阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第四章第四節:神通廣大

      

      

               

第四章第四節:神通廣大

    某晚,一群在阿姜曼住處附近的山地居民很想要知道阿姜曼有沒有可趕鬼和驅魔的咒語?於是他們決定隔天去問阿姜曼有沒有什麼可以傳授給他們的。第二天一早,阿姜曼對與他住在一起的比丘們提到了這件事:「昨晚我在禪坐時,有聽到一群山地村民很想知道我們比丘有沒有可趕鬼和驅魔的咒語。他們打算今天過來跟我們請教。如果他們來的話,就告訴他們以下這個『咒語』:讓他們在禪修時繫念『佛、法、僧』。這是一個很好的驅鬼『咒語』,因為在這個世界裡,鬼唯一害怕的就是佛、法、僧三寶。沒有任何鬼怪膽敢對抗三寶。」

        果然如阿姜曼所言,當天早上那些山地村民真的跑來請求一個能夠抵擋惡鬼的咒語。於是阿姜曼便說出:「佛、法、僧」這個「咒語」,並告訴他們該如何運用。他向他們保證,所有的鬼怪都害怕這個「咒語」。而且只要在心裡默唸「佛」或「法」或是「僧」,其中任何一項就有效了。

        這些村民趁著腦海中還能清楚記得阿姜曼的解說時,回去後便趕緊開始實行這個他們認為是趕鬼的儀式;但村民不知道的是,其實阿姜曼教的是一個禪修的業處而已(而不是驅鬼的「咒語」)。村民們以這種方式認真修行,有些人竟然不用多久就證得了禪定!隔天早晨,這些證得禪定的人趕來告訴阿姜曼他們所遇到的事情。他向村民保證,他們的修法完全正確;並且因為他們的修練,這地區的鬼怪都已經膽戰心驚且準備要落荒而逃。現在他們已被正法的力量所護衛,不再需要害怕鬼怪了。事實上,連那些還未修習禪定的村民,都已使鬼怪感到懼怕了。

        山岳部落的村民天性善良、誠實,他們是易受教的一群。當阿姜曼吩咐他們應該每天都修行,他們就會認真不懈地盡力禪修。所以不需多久,有些人就得到了極佳的成果。他們的心變得清晰明亮,能夠知悉他人的想法,包括僧團裡比丘的各種念頭。這就像「老虎假扮的人」故事裡所提到的村民一樣。

        當村民前來拜見僧眾時,會同時向阿姜曼談及他們在禪修上的進展,並敘述他們所證得的超凡的感知能力。有些比丘對此感到非常的驚訝,並開始擔憂這些人會不會也能夠察覺到他們的想法。儘管比丘們覺得很不好意思,但仍想知道這些人知悉了什麼,他們忍不住想要問個一清二楚,於是乎村民們就一一說出他們曾讀到的念頭訊息。這些比丘依然不肯相信,甚至想要當場考考他們。於是比丘們交叉比對自己的心思與他們的覺知,來判斷他們是否真的具有他心通。這些比丘真是一點也不擔心自曝其短!他們真以為他們的心思是被幾百層的不透膜給牢牢封住的嗎?但山地部落的族人可不像現代社會的人會跟你客氣,他們的習慣就是坦率直白,實話實說,而他們的回答也令這些比丘感到自己很軟弱!在那之後,這些比丘還是很害怕村民可能會得知他們在想什麼。

        這群村民也隨口告訴阿姜曼,他們知道他的心識的狀態。他們是先察看阿姜曼的心,之後再檢查其他比丘的。

        「我的心看起來像什麼?它會怕鬼嗎?」

        「您的心已經達到沒有任何凡人能理解的境界了,剩下的就只是安住在軀體的涅槃了。您的心是至高無上的,沒有任何事物會令它感到害怕。」

        從此以後,村民們不再提起鬼怪了。那些禪修有成者,告知其他的村民整件事的來龍去脈,他們逐漸對阿姜曼與佛教Buddhasāsana)生起信仰,也因此對鬼神失去了興趣。每天早晨,村民聚集在村子的中央供養比丘。村民們把食物放入每一位比丘的缽之後,阿姜曼都會為他們祝福。他教導他們在祝福結束後,要大聲地一起唸出「sadhu」來表達他們的感謝,讓天神們也能隨喜他們的供養並且從中獲得一部分的功德。每天村民都會虔誠地回應,大聲地喊「sadhu」!阿姜曼會要他們喊出「sadhu」,是因為他從每晚來聽法的天神那裡得知,這種聲音能傳到他們所居住的天界。只要聽到這個聲音,天神們就會知道阿姜曼還住在此處。

