阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第五章第三節:過去前生

     

                   

      

第五章第三節:過去前生

        就像其他地方一樣,烏隆府當地居民常來請教阿姜曼問題。雖然大多是阿姜曼被問過的老問題,但經由某些不同的觀點與意見,也產生了許多不尋常的問答。在這些問題中,最常見的是在過去前世已一起長期培養善行功德的人,這種習氣會如何繼續影響他們今生的生活?另一種問題是關於在過去多生多世幸福生活在一起的夫妻,他們的因緣為何?阿姜曼說,一般人對這類的問題特別感興趣。

        對於第一個問題,阿姜曼並沒有做出特別詳盡的解釋。他只是解釋了前世因緣的一般規則,並作了以下的解釋:「這種緣起必須從確立自己的發願開始,因為這將決定某些彼此有互相關聯的人,彼此間的生活方式。」

        第二個問題更特別:為什麼前世的因緣可以決定一對男女在此生的情愛?我們又該如何區辨這段愛情是緣自於前世的連結或者非關前世呢?

        阿姜曼回答:「我們很難知道對這個人的愛,或者跟那個人的關係,是否是緣起於前世多生的因緣。大部分的情況下,人們都很盲目地戀愛與結婚。當感到肚子餓了,人的本性就自動會去找能填飽肚子的食物來吃。只要能滿足日常所需,他們什麼都會吃。同樣的道理可以適用在前世與今生的因緣。雖說這樣的關係是這個世界常見的特點,卻不容易找到彼此相愛與結婚只決定在過去生生世世因緣的案例。問題是,讓人墜入愛河的無明煩惱可不會讓人感到臉紅或不好意思;它們也一定不會耐心等在一旁,讓前世的因緣有機會說話。無明煩惱想要的是找到能滿足迷戀渴望需求的異性,這足以激發出熱情與持續的抓取,使人們戀愛的那些煩惱可以把一個普通人變成鬥士,不顧謙讓與節制,拚個你死我活,不計任何後果。就算他們看到自己犯了錯,仍舊會拒絕承認失敗,就算死亡擺在面前都不能讓他們放棄戰鬥。這就是使人墜入愛河情網的大概,很明顯呈現在心中,非常難以控制。」

       「任何一個想成為理性、有責任感的人,就不該讓這些煩惱帶頭四處亂撞。因此你必須好好修習自我控制,才能確保就算你對前世的因緣一無所知,仍有駕馭內心的方法,避免被拖入泥淖或是掉進萬丈深淵裡。除非你已經是一個很成熟的修行者,對各種現象都能保持開放的態度,否則你很難得悉有關過去前世的蛛絲馬跡。不管是哪一種情況,你都必須有足夠的正念去保持適當的自我控制。別讓那些來勢洶洶的煩惱潰堤,就像四處氾濫的洪水,勢不可檔,這樣你就可避免身陷愛欲泥淖中而無法自拔。」

        提問者:「在今生一起幸福快樂生活的夫妻,若希望下一生也做夫妻,他們該如何做才能確保這個願望實現?當他們倆都發願要在來世相會,光這樣的誓言就夠了嗎?」

        阿姜曼:「這樣的願望也只是創造並實現某人想要達到某個目標的願景;但願望若沒有具體的行動來實現,就不會產生你想要的結果。就以一個想要發財致富的人為例,如果這個人懶到都不肯出門去賺錢,那麼他絕不可能有錢。若要夢想成真,就必須把握成功的機會,以相應的努力朝著目標去實踐。這個原理也同樣適用於想要再續前世緣的夫妻。為了避免彼此擦身錯過,他們的價值觀或知見必須相似,並且彼此忠貞。他們絕不會去占另一方的便宜,因為這麼做會破壞彼此間的信任,互生怨懟。他們必須珍惜戒德,行事正當,彼此互信。透過建立起堅定的伴侶關係,並付出真誠的努力,從事一切有利於未來重逢的善行,那麼他們的心願就有可能會實現,因為這都是他們可以做到的事。相反的,如果與上述背道而馳,譬如做丈夫的行善而妻子卻造惡,或丈夫為惡而妻子行善,或是一方一廂情願在討好另一方等。那麼無論他們一起發出成千上百個誓言,都必將落空,因為他們自己破壞了自己的誓言。你是屬於哪一種情況呢?你想要與你妻子來生重逢的願望是否勝過其他的願望呢?」

        提問者:「這是我唯一的願望。財富、身分地位、頭銜、貴族皇室、得天神的護祐或證果等,若不能與我唯一鍾愛的妻子一起分享,那麼這些對我就毫無意義。這是每個人最主要的願望,所以我們都必須先期望得到一個相愛的伴侶,其他的心願可以慢慢再說。這也就是為什麼我必須先請教您這個問題,雖然有些尷尬,而且我怕您會責怪。這是我們生活在世上的實際情況,只是大家常因為不太好意思而羞於討論這件事。」

        阿姜曼笑著說:「如果照你所說的真是如此,那麼不管你到哪裡都一定要帶著你太太吧?」

        提問者:「我很不好意思地跟您說,長久以來,我就是因為放心不下我的妻子才沒有出家。我擔心她一個人會孤單,沒有人給她建議或安慰。我的孩子只會煩她,老跟她要錢買東西。我看不出他們能給她的心帶來任何的安樂與平靜,這不禁讓我很擔心她。」

        「還有一件事我不明白,佛法告訴我們天界就跟人間一樣,有男性和女性的天神。天界的眾生都很幸福快樂,享受各式各樣的歡娛,令人神往。但,不同於欲界的人間天上,梵天裡似乎沒有男性與女性的差別,他們(梵天神)不會感到寂寞嗎?我的意思是,當他們心情不好的時候,就沒有伴侶能逗他們開心或安慰他們了。而涅槃甚至更慘 —— 沒有任何的因緣造作,各方面都完全超然獨立,不需要任何人或事的幫助,反正人與人之間完全不需要有牽連,完全真正的獨立。一個人在那裡怎麼會有自我價值呢?一般說來,達到涅槃如此崇高境界的人,應該會期待受到同樣在涅槃界裡的眾人讚揚才對啊!至少在我們這個世界裡,一個富有、地位崇高的人,會受到社會上其他的人讚揚與欽佩。然而去涅槃界的人卻只能發現寂靜,沒有同伴的讚美與欽佩。這不禁讓我懷疑如此死寂的地方怎麼可能真的是幸福之境呢?請原諒我提出這樣一個瘋狂且另類的問題,但除非我找到一位真正知道答案的人,否則這個疑惑會無止盡地困擾我。」

