阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第四章第十一節:心靈戰士

        

               

           

第四章第十一節:心靈戰士

        當阿姜曼住在清邁府的荒野區時,有好幾次病得非常嚴重,甚至還有幾次瀕臨死亡。如果他像大多數人一樣完全依靠醫生與藥品的話,他可能早就死了。但阿姜曼是靠著「法的療效」得以存活下來,以此力量來治癒自己。他說只要病症一出現,「法的療效」就馬上會反應,開始治療他。他的個性就是這樣,對世俗的醫療方式不感興趣。即使到了晚年,身體的機能慢慢變差了,他仍情願用「法的療效」來維繫身體的健康。

        阿姜曼曾經與幾位比丘一起住在瘧疾盛行的山區裡。其中有一位比丘感染了瘧疾,而他們的手邊完全沒有任何藥物可以治療疾病。當他發燒到最嚴重時,高燒終日持續不退。阿姜曼每天早上和傍晚都會去探望那位比丘,並指導他運用身念處來退燒,他自己每次用這個禪修方法都很有效。然而,由於他們的修行成就差距過大,這位比丘無法像阿姜曼一樣採用相同的方式觀修。每一次他發高燒時,也只能束手無策地等待高燒慢慢退去。他沒有辦法開展出有效的退燒方法,最後他心中充滿惱火,於是阿姜曼訶斥他:「看來你所學過的知識在緊要關頭時都派不上用場,你也只不過空有『摩訶(Mahā)[1]』的頭銜而已。如果你想浪費曾經學過的經文並空手而回,那麼成為『摩訶』又有什麼意義?學習到的知識對你一定或多或少有幫助,所以我想不通為何你學過的知識對你完全沒用。現在你就快要死於高燒,但你學過的知識竟然都沒有辦法減緩你的痛苦。那麼你以前的學習到底是為了什麼?這實在不合理,我實在想不通!我自己根本沒學過任何巴利文的學分,一個也沒有。我只有在出家時從我的戒師那裡受得五項頭陀行,直到今日我都仍在遵守。我只需要這五項就可以照料自己,它們不會使我像你一樣的虛弱,而你就像你受的教育一樣的虛弱。事實上,你比沒受過教育的婦女還要軟弱!你是一個男人,也是一位『摩訶』,為什麼這麼軟弱?當你在生病時,你表現得毫無男子氣概,也根本不像是修習過『法』的人。你乾脆去做變性手術,這樣就可以改變你的性傾向,或許你的高燒可以因此稍緩一些。因為你的高燒看到你變成了一個女人,就不會太折磨你。」

        「我每一次來看你時,都看不到任何的堅強與勇敢,我看到的都是你自怨自艾的可憐樣。你為何不用你學到的巴利經典來觀『苦』呢?『苦聖諦』對你的意義到底是什麼?它是指軟弱嗎?它是你在發燒時哭著去找爸爸媽媽嗎?如果你連高燒所引起的痛苦都無法忍受,那麼當面臨真正危及性命的事件發生時,你只會不堪一擊,無法處理。如果你連現在的狀況都無法應付,又如何奢望能領悟苦聖諦的真諦呢?任何想要苦邊盡的人都一定要確實證知苦、集、滅、道四諦的每個意義。然而當苦聖諦生起並稍微進展時,你卻躺在地上認輸,你到底是期待想得到什麼東西?」

        阿姜曼針對這個比丘的個性做出了激烈的批評之後,靜靜地停頓了一下。接著他注意到這名比丘在啜泣,眼淚由臉頰上滑落。於是阿姜曼告訴他不要再擔心了,病很快就會痊癒,然後找個藉口先回去自己的小禪屋。阿姜曼向他保證,他剛才是假裝生氣,目的只是要嚇嚇他。

        當晚,阿姜曼重新思考這整件事,他決定要嘗試一種不同的藥,因為白天他開的藥方對那位比丘來說太猛了,他還沒有堅強到能夠將這帖藥服下。第二天一早,阿姜曼完全改變了態度,不再對那比丘露出嚴厲的表情。從那時候開始,他採取同情與安慰的態度,以一種不同於他以往的方式極為呵護那位比丘。他說的話盡是和藹與溫和,就像每天早晚被澆灌了大量的糖蜜,整間小屋都充滿了芬芳與甜美,完美的製造比丘養病的場所。他觀察這位病人的進展,早晚都給他這些包了糖衣的藥,直到病患與其他的比丘都很明顯感到滿意。病人一天一天地康復,最後完全痊癒。這是一個持續好幾個月的療程。顯然地,這種特殊的藥效超乎預期的有效。

        以上就是一位聰明的醫生的療法,他有足夠的智慧,總是根據當時的情況調配處方,並對症下藥。結果,對於追尋智慧的我們來說,阿姜曼是一個很好的典範,這也就是為什麼我會敘述上揭事件的理由。有興趣的人應該能從閱讀中獲得利益,它反映了一位聖者的善巧,其智慧是如此的敏銳,任何事情都不可能阻撓他。

        阿姜曼會本能地以正念與觀智去分析危機,而不是在危急的情況下消極的不作為。當他生病或者觀照被一些狡詐的無明所阻礙時,這些就構成了所謂的危急情況。他的心會日夜環繞著問題,直到反應出善巧的方法來對治危機,逐漸克服它,然後毫無阻礙地繼續前進,而不是消極的放棄。從他開始修行到最後的階段,他總是透過這種方法得到好結果。

        當跟他住在一起的比丘生病時,他通常會勸他們展開禪修的技巧來減緩症狀,這樣他們就不會過於依賴藥物。同時,他希望他們能使用這些技巧去探索法義。阿姜曼相信身心的痛苦是苦聖諦的直接呈現,更確切的說法是它們(苦)應該被探索觀照,直到能洞悉其真相。他不希望他的弟子們輕易地屈服在痛苦之下,就好像從未在「法」中修行過一樣。

        阿姜曼從罹患的病痛中學到了許多的技巧,他不會還沒盡最大的努力去觀察痛苦的本質就被病痛給擊垮。在這種時候,他相信一定要竭盡所能去觀苦,好確認正念與觀智是否能應付即將到來的挑戰。當發現仍有不足時,它們就需要被調整與加強,直到它們的表現令人滿意。當訓練有素的正念與觀智的軍隊與劇烈疼痛的感受正面交鋒時,就如同面對苦諦 —— 名副其實的真正苦難一般,「心」就不會恐懼。正念與觀智緊接著完全勝任這份工作,當面臨來自四面八方的猛烈攻擊時,他們不為所動,在強烈的苦痛中,它們能減少觀察的範圍,直到能敏銳地專注在聖諦的根本原則之上。像這樣的心智訓練是運用了正念、智慧、信心與精進,並慢慢地灌注更大的力量與勇氣等元素。正因如此,阿姜曼喜歡對他的弟子們強調苦受的觀察,當關鍵(死亡)時刻來臨、身體即將毀壞時,這時難以忍受的疼痛也不會令人恐懼。如果按照規定如實觀察,禪修者便可清楚地察知身體與感受的真正本質,這意味著他可以生時安樂、死時喜悅。這就是一個展露真正的勝利、成為一個優秀的戰士所必經的一條路,他戰勝了他自己,他的內在崇高,完全滿足。

        阿姜曼各方面的修行都可作為我們的典範。他的堅持、毅力、勇氣、簡樸,以及全方位的聰明才智,都是當代無與倫比的卓越特質,他的弟子們都很難超越他。他擁有天眼通、天耳通以及他心通:這是與各類的動物、人類、鬼、天人、梵天、亡魂、龍神等眾生精神溝通的一種能力。他不僅能看到擁有肉身的動物與人類,也能看到微細的無形鬼神。他熟知人類的喜與悲,也能讀到他們內心最深處的想法。

