阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第四章第六節:青春年華

      

                        

                             

第四章第六節:青春年華

    有時候,如果與他一起生活的是已經證得聖道果的比丘,這時阿姜曼的言行舉止就會變得比較隨和與輕鬆,就如同跟一群彼此都熟識的同修在一起時所表現的一樣自在。在這種情況下,他就不會那麼嚴肅與不苟言笑;但是,他的態度仍可能依狀況的不同而有很大的改變。他的行為在某些狀況下會與其他的情況完全不同,他對待每一個人的方式也不同。對於周遭所出現的問題,他反應速度之快,與其中所蘊含的創意,都常令眾弟子們感到驚訝。

        阿姜曼曾對比丘們說過一個發生在他年輕時有趣的故事,從故事中可以看出他性格中的敏捷反應。我將在此複述一遍,因為這個故事展現出一個人可以有令人難以置信的轉變。

        當阿姜曼還是一位在家俗人時,他曾參加過一種稱為maw lam的當地歌唱比賽。有一天,他參加了一個在鄰村所舉辦的大型歌唱比賽,現場有成千上萬的人觀看。舞台上是一個才華洋溢的年輕女子,她在當地已經是有名的民俗歌手。他突然鼓起勇氣上台向這位女歌手挑戰。或許他認為在舞台上跟她一較長短會很有趣,也許他有些愛上她了,誰知道呢?不管怎樣,當他跳上舞台後,他發現這位年輕女子也樂於接受他的挑戰。在唱了幾段歌詞以後,大家都看得出年輕的曼已經快要輸了。

        就在這個時候,有一位救星出現,他就是Chao Khun Upāli!當時他也是個年輕人,比曼年長個幾歲,他同樣也到場觀看比賽。很顯然他的朋友曼正輸得一塌糊塗,再唱下去情勢可是會愈來愈糟。若時間再久一點,這女子可能就會把他難堪地給趕下台,因為她是一位經驗豐富的表演者,而年輕的曼不過是個菜鳥罷了。曼憑著一股衝動,跳上了舞台,但卻碰到了一隻兇猛的母老虎,她滿嘴獠牙,而他只不過是一隻小狗,嘴裡只有幾顆乳牙而已。那時Chao Khun Upāli的俗家名字是俊(Jan),俊焦急地想,如果他的朋友還不肯認輸,那麼她可是會狠狠地把曼的皮給剝了,然後再賣掉!

        他心想:「曼遇見老虎竟然還搞不清楚狀況,他以為那只是一個年輕的女子,根本沒想到他就要被宰了!我必須想辦法讓他全身而退。如果不這樣,他肯定會被運到市場上論斤叫賣。」想到這裡,俊就跳上舞台並大聲叫喊:「曼!你真該死啊!我一直在找你!你媽媽從屋頂摔下去了,不知道現在是否還活著?我看到她躺在地上的土堆裡,想去幫忙。但她堅持要我來找你。我跑了一整天才找到你,都沒吃東西,真是把我給累慘了。」

