阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第一章第三節:禪相

      

                           

        

第一章第三節:禪相

    Wat Liap修行的期間,阿姜曼的心安住在一種平靜的定境中,有一次禪境中竟自動出現了一個禪相。這個禪相是一具躺在他面前的死屍,腫脹、流膿且屍水都已滲出。禿鷹和野狗都在爭食這個死屍,將腐肉撕裂並散落在各處。整個畫面是難以想像的噁心,他很震驚。

        從那時起,阿姜曼便不斷使用這個禪相作為禪修的業處 —— 無論是在靜坐、經行或從事日常其他的活動。他持續這樣的修行,直到有一天,這具死屍的禪相變成了一個懸浮在他面前的半透明圓盤。他愈是專注在這個圓盤上,這圓盤的外觀就會不間斷地改變。他愈試著跟上,它就變得愈多,他後來明白這一系列的禪相不可能有結束的時候。他愈是觀看這個禪相,它們在特徵上就愈是持續地變化 —— 周而復始。例如,圓盤變成了高大的山脈,阿姜曼發現自己穿著鞋走在山中,揮舞著一把鋒利的劍。然後,出現了一道巨大牆壁,牆壁上有門,他打開了這扇門往裡頭看,他看見了一座寺院,裡面有幾名比丘正在禪坐。在牆壁的附近,他看見了一個陡峭的峭壁,裡頭住著一位隱士。他注意到有一個運輸工具,外型看起來就像是一個搖籃懸掛在一條繩子上,面對著峭壁上下移動。他爬進這個像籃子一般的運輸工具裡,他被拉到山頂上。在山頂上,他發現一艘裡頭有一張方桌的巨大中國帆船,桌子上方懸掛著一盞燈籠,燈籠放出的光可照亮整個山區。他看到自己在山頂上吃了一頓飯……諸如此類等等,這些影像看不到結束的時候。阿姜曼說,他所經歷過的禪相已多到他都記不得了。

        有整整三個月的時間,阿姜曼都持續以這樣的方式禪修。每次當他入定後,他會再退出,繼續對半透明圓盤的觀照,對他來說那似乎是一系列無止盡的動畫影像。然而,他並沒有從這裡獲得足夠的利益,所以無法確知這是不是正確的修行方法。以這樣的方式修行後,他對看到的一切與周遭的聲音都變得過度敏感。對這個高興,對那個失望,他喜愛某些事物並憎惡其他的事物,似乎永遠找不到一個穩定的平衡感。

        因為這樣的敏感,他了解到他修的禪定肯定走上了歧途。因為如果那是正確的,為什麼他無法在修行中體驗到相應的和諧與平靜?反而他的心只感到心緒不寧與不安,被遇到的各種感官對象所影響 —— 簡直就像一個完全沒修過禪定的人一樣。也許將注意力轉往外在現象的修行方式違背了禪修的基本原則,可能這就是他無法獲得應得的內在平靜與喜樂的原因。

        因此,阿姜曼對自己有了一個新的體悟,他不再專注於外在的事物(不再心外求法),他將心導向內,不超出自己的身軀之外。從那時起,他的觀照都只以自己的身體為中心。

        保持著一種敏銳的正念sati,他從頭到腳、從一邊到一邊、裡裡外外,身體的每一部分都徹底地審查。一開始,他喜歡一邊經行一邊觀照,來回步行時深思。有時他需要從這樣的精進中讓身體得到休息。所以,他會禪坐,入定一小段時間,但他絕不讓他的凝神在跟以前一樣一貫的定境;反而,他強迫把心留在身體的內部。心沒有其他的選擇,只能在身體的四周巡迴探索。當到了他躺下休息的時候,這個觀察會一直持續到他睡著為止。

        他這樣修了好幾天,直到他覺得到自己已做好了準備,試著以他新發現的方法來入定。他挑戰自己能入什麼樣的定境。現在多日來被奪走的寧靜,又重新開始了與身念處相關的深入修行,他的以一種前所未有的順利,快速凝神在定境中。他確定他的方法是正確的:因為,這一次當他的收攝凝神時,他的身體與自己分離了。就在那一刻,似乎一分為二。在那一整段期間,正念大量的生起,就在這個時候,心入定了。它(心)不再像先前那樣的迷惘與搖擺不定。因此,阿姜曼確信新發現的方法對於禪修的基礎功夫來說是正確的。