        那些無法以正念來觀照自己的比丘們,只有在聽到阿姜曼對他們的訓斥後才會警覺到自己的心猿意馬,甚至有一些可悲的人連阿姜曼在指責他們都還搞不清楚,不管他是不是在場都一樣,只要跟他住在一起,就得要當心了。任何心猿意馬的比丘終究都會聽到阿姜曼說出一些不尋常的事,而特別是那些敢在他面前胡思亂想的比丘就更危險了。他有可能是在指導比丘,或是在談話,或在做其他任何的事,總之不管他那個時候在作什麼都不重要,他一定會對那個有狀況的比丘給予嚴厲的斥責,或者用一些特別的方法引起他的注意。也只有在他不想理會時,才會放過這些弟子的妄念而不加指責。

        根據許多與阿姜曼一起在清邁府修行的資深弟子們的說法,他對天耳、天眼與他心通等此類的神通都很精通,而且厲害到令人害怕的程度。他的他心通如閃電般的快速,那些有趣的負面想法幾乎都會被他讀取。因此,與他一起生活的比丘們必須非常小心地守護自己的根門;否則,肯定會被逮到,因為他們無法躲避這種具有穿透性的神通,也找不到安穩的方法可躲藏。

        有一次,有一位比丘想到阿姜曼不留情面的訓斥,因而很怕阿姜曼。當他們下次碰面時,阿姜曼立刻提起這件事:「我們所使用絕大部分的東西,從食物到袈裟等等生活必需品,都必須先經過各種的準備階段後,才能成為可使用之物。稻米必需經過種植、收成與煮熟;木頭必須裁切、鋸開與栽種;布料必需編織、縫合後才能做成袈裟。不是這樣嗎?除非是經過許多的準備功夫後,這些東西才能成為製成品,讓我們使用或消耗。食物與住所都是人類勞動的成果,它們不會自己憑空出現。只有死人才可以完全不用勞動,動也不動地躺在地上,不需要為自己的生計而辛勞。他們沒有修正自己行為的必要,也不需要老師的責罵與指導。但你還活著,且仍需要老師的指導;然而你卻毫無理由地怕老師,並以老師的嚴厲斥責作為你害怕的藉口。話又說回來,如果老師都不說話,那你可能又會怪他沒有善盡教導的責任而更失望。總而言之,不可能有全都合你意的事!你的念頭就跟一隻在樹林間跳躍不停的猴子一樣跳來跳去。如果牠長時間一直跳來跳去,牠一定會跳到爛樹枝上,最後摔到地上。你要選擇哪一樣?你是要成為那隻猴子呢?還是要做一個有老師教導的比丘?」

        有時候,他會直接面對犯錯的人,激勵他應以正念更加留意自己的心念。而有些時候,他只會拐彎抹角對比丘的思惟說出一些諷刺的評語。這兩種狀況都是為了警告弟子,讓他知道他的妄念仍未被淨除,隨時都有可能再回來纏繞著他,使他警覺到自己的錯誤,在未來能更善加調御自己的思惟。

        有時候,為了激勵他的弟子能更加精進修行,阿姜曼會採取一種嚴厲的訓誡,並舉自己為活生生的例子,證明在面臨死亡時經由毅力與勇氣能達到什麼樣的成果。

        「如果你們容許死亡的恐懼來障礙勇猛精進的修行,那麼你們未來便註定一次又一次的輪迴與死亡。那些能克服對死亡恐懼之人,便能減少未來出生與死亡的次數,直到最後他們完全地超越生與死。他們再也不會回來去承受苦的重擔了。在面對極度的痛苦時,我毫不退縮,仍堅持修行,甚至暈倒過三次,但我並沒有死。我設法活了下來,並成為你們的老師。你們當中沒有人曾經修行到昏倒或不省人事的程度。既然這樣,到底是什麼讓你們這麼怕死?如果你們沒有實際體驗死亡是什麼樣子,那麼你們永遠也無法見到『法』的微妙。不管你們相不相信,這就是我領悟『法』的方法。所以我是不可能教你們只要放輕鬆,多吃、多睡、偷懶,然後煩惱就會給嚇跑。我不可能去教這些,因為這種方法不可能嚇跑煩惱。這樣的修行方法只會讓煩惱覺得好笑:『我們(煩惱)還以為這些比丘很認真在修行呢!為何他們像個會呼吸的屍體躺在地上?這些會呼吸的死人真的很難讓人尊敬。』」

        阿姜曼說完後,在場的一位比丘就自忖堅持到暈倒的程度實在是太誇張:「如果我到了暈倒、不省人事的地步,那我才不要證入涅槃呢!我寧可像世間的其他人一樣,忍受著苦痛與折磨,反正我有很多的同伴。如果要證入涅槃就意味著把自己逼到暈倒的程度,那麼如果有人想要這樣就盡管去作吧,反正我就是不要!雖然活在世上肯定有苦,但比起暈倒要好得多了。此外,如果得要先暈過去才能夠證入涅槃,這不就意味著用藥物所造成的昏迷與涅槃之間並沒多大的差別。誰想要那樣啊(涅槃)?我絕對不要!我才不想暈倒!只要看到別人暈過去就讓我怕得要死,更不用說是我自己暈倒了。」

        沒多久,阿姜曼又開始說話了,這一次他以嚴厲的語氣狠狠地穿透這位比丘的妄想中。

        「你不相信我嗎?嗯?你以為我是在跟你開玩笑嗎?還是怎樣?如果你不相信我,那就請你離開!為什麼還待在這裡成為僧團的負擔?我可沒邀請你來,是你自己自願來這裡,所以如果你想走就請便,可別等著被丟出去哦!反正你待在這裡也沒用,佛陀的教導可不是為像你這樣的傻瓜所宣說的。你的思惟方式與一個身穿黃褐袈裟的比丘完全不相稱。一個佛教的比丘一定是一個完全相信『法』的人;既然你的想法否定了佛陀的解脫之道,顯然你也不信任我或『法』。歡迎你離開這裡,到任何地方去舒服地吃與睡,不用再給自己找麻煩去禪修了。如果你是用這種方法來證悟『法』的真諦,那麼拜託你回來憐憫我這個愚蠢的老比丘,我一定向上蒼雙手合十,對你慈悲的祝福表達敬意!」

        「當我說每一個想要滅苦的人,必須在面對死亡時無所畏懼,我教的就是這個真理,但你卻不相信。你認為在世間生與死比較好,所以不管到哪裡都能揹負苦的重擔。如果你想要這樣繼續下去,那也是你的事!但,不要來這裡擾亂佛陀的教導。如果你這樣做,你就是佛陀身旁的一根刺,對於那些想要真心追隨佛陀道路的人而言,你會是一個障礙。像你這樣的想法不僅僅是錯的,甚至,如果你還向他人傳播這種思想,你就會成為佛教與各方信徒的公敵。我原以為你來這裡是為了修心並衷心護法;沒想到你來這裡竟是毀滅自己及破壞佛法,並同時阻礙虔誠追隨佛陀腳步的人。現在我知道你來這裡的目的就是像一個劊子手一樣要破壞一切。你最好現在就改變自己的態度,否則你絕對會毀掉自己並連累許多人,那會是一件可怕的憾事。」

        「據說佛陀為了成等正覺,也曾暈倒過三次,難道你不相信嗎?如果你不相信,也許你認為佛陀在欺騙大家。像你這樣的人,出家成為比丘卻又不相信佛陀及其教法的人,是一個內在缺乏人類價值的人。你的看法讓你自己變成與一具會呼吸的屍體沒什麼兩樣 ── 一具腐臭的屍體,但仍想辦法一天又一天的活著。你要選擇哪一條路來當你自己的安全之道?我除了已確定的這條路外,沒有更好的路徑可以教你。這是一條佛陀與所有阿羅漢都曾走過的路,再也沒有比這條更簡單、更深奧的路可走。打從我出家到現在,我都一直循著這條路而行,它就是我教導所有弟子的依循。」

