阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第六章第一節:晚年

        

      

              

第六章第一節:晚年

    阿姜曼離開清邁府後,在烏隆府的Wat Non Niwet寺結過兩次雨安居。第二次雨安居後,他的一位資深弟子Khun Mae Num Chuwanon帶著一群來自色軍府的在家弟子前來參訪阿姜曼,希望他能為了當地民眾的修行利益,與他們一起回色軍府。當他們得知阿姜曼欣然同意後,所有的人都非常地高興,於是他們安排行程並護送阿姜曼前往那裡。在一九四一年底,阿姜曼抵達色軍府,並先住在Wat Suddhawat寺;不久,每天都有比丘與在家眾來向他頂禮,並尋求他的指導。

        在Wat Suddhawat寺的時候,曾有一個人帶著相機,來徵求他的同意替他照相,好作為紀念與供奉的對象。總計來說,阿姜曼只允許他人為他拍過三次照:在色軍府的這一次;前一次,是當他住在呵叻府的時候;然後,是在那空帕農府That PhanomBan Fang Daeng村的阿姜索葬禮回程時拍的照片。今天信眾所收藏與供奉的相片都是在這三個場合拍照的複製品。要不是這些相片,就沒有任何的攝影圖像可提醒我們阿姜曼的樣子了。要取得阿姜曼同意拍照是件非常不容易的事。那些試著要替他拍照的人都如坐針氈,緊張到汗水濕透全身,等待時機向他提拍照這件事。因為他們很清楚阿姜曼很少同意這一類的活動,所以他們很擔心要是處理不好,他很可能以簡短的拒絕將他們給打發走。

        阿姜曼在Wat Suddhawat寺住上一陣子後,便前往Ban Na Mon村附近的一間小森林道場,那裡不管是白天或夜晚都非常的安靜,人煙稀少,很適合阿姜曼。若是你看到那些與阿姜曼一起生活的沙彌與比丘,你一定會印象深刻 ——  因為他們都很少說話,也就是說,他們寧願把時間都花在修行上,也不願鬼扯閒聊,每一位比丘若不是在小禪屋內靜坐,就是在森林中經行。下午四點一到,他們都會各自從自己住的地方走出來一起打掃環境。當整個區域都打掃乾淨後,他們會到井邊打水,把水桶裝滿用來清洗雙腳與缽的水。當雜務都完成後,所有人會很有秩序並安靜地一起到井邊洗澡。他們以過人的自制力完成每一件日常瑣碎的工作,一直用正念與觀智去分析觀照手邊工作的本質,沒有人會分心閒聊。當日常工作都做完後,他們會各自回到自己的小禪屋裡,依自己適合的情況去禪坐或是經行。

        當比丘都回到自己的小禪屋後,整個僧團看起來就像廢墟一般,如果這個時候有訪客來,絕不會看到有比丘無所事事地在那邊閒晃。如果有人敢闖進森林附近,他會發現有些比丘在步道上來回經行,有些比丘則平靜地在自己的小禪屋內靜坐,大家都喜歡獨自靜修。他們在托缽、用餐或傍晚聚會或有其他必要的義務時,才會一起行動。就算是托缽,每一位比丘在往返村落的路上,都很謹慎自制,保持正念禪修。他們不會漫不經心走路時四處張望,或與路過的人們閒扯。當看到比丘以莊嚴平靜的威儀托缽時,真的很讓人感動!