        這一招讓曼和這名女子都傻了眼。曼立刻緊張地問起他母親的狀況。

        「俊,我媽媽現在如何?」

        俊趕緊裝出累得快要說不出話的樣子。

        「我想她現在說不定已經死了。連我現在又餓又累,也都快要死了。」

        他邊說邊拉著曼的手臂,在數以千計驚訝的觀眾前面把曼給拉下舞台,然後兩人使出全力跑回去。在他們抵達村子的外圍時,曼焦急地想要知道他母親的狀況。

        「我媽媽到底在屋頂做什麼才會摔下來?」

        「我不知道她做了什麼才跌下來。我看見她躺在地上,趕緊衝上去幫忙;但她叫我立刻找你回來,所以我就馬上離開了。沒時間了解經過。」

        「那我媽會死嗎?」

        「我們還是趕快過去看看吧!」

        當他們已離開鄰村夠遠時,俊猜想曼也不敢在這麼晚獨自一人走回去比賽場,於是神色突然放輕鬆,他坦率地告訴曼,他的母親什麼事也沒發生。

        「我會這樣做是因為我不忍心看你輸得一敗塗地。我也怕你會被她給剝了皮,再拿去市場上販售。那樣對我、對全村都非常的丟臉!她只是為了戲弄你,要把你當場給閹了!所以我才會用這個詭計讓你們及觀眾都相信你非得趕快離開比賽不可,因為有急事發生了,而不是因為失去鬥志而逃跑。我在別人發覺我的詭計之前,就趕緊把你帶走,即使你那位充滿活力的小姐也讓我聰明的計謀給唬過去了。你有沒有看到她很相信?她看著我們離開時眼裡盡是充滿對你跟你母親的同情呢!我從她為你準備的地獄裡把你給救出來了。你覺得怎樣?這是不是一個聰明的辦法?」

        「哦,不!真是太可恥了!俊,你真該死,你看你做的好事!我剛才正要把她切成肉片呢!你就這樣把我拖走,破壞掉這個樂趣。我從來沒有想到你會這樣對待我。現在我要回去再向她挑戰一次,我會把她的皮給整個剝下來再運到市場上叫賣!」

        「哼!你才是正被屠宰的獵物呢!是我救了你一命!你現在竟然大言不慚誇說剛才的表現有多好,或許我真應該帶你回去,好讓那位小姐再把你放在砧板上!」

        「你給我聽好!因為她是一個女生,所以我打算先不使出全力,好讓她以為勝券在握。當她踏進我的陷阱後,我再將她牢牢地綁住,裝進麻袋,然後就直接賣給出價最高的買家。我高明的策略你是無法理解的,我是在引她上鉤,就像老虎引誘猴子一般。」

        「如果你這麼厲害,那麼你怎麼看不出我要從她魔掌中把你救出來的小小詭計?那時你都嚇到快要在那位小姐的面前痛哭流涕了。誰會想到你能制伏那個老小姐呢?每個人都看得出來,她就要在眾目睽睽之下把你給綑綁起來再丟下舞臺了。好了啦!曼!別再吹牛了!你應該感激我出於兄弟情誼的辛勞,沒讓你敗在那個女人的手下。」

        結果那天晚上曼和俊就這樣錯過了他們期待已久的歌唱比賽。

        雖然他們那時還未出家,關於這兩位聖者的鬥智故事,仍是相當吸引人。儘管他們之間的對談內容十分世俗,但這表示出聰明的人是如何彼此一來一往地交談。當阿姜曼敘述他們倆人的故事時,我們非常地專注,腦中似乎可以看到他們對話過程的畫面。有許多關於這兩人鬥智的故事,但只要幾個小故事應該就足以讓讀者了解我所要表達的意思。早在他們年輕時玩耍的巧妙計謀中便可一窺他們的機智。最後他們都出家為僧,兩人都成為偉大的聖者。Chao Khun Upāli Guṇūpamācariya與阿姜曼兩人的聲譽享譽全泰國,皆為當代最優秀的聖者。

        在故事裡,我使用的是這兩位聖者的小名:曼和俊,因為阿姜曼本人自己就是這麼敘述的。弟子們跟隨阿姜曼修行時,總是保持戒慎恐懼的心情,這個故事是在難得輕鬆的時刻由阿姜曼說給弟子們聽的。如果我所寫的內容有任何不當之處,我在此衷心向這兩位令人尊敬的禪師與讀者們致歉;但如果我以一種比較正式的方式寫出來,就不能那麼生動地表達清楚。

        從這些詼諧、自然的言行中可看出同修間對彼此的敬意,也常常可見於各年齡層的朋友之間。此外,我覺得以原本聽到故事的方式來寫會比較適合。這可以讓我們一窺這兩位赫赫有名的長老在他們還是初生之犢不畏虎的青春年華時的模樣,也讓我們可與一般大眾對他們的刻板印象 -- 「已完全從世間解脫的比丘」來做一個比較。