        這是阿姜曼過去最慷慨激昂的其中一段說法,內容切中要害,且熱力四射。我這邊也只是大略重述而已,完全比不上他當時講授的內容那樣的精彩。在場的聽眾都受到相當的震撼,幾乎都要跌到地面上。他們這一生都從未聽過如此精彩的說法,一針見血,直指人心。他們都很怕阿姜曼,而且怕得要死,但這些精彩的說法讓聽眾們都清楚地理解到他所說的真諦而心悅臣服。

        這名因錯誤的想法而引起這次說法的比丘,在了解了阿姜曼真正的意思後,逐漸默默認同,最後全盤接受。後來,阿姜曼的語氣隨之和緩。當阿姜曼確知這名比丘已接受真諦後,才停止說法,並結束這次的聚會。

        散會後,仍有些小小的騷動。比丘們交頭接耳在討論到底是誰敢有如此荒唐的想法,讓阿姜曼像打雷一般做出如此嚴厲的回應。一定是有人挑釁,不然他不會像這樣激烈的斥責。那些想法一定是踩到了阿姜曼的地雷,不然他也不會一次爆發。最後,那位被質疑的比丘坦承他有我先前所提到的那些想法。

        頭陀比丘通常不會對同修隱藏自己的想法與意見。如果他們的想法成為阿姜曼訶斥的對象、事後又被質疑時,都會坦承自己的過失。雖然比丘們看到同修被阿姜曼痛斥時會覺得很好笑,但他們也會警覺到自己的缺失。這些缺失可能很容易在托缽或有事情離開寺院時顯現,因為那會讓比丘們遇到陷在心中、刺激情緒的事物,並占據心中。這樣的過失極可能會引起嚴厲的斥責,讓在場聽到的人都嚇一大跳,使大家緊張的四處張望。犯錯的人被阿姜曼嚇壞了,在同修的面前羞愧難當,當他坐著時會全身發抖,就像被釘在自己的位子上,不敢抬頭往上看。當聚會結束後,比丘們會私下問到底是誰,因為就跟平常一樣,一定是有人心生妄念引起了阿姜曼的斥責。其實真的有點可憐,因為比丘們根本就沒有冒犯阿姜曼的意思。他們就像到處有無明的人一樣,很容易受到外在環境的影響。他們正念的腳步只是太慢了些,跟不上如閃電般的心念,因此常招惹阿姜曼的斥責。

        阿姜曼能極迅速讀取他人的心思,跟他住在一起的比丘都不會懷疑這一點。他能讀到我們散亂的妄念,並精準地告誡我們。只有當阿姜曼不想說話時,他才會不說話。雖然他的斥責很頻繁,但有時也會稍微放鬆一下,讓我們喘口氣。否則,我們可能會受不了。由於我個性上有著無可救藥的浮躁,我自己就是被罵得最慘的那一個。但是我們這些能長時間忍受並跟隨他一起生活與修行的人,通常能在禪修中獲得精進的動力。他的訓誡不斷地淬鍊、鍛鍊我們的禪修,使其漸漸成形,並在我們的內心形成了堅固的支柱。培育持續的警覺與律儀,才有可能開發出正念與觀智,抵禦各種隨之而來的誘惑。就以學習法術的情況為例,就好比學徒必須先學會所有必備的技巧,再通過老師的考驗,直到他能面對各種攻擊都不為所動。在了解了潛在的危險都已解除後,沉穩與無懼隨之生起,便能鎮定地忍受槍與刀劍的攻擊。在法的禪修裡,這意味著在面對因渴愛而產生令人回味無窮的情感與誘惑時都能不受動搖,不用擔心被影響或迷惑。換句話說,在各種情況下都能如如不動。

        問題是,大多數的人一聽到涅槃的反應都會覺得是詭異的灰色與消極。它並不像在談論世俗的事物一樣,給人帶來好心情。由於對涅槃沒有親身的體驗,一般人或許會認為它遠比習以為常的瑣事還要無趣。不只是這一代的人對涅槃不感興趣,甚至我們的父執輩、祖父母等都沒有興趣,他們也不會鼓勵他人去關注這件事。至多,他們會鼓勵家人到附近的寺院裡去受戒與聽法。可能有時也會鼓勵家人去禪修,好讓他們能沉穩一點,言行舉止能合乎規範。當然,他們除了設法叫家人、朋友們去禪修以外,還會叫他們做其他的事。最後,大部分的人都受夠了,不再聽從他們的建議。

        毫無疑問的,大多數人認為涅槃是一個非常死寂的地方,那裡沒有音樂或任何娛樂,沒有人可以沉浸在他們喜歡的消遣。一般人可能將它視為一處沒有任何刺激的地方,因此沒有人會想去那裡。他們害怕墜入一處絕望的死寂地獄裡:沒有家人、朋友,沒有聲音,看不見鳥或車子,沒有歡笑與悲傷。它在各方面似乎是一處相當慘淡且令人不快的地方。所以,心中仍懷有貪欲野心的人是不會想要去涅槃這個地方。就算他們想去,也去不了,因為他們的貪欲野心會把他們給拉回來,讓他們躊躇不決。

        真正能夠證入涅槃的都是那些對世間俗事無所求或牽扯的人。既非激情,亦非冷漠;既非鬆弛也非緊繃。而是在兩端之間維持著完美的平衡,自然地走在「中道」之上。沒有欲求、期待或渴望,不享受那些會擾亂心靈並帶來失落的世間娛樂。他們所經歷的是精妙與寧靜的喜樂始終沉穩,與那種會腐蝕心靈的欲樂形成強烈的對比。像這種世俗的快樂,是曖昧不清與變化不定的,總是瞬間即逝且不可依賴。它(指世俗的欲樂)就像一攤混濁不清的水,也像同時添加酸、辣、鹹、淡的食物。除了會引起消化不良、不舒服地昏睡以外,也令人反胃。因此,人們應該仔細檢查每天所遇到的每件事,並測試它們,以確知哪些是善、哪些是惡。然後他們可以過濾掉那些不善的素質,以免一直堆積在心中直到承受不住,沒有多餘的空間可以存放。否則,不管他們怎麼看,也只會看見自己所累積的苦。

        提到自制自律時,聖者比我們要聰明得多了。他們的身、語、意都是正向著他們想要達成的既定目標。他們不會背離真理正道,對自己的成就也不會驕傲與自滿。當有警訊出現時,他們會很快地在心中警覺並記取教訓,完全不同於一般人的反應。遵循著聖者的典範,我們一定可以成為一個理性、穩健的人,拒絕那些從無始以來主宰我們心靈的慾望。因此,我們克服各種慾望的努力終將會以某種方式改變我們的心,我們會清楚已達到某種滿意的程度。就算在銀行裡沒有百萬元的存款,我們可做為典範的行為,再加上所擁有的微薄財富,就足以讓我們過著幸福與快樂的日子。

        聰明的人都會以一種有利於平靜與安穩的方式過生活。他們覺得沒必要為了維持生活的幸福感而汲汲營營去賺大錢。財富或許可帶來某程度的快樂,但那些以正當的方式獲取適量財富的人,會遠比那些以不法手段獲取財富的人更加的快樂與滿足。也許那些以不當的手段獲取的財富在法律上並沒有爭議,但實際上,它的主人並不能真的擁有它。基於真正正義的法律,業果會懲罰這樣的不法所得,在未來會得到苦果。聰明的人會戒慎恐懼地看待這種情況;但不夠聰明的我們,卻還是聽從慾望,肆無忌憚地爭奪,恣意沉迷在慾壑難填的各種欲樂中。無論我們如何地努力,我們所渴求的欲望,都似乎未曾被滿足過。

        阿姜曼在清邁府的那些年,收到許多來自烏隆府Wat BodhisomphonChao Khun Dhammachedi的來信。年輕時曾受阿姜曼指導的Chao Khun Dhammachedi,在他的來信中總是想邀請阿姜曼回烏隆府。 阿姜曼並沒有接受邀請,也從來沒有回過信。接著,在一九四〇年,Chao Khun Dhammachedi從烏隆府來到了阿姜曼所居住的偏僻小村落,親自來邀請他。這也給阿姜曼一個回覆所有信件的機會。他告訴Chao Khun Dhammachedi,那些信他都已讀過,但他覺得信裡提到的事都微不足道,不能與他現在收到的「大信件」相比,所以,現在他準備要回覆了。這樣說之後,他們都開心地笑了。