        回到僧團後,比丘們在進食前會坐在一起並觀照缽內的食物。他們會思惟對食物的貪慾染著所帶來的後患,把注意力放在缽內,禁止交談,不讓視線偏離進食這件事。他們仔細地咀嚼,避免發出不禮貌的聲響打擾到他人。用完餐後,他們會互相幫忙把所有的器具歸位,並擦乾淨四周。每一位比丘清洗自己的缽,然後以布擦乾,小心地把缽放在陽光下曝曬一些時候,然後,再把缽放回適當的位置。

        當這些工作完成後,每一位比丘會回到他獨自生活的地方,以最適合他自己的修行方式,將全部的注意力都投注在訓練「心」之上。有時候,比丘會發揮到極限,有時候會稍稍放鬆。但不論是哪一種狀況,他都只專注在修行上,根本不在意過了多少時間與花了多少精力。基本上,他的目的就是為了確使「心」能專注在他所選擇的業處所緣,直到這種專注力變成了使心走向平靜與沉穩的一個所緣。這種平靜,接下來,會幫助他集中精神在因果關係中的固有現象,然後以智慧來選定它作為觀照的對象,當他邁向終極目標(解脫)的同時,他愈來愈能體證到「法」(解脫)的微妙層次。當一位比丘如此的勤奮,他會試著去確認他的修行方法是正走在解脫道的某一個正確的階段。

        比丘在修行的每一個階段保有正念是一件非常重要的事,而當修行已達到觀智不可或缺的階段時,運用觀智也是必要的。然而,正念,不管在何時或從事任何的活動,都一定不可或缺。萬一失去正念,努力都將落空。如果缺乏正念,那麼不管是靜坐或經行,也都只是空洞的姿勢與動作而已,不能稱做「正精進」。因此,阿姜曼強調正念勝於其他的修行。事實上,在修行的每一個階段,正念都是支持其中每一個面向的基礎。持續地修下去,終究會發展成無上的正念,並孕育出最高的智慧。在開發禪定的一境性與平靜的最初階段,必須密集地運用正念,在所有接下來的階段,正念與觀智就必須一前一後地進展,同心協力運作。

        阿姜曼教導他的比丘在面對修行時必須堅忍與勇敢,那些不能全心投入修行的比丘是不可能與他一起長期生活。阿姜曼大約一個星期會召集僧眾一次並對他們說法,在其他的夜晚他則期望比丘能趕緊努力修行。那些有疑問的人可以去請教他,不用等到下一次的聚會。「法味」的氛圍彌漫在他的四周,使他的弟子都可以感受到「道」、「果」、「涅槃」都真的垂手可得。他令人安心的陪伴帶給弟子們必要的勇氣與決心,使他們勇於追求修行上的極限,他以這種方式去引領他們,使他們彷彿看到最高的成就已近在眼前。禪修時,他們很少會去區別晝與夜的差別,也不太會去管現在是幾點鐘。在沒有月光的夜晚,只有燈籠的燭光照亮全區的經行步道;在有月光的夜晚,比丘們則是藉著月光來回經行。每一次的修行都伴隨著緊迫感,讓他們幾乎沒有時間可以睡覺。

        在吟誦經文方面,沒有人能比得上阿姜曼,他每晚必定會花幾個小時的時間獨自誦經。他會吟誦長篇的經文,像他幾乎每晚都會唸誦《轉法輪經》與《大集會經》。有時候,他會為了我們的利益,根據他個人的經驗譯出經文的意義。他會直接說出經文的重點,通常為了翻譯上的一致性,常會跳過巴利語的嚴格文法。大家都一致公認他的翻譯非常地清楚,令聽眾得以一窺古老經文中所蘊含的基本訊息。令人訝異的是,阿姜曼從未正式學過巴利文,但他的翻譯比起那些通過巴利語考試的學者們還要好。只要說一句簡短的巴利語,他就可以不假思索流利地翻譯出來,簡直令人不敢相信。舉例來說,當他開示《轉法輪經》或《大集會經》的幾段內容時,他都是即時同步翻譯,而且有十級巴利語大師的水準。我會說十級是因為我聽過九級巴利語大師的翻譯,他們的翻譯很費力、很慢,他們會想很久才能譯出一段經文,即使如此,他們對自己的翻譯還是不那麼肯定。