        從那時起,他持續規律地修持身念處,直到他能隨時入定自在。由於努力不懈,他愈來愈熟練這種修行方法,直到他的心安住在禪定中。他浪費了整整三個月的時間去追逐圓盤與它的幻象;但現在,正念再也不會遺棄他了,也因此,他再也不會受到外在周圍不利的影響。整個事件清楚地顯示了缺少一位有智慧的老師指導修行的害處。在禪修時沒有及時的建議與指導,誤判就會發生。阿姜曼就是一個例子。沒有老師導致嚴重的錯誤,傷害到禪修者;又或者,至少,會耽誤修行。

        在阿姜曼成為雲遊行腳僧的頭幾年中,一般人對頭陀的修行是不感興趣的。很多人都把它視為怪異的行為,甚至覺得對佛教來講是一種異端,對比丘的生活來說不具正統合法的地位。在當時,一名頭陀比丘,只要在大老遠的田邊出現,就足以讓村民陷入恐慌。因為害怕,那些離家不遠的人會趕緊跑回家;而那些在森林附近的人則會躲進茂密的枝葉裡。他們都被嚇到腿軟,不敢問候比丘。因此,頭陀比丘,在遊方時若走到陌生的區域時,很少有機會能向當地人詢問要去的方向。

        農村的婦女經常帶著小孩去遠足,到附近的山上去採野菜及可食的植物,或到遠處的池塘釣魚。如果突然察覺到有一群頭陀比丘向她們走過來,她們會彼此大聲喊叫警告大家:「有苦行僧!苦行僧來了!」她們「碰」的一聲把籃子和其他工具都丟在地上,發瘋似地趕緊找地方躲起來。被丟在地上的東西都已經損壞了,但她們也不管;大家都只管逃到附近的森林裡,若是離家不遠,就乾脆跑回家。

        同一時間,搞不清發生什麼狀況的小孩,看到他們的媽媽驚聲尖叫及四處亂跑,也開始哭著要找媽媽。在混亂中四處亂竄的小朋友,因為年紀太小而跟不上大人。當他們的媽媽躲在森林的時候,他們無助地在寬廣的田野裡來回地跑,而媽媽們則因為太害怕不敢出來帶回小孩。這實在是一個不必要的恐慌場面;但同時也很令人同情:看著無辜的小孩這麼害怕,手忙腳亂,無助地哭著找媽媽。

        顯然這種場面很不好看,所以頭陀比丘會趕緊離開,以免待太久會引發更嚴重的歇斯底里。如果他們試著接近小孩,可能會因為小孩瘋狂地四處亂竄而造成場面失控,他們淒厲的尖叫聲都穿透了整座森林。同一時間,焦急的媽媽們都躲在樹後縮成一團顫抖著,她們怕這些苦行僧,同時,也怕孩子會四處亂跑。她們焦慮地盯著看,直到比丘遠離了視線。

        當比丘終於消失後,媽媽跟小孩彼此激動地衝撞抱在一起,又爆發了一次大騷動。到了大家平安團聚時,看起來就好像是整個村落已經離散了好一段時間。重聚時伴隨著七嘴八舌的吵雜聲,大家都在笑談「法僧」的突然出現與隨之而來的混亂。

        這種情況在早年的時候很常見:婦女跟小孩會害怕是因為她們從來沒看過頭陀僧。一般人對他們都一無所知且不感興趣,只會逃離自己的視線。對於這一點可能有幾個原因。第一,頭陀比丘們的表情與舉止都相當地嚴肅拘謹。比丘們對於沒有長期相處過、也不了解頭陀比丘規範的人,是不可能表現出太熟的樣子。此外,他們的大衣與其他必需品都是用波羅蜜果樹的樹心製成的染料染成土褐色 —— 這種顏色很醒目,不受人喜愛,反而更易引起恐懼。