        在這次的機會,Chao Khun Dhammachedi親自邀請阿姜曼回到他多年前曾居住過的烏隆府。Chao Khun Dhammachedi告訴阿姜曼那裡的弟子們都非常想念他,他們請他來邀請阿姜曼回烏隆府。這一次,阿姜曼無法拒絕,不得不接受了。Chao Khun Dhammachedi建議那邊的弟子們訂出一個時間表,好迎接並護送阿姜曼回烏隆府,他們決定在一九四〇年五月初進行這件事。

        離開山區的靜修處已迫在眉睫,許多地居天人都懇求他留下。由於不捨見他離去,天人們告訴阿姜曼,自從他住在此處,讓所有不同天界的天人都感到滿意與平安,那是因為他日夜不停往各方散發慈心的力量所致。有他的存在,天人都非常的開心,他們都很敬愛阿姜曼。天人不願看到他離開,因為他們知道這種滿足感會因為他的離去而漸漸消失,甚至他們的凝聚力也會因此受到影響。

        阿姜曼告訴天人他已做出了承諾,所以他必須離開。他必須信守承諾,不可能違背諾言。跟大多數人的情況不一樣,比丘說的話是一種神聖的誓約。比丘是有戒德的人,所以言行一致,說到做到。如果他自毀承諾,他的戒德會立即消失,且身為比丘的價值也會因此變得很廉價。因此,比丘必須好好守護他的戒德。

        到了五月,阿姜曼與陪同他前往烏隆府的比丘們離開了山區的禪修處,長途跋涉來到了清邁直轄縣,他們在當地的Wat Chedi Luang寺落腳。大約同一時間,來自Wat Tipayaratananimit寺的阿姜奧帶著一群在家信眾也抵達此處,準備迎接阿姜曼,並護送他前往烏隆府。阿姜曼在Wat Chedi Luang寺停留約一個星期。在那一個星期當中,有許多當地的信徒前來拜訪他,試圖說服他為當地人民的利益繼續留在清邁府。然而他既已接受了烏隆府的邀請,就不會耽擱啟程的時間。

        在阿姜曼離開前,Chao Khun Rājakawi請他為衛塞節(Visākha Pūjā)[2]發表一場特別的演講,好讓他的許多信眾能作為紀念。剛好那個時候我也抵達清邁府,我全神貫注地聽他說法。那一天,阿姜曼整整說了三個小時,真得很精彩,至今我仍未忘記!以下就是那一天他說法的重點:「今天是衛塞節,是慶祝佛陀誕生、得道與大般涅槃的日子。佛陀的誕生與所有其他眾生的誕生形成強烈的對比。佛陀出生後,並沒有屈服於對出生、成長與死亡等世俗的邪見。不僅如此,他透過一切知智,了解到出生、成長與死亡的真正意義,這就是我們所謂的『悟道』。在適當的時候,他已不再有諸蘊,而那些都曾是他所憑藉而臻於完美的工具,然後離開了世間 —— 『善逝』,就像一位世上無可指謫的老師!在離去這個已不堪使用的身軀之前,他為世間留下了『法』,代替他履行老師的角色。這樣的贈禮,值得我們全心全意的信奉與付出!」

        「正如你們所知,我們能生而為人是因為我們曾累積了足夠的善業才可能如此,但是我們不應該視為理所當然,而忽略了在今生繼續發展美德,以提升未來的生命。否則,我們現在所享用的人身福報可能會消失,不可避免地轉生到一個低下與幽暗的世界。不管我們的境界是高或低、從一般至最高程度的至樂或從最輕微至極苦程度的痛苦,我們都該為自己的生活環境負責!千萬不要以為只有目前那些處於不利環境的人才會經歷這些事。每一個人都有可能會經歷到這些處境,如果我們做出與其相應的業,未來就會遭遇這種處境。因此,佛陀教導我們不應該看輕或蔑視他人。當我們看到有人水深火熱或窮無立錐,我們就該想到自己有一天可能也會這樣,甚至更糟。當算總帳的那一刻來臨,沒有人可以逃避過去的行為所帶來的果報。我們都有能力做出善業或惡業,所以有一天我們的處境可能會互換。佛陀的教義可用來審視自己與他人,讓我們能夠正確地選擇最好的路。在這一點而言,是不共(外道)的。」

        「在我出家多年以來,我總是堅持審查自己,時時刻刻辨識那些由內心生起的善與惡。而我現在已清楚地明白,心就是創造業力的首謀。換句話說,我們的心就是一切的業力之源,而這些業力除非都已臻成熟,否則都處於蟄伏的狀態不會消失的。這一點無庸置疑!那些不信業力的人,自然也不會相信因果報應,只會盲目地將自己目前的處境視為理所當然,直到萬劫不復。這些人雖然是由父母所生育,卻看不到為他們帶來生命與各種必需品的父母的價值。他們除了看見自己的存在以外,看不見任何其他的東西。他們不在乎賦予他們生命與細心照顧他們成長茁壯的父母,不知道這種自私的存在有多麼的糟糕。孩子的身體是由父母提供飲食與滋養才能成長與茁壯,如果你接受父母的照顧不是來自業力的運作,那應該稱作什麼呢?如果身體得到的滋養不是一種業力因緣果報,那又該被稱作什麼呢?」

        「所有的善與惡,世界各地的人所經歷的快樂與痛苦,很明顯都有其根本因緣。當某人因一時衝動而做出了自殺的行為,這背後是有因緣的。根本的因緣,業,會在內心展現出來。它可以讓一個人自我了結性命,卻到死都還不知道他之所以這麼做是因為過去所造的業在發揮作用。這不是盲目又是什麼呢?」

        「業是我們生命中的一部分,我們每一刻都在造業,就如同以前的業每分每秒正在成熟,在影響著我們。如果你堅持懷疑業果法則,那麼你就已陷入死胡同了。業不是我們的身外物,它並不是像一隻緊跟著主人的狗;相反的,我們每一個想法、說話、行為都是業。業的真實果報就是眾生所經歷的苦樂程度,包括那些完全不知業為何物的眾生在內,像這樣的無知也是一種業果。」

        我聽完開示以後,法喜充滿,因為一直以來我都很敬重阿姜曼。對於他以及他的開示,我體驗到了很深的喜悅,彷彿飄飄欲仙。我覺得就是欲罷不能!我已經把阿姜曼開示的要旨都提供給你們了,好讓沒有耳福可親耳聽到他開示的人,有機會能了解你們自身業力的本質。業力對我們大家來說是共同的,你們或可藉由他的話來認識自己的業力。

        開示結束後,阿姜曼從座位起身,頂禮會場中佛陀的法像。Chao Khun Rājakawi長老對他說,在場的每個人聽了這麼殊勝的開示後,都法喜充滿。阿姜曼表示,由於他所剩的時日不多,或許他不會回來這裡再為各位說法。這一次,很可能是他最後一次的說法了。阿姜曼以這樣的方式告訴在場的每個人,他到逝世前都不會再回清邁府了。而事實也是如此,阿姜曼果然沒再回來過。

        阿姜曼在Wat Chedi Luang寺待上幾日之後,便離開並前往曼谷。Somder Phra Mahā Wirawong與其他長老們,帶著大批的在家信眾一起護送他前往火車站,在場也包括一大群的天神。阿姜曼說他身邊每個方向的上空都充滿著天神,因為他們也想要去車站送他。當他抵達車站後,天神仍環繞在空中,非得等他離去後才肯回到各自的天界。緊接著現場一片混亂,因為阿姜曼必須向聚集在現場的比丘與在家眾道別,同時也要對空中的天人散發他最後的祝福。最後,他對民眾結束談話,且火車已駛離車站後,他才能全心全意地為天人做出最後的祝福。