        阿姜曼說:「天界、梵天與涅槃都不是為像你這種懷疑論者而存在,它們是為那些能了解內心價值的人而存在的。只有這樣的人們才能了解天界、梵天與涅槃的價值,因為他們知道這些相連接續的境界都必須增加相應的善德才能達到。像你這樣的人很難想像這樣的境界。就算你想,但只要你的妻子在你身旁,你就不可能做得到。假設她死亡,你可能會花很長的時間去思念她,以致不想投生到天界去。你的感受方式(執取),就算是崇高的梵天或涅槃等都比不上你的妻子,因為這些東西都無法像你的妻子那樣照顧你。因為你害怕會失去能照顧你一切的伴侶,所以你肯定不會想前往這些境界。」

        阿姜曼與這位發問者都開懷地笑了。阿姜曼接著說:「就連在世上我們所感受到的快樂,也都因每個人的偏好而有很大的不同。這好比我們的感官功能,它們各自處理不同的感覺刺激。比如說,眼喜歡色,耳喜歡聲,鼻喜歡香,舌喜歡味,身喜歡觸,而意識喜歡感知各種心理現象,各自依著自己天生的傾向去運作,不可能期待它們有相同的喜好。享用大餐是一種尋找快樂的方式,與配偶幸福快樂地生活則是另一種快樂的形態。這個世界從來就不缺歡樂,因為它與各地的眾生已經緊密結合在一起,每一個眾生都一定會追求快樂。在地球上自有其快樂的形式;在天界、甚至梵天,也都各自有其快樂的形式;那些連根拔除心中煩惱的聖者也享有解脫涅槃之樂,但那完全不同於有煩惱的凡夫的世俗之樂。」

        「如果你從妻子的陪伴所得到的快樂真能滿足你所有的需求,那又何必四處去觀賞美景及欣賞音樂?何必吃飯、睡覺?何必藉由布施、持戒、禪修來培育功德波羅蜜呢?你唯一要做的就是跟你的妻子一起生活,將這種幸福來取代其他感官所有的快樂。這樣你就可以省下很多的麻煩,但你真做得到嗎?」

        提問者:「喔!不!尊者,我怎麼可能那樣?如果我們吵架的時候怎麼辦?我怎麼可能只從她那裡獲得一切的快樂?那只會使我的人生變得更糟呢。」

        阿姜曼說,以一個在家人來講,這個人相當有勇氣,而且很坦率,他非常關心戒德方面的事。他對阿姜曼非常的虔誠,而阿姜曼對他也特別地關心。這名男子常來拜訪阿姜曼,如果沒有其他的訪客在,他通常會跟阿姜曼對話。一般來說,其他的在家人不會拿他那種問題來請教阿姜曼。他非常愛他的妻子與小孩,他對阿姜曼的敬愛使他經常到僧團頂禮。如果他看到阿姜曼有訪客,他會簡短地向阿姜曼頂禮,然後像待在自家裡一樣四處看看,找服務僧伽的機會。在沒有其他訪客的時候,他才會問他感興趣的問題,而阿姜曼也幾乎每次都會和善地回答他。

        阿姜曼非常了解每個人的基本性格,而且會經過評估後回應每個人。不管是非正式的談話或是開示說法,他都會根據聽眾的情況來調整自己的措辭,到目前為止我寫了這麼多,你們應該不會懷疑才對。

        當阿姜曼住在烏隆府的Wat Non Niwet寺裡,有很多的僧侶來請他指導,而且很多的比丘在他的指導下結雨安居。那個時候的Wat Non Niwet寺跟現在比起來要安靜得多了,沒什麼車輛熙來攘往,也沒有什麼人來參訪。大體來說,那個時候來寺院的人都是真心想要布施修福並持戒;不像現在,參訪的人不管是有意或無意,常會破壞僧團寧靜的環境。因此,僧侶都可以在心靈上提升自己,不只是對他們自己,同時也成為當地皈依僧伽的居民的喜樂之源。

        阿姜曼在傍晚的時候指導僧眾,通常他從講解戒律開始,接著談到正定,最後是智慧。按部就班簡要地講解,直到完全解脫的最高層次--「法」的基本目標!然後他又會回去講解一個比丘該如何修行,才能證入他所概述的「法」的每一個階段。對於致力禪修的比丘們,他總是強調以正念來奉行僧團戒律的重要性。

        「只有嚴格持守戒律並尊重一切修行的規則,才能被視為一位成熟的比丘。他不會只因為覺得某些戒律很細微或不重要就違背它們,由這樣的放逸或輕忽便可看出此人欠缺慚愧羞恥心,最後還可能會有更嚴重的破戒情事發生。比丘應該嚴格遵守戒律,以確保戒行清淨,無可指責、沒有玷污或缺漏。如此一來,他在同輩中能感到自在並有自信,不需擔心老師或同修會批評或斥責他。在內心追求圓滿至善的比丘,從須陀洹開始到阿羅漢,在達到所作已辦的過程中,都必須付出穩定且持續不斷的努力,去體證每一個層次的『定』與『慧』。如果能以這種方式堅持下去,各種心靈的能力將不斷開展,直到能將心中的各種煩惱垢染都給徹底清除。」

        「比丘的言行必須無可指責,他的『心』必須藉由法的功德一層一層地開展提升 —— 定成就、慧成就、解脫成就、解脫知見成見,直到絕對的圓滿至善(涅槃)。比丘不該消極或哀傷,不該不莊重,不能因為罪咎正在啃食他的心就避開他的同修,這樣就背離了佛陀的教誨,因為­佛陀的內在品行與外在的舉止都是完美而無可指責。比丘想要跟隨佛陀的足跡,就必須鼓起勇氣,諸惡莫作,眾善奉行。他必須是一個正直與誠實的人,對自己與同修都誠實,同時忠於『法』與『戒律』。這樣不管他身在何處,他的典範都會得到肯定。他的正念與觀智的光芒將會發光,如同心中瀰漫著法味,他絕不會被妄想困住而找不到出路。以上,都是一名真正的佛陀弟子該具有的特質,仔細地修習,並讓它們進入心中。如同指引你們的光明一般去緊緊遵循,走向沒有煩惱的未來,到那個時候你們就可說它們是自己珍貴的財產了。」