        雖然阿姜曼極少談到他的過去,只樂於專注在當下,但他很喜歡稱讚Chao Khun Upāli的機智。

        有一次,當他們在討論《本生經》中關於Vessantara王的故事時,他問Chao Khun Upāli關於故事中Lady Madrī的母親是誰?經文中好像沒提過她的名字,但他想或許是自己漏掉而沒有看到。

        Chao Khun Upāli立刻回答說:「咦!你從來沒有看過或聽過Madrī的母親嗎?城裡的每個人都知道她呢!你是到哪裡去找才找不到她?」

        阿姜曼承認他在典籍中沒有讀過她的名字,他想知道哪一本書裡有提到她的名字。

        「佛經?哪部佛經?那你知道住在那間往寺廟十字路口大房子裡的長舌婦歐太太嗎?」

        阿姜曼被搞糊塗了。他完全不記得經文中有提到寺廟,他到底是在講哪個十字路口、哪間寺廟?

        「你明明就知道的嘛!Madrī媽媽的房子就在你家隔壁,你怎麼會不知道Madrī和她媽媽?」

        「真可憐!Madrī和她媽媽就住在你們的村子裡,你不認得他們也就算了,竟然要到經文裡去找!我真是替你感到不好意思。」

        當Chao Khun UpāliMadrī和她媽媽就住在他的家鄉時,阿姜曼才記起了她們。

        因為他之前一直在想Vessantara本生的故事,所以他被搞糊塗了。他說,Chao Khun Upāli非常善於機智問答。他的雙關語、他的對答往往令人意想不到,所以能把聽眾帶離常軌,強迫他們必須真正使用智慧。阿姜曼敘述他是如何被Chao Khun Upāli的小詭計捉弄時,往往會露出微笑。

        阿姜曼曾在清邁府Mae Pang縣附近的Ban Nam Mao村度過一次雨安居。帝釋Sakka,也就是天界之王,常常在大批隨從的伴隨之下來拜見他。即使當他在乾季獨自遊行至山區並住在Dok Kham洞時,帝釋也會帶著隨從去拜見他。在這些情況下,通常來訪的天神遠超過十萬。他們比其他天界的天神更常來訪,數量也較多。若有些隨從是第一次來,帝釋會先向他們解說聞法的禮節。阿姜曼通常會為他們講述四梵住,因為這一層天界的天神特別喜好這個主題。

 Ban Nam Mao村與Dok Kham洞非常的偏僻與安靜。比起其他的地區,這兩個地方有更多天界的天神來拜見阿姜曼。這些天神對阿姜曼與他所居住的區域都表現出極大的尊重。他們在進入這個區域時,總會小心地繞過村民為他用沙子鋪平的經行步道,因為這是神聖不可侵犯的。而龍族也會在來拜見時都避免跨越這個步道。在某些場合,當他們的領袖必須通過該區時,總會在步道的起點先繞行一圈。有時龍族會先派遣使者來邀請阿姜曼參加聚會,這就如同人們會邀請比丘去參加當地的聚會或儀式,使者總是會避免跨越他經行的步道;有時候,當他們不得不經過村民們在步道附近所鋪的沙子時,他們會先用自己的雙手掃開沙子,然後爬過去,再站起來,才走向阿姜曼的住所。他們的舉止總是那樣的沉著有禮。

        阿姜曼認為,身為佛法保管者的人類,如果真的喜愛「法」並尊重自己,那麼就該像天神與龍族一般表現出同樣虔敬的行為。雖然我們無法看見那些眾生是如何表達對「法」的尊敬,但在佛教的經典中可找到對這些詳細的記載。不幸的是,我們人類對這些應注意的事不怎麼感興趣。我們似乎只顧著在自身豎立起一種令人窒息、冷漠的態度,因而錯過我們原本可體驗到的快樂。事實上,佛法是所有善行之源,而種種善行能確保為那些堅持依法奉行的人帶來源源不絕的快樂。