        他說他為那些對他懷有崇高敬意且不願他離去的天人感到抱歉。他們跟人類一樣,都露出難過與失望的表情。有些天人甚至在火車已加速離開後還繼續在空中盤桓,直到最後阿姜曼覺得有必要告訴他們該回到各自的天界,他們才依依不捨地離開,想著阿姜曼還會不會再回來幫助他們?最後,希望還是落空,因為阿姜曼不會再回來了。阿姜曼後來也沒提過當他住在烏隆與色軍府時,清邁府的地居天神是否還有去向他頂禮。


 

[1] 摩訶的意思。在泰國,國家僧伽考試以九級巴利文考試作為標準,第九級為最高級。通過第四級或更高級巴利文考試的比丘,即賦予「摩訶」的頭銜。

[2] 泰曆六月(遇閏年則為七月)的月圓日,是佛祖釋迦牟尼誕生、成道、涅槃的節日,北傳佛教稱為浴佛節。約是國曆五月的月圓日。

 

                                   

Ãcariya Mun became seriously ill on many occasions while living deep in the wilderness areas of Chiang Mai – sometimes he came very close to death. Had he been like most people, totally dependent on doctors and their medicines, he would probably have succumbed long before. But Ãcariya Mun was able to survive by using the curative powers of Dhamma to treat himself. He said that as soon as the symptoms of illness began to appear the ‘therapeutic qualities of Dhamma’ immediately arose in response and began to effect a cure. Such was his temperament that normally he showed little interest in conventional medicines. Even in old age when his vitality was steadily declining, he continued to prefer the ‘therapeutic qualities of Dhamma’ to maintain well-being in his body elements.

Ãcariya Mun once stayed with several other monks in a mountainous area full of malaria. One of the monks happened to contract the disease, but not a single medicine was available to treat it. When the fever was at its worst, it raged continuously all day. Ãcariya Mun visited the monk every morning and evening to instruct him in the use of investigative techniques for reducing fever – meditation methods he himself always used with good results. But since their levels of spiritual attainment were so different, this monk was incapable of investigating in the same way as Ãcariya Mun could. Each time his fever intensified, he had to simply wait for it to abate on its own. He had developed no effective methods for bringing it down himself. Eventually becoming rather exasperated, Ãcariya Mun scolded him:

It seems you’re a Mahã  in name only, since the knowledge you have learned is obviously of no help when you really need it. What’s the point of studying to be a Mahã if you’re just going to waste a lot of paper and then come away empty-handed? The knowledge gained from studying should benefit you in some way, so I cannot figure out what you’ve been learning that’s so completely useless. Here you are virtually dying of fever, but your learning can’t help alleviate your condition even a little bit. What’s the purpose of all that learning anyway? It doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t figure it out. I haven’t learned any grade of Pãli studies – not one. I have learned only the five kammaååhãna that my preceptor gave me at my ordination, which I still have with me today. They are all I need to take care of myself. They don’t make me weak like you – you’re as weak as you are educated. In fact, you are weaker than a woman with no education at all! You’re a man and a Mahã, so why all this weakness? When you get sick, you exhibit no manly characteristics, nor any indication of the Dhamma you learned. You should take all your masculine equipment and exchange it for a woman’s, thus completing your metamorphosis. Maybe then the fever will abate a bit. Seeing that you’re a woman, the fever may be reluctant to torture you so much.

Instead of seeing some reassuring signs of defiance and courage when I visit you, all I see is a weak display of self-pity. Why don’t you investigate those kammaååhãna in the Pãli studies you’ve learned? What does  dukkhaÿ ariyasaccaÿ(苦聖諦) mean to you? Does it mean weakness? When having a fever, just cry and long for your parents, is that what it means? If you cannot bear even the painful feelings arising from a fever, in a truly life-threatening crisis you’ll be overwhelmed and unable to cope. Even now you can’t manage, so how can you ever hope to understand the true nature of the Noble Truth of Dukkha? Anyone wanting to transcend the mundane world must realize unequivocally the truth inherent in each of the Noble Truths. But as soon as the Truth of Dukkha awakens and begins to become a little active, you lie down and admit defeat. What do you expect to gain from that?”

Having given this fiery piece of advice to probe the monk’s character, Ãcariya Mun paused quietly for a moment. He then noticed that the monk was sobbing, tears streaming down his face. So Ãcariya Mun quickly found an excuse to leave and return to his hut, telling the monk not to worry – he would soon get better. He assured him that he had only pretended to give him a hard time.

Reconsidering the matter that night, Ãcariya Mun decided to try a different type of medicine, since the remedy he had just prescribed was probably too harsh for the patient – he just was not strong enough to take it. From the next morning onward, he changed his approach completely, never again displaying any fierceness with that monk. From then on he assumed a sympathetic, comforting attitude, pampering the monk in a way that was very uncharacteristic of him. His speech was sweet and gentle, like large quantities of molasses being poured out every morning and evening, until the whole area seemed sweet and fragrant, suiting that monk’s outbreak of weakness perfectly. He watched over his patient’s progress, giving him these sugarcoated pills every morning and evening until it was clear that both the patient and his fellow monks were contented. The patient continued to improve with each passing day until finally he made a complete recovery, a process that lasted many months. Obviously this particular medicine was effective beyond all expectations.

Such are the therapies of a clever doctor who always has the intelligence to adjust his treatments according to the circumstances and then administer them appropriately. Consequently, he is an excellent example for the rest of us who are searching for wisdom, which is why I have included the preceding incident. Those who are interested should be able to gain some benefit from reading it, for it concerns the skillful means of a clever man whose wisdom was so sharp that he was never stymied by any turn of events.

Rather than remaining passive in a critical situation, Ãcariya Mun instinctively preferred to analyze the crisis with mindfulness and wisdom. When he was sick, or when his investigations uncovered some particularly insidious kilesas that he found to be especially obstructive – these constituted critical situations. Instead of feeling resigned, his citta responded by circling the problem day and night until he found an ingenious method to deal with the crisis, allowing him to overcome it gradually and move on unhindered. From the beginning stages of his practice to the very end, he invariably experienced good results from this approach.

When the monks living with him became ill, he usually advised them to develop meditative techniques for relieving the symptoms so they would not become overly dependent on medications. At the same time, he wanted them to develop those techniques into methods for investigating Dhamma. Ãcariya Mun believed that physical and mental pain are direct manifestations of the Truth of Dukkha; and as such, they should be investigated until that Truth is understood. He did not expect his monks to simply succumb to pain as though they had never before received training in Dhamma.

Ãcariya Mun acquired many techniques from the illnesses he suffered. He never let the pain of his illness subdue him without probing into the nature of that pain as best he could. At such times, he believed it imperative to investigate pain to the very limit of one’s ability in order to determine whether or not mindfulness and wisdom can cope with the task at hand. When found to be deficient, they could be modified and improved until their performance is deemed satisfactory. When the highly trained forces of mindfulness and wisdom enter into combat with feelings of severe pain, the heart will not be apprehensive as it con-fronts the Truth of Dukkha – which is a genuine Truth. Mindfulness and wisdom are then fully up to the task. They remain unshakable while being buffeted on all sides by an onslaught of pain coming from every conceivable direction. In the midst of this intense pain, they are able to narrow down the scope of their investigation until it focuses sharply on the very principles of Truth. Such mental training employs the factors of mindfulness, wisdom, faith, and effort, instilling them with greater strength and courage. For precisely this reason, Ãcariya Mun liked to emphasize the investigation of painful feelings to his disciples. When the moment of truth arrives and the body is about to break up, one should experience no fear of the agonizing pain that emerges at that moment. Investigating as prescribed, the meditator clearly perceives the true nature of both body and feelings, meaning that he lives in comfort and dies triumphant. Such is the path of the warrior who emerges truly victorious to become a superior individual. He conquers himself, becomes superior within himself – and is fully contented.