        前來拜訪阿姜曼的諸神總是由一個位居領導的天神護送而來。這些不同的團體來自不同的天界。有一些是或近或遠的地居天,而多數則是來至於佛經中所提到過的各層空居天。當一群天神打算前來拜訪阿姜曼時,尊者總是會事先知道祂們抵達的時間。例如,如果他知道有天神將在凌晨兩、三點時抵達,他就會事先稍作休息,然後起床、入定並按時接見祂們。然而,如果祂們是在午夜左右抵達,他(就不休息)會先進入禪定,然後在定中等待祂們。這分成兩個階段。首先,他一如往常禪坐,直到進入深層的禪定,他會維持深層禪定一陣子。當時間快到時,他會退回至合適的禪境來接見訪客。在那層禪定中,他自然知道祂們是否已到達或者還在半途。當尊者知道他們來了以後,便與他們討論適合祂們聽聞的法。若他仍保持在深層的禪定,他的訪客們將無法與他接觸。另一方面,在世間的一般凡人則必須是非常的嫻熟,才能在正常的意識狀態下感應到其他境界的眾生,並與之互動。而就算可(在清醒的狀態下)覺知到他界的眾生,若有適當的禪境作為基礎,還是較為更容易做到。由於這個原因,「近行定」可以說是與非人世界溝通的大門,而且幾乎可與每一個境界的眾生溝通。

        多年以前,當阿姜曼停留於沙里卡石窟時,他就已經善於與其他世界的眾生溝通過。那時他戒臘二十二年,而他在出家六十年後圓寂,在這些時日裡他已經是這方面的真正大師了。其實,這世上的每個人都具有這種潛力,都能發展出與阿姜曼相同的覺知感應能力,他們需要的只是去培育及開發它。結果卻只有極少數的人能發展出這般卓越的神通力。就算不能像阿姜曼那麼厲害,但只要人們能開發出一些能力,他們就可以親眼目睹這些不同的世界。但就因為無法看到其他世界的眾生,所以人們往往認為這樣的事物並不存在於這個世界上。

        很難讓那些對「法」沒有足夠的認識、因而無法在心中奠立一個堅實又超越世俗基礎的人來相信這些事。如果我們的心發展出「法」的法則,這些就可證實一切現象真正本質的法則;若能再證得必要的神通,那麼不管多少人否認,都已不能動搖我們自己親眼目睹所見。即使地球上的每個人都堅決否認這種事情的存在,但那也不過是空洞的否認而已。我們覺知到的真實世界是不會因此改變,沒有什麼東西能夠改變它。真理並不需依賴任何的信仰或見解,真理就只是根據永遠不變的自然法則而已。

        阿姜曼在清邁府的雲水行腳遍及最偏遠、最荒涼的山區,比起其他的府都還要更深入廣泛。他停留在清邁府的時間也遠比在其他地區更久,主要是因為這裡較適合禪修。阿姜曼修行的特點具備各式各樣的內明,而這個地區非常利於這些內明的生起。他聲稱有許多因素讓他長期旅居在這裡。首先,這裡的環境很適合禪修;其次,他憐憫那些需要教化的山地部落村民,不忍離棄他們。雖然人煙稀少,但還是有許多出類拔萃的人住在那裡。他們需要適當的訓練與鼓勵,以確保他們穩定的進展,避免因為沮喪而重蹈覆轍。最後,那裡還有需要度化的天神。

        天神與龍族常來問法與聞法,而且每個月至少來兩次。他說,在夜晚時,他總是忙著接待來自各層天界的空居與地居天諸神。諸神在向阿姜曼請法之前,祂們的領袖會先說出大約有多少天神前來。例如:今天有一萬或十萬的空居天神,或一千或一萬的地居天神,或是有五百到一千的龍族來到現場。

        幾乎每天下午在他經行的時候,天界中的某個團體或來自其他不同天界的團體都會先通知阿姜曼祂們將抵達的時間。偶爾,這些訊息會在他禪坐時晚一些才送到。有些晚上會有幾個不同的團體想要來,他就必須安排時間,錯開祂們的來訪。他不讓祂們同時來,因為各層境界的神靈各有其不同的心靈發展,他必須視不同的團體來教導適合祂們聽聞的法。由於某些團體可能會希望聽聞某一特定主題的法,而另一團體則可能偏好不同的主題,所以阿姜曼會安排個別的時間,以確保他的教導能適合每一個團體。他這樣做,對他或訪客都方便。這些應行的義務,正是他會長期居住在清邁府的一個重要原因。事實上,來清邁府拜見他的各界天神的數量遠遠超過人類、龍、大鵬金翅鳥與其他非人的總數。在現實中,鮮少有人能以心電感應的方式與天神們溝通,而這是教導祂們不可或缺的要件。