        阿姜曼一再強調,在這個世界上最重要的事物就是「心」。一顆庸俗的心會讓所接觸到的一切都變得庸俗不堪。就像把一套原本乾淨漂亮的衣服穿在骯髒污穢的身體上,最後這套衣服也一樣會變得骯髒污穢。所以一顆庸俗的心必定會玷污「法」,即使「法」本身是清淨無染,但被邪惡之人所利用時,它就會黯然失去光澤,就像是原本乾淨的一塊白布掉落至汙泥中。例如,一個心術不正的人向他人吹噓自己在佛經上的造詣,就不會有什麼好事。與上述的例子相同的是那些頑固又不服宗教的鄙俗之輩。無論佛陀的教導多麼卓越不凡,他們就是無法從中獲得真正的功德利益。他們只會對外宣稱自己是佛教徒,卻從來沒有了解佛陀教導的真正意義,也不知道該如何依法修行。

        教法的真正意義就是:我們自己本身就是教法。無論我們行善或造惡,承受了隨之而來的各種程度的樂或苦,這些全部都直接關乎教法。教法這個詞意謂著每一個人都該採取正確的生活之道。如果我們認為教法存在於自身以外,那就是邪見,而我們的修行也必將走偏。任何錯誤的事物,基本上是沒有用的;除非付出個人的正直、尊嚴與誠實的代價才能變得有用。總歸一句話:如果我們的心有錯,那麼無論我們做什麼都是錯的。有各式各樣的例子可以證明:算數加總出錯;衣服覺得不合身;開車無視交通規則;夫婦彼此都不守常規,不顧當初的誓言;父母與孩子間劍拔弩張;社會上巧取豪奪,財富分配不公;政府當局藐視原本要維持和平的國法;統治者與人民無法齊心協力,不能依法追求社會共同的利益,因而彼此不信任,像敵人般的對立。

        不管這些苦果是如何加諸在我們身上,因惡業而產生的失望與苦惱必然會出現在造作它們的源頭,也就是內心。所謂「因地不正,果招迂曲」。當我們錯待某人,之後的惡果就不可避免,就算在不知情的情況下錯待他人也是一樣。做錯事的人必須承受他行為所帶來的全部後果。若妄想自己或可能躲開這些惡果,這種妄想其實不能改變什麼!惡果注定會在未來以某種形式呈現。對自己的錯誤行為如果抱持冷漠或縱容的態度,災難與惡運在今世很可能就會降臨;若認為惡報是在今生結束後才會出現,這種想法不但偏執且誤解業果原則。「教法」並不是虛幻朦朧的海市蜃樓,欺騙人們,讓人走入愚癡。那是一條在許多方面都能準確無誤揭發真相的道路。那些原本奉行佛陀的教導,但最後卻偏離正道並控訴教法讓他們失敗的人,只會加劇他們悲慘的處境;而教法依舊清淨、不受影響。

        阿姜曼總是強調那些接受真理、奉行佛法的人會受到「法」的祝福。這些人沉穩平靜,他們與外在世界的關係亦是沉穩平順。他們所住的世界和諧融洽,不太可能會遇到怨憤不平並在激烈指責中將雙方都吞蝕殆盡的紛爭。人們體驗不到幸福,是因為他們任令一個熾燃憤怒的心來支配自己,從工作場所到業務往來,從法律訴訟到市場行為,他們對這些事物的態度都被憤怒所支配。無論何時何地,他們就像火焰般熾熱,所以他們很難保持生活的平衡。這樣的人似乎從沒想過要熄滅他們心中一直跟隨的篝火,好讓自己獲得喘息的空間,放鬆並平衡身心,找到真正的快樂。