Ãcariya Mun was an exemplary teacher in every aspect of his practice. His persistence, fortitude, courage, frugality, and all-round ingenuity were outstanding qualities that put him in a class of his own in the present day and age. It would be very difficult for any of his disciples to surpass him. He possessed celestial hearing and celestial sight, as well as paracittavijjã: the ability to communicate psychically with beings as diverse as animals, humans, ghosts, devas, brahmas, yamas, and nãgas. He could see not only animals and humans with their gross physical bodies, but also the subtle nonphysical forms of ghosts and devas. He knew the intimate joys and sorrows of human beings and could read their innermost thoughts.

Monks who lacked mindfulness to supervise their thoughts, letting their minds wander constantly, often became aware of those thoughts only when they heard Ãcariya Mun give voice to them. Some of the more pathetic ones were so bemused that they did not realize Ãcariya Mun was referring to them. It wasn’t necessary to be in his presence – just living together with him in the same monastic community was sufficient reason for caution. Any monk mindlessly giving rein to wild thoughts was sure to hear something unusual from Ãcariya Mun when eventually they met. But especially at risk were those who dared to let their minds wander in his presence. It didn’t matter what he was doing at the time – he might be instructing the monks, or having a conversation, or whatever. He would give the culprit a tongue-lashing or use some unusual ploy to get his attention. Only when he felt disinclined to respond did he allow such thoughts to pass unchallenged.

According to the accounts of many senior disciples who lived with him in Chiang Mai, Ãcariya Mun’s mastery of such faculties as celestial hearing, celestial seeing, and thought reading, was so amazing it could be frightening. His ability to read thoughts was so lightning quick that those entertaining unwholesome thoughts almost invariably heard about it. Consequently, monks who lived with him needed to guard their sense faculties very carefully. If not, they certainly got caught for they could not elude his penetrating genius and find a safe way to hide.

Once, due to his fear of Ãcariya Mun, a monk thought about the ferocity Ãcariya Mun’s admonitions. When the monk next saw him, Ãcariya Mun immediately addressed the question.

Almost everything we use – from our food to our requisites to the robes we wear – must pass through various stages of preparation before being turned into useful items. Rice must be planted, harvested, and cooked; wood must be cut, sawed, and planed; and cloth must be woven and sewn into robes. Isn’t that right? These things don’t become finished products ready for use or consumption unless a lot of work is done on them. Food and shelter are the product of man’s labor. They do not simply materialize from nowhere. Only corpses are totally inactive, lying lifeless and having no need to provide for their own livelihood. With no reason to adjust their behavior, they have no need for a teacher to scold them and give instructions. But you are alive and still seeking a teacher’s guidance. Yet you’re unreasonably afraid of your teacher, citing his fierce admonitions as a rationale. Then again, if your teacher simply kept his mouth shut, you would probably accuse him of failing to teach you and thus be even more upset. In the final analysis, nothing quite suits you. Your thoughts jump around like a monkey jumping up and down in the trees. If it keeps jumping about long enough, it will jump on a rotten branch and end up in a heap on the ground. Which do you want to be? Do you want to be a monkey jumping on a rotten branch, or a monk with a teacher to guide you?”

Sometimes, he confronted the culprit directly, motivating him to become more mindfully aware of his own thoughts. At other times, he simply made some oblique, sarcastic reference to a monk’s thoughts. The objective in either case was to warn a student that his thoughts had not passed into oblivion, but could return again to haunt him. He was made aware of his mistake so that in the future he could exercise more restraint in his thinking.

Sometimes, in order to inspire his disciples in their practice, Ãcariya Mun gave a fiery discourse in which he offered himself as living proof of what could be achieved through perseverance and courage in the face of death.

If you allow the fear of death to stop you from practicing meditation with uncompromising diligence, you will be obliged to come back and die time and time again in future births. Those who can overcome their fear of death will be able to reduce the number of future births until eventually they transcend birth and death altogether. Never again will they return to bear the burden of dukkha. While persevering unflinchingly in the face of excruciating pain, I myself passed out three times – yet I did not die. I managed to survive and become your teacher. None of you have ever persisted in your efforts to the point where you passed out, unconscious. So, what makes you so afraid of dying? If you don’t actually experience what it’s like to die, it is unlikely you’ll ever see the wonders of Dhamma. Whether you believe it or not, this is the method I used to realize Dhamma. So there is no way I can teach you to merely take it easy: Eat a lot, sleep a lot, and be lazy – then the kilesas will take fright. I cannot teach that because that’s not the way to instill fear in the kilesas. Such an attitude will only amuse the kilesas: We thought these monks had come to be diligent, so why are they lying around like breathing corpses? These breath-ing dead are hardly worthy of admiration’.”

After Ãcariya Mun finished speaking, a certain monk in the audience thought to himself that persevering to the point of passing out was excessive: If I have to reach the point where I pass out, unconscious, I don’t want to go to Nibbãna yet. I’ll just put up with the pain and suffering of this world like everyone else. I’ve got lots of company. If going to Nibbãna means pushing oneself to the extent of passing out, then whoever wants to go is welcome to do so, but I’m not going – that’s for sure. Life in the world is surely painful, but not nearly as painful as being rendered unconscious. Besides, if we have to pass out before we can attain Nibbãna that means there’s not much difference between Nibbãna and a drug-induced coma. Who wants that? I certainly don’t. I have no desire to pass out. Just seeing someone else faint scares me to death, let alone having it happen to me.

Before long Ãcariya Mun began speaking again, this time in heated tones that penetrated forcibly into the monk’s reverie.

You don’t believe me, huh? Do you think I’m lying to you just for fun, or what? If you do not trust me, please leave! Why stay here being a burden on this monastery? I did not invite you to come here – you came on your own, so you should leave on your own. Don’t wait to be thrown out! It’s useless for you to stay here anyway – the Buddha’s teaching wasn’t proclaimed for idiots like you! Your way of thinking is entirely inappropriate for a monk wearing the yellow robes. A Buddhist monk is one who puts his faith in Dhamma. But since your ideas contradict the Lord Buddha’s path to liberation, it is obvious that you don’t trust me or the Dhamma. You are welcome to go anywhere to eat and sleep in comfort without having to trouble yourself with meditation practice. If you come to realize the Truth of Dhamma using this method, please come back and have mercy on this stupid old monk. I shall raise my clasped hands to the heavens to honor your gracious majesty’s benediction!

I teach the truth when I say that anyone expecting to transcend dukkha must be fearless when facing death. But you don’t believe it’s true. You figure it is better to die and be reborn in this world so you can continue carrying your burden of misery wherever you go. If you want to go on like this, that’s your business. But, don’t come here and contradict the teaching of the Lord Buddha. If you do, you will be a thorn in the Buddha’s side and an obstacle blocking the path of those truly wishing to follow him. Opinions like yours are not only wrong, but, should you decide to give voice to them, you will become an enemy of Buddhism and religious people everywhere. I assumed that you came here to develop yourself spiritually and so uphold the sãsana. I never imagined you were going to ruin yourself and then destroy the sãsana and devoted followers of the Lord Buddha as well. But now I realize that you have come like an executioner to destroy everything. You’d better change your attitude right away. Otherwise, you will certainly ruin yourself and take a lot of other people with you – and that would be a terrible shame.

The Lord Buddha is said to have passed unconscious three times as he strived to attain enlightenment. Don’t you believe it is true? If you don’t, perhaps you suppose the Buddha was lying to us. A person like you, who ordains as a dhutanga monk but still refuses to trust the Buddha and his Dhamma, is someone devoid of intrinsic human value. Your opinions make you no different than a breathing corpse – a living, stinking corpse that somehow manages to keep breathing from one day to the next. What do you say? Which path are you going to choose for your own safe passage? I have no better path to offer you than the one I have already specified. It is the path that the Lord Buddha and all the Arahants have taken. There is no easier, more esoteric path. I have followed this path from the time of my ordination up to the present, and it is the source of the Dhamma that I teach to all my disciples.”

