。

        阿姜曼對清邁府弟子的開示總是特別深入,因為那時他已完全洞悉「法」的知見;另一個因素是因為去求指導的比丘們都有很高的理解力。他們為了愈來愈高的「法」而矢志不移地努力,直到他們都實現了最終的目標。除了他一貫的訓誡以外,阿姜曼也有一些非常特殊的技巧去阻止思惟誤入歧途的比丘。他用這些技巧困住那些「盜賊」,並當場逮捕他們。但這些都不是普通的盜賊,阿姜曼所抓住的盜賊是潛藏在比丘心中的賊,而且神通廣大、無所不能的賊 —— 也就是無明通常呈現的方式。

        阿姜曼住在清邁府山區的時候發生了一起相當離奇的事件 —— 一件不該發生在頭陀比丘之間的事。我希望你們原諒我講述我聽到的故事,我認為對於任何一位身處類似情境中的人來說,這會是一堂發人深省的課。這個故事也只有阿姜曼較資深與親近的弟子才知道,而阿姜曼自己也認為這起事件非常重要。這是由一位當時與他一起生活的上座說出來的:

        某一天的下午,他(敘述者)與另一名比丘到岩池邊洗澡,這座岩池位於通往當地村莊的小徑附近,離村莊有一段相當的距離。當他們正在洗澡的時候,有一群年輕女子正前往她們的工作場所,恰好經過那座岩池 —— 這是他們以前洗澡的時候從未發生過的事。當故事中的主角比丘看到她們經過時,原本平靜無波的心湖立即泛起了漣漪,就在慾火升起並開始熊熊燃燒時,他失去了正念。他盡可能試著控制自己,但他就是無法扭轉這種情境。他害怕阿姜曼會以神通發現,也怕自己會蒙羞。從那一刻起,只要他拼命試著解決問題,他的心就會持續波動。這是他從未發生過的事,而他感到很無助。

        當天晚上阿姜曼以他心通知道了這位比丘遇到這起出乎意料之外的事件,並因此心煩意亂,在迷戀與牽掛之間迷失了。這個比丘徹夜難眠,努力試著解決困境。第二天早上,阿姜曼並沒有說什麼,因為他知道,這個比丘已經很怕他,若他直接訓斥只會讓事情變得更糟;當他們碰面時,這個比丘非常憂慮羞愧,幾乎全身顫抖;但阿姜曼只是友善地微笑,就像不知道發生了什麼事。當托缽的時間已到,阿姜曼藉機對這個比丘說:「我知道你的修行很精進,所以今天你不需要去托缽。我們其餘的人會去,回來時會與你分享食物。多供養一個比丘不是什麼問題。你繼續去禪修吧,好讓我們這些人也可以分享你的功德。」

        因為阿姜曼比這個比丘還要更暸解他自己,所以他不用直接看著他便說了這些話。然後阿姜曼便帶著其他的比丘去托缽,而這位比丘則自己努力經行。由於這個問題是肇因於一個偶然的相逢,所以沒有辦法阻止它的發生。瞭解了這樣的因緣後,阿姜曼盡其所能去幫助他。他很清楚這個比丘已經很盡力去解決問題,所以他有責任找一個不會擾亂他的心境且真能幫助到他的好方法。

        當他們托完缽回來以後,比丘們與那個比丘分享食物,每個人都放一些飯菜在他的缽裡。阿姜曼派人通知他,看他想要與大家一起吃或獨自在他的小屋裡吃。聽到這個消息後,這個比丘馬上與他的同修們一起用餐。阿姜曼在他抵達時,刻意不理會他,過了一會兒後才和緩地對他說話,撫慰他受傷的心靈並減輕他的自責。雖然他與其他比丘們一起坐著,但他根本沒有食慾;為了避免表現出不禮貌,他只吃下一點點的飯菜。

        那天稍晚,另一個在岩池沐浴的比丘 —— 也就是後來敘述這故事的人 —— 生起了疑惑。他當時還不了解整件事的來龍去脈,他不知道為何阿姜曼會以他從未見過的態度去對待那位同修。他認為阿姜曼既然這麼支持他的同修,那麼他的修行肯定很好,於是他找機會問他有關他的禪修。