        以上就是阿姜曼平時如何教導僧眾們的情況。

        只要跟阿姜曼日常的修行時間沒有牴觸的話,比丘們若是對修行有疑惑或問題時都可以單獨來請教他。不論他身在何處,他的作息都很有規律,幾乎沒有例外。從一大清早禪坐起身後,他會走到戶外開始經行,直到托缽的時間已到。從村落化緣到足夠的食物並用過早餐後,他又會開始經行,直到中午,然後休息一下。休息過後,他會再禪坐一下,然後開始經行到下午四點。四點時,他會打掃住處周圍的空地。清掃完後,他會洗澡,然後再經行幾個小時。離開經行步道後,他回到小禪房,誦讀幾個小時的經文。之後,他又開始禪坐直到深夜。通常,他的睡眠時間不會超過四個小時。在一些特殊的情況下,他會徹夜不睡,禪坐到天亮。他還年輕的時候,他的精進無人能望其項背;雖然由於體力日漸衰退,有時他會稍微放鬆,但即便到了晚年,他仍保持精進的個性。而他與我們最大的不同之處便在於縱使他的身體日漸衰退,但他的心智仍看不出有任何衰弱的跡象。

        以上就是一位聖者的生活,他為我們樹立了完美的典範。他從未忽視自己應盡的義務,也從未鬆懈,這份不間斷的努力已成為推動他力量的來源,使他能在清邁府的深山裡獲得終極的勝利,就如同我們所看到的一樣。身為人類,我們擁有相同的特質可證得與阿姜曼同樣的境界。但實際上,能達到像他一樣完全成功的人卻鳳毛麟角。就算現在世界的人口嚴重過剩,但鮮有人能看到自己的夢想實現或達到這樣崇高的目標!在現今這個時代,這樣的成就十分稀有。

        阿姜曼與一般人之間最明顯的差異就在於他追求「聞」與「慧」的精進與決意的程度,他的努力建立在四神足之上:欲神足、勤神足、心神足、觀神足。當種下的「因」不同,「果」也必定截然不同,其差異令人難以置信。但人類因其行為所招來的善惡果報如鐵證一般在世上隨處可見,無法否認。我們必須認知這種明顯的事實:善與惡、快樂與痛苦,都在我們每一個人的身上交錯出現,我們沒有辦法逃脫。

        在現今的阿姜(禪師)中,阿姜曼的生平故事最特殊,從開花到結果,從開始到結束,都非常的豐富。每一個莊嚴神聖的足跡,都是每一個人由衷敬佩的生命。現今很多人都聽過他的好名聲,都很尊敬他,他的聖名遠播。可惜的是,許多熱愛正法的佛教徒在阿姜曼還在世的時候,並沒有機緣聆聽或親自拜見他。縱使他們多麼想見如此完美的聖者一面,也苦無機會。主要的原因是阿姜曼不喜歡城鎮那樣人口密集的地方,他發現在山區和森林的生活令他一生愜意逍遙多了。

        許多致力於實踐「法」的比丘,在追尋阿姜曼的過程中都遭遇了許多的困難。那個時候的泥土道路不容易行走,也沒車子可坐。他們必須徒步好幾天才能抵達他停留的地點,不習慣長途跋涉的人根本無法辦得到。每一個做不到這件事的比丘,他們的理由都不同:有的比丘只是沒有足夠的勇氣去接受他教導有關「法」的清楚真理;有的則是擔心食物與資具短缺或低劣;有的則是擔心無法像他一樣一天只吃一餐。只要一想到阿姜曼在那裡,比丘們便往往為他們自己製造出許多看似無法克服的障礙。雖然他們有很真誠的理想,但這樣的擔心就等於自我設限,妨礙了他們最初想得到的利益。到最後,他們只能在阿姜曼過世後,從聽來的故事裡來了解他的一生。他象徵自佛陀以降及無數的阿羅漢所傳承下來並保留至今的「道」與「果」。證得道、果、涅槃的聖者透過善向practice well、直向practice straightly、正向practice rightly、誠向practice properly的修行,將「法」的精髓給傳承了下來。他們就像從廣大無邊的不死海--「涅槃」所散射出的耀眼光芒,閃閃發光,光的源頭都是那些依照佛陀的教導已臻圓滿的聖者。

        阿姜曼是近代的阿羅漢之一,他於一九四九年十一月十日離世,距今約有二十年,並不算太久[1]。他逝世時的故事稍後會在這本傳記的最後一章節裡提及。無論如何,只要世間法仍以某種形式繼續存在,身體的死亡自亙古以來就存在並持續。凡有生就必有滅,留下的只剩佛陀無條件的慈悲、智慧與自在解脫,所有的一切都被珍藏在「法」中。像這些固有的特質都一樣,阿姜曼無條件的慈悲、智慧與解脫,如佛陀一般以同樣的方式保持不變。對於我們而言,重要的是我們一定要忠實按照佛陀所制定的方法去實踐 —— 我們在成就上的程度,端視於我們投注在修行上的時間與努力的多寡。只要我們還活著,就該關注這件事。若不努力修行,什麼成果都無法達成,而機會就這樣付諸東流。

        阿姜曼與呵叻府人民的問答中,有一則最令我印象深刻。以下是他開示的大概:「不要像自己、家人及朋友或你居住的社會等等都不用面對墳墓的態度來思惟與行動;否則當有一天死亡找上門時 —— 就如同它(死亡)會找上世上每一個人一樣 —— 你就會發現自己只能坐以待斃,而且有極高的風險墜入大家所不喜愛的悲慘境界。不管你怎麼想、怎麼說或怎麼做,都應該隨時想起象徵死亡的墳墓,因為墳墓與業力緊密相連。『念死』會使你想到業力,讓你回頭觀照你自己。」

        「當你實際上仍受業力因果法則擺佈,就千萬不要自以為聰明,這樣的傲慢只會引你走向不幸。千萬不要自認為比佛陀還要更高明,佛陀是偉大且一切智的導師,他不像有無明與驕慢的凡夫,他絕不會去臆測戲論。最後,這樣的人只會陷在狂妄自大為他們打造的惡業深淵裡。」

         這種直言不諱在效果上很驚人,可讓聽法的人專注在有關「業」的真諦。它克服了一切妄自尊大,使我們俯瞰自己在這世上的真正位置。我這裡又回到「業」議題是因為我認為之前寫的內容並不十分恰當,它無法充分捕捉阿姜曼教導的效果。我剛剛才注意到這個疏忽,這突顯出我們的記憶有多麼不可靠。事實上,它們常誤導我們,讓真相被掩蓋,使我們看不到真相。所以請原諒我一再回到同一個議題上。