        阿姜曼說,身為比丘的一生當中,他樂於研究世尊所教導的「法」,其無可比擬的廣度和深度都遠遠超越世上廣闊的海洋。佛法是那麼不可思議的深、廣與微妙,以至於要詳細研究教法的每個層面幾乎是不可能。而每個接續的「道」與「果」在證得時是難以形容的美妙。阿姜曼強調他是因為擔心旁人會認為他是個瘋子,所以才沒有整天都一直禮拜佛法僧。否則,他會將這個視為他的職業,每天興高采烈去執行,完全不會疲勞或厭倦。他對此毫不動搖,無論發生什麼事他也永遠不會離開佛法僧――也就是巴利語akāliko(超越時間)的意思。相對的,世間的「無常」、「苦」、「無我」卻一直讓眾生的心難以喘息,讓他們總是憂傷與憤怒。

   

Occasionally, when the monks living with him were highly attained individuals, Ãcariya Mun conducted himself in a naturally easy-going and relaxed manner, as one would expect among people of equal status who are all well-acquainted. He was not so stern and strict at such times. But his whole demeanor could change dramatically according to the situation. He behaved quite differently in one set of circumstances than he did in another, treating each individual as a separate case. His disciples were constantly amazed at the quickness and novelty of his responses to the situations that emerged around him.

Ãcariya Mun used to tell the monks an amusing story about his youth that illustrates his dynamic character. I shall retell it here for it demonstrates the incredible changes that a person can go through.

Back in the days when Ãcariya Mun was still a young layman, he used to compete in local folk singing contests known as maw lam. One day he attended a large fair in a neighboring village where thousands of people had gathered. Suddenly, he felt emboldened to get up on stage and sing in competition with a talented young woman who was a renowned folk singer in those parts. Perhaps he thought it would be fun to have a go at her on stage, or perhaps he felt a little bit in love – who knows? At any rate, jumping up on stage, he found the young woman quite willing to accept his challenge. By the time they sang through several sets of verses, it became clear that young Mun was losing the contest. As it happened, a savior appeared just in time. Chao Khun Upãli, who was then a young man several years older than young Mun, had come to the same fair and was in the audience at the competition. Obviously his friend was losing badly, and things were getting worse with each new set of verses. Continued much longer, the girl would probably have driven him off the stage in disgrace, for she was a seasoned performer and young Mun was a mere novice. Acting on a bold impulse, Mun had leapt up on the stage only to meet a ferocious tigress, her mouth full of fangs, while he was just a pup sporting a few baby teeth. Jan, as Chao Khun Upãli was called then, anxiously thought that if his friend persisted, she would skin him alive, then sell his hide. He thought to himself: Mun doesn’t know a tiger when he sees one. He just sees a young lady – he doesn’t realize he’s about to be slaughtered. I’ll have to do something now to save his hide. If I don’t, it’ll be on sale in the market for sure. Having thought this, Jan jumped up on the stage and began shouting:

“Dammit Mun! I’ve been looking for you all over the place! Your mother fell from the top of the house – I’m not sure if she’s still alive or not. I saw her lying there in a heap on the ground and tried to help, but she insisted I go look for you. I’ve been running around all day trying to find you. I haven’t eaten a thing and I’m worn out.”

Both Mun and the young lady were stunned into silence by this ruse. Mun immediately asked about his mother’s condition.

“Jan, how is my mother?”

Jan pretended to be so exhausted he could hardly speak.

“I think she’s probably dead by now. I’m about to die myself now from hunger and exhaustion.”

With that he grabbed Mun’s arm, dragging him from the stage before a crowd of thousands of shocked onlookers, and ran with him as fast as possible. By the time they reached the village outskirts, Mun was desperate to find out more about his mother.

“What was my mother doing on the top of the house to make her fall?”

“I don’t really know what caused her to fall. Seeing her lying there on the ground, I rushed to help. But she sent me right off to look for you, so I came straight away. I didn’t have a chance to get the full story.”