        天神們常常向阿姜曼抱怨,由於人類不能察覺到天神的存在,所以人們對天神也毫無認識,不會想去了解在這世上依循業果法則而存在的諸多有情中,天神也是其中的一種。對那些不了解天神們依然存有欲望與需求的絕大多數人類來說,天神的存在與他們一點關係也沒有。天神們很少能遇上具足無上功德的人,一如阿姜曼一般擁有神通並能瞭解動物、人類、天神、和所有其他的眾生都確實存在,也都應得到適當的尊敬。能遇到阿姜曼,令祂們欣喜萬分。祂們歡喜地前來頂禮、問法、聆聽他的教導。祂們都想要吸收他所教導的卓越正法來滋養心靈,從而提升幸福與福祉,讓祂們能長存於世間。就是這個原因,只要具有崇高功德的人就會受到各處天神的敬重。

        有感於天神與其他眾生一樣的重要,阿姜曼瞭解並且憐憫祂們想獲得善業的意願。他說,由於想要能提升自己而來尋求幫助的天神們,在數量上已遠遠超過來拜訪他的人類。儘管如此,對不具神通的人們來說,祂們仍然是一個謎。雖然表面上看起來是一個無法解答的問題,但對一位真心想要瞭解這些事物的人而言,這不盡然是無法跨越的障礙。對那些精於運用心靈力量的人來說,心靈溝通就與任何其他層面的人類經驗一樣的平常。當然,阿姜曼對心靈的溝通早已習以為常,他終其一生都能與天神們溝通。無論他住在哪裡,他總是與那些需要他協助的天神們保持聯絡,尤其是在清邁府,而這是因為天神們喜歡在他生活在偏遠、人煙稀少的地方來拜見他。清邁府的山林可以說是很理想的地點。在這裡,阿姜曼沒有太多人類社會的應盡義務要做,而這樣他就可以將更多的時間留給來自天界的訪客。

        當他住在Musuer族的山區Ikaw村落附近時,發生了一件怪事。有一群來自德國的天神來拜訪他,祂們希望能聽到關於「必勝法門」的教法。於是當他將心識凝神在他們的請求上,心中竟浮現出一句適切的經文:「akkodhena jine kodhaṁ」,這意思是指以無瞋來降服瞋恚。阿姜曼對這群天神詳盡地闡述了這個主題。「記得要以無瞋來降服瞋恚。對任何希求勝利的人,這是最應該去實踐的法了。我們去深思它的含意,就可以明白這個世界的幸福與和平主要都源自於它。慈愛與憐憫,這些都能有效地震懾像瞋恚這樣的不善業。慈悲有助於減輕瞋恨摧毀人類或天神社會的殺傷力,進而增進各地的和平與繁榮。因此,慈愛是社會和諧的先決條件,而且是一個我們都應該努力發展的條件。在缺乏這道『必勝法門』的世界裡,就會有不滿和騷動;如果發展到了極端,世界將會被致命的衝突所毀滅。瞋恚與怨恨永遠不能打敗我們的敵人,因為它們是邪惡的,只會毫無分別地傷害我們自己與周遭的人。愈使用瞋恚,我們的世界就愈會變成一片火海,將失控地燃燒,直到完全毀滅為止。」

        「瞋恚事實上就是一種火,是這個世界與生俱來的本質之一。雖然看不見、也摸不著,但隨之而來的就是浩劫。因此若希望有一個安定合理、適合居住的世界,每個人都應該瞭解瞋恚與怨恨之火所帶來的災害,並應該完全避免引發它們。輕易點燃火苗只會導致自己與他人受苦。若所有的眾生都互相慈愛與憐憫,世界就能維持良好的平衡。 不應該放縱瞋恚與驕縱自私,也絕不能放任它們暴虐的力量肆虐,否則只會造成永無止境的破壞。」

        「世尊以迅捷的睿智領悟到瞋恚肯定只會帶來傷害。他把慈悲的價值視為一種溫和的力量,在相互和諧及親善的意義上,把所有的眾生自動自發聚合在一起,因為眾生都希望離苦得樂。由於這個原因,所以他教導慈與悲,因為唯有它們才能有效地維護這 個世界的和平與安全。只要眾生依然懷有慈悲心,他們渴望的幸福就會有實現的一天。但如果他們的心遠離了慈悲,那麼就算得到所有物質的享受,他們的生活依然缺乏真正的和平與幸福。心懷憤怒、仇恨的人不管到哪裡,他們只會感到憤慨與怒火,等著他們的也只有麻煩而已。」

        「當我們不再疑惑,確知『法』是真正有益時,我們就能清楚看到,一顆充滿殘酷的心就像是烈焰正逐漸在燒毀路上的一切事物,我們應該趕緊盡我們一切所能去克服這些危難。你們或許永遠不會再得到像現在這樣的好時機了;所以,好好利用這一生來修行吧!別只在未來空留遺恨。這個世界一直不斷在改變,而這個不斷變動的世界就位於我們所有人現在的這個 『身』與『心』中。」

