阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第四章第七節:不可思議的業力

      

          

                     

第四章第七節:不可思議的業力

    有一次阿姜曼在清邁府的深山裡靜坐時,他看到了一名女子和一個小沙彌每晚深夜在他的住處來回走動的影像。阿姜曼感到很好奇,便問他們為什麼一直在那裡徘徊。他們說他們牽掛那座生前建造的舍利塔,但他們卻在佛塔尚未完工之際便死亡了,而那個小沙彌是那名女子的弟弟,他們生前一起建造那座塔。由於他們對塔的牽掛執念,與壯志未酬身先死的遺憾,形成了一種強烈且無法安息的執著。雖然他們已經轉生為焦慮不安的鬼魂,但他們並不像一般人所想的那麼痛苦。儘管如此,他們對是否該轉生至另一個境界仍猶豫而躊躇不前。

        於是阿姜曼勸告他們:「你們不該擔心那些生滅無常的事物了,它們都已成無法挽回的事實了。不管你們自己有多麼相信可以回到過去,那都是不可能的事了。任何抱著這種幻想的人,一旦幻想無法落實,到頭來都只會經歷幻滅的挫敗而已。至於尚未發生的未來,也不該依戀或黏著不放。既然已經發生的就該放手,讓它們成為過去;至於還未到來的,在它尚未發生之前也不該焦慮;只有當下才能完成有意義的事。」

        「如果你們對於建造塔的夢想注定會實現,那麼你們在意外發生前就會實現夢想。但你們現在仍拒絕接受已經死亡的事實,不僅如此,你們甚至還奢望完成那座已完全不可能完成的塔。所以,現在你們已經有了兩次邪思惟,如果你們再不聽勸,繼續想著要完成塔,那麼就是第三次的邪思惟,那就是一錯再錯了!如此一來,不僅是你們的思想,甚至是未來的投生都會受到這些邪思惟不利的影響,像這種不合理的期望不該被容許繼續下去。」

        「建塔的目的,應該是為了獲得功德與善行,而不該是在磚頭與砂漿之上。建塔的價值在於經由辛勤的善行而獲得善果,其善果也必定會降臨在你們的身上。你們不該再擔心塵世間的事,像磚頭與砂漿這類東西都不可能再實現你們的願望了。因此各地的人在行善時所得到的也只有因善業所生的善果,而不是那些他們所捨棄出去的捐贈物。譬如,捐獻或幫助興建寺院、僧眾的居所、集會講堂或興建道路、水槽、公共建設或是捐獻任何物資,這些行為都只是經由慷慨布施的善念所呈現出外在的表象,它們都不是布施的真正果報。也就是說貢獻物質的本身並不是功德、天界或是涅槃,也不是接受善報的施主。因為,所有實體的物質都會隨著時間的經過而崩裂與解散。」

        「經由努力與無私的慷慨所生的心態而從事的慈善工作,施主將會在心中一一經歷其功德與善行。而出於善意所做的布施,其背後的動機,也就是每一個施主的心。心的本身若是美善,本身就是功德。它能建構出像天堂或是道、果、涅槃。除了心以外,沒有任何東西能達到這些成就。」

        「你們兩位未能完工的塔,缺少的是能增進自我心靈成長、具有善意的那種『心』的能力。你們對它的執著是源自於一顆貪求渴望的心態,即使它能帶來福報,但對你們而言卻變成了障礙。所以執著並不是你們最佳的選擇。你們在此處的延宕已經妨礙了你們投生善趣的時間。如果你們不是一直試著要把這些東西都帶走,你們老早就可以憑著建塔的善業舒適地在善處重生了。因為投生善趣最大的因緣就是善業,而善業絕不會帶來惡果,它永遠都是良善的,這就是『法』。」