        「阿姜曼說因為你在精進,所以你可以不用去托缽。但他並沒有說你的修行到底有多好。所以,你的禪修進度如何?請告訴我吧。」

        這比丘只是一昧苦笑。「我的修行怎麼可能會好?只不過是阿姜曼看到了一個可憐悲慘的孤魂,他只是用他的方法來幫助我。如此而已!」

        他的同修繼續試著探索真相,但這名比丘一直迴避他的問題。最後,這名比丘被他纏得沒辦法,只好直接面對他。

        「你說阿姜曼看到一個可憐悲慘的孤魂,這是什麼意思?還有他是怎麼幫你?」

        這名比丘惱羞成怒,但態度還是軟化了。

        「實在沒有必要告訴阿姜曼這些事。反正,他早已比我更了解我自己,所以在他面前我只感覺心虛與羞愧。昨天我們一起在岩池洗澡的時候,你有沒有注意到什麼不尋常的事?」

        敘述這則故事的比丘說,除了一群路過的婦女外,他並沒有察覺任何的異狀。於是這位比丘招認了:「就是這件事。這就是為何我現在如此淒慘、阿姜曼為何不讓我今早去托缽的原因。他是怕我在村莊裡又碰到她,我可能就會當場昏死過去。我的修行能有多好?現在你了解這個可憐人的修行有多好了吧?」

        另一名比丘聽到後相當驚訝。

        「喔!天哪!你和那些女人之間到底發生了什麼關係?」

        「什麼也沒有!」這名比丘回答:「只不過我盲目愛上了其中的一位,我的修行全毀了。我的心被她美麗的倩影搞得神魂顛倒、意亂情迷 —— 整晚都讓我輾轉難眠。到現在這種癡狂仍持續不退,我不知道該怎麼辦。拜託了!你能不能幫幫我?」

        「你的意思是說情況沒有好轉?」

        「沒有∼∼」比丘的聲音聽起來相當無助。

        「如果是這樣的話,那麼我建議你,如果你沒有辦法壓制這件事,那就不宜繼續留在這裡 —— 因為這樣只會愈來愈糟。我認為你最好是儘快離開此地,另覓一處地方修行。如果你不敢跟阿姜曼說,那就由我來幫你去說。我會跟他說你想找一處隱蔽的地方,因為你覺得這裡不妥。我相信他一定會馬上答應,因為他一定已經知道是怎麼一回事了。他只是顧及你的面子,所以沒有說出來而已。」

        這名比丘立刻同意。當晚,他的同修就去跟阿姜曼說這件事情,而阿姜曼也立刻同意了。但這裡潛藏著一個諷刺的因素,阿姜曼卻說得相當含糊:「由業的吸引力所產生的病相當難以治癒,只要最初的因緣仍在,那麼傳染病就會迅速蔓延。」他對這件事就只說了這樣,但就算是代為轉達這件事的比丘也聽不懂他的弦外之音。

        大家對這件事情都閉口不談,這名為情所困的比丘也從未跟阿姜曼直接提起這件事,他的朋友也沒有跟其他人說;阿姜曼自己也隻字未提。雖然大家都知道是怎麼一回事,卻都看起來好像什麼事也沒發生的樣子,沒有人公開談論此事。

        第二天,這名比丘跟阿姜曼道別,但還是沒有提起這件事。接著他便離開了,去了一處距離相當遠的鄰村。如果,不是真像阿姜曼所暗示的那樣,是出於宿業的吸引力,那麼這名比丘就必然可安度這次的難關。但是,唉!可嘆的是業果的不確定性:事情的演變真如阿姜曼所料。就在這個比丘離開阿姜曼沒多久,那個與他有相同業力牽連的年輕女子,因為一次偶然的機緣(實則必然)也搬到那座村落,而他們竟然在路上相逢了。這實在是非常有趣,因為長途跋涉或離鄉背井對於山區部落的婦女來說都很罕見。

        後來,在阿姜曼及其僧團的比丘們離開了第一座村落時,他們就聽說這名比丘已經脫下僧袍還俗了,因為他再也受不了為情所困,他的業力又讓他歷史重演,他跟這名漂亮的女子結婚,並定居在那個村落裡。