        當他們奉行頭陀行,由一處遊方到另一處時,這些被染成波羅蜜果樹顏色的大衣都是穿在頭陀比丘的身上。他們帶著傘帳,比普通的傘還要大,背在一肩上;另一肩則背著化緣用的缽。他們走成一排,穿著土褐色的大衣,對不熟悉他們修行模式的人來說,他們很醒目。找到一處有利於禪修的安靜地點,頭陀比丘就會在農村的偏遠森林住上一段時間,好讓當地的居民能有機會更了解他們。藉由聆聽他們的教導,向他們請益,獲得他們的建議,人們的生活在多方面都受益匪淺。隨著時間的推移,他們的心逐漸能接受聽到的開示,信心自然成長茁壯。因為比丘的開示對他們產生了影響,對逐漸灌輸在心中的法有了信心,於是舊有的懷疑已消失,取而代之的是對比丘們的敬重。接下來,對那些目睹他們祥和的氣質與嚴謹威儀的人,只要一見到比丘們行經鄉間就會激起他們的虔敬。在早期的那段期間,這種深具啟發性的經歷為全泰國各地人民所共享。

        四方各地遊方,且為了法而正確地修行,頭陀比丘們總是設法去影響人們,並為他們做最大的服務。他們不靠公開宣傳來散播他們的理念;相反地,他們是以嚴謹的威儀作為贏得大眾關注的自然手段。

        一名專注在「法」Dhamma上的頭陀比丘,會將四處遊方並尋找僻靜之處視為他個人修行不可或缺的一部分。僻靜之處能提供一處讓他身心平穩、安靜的環境。所以,阿姜曼也是這樣子修行。每一年雨安居vassa結束後,他就開始遊方,徒步穿越當地的森林與高山去找可讓他每天托缽的小村落。比起全國其他各處,他喜歡在泰國的東北部遊方。他最喜愛地方的包括那空帕農府(Nakhon Phanom)、色軍府、烏隆府、廊開府(Nong Khai)、黎府(Loei)和碧差汶府(Phetchabun)Lom Sak等廣大的森林與山脈;或是湄公河寮國旁的區域,如他曲(Tha Khek)、永珍(Vientiane)和龍坡邦(Luang Prabang)等地。這些地方都是有龐大的森林與山區,非常適合修頭陀行。

        不管他身在何處,也不管一天當中的何時,阿姜曼基本專注的焦點都一樣:不厭倦地修行來提升禪修。他知道這是他此生最重要的工作。由於天性使然,他不喜歡參與寺院興建等企劃,他情願專注在禪修發展的內在功課上。他避免與同修行比丘的社交,並遠離民間社會,情願獨自生活 —— 一種能讓他自由地將所有的專注與精力都聚焦在主要功課的生活方式:滅苦。真誠與認真描繪出他所做的一切:絕不自欺欺人。

        他在禪修上所投入難以想像的精力、耐心與謹慎,真的很驚人。像這樣的特質促使他的禪定與智慧都能穩定地進展,未曾出現退步的跡象。自從他發現身念處(念身)是禪修準備工作的正確方法後,他便一直在心中保持這樣的念住。不停地維持這個修行,重複觀照他的身體,一次又一次,身體中不論是大或小的部分,他都能在心中逐一剖析,且變得非常地熟練,而後再以智慧將它們粉碎。最後,他可以隨意自在地透析他的整個身體,然後把全部都解析歸成它的組成元素。

        透過不懈的努力,阿姜曼穩定並持續達到愈來愈祥和與寧靜的心靈境界。他穿越森林,翻越山嶺,在適合的地點密集強化他的修行;但,對一切所從事的活動,他也絕不鬆懈。不論是托缽、掃地、清洗痰盂、替大衣縫補或染色、進食,或只是伸展雙腿,他都意識到無時無刻自己都要盡善盡美,不能有例外,只有在他要入睡時他才會放鬆。即使如此,當他醒來時,他若決定要起床,就會馬上起身,毫不猶疑。他確定這個習慣已深植於他的性格中。他意識到清醒的那一刻,便迅速起身,洗臉,繼續禪修。如果他還是覺得想睡,為了怕再打瞌睡,他會立刻停止禪坐;取而代之,他開始經行,來回大步行走,以免昏沉睡意在警醒的間隔片刻中來襲,占了上風。如果慢慢經行證明仍沒效果,他就會加快腳步讓自己提起精神。只有當睡意消失並開始覺得累了,他才會離開經行步道,坐下來繼續禪坐,直到黎明之際。