        「過度沈溺在過去就是愚痴,你們現在已不可能再完成那座塔,所以你們不該再執著這種無望的心願了。而你們所造的善業力量已在此刻影響你們。因此,當你們現在應該去收割你們的善果時,就請別再浪費時間去空想過去與未來。只要改正你們的思惟,你們很快就能毫無罣礙地去投生了。把你們的注意力專注於當下,它已包含一切要達到道、果、涅槃所必要的功德善業,過去與未來則是你們必須刻不容緩克服的障礙!」

        「我真的很替你們兩位感到惋惜。你們已經為幸福的未來做了功德,卻執著在那些無法搬移的磚頭與泥漿之上而動彈不得。如果你們兩位能努力把心中對這些事物的黏著給切斷,不久你們就可超脫所有的羈絆,而你們所累積的功德力量早已準備就緒,將依照你們的意願引領你們重生。」

        阿姜曼接著為他們解釋五戒的基本意義,也就是一種能平等適用於一切有情的行為法則。

        「第一,所有眾生的生命都有其價值,所以沒有人可藉由奪走他人的生命去摧毀其自身的價值。這種惡行會招來非常恐怖的惡果。」

        「第二,所有的眾生都珍惜自己所擁有的財物。就算那些東西看起來沒什麼價值,但物主仍會珍惜它們。無論那些東西的價值多少,都不該用偷或搶的方式去侵害屬於他人的物品。因為這樣的行為不僅是玷辱了物品,更玷辱了自己的心。竊盜是一種可怕的行為,所以絕對不可竊盜。」

        「第三,丈夫、妻子、孩子、孫子之間,大家都彼此深愛著對方。他們一定不想看到有人侵犯他們所愛的人。他們的人格權應受到尊重,他們的私人空間也不該被他人打擾。染指他人的配偶會對他人的內心與感情造成極大的傷害,而且這也是一種無法計算的惡行。」

        「第四,說謊與推諉塞責會毀掉他人的信任,使人尊嚴盡失。即使是動物也痛恨欺騙,所以身為人類絕對不可用虛假、詐欺的語言去傷害他人。」

        「第五,酒的本質就是會使人迷醉,並帶來極大的災害。喝酒會使一個原本正常的人失去理智並持續衰耗下去。任何人一個想要保有身心健康的人,都應該要避免飲用任何具有酒精的飲料,因為酒會損害身心的健康,最後會毀掉自己與周遭的親友們。」

        「五戒各自有其特殊的功德利益。」

        「持守第一條的人,將可得到健康並且長壽。」

        「持守第二條的人,其財富與財產將免於受到侵害或其他的不幸。」

        「持守第三條的人,其家庭成員間彼此信任,能心滿意足地生活,不會受到不必要的干擾。」

        「持守第四條的人,將會因為誠實而受他人的信賴,其言語具有魅力並使人愉悅,人類及天神們都將敬重與愛護此人。誠實的人不會對自己或任何人造成危害。」

        「持守第五條的人,將會是聰明、伶俐、有智慧的人,不會受他人誤導,也不會人云亦云、隨波逐流、瞎起鬨。」

        「遵守道德規範的人會藉由提升對彼此的信賴與安全感,讓所有的眾生都感到平安。另一方面,不道德的人則是傷害世界各地的人與動物,並帶來數不盡的災難。珍惜自己生命的人必須了解到其他的人也一樣珍惜他們自己的生命,因此不可以任何的方式去傷害他人。由於道德與誠實的支持及防護力,正直善良的人可預期死後將會生天。因此,持戒極其重要,其果報必可使來世生天。謹記『法』的教誨,並努力依法奉行,未來必將一片光明。」

        阿姜曼為小沙彌與他的姊姊說法之後,他們都心生歡喜,並向阿姜曼求授五戒,而阿姜曼也為他們作證。他們正式受持五戒後,恭敬地向阿姜曼頂禮並辭別,然後立刻消失。他們藉由所積累的善行、聞法與持五戒的功德,迅速地在三十三天(忉利天)重生。