        阿姜曼有知識與能力將「法」的功德傳授給他的出家弟子。結果,他的許多弟子都已發展成名符其實的「菩提樹」了。這種菩提樹相當難栽培與成長,因為四周有很多的危害環伺。他的許多位資深弟子迄今仍活在世上,我在書中也曾提過一些人的名字。阿姜曼的資深弟子包括以下知名的阿姜:如烏汶府的阿姜辛與阿姜瑪哈賓、廊開府Tha Bo的阿姜泰、色軍府的阿姜豐、烏隆府Tham Klong Phen寺的阿姜、烏隆府Nong HanDong Yen村的阿姜Phrom、北欖府(Samut Prakan)Wat Asokaram寺的阿姜Lee、黎府的阿姜措與阿姜Lui、清邁府的阿姜Sim與阿姜Tei、色軍府的阿姜Kongma。還有很多我已經記不起名字了,而每一位阿姜都各自擁有與眾不同的卓越特質。

        每一位都有與眾不同的長處,也都值得致上最崇高的敬意。有幾位相當的知名,全國的出家與在家眾都耳熟能詳。有些阿姜因天性喜好寧靜而樂於獨自靜修。這些資深的弟子們都有品德高尚的特質,但因為他們天性喜愛平靜的生活,故而保持低調,實際上很少人知道他們的存在。

        阿姜曼跟泰國其他地區的禪師們相比,更能穩固地協助僧眾樹立菩提根。菩提Bodhi的意思是指智慧,世尊的菩提稱做「覺悟」,但對這些阿姜來說,我寧可稱它為菩提根,因為這與他們卑微的地位相應(因為這些阿姜除了解脫以外的成就,都遠不如佛陀),也符合他們所屬的森林傳統。幫助一位比丘建立菩提根,跟養育孩子很像。首先要教導這個比丘在戒德方面如何發展穩固的基礎,然後再教導他如何以戒德為基礎進行禪修,向內心觀察並發展出足夠的知見與內明,讓他能夠穩固地觀照自己。每一個人及每一個比丘在心靈發展方面都是一種極其艱困的挑戰,因為要在一個被煩惱控制的人心中種下良善的品德[2],是一種很吃力的任務。老師必須隨時謹慎,並精通消除煩惱的方法,好讓學生對於接受訓練能保持熱忱。在一位好老師的指導下持續不斷的修行,才能將自己的性格融入「法」,並穩定地增強自信與決意。

        我們都必須獨自承受各種煩惱給我們的折磨,每一個來找老師指導的比丘也都同樣充滿著煩惱。所以對老師而言,要找到足夠的力量將學生逐一給拖到安穩之處,是件很困難的事。我相信對於人類所從事過最艱困的任務,就是使一個凡夫比丘轉化成一個真正值得受到最高崇敬的比丘。當老師嘗試使弟子從原本的凡夫地位,晉升到須陀洹、斯陀含、阿那含、阿羅漢等聖者之流時,任務就會變得更加複雜,艱鉅的程度也將隨著每一層接續而來的成就呈現出戲劇化的增加。在初期,菩提樹有機會成長、發芽並長成一棵有用的大樹之前,十之八九會有昆蟲突然出現並啃食其根部,鑽入它的莖幹,直到整棵樹倒塌在地,這是我們常見的狀況。很少見到有樹木的根部長得夠深,承受得起狂風暴雨與蟲害的蹂躪。當我們栽種一棵普通的樹木時,我們會預期這棵樹不久就可以結果;但,當我們試著替比丘種下菩提根時,卻總是處於崩壞倒塌的邊緣。就算沒有明顯即刻的危險,他也會替自己找麻煩,因此給自己帶來很多的傷害,所有這一切都使得訓練比丘變得極其困難。如果你不相信,那麼就自己去做個試驗:去出家當一名比丘吧,試著去持守佛陀所制定的戒律。我敢打賭在太陽下山前你就會餓到想吃晚餐;你會忘記早已剃除鬢髮,你會一直心癢癢地想出去逛一逛,聽各種聲音,聞這個,嚐那個,觸摸美好與柔軟的東西。不管早、中、晚,你的慾望沒有一刻能被填滿,用不了多久你就會完全忘記自己的比丘身分。你不再對栽培心中的菩提樹有興趣,因為你的心已無法接受比丘必須經過長期訓練來獲取心靈真正寂靜的理由,也無法堅持修下去。

        若無人看管,心中的菩提樹就會逐漸枯萎,惡勢力就會抬頭,又豈能承受它們的猛烈攻擊?比丘心中的菩提很容易受到這些惡勢力的影響,以至於他的心會因為不相應的因緣而搖擺不定。如果他的菩提無法承受這樣的壓力,它將絕望地倒塌在地,因此栽培菩提是一件極艱困的任務。那些從未試著在心中栽培菩提的人,絕不可能知道那些惡勢力的力道有多麼強大。它們企圖以各種阻礙菩提幼苗的東西來滋養它,最後使它毀滅。結果,這樣的菩提樹看起來就像毫無生機的樣子,就好像是因為嚴重缺乏聖潔的戒德,隨時就要枯死。

        我有過多次栽培菩提樹的經驗,但由於缺乏周延的判斷,我經歷超乎意料的失敗,所以我很明白要培育並照護菩提樹有多麼困難,它總是看起來一副快要枯死的樣子。就算到了今天,我仍不敢肯定地說我的菩提樹是否有好好地成長與茁壯;又或者它的處境和一般情況一樣,慢慢地枯死?事實上,我還沒看見自己進步到能估計它退墮到什麼樣的層次 —— 持續的退墮似乎已成為常態。但由於喜歡追求各種有害的刺激,這種菩提若沒有外在的幫助,很容易會自我毀滅。

        任何人只要奮力抵抗心中自然的傾向,直到心能完全臣服於「法」的權威,便能圓滿發展出菩提,這種人值得尊敬。阿姜曼是一個已完全開發出菩提的老師典範,同時成為所有弟子安樂與信心的來源。阿姜曼很小心地栽培菩提樹,直到它的根莖粗壯,枝葉繁茂,並開出許多的花果,對那些想尋求遮蔭的人來說,那會是一個安穩的庇蔭處。雖然他已經逝世,但只要讀過關於他一生的故事,就足以對他以及他的修行生起信心,就彷彿他從未離開過一樣。


 

[1] 距離作者摩訶布瓦尊者寫這本書的時間。

[2] 指菩提善根。

 

      

In Udon Thani, just as they had in other places, the local people often came to Ãcariya Mun with questions. While some of their questions  were  very  similar  to  the  ones  that  he  had  received many times before, the more unusual ones arose from the views and opinions of certain individuals. Among the more commonly asked questions were those dealing with past-life associations of living beings who have developed virtuous qualities together over a period of many lives, and how such inherent character traits have continuity in their present lives. Other questions dealt with past-life associations of husbands and wives who had lived together happily for many lifetimes. Ãcariya Mun said that people had more doubts about these questions than any others.