        阿姜曼不只是快,他也對自己的翻譯很有信心。由於已清楚地體驗過經文的真正意義,所以他對自己的翻譯有十足的把握。有時候巴利偈語會自然地在心中生起,然後他會以有點不同於傳統的翻譯來詳述。例如,偈語是:「風樹非山」,他翻譯成:「強風可拔起整棵大樹,但是吹不動如山一般的石頭。」這就是他對僧眾說法時,一句偈語自然出現在心中,他即時翻譯的例子。

        有關剛剛寫到的第九、第十級巴利語的事,大家不要太認真,那只是森林傳統比丘說話時的一種比喻,沒有冒犯的意思。我們森林比丘的行為有點像是那些已習慣於原野生活的猴子:就算牠們被捉到並當成寵物來飼養,牠們仍保有老習慣,絕不會真的適應人類的行為。請原諒我擅自比較阿姜曼與巴利文學者的翻譯,有一些讀者可能會覺得我太超過了。

        當時間一到,阿姜曼便離開Ban Na Mon,轉往一英里外的Ban Khok,並在那裡結雨安居,因為很難找到更好的地方,而寺院離村莊也只有半英里遠,儘管如此,那裡還算是相當的安靜。由於可以使用的禪房有限,跟其他的地方比起來,也只能容納十一或十二位比丘跟他一起住在那裡。當他住在Ban Khok的時候,我才抵達那裡。雖然我就像是一根朽木,但阿姜曼還是很慈悲地收我當他的學生。雖然我在那裡就像一鍋菜中的勺子一樣,每當想起這件事,還是會令我感到慚愧:跟這麼有名又超然卓越的聖者一起的一個沒用的朽木比丘。

        還是一樣,當我寫這段時期以後有關他的事蹟,感到輕鬆不少。到目前為止的故事都還是讓我覺得有些不順,而且還不只是一點挫敗而已,因為我手邊大部分的資料都是來自早期與他一起生活的資深弟子的二手消息。為了準備寫這本傳記,我花了好幾年的時間四處去拜訪這些阿姜,然後寫下他們的回憶,或錄下他們與我的對話。而這些資料在它們以有意義並可閱讀的形式呈現以前,都必須按照年代時間順序仔細的排列 ── 是一項非常辛苦的工作。從現在開始起,我將寫下我自己見證過的阿姜曼的晚年事蹟。雖然這部分的故事可能不像之前那樣那麼讓讀者感動,但就作者而言,記載自身的經驗讓我感到輕鬆不少。

        阿姜曼與一小群比丘在Ban Khok的森林道場度過了雨安居,在這三個月的期間,大家都很健康且知足。在雨安居期間與結束後,阿姜曼大約一星期舉行一次集會。雖然他的開示通常會持續二到四個小時,但聽眾們都全神專注在禪修上,厭倦或疲憊的念頭絕不會在心中閃過。就他的部分,阿姜曼全心投入在傳法之中。他用一種能打動真心尋法聽眾的心弦、且以有條理的方式,詳述因果關係的本質。他所開示的法,都是直接源自於一顆體悟真諦且沒有任何疑惑的心。剩下的疑慮只有一種:就是這些比丘真能做到他所說的修行嗎?

        阿姜曼說法的方式令人聯想到過去佛陀為僧眾說法的時期。我們可肯定的是,佛陀的開示必定完全與法寶相關;也就是說,他只說與道、果、涅槃直接有關的主題。因此,聲聞弟子能穩定、持續、一個接一個證得「道」、「果」、「涅槃」,直到他們圓寂的那一天。因為佛陀的教導都直接源自於純然無垢的心,所以他開示的法是無上的,這就是「道」與「果」,清淨又單純,聲聞弟子得以學習他的教導,直到圓滿至善。

        阿姜曼所傳的法是心中當下自然生起的法 ── 微妙又清淨。當他開示的時候,從不去戲論或臆測。他的聽眾原本對修行就已經有疑問和不確定,所以更多的臆測也只會加深他們的疑惑。反而,當他們在聽法時,他的「法」逐漸消融了他們的疑惑。那些聽過他開示的人,都能夠大幅降低他們的煩惱。除此之外,這些開示還可以消除所有的疑惑。