        之後,他們也經常來頂禮阿姜曼,並聽他說法。他們第一次來的時候,特別感謝阿姜曼的慈悲幫助:當他們仍在死胡同打轉及鑽牛角尖時,能為他們指引明路,讓他們終於得享期望已久的天界之樂。他們告訴阿姜曼,他們現在已經了解執著依戀對於心的危害有多大,並耽誤自己在善趣的重生。他們是聽到阿姜曼慈悲的說法之後,才能跨越對依戀執著的羈絆,因此生天。

        阿姜曼為他們解釋了依戀執著的本質,並指出它們在許多方面都是一種障礙。智者總是教導我們在死亡之際要特別注意不要對任何人、事、物眷戀執著。而危險的是,我們在那個時候,可能會憶起某個眷戀的人、事、物;或更糟的是,對某人生起憤怒或報仇的惡意(咒怨)。當心識將要離開身體之際是很關鍵的時刻,如果在那一刻,心識被邪惡的念頭所占據,便可能引火上身,最後會投生到悲慘的境界,譬如各種地獄、惡魔、餓鬼或畜牲,總之都是悲慘與痛苦的生命。

        所以當我們有適合修練「心」的處境時,也就是生為人身並充分了解自己,我們就必須徹底利用這個優勢。身為人類,我們可以發覺自己的缺點,並迅速改正它們。之後當我們沒有任何退路而只能面對死亡時,我們早已做好了充分的準備去照料自己。我們不必擔心下墮惡道的惡因緣,只要我們愈訓練自己去斷除情感方面不論是好或壞的執著,我們的處境就會愈好。

        智者知道「心」是全宇宙中最重要的東西,因為物質或精神的幸福都依賴它。因此,他們特別重視以正確的方式來修心,然後教導旁人同樣的修行。我們都是依靠心而活,也藉由心而經驗到順境或逆境。當我們死後,我們透過心而離開,然後再依照自己的業力與心為主要的因緣而轉生。由於它是發生在我們身上一切事物的唯一來源,我們都應該以正確的方式來訓練我們的心,使我們現在與未來都能正確地處事。

        當阿姜曼說完後,這兩位剛新生的天人因聞法而欣喜不已。他們表示從未曾聽過這樣的法,他們對此讚嘆不已!當他們離開時,他們先右繞他三匝,然後退到他住所的邊緣,接著飄升至空中,就像隨風飄逸的縷縷棉絮一般。

        有一次,阿姜曼住在離最近的村莊相隔甚遠的清邁府深山裡,他在禪境中看到了一個不尋常的景象。當時是凌晨三點,正是身體機能最靈敏的時刻。他起床沒多久便注意到他的心想要安息在全然寧靜的定境,他立刻開始靜坐,於是乎進入了一個甚深的定境,並維持大約兩小時之久。接著,他的心開始漸漸從禪境中退出,但卻不是退到一般正常清醒時的狀態,而是停在近行定。隨即,他感應到了一些事情。

        一隻碩大的大象出現了。牠走向阿姜曼,跪在他的面前,表示要載阿姜曼。阿姜曼立刻爬到牠的背上並跨坐在牠的頸背。當他一坐定,便注意到有兩名年輕的比丘也騎著大象跟在他的身後。他們的象雖然略小於他的象,但也是非常的巨大。這三隻大象看起來都英俊挺拔、威風凜凜,就像是有人類的智商並能知悉主人意圖的皇室御用大象一般。當那兩頭大象接近他後,他就帶領他們朝大約有半英里遠的正前方山脈前進。

