阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第六章第二節:與豬為伍

     

     

              

第六章第二節:與豬為伍

   我剛抵達Ban Khok森林道場的時候,很怕阿姜曼。某一天的中午,我躺下來打瞌睡。當我睡著後,阿姜曼出現在夢中來責備我:「你怎麼跟一隻豬一樣在睡覺?這裡可不是養豬場!我不允許比丘到這裡來學習如何當一隻豬!你把這個地方搞得像是一個豬圈!」他喝斥的聲音如雷擊般轟隆響亮,很兇狠,我立刻嚇醒。我一臉茫然,嚇得直發抖,把頭伸出門外以為會看到他。雖然我怕死他了,但,我還是強迫自己待在他身邊修行。原因很簡單:這是正確且該做的事;此外,對於像我這隻豬,他有很厲害的訓練方法可以治我。所以,我處在一種恐慌之中。我伸出頭,向四周張望,都看不見他的蹤影,這時我才稍稍喘口氣。後來當我一有機會,我告訴阿姜曼這件事。他以某種能消除我不安的方式,很有技巧地解釋了這個夢境 —— 一種很寬容但我卻不那麼認同的方式,因為軟言慰語很容易助長散漫與自滿。他是這樣解釋我的夢境:「你才剛來這裡與老師一起同修,你的確已下定決心想要認真修行。那個夢境反映出了你的心境。你所聽到的責備,罵你像隻豬,就是『法』在警告你不要把像豬一樣放逸的習性帶進僧團與佛教。大部分的人只會做自己喜歡的事,從沒有想過人身難得及行為的後果,這使他們很難了解到人類的潛質。俗話說『少根筋』,指的就是:人類本來有比動物還要優秀的特質,但都已麻痺,這種人類的潛質已喪失。這種態度會使行為愈來愈卑劣,有些人甚至無可救藥 —— 空有人的外表,卻無內在的良善。即使這樣,他們還是不知道發生了什麼或為什麼會變成這樣。」

        「如果我們有足夠的正念與觀智,『法』就可引導我們自己去觀照這件事。你的夢境是一個很好且及時的警告,你就從中學習吧。從現在起,每當你開始懶散時,你就可以此激發出必要的正念來克服你的懶散。這一類型的夢境非常的有力,不是每個人都有這樣的夢。我很欣賞這種能夠激發出正念的夢,能使人持續保持警醒。這會讓你接下來在禪修上有所增長,使心達到與輕安相應的寧靜。如果你真能記取『法』給你的教訓,持續地落實在修行上,你便可望快速證得禪定。誰知道呢?搞不好你會比那些已修行多年的比丘更快參透『法』的真正本質也說不一定。你的夢境很珍貴,它絕不是什麼惡兆。」

        「不用那麼怕老師,那只會使你一直處於不安的狀態。沒道理的怕老師是不可能帶來任何的利益,老師有倫理的義務去教導學生,以各種他所知道的方法。你該怕的不該是你的老師,而是惡法。因為惡法會直接引你受苦。我不會因為收了比丘當我的學生就毫無理由地罵他們。訓練比丘是一項嚴謹的任務,要遵循佛陀所立下的原則,老師的指導都必須遵守這些原則的嚴謹論理,如果偏離了這條道路,不論是他自己或學生都得不到任何的利益。」

        「所以把你的心放輕鬆些,並專注在修行上。精進是關鍵 —— 不要沮喪或太放逸。『法』是屬於每一個真正求法若渴的人。佛陀從未限制『法』是屬於哪一種特別的人,每一個以正確的方法去修行的人都能擁有與『法』相同的所有權。不要忘記這個吉祥的夢,藉此經常反省。這樣一來,當愈趨近道、果、涅槃時,所有像豬一樣的懶惰惡習都將會消失。接下來,苦滅的出現也只是時間的問題,這已是不可逆轉的。我真為你的夢境感到高興,我也曾以同樣如烈火般的勇猛來訓練自己,也總能得到好結果。經我多年的修行經驗,我發現這種方法是必要的,而現在有時候我也會用同樣的方法來訓練我的學生。」