        天亮後不久,他準備去托缽。他穿起大衣,把上下衣放在一起整理好並遮覆住身體,用一條吊帶把缽掛在肩上,以沉穩泰然的方式走到最近的村落,整條路上都謹慎地保持正念。他將往返村落的步行當作是一種經行,每一步他都向內專注,以確保他的心沒有向外攀緣,不會被沿途充滿激情的感官對象給吸引住。回到露地或他駐留的寺院後,他會把缽內乞得的食物安排好。原則上,他只吃由村裡乞得的食物,拒絕後來才給他的食物。只有在很後來,當他年紀很大的時候,他才稍微放鬆這項修行,同意接受信眾在寺院裡供養他的食物。在他早年的時候,他都只吃缽中乞得的食物。

        對著缽裡的食物,他坐著沉思將要進食的真正意義,以此作為熄滅內心地獄之火的方法;也就是說,任何因飢餓可能生起對食物的渴求。否則,心可能會屈服於慾望並迷失在食物的美味中,而事實上,它會反映出食物的基本特質:一切的食物,只是多種因緣元素的一種組合,本質上是噁心的。藉由牢固深植在心中的這種思惟,他正念分明地咀嚼食物,不讓慾望有任何可趁之機,直到他吃完為止。然後,他清洗他的缽,擦乾它,並將它直接放在太陽光下曬個幾分鐘,接著收在布袋內並包好,將它整齊地放在適當的位置。然後,又繼續展開與無明煩惱作戰的任務,以逐漸摧毀它們為目標,直到它們徹底被打敗,再也無法在心中作怪為止。

        然而,必須了解到的是,摧毀煩惱是一件無法去形容該如何達成的艱困任務。因為縱使我們決意要將煩惱燒成灰燼,但煩惱卻總是回過頭來灼燒我們,造成我們許多的障礙,使我們很快地捨棄我們本該要去培育發展的美德。我們都可以清楚看到煩惱的負面影響,並想要擺脫甩掉它們;但之後,因為擔心要吃太多苦,我們不能果斷地採取行動對治它們,因而損害了當初崇高的目標。最後無法抗衡地,煩惱變成了我們心中的主宰,以它們的方式在我們心中宣示主權。可悲的是,這個世上幾乎沒有人有這方面的知與見去抵抗這些煩惱。因此,三界的眾生都在它的統治之下。只有世尊發現能完全淨化它們的方法:它們(煩惱)已永遠無法再擊敗他(世尊)了。

        在達到徹底證悟的勝利後,佛陀慈悲地將心力轉向說法這條路,向弟子們傳法,鼓勵他們堅決地踏上這條他曾走過的聖道。這樣修行後,他們也能趕上跟他一樣最高的成就,也就是聖道的終點:涅槃。為了給具有無上強權的無明致命的一擊,這些聖者們在心中將它們(無明)都給連根拔除。熄滅了煩惱,他們都成為了世界各地的人以往所尊敬的阿羅漢。

        阿姜曼是又一位追隨佛陀足跡的聖弟子,他有不可動搖的信心與堅定的決意 —— 他不是只出一張嘴空談而已。當早餐結束後,他立刻走進森林開始經行,祥和寧靜的環境有助於平靜與內在的喜樂。先是經行,然後就地結跏趺坐,他進行禪坐,直到他覺得該是稍做休息的時候。他的體力恢復後,他繼續攻擊無明,也就是無盡生死輪迴的始作俑者。由於這樣的決心與堅定的專心修行,無明再也沒有理由嘲笑阿姜曼的精進了。當密集地禪修時,他也孜孜不倦地開展內明觀智,他的智慧持續地環繞在他所觀照的對象上。就這樣,「止」與「觀」一前一後同步發展,一個接一個沒有落後,而他的心在修行中都處於寧靜與滿足的狀態。