        阿姜曼覺得整個景觀格外地雄偉壯麗,雖然他知道這意味著這兩位年輕的比丘將永遠離開世間,而他是在護送他們。當他們抵達山脈後,他的象帶領他們來到一個小山腰洞穴的入口處。當他們抵達入口處,阿姜曼的大象轉身背對著入口,倒退進入洞穴,直到觸及洞內的後壁,阿姜曼此時仍跨坐於牠的項背。另兩名年輕比丘騎在象背上向前進入山洞,然後停在阿姜曼的大象兩旁,並在阿姜曼面向外時,兩名比丘朝向內。阿姜曼接著像是在發表他最後的臨別教導,對這兩位比丘說:「我這一世已是最後的一生,已斷除所有的煩惱,對我而言三界中接續不斷的生死輪迴就要完全停止,我不會再重返這個生死的世界了。我希望你們兩位返回並先完全提升自己,那麼用不了多久,你們就能跟上我的腳步,以同樣的方式離開這個世界,就如我現在一般。」

        「由於大量的黏著(貪愛執取)與那些使人衰弱的痛苦與折磨,出離,將會是極為困難的任務,且需要堅定不移的決意。為了正確的目標(八正道的正志),在你們達到解脫危險與焦慮的目標之前,必須盡力並投入所有的力量,包括臨終一刻。而一旦解脫了,你們將永遠不必再哀悼死亡或於未來再生。」

        「由於已徹底超脫了每一個殘餘的心結,我會平靜離開這個世間,就好像一個獲釋的囚犯。對於失去這副軀體,我毫不吝惜,不像大多數人在死亡時會因為絕望的眷戀而承受巨大的痛苦。所以你們不該以任何方式來悼念我的離世,因為那不會帶來任何的利益。這種悲傷只會助長無明,因此智者絕不會讚嘆哀悼。」

        當阿姜曼說完後,他告訴這兩位年輕的比丘可以騎著大象退出山洞。在他說話的時候,那兩隻大象完全安靜地站立,一邊一個,彷彿牠們也在聽阿姜曼的臨別贈言,並為他即將辭世而難過。這時,那三隻由心意所投射出的大象,看起來是那麼地真實、栩栩如生。在阿姜曼的指揮下,那兩隻大象各自載著年輕比丘,面向著阿姜曼慢慢地退出山洞,期間一直保持著莊嚴平靜。

        然後,那隻還載著阿姜曼的大象開始用牠後方的身軀鑽入山壁。當大象一半的身體已經沒入山壁時,阿姜曼的心開始從定中退出,整個景象在這時候結束。

        由於阿姜曼從未看過像這樣不尋常的禪相,於是他開始分析,然後瞭解了它雙重的含義:

        第一,在他圓寂後,有兩位年輕的比丘將在他之後證果,雖然阿姜曼並沒有指出是誰。

        第二,「止」與「觀」從證得解脫成就開始到圓寂,都是阿羅漢珍貴的資產。

        在這整段期間,他都必須依靠止與觀作為他的「法住」,並以此來緩解心與五蘊之間所經歷的不適,而心與五蘊彼此相互依存,直到一般人所謂的「死亡」來臨時,世俗的五蘊與超越一切的心才會分道揚鑣。死亡時,止與觀都將停止運作,並與其他所有世俗的現象都一起消失。之後,就沒有任何其他東西可以被說明了。

        大部分的人若看到自己所騎乘的大象沒入山壁時,都應該會嚇得膽顫心驚。但在禪境中的禪相,阿姜曼則是泰然自若,他任由大象去完成牠的任務。同時,他得知將有兩位年輕的比丘將在他死亡的前後證悟,令他無比的振奮。他說很奇怪,在臨別教導時談起自己即將死亡,就好像他早已過世了一般。

        很可惜,阿姜曼從未透露這兩位比丘的名字。從他那裡聽到這個故事後,我非常急切想找出他們是誰,以至於我完全忽略了應該顧及自己的缺點。我一直在想這兩位比丘會是同輩比丘的何人。自從阿姜曼圓寂後,我一直都在注意這件事。但直到現在我為他寫傳記為止,我仍不知這兩位珍貴幸運的比丘是誰。我愈是去想這件事,就愈看到我胡疑猜測的愚蠢。

        沒有人承認他就是那兩位比丘的其中之一,而這很合理,誰會這樣子張揚自己的成就?這樣的成就絕不是那種在市場販賣會吸引成群蒼蠅的腐魚!任何一位證悟的人,一定具有絕高的智慧與合宜的分寸。他會笨到去宣揚自己的成就,讓愚者嘲笑,受智者指責嗎?只有容易受騙的人才會因為聽到這樣的消息而興奮。就好像童話故事中那隻驚慌失措的兔子,一聽到巨響,就以為天空塌了下來!