As for the first question, Ãcariya Mun did not specify the exact nature of what he was asked. He merely mentioned the question of past-life associations in a general way and gave this explanation:

“Things like this must originate with the establishment of volitional intent, for that determines the way the lives of specific individuals become interrelated.”

The second question was more specific: How is it possible to determine whether the love between a man and a woman has been preordained by previous association in lives past? How can we distinguish between a loving relationship based on past-life connections and one which is not?

Ãcariya Mun replied:

“It is very difficult to know with any certainty whether or not our love for this person or our relationship with that person has its roots in a mutual affinity developed over many lifetimes. For the most part, people fall in love and get married rather blindly. Feeling hungry, a person’s tendency is to just reach out and grab some food to satisfy that hunger. They will eat whatever is available as long as it is sufficient for their day-to-day needs. The same can be applied to past-life associations as well. Although such relationships are a common feature of life in this world, it is not at all easy to find genuine cases of people who fall in love and get married simply due to a long-standing past-life association. The problem is, the kilesas that cause people to fall in love don’t spare anyone’s blushes, and they certainly don’t wait patiently to give past-life affinities a chance to have a say in the matter first. All the kilesas ask is that there be someone of the opposite sex who suits their fancy – that’s enough for passion to arise and impulsively grab a hold. Those kilesas that cause people to fall in love can turn ordinary people into ‘fighters’ who will battle desperately to the bitter end without respect for modesty or moderation, no matter what the consequences might be. Even if they see they have made a mistake, they will still refuse to admit defeat. Even the prospect of death cannot make them abandon their fighting style. This is what the kilesas that cause people to fall in love are all about. Displaying themselves conspicuously in people’s hearts, they are extremely difficult to control.

“Anyone who wants to be a reasonable, responsible person should avoid giving these kilesas their head, never permitting them to charge on ahead unchecked. So you must exercise enough self-control to insure that, even if you know nothing about your past-life associations, you will still have an effective means of reining in your heart – a means of avoiding being dragged through the mire and down a steep, dark precipice. Unless you are an accomplished meditator with an aptitude for perceiving various types of phenomena, you will find it very difficult to access knowledge about your past lives. Whatever the case, you must always have enough presence of mind to maintain proper self-control. Don’t let those offensive kilesas burst their banks, pouring out like flood waters with no levee to contain them. Thus you will be able to avoid sinking deep into the great quagmire of unbridled love.”

Questioner: “What should a husband and wife, who have lived together happily in this life and wish to remain together in the next life, do to insure that they’ll be reborn together in the future? Is it enough that they both hold the same desire for meeting again in future lives?”

Ãcariya Mun: “That desire merely creates the prospect of achieving one’s intended objective; but if that desire is not accompanied by concrete action it will not bring the expected results. Take the example of someone who desires to be rich. If that person is too lazy to go out and earn his wealth, then there is no way he’ll ever be rich. To stand any chance of success, an intention must be supported by a concerted effort toward reaching that goal. It’s the same with a husband and wife who wish to maintain their loving relationship, living together happily in each successive life. To avoid being separated, their viewpoints must be analogous, and they must remain faithful to each other. They must refrain from taking advantage of each other because this destroys their mutual trust and leads to dissatisfaction. They must cherish virtue, behave properly, and trust each other. By establishing a mutual understanding about their partnership and then making a sincere effort to foster their future together by doing what is beneficial to it, they can expect to fulfill that desire for it is well within their power to do so. On the other hand, should the opposite hold true – with either the husband being good while the wife is bad, or vice versa, with one or the other doing only that which pleases him or her – then no matter how many hundreds of resolutions they make together, they will all come to naught. Their very actions will perforce undermine their desire. And what about you? Do you cherish the desire to be together with your wife above all other wishes?”

Questioner: “I desire nothing more than the fulfillment of this wish. Wealth and all its trappings, rank, title, royal status, heavenly  bliss,  or  spiritual  attainment  –  none  of  these  would mean anything without my wife, who is my one true love. This is the major focus of every person’s desire, so we must wish for a loving mate first of all; then other desires can be considered in due course. That is why I had to ask you about this matter first, although I was embarrassed and afraid you might scold me. Such is the reality of the world we live in, though people are often too shy to speak about it.”

Ãcariya Mun laughed: “That being the case, you have to take your wife wherever you go, right?”

Questioner: “I’m ashamed to say that it’s really concern about my wife that has prevented me from ordaining as a monk all this time. I am worried that she’d be awfully lonely with no one there to advise and reassure her. My children just bother her for money to buy things, making a nuisance of themselves all the time. I don’t see how they can offer her any security or peace of mind. I can’t help worrying about her.

“There’s another thing I don’t understand. The Dhamma teaches that the heavenly realms are inhabited by both male and female devas, much like the human world. Beings there live a blissfully happy existence, enjoying a variety of pleasures that make it a very inviting place to live. But, unlike here on earth or in the heavens, it seems that no distinction is made between male and female beings in the brahma realms. Doesn’t it get kind of lonely there? I mean, they have no one to cheer them up or humor them when they get in a bad mood. And Nibbãna is even worse – there is no involvement with anything whatsoever. One is absolutely self-reliant in every way. Without the need to depend on anyone or anything for help, there is no need for one to become involved with others in anyway. One is truly independent. But how can one possibly take pride in anything there? Ordinarily, someone reaching an exalted state like Nibbãna should expect to be honored and praised by the other beings who live there. At least in the world, a prosperous person who has wealth and social status receives praise and admiration from his fellow human beings. But those going to Nibbãna find only silence – there’s no question of receiving praise and admiration from their peers. Which makes me wonder how such total silence can truly be a state of happiness. Please forgive me for asking such a crazy, unorthodox question, but unless I find out from someone who really knows the answer, this dilemma will continue to trouble me to no end.”