         以上就是阿姜曼對這群來自德國的天神所講解「必勝法門」的要旨。當阿姜曼一說完,祂們便齊聲喊出「sādhu」,聲音如同雷鳴般迴盪在整個世界。阿姜曼問祂們是怎麼知道他住在這裡,因為對人類來說,祂們住在相當遠的地方。祂們回答道,祂們總能精確知道他住在哪裡;更特別的是,泰國的天神也常會去拜訪德國的天神。事實上,天神並不像人類認為泰國到德國的距離很遠,祂們僅僅把這當成是一個可以輕鬆來回的距離。人類是靠步行或是坐車來移動,而天神則以超自然的力量瞬間移動,就像把意識轉移到某一目的地一樣,瞬間就可抵達,所以天神比起人類更易於四處遊歷。

        阿姜曼表示,德國的天神都會定期來聽他說法,就跟住在泰國各地的地居天神們一樣。空居與地居的諸神都是以類似的方式來表達對他的尊敬。如果阿姜曼與其他的比丘共住,來見他的天神們就不會從比丘們所居住的範圍上空越過。此外,祂們往往會等所有的比丘都睡著以後,在深夜時分才抵達。抵達後,祂們會莊嚴安靜地先順時針繞行阿姜曼三次。在離開之前,再次右繞阿姜曼三匝。回去時是先後退一段距離以示尊敬,當退至阿姜曼起居的邊界外圍後,祂們就如棉絮般飄升而離開。所有的天神都是以這種方式來表達對阿姜曼的敬重。

        阿姜曼發現清邁府的山區環境非常適合禪修。在那裡心智不會被世俗所牽絆,他的生活輕鬆又自在,與「法」相應,受人讚嘆,而「法」就是他生活裡輕安的持久來源。因為沒有俗事纏身,所以他能隨意、隨時進行禪修。在那裡他過著一種非常健康又知足的生活。至於他所教化的對象,都是具有高雅性情的天神們,祂們都只在夜晚來聞法,所以幾乎不會造成任何的負擔。有時下午或傍晚,他會教導當地的在家居士。而接受他指導的比丘們則大約在晚上七時聚會,聽取他的訓誡。大部分的比丘都精於禪修並且已證得不同程度的禪定;他們盡心竭力於修行,會聽取他的教導,努力證得道、果與最終的涅槃。

        當阿姜曼教導一群程度不一的比丘時,他總會按部就班說法,為了能顧及所有的程度,他從最基礎的禪定說起,再循序漸進,直至無上、最精微的智慧 —— 也就是涅槃的實現。精於禪修的比丘總是全神貫注在他按部就班的說法之上,以致於對時間與身外的一切都毫不注意。對這些有學比丘的說法至少持續兩個小時,然而他們並不會覺得時間漫長或很難熬,因為他們更關心的是要能跟上他教法的進度,才能夠藉此慢慢了解各個接續而來的階段。因此,他們全神貫注聞法就是一種有效的禪修方式,與其他的方式一樣的重要。對於這位老師來說,他決心要一步一步帶領聽眾們,讓他們能體認他所教導的真理。他會明白指出哪些是不善的想法,以及哪些是真正有益的。這樣,他的學生才會了解,這樣的思維是錯的,應該要立刻放棄;而那樣是善的,應該進一步去發展它。比起在別的場合做出相同時間的修習,當他們收攝內心並專心一意聆聽老師說法時,他們更可能證得一定程度的禪定,或者獲得更多使用觀智的方法。因此,精勤的禪修者可以在聽法的同時,一點一滴持續進步。例如今天聽聞如何洞悉法的某個面向,而明天則是另一個面向。每一次的聽法,學生們都努力加強他們的正念和觀智。由於老師已於自身發現真正的法,所以他可以為學生們指出同樣真正的法也存在於他們的身上。比丘們聽聞他的詳細解說後,便可以在禪定與觀智的各個方面逐步發展,從而通過每一層的禪修,直到抵達至高的法。

        頭陀比丘總是把聞法當成是修行的一個重要部分。只要有明師可以聽法,他們就會一直持續下去。由於這個原因,真正獻身於頭陀行的比丘都會樂於找尋一個可以指導他們禪修的老師。當他們覺得可以完全信任這位老師時,他們會珍惜這個機會並以最大的敬意來對待老師。他們會認真聽取老師的建議,並仔細地揣摩,全心全意付諸實踐。他們例行向他請教,詢問在禪修中所遇到的任何問題;再依據他的建議,調整自己的禪修方法。因此,頭陀比丘們總是會跟隨當世最傑出的禪師,如阿姜曼與阿姜索。在泰國東北部地區的頭陀禪師中,只有這兩位禪師有特別多的弟子。