        這是一則有關共業的真實案例,除了業力的牽連,還能作何解釋呢?說這個故事的比丘堅稱他的朋友從未看過這名女子,也未與她說過話,只不過看到對方一眼,便立即墜入情網,這件事也有當時住在僧團且與村民沒有來往的其他比丘可以作證。他們一直都住在僧團裡,不可能與村民會發生這種互動。此外,他們與阿姜曼住在一個可避免這種互動的安全地方,所以肯定是他們之間過去久遠的業力連結所致。這個比丘曾跟他的朋友說過,不過是兩眼短暫的交會,就足以使他神魂顛倒、意亂情迷,無法抑制的熱戀襲捲了他的心,令他幾乎窒息。那些驚濤駭浪的情緒無情吞噬了他,使他整個人陷入了無法自拔的情境。當他警覺到自己的處境後,曾想逃離。但命運還是找上了他,仍使他逃不出魔咒。就這樣 —— 他屈服了。

        沒有這種類似經驗的人可能會覺得好笑;但其他有類似經驗的人,就知道我們無法跟阿羅漢一樣安抵解脫彼岸。一般來說,山區部落的居民跟僧侶都不太熟;但若牽涉了業力,這種事情就有可能發生。沒有人能豁免業力的掌控,因為業力有權審判那些創造出它們的人。阿姜曼完全瞭解這個道理,雖然他用盡各種方法去幫助這名比丘,但結果仍無力回天。就因為如此,他不想直接介入他們之間的因果。總之,結論就是世界各地的凡夫都在業力的掌控下,事件一定會按照它們的因緣自然發展。我收錄這則故事是希望如果有人發現自己也遇到相同的情況,可以有一個及時參考的借鏡。就跟以往一樣,如果有任何不當之處,我相信大家都會諒解。

        先前我提過阿姜曼有「抓賊」的特殊本事,也就是讀心及捕捉妄念的他心通,可使弟子保持正念與警醒。如果有性格無畏且堅毅不拔的頭陀比丘來清邁府參訪他時,阿姜曼就會使用這種教誡神通使他們獲益。不像那些不認真修行的比丘,如果對他們用同樣的方法就會產生負面的效果。只要阿姜曼糾正他們的錯誤,他們就會完全專注在「法」的緣起,盡全力去改正。不論他如何尖銳犀利地糾正他們,他們也不會因為錯誤被揭露而感到害臊或不安。

        阿姜曼是一位完美的老師,他的教導能直入人心,不管是分享他個人的知見或指出弟子的缺點,他總是真誠與坦率。他批評的時候會保持公正客觀與坦率,盡可能多方面提供協助。他的學生們絕不敢輕視,也不敢拒絕接受真理,更不會自滿於自己的成就,就像修行團體中常見的那樣。

        他對「法」的說明都一定會視弟子的需要而因材施教,只觸及個人修行程度的必要重點。當他覺得某位弟子修得很正確,他就會鼓勵他繼續精進;但若他覺得某人的禪修有偏差或潛藏危險,他就會以鼓勵的方式指出錯誤,使弟子們放棄錯誤的修行。

        對於那些帶著疑惑或問題去找他的比丘們,他的解釋總能準確切入重點;而且,就我所知,他的弟子也從未失望過。穩當的說法應該是,對每一個前去求教有關禪修的人,都能預期得到專業的建議,因為禪修是他最擅長的專業領域。他對於禪修的理解與體悟都無與倫比。在各種佛法教學的表達上富於感性,能令聽眾深深著迷,而他的口才迄今也無人能比。他對於道德的看法,深深吸引著聽眾;而他對於不同層次的禪定與智慧的開示也是世間稀有,他的聽眾會全神貫注,沈醉在聽到的「法」,這種滿足感往往會持續好幾天。