        我自己對這件事的愚蠢想法終於慢慢地止息了,所以我把它寫下來供各位參考。若有任何不當之處,請不吝指正,因為這樣的故事通常只會在老師與其親近的弟子間流傳,這樣才不會有人受到不利的影響。我知道我應該受譴責,但一如過往,我希望讀者們能仁慈地見諒。 

     

Once while he was meditating, deep in the Chiang Mai mountains, Ãcariya Mun saw a vision of a woman and a small novice walking back and forth through the area, nearly every night in the late hours. Becoming suspicious after a while, he asked why they were there. They told him that they were worried about the fate of an unfinished stupa  which they were building together when they died. The small novice was the woman’s younger brother, and they had worked together to construct the stupa. Their concern about the stupa and their regrets at having died before its completion made them feel a strong, persistent obligation to it. Although reborn into a state of anxiety, they were not as tormented by it as might be expected. Still, they could not feel decisive about being reborn into another realm of existence.

So Ãcariya Mun advised them: “You should not be concerned about things that have already come and gone, for they are truly irredeemable. No matter how convinced you may be that you can turn back the clock – it’s just not possible. Anyone supposing they can will experience nothing but frustration when their hopes fail to materialize. The future, having yet to come, shouldn’t be clung to either. What has already happened should be let go of as being past. What has yet to arrive should be let go of as its time is not yet ripe. Only in the present is it possible to accomplish something meaningful.

If your dream of building that stupa were meant to come true, then you would have had a chance to finish it first instead of dying unexpectedly. Now you are trying to deny death. Not only that, you still long to complete the stupa even though it is now wholly impossible. So, now you have erred twice in your thinking. If you continue on hoping to fulfill this wish, you will compound your mistake yet a third time. Not only is your thinking affected by this, but your future state of birth and your well-being in that state will also be adversely affected. Such an unreasonable aspiration should not be allowed to continue

In building a  stupa, we hope to acquire merit and goodness – not bricks and mortar. The value you obtain from building a stupa is the merit that you gain from this action – merit which results from your efforts and which rightly belongs to you. You shouldn’t worry about gross material things like bricks and mortar that can never fulfill your desires anyway. People everywhere who gain merit by doing good deeds take with them only the merit they’ve thus acquired, not the material things they gave away as donations. For example, contributing to the construction of a monastery, a monk’s residence, an assembly hall, a road, a water tank, a public building, or any other offering of material goods, are simply the outward manifestations of the good intentions of those wishing to be generous. They are not the actual rewards of generosity, meaning that material offerings themselves are not merit or goodness or heaven or Nibbãna, nor are they the recipient of such rewards. For, over time, all material things disintegrate and fall apart.

The spiritual qualities that are gained from the effort and the generosity required to do charitable works are experienced internally as merit and goodness. The inspiration behind the good intentions to make such donations is the heart of each individual donor. The heart itself is virtuous. The heart itself is meritorious. It is the heart that exists as heaven or magga, phala and Nibbãna, and the heart that achieves these attainments. Nothing else could possibly achieve them.

The unfinished stupa that you two were building lacked the conscious capacity to have good intentions for its own spiritual improvement. Your concern for it stems from a covetous mentality that is a hindrance to you even though it is directed at holding on to something good. Clinging to it is not in your best interest. Your procrastination here is retarding your progress to a favorable rebirth. Instead of trying to take the whole thing with you, had you two been satisfied with the merit you made from working on that stupa, you would both have comfortably gone on to a favorable existence long ago – for merit is the mainstay of a good rebirth. And merit is never transformed into something bad. It remains virtuous forever – akãliko.