        但,緩慢的進展階段還是難免的,因為當他遇到關卡的時候沒有老師能指導他。他常常要花上許多天去解決一個特殊的困難,靠自己一人煞費苦心地去找出解決之道。他不得不詳盡地審查這些修行上的絆腳石,從每一個角度及面向仔細地去檢驗,因為它們是進步的障礙,同時也是潛在的危機。在這種情況下,一位好老師的意見可以說是無價的,能幫助一名禪修者進步神速並有自信,不浪費時間。為此,善知識對一名禪修者來說非常的重要。阿姜曼自己親身經歷過沒有善知識、善友能及時給他建議的缺憾,因此他堅信這真的是一個毋庸置疑的缺失。


     

At one point during his meditation training at Wat Liap, Ãcariya Mun’s citta ‘converged’ into a state of calm  and a vision arose spontaneously. The mental image was of a dead body laid out before him, bloated, oozing pus, and seeping with bodily fluids. Vultures and dogs were fighting over the corpse, tearing into the rotting flesh and flinging it around, until what remained was all scattered about. The whole scene was unimaginably disgusting, and he was appalled.

From then on, Ãcariya Mun constantly used this image as a mental object to contemplate at all times – whether sitting in samãdhi, walking in meditation, or engaging in other daily activities. He continued in this manner until, one day, the image of the corpse changed into a translucent disk that appeared suspended before him. The more he focused intensely on the disk, the more it changed its appearance without pause. The more he tried to follow, the more it altered its form so that he found it impossible to tell where the series of images would end. The more he investigated the visions, the more they continued to change in character – ad infinitum. For example, the disk became a tall mountain range where Ãcariya Mun found himself walking, brandishing a sharp sword and wearing shoes. Then, a massive wall with a gate appeared. He opened the gate to look inside and saw a monastery where several monks were sitting in meditation. Near the wall he saw a steep cliff with a cave where a hermit was living. He noticed a conveyance, shaped like a cradle and hanging down the face of the cliff by a rope. Climbing into the cradle-like conveyance, he was drawn up to the mountain peak. At the summit, he found a large Chinese junk with a square table inside, and a hanging lantern that cast a luminescent glow upon the whole mountain terrain. He found himself eating a meal on the mountain peak… and so on, and so forth, until it was impossible to see an end to it all. Ãcariya Mun said that all the images he experienced in this manner were far too numerous to recall.

For a full three months, Ãcariya Mun continued to meditate in this way. Each time when he dropped into samãdhi, he withdrew from it to continue his investigation of the translucent disk which just kept giving him a seemingly endless series of images. However, he did not receive enough beneficial results from this to be convinced that this was the correct method. For after practicing in this manner, he was oversensitive to the common sights and sounds around him. Pleased by this and disappointed by that, he liked some things and hated others. It seemed that he could never find a stable sense of balance.

Because of this sensitivity, he came to believe that the samãdhi which he practiced was definitely the wrong path to follow. If it were really correct, why did he fail to experience peace and calm consistently in his practice? On the contrary, his mind felt distracted and unsettled, influenced by many sense objects that it encountered – much like a person who had never undergone any meditation training at all. Perhaps the practice of directing his attention outwards towards external phenomena violated the fundamental principles of meditation. Maybe this was the reason he failed to gain the promised benefits of inner peace and happiness.

Thus, Ãcariya Mun came to a new understanding about himself. Instead of focusing his mind on external matters, he brought his citta back inside, within the confines of his own physical body. From then on, his investigations were centered only on his own body.

Keeping a sharp mindfulness, he examined the body from top to bottom, side to side, inside out and throughout; every body part and every aspect. In the beginning, he preferred to conduct his examinations while walking in meditation, pacing back and forth in deep thought. Sometimes he needed to rest his body from these exertions. So, he sat in samãdhi for awhile, though he absolutely refused to let his citta ‘converge’ into its habitual state of calm. Rather, he forced it to stay put within the body’s domain. The citta had no other choice but to travel around the many parts of the body and probe into them. When it was time for him to lie down, the investigation continued inside his mind until he fell asleep.