Ãcariya Mun: “The heavenly realms, the brahma realms, and Nibbãna are not reserved for skeptics like you. They are reserved for those who can realize their own true inner worth. Only such people realize the value of the heavenly realms, the brahma realms, and Nibbãna because they understand that the value of each successive realm increases relative to the virtuous qualities inherent in those who would attain them. Somebody like you can hardly dream of attaining such states. Even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t be able to go as long as your wife was still around. Were she to die, you would still be unable to stop yearning for her long enough to start wishing for a heavenly existence. The way you feel, even the exalted brahma realms and Nibbãna cannot compare with your wife, since those states cannot take care of you like she can. Thus, you don’t want to go, because you are afraid that you will lose the one who takes care of all your needs.”

Ãcariya Mun and his questioner both laughed heartily, then Ãcariya Mun continued: “Even the kinds of happiness we experience here in the human world vary widely according to individual preferences. It is comparable to the way our sense faculties, which coexist in the same physical body, deal with different types of sensations. For example, the eyes prefer to see forms, the ears prefer to hear sounds, the nose prefers smells, the tongue prefers tastes, the body prefers tactile sensations, while the mind prefers to perceive mental objects – each according to its own natural bias. They can’t all be expected to have the same preference. Partaking of a good meal is one way to find pleasure. Living happily married together is yet another form of pleasure. The world has never been short of pleasant experiences, for they are an indispensable part of life that living beings everywhere feel obliged to pursue. There are forms of happiness experienced here on earth; there are others experienced in the heavenly realms, and still others in the brahma realms. Then there is the “happiness” of Nibbãna which is experienced by those who have totally eradicated the vexatious kilesas from their hearts. Their happiness is something entirely different from the worldly happiness of those with kilesas.

“If the happiness you receive from your wife’s company is really all you need, then why bother looking at sights and listening to sounds? Why bother eating or sleeping? Why bother developing virtuous qualities by giving donations, maintaining morality, or doing meditation? All you need do is live with your wife and let that happiness be the sum of all happiness you would otherwise receive from these sources. You could save yourself a lot of trouble that way. But can you actually do it?”

Questioner: “Oh no, Sir! How could I possibly do that? What about all those times when we quarrel with each other? How could I make all my happiness dependent on her alone? That would just complicate my life even more.”

Ãcariya Mun said this man had a rather bold, forthright character and, for a layman, he had a very keen interest in moral virtue. He was deeply devoted to Ãcariya Mun who usually made an effort to give him special attention. This man used to come to see Ãcariya Mun and casually start up a conversation when there were no other visitors around. Normally, other people could not bring themselves to ask Ãcariya Mun the kinds of questions he did. He was extremely fond of his wife and children, while his fond devotion for Ãcariya Mun made him a frequent visitor at the monastery. If he came and found Ãcariya Mun with visitors, he would simply pay his respects, then go off to help the monks with the air of someone who feels quite at home in a monastery. He chose those occasions when no visitors were present to ask the questions that intrigued him. And Ãcariya Mun was kind enough to oblige him nearly every time.

Ãcariya Mun was exceptionally clever at recognizing a person’s basic character traits; and treated each individual according to his assessment. Whether speaking casually or giving a discourse, he always tailored his remarks to fit the audience, as you can no doubt see from what I have written so far.

W HILE  Ã CARIYA  M UN  lived at Wat Non Niwet monastery in Udon Thani, numerous monks came to seek his guidance, and many spent the rains retreat under his tutelage. In those days, Wat Non Niwet monastery was a much quieter place than it is today. There was very little traffic back then and very few people came to visit. By and large, people who did come to the monastery were those with a genuine interest in making merit and developing virtuous qualities – unlike nowadays when people tend to come and disturb the monks’ peaceful environment whether they intend to or not. Back then, monks could practice as they pleased without disturbance. Consequently, many monks developed themselves spiritually, becoming a source of contentment not only to themselves, but also to the local people who looked to monks for refuge.

Ãcariya Mun instructed the monks in the evening. He usually began with a general explanation of moral virtue, followed by samãdhi and then wisdom, going briefly through them stage by stage until the highest level of absolute freedom – the essential goal of Dhamma. He then went back and gave a comprehensive exposition of how a monk should practice to attain the various stages of Dhamma that he had outlined. For monks engaged in meditation practice, he always emphasized the vital importance of mindful adherence to the monastic code of discipline.

“Only a monk who is firm in his discipline and respectful of all the training rules can be considered a full-fledged monk. He should not transgress the minor training rules merely  because  he  considers  them  to  be  somehow  insignificant. Such negligence indicates someone who feels no shame about immoral behavior, and it may eventually lead to more serious transgressions. A monk must strictly adhere to the monastic code of discipline to make sure that his moral behavior is not punctuated with unsightly blemishes or gaps. In that way, he feels comfortable and confident living among his peers. He need never be concerned that his teacher or his fellow monks will be critical or reproachful. For the inner monk in your heart to reach perfection, starting from Sotãpanna and progressing to Arahant, you must be steady and relentless in your effort to attain each successive level of both samãdhi and wisdom. If you persevere in this manner, these faculties will arise and continue to develop until they are able to scrub clean that filthy mess of defilements in your heart.

“A monk’s conduct and speech should be absolutely above reproach. His citta should be absolutely superb by virtue of the Dhamma qualities that he develops step by step: samãdhi, paññã,  vimutti,  and  vimuttiñãõadassana.  A monk  should never be dreary or sad. He should never appear undignified, shunning his fellows because a guilty conscience is eating away inside him, troubling his heart. This is contrary to the way of the Lord Buddha, whose splendid internal conduct and external behavior were irreproachable. Following in his footsteps, a monk must muster the resolute courage to abandon all evil and do only good. He must be a man of integrity who is honest with himself and his peers while being faithful to the Dhamma and the Discipline. He will thus be supported by his exemplary practice everywhere he goes. The brightness of his mindfulness and wisdom will light the way as his heart will be suffused with the taste of Dhamma. He will never find himself trapped in a state of delusion with no means of escape. Such are the characteristics inherent in a true disciple of the Lord Buddha. Study them carefully and take them to heart. Adhere closely to them as the basis for a bright, trouble-free future when you can claim them as your own valuable, personal possessions.”