        阿姜曼對我的夢境做了這樣的解析,安慰了一個剛加入修行的年輕人。他擔心這個小孩可能會失去熱情,放棄努力,因此變得跟豬一樣混吃等死,這就是他採用這樣的教導方法的理由。他的教導方法都可以看到前所未見的技巧。早期,當我的心境還在進退擺盪之際,我經常去找阿姜曼對談。那是一段對我而言特別有壓力與不安的時期,而他同樣以令人感到安慰的方法給我建議。每當我向他頂禮後,他會問我近來的心境如何?若剛好禪修進展得頗順利,我會如實地告訴他;他接著會說出他的讚許,並鼓勵我繼續努力,以期能快速滅苦;若我的禪修退步,我會回答說我的心很亂,彷彿一切幸福的蹤跡都已不見了。他接著會以同情的語氣說:「那真是太糟了,它跑去哪裡了?不過也不用太氣餒,只要盡力去修行,它一定還會再回來。它只是跑到某處遊蕩而已,如果你更加精進,它自己會回來的。心就像是一隻狗:不管主人去哪裡,它就一定會跟到哪,它不會就這樣跑掉的。加深你的修行,心一定會自己回來。不要浪費時間去想它到底跑去哪裡,不管它去哪,它不可能走失。如果你希望它快點回來,就專心修行吧。任何的沮喪都只會強化心的自我。它會認為你離不開它,反而會故意躲你。所以別再想著失去的心了,反而,該想的是『buddho』。持續重複默念它,一次又一次。藉由持續快速反覆默念後,一旦『buddho』這個字在心中被確立後,心就會很快地自動回來。就算它回來後,也不要放開『buddho』。『buddho』是心的食物,只要有食物,它就一定會跑回來。所以持續重複『buddho』,直到『心』吃到飽,然後它就會想休息。當心平靜地休息時,你也能感到心滿意足。當它平靜下來後,就不會再瘋狂地跑來跑去,製造出許多麻煩。持續這樣的修行,直到『心』能穩定到你想趕它走它也不肯走為止,對於慾壑難填的心來說,這是一種非常好的方法。只要有足夠的食物可以吃,就算你想趕它走,它也不會走。照我的建議去做,你的心就不會再退步了。『buddho』就是關鍵,只要它的食物還在這裡,它就不會亂跑。照我的話去做,當你看到『心』一次又一次變得更糟時,你就不會再經歷失望了。」

        而這就是阿姜曼教導像我這麼愚笨的人可能會採用的另一種技巧,但至少我是這麼認為 ── 我自己愚蠢的方式。否則,我可能還在追逐那顆持續退步的「心」,沒有機會可以捉住它。我把這件事寫出來,是為了讓讀者可以從智者教導愚者的方式中學到一些有益的觀念。我的目的並不是要美化我的愚蠢,或炫耀當時從阿姜曼那裡所獲得的厚待。

        雨安居之後,阿姜曼暫時回到Ban Na Mon村,然後轉往Ban Huay Kaen村,並在當地的森林中住了一陣子。他又從那裡搬到位在Ban Na Sinuan村山腳下的一間荒廢的寺院裡,並在那裡住了幾個月。在當時,他生了一場病,發燒了數天。但一如往昔,他以「法的療效」治癒了自己。

        一九四二年的四月,他前往烏汶府參加他的老師阿姜索的毗荼。當毗荼結束後,他回到Ban Na Mon村結雨安居。那次的雨安居,阿姜曼運用了各種方法來激勵學生盡最大的努力,勸誡他們應當在修行中更加精進。在雨安居的期間,他每四天召開一次集會,幫助許多比丘在「法」中進步,證得內明。許多人都體驗到了一些超凡的經驗,他們都會向阿姜曼報告。雖然我不像他們一樣在修行上有那麼多的成就,但我卻有幸能聽到這些修行的經驗。那一年的雨安居有許多值得回憶的事情發生,我終生都不會忘記。在我的餘生裡,我會記住這些重要的經驗。

        那一次的雨安居,阿姜曼開始使用強硬、高壓的手段,待我們有如擦腳布。在此之前,他都是以相對溫和的方法,對我們的缺點睜一隻眼閉一隻眼。他可能覺得對我們採用強硬方法的時間已經到了,如果再繼續無止盡地容忍我們的過失,他可能要一直擔心下去,而弟子們可能永遠不會從長眠中醒過來,睜開他們的眼睛去看天空、大地、月亮、星辰。結果,所有比丘都非常地積極禪修,並對於因努力而獲得的內明感到興奮。比丘們按時向阿姜曼陳述內在的經驗,好讓他能幫助他們獲得更深的領悟;同時他也會指出仍需改進的方面,使他們的修行圓滿。阿姜曼盡力回答每一個人的問題,在那些問與答的場合,當他對特定的人給予建議時,在「法」的實修面有很引人入勝的開示。對於前來向他請益禪修經驗的比丘,他的回覆並不是一成不變,而是針對具體個別的經驗本質或所討論的問題而定。他都是針對特定的學生,以最適合的方式來回答,開示禪修的重點,並針對他特定的境界提醒他適當的方法。我們這些有幸能旁聽的人,尤其喜歡聽那些已臻高階禪境的比丘們的禪修經驗及提出的問題。那個時候,我們真的都很入迷,都希望這些討論永遠不要結束。我們渴望能常聽到這樣的交流,好讓「法」能滿足我們的心。