        在阿姜曼嚴苛督促自己朝向解脫的那段期間,他都獨自一人住在山中的石窟或隱蔽的森林中。當他對無明發動全力攻擊時,他的精進總是直接向著內心。只有在睡眠的時間裡,他才會放鬆持續的內省。在他從頭到尾以內觀連根拔除無明時,「正念」與「觀智」都是他忠實不變的伙伴。他持續與無明對話,並以「正念」、「觀智」反擊。他滅苦的決心是他對話時的增上緣,這不是修辭的比喻,而是指以「正念」與「觀智」的內正思惟去一一制止無明。 不論無明如何躲避他,也不論以什麼伎倆來抵制或絆住他,阿姜曼都會以「正念」、「觀智」一路尾隨對方的動作,去壟斷或粉碎對方的後路,使其投降 —— 直到贏得最後的勝利。只要他一發現無明又稍稍占上風時,他馬上會提升戰力 —— 正念、智慧、信心、精進 —— 集中火力迎接每一次新的挑戰,直到戰勝巨敵。正如我們所知,最後的勝利,在他的心中顫動 —— 解脫知見已消滅了煩惱心的魔王。

        這就是阿姜曼致力於終極一戰的經過。他不分晝夜,時時刻刻都經行與靜坐,運用正念與觀智以確保勝利。當他終於穿越無明的叢林後,他首選的武器:無上的正念與觀智,就已不再有意義了。此時的「正念」與「觀智」都已變成日常修行的心理活動,而他只會用它們來思惟諸法的其中一種「法」,並從事其他精神活動,當他不再需要它們的服務時,就會讓它們退去。在此之前,為了打擊無明,它們必須處於備戰狀態。一旦獲得了勝利,如果沒有其他因緣來促使他思惟,他就會像精神放空一般地活著。長久以來捲入激烈戰火中的正念與觀智,現下已無用武之地。心中剩下的只有不受打擾的永恆寂靜,使心中其他的一切都黯然失色。心只剩下自己,不受外界的影響,也不再思惟過去或將來,彷彿一切都隨著無明消失了 —— 只留下「空」。

      

The Chiang Mai Years

venerable Ãcariya Mun wandered dhutanga in the northern province of Chiang Mai for many years, spending the annual rains retreat in a different location each year. He spent one rains retreat in each of the following places: Ban Chom Taeng in the Mae Rim district, Ban Pong in the Mae Taeng district, Ban Kloi in the Phrao district, Ban Pu Phraya in the Mae Suai district, and Mae Thong Thip in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province. He also spent rains retreats at Wat Chedi Luang in the city of Chiang Mai; in the mountains of Mae Suai district; and in the neighboring province of Uttaradit.

Outside of the retreat period, he wandered extensively through the provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for a total of eleven years, making it impossible to give a strict chronological account of all the village communities he passed through on his travels. In the following account, I shall mention by name only those villages having a direct bearing on the story as it unfolds.

Except for his stay at Wat Chedi Luang monastery, Ãcariya Mun always wandered in solitude, staying in the wilderness, mountainous areas where danger was ever-present. It is the exceptional nature of his wandering dhutanga practice and the many insights into Dhamma, that arose along the way, which make Ãcariya Mun’s life story so significant. This strange and wonderful tale is unique among the stories of all the dhutanga monks who wandered alone. Ordinarily, such a lifestyle is believed to be bleak and lonely. Living in an inhospitable environment, oppressed by danger, and unable to eat or sleep normally, the sense of fear can be stifling. But Ãcariya Mun was perfectly content living a solitary existence. He found it conducive to his efforts to remove the kilesas from his heart, having always relied on the method of striving in seclusion to accomplish that goal.

It was only later that other monks began to seek him out. For example, Ãcariya Thet of Tha Bo district in the province of Nong Khai, Ãcariya Saan, and Ãcariya Khao of Wat Tham Klong Phen monastery lived with him for short periods of time. After training them for a while in the way of practice, he sent them off alone to find secluded places in sparsely populated forests where villages were far apart – perhaps at the foot of a mountain, perhaps on a mountain ridge. Villages in that region were quite small, some consisting of only 4 or 5 houses, others 9 to 10 houses – just enough to support an almsround from one day to the next.

The kammaååhãna monks who followed Ãcariya Mun during that period were extremely resolute, fearless individuals. They constantly showed a willingness to put their lives on the line in their search for Dhamma. Therefore, Ãcariya Mun preferred to send them to live in places teeming with wild animals, such as tigers, for such places tended to automatically dispel complacency and stimulate mindfulness and wisdom, boosting the strength of the citta faster than could otherwise be expected.