        阿姜曼每天晚上都會誦幾個小時的經文。如果是沒有集會的夜晚,他會在八點左右離開經行的步道,回到小禪屋花很長的時間低吟誦經,然後再繼續禪坐,直到該就寢的時間已到;如果是有集會的夜晚,他是在集會結束後,較晚才開始誦經。這表示他的作息時間會因集會而延後,當天他會比平常還要晚就寢,大概是半夜十二點到凌晨一點左右。

        某天傍晚,我聽到阿姜曼在輕聲吟誦經文,出於頑皮好奇的衝動,我悄悄地走近想聽清楚。我想要知道他每天晚上誦經誦得這麼久,究竟是在誦哪一篇經文?但,就在我躡手躡腳靠近可聽清楚的距離時,他竟然停止誦經並安靜了下來。這可不是一個好現象,於是我趕緊退後,站在較遠的距離偷聽。但只要我一退後,抑揚頓挫的誦經聲又再度開始,但聲音卻小到聽不清楚。於是,我又再次偷偷趨前-- 而誦經聲又停止了!最後,我還是不知道他到底是在誦哪一篇經文。我很怕如果我冥頑不靈地站在那裡繼續偷聽,一道雷擊閃電可能就會立時朝我的頭頂轟劈下,一頓似雷的嚴厲斥責聲就要轟隆作響了。第二天早上遇到他時,我都在看別的地方,根本不敢正眼看他;但他以銳利的眼神來勢洶洶直盯著我看。我學到了慘痛的教訓:我再也不敢偷偷地躲在後面去偷聽他誦經了。我很怕這次闖的禍會得到慘痛的代價。就我對他的觀察,如果我仍不知悔改,恐怕就真的要自討苦吃了。

        只是到了後來,與他長期相處後,我才清楚地了解到他感應察知周遭事物的能力實在有夠厲害,現在想一想,他怎麼可能不知道我像白痴一樣站在那裡想偷聽?很明顯 —— 他早就知道了。但在回應之前,他會先等一下,觀察這個冥頑不靈的蠢比丘。任何再進一步的類似行為必招致嚴厲的回應。但令我驚訝的是:每一次,我一靠近他的小禪房,他就會立刻停止誦經,他很明顯已經知道發生了什麼事情。

     

After departing Chiang Mai, Ãcariya Mun stayed two rains retreats at Wat Non Niwet monastery in Udon Thani. Following the second retreat, a group of lay devotees from Sakon Nakhon, headed by a longtime disciple, Khun Mae Num Chuwanon, came and invited him to return with them for the spiritual benefit of people there. When he readily agreed, all concerned were delighted, and arrangements were made to escort him there. Upon arriving in Sakon Nakhon in late 1941, Ãcariya Mun first resided at Wat Suddhawat monastery. Soon monks and laity were arriving daily to pay their respects and seek his advice.

While at Wat Suddhawat, somebody came with a camera and asked permission to take his photograph to keep as an object of worship. In all, Ãcariya Mun allowed his picture to be taken three times: on this occasion in Sakon Nakhon; previously, when he was staying in Nakhon Ratchasima; and later, at Ban Fang Daeng in That Phanom district of Nakhon Phanom province on his return from Ãcariya Sao’s funeral. The photographic prints that his devotees collect as objects of worship today are reproductions of pictures taken on these three occasions. But for these, there would be no photographic images to remind us what he looked like. It was not easy to get permission to take Ãcariya Mun’s picture. Those who tried were on pins and needles, fidgeting nervously as they waited drenched in sweat, looking for a good opportunity to broach the subject with him. Well aware that he rarely gave permission for such activities, they were afraid that if they did not handle the situation properly, then he might simply dismiss them with a curt retort.