        然而對阿姜曼來說,自從他行腳到清邁府以後,他就決定盡量避開其他的比丘並謹慎獨自修行,不再背負教導後進比丘的責任。一開始,他是為了增強他證得最終目標的動機。但後來,他發現過著恬靜自得的生活才是真正的有益。當然到最後,他仍負起了教導比丘與在家眾的責任。眾所皆知,他的弟子遍布泰國,且桃李滿天下。在阿姜曼獨自前往清邁府的荒野並進行最關鍵的精進修行之前,他常常提到他在精神上仍然不夠強大,無論是對自己的禪修,或是對教導他人而言,都是如此。於是,他決心盡一切的力量去找尋與實修,直到內心完全沒有任何的疑惑為止。等他達到這目標以後,他再也沒有提到缺乏足夠精力這一類的事情了。

               

One evening, a group of hill tribesmen from a village near Ãcariya Muns residence began wondering among themselves whether Ãcariya Mun had any magic formulas to ward off and chase away ghosts. So they decided to go the next day to ask if he had anything he could give them. Early the next morning, Ãcariya Mun related this incident to the monks living with him:

Last night while sitting in meditation I overheard a group of hill tribesmen in the village wondering if we monks might have some magic formula for warding off and chasing away ghosts. They intend to come here today to ask us about it. Should they come, give them the formula buddho, dhammo, sangho to meditate on. Its an excellent formula against ghosts, for the only things that ghosts fear in this world are the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. Not a single ghost would dare stand against them.

That morning, just as Ãcariya Mun had foreseen, the hill tribesmen came to request a magic formula against ghosts. Ãcariya Mun gave them the formula buddho, dhammo, sangho as well as the method for using it. Assuring them that ghosts were terrified of this formula, he told them to mentally recite buddho, dhammo, or sangho, whichever they preferred.

With Ãcariya Muns instructions fresh in their minds, they began what they thought to be a ritual for warding off ghosts, unaware that, in truth, he had given them a meditation subject. Using this method, they attained samãdhi before long. The next morning they rushed off to see Ãcariya Mun and told him what had happened. He assured them that they were practicing the formula correctly, and because of that, ghosts in the area were terrified and bound to run away. Now protected by the power of Dhamma, they no longer had to fear ghosts. In fact, ghosts had already begun to fear even those people in the village who couldnt yet meditate.

Being inherently good, honest folks, hill tribe people were easy to teach. When Ãcariya Mun instructed them to meditate each day, they took up the practice with such sincerity that before long some of them were getting exceptionally good results. Their hearts became brightly illuminated and they were able to know the minds of other people, including those of the monks in the monastery, just like the man in the previous story about tigers in disguise.

On visits to the monastery they spoke to Ãcariya Mun about their meditation practice, describing their extraordinary perceptual abilities. Some of the monks were astonished, and worried that these people might be able to read their thoughts. Though timid by nature, they nonetheless wanted to find out what the people knew. They couldnt resist the temptation of asking for specific information about their own thoughts. The hill tribesmen told them the truth. Still unconvinced, the monks challenged them. Unfazed by a display of their own ignorance, they cross-examined the hill tribesmen closely to find out if they truly could read thoughts. It was as though they believed that their minds were tightly sealed by hundreds of impenetrable layers. The hill tribesmen answered with the customary frankness of forest people who are uninhibited by social formalities answers which left the monks feeling very vulnerable. After that, they remained apprehensive that these people might have access to everything they were thinking.

These same hill tribesmen casually informed Ãcariya Mun that they knew about the state of his citta, having checked it out first, before checking on that of the other monks.

Whats my citta like is it afraid of ghosts?

Your citta is devoid of all traces of conventional reality. All thats left is Nibbãna in a human body. Your citta is absolutely supreme it fears nothing.

After that, the villagers made no further mention of ghosts. Those accomplished in meditation informed the others who gradually came to have faith in Ãcariya Mun and the Buddhasãsana, thus losing interest in the business of ghosts. Every morning they gathered together in the village center to offer alms to the monks. Having placed some food in each monks bowl, they received a blessing from Ãcariya Mun. He taught them to show their appreciation by exclaiming sãdhu together in a loud voice, allowing the devas to rejoice in their offerings and receive a portion of the merit as well. Each day the villagers responded faithfully by loudly calling out sãdhu. Ãcariya Mun had them exclaim sãdhu, for he knew from the devas, who came to hear his Dhamma talks every night, that this sound reached them in the realms where they lived. Hearing this sound, they knew that Ãcariya Mun was living in the area.