        阿姜曼在集會的期間提到過許多不同的議題。他曾向我們提過他的前世,他講述了他修行的初期階段,包括在禪境中生起的各種禪相的洞悉。他扼要地敘述了如何從瀕臨世俗邊緣的輪迴泥淖中脫身的方法,以及最後的解脫是如何實際的發生。他最高成就的話題使我們這些渴望解脫道的人,也熱切殷盼自己能達到這樣的成就。但這也使我們有一些人感到些許沮喪,懷疑自己是否真有足夠的潛能,能成功地證得他圓滿證悟的法。也許我們會永遠陷在泥淖裡,無法逃脫輪迴的深坑。他如何證得解脫,而我們卻無法從沉睡中醒來?我們何時才能夠體悟跟他一樣的解脫?這樣的思惟易於激起恆久的決心,去忍受艱難,繼續推動我們努力向前邁進,也因此幫助了各方面的修行。而堅持下去又可促進修行各方面的進展。他慈悲的開示讓我們深受啟發與激勵,一切的疲勞與倦怠都消失了。對阿姜曼的信心給了我們需要的力量,讓我們心甘情願地扛起最沉重的負擔。

        世尊教導我們要親近善知識,對於跟好老師一起生活、日復一日聽他令人振奮開示的弟子們來說,這個道理顯而易見。當他的教導一點一點滲透深入他們的內在組織,他們的熱忱會氣勢大增,最後他們內在的性格也充滿了美德的品質。雖然他們不期望能在各方面都符合他的要求,但最起碼他們可以彰顯老師的美德。相反地:我們愈是跟愚者在一起,我們就會變得更糟。佛陀的這兩種教導(正反)都是一樣有效的:我們跟善知識親近就會變好,如果我們親近惡知識就會遭受傷害。如果我們觀察某個在好老師的指導下修行一段時間的人,很明顯他能從這段關係中獲得某些堅固的準則;相反的,那些跟愚蠢的人一起鬼混的人最後就會表現出相同的愚蠢性格 —— 或甚至更糟。

        這裡我所提到的是我們在社會上遇到的那種「表面」愚蠢的人,但你們應該要了解還有其他的類型,深埋在我們每一個人個性當中的內在愚蠢,即使這個人外觀看起來像比丘或比丘尼一樣舉止莊嚴有禮,身穿神聖的袈裟,公然宣稱自己是佛弟子。關於內在的愚蠢,我指的是不敢面對心中卑劣本性的那種懦弱的愚蠢,只是等著以卑鄙的方式來呈現。要知道天性總是在等待機會,想以各種卑劣、低級的方式來呈現它自己真實的模樣。很多人都沒有意識到這一股埋在他們內心深處令人反感的力量,就算有人已經注意到了,他們也會認為只要這些東西繼續藏在裡面,不要用言語或行動表現出來,那麼它們的腐敗就不會真變成一個問題。事實上,所有的邪惡,不論藏在哪裡,就其本質來說天生就是令人難以忍受且反感。邪惡並不需要從外在表現出來才能被看成是令人反感,它們自己本身已經極其令人厭惡,必須加以處理。

        最有智慧的聖者,佛世尊,教導我們要捨棄一切的惡法,從內心徹底斷除,連根拔起。世尊與聖弟子們便是完美的典範:他們的心與行為均毫無瑕疵。無論何處,他們都泰然自若且極其滿足。就我個人的觀察,我的看法是:阿姜曼是又一位已從垢染中解脫的比丘。我以全然的信心說出這件事,並負起全責,因為我確定這是真的。任何的懷疑都可以將矛頭指向我,而不要批評阿姜曼 —— 因為他早已完全逃脫魔羅設下的羅網。

        雨安居結束後,阿姜曼繼續住在Ban Na Mon村好幾個月。在下一次的雨安居前他搬回了曼谷,但不是住在上次所住的那間相同的寺院。這次他住在由阿姜Kongma Chirapunno所建造並供養給他的新寺院裡。他發現那個地區很適合,能舒適地度過雨安居,對於健康有幫助。如同以往,他定期召開集會並指導眾僧。

        大抵來說,阿姜曼連續三年都住在色軍府Tong Khop區的Ban Huay KaenBan Na SinuanBan KhokBan Na Mon等村落的附近地區,包括連續度過了三次雨安居。如同以往,他也會教導那些前來拜訪他的異界非人眾生,但前來色軍府參訪的天人就比較少,比起在清邁府來參訪的天人次數要少得多,可能是因為這個地區沒有那麼偏僻,因此沒有那麼的僻靜。他們往往只有在宗教節慶時會來,例如萬佛節(Māgha Pūjā)[1]、衛塞節、雨安居[2]的第一天[3]、中間日和最後一日[4]。除此之外,來訪的天人就相對少了些。