“As far as you could tell, was my mother going to die?”

“We’re on our way now to find that out for ourselves.”

When they had walked sufficiently far from the village that Jan reckoned Mun wouldn’t dare go back alone at such a late hour his whole demeanor abruptly changed as he frankly told Mun that nothing had happened to his mother.

“I put on that act because I couldn’t bear to see your old lady mop the floor with you. I was afraid she’d skin your hide and sell it in the market. That would have been humiliating for me, and for our whole village. She was about to emasculate you there just for the fun of it. So I tricked you both into believing this story, at the same time convincing the crowd that you had to flee the scene because of a real emergency – not because you’d lost the will to fight. I rushed you away before anyone had a chance to catch on to my ruse. Even that feisty old lady of yours couldn’t help being overwhelmed by my ingenious scheme. Did you see how taken in she was? Alarmed by what I said, she watched us leave with heartfelt sympathy for you and your mother. I saved you from the hell she had in store for you. Now what do you think, wasn’t that an ingenious scheme?”

“Oh no! What a shame! Damn you Jan, look what you’ve done to me! I was having a great time chopping her to pieces! By dragging me away, you spoiled my fun. I never imagined you’d do this to me. I’d like to have another go at her right now. I’d be the one sending her hide to the market!”

“Ha! You were being slaughtered, and I saved your life! And now you’re bragging about how good you were. Maybe I should take you back right now so your old lady can put you on the chopping block again.”

“Look, seeing she was a woman, I figured I’d go easy on her at first, hoping she’d get overconfident. When I had her where I wanted her, I planned to tie her up, throw her in a sack, and sell her to the highest bidder. You failed to understand my strategy – I was baiting her, like a tiger luring a monkey.”

“If you’re so smart then how come you fell for my little sham to pull you away from her devilish clutches. You were so shocked you almost started crying shamelessly right in front of your lady friend. Who’d have ever considered you capable of bagging the old girl? It was obvious – she was about to tie you up and throw you off the stage in full view of thousands of people. Stop bragging so much Mun! You should appreciate my brotherly efforts to save you from defeat at the hands of that woman.”

That night Mun and Jan both ended up missing the fair they had so looked forward to attending.

ALTHOUGH THEY WERE STILL in lay life at the time, such stories about these two sages matching wits were fascinating to hear. Despite the worldly nature of the conversation, it demonstrates how clever people converse – each new retort captures the imagination. When Ãcariya Mun related stories about the two of them, we became so absorbed listening that we could almost visualize them as they spoke. There are lots of stories about these two men matching wits, but a few examples should be enough to give the reader an idea of what I mean. The clever ploys they used as young men gave an early indication of their intelligence. Eventually entering the monkhood, both became great sages. Chao Khun Upãli Guõýpamãcariya and Ãcariya Mun Bhýridatta Thera are renowned throughout Thailand as present day sages of the highest caliber.

I have used the diminutives Jan and Mun because that’s how Ãcariya Mun himself told the story to his students during relaxed moments when there was a break in the usual tense, guarded atmosphere the monks felt when they were around him. I sincerely apologize to both of these esteemed venerables, and to the readers as well, if anything I’ve written is deemed inappropriate. Had I written the story in a more formal style, the meaning would not have come across so effectively. Such familiarity implies a mutual implies among peers and is commonly used between close friends of all ages. Moreover, I find it convenient to write the story the way I originally heard it. It allows us a glimpse of these two renowned elders as high-spirited youths having a good time, which we can then compare with our usual image of them as absolutely amazing monks who completely renounced the world.

Although Ãcariya Mun preferred to keep to the present, rarely speaking about the past, he liked to sing the praises of Chao Khun Upãli’s cleverness from time to time. On one occasion, when they were discussing the story of Lord Vessantara,18 he asked Chao Khun Upãli about the mother of Lady Madrï, a character in the story. He hadn’t seen her name mentioned in the scriptures, and thought perhaps he had missed it. Chao Khun Upãli’s response was immediate:

“What, you’ve never seen or heard of Madrï’s mother? Everyone in town knows about her. Where’ve you been looking that you haven’t come across her yet?