DEVAS WHO VISITED Ãcariya Mun were invariably escorted by a leader who was in charge of the group. These groups represented many different realms of existence. Some were terrestrial devas from near and far. Many were from the various celestial realms mentioned in the Buddhist texts. When a group of devas intended to pay Ãcariya Mun a visit, he always knew their time of arrival in advance. If he knew, for instance, that a group intended to arrive at two or three A.M., he would take some rest beforehand, getting up to enter samãdhi only when the time approached to receive them. If, however, they were scheduled to arrive around midnight, he would first enter and then wait for them in samãdhi. This was accomplished in two stages. First, he practiced normal meditation until he attained a deep state of calm, where he rested for a while. Then, as the time approached, he withdrew to just the right meditative level to receive his intended visitors. There, he knew intuitively whether or not they had arrived, or whether they were still on their way. Having acknowledged their arrival, he then discussed with them whatever seemed appropriate for their particular circumstances. Had he remained in a deep state of samãdhi, his visitors would not have been able to have access to him. In normal waking consciousness, on the other hand, one would have to be a very skilled person indeed to be able to acknowledge and interact with beings from other realms. Even were he able to acknowledge them, it would still be easier to accomplish this at the appropriate level of samãdhi. For this reason, upacãra samãdhi the access gate is a level suitable to nearly every eventuality.

Ãcariya Mun became an expert in these matters during his sojourn at Sarika Cave many years before. At that time, he had been an ordained monk for twenty-two years. By the time he passed away, after spending a total of sixty years in the robes, he had become a true master of these matters. Everyone in the world has the same potential for perceiving such phenomena as Ãcariya Mun had they need only to develop it. But, very few can develop his exceptional skills. However, even though they fell short of his total mastery, if people could develop at least some skill, it would be sufficient for witnessing such things. Instead, being unable to see them, people tend to believe that such phenomena do not actually exist in the world around them.

Its difficult to convince people who lack sufficient knowledge of Dhamma for endowing their hearts with a strong spiritual basis. Should our hearts develop the principles of Dhamma principles certifying the true nature of all phenomena and gain the necessary skills, then no amount of denial could possibly negate what we clearly see for ourselves. Even if everyone on earth insisted on denying the existence of such things, it would merely be an empty denial. The true nature of what we perceive remains unchanged nothing can possibly alter it. Truth does not depend on beliefs or opinions of any kind. It is true according to immutable natural principles.

ÃCARIYA MUN WANDERED far and wide throughout most of the remote and mountainous districts of Chiang Mai province, traveling more extensively there than in any other province. He remained in Chiang Mai much longer than he did in other places, largely because it was suitable for meditation. It was conducive to the many kinds of insights that were a unique feature of his practice. He claimed there were many reasons for his long sojourn there. First of all, the environment was suitable to meditation. Secondly, he felt sorry for the hill tribes people who needed his assistance, and was reluctant to abandon them. Although it was sparsely populated, many extraordinary individuals lived in that area. They needed proper training and encouragement to insure their steady progress and to avert disappointment and reversal to their old ways. And then there were all the devas whom he was determined to assist.

Groups of devas and nãgas usually came to ask questions and listen to his discourses at least twice a month. He said that, at night, he was always busy receiving visitors from all over the celestial and terrestrial realms. Before speaking with Ãcariya Mun, the leader of each group would announce the approximate number of devas present on that occasion: for instance, ten or a hundred thousand celestial devas are here today, or one to ten thousand terrestrial devas, or five hundred to a thousand nãgas.

Almost daily, when he walked meditation in the late afternoon, Ãcariya Mun would be informed of the hour of arrival of one group or another from these different realms. Occasionally, he received the information later on during seated meditation. There were nights when several different groups announced their impending visit; and he had to arrange specific times for each group so that their visits did not overlap. He did not have them come simultaneously, because relative spiritual development varied among the different realms and his Dhamma teaching had to vary accordingly to be appropriate for each group. Since one group preferred hearing a certain aspect of Dhamma, while another group preferred something different, Ãcariya Mun arranged separate visits to ensure that his discourse was suitable to everyone present. This was done for his own convenience, as well as that of his visitors. Such obligations were a major part of the reason for his long stay in Chiang Mai. As a matter of fact, the number of devas of all types who visited him there well exceeded the number of people, nãgas, garuðas, and other spirits combined. In reality, very few individuals can achieve telepathic communication with devas, which is essential for teaching them.