Ãcariya Mun stayed at Wat Suddhawat monastery for awhile before moving to a small forest monastery near the village of Ban Na Mon which, being very quiet and secluded both day and night, suited him perfectly. The monks and novices living with him were an impressive sight – they said very little, but packed quite a punch. That is to say, instead of chatting among themselves, they preferred to put effort into their practice, each monk sitting in his own hut or walking meditation out in the forest. At four o’clock in the afternoon they all emerged from their living quarters to sweep the grounds together. With the whole area swept clean, they drew water from the well and carried it around to fill up the water barrels used for cleaning their feet and washing their alms bowls. These chores completed, everyone bathed together at the well in an admirably quiet, composed manner. They performed each daily chore with a remarkable self-control, always applying mindfulness and wisdom to analyze the nature of the tasks at hand – no one absentmindedly engaged in idle conversation. As soon as the day’s duties were finished they separated, each monk returning to his hut to sit or walk in meditation as he saw fit.

When the monks returned to their huts, the monastery appeared deserted. A visitor happening to arrive then would not have seen a single monk simply standing around or sitting idly. Had the visitor ventured into the surrounding forest, he would have discovered some of the monks pacing back and forth on their meditation tracks, and others sitting peacefully in their small huts, all preferring to practice quietly, in solitude. They came together for almsround and the morning meal, or when there was an evening meeting, and only occasionally for other required duties. Even on almsround, each monk walked to and from the village with cautious restraint, mindfully intent on his meditation practice. They were not negligent, walking along casually gazing here and there, chatting with anyone who chanced to pass by. His monks truly were an inspirational sight to see as they walked for alms with such dignified composure.

Back in the monastery, the monks sat together investigating the food in their alms bowls as they prepared to eat. They reflected on the dangers inherent in attachment to food. Remaining mindful as they ate, they gave no indication that they were enjoying the food. With their attention focused on the contents of their alms bowls, they refrained from talking and did not allow their gaze to stray from the task of eating. They chewed their food carefully to avoid making loud, impolite noises that could disturb the others. The meal over, they helped each other put everything neatly away and swept the place clean. Each monk washed his alms bowl, dried it with a cloth, and carefully placed it in the sun for a few minutes. Only then did he put his alms bowl away in the appropriate place.

These duties completed, each monk returned to the seclusion of his own living quarters, turning his full attention to training his heart and mind in the manner of practice best suited to him. Sometimes a monk exerted himself to the limit; at other times, less so. In either case, he concentrated solely on his practice, unconcerned about how many hours passed or how much energy he expended. Basically, his objective was to make sure his mind remained focused on the meditation subject he had chosen to control it until that focus of attention became a mental object he could rely on to direct his heart toward peace and calm. Such calm, in turn, helped him to concentrate his mental focus on the cause and effect relationships inherent within whichever phenomena his wisdom then chose to investigate, allowing him to gradually attain increasingly more subtle levels of Dhamma as he progressed toward the ultimate goal. While applying himself assiduously, he always tried to make sure that his mode of practice was correct for the level of Dhamma he was working on.

It is extremely important that a monk have mindfulness at every stage of his practice. It is also essential that a monk use wisdom when his practice reaches those levels of Dhamma where wisdom is indispensable. Mindfulness, however, is always indispensable – at all times, in all activities. Whenever mindfulness is missing, effort also is missing. Lacking mindfulness, walking and sitting meditation are just empty postures void of anything that could be called “right effort”. For this very reason, Ãcariya Mun stressed mindfulness more than any other aspect of a monk’s practice. In fact, mindfulness is the principal foundation supporting every aspect on every level of meditation practice. Practiced continuously, it eventually develops into the kind of supreme-mindfulness that fosters the highest levels of wisdom. Mindfulness must be used intensively at the preliminary level of developing meditative calm and concentration. In all succeeding levels of practice, mindfulness and wisdom must be developed in tandem, working as a team.