This was one of the most impassioned declamations ever given by Ãcariya Mun – right to the point and full of fireworks. What I have recreated here is merely a sample, not the full substance of what he said by any means. Those listening were so shaken and intimidated they nearly sank through the floor. Never in their lives had they heard anything like it. By going straight to the point, these fiery expositions caused his audience to see the truth of his words, and thus submit to it, even as they felt frightened to death of him.

Realizing the truth of what he heard, the monk, whose thoughts provoked this barrage, gradually acquiesced until he accepted it totally and without reservations. As that happened, the intensity in Ãcariya Mun’s voice gradually subsided until he sounded quite conciliatory. When he was convinced that the monk had accepted the truth, he finished speaking and adjourned the meeting.

As it disbanded, there was a disband of excitement. The monks asked one another who had dared entertain thoughts so perverse to have elicited such a fierce response from Ãcariya Mun that his voice raged furiously, like thunder and lightning. There must have been some provocation. Otherwise, he would never have given a blazing admonition like that. Those thoughts must have affected him so acutely that he couldn’t resist unleashing the full force of his reason. Eventually, the monk in question owned up to the thoughts that I have mentioned before.

Normally dhutanga monks did not conceal their thoughts and opinions from one another. If their thoughts became the subject of Ãcariya Mun’s rebuke, they invariably admitted their lapses in judgment when they were questioned later. Although the monks usually found it amusing when a fellow-monk was roasted by Ãcariya Mun, they also became conscious of their own shortcomings. Such shortcomings could be easily exposed on alms-round, or on some other errand outside the monastery, where a monk encountered an emotionally stimulating object that stuck in his mind and became a preoccupation. Such indiscretion was likely to elicit the kind of fierce response that frightened everyone within earshot and prompted nervous glances all around. Terrified of Ãcariya Mun, ashamed in front of his friends, the culprit was usually shaking as he sat, rooted to his seat, with his head bowed and not daring to look up. When the meeting was over, the monks would ask around and find out that, as always, there was indeed one in their group whose thoughts caused Ãcariya Mun’s rebuke. It was rather a pity, for those monks had no intention of offending Ãcariya Mun. Like people everywhere with kilesas, they were emotionally susceptible to things in their environment. Their mindfulness was simply too slow in catching up with the lightning quickness of their minds – thus, Ãcariya Mun’s frequent scoldings.

Ãcariya Mun was extremely quick at reading other people’s thoughts. Monks who lived with him had no doubts whatsoever about this. He was able to read our errant thoughts and then caution us about them with unerring accuracy. Only on occasions, when he could not be bothered to say anything, did he remain quiet. Though his rebukes were frequent, he did relax occasionally to let us catch our breath. Otherwise, we’d probably have suffocated to death. Because of my incurable restlessness, I myself was chastised more often than most. But those of us who endured and lived patiently with him over a long period of time were usually energized in our meditation practice. We developed a firm anchor in our hearts as a result of his exhortations which constantly forged, tempered, and beat our practice into shape. Constant vigilance, and the restraint it fostered, made it possible to cultivate the mindfulness and wisdom necessary to resist incidental temptations. In the context of the art of magic, it can be compared to learning the necessary skills and then testing them out against the teacher until one is impervious to attack. Calm and secure in the knowledge that their harmful potential has been neutralized, one can withstand guns and swords, unperturbed. In the context of Dhamma practice, it means one can stand firm in the face of evocative emotions and temptations that normally arouse desire, without fear of being influenced or seduced. In other words, remaining unperturbed in all situations.

The trouble is, most people react to talk about Nibbãna by feeling oddly dejected and dismayed. It doesn’t put them in a good mood as does talk about worldly matters. Having no personal experience of Nibbãna, they probably think that it’s not as enjoyable as the humdrum things they are accustomed to. Not only has the present generation lost interest in Nibbãna – even our parents and grandparents were not much interested, nor did they encourage others to take an interest. At most, they may have encouraged their family to go to the local monastery from time to time to take the precepts and hear Dhamma. Perhaps they sometimes encouraged their families to do meditation practice to calm them down a bit and keep their behavior within acceptable limits. Of course, one way or another they did manage to advise their family and friends to do just about everything else, until fed up with hearing their advice, most people no longer bothered to take it.

Undoubtedly, most people have already decided that Nibbãna must be a very silent place, there being no music or entertainment and no one to indulge them in their favorite pastimes. They probably see it as a place devoid of anything stimulating or exciting, and therefore, they don’t want to go there. They fear dropping into a still, silent hell without a soul in sight: There would be no family, no friends, and no sounds, ever, of birds and cars, or laughter and crying. It appears to be a rather bleak, undesirable place in every way. So people who still harbor ambitions do not want to go to Nibbãna. And even if they did, they would be unable to go, for their ambitions would hold them back and make them hesitate.

People who can truly attain Nibbãna are those who have absolutely no worldly ambitions or involvements. Being neither passionate nor impassive, neither relaxed nor tense, but remaining perfectly balanced, they are naturally centered in the Middle Way. Having no desires, no expectations, and no longings, they take no enjoyment from worldly pleasures, which merely agitate the heart and cause frustration. Always imperturbable, they experience only an exquisite, serene happiness that contrasts sharply with the happiness of those whose hearts are corrupted by worldly concerns. Such mundane happiness, being ambiguous and fluctuating, is always fleeting, and unreliable. It resembles murky, muddy water. It’s like food that’s spicy, sour, bland, and salty all at once. Besides causing indigestion and uncomfortable drowsiness, it is not very appetizing. So people should carefully examine the things they encounter every day and test them to discover which ones are advantageous and which are not. Then they can filter out the unwholesome elements and prevent them from piling up in their hearts until their numbers overwhelm and there is no room to store them all. Otherwise, wherever they look, they will see only this accumulation of misery that they’ve collected.

When it comes to self-discipline, the wise are much more clever than we are. Everything they do, say, or think is directed precisely toward achieving their intended objective. They are not at odds with the Truth, nor arrogant or conceited about their achievements. When cautioned, they quickly take the warning to heart as a useful lesson, which is quite different from the way the rest of us react. By following the example of the wise, we will become reasonable, moderate people who refuse to follow those desires that have ruled over our hearts for so long. Our efforts to overcome those desires will thus transform our hearts in a way that definitely results in a degree of contentment that’s clearly evident to us. Even without millions in the bank, our own exemplary conduct, plus what little wealth we do possess, will be sufficient to keep us happy.

Clever people manage their lives in a way that is conducive to peace and security. They don’t feel the need to rush around trying to make vast sums of money in order to maintain a sense of happiness in their lives. Wealth may bring a measure of happiness, but those who enjoy a moderate amount of wealth, righteously acquired, will inevitably be far more contented than those who acquire their wealth by unscrupulous means. Though its actual ownership is not disputed, dubious wealth doesn’t really belong to its owner in any genuine sense. For under the laws of true justice, kamma condemns such gains, bestowing fruits of misery as just rewards for the future. Wise people view this prospect with great trepidation, but we, of lesser intelligence, still prefer to scramble headlong after our desires, selfishly indulging in pleasures that come along without ever getting enough to satisfy our appetites. No matter how hard we try, we never seem to experience the kind of contentment that we long for.

DURING HIS YEARS in Chiang Mai, Ãcariya Mun received numerous letters from Chao Khun Dhammachedi of Wat Bodhisomphon monastery in Udon Thani province. In his letters, Chao Khun Dhammachedi, who had been a disciple of Ãcariya Mun since his youth, always invited him to return to Udon Thani. Ãcariya Mun never replied to those letters, nor did he accept the invitation. Then in the year 1940, Chao Khun Dhammachedi traveled from Udon Thani all the way to the isolated region where Ãcariya Mun lived to invite him personally, and thus gave him a chance to answer all the correspondence he had received. He told Chao Khun Dhammachedi that he had read all his letters, but he reckoned they were small and insignificant compared to the ‘big letter’ that had just arrived; so, now he was ready to reply. That said, both monks laughed heartily.