Devas often complained to Ãcariya Mun that, unaware of the existence of devas, human beings have no understanding about devas and are not interested in knowing that devic existence is another state of sentient existence adhering to the principles of kamma. Devic existence is irrelevant to most human beings, who fail to recognize that devas also have hopes and aspirations, just like everyone else. Rarely did devas encounter a man of supreme virtue, like Ãcariya Mun a man who possessed the intuitive insight to realize that animals, humans, devas, and all other forms of existence are undeniably real and should be honored as such. They could not help feeling an overwhelming sense of joy upon meeting him. They so enjoyed coming to pay him their respects, ask him questions and listen to his teaching. They wanted to imbibe his exquisite Dhamma to nourish their hearts, thus increasing their happiness and well-being and sustaining their whole existence. For this reason, devas everywhere venerate anyone possessing extremely high virtue.

Relating that devas are just as important as all other living beings, Ãcariya Mun understood their intentions and sympathized with their meritorious aspirations. He stated that, intent on improving themselves, the devas who came to him for assistance greatly outnumbered the human beings who visited him. Still, they remain a mystery to people who lack the proper psychic skills. Though appearing on the surface to be an insoluble problem for human society, it need not be an insurmountable obstacle for a person wishing to truly know and understand these things. For those skilled in the ways of the citta, psychic communication is just as normal as any other aspect of human experience. Certainly Ãcariya Mun considered it commonplace, allowing him to function effectively with devas throughout his life. Regardless of where he lived, he always remained in contact with devas requiring his assistance. This was especially true in Chiang Mai province, because such beings preferred to contact him when he was living in remote, isolated places, free from human congestion. The forests and mountains of Chiang Mai were ideal in this respect. Ãcariya Mun had few social obligations there, so he could devote more time to his deva visitors.

A STRANGE INCIDENT occurred while he was living among the Musuer people deep in the mountains near Ikaw Village. A group of devas came to visit him from Germany. They wished to hear a discourse that would give them a victory formula. Focusing his citta on their request, an appropriate Dhamma verse arose: akkodhena jine kodhaÿ. It means conquer anger with lack of anger.12 Ãcariya Mun elaborated on this theme with the assembled devas. Conquer anger with lack of anger, remember this. For anyone hoping to achieve victory, this is the most important Dhamma to practice. Consider it well it is the main source of peace and happiness in the world. Love and kindness these are effective deterrence against an evil such as anger. By helping to reduce angers power to destroy human and devic societies alike, loving kindness fosters peace and prosperity everywhere. Thus, this loving attitude is a prerequisite for social harmony one we should all strive to develop. In a world lacking this victory formula, dissatisfaction and unrest will arise at the very least. At the extreme, the world will be consumed by mortal strife. Anger and resentment can never defeat our enemies, for they are evils that succeed only in indiscriminately destroying us and everyone close to us. The more anger is used, the more the world we live in becomes a sea of flames, burning uncontrollably toward total annihilation.

Anger is actually a type of fire thats inherent in the nature of this world. Although it has no physical properties, it does succeed in creating havoc in its wake. So anyone desiring a stable, sensible world a place worth living in should realize the disastrous harm that the fires of anger and resentment can cause; and refrain from ever using them. Starting a fire like this merely causes oneself and everyone else to suffer. Mutual feelings of affection and loving kindness among all living beings maintain the world in its proper equilibrium. Oppressive forces of unrestrained anger and selfish pride should never be allowed to run rampant, causing a never-ending cycle of destruction.

With his acute wisdom, the Lord Buddha realized the indisputable harm caused by anger. He saw the value of loving kindness as a gentle force that can spontaneously join all living beings in a sense of mutual and goodwill, for all share a common desire for happiness and a common dislike of pain. For this reason, he taught that love and kindness were powerful means of maintaining peace and security in the world. So long as living beings still have loving kindness in their hearts, theres every chance that their desire for happiness will be fulfilled. But should their hearts become estranged from thoughts of loving kindness, then even with all the material comforts, their lives will still be devoid of genuine peace and happiness. Angry, hateful people tend to encounter only trouble, feeling resentful and annoyed wherever they go.

Once we know with certainty that Dhamma is something truly beneficial to us, we can clearly see that a heart full of brutality is like a blazing fire gradually destroying everything in its path. We must then urgently strive to overcome these dangers as best we can. You may never again get such a good opportunity; so, take advantage of it now and avoid regrets in the future. The world is in a constant state of change and that changing world is situated right here in the bodies and minds of us all.

Such was the essence of the victory formula that Ãcariya Mun gave to the devas from Germany. As soon as Ãcariya Mun finished speaking, they gave a thunderous sãdhu in unison that echoed throughout the world systems. Ãcariya Mun asked how they knew where he was staying since, in human terms, they lived so far away. They replied that they always knew precisely where he was staying. More than that, devas from Thailand regularly visit the devas of Germany. In truth, devas dont consider the distance between countries like Thailand and Germany to be very great, the way human beings do. They simply think of it as an area through which they can easily and naturally pass back and forth. Whereas humans travel by foot or by vehicle, devas transport themselves by means of a supernormal power that is equivalent to transfering consciousness to a particular destination it arrives there instantly. So devas can move around much more easily than human beings.