Ãcariya Mun taught his monks to be very resolute and courageous in their practice. Anyone who was not earnestly committed to the practice was unlikely to remain with him for long. About once a week he called a meeting and gave a talk; on other nights he expected the monks to expedite their efforts on their own. Those with doubts or questions about their practice could consult him without having to wait for the next meeting. An aura of Dhamma pervaded the atmosphere around him, giving his students the feeling that magga, phala, and Nibbãna were truly within their reach. His reassuring presence gave them the determination and courage necessary to pursue their practice to the limit, conducting themselves in a manner that suggested they had the highest attainments in their sights. When meditating, they made little distinction between day and night; each monk strived in earnest regardless of the hour. On moonless nights, candle lanterns illuminated meditation tracks around the whole area. On moonlit nights, monks walked meditation by the light of the moon, each practicing with a sense of urgency that allowed him very little time for sleep.

à CARIYA  M UN ’ S   PROFICIENCY  in chanting the suttas was unrivaled. He chanted suttas alone for many hours every night without fail. He would chant long discourses, like the Dhamma-cakka-pavat-tana Sutta and the Mahã Samãya Sutta, nearly every night. Occasionally, he translated the meaning of the suttas for our benefit, translations based on his own personal experience. He spoke directly to their essential meaning, often bypassing the strict rules of Pãli grammar normally used to maintain uniformity in translations. The undeniable clarity of his translations allowed his audience to glimpse the fundamental message of the ancient texts he quoted. Amazingly, he translated Pãli better than the accomplished scholars, though he had never studied Pãli in any formal way. No sooner had he mentioned a Pãli phrase than, without even a pause, he had translated it as well in a quick, fluent style that defied belief. For instance, when citing passages from the Dhamma-cakka-pavattana Sutta or the Mahã Samãya Sutta during the course of his talks, he gave fast, simultaneous translations worthy of a tenth grade Pãli scholar. I say the tenth grade because I have heard ninth grade Pãli scholars translate and they tend to be slow and plodding. They deliberate quite a long time over each passage and even then they are not very sure of their translations.

Not only was Ãcariya Mun quick, he also was boldly confident of the truth of his words. Having clearly experienced the truth of their essential meaning himself, he was certain of his translations. Pãli verses arose spontaneously in his heart, which he then elaborated on in a way that differed somewhat from classical interpretations. For example, vãtã ()rukkhã() na() pabbato(), which he translated as: “gale force winds can uproot whole trees, yet they can’t move a mountain of stone.” This is an example of one Dhamma verse that arose spontaneously in his heart, along with the translation, while he was giving a talk to the monks.

What I just wrote about the ninth and tenth grades of Pãli scholarship shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It is merely a figure of speech used by monks in the forest tradition – no offense is intended. We forest monks tend to act a bit like monkeys that have grown accustomed to living in the wild: even if they are caught and raised as pets, they still retain their old habits. They can never really adapt to human behavior. Please excuse me for presuming to compare Ãcariya Mun’s translations with those of Pãli scholars. Some readers may feel that I have overstepped the mark here.

I N   DUE   TIME  Ã CARIYA  M UN  left Ban Na Mon and moved to Ban Khok, just over a mile away, where he spent the rainy season retreat. Since it was difficult to find a better location, the monastery was located only half a mile from the village. Still, the place was very quiet. Not more than eleven or twelve monks stayed with him at any one time in either of those places due to the limited number of available huts. It was while he resided at Ban Khok that I arrived. He was kind enough to accept me as a student, although I was about as useful as an old log. I lived there like a ladle in a pot of stew. I feel ashamed just thinking about it now: this useless log of a monk staying with an absolutely brilliant sage of such universal renown.