Admitting that he hadn’t come across her name in the scriptures, Ãcariya Mun wondered where it was mentioned.

“Scriptures? What scriptures? What about that loudmouth Mrs. Op who lives in the big house at the crossroads on the way to the monastery?”

Ãcariya Mun was puzzled. He couldn’t recall any mention of a monastery in the story. Which crossroads and what monastery was he referring to.

“You know, Madrï’s mother whose house is right next to yours. How could you not know Madrï and her mother? How pitiful – Madrï and her mother live in your own home village and you don’t even recognize them. Instead, you go searching in the scriptures. I feel embarrassed for you.”

The moment Chao Khun Upãli said that Madrï and her mother lived in his home village, Ãcariya Mun caught on and was able to recollect them. Prior to that he was puzzled, for he kept thinking of the Vessantara Jãtaka story. He said that Chao Khun Upãli was very clever at skillfully matching wits, using wordplay and riposte in unexpected ways to keep his listeners off balance, thus making them use their intelligence. Ãcariya Mun used to laugh when he told us about falling victim to Chao Khun Upãli’s little artifice.

ÃCARIYA MUN SPENT one rains retreat near the village of in the Mae Pang district of Chiang Mai province. Sakka, the heavenly devarãja, frequently came to visit, bringing a large retinue with him. Even in the dry season, when he went off into the mountains alone and stayed in Dok Kham Cave, Sakka brought his followers to visit him there. Usually numbering well over one hundred thousand on those occasions, they came more often and in larger numbers than other groups of devas. If some in his retinue had never come before, Sakka first explained to them the proper way to listen to Dhamma. Ãcariya Mun usually took mettã appamaññã brahmavihãra19 as the theme of his discourse because these devas were especially fond of that subject.

Being very isolated, tranquil places, Ban Nam Mao and Dok Khan Cave brought more groups of devas from many different realms to visit Ãcariya Mun than did any of his other locations. These beings showed great respect for Ãcariya Mun, and for the place where he lived. Upon entering the area, they were always careful to bypass his walking meditation path which the villagers had smoothed out with sand: it was sacrosanct. Nãgas, too, avoided passage across the path when arriving for a visit. On occasions when their leader had to pass through that area, he always circled around the head of the meditation path. Sometimes the nãgas sent a messenger to invite Ãcariya Mun to attend a function, much as humans do when they invite monks to local functions. The messengers always avoided crossing his meditation path. Occasionally, when they were unable to avoid crossing over some of the sand that the villagers had scattered around that area, they would first sweep the sand away with their hands, and then crawl across. Standing up again, they walked to Ãcariya Mun’s residence. Their behavior was always wonderfully composed.

Ãcariya Mun believed that if human beings, the custodians of the sãsana, have a true interest in Dhamma and a deeply rooted feeling of genuine self-respect, they should exhibit the same reverential behavior toward the sãsana as devas and nãgas do. Although we’re unable to see for ourselves how those beings show their respect, the teachings of Buddhism address all such matters in full. Unfortunately, we humans are not as interested in them as we should be. We seem more intent on creating a stifling, negligent attitude within ourselves, thus failing to experience the kind of happiness we could otherwise expect. In truth, the sãsana is the wellspring of all virtuous conduct, which assures happiness to those adhering to the venerable principles of Buddhism.