He meditated like this for several days until he felt ready to sit in samãdhi and try to attain a state of calm with his newly discovered method. He challenged himself to find out what state of calm the citta could attain. Deprived of peace for many days now, and having begun the intense training associated with body contemplation, his citta ‘converged’ rapidly into a calm state with unprecedented ease. He knew with certainty that he had the correct method: for, when his citta ‘converged’ this time, his body appeared to be separated from himself. It seemed to split into two at that moment. Mindfulness was in force during the entire time, right to the moment that the citta dropped into samãdhi. It didn’t wander and waver about as it had previously. Thus, Ãcariya Mun was convinced that his newfound method was the right one for the preliminary work of meditation practice.

From then on, he continued to religiously practice body contemplation until he could attain a state of calm whenever he wanted. With persistence, he gradually became more and more skilled in this method, until the citta was firmly anchored in samãdhi. He had wasted three whole months chasing the disk and its illusions. But now, his mindfulness no longer abandoned him, and therefore, he was no longer adversely affected by the influences around him. This whole episode clearly shows the disadvantages of not having a wise teacher to guide one. Misjudgments occur without timely advice and direction in meditation. Ãcariya Mun was a perfect example of this. Having no teacher can lead to costly mistakes that can easily harm the meditator, or, at the very least, delay his progress.

DURING ÃCARIYA MUN’S early years as a wandering monk, people showed little interest in the practice of kammaååhãna meditation. Many regarded it as something strange, even alien to Buddhism, having no legitimate place in the life of a monk. Back then, a dhutanga monk, walking in the distance on the far side of a field, was enough to send country folk into a panic. Being fearful, those still close to the village quickly ran home. Those walking near the forest ran into the thick foliage to hide, being too scared to stand their ground or greet the monks. Thus, dhutanga monks, wandering in unfamiliar regions during their travels, seldom had a chance to ask the locals for much needed directions.

Women from the countryside often took their small children on excursions into the surrounding hills to pick wild herbs and edible plants, or to fish in outlying ponds. Suddenly spotting a party of dhutanga monks walking toward them, they would yell to each other in alarm, “Dhamma monks! Dhamma monks are coming!” With that they threw their baskets and other gear to the ground with a thud, and frantically rushed to find a safe hiding-place. Their discarded belongings could have been damaged or broken when flung to the ground, but they took no notice; everyone simply fled into the nearby forest, or if close by, to their village homes.

Meanwhile the children, who had no idea what was happening, started crying and pleading for help when they saw their mothers scream and run away. Too slow to keep pace with the adults, the little ones raced around in confusion. Stranded, they ran back and forth in the open field while their mothers remained in the forest, too frightened to emerge and retrieve them. An amusing scene of needless panic, but at the same time pitiful: to see innocent children so frightened, running in circles, desperately crying in search of their mothers.

Obviously the situation didn’t look good, so the dhutanga monks hurried past lest their prolonged presence provoke even more hysteria. Had they made any attempt to approach the children, the incident might have gotten out of control with terrified kids frantically scattering in all directions, their shrill screams ringing through the forest. In the meantime, their anxious mothers huddled, trembling, behind the trees, afraid of the ‘Dhamma monks’ and, at the same time, afraid that their children might flee in all directions. They watched nervously until the monks were out of sight.

When the monks finally disappeared, a big commotion erupted as mothers and children dashed excitedly about, trying to find one another. By the time the whole group was safely reunited, it seemed as though the entire village had disbanded for awhile. The reunion was accompanied by a hubbub of chatter, everybody laughing about the sudden appearance of the ‘Dhamma monks’ and the chaos that followed.

Such occurrences were common in those early years: women and children were terrified because they had never before seen dhutanga kammaååhãna monks. Ordinarily people knew nothing about them and showed little interest, except to flee at their sight. There are several possible reasons for this. Firstly, their appearance was rather austere and reserved. They were unlikely to show much familiarity with anyone they hadn’t personally known for a long time; someone who knew their habits well. Also, their robes and other requisites were an ochre color from dye made from the heartwood of the jackfruit tree – a color that was striking but had a tendency to inspire more fear than devotion.