It’s a mistake to be unduly concerned for things past. There is no way you can possibly finish that stupa now, so you shouldn’t set your hearts on such a hopeless endeavor. The power of the merit you have made impacts you here in the present. So, don’t waste your time thinking about the past or the future when now you should be reaping the good results of what you’ve already done. Correct your thinking and soon you will be able to pass on, free of anxiety. Turn your attention to the present. It contains all the virtues necessary for magga, phala, and Nibbãna. The past and the future are impediments you must overcome without wasting any more time.

I feel really sorry for you two. You’ve done some very meritorious work for the sake of a happy future, only to get so bogged down in your attachment to mere bricks and mortar that you can’t freely move on. If you both make the effort to cut these attachments from your hearts, before long you will be free of all binding ties. The strength of your accumulated merit is ready and waiting to take you to the rebirth of your choice.”

Ãcariya Mun then explained to them the essential meaning of the five moral precepts, a code of conduct applying equally to all living beings.

First: Every living being values its own life, so no one should destroy that intrinsic value by taking someone else’s life. This results in very bad kamma.

Second: All beings cherish their own possessions. Even if they don’t appear to have much value, the owner values them nonetheless. Regardless of its worth, nothing belonging to another person should be debased by theft or robbery. For such actions debase not only their possessions, but their hearts as well. Stealing is a terrible act – so never steal.

Third: Husbands and wives, children and grandchildren, all love each other dearly. They do not want to see anyone taking liberties with their loved ones. Their personal rights should be respected and their private space should be off limits to others. Spousal infringement is extremely damaging to people’s hearts, and as such is an act of incalculable evil.

Fourth: Lies and prevarication destroy other people’s trust, causing them to lose all respect. Even animals abhor deceit, so one should never hurt others by using false, deceitful language.

Fifth: Alcohol is by its very nature intoxicating and immensely harmful. Drinking it can cause a perfectly normal person to go crazy and steadily waste away. Anyone wishing to remain a normal, sane human being should refrain from drinking any form of liquor because it damages physical and mental health, eventually destroying people and everyone else around them.

Each of these five moral precepts has its own special benefits. By maintaining the first one, we can expect to enjoy good health and longevity. By the second, our wealth and property will be safe from criminal attack or other misfortune. By the third, family members will keep faith with each other, and live contentedly without unwanted interference. With the fourth, we will be trusted because of our integrity. When our speech is charming and pleasant, humans and devas alike will respect and cherish us. Honest people pose no threat to themselves or anyone else. And by maintaining the fifth precept, we will be clever, intelligent people who are not easily misguided nor readily thrown into confusion.

People who maintain moral virtue tend to reassure living beings everywhere by promoting a sense of satisfaction and mutual trust. Immoral people, on the other hand, cause untold suffering by harming people and animals all over the world. Those who value their own existence should understand that all people value themselves similarly, and should, therefore, refrain from harming others in any manner. Due to the supportive, protective power of moral virtue, honest, virtuous people can expect to be reborn into an elevated, heavenly existence. Thus it is vital to maintain high moral standards – the result will surely be a heavenly destination in the next life. Remember this Dhamma teaching, practice it diligently, and your future prosperity is assured.

By the time Ãcariya Mun finished advising the small novice and his sister, both were delighted by his teaching and requested the five moral precepts from him, which he gave them. Having received the moral precepts, they respectfully took leave of Ãcariya Mun, and immediately vanished. The power of their accumulated merit and the goodness they cultivated from attending to his discourse and taking the five precepts, led the two to be quickly reborn in the Tãvatiÿsa heavenly realm.