This was how Ãcariya Mun usually instructed practicing monks.

M ONKS   WHO   HAD   DOUBTS or questions about their practice could consult individually with Ãcariya Mun during the day when the time did not conflict with his daily routine. His daily life had a regular pattern which he tended to follow without fail wherever he stayed.  Rising  from  his  meditation  seat  early  in  the  morning, he walked meditation outside his hut until it was time to go on almsround. After collecting alms food in the village and eating his morning meal, he again walked meditation until noon and then took a short rest. Once rested, he sat in meditation for awhile before continuing his walking meditation until four P.M. At four, he swept the open areas around his residence. When he finished, he bathed, and again practiced walking meditation for many hours. Upon leaving his meditation track, he entered his hut to do several hours of chanting. Following that, he again sat in meditation late into the night. Normally, he slept no more than four hours a night. On special occasions he went entirely without sleep, sitting in meditation until dawn. When he was young, he displayed a diligence in his practice that none of his contemporaries could match. Even in old age he maintained his characteristic diligence, although he did relax a bit due to his strength, which declined with each passing day. But he differed significantly from the rest of us in that his mind showed no signs of weakness even as his health gradually deteriorated.

Such was the life of a great man who set a perfect example for us all. He never neglected his personal responsibilities, nor did he relax the relentless effort which had been such an important source of strength, spurring him on to that gratifying victory deep in the mountains of Chiang Mai, as we have seen. As human beings, we all possess attributes that should allow us to duplicate Ãcariya Mun’s achievement. In actual practice, those able to achieve the kind of unqualified success that he did are far and few between. Despite the fact that the world is now grossly overpopulated, very few people indeed will see their hopes fulfilled by attaining this exalted goal. In the present age, such an attainment is very rare.

The outstanding difference between someone like Ãcariya Mun and the rest of us is the degree of diligence and determination he applied to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, an effort firmly grounded in the four iddhipãda: chanda, viriya, citta, and vimaÿsa. And when the causes are so different, the results are bound to be radically different as well – so much so that it’s almost unbelievable how varied they can be from one person to the next. But the good and bad results that people receive from their actions are evident everywhere in the world around us, and they cannot be denied. We must acknowledge the obvious: that a mixture of goodness and evil, happiness and suffering arises in each and every one of us. There is no way we can divest ourselves of them.

Among modern-day ãcariyas, Ãcariya Mun’s life story is splendidly unique. A rich story, it flowers and bears fruit from beginning to end. Magnificent every step of the way, it is a life worthy of everyone’s heartfelt respect. He is now revered far and wide in places where people have heard about his excellent reputation. It’s a great shame that so many Buddhists who were keenly interested in Dhamma never heard of him while he was still alive. Although they might have very much wanted to meet a man of such exceptional virtue, they never had a chance to do so. This was largely because he did not like to frequent crowded places like towns and cities. He found life in the mountains and forests far more satisfactory his entire life.

Many monks who were dedicated to the practice of Dhamma also experienced great difficulty in reaching him. The dirt roads were hardly passable in those days – and anyway, there were no vehicles. They had to hike for days in order to reach the places where he liked to stay. Those who were unaccustomed to hiking just couldn’t manage it. Their excuses for not going varied. Some monks were simply not courageous enough to accept the plain truth about Dhamma that he taught. Some were afraid that food and other necessities would be in short supply and of poor quality. Some were afraid they could not eat just one meal a day as he did. Where Ãcariya Mun was concerned, monks tended to create any number of obstacles for themselves, most of them appearing insurmountable. Although their aspirations were sincere, such concerns amounted to self-imposed barriers that prevented them from gaining the benefit of their good intentions. In the end, they realized the kind of monk he really was only long after he had passed away and they heard the story of his life. He epitomized the sãsana which has preserved magga and phala from Lord Buddha’s initial attainment down through the countless number of Arahants who have maintained magga and phala to this day. The essence of the sãsana has been transmitted by means of supaåipanno, uju, ñãya, sãmïci   paåipanno sãvakasangho  as practiced by all those who have attained magga, phala, and Nibbãna. They are like a vast stream of the great deathless ocean of Nibbãna, shimmering forth from the pristine nature of those who have practiced to perfection what the Buddha taught.

Ãcariya Mun was one of the Arahants of this present age. He passed away not so long ago on November 10, 1949, about 20 years ago.  The story of his passing away will be described later when we reach the final chapter of his life. In any case, physical death has existed since time immemorial and will continue to exist as long as some form of conventional reality still remains. What arises must pass away. What remains unconditionally is the prodigious wonder of the Lord Buddha’s infinite compassion, wisdom, and absolute freedom, all of which are enshrined in the sãsana. Such intrinsic qualities being exactly the same, Ãcariya Mun’s  unqualified  compassion,  wisdom,  and  absolute  freedom remain unchanged in the same way as those of the Lord Buddha. For us, it is essential that we faithfully practice the way laid down by the Buddha – the degree of success we have will depend on the amount of time and effort we put into the practice. This is something we should all take an interest in while we are still alive. Without making an effort to practice, no results can be achieved, and the opportunity will be irrevocably lost.

O NE   OF   THE   ANSWERS  that Ãcariya Mun gave to the people of Nakhon Ratchasima especially caught my attention. Here is a summary of what he said:

“Don’t think and act as if you, your family and friends, and the society you live in will never have to face the cemetery. Otherwise, when death comes – as it does to everyone in the world – you will find yourself hopelessly unprepared and so risk sinking into the kind of unfavorable state no one would wish for. Whatever you think, say, or do should be accompanied by some recollection of the cemetery, which symbolizes death, for cemeteries and kamma go hand in hand. Reflection on death will encourage reflection on kamma, which in turn will cause you to reflect back on yourself.

“Don’t get cocky, thinking you’re so smart, when in truth you are always at the mercy of kamma. Such arrogance will merely lead to your own misfortune. You should never take the attitude that you are smarter than the Buddha – that great, all-knowing teacher who, unlike people with kilesas who feel very cocky, never relied on conjecture. In the end, such people become trapped in the bad kamma that their own arrogant assumptions have created for them.”

Such straight talk can be quite startling in its effect, inducing the listener to submit wholeheartedly to the truth about kamma. It cuts through all the self-importance that causes us to overlook our true place in this world. I have revisited the subject of kamma here for I feel that what I previously wrote on the subject is inadequate, since it failed to capture the full impact of what Ãcariya Mun taught. This oversight has just come to my attention, which shows just how unreliable our memories are. In fact, they easily mislead us, blocking the truth from view. So please forgive me for going over the same material again from time to time.