At the first opportunity, Chao Khun Dhammachedi personally invited Ãcariya Mun to return to the province of Udon Thani where he once lived so many years before. Chao Khun Dhammachedi informed him that his disciples in Udon Thani, missing him very much, had asked him to invite Ãcariya Mun on their behalf. This time he could not object – he had to accept. Chao Khun Dhammachedi suggested they work out a timetable for picking up Ãcariya Mun and escorting him back to Udon Thani. They decided on the beginning of May 1940.

As his departure from the mountain retreat became imminent, large groups of terrestrial devas pleaded with him to stay. Being very reluctant to see him leave, they told him that devas from all realms experienced peace and contentment while he lived there, due to the power of loving kindness which emanated from him and issued in all directions – day and night. Feeling very happy in his presence, they all greatly revered him. They were unwilling to have him leave for they knew that their sense of contentment from his presence would soon fade. Even their social cohesion could be affected as a result.

Ãcariya Mun told them that, having given his word, he must leave. He must honor his promise – he couldn’t possibly renege on it. Unlike most people, a monk’s word is a solemn covenant. A monk is a man of virtue so he must remain true to his word. If he goes back on a promise, his virtue immediately disappears and his worth as a monk is then devalued. So a monk must preserve his moral integrity.

When May arrived Ãcariya Mun and the monks accompanying him to Udon Thani left their mountain retreat and began the long trek to the city of Chiang Mai where they stayed at Wat Chedi Luang monastery. Ãcariya Oon of Wat Tipayaratananimit monastery arrived with some lay supporters at about the same time to receive Ãcariya Mun and to escort him to Udon Thani. Ãcariya Mun remained at Wat Chedi Luang monastery for about one week. During that time, a large group of his local devotees came to persuade him to extend his stay in Chiang Mai for the benefit of everyone there. But having accepted the invitation to Udon Thani, he could not delay his departure.

Before he left, Chao Khun Rãjakawi asked him to give a special talk on the occasion of Visãkha Pýjã to serve as a remembrance for his many devotees. At that time, I had just myself arrived in Chiang Mai and so listened to this discourse with great interest. He spoke for exactly three hours that day; and what he said was so impressive that I have never forgotten it. Here is the essence of what he said:

Today is Visãkha Pýjã. It celebrates the day the Lord Buddha was born, the day he attained enlightenment, and the day he passed away into Parinibbãna. The birth of a Buddha stands in marked contrast to the births of all other beings. In being born, the Buddha did not succumb to worldly illusions about birth, life, or death. More than that, through the power of his all-encompassing wisdom, he was able to realize the true nature of birth, life, and death – attaining what we call ‘enlightenment’. At the appropriate time he bid farewell to his khandhas, which were the tools he relied on to develop virtue to perfection; and then passed away – sugato, as befits a world teacher who is absolutely beyond reproach. Before departing his physical body, which had reached the end of its natural life, he bequeathed the Dhamma to the world, intending that it represent him and fulfill the role of teacher in his stead. Such a gift is worthy of our complete faith, and worthy of any sacrifice.

As you know, we are born as human beings because we possess sufficient inherent goodness to make it possible. But we shouldn’t take ourselves and our inherent goodness for granted by neglecting to develop virtuous qualities in this life to enhance our future lives. Otherwise, the human status we enjoy may disappear to be irrevocably eclipsed by a low, undesirable birth. Be it high status or low status – with happiness of every possible degree up to the Ultimate Happiness, or pain and suffering of every possible degree down to the most excruciating – we ourselves are responsible for our own life circumstances. Don’t think that only those presently affected by adverse circumstances experience such things. As potential life situations, they are shared in common by everyone, becoming our own personal heritage if and when we create the conditions for them. For this reason, the Buddha taught that we should never look down on other people, holding them in contempt. Seeing someone living in misery or abject poverty, we should reflect on the possibility that one day we could also find ourselves in such a position, or one even worse. At the moment of reckoning, none of us has the power to avoid the consequences of our actions. All of us share the same capacity to make good and bad kamma, so it’s possible that some day we will be in their position and they will be in ours. The sãsana is a doctrine that we can use to examine ourselves and others, enabling us to correctly choose the best possible way forward. In this respect it has no equal.

Throughout my many years as a monk I have remained firmly committed to the practice of examining myself, striving always to discriminate between the good and the bad things arising within me from moment to moment. I now clearly realize that the heart is the principal instigator in the creation of kamma. In

other words, our hearts are the source of all kamma – kamma that belongs solely to the one who makes it. There should be no doubt about this. Those doubting the existence of kamma – and so, disbelieving of its effects – blindly take their own situation for granted until they’re beyond redemption. Although they’ve been born and raised by their parents, such people fail to see the value of the mother and father who gave them life and sustenance. They look no further than their own selfish existence, unaware of how awful it really is, for they care little that they were born and raised by parents who supported their growth and development in every way. A child’s body is nourished by the food and drink its parents provide, allowing it to grow up strong and healthy. If such actions are not kamma, what then should they be called? And if the nourishment the body receives in this way is not the fruit of kamma, then what else, in truth, could it be?

Obviously there is a root cause for all the goodness and evil, all the happiness and suffering experienced by people everywhere in the world. When someone’s reckless thinking leads him to commit suicide – there’s a reason behind it. The root cause, kamma, manifesting itself within the heart, can have such an impact on a person that he actually takes his own life without realizing that the kamma he has already created is playing a role. What is that but total blindness?

Kamma exists as a part of our very being. We create kamma every moment, just as the results of our previous kamma arise to affect us every moment. If you insist on doubting the existence of kamma and its results, then you are stuck at a dead end. Kamma is not something that follows us like a dog following its master. On the contrary, our very thoughts, speech, and actions are kamma. The true results of kamma are the degrees of happiness and suffering experienced by all beings in the world, including those beings who live out their lives unaware of kamma. Such ignorance is also a karmic consequence.”

I myself listened to this talk with heartfelt satisfaction as I had long been keenly interested in Ãcariya Mun. I experienced such a deep sense of joy about him and his Dhamma that I felt as if I were floating on air. I felt that I simply couldn’t hear enough. I have given you the gist of what he said so that all of you, who had no opportunity to hear him speak, may understand something about the nature of your kamma. Kamma being something common to us all, it is possible you may recognize you own kamma in his words.

When he finished speaking, Ãcariya Mun rose from his seat and prostrated himself in front of the main Buddha image. Chao Khun Rãjakawi told him how much everyone had enjoyed the outstanding discourse he had just delivered. Ãcariya Mun replied that it might well be his “final encore” since he probably wouldn’t return to give another talk due to his declining years. This was his way of telling everyone present that he would not return to Chiang Mai again before he died. As it turned out, this was true Ãcariya Mun never again returned to Chiang Mai.

After remaining several more days at Wat Chedi Luang monastery, Ãcariya Mun finally left, heading first for Bangkok. Somdet Phra Mahã Wirawong and the other senior monks, together with scores of lay supporters, escorted him from the monastery to the train station. Also present was a host of devas. Ãcariya Mun said that devas filled the sky around him in every direction as they, too, came to escort him to the station. They remained, hovering in the sky, even after he reached the station, waiting to send him off before returning to their respective realms. A chaotic scene ensued as he had to greet the scores of monks and lay people who were gathered there, while he simultaneously tried to psychically bestow his blessing upon all the devas who hovered in the air for a final blessing from him. In the end, he was able to turn his undivided attention to the devas and bestow his final blessing only after he had finished speaking to all the people and the train began pulling out of the station.

He said he truly felt sorry for those devas who held him in such high esteem that they were reluctant to see him leave. They showed all the same signs of distress and disappointment that human beings do. Some even continued to hover behind the train as it sped down the tracks, until finally Ãcariya Mun felt it necessary to tell them to return to their respective realms. They departed reluctantly, wondering if he would ever come back to assist them again. In the end they were to be disappointed, for he never did return. He never mentioned whether the terrestrial devas of Chiang Mai came to visit him later on when he lived in the provinces of Udon Thani and Sakon Nakhon.