They then regularly visited Ãcariya Mun to hear his teaching. On their first visit they thanked him for his kind assistance in illuminating the way out of the vicious cycle they were in, allowing them to finally enjoy the pleasure of the heavenly existence they had anticipated for so long. They told him that they now realized the great danger that attachments pose to the heart, and the delay they can cause in moving on to a favorable birth. Having received his compassionate advice, they were able to transcend all their concerns and be reborn in a heavenly realm.

Ãcariya Mun explained the nature of emotional attachments to them, pointing out that they are a hindrance in many different ways. The wise always teach us that at the moment of death we should be careful not to have emotional attachments to anything whatsoever. The danger is that we may recall, then, an infatuation of some kind, or even worse, angry, revengeful thoughts about a particular person. The moment when the citta is about to leave the physical body is crucial. If at that moment the citta latches on to a pernicious thought, it may get burned and end up being reborn into a realm of misery, such as one of the hells, or a world of demons, ghosts, or animals – all miserable, unfavorable existences.

So when we’re in a good position to train the citta – when we are in human birth and fully cognizant of ourselves – we must take decisive advantage of it. As human beings, we can realize our shortcomings and quickly act to correct them, so that, later, when our backs are against the wall – at the time of death – we will be fully prepared to fend for ourselves. We need not be worried about falling prey to the destructive forces of evil. The more we train ourselves to sever all emotional attachments, both good and bad, the better our position will be.

The wise know that the heart is the most important thing in the whole universe, for material and spiritual welfare are dependent upon the heart. So, they make a point of training their hearts in the correct way and then teach others to do the same. We live by means of the heart, and experience contentment and dissatisfaction by means of the heart. When we die, we depart by means of the heart. We are then born again according to our kamma – with the heart as the sole cause. As it is the sole source of everything that befalls us, we should train our hearts in the right way so that we can conduct ourselves properly now and in the future.

When Ãcariya Mun finished speaking the newly reborn devas were overjoyed by his teaching. Praising it highly, they said they had never heard anything quite like it before. Upon their departure, they circumambulated him three times, then withdrew to the edge of his living area before floating up into the air like wisps of cotton borne by the wind.

ONCE, WHILE LIVING in a deep mountainous region of Chiang Mai, far from the nearest village, Ãcariya Mun saw an extraordinary nimitta arise in his meditation. The hour was three A.M., a time when the body elements are especially subtle. He had just awoken from sleep and was sitting in meditation when he noticed that his citta wanted to rest in complete tranquility. So, he entered into a deep state of samãdhi where he remained for about two hours. Then, his citta began withdrawing gradually from that state and paused at the level of upacãra samãdhi  instead of returning to normal, waking consciousness. Immediately, he became aware of certain events.

A huge elephant appeared. Walking up to Ãcariya Mun, it knelt before him, indicating that it wanted him to mount. Ãcariya Mun promptly climbed up onto its back and sat straddling its neck. Once he was settled on the elephant, he noticed two young monks following behind him, both riding on elephants. Their elephants were also very large, though slightly smaller than the one he was riding. The three elephants appeared very handsome and majestic, like royal elephants that possess human-like intelligence and know their master’s wishes. When the two elephants reached him, he led them toward a mountain range that was visible directly ahead, about half a mile away.

Ãcariya Mun felt the whole scene to be exceptionally majestic, as though he were escorting the two young monks away from the world of conventional reality forever. Upon reaching the mountain range, his elephant led them all to the entrance of a cave that was situated on a hill a short distance up the mountainside. As soon as they arrived, it turned around, placing its rear to the entrance. With Ãcariya Mun still straddling its neck, it backed into the cave until its rear was touching the back wall. The other two elephants with the two young monks astride walked forward into the cave and each took a place on either side of Ãcariya Mun’s elephant, facing inward as he faced outward. Ãcariya Mun then spoke to the two monks as if he were giving them his final, parting instructions.