Ãcariya Mun himself thrived comfortably in the peace and quiet of these virtually unpopulated mountain regions. Though human contact was scarce, communication with devas, brahmas, nãgas, and other spirits from various realms of existence was normal for him – much in the same way that a person knowing foreign languages regularly communicates with people from other countries. Due to his long-standing fluency in this type of communication, his time spent living in mountainous regions was of special benefit to celestial beings.

It was also beneficial to the local hill tribes, who tended to be straightforward, honest, even-tempered people. Once they came to know his character and to appreciate his Dhamma, they revered him so much that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for him. Hill tribes and forest peoples such as the Ekor, Khamu, Museur, and Hmong are generally considered to be rather scruffy, unattractive, primitive people. But Ãcariya Mun found them to be handsome, clean-looking people who were courteous and well-behaved, always treating their elders and local leaders with great respect. They maintained a good community spirit, and there were hardly any troublemakers in their villages back then. They placed so much trust in their elders, especially the village headman, that when he spoke everyone paid attention and obediently complied with his wishes. And they were not opinionated, making them easy to teach.

Those so-called wild, uncivilized jungles were actually inhabited by good, honest, moral people. There, unlike in the jungles of human civilization, theft and robbery were virtually unknown. Jungles consisting of trees and wild animals aren’t nearly so dangerous as the civilized jungles of human society – places teeming with all kinds of perilous kilesas where greed, hatred, and delusion are constantly on the assault. They inflict deep internal wounds, gradually eroding a person’s physical and mental health until the damage becomes acute. Such wounds are extremely difficult to treat. In any case, most people can’t even be bothered to look for suitable care. Though such kilesa-inflicted wounds tend to fester menacingly, those who are afflicted usually neglect their injuries, hoping they will somehow heal by themselves.

This sort of kilesa-infested jungle exists in the hearts of all human beings – men, women, monks, and novices – without distinction. Ãcariya Mun said that he used life in the wilds as a means of cutting back this wild inner jungle, which otherwise could be so savage and disturbing that the heart never experienced any peace and quiet. At least by living alone in the wilderness he could quell the kilesas enough to feel comfortable and relaxed. He felt that this was the only sensible way to use our natural human intelligence, and thus not squander the good fortune inherent in human birth.

Monks who sought out Ãcariya Mun in the wilderness tended to be especially courageous and self-sacrificing, so he trained them in ways that suited their uncompromising attitude and the harshness of their environment. Training methods that he found appropriate for himself were suitable for them as well. If necessary, they were willing to die to achieve their goal. As long as they lived, they were dedicated to the struggle for Dhamma in order to transcend the world and end the perpetual cycle of birth and suffering.

The training methods that Ãcariya Mun employed with the monks he encountered in Chiang Mai differed from those he previously used. They were far more rigorous and uncompromising. The monks who came to train under his guidance were mostly resolute individuals. They paid scrupulous attention to the kilesas arising within themselves in an attempt to reduce their strength and choke them off. They were not concerned that his admonitions might be too harsh or too intense. In fact, the intensity of his tone increased as the Dhamma under discussion became more profound. Those focusing on a certain level of tranquility were reinforced in that calm state, while those concentrating on investigative analysis followed every nuance of his reasoning to discover new techniques for developing wisdom.

The discourses that Ãcariya Mun delivered to his students in Chiang Mai were especially profound because his knowledge of Dhamma was by then complete. Another factor was the high degree of understanding that the monks who sought his guidance already possessed. They were absolutely determined to strive for higher and higher levels of Dhamma until they reached the ultimate goal. Besides his usual admonitions, Ãcariya Mun also had some very unusual techniques for thwarting the monks whose thoughts tended to go astray. He used these techniques to trap ‘thieves’ and catch them in the act. But these were no ordinary thieves. The thieves that Ãcariya Mun caught lurked inside the hearts of monks whose thoughts liked to steal away to everything imaginable – in the usual way of the kilesas.