Ãcariya Mun said that the devas from Germany regularly came to listen to his Dhamma talks, much in the same way that terrestrial devas came from all over Thailand to hear him. Both celestial and terrestrial devas tended to show their respect for him in a similar fashion. If Ãcariya Mun was living with a group of monks, devas who came to see him never passed through the area where the monks had their living quarters. Besides that, they tended to arrive very late at night when all the monks were asleep. Upon arrival, they circumambulated Ãcariya Mun clockwise, three times in a calm, composed manner. When they departed again circumambulating him clockwise three times they first withdrew to a respectful distance. When they reached the edge of his living area, they simply floated into the air like puffs of cotton. All types of devas demonstrated their respect for him in this fashion.

ÃCARIYA MUN FOUND the mountains of Chiang Mai to be an ideal environment for meditation. Heart free and mind unencumbered, he lived a life of complete ease, abiding sublimely in Dhamma Dhamma was the enduring source of comfort in his life. With no intrusions taking up his time, he was free to meditate whenever he wished. He lived a very healthy, contented life there. As for his teaching obligations, the devas, who came only at night, were beings of a refined nature, so they were hardly a burden. Sometimes in the afternoon or early evening he gave helpful advice to the local lay community. The monks living under his tutelage assembled for instruction in the evening, at about seven P.M. Most of his students had already achieved a certain level of proficiency in the practice of samãdhi and in the various stages of wisdom. Being wholly committed to the practice, they listened to his teaching, striving to attain magga, phala, and Nibbãna.

When Ãcariya Mun taught a group of monks, whose individual levels of mental development varied, he always structured his discourses to encompass all levels of practice, from basic samãdhi through the higher levels of wisdom to the most subtle level of all the realization of Nibbãna. Monks, skilled in meditation, became so absorbed in the successive stages of his discourse that they lost all sense of time and place. Practicing monks were usually given a talk lasting for at least two hours. But the monks were less interested in the time than they were in the flow of his Dhamma discourse, as they were able to gradually increase their own understanding with each successive stage. Consequently, listening to Dhamma in an attentive, thoughtful manner is itself a valuable meditation practice, one that is equally as important as other methods. For his part, the teacher is determined that his audience realize the truth of what he teaches every step of the way. He points out the kind of thoughts that are truly harmful, as well as those that are truly beneficial; so, his students will understand which thinking is faulty and should be abandoned, and which has merit and should be developed further.

 More than at any comparable time, those focusing their undivided attention on the citta the focal point of Dhamma can expect to attain some degree of calm in samãdhi; or receive various techniques for investigating with wisdom, while they listen to the teacher discuss these topics. Thus, the diligent meditator can progress step by step while listening to his teachers instructions. Receiving an insight into one aspect of Dhamma today, another aspect of Dhamma tomorrow, students manage to strengthen their mindfulness and wisdom every time they listen. Since the teacher has realized the Truth of Dhamma within himself, he can point directly to that same Truth existing within his students. Listening to his detailed explanations, they can progressively develop their skills in all aspects of samãdhi and wisdom, allowing them to successfully pass through each level of meditation practice until they reach the highest Dhamma.  

Dhutanga monks have always considered hearing Dhamma an essential part of their practice, one they seek to maintain as long as there is a skilled teacher to whom they can listen. For this reason, truly dedicated dhutanga monks like to search out a teacher who can guide them in their meditation practice. They cherish and revere a teacher in whom they feel they can put their complete trust. His advice is sincerely taken to heart, carefully contemplated, and wholeheartedly put into practice. They routinely consult with him, asking for specific advice on any doubtful points arising in their practice, then adjust their practice accord- ing to his recommendations. For this reason, dhutanga monks have always preferred to gather around eminently qualified meditation masters, such as Ãcariya Mun and Ãcariya Sao. Both of those great teachers had unusually large numbers of disciples among the dhutanga monks of Thailands Northeast region.

But in Ãcariya Muns case, once he moved to Chiang Mai he resolved to avoid his fellow monks and practice deliberately on his own, without the added burden of responsibility that teaching entails. In the beginning, he wanted to accelerate his drive for the ultimate goal. Later, he found it conducive to living in comfort. All the same, he had to accept certain obligations to teach monks as well as lay people, and its well known that he had many disciples all over Thailand. In the period before Ãcariya Mun went off alone to make his decisive push in the wilds of Chiang Mai, he often mentioned that, spiritually, he still was not strong enough either in his own practice, or in his ability to teach others. So he resolved to go away and practice with the utmost diligence until no doubts of any kind remained in his heart. From that time on, he never mentioned anything about lacking sufficient strength.