à CARIYA  M UN   HAD  the knowledge and the ability to confer Dhamma excellence on his monk disciples. As a result, many of them developed into veritable Bodhi trees in their own right. This type of Bodhi tree is extremely difficult to plant and nurture to maturity for it tends to be surrounded by hazards. Many disciples of his who became senior ãcariyas are still alive today. Some of them I have already mentioned by name. Ãcariya Mun’s senior disciples include such well-known ãcariyas as Ãcariya Sing and Ãcariya Mahã Pin from Ubon Ratchathani, Ãcariya Thet from Tha Bo in Nong Khai, Ãcariya Fan from Sakon Nakhon, Ãcariya Khao of Wat Tham Klong Phen in Udon Thani, Ãcariya Phrom from Dong Yen village of Nong Han district in Udon Thani, Ãcariya Lee of Wat Asokaram in Samut Prakan, Ãcariya Chob and Ãcariya Lui from Loei province, Ãcariya Sim and Ãcariya Tei from Chiang Mai, and Ãcariya Kongma from Sakon Nakhon. There are still many others whose names I cannot recall. Each of these ãcariyas possesses certain exceptional qualities setting him apart from the rest.

Each is outstanding in his own distinct way, and all are worthy of the highest respect.  Some being quite famous, they are well-known to monks and lay people across the country. Some by nature prefer to live in quiet seclusion. There are senior disciples of Ãcariya Mun possessing exceptionally virtuous qualities who remain virtually unknown because they naturally prefer to live in anonymity.

More than any other teacher in the Northeast region of Thailand Ãcariya Mun was able to firmly establish monks in bodhi-dhamma. Bodhi means wisdom. The Bodhi of the Lord Buddha is called Enlightenment; but in the case of these ãcariyas I would prefer to simply call it bodhidhamma, as befits their humble status and the forest tradition to which they belong. Establishing a monk in bodhidhamma is very similar to raising a child. First the monk is taught how to develop a firm basis in moral discipline. Then he’s taught how to use that moral excellence as a basis for his meditation practice, focusing inward to develop sufficient knowledge and understanding that will allow him to safely look after himself. The spiritual development of each and every monk represents an extremely difficult challenge because implanting virtuous qualities deeply into the heart of someone who is oppressed by the kilesas is always a very demanding task. The teacher must be on his guard at all times, exercising complete mastery over every type of kilesa so that the student remains earnestly motivated to undergo the training. Persistent practice under a good teacher allows the student a chance to bring his own character into harmony with Dhamma and so steadily grow in confidence and determination.

On our own, we all suffer from kilesas. Everyone coming to train under a teacher is equally full of kilesas. So it is difficult for them to find the strength necessary to drag one another to safety. I believe the most difficult task any human being can undertake is that of trying to transform an ordinary monk into a monk who’s truly worthy of the highest respect. That task is further complicated when the teacher tries to encourage the student to shift from his original, mundane position up to the transcendent levels of Sotãpanna, Sakadãgãmï, Anãgãmï and Arahant. The degree of difficulty increases dramatically with each successive level of attainment. In all likelihood, insects will come along and chew at its roots, boring into them until the whole tree topples to the ground before the nascent Bodhi tree has a chance to sprout and branch out, developing into a useful specimen. This is what we usually see happen. Seldom do the roots grow deep enough to resist the ravages of wind, rain, and insects. When we plant an ordinary tree in the ground we can expect it to soon bear fruit. When, however, we try to establish a monk in Dhamma, he always appears on the verge of falling over. Even if no apparent dangers are on the horizon, he will go out looking for something to trouble him, thus causing himself a lot of harm. All of which makes developing a monk difficult indeed. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try: ordain as a monk and try following the monastic discipline laid down by the Buddha. What’s the bet you’ll be hungry for supper before the sun has even set. Forgetting all about your newly-shaved head, you will be itching to travel about all the time, sight-seeing, listening to sounds, smelling this, tasting that, and touching things that are nice and soft. Morning, noon, and evening – never will there be enough to satisfy your appetite. Soon you’ll forget all about your status as a monk. It’s unlikely that you will ever take an interest in cultivating that inner Bodhi tree, for your heart will never accept reason and persevere with the monk’s training long enough to gain genuine peace of mind.

Left unattended, the Bodhi tree of the heart will gradually wither and shrivel up. Harmful influences will then have the upper hand. What Bodhi tree could stand erect against such an onslaught? The bodhi of a monk is sensitive to those influences, so his heart may easily be swayed by such discordant elements. If his bodhi cannot withstand the pressure, it will topple hopelessly to the ground. Thus it is an extremely difficult task to establish bodhi properly. Those who have never tried to establish bodhi in their hearts don’t know how potent those negative influences can be. They attempt to fertilize the nascent Bodhi tree with substances that only serve to stunt its growth, eventually ruining it altogether. Consequently, such Bodhi trees tend to have a dreary look about them, as if they were going to die at any moment from a profound shortage of noble virtue.

I have experience in planting such Bodhi trees and looking after them. And due to a lack of sound judgment, I’ve had my share of disappointments. So I am well aware of how difficult they are to establish and take care of. They always seem to be on the verge of withering up and dying. Even today I cannot say for sure whether or not this Bodhi tree of mine will grow and mature nicely, or simply deteriorate, since as a rule it threatens to take a turn for the worse. In fact, I haven’t seen enough progress to be able to gauge the level of decline – steady decline seems to be the norm. Preferring to look for stimulation that is invariably harmful, this type of bodhi can easily destroy itself without any outside help.

Anyone  who  makes  the  agonizing  effort  to  oppose  his heart’s natural inclinations until it submits to the authority of Dhamma is able to develop bodhi to perfection. Such a person is truly worthy of veneration. Ãcariya Mun was a classic example of a teacher who develops bodhi so thoroughly that he becomes a reassuring source of comfort to all his disciples. Ãcariya Mun carefully cultivated his Bodhi tree until the trunk was strong, the branches extensive, the foliage thick, and the fruits and flowers abundant. It was always a peaceful source of shade for those who sought to shelter there. Although he has already passed away, just reading the story of his life is enough to arouse faith in him and the Dhamma he practiced. It’s almost as though he never passed away at all.