These jackfruit-colored robes were worn by dhutanga monks as they wandered from place to place practicing the ascetic way of life. They carried their umbrella-tents, which were considerably larger than ordinary umbrellas, slung over one shoulder. Over the other shoulder they carried their alms bowls. Walking in single file and dressed in their yellowish-brown robes, they were an eye-catching sight to those as yet unfamiliar with their mode of practice. Finding a quiet spot, conducive to meditation, dhutanga monks settled for a while in the outlying forests of rural communities, allowing the locals a chance to get better acquainted with them. By listening to their teachings, questioning them, and receiving their advice, people’s lives benefited in so many ways. Gradually over time, their hearts grew to accept the reasonable explanations they heard, and faith issued naturally on its own. With a belief in Dhamma thus instilled in their hearts, old suspicions died away to be replaced by a reverence for the monks whose teachings made such an impression. Then, to those well acquainted with their peaceful temperament and exemplary conduct, the mere sight of monks walking across the countryside inspired devotion. During that early period, such enlightening experiences were shared by country people all over Thailand.

Traveling far and wide, and determined to practice correctly for the sake of Dhamma, dhutanga monks always managed to impress people and do them great service. They didn’t depend on publicity to get out their message. They relied instead on their exemplary behavior as a natural means of gaining public interest.

A dhutanga monk who is concentrated on Dhamma considers wandering in search of seclusion to be an indispensable part of his personal practice. Secluded places offer his mind and body a calm, quiet environment. So it was with Ãcariya Mun. Each year at the end of the rainy season retreat he started traveling, hiking through forests and mountains in locales where he found just enough small villages to support his daily almsround. More than any other part of the country, he enjoyed wandering in Thailand’s Northeast region. Among his favorites were the vast forests and mountain ranges in the provinces of Nakhon Phanom, Sakon Nakhon, Udon Thani, Nong Khai, Loei, and Lom Sak; or on the Laotian side of the Mekong River in such places as Tha Khek, Vientiane, and Luang Prabang. Those locations with their huge tracts of forest and mountainous terrain were ideally suited to practicing the ascetic way of life.

Wherever he was, whatever the time of day, Ãcariya Mun’s primary focus remained the same: working tirelessly to improve his meditation practice. He knew that this was his most important task in life. By nature, he disliked involvement in monastic building projects. He preferred to concentrate exclusively on the inner work of meditative development. He avoided socializing with fellow monks and remained aloof from civil society, much preferring life alone – a style of living that allowed him the freedom to focus all his attention and energy on one main task: transcending dukkha. Earnestness and sincerity characterized everything he did: never deceiving himself, he never misled others.

The incredible energy, endurance, and circumspection that he put into his practice was truly amazing. Qualities such as these helped to ensure that samãdhi and wisdom steadily progressed, never showing any signs of decline. Since the day he first discovered body contemplation to be the right method for the preliminary work of meditation, he kept that contemplation always in mind. Assiduously maintaining that method, repeatedly investigating his body, over and over again, he became very skilled at mentally dissecting the various body parts, large and small, and then breaking them apart with wisdom. Eventually, he could dissect his entire body at will and then reduce the whole lot to its constituent elements.

Through perseverance, Ãcariya Mun steadily and increasingly attained more peaceful and calmer states of mind. He wandered through forests and over mountains, stopping at suitable locations to intensify his practice; but, never did he relax the persistent effort he put into all his activities. Whether walking for alms, sweeping the grounds, washing a spittoon, sewing or dying his robes, eating a meal, or simply stretching his legs, he was aware of striving to perfect himself at every waking moment and in all activities, without exception. Only when the time came to sleep did he relent. Even then, he resolved to get up immediately, without hesitation, as soon as he awoke. He made sure that this habit became ingrained in his character. The moment he was conscious of being awake, he rose quickly, washed his face, and resumed his meditation practice. If he still felt sleepy, he refused to sit in meditation right away for fear of nodding off to sleep again. Instead, he practiced walking meditation, striding back and forth to dispel the drowsiness that threatened to overtake him at the slightest lapse in vigilance. If walking slowly proved ineffective, he sought to invigorate himself by quickening his pace. Only when all drowsiness disappeared and he began to feel tired did he leave his meditation track to sit down to

Shortly after dawn, he prepared to go on his almsround. Wearing his lower robe, placing his under and upper robes together and wrapped about him, his alms bowl hanging from his shoulder by a strap, he walked to the nearest village in a self-composed manner, careful to maintain mindfulness the entire way. Considering his hike to and from the village a form of walking meditation, he focused his attention inward every step of the way, insuring that his mind did not venture out to become involved with any emotionally-charged sense object along the route. Returning to his campsite, or the monastery where he resided, he arranged the food he had received in his alms bowl. As a matter of principle, he ate only the food he was offered in the village, refusing to accept any food brought to him afterward. Only much later, in his very old age, did he relax this practice somewhat, agreeing to accept food that the faithful offered him in the monastery. During his early years, he ate only the food he had received in his alms bowl.