A STRANGE INCIDENT occurred while Ãcariya Mun was staying in the mountains of Chiang Mai – an incident that should never have happened in the circle of kammaååhãna monks. I hope you will forgive me for recounting what I heard. I feel it may be a thought-provoking lesson for anyone who finds himself in a similar situation. This story was known exclusively within the inner circle of Ãcariya Mun’s senior disciples, and Ãcariya Mun’s own assessment of the whole matter was crucial. A certain senior monk living with him at the time related the story as follows:

One afternoon he and another monk went to bathe in a rock pool located near a path leading to the fields of the local village, which was quite a long distance away. While they were bathing, a group of young women happened to pass by on their way to work in the fields – something that had never before occurred while they were bathing. When the other monk spied them walking past, his mind immediately wobbled, his mindfulness failing him as the fires of lust flared up and began smoldering inside him. Try as he might, he couldn’t manage to reverse this situation. While fearful that Ãcariya Mun might become aware of his predicament, he was equally afraid that he might disgrace himself. From that moment on, his mind was constantly fluctuating as he desperately tried to come to grips with the problem. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before, and he felt miserable about it.

That same night Ãcariya Mun, investigating on his own, became aware that this monk had encountered something unexpected and was consequently very distraught, caught between feelings of infatuation and apprehension. The monk struggled through a sleepless night, trying to resolve the dilemma. The next morning Ãcariya Mun did not say anything about it, for he knew that the monk was already fearful of him; confronting him would only make matters worse. When they met, the monk was so ashamed and apprehensive he was almost trembling; but Ãcariya Mun just smiled amicably as though he didn’t know what had happened. When it came time to go on almsround, Ãcariya Mun found an excuse to address the monk.

“I can see how earnest you are in pressing on with your meditation practice, so you needn’t go on almsround today. The rest of us will go, and we will share our food with you when we return. Providing food for one extra monk is hardly a problem. Go and continue your meditation practice so that the rest of us may share the merit you make as well.”

He said this without looking directly at the monk, for Ãcariya Mun understood the monk better than the monk understood himself. Ãcariya Mun then led the others on almsround while the monk forced himself to do walking meditation. Since the problem arose due to a chance encounter and not an intentional one, it had been impossible to prevent. Realizing that, Ãcariya Mun did what he could to assist him. He was well aware that the monk was doing his utmost to solve the problem; so, he was obliged to find a clever means of helping him without further upsetting his mental state.

When they returned from almsround, the monks shared their food with the monk, each putting some in his bowl. Ãcariya Mun sent someone to inform the monk that he could take his meal with them or alone in his hut, whichever he preferred. Upon hearing this, the monk quickly went to eat with his fellow monks. Ãcariya Mun ignored him when he arrived, but, later spoke gently to him in order to soothe his injured psyche and mitigate his sense of remorse. Although he sat with the other monks, he ate only a token amount of food so as not to appear impolite.

Later that day, the other monk, who had also bathed at the rock pool – the one who would later tell this story – became suspicious, being as yet unaware of the whole story. He wondered why Ãcariya Mun treated that monk with a deference he had never seen before. He figured that since Ãcariya Mun was being so supportive, his friend’s meditation practice was undoubtedly very good. When he found the opportunity, he went to ask about his meditation. “Ãcariya Mun said that you didn’t have to go on almsround because you’re intensifying your efforts, but he didn’t indicate how good your meditation is. So, how is your meditation going? Please tell me about it.” The monk gave a wry smile. “How could my meditation be good? Ãcariya Mun saw a poor, miserable soul and he’s just trying to help, using his own skillful methods. That’s all.”

His friend persisted in attempting to get to the truth, but the monk continued to deflect his questions. Finally his friend confronted him directly. He asked, “What did you mean when you said that Ãcariya Mun saw a poor, miserable soul? And how is it that he’s trying to help?” Exasperated, the monk relented. “There is no need to tell Ãcariya Mun about this. Anyway, he already knows me better than I know myself, so I feel fearful and ashamed in his presence. Did you notice anything unusual when we were bathing together at the rock pool yesterday?”

The other monk said that he hadn’t noticed anything, except for a group of women passing by. So, the monk confessed, “That’s just it. That’s why I’m so miserable right now, and why Ãcariya Mun wouldn’t let me go on almsround this morning. He was afraid I would pass out and die right there in the village should I happened to see her again. How could my meditation be any good? Do you understand now how good the meditation of this miserable fellow is?”