All the same, I do feel easier about writing his story from this period onward. Up to this point in the story I have felt somewhat hampered, and not a little frustrated, by the fact that most of my information comes secondhand from senior disciples who lived with him in the early years. In preparation for writing this biography, I spent many years going around to meet those ãcariyas, interviewing them and writing down their memories, or taping my conversations with them. All this material then need to be carefully arranged in chronological order before it could be presented in a meaningful, readable format – a very demanding task. From now on I shall be writing about what I myself witnessed in the final years of Ãcariya Mun’s life. Although this part of the story may not impress the reader as much as what has gone before, as the author I feel relieved to be writing from personal experience.

à CARIYA  M UN   SPENT  the rains retreat at the Ban Khok forest monastery with a small group of monks, all of whom remained healthy and contented throughout the three months. Ãcariya Mun called a meeting about once a week, both during the retreat period and after it was over. Although his discourses usually lasted for two to four hours, his audience was so completely absorbed in meditation practice that thoughts of weariness and fatigue never crossed their minds. For his part, Ãcariya Mun was completely absorbed in delivering the Dhamma, expounding the nature of cause and effect in a reasonable way that struck a chord with his listeners, all of whom were genuinely searching for Truth. The Dhamma he presented was delivered straight from a heart that had realized this Truth with absolute clarity – leaving no room for doubt. Only one doubt remained: Could the monks actually do the practice the way he described it.

He delivered his discourses in a manner reminiscent of times past when the Lord Buddha delivered a discourse to a gathering of monks. We can be sure that the Lord Buddha’s discourses were concerned solely with the great treasures of Dhamma; that is, he spoke only on subjects directly related to magga, phala, and Nibbãna. Thus, monks listening to him were able to attain magga, phala, and Nibbãna one after another, in steady succession, right up until the day of his final passing away. Because the Buddha’s teaching emanated directly from an absolutely pure heart, the Dhamma he delivered was incomparably superb. This was magga and phala, pure and simple, and his listeners were able to emulate his teaching to perfection.

The Dhamma that Ãcariya Mun delivered was spontaneous Dhamma of the present moment – refined and purified in his heart. He did not theorize or speculate when he spoke. His audience already had their own doubts and uncertainties about the practice, and further speculation would only have served to increase those doubts. Instead, as they listened, his Dhamma gradually dispelled their doubts. Those who heard his wonderful expositions were able to use them as a way to significantly reduce their kilesas. Beyond that, they could be used to conclusively eliminate all doubts.

à CARIYA  M UN   CHANTED  suttas every night for several hours. On a night when no meeting was held, he left his meditation track at about eight o’clock and entered his hut to quietly chant suttas at length before resuming seated meditation until it was time to retire. On meeting nights, his chanting began later, after the meeting was over. This meant that his normal schedule was delayed when there was a meeting so that he retired later than usual, at midnight or one A. M.

One evening, hearing him softly chanting in his hut, I had the mischievous urge to sneak up and listen. I wanted to find out what suttas he chanted at such length every night. As soon as I crept up close enough to hear him clearly, however, he stopped chanting and remained silent. This did not look good, so I quickly backed away and stood listening from a distance. No sooner had I backed away than the low cadence of his chanting started up again, now too faint to be heard clearly. So again I sneaked forward– and again he went silent. In the end, I never did find out what suttas he was chanting. I was afraid that if I stubbornly insisted on standing there eavesdropping, a bolt of lightning might strike and a sharp rebuke thunder out. Meeting him the next morning I glanced away. I did not dare to look him in the face. But he looked directly at me with a sharp, menacing glare. I learned my lesson the hard way: never again did I dare to sneak up and try to listen in on his chanting. I was afraid I would receive something severe for my trouble. From what I had observed of him, if I persisted there was a real chance I’d get just what I was asking for.

It was only later, after long association with him, that I clearly understood just how well he perceived everything going on around him. Thinking about it now, how could he possibly have been unaware that I was standing there like an idiot and listening so intently. It’s obvious – he was fully aware. But before making any comment, he wanted first to wait and check out this stubborn, silly monk. Any further such behavior was bound to invoke a severe response. What amazed me was: each time I crept close to his hut he stopped chanting straight away. He obviously knew exactly what was going on.