I have reached my final hour of birth in a human body. Having been completely cut off, perpetual existence in the conventional world will soon cease altogether for me. Never again shall I return to the world of birth and death. I want you both to return and fully develop yourselves first; then, before long, you will follow in my footsteps, departing this world in the same manner as I am preparing to do now. Escaping from the world, with its multitude of lingering attachments and all of its debilitating pain and suffering, is an extremely difficult task that demands unwavering commitment. You must exert yourselves and pour every ounce of energy into the struggle for this righteous cause – including crossing the very threshold of death – before you can expect to attain freedom from danger and anxiety. Once freed, you will never again have to deplore death and grasp at birth in the future.

Having completely transcended every residual attachment, I shall depart this world unperturbed, much like a prisoner released from prison. I have absolutely no lingering regrets about losing this physical body – unlike most people whose desperate clinging causes them immense suffering at the time of death. So you should not mourn my passing in any way, for nothing good will come of it. Such grief merely promotes the kilesas, so the wise have never encouraged it.”

When he finished speaking, Ãcariya Mun told the two young monks to back their elephants out of the cave. Both elephants had been standing perfectly still, one on either side, as though they too were listening to Ãcariya Mun’s parting words and mourning his imminent departure. At that moment, all three elephants resembled real, living animals, rather than mere psychic images. At his command, the two elephants, carrying the young monks, slowly backed out of the cave, facing Ãcariya Mun with an imperiously calm demeanor all the while. Then, as Ãcariya Mun sat astride its neck, the hindquarters of Ãcariya Mun’s elephant began to bore its way into the cave wall. When half of the elephant’s body had penetrated the wall of the cave, Ãcariya Mun’s citta began to withdraw from samãdhi. The nimitta ended at that point.

Having never experienced such an unusual nimitta before, Ãcariya Mun analyzed it and understood its meaning as being twofold. Firstly, when he died, two young monks would attain Dhamma after him, though he didn’t specify who they were. Secondly, samatha and vipassanã are valuable assets for an Arahant to have from the time of his initial attainment until the time he passes away. During this whole period, he must rely on samatha and vipassanã to be his ‘Dhamma abodes’, easing the discomfort that is experienced between the citta and the five khandhas, which remain interdependent until that moment – popularly known as death’ – when the mundane khandhas and the transcendent citta22 go their separate ways. At death, samatha and vipassanã cease to function, disappearing like all other mundane phenomena. Following that, nothing further can be said.

Most people would have been terrified to see the elephant they were riding bore its rear end into the wall of a cave. But in the event, Ãcariya Mun felt unperturbed – he simply allowed the elephant to complete its appointed task. At the same time, it was heartening for him to know that two young monks would realize Dhamma around the time of his death, either just before or soon after. He said it was very strange that, in his parting instructions to them, he spoke about his own impending death as though his time had already come.

Unfortunately, Ãcariya Mun never revealed the names of those two monks. Hearing this story from him, I was so eager to find out their names that I completely neglected to consider my own shortcomings. I kept trying to imagine which of my fellow monks they might be. I’ve kept an eye on this matter ever since Ãcariya Mun passed away. But even as I write his biography I still don’t have a clue who these auspicious monks might be. The more I think about it, the more I see the folly of jumping to conclusions.

No one has admitted to being one of those monks – which is understandable. Who would publicize their attainments like that? Such achievements are not rotten fish to be peddled about merely to attract a swarm of flies. Anyone attaining that level of Dhamma must possess a very high degree of intelligence and propriety. Would he then be so stupid as to broadcast his achievements so that fools could laugh at him while the wise deplore it? Only the gullible would get excited about such news – like those in the story of the panic-stricken rabbit who, hearing a loud thud, imagined the sky was caving in.

My own foolishness about this matter has eventually subsided, so I have written it down for your consideration. I deserve blame for any impropriety here, for such stories are usually shared only between a teacher and his inner circle of disciples so that no one is adversely affected. I know I deserve the criticism, and I hope, as always, that you will be kind enough to forgive me.