Ãcariya Mun continually emphasized that the heart is the most important thing in the world. A heart that is vulgar ends up vulgarizing everything with which it comes into contact. Much like a filthy body, it soils whatever it touches – no matter how nice and clean it may initially be – making it filthy too in the end. So Dhamma cannot escape being tainted by a vulgar heart. Even though Dhamma itself is perfectly pure, it becomes tarnished as soon as it’s embraced by someone with a corrupt heart – like a clean cloth being rubbed in the dirt. For example, when a wicked person tries to impress others with his knowledge of the Buddhist scriptures – nothing good ever comes of it. Vulgar people who are stubborn and unyielding about religious matters are just the same; and no matter how extraordinary Buddhism is, they are unable to derive any of its benefits. They merely proclaim themselves to be Buddhists but they never understand the real significance of Buddhism and how it applies to them personally.  

The actual truth about the sãsana is this: we ourselves are the sãsana. No matter how good or bad our actions are, whatever subsequent degree of happiness or suffering we experience – all directly affect the sãsana. The word “sãsana” means the correct way of living as practiced by each individual. If we think the sãsana exists outside of ourselves, then our understanding is wrong, and so our practice too is bound to be wrong. Anything which is wrong is more or less useless. It can be made useful only at the expense of the righteousness, dignity, and integrity of each individual. Put simply and clearly: if we are wrong in our hearts, then whatever we do turns out wrong. For instance, calculations don’t add up; clothes don’t fit properly; traffic regulations are ignored; married couples deviate from accepted norms, failing to honor their vows; parents and children are at logger-heads; wealth is ill-gotten, its distribution inequitable; the authorities flout the laws of the land which are designed to keep peace; rulers and their constituents cannot seem to work together for the common good according to the law, and so become distrustful, behaving like enemies.

Regardless of how we experience the harmful consequences, the disappointment and misfortune that result from wrong actions will inevitably arise right where they are committed – in the heart. The cause being wrong, the effect is bound to be harmful. When we wrong someone, the harmful consequences from that action are unavoidable, even in cases where we are unaware of having wronged that person. The wrongdoer must necessarily receive the full results of his actions. It’s no use thinking that we can somehow avoid the unpleasant consequences – whatever they are, they will definitely manifest themselves someday. By remaining indifferent or negligent about wrongdoing, we face the clear prospect of personal misfortune here and now in this lifetime. Looking any further ahead than this would merely amount to grasping at shadows and missing the real issue. The sãsana is not a shadowy specter, deluding people into ignorance. It’s a path that unerringly reveals the Truth in all its many aspects. Followers of the sãsana, who deviate from the path and then unfairly accuse it of having failed them, are inextricably compounding their own miserable predicament. The sãsana, as always, remains pure and unperturbed.

Ãcariya Mun always stressed that people who accept the Truth, embodied in Buddhist principles, receive the blessings of Dhamma. Being cool and calm themselves, all their relationships tend to be the same as well. The world they live in is a peaceful place where they are unlikely to suffer the kind of contentious bickering that causes acrimony and engulfs both parties in heated recriminations. The reason people never experience the happiness they long for is that they allow a fiery, inflamed mentality to dictate their attitude in everything from business dealings to workplace, from legal proceedings to marketplace. Wherever they go, whatever they do – they are as hot as fire, so they find it hard to maintain a balance in their lives. Such people never seem to consider dousing the bonfire they constantly carry in their hearts so as to gain enough breathing room to relax, balance themselves, and find some measure of happiness.

Ãcariya Mun said that during his whole life as a Buddhist monk he enjoyed investigating the Dhamma taught by the Lord Buddha, whose incomparable breadth and depth are infinitely greater than those of the vast oceans. In all truth, the sãsana is so inconceivably profound and subtle that it’s virtually impossible to investigate every aspect of it; and the results attained from each successive stage of the practice are so amazing that they defy description. He insisted that only his concern that others would think him crazy kept him from continuously prostrating himself to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. He would consider it his occupation otherwise, performing it easily and joyfully without ever experiencing fatigue or boredom. He was absolutely certain that, whatever happened, he would always be inseparable from the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha – akãliko. In stark contrast, the world of anicca, dukkha, and anattã constantly smothers the hearts of living beings, leaving them forever distressed and resentful.