The other monk was stunned. “Oh, my gosh! What is it between you and those women?” “Nothing,” answered the monk, “except blindly falling in love with one of them and having my meditation going to pieces. What appeared in its place was a beautiful image – a crazy infatuation crushing down on my heart all night long. Even now this madness continues unabated, and I just don’t know what to do about it. Please, can you do something to help me?” “You mean it still isn’t any better?”

“No.” The monk’s voice sounded wretchedly pathetic.

“In that case, I have a suggestion. If you can’t suppress this thing, then it is not prudent for you to stay here any longer – things will only get worse. I think it’s better that you move away from here and find another place to do your practice. If you don’t feel up to asking Ãcariya Mun about this, then I will speak to him for you. I’ll inform him that you wish to go look for another secluded place because you don’t feel so well here. I’m sure he will immediately give his permission because he is well aware of what’s happening to you. He just hasn’t said anything about it yet for fear of shaming you.”

The monk readily agreed. That evening his companion went to speak with Ãcariya Mun, who immediately gave his consent. But there was a caustic element latent here. Ãcariya Mun said rather cryptically: “A disease arising from karmic attraction is hard to cure. Contagions spread quickly when their original cause still remains.” And that was all he would say on the matter. Even the monk who went to speak with him didn’t understand his connotation.

Everyone kept quiet about this matter. The monk never spoke directly to Ãcariya Mun about it; his friend never mentioned it to anyone else; and Ãcariya Mun kept the whole thing to himself. Although fully aware of the truth of the matter they all behaved as if nothing had happened. No one spoke openly about it.

The next day the monk went to take leave of Ãcariya Mun, who consented without mentioning the matter. The monk then left and went to stay near another village quite a distance away. Had this not been a true case of karmic attraction, as Ãcariya Mun had hinted, then surely the monk would have been well out of danger there. But, alas for the uncertainty of karmic consequences: things turned out exactly as Ãcariya Mun had suggested. Shortly after the monk left Ãcariya Mun, the young woman, who shared the same karmic connection, ended up moving to the other village by a fortuitous coincidence, and their paths crossed again. This itself is very interesting, since it was most unusual for hill tribe women to stray so far from home.

Later, after Ãcariya Mun and his group of monks had departed from the first village, they heard that the monk had disrobed, eturning to lay life because he couldn’t put up with the constant strain. His kamma had come full circle: he married the pretty Museur woman and settled in that village.

This was a genuine case of mutual kamma. Without such a karmic connection, how could it have been possible? The monk who told this story insisted that his friend became infatuated the moment he saw the woman, having never seen or spoken with her before. This was confirmed by the other monks who were living there. They lived together in the monastery the whole time, never having any occasion to get involved with the villagers. Besides that, they were living with Ãcariya Mun in a place safe from such liaisons. There can be no doubt that an enduring karmic bond existed between them. The monk once told his friend that mere eye contact with her was enough to make him feel giddy and lose all presence of mind, and an irresistible passion gripped his heart so tightly he could scarcely breath. Those powerful emotions plagued him relentlessly, leaving him in such an emotional quandary that he felt completely demoralized. Realizing his predicament, he tried to escape. But fate pursued him, again casting its spell over him. And that was it – he succumbed.

Those who have never had such an experience may smile; but others who have, know that we cannot all imitate the Arahant Sundara Samudda by simply floating up and out to safety.1 Normally, hill tribe people are not overly familiar with monks; but if kamma is involved, then such incidents can happen. No one is exempt from kamma, for kamma has jurisdiction over those who create it. Ãcariya Mun was fully aware of this truth. Although he tried using skillful means to help the monk, the outcome was probably inevitable. For this reason, he didn’t make any direct attempt to intervene. In the final analysis, in a world where everyone lives under the authority of kamma, matters must be allowed to take their natural course. I have included this story in the hope that it may serve as a timely reminder for anyone finding himself in a similar situation. As always, I trust you will forgive any indiscretion on my part

PREVIOUSLY I MENTIONED Ãcariya Mun’s special talent for catching ‘thieves’, a technique for reading minds and catching stray thoughts that kept his students watchful and alert. When a kammaååhãna monk with an especially bold, resolute character came to see him in Chiang Mai, Ãcariya Mun used this teaching technique to good advantage. Unlike those less earnestly committed, these monks were not apt to react in a negative way. Being fully dedicated to the cause of Dhamma, as soon as Ãcariya Mun admonished them about their faults, they were willing to do their best to rectify them. No matter how pointedly he admonished them, they did not feel ashamed or apprehensive when their mistakes were exposed.