With everything to be eaten placed in the bowl, he sat contemplating the true purpose of the food he was about to eat as a means of dousing the inner fires of hell; that is to say, any craving for food that might arise due to hunger. Otherwise, the mind might succumb to the power of craving and indulge in the fine taste of food, when in fact, it should be reflecting on food’s essential qualities: how all food, being simply a composition of gross elements, is inherently disgusting by its very nature. With this thought firmly fixed in his mind, he chewed his food mindfully to deny any opening to craving until he had finished the meal. Afterwards, he washed the bowl, wiped it dry, exposed it to direct sunlight for a few minutes, then replaced it in its cloth covering, and put it neatly away in its proper place. Then, it was time once again to resume the task of battling the kilesas, with the aim of destroying them gradually until they were thoroughly defeated and unable ever again to trouble his mind.

It must be understood, however, that the business of destroying kilesas is an inexpressibly difficult task to accomplish. For though we may be determined to burn the kilesas to ashes, what invariably tends to happen is that the kilesas turn around and burn us, causing us so much hardship that we quickly abandon those same virtuous qualities that we meant to develop. We clearly see this negative impact and want to get rid of the kilesas; but then, we undermine our noble purpose by failing to act decisively against them, fearing that the difficulties of such action will prove too painful. Unopposed, the kilesas become lord masters of our hearts, pushing their way in and claiming our hearts as their exclusive domain. Sadly, very few people in this world possess the knowledge and understanding to counteract these defilements. Hence, living beings throughout the three worlds of existence are forever surrendering to their dominance. Only the Lord Buddha discovered the way to completely cleanse his heart of them: never again did they defeat him.

After achieving that comprehensive victory, the Lord Buddha compassionately turned his attention to teaching the way, proclaiming the Dhamma to his disciples and inspiring them to resolutely follow the same Noble Path that he had taken. Practicing thus, they were able to emulate his supreme achievement, reaching the very end of the Noble Path, the highest attainment: Nibbãna. Dealing the all-powerful kilesas a fatal blow, these Noble individuals eradicated them from their hearts forever. Having extinguished their kilesas, they became those Arahant disciples that people the world over have worshipped with such devotion ever since.

Ãcariya Mun was another Noble individual following in the footsteps of the Lord Buddha. He truly possessed unshakable faith and uncompromising resolve – he didn’t merely talk about them. When the morning meal was over, he immediately entered the forest to begin walking meditation in those peaceful surroundings that were so conducive to calm and inner happiness. First walking, later sitting, he pursued his meditation until he felt the time was right to take a short rest. His strength renewed, he resumed his attack on the kilesas, creators of the endless cycle of existence. With such determination and steadfast application to the task, the kilesas were never given reason to scoff at Ãcariya Mun’s efforts. While practicing samãdhi intensively, he also worked tirelessly to develop insight, his wisdom revolving relentlessly around whatever object he was investigating. In that way, samãdhi and vipassanã were developed in tandem, neither one lagging behind the other; and his heart remained peaceful and contented in his practice.

Still, periods of slow progress were inevitable, for he had no one to advise him when he got stuck. Often he spent many days working his way through a specific problem, painstakingly figuring out the solution for himself. He was obliged to exhaustively investigate these stumbling blocks in his practice, examining every facet carefully, because they were a hindrance to his progress and also potentially dangerous. In such situations, the advice of a good teacher can be invaluable, helping the meditator to advance quickly and confidently without wasting time. For this reason, it’s very important that meditators have a kalyãõamitta. Ãcariya Mun personally experienced the drawbacks of not having such a wise friend to give him timely advice, insisting that it was a definite disadvantage.