Ãcariya Mun was a consummate teacher and his message went straight to the heart of his listeners. Whether sharing his own personal knowledge or pointing out the shortcomings of his students, he was always frank and outspoken. He remained candid and impartial in his criticism with the intention of giving as much help as he possibly could. His students were in no way contemptuous. They never refused to accept the truth; nor were they conceited about their own achievements, as often happens in a group of meditators.

His Dhamma explanations were invariably adapted to the individual needs of his students, touching only on the points that were essential to the individual’s level of practice. When he determined that a student was practicing correctly, he encouraged him to step up his efforts. But when he felt that someone’s meditation was faulty or potentially dangerous, he pointed this out as a way of encouraging the student to abandon that practice.

For monks who went to him with doubts or questions, his explanations were unerringly right to the point; and, as far as I know, his students were never disappointed. It’s safe to say that everyone who went to him with a question about meditation practice, could have expected to receive expert advice, for meditation was his field of greatest expertise. His knowledge and understanding of every aspect of meditation were unparalleled. Every facet of his Dhamma teaching benefited from his lyrical presentation, captivating the listener and demonstrating an eloquence which no one today can equal. His comments on moral virtue were engrossing to his listeners, while his discourses on the different levels of samãdhi and wisdom were exceptional. His audience became so absorbed that, being satiated in the Dhamma they heard, their feeling of satisfaction often lasted for days thereafter.

DURING THE PERIOD when Ãcariya Mun pushed himself relentlessly toward realization of the Supreme Dhamma, he lived alone in mountain caves or forest retreats. As he waged an all out assault on the kilesas, his efforts were directed inward at all times. Only during hours of sleep did he relax this persistent introspection. Mindfulness and wisdom were his constant companions throughout that exhaustive investigation to uproot the kilesas. He carried on a continuous dialogue with the kilesas, mentally attacking and counterattacking them with mindfulness and wisdom. His sheer determination to go beyond dukkha was the catalyst for these conversations, which were not rhetorical encounters. Rather, they were internal contemplations using mindfulness and wisdom to rebut the kilesas. No matter how they tried to evade him, no matter what tricks they used to rebuff or entangle him, Ãcariya Mun used mindfulness and wisdom at each step of the way to follow their movements, and to corner and crush them into submission – until, finally, he emerged victorious. Wherever he found the kilesas still having the upper hand, he made an effort to upgrade his arsenal – mindfulness, wisdom, faith, and perseverance – increasing their strength with each new challenge until it exceeded that of his archenemy. Triumphant at last, as we already know, the world inside his heart shook – maggañãõa had destroyed the king of the vaååa-citta.

This was how Ãcariya Mun applied himself in the ultimate battle. He did not place any time constraints on his walking and sitting meditation as he strove day and night, wielding mindfulness and wisdom to secure victory. Having finally cleared through the dense jungle of kilesas, supreme-mindfulness and supreme-wisdom, that were his weapons of choice in this campaign, ceased to be meaningful or relevant. Mindfulness and wisdom became routine faculties to be engaged in normal mental processes. He used them to think about one of the many aspects of Dhamma or to engage in other mental activities, letting them fade away when their services were no longer required. Previously, they needed to be in a constant state of alert to combat the kilesas. Once victory was achieved, if nothing came along to stimulate his thoughts, he existed much as though he were mentally idle – a simpleton. Mindfulness and wisdom, which for so long had been caught up in the heat of intense struggle, were nowhere to be found. All that remained was a timeless tranquillity that nothing could disturb, eclipsing everything else in his heart. Left totally to itself, free of all external influences, his heart did not think about affairs of the past or the future. It was as though everything had disappeared along with the kilesas – only emptiness remained.