        由於可以住的禪房並不多,所以只有一小群比丘可以實際跟著他度過這三次的雨安居。除非真的有空房,否則他不再接受新來的比丘。但這種情況跟雨安居以外的期間不一樣,會有各地的比丘來接受他的指導。雨安居後,不斷有比丘在他的道場來來去去,而他總是很慈悲且盡力指導他們的修行。

        在接下來的第三次雨安居結束後的乾季,有一群來自Ban Nong Pheu Na Nai村的在家眾來見阿姜曼,並邀請他跟他們一起回他們附近的村落。他接受了這個邀請,並由他們護送到色軍府Phanna NikhomNa Nai地區的村落,他在當地度過了下一次雨安居。他從Ban Khok走到Ban Nong Pheu,徒步穿越了茂密的森林,每個晚上都在露地紮營。經過了崎嶇難行、樹林茂密區的整條路,終於在幾天後他抵達了。

        但就在抵達不久後,他罹患了一次嚴重的瘧疾,這種類型的瘧疾會有高燒與寒顫交替發作的症狀,是一種會讓人承受持續幾個月虛脫的折磨。任何感染過這類型瘧疾還能存活的人終生都會很怕它,因為高燒似乎不會消失。它可能會持續好幾年,並在明顯治癒後又一而再、再而三復發。高燒有可能十五天或一個月都沒有出現;然後,就在你認為終於被治癒的時候,它又復發了,有時候在復發前可能還會間隔好幾個月。

        我之前曾描述過瘧疾如何讓姻親彼此失去耐心的故事。如果是女婿感染到瘧疾,他的岳父母很快就會討厭他;如果是岳父或岳母之中任何一人受到感染,女婿也會很快感到厭煩。患者會變成家庭的包袱,因為 —— 他不能做任何粗重的工作,但還是吃很多、也睡很多,然後一直抱怨個沒完。瘧疾是一種最煩人的病,會磨掉所有人的耐性。在當時不像現在有特效藥,所以結果只會加劇,感染到的病人只能默默等它自行痊癒,但如果它就是不消失,很可能會轉變成慢性病,而且持續多年。受到感染的小孩通常會肚子腫脹,臉色蒼白,而且貧血。原本住在平地區、後來才搬到森林區的本地人,往往是這種瘧疾最嚴重的受害者。當地森林的原住民也不能免疫,雖然他們的症狀很少像來自平地的人那樣嚴重。

        瘧疾在頭陀比丘中也很常見,因為他們通常喜歡在樹木叢生的山區裡四處行腳。若說這種可怕的病有什麼地方可值得吹噓,那麼我敢說我是第一名,因為我受過多次嚴重的攻擊,現在只要想起來就會害怕。我在Ban Nong Pheu村的第一年就受到瘧疾無情的摧殘,那對我來說真是一場嚴酷的磨練。整個雨季,高燒都一直不退;到了乾季時,症狀仍斷斷續續出現,沒有完全消失。我怎麼可能不受苦?我就跟其他人一樣可以感受到苦與樂,只要一想起那些痛苦與不適,比丘自然也會感到害怕。

        一旦阿姜曼在Ban Nong Pheu村落腳,來跟隨他的比丘人數就會穩定地增加。每年會有多達二十至三十位比丘與他一起度過雨安居。除了住在寺院的比丘外,還有許多比丘住在附近的其他小村落。有一些比丘一起住在某處小地區,其他地方有五、六位,偶爾有一些地方會有九到十位。每一組的比丘都住在不同的地方,但都在可步行前往阿姜曼的寺院距離之內。在布薩日的時候,會有多達三十到四十位比丘從附近地區去他的寺院裡集會,加上與他同住的比丘,集會的總人數便高達五、六十人。雨安居以外的期間,有時還會超過這個數目,因為一直會有比丘來尋求阿姜曼的指導。在白天時,他們各自散開,進入寺院周圍的叢林裡獨自修行。這個地區的森林有幾十英里寬,它的長度沿著連綿的山脈一路延伸,看似永無止盡。

        在當時,從Phanna Nikhom縣向南到加拉信府(Kalasin)的整個區域實際上幾乎都是森林。因此,證明了阿姜曼位於Ban Nong Pheu村的寺院是頭陀比丘集會背誦具足戒(波羅提木叉),並接受老師指導的一處最佳中央位置,對那些想要來請教修行的比丘也比較方便。在乾季時,他的弟子們會走進附近的山區裡行腳,並在許多石窟裡及分散在地勢崎嶇不平的垂懸大石底下居住與修行。許多茅屋聚集的小村落星羅棋布在山脊上,其中有五、六戶人家是靠種植農作物維生,頭陀比丘就是靠這些小村落來托缽乞食。但,因為有十到三十戶的小村莊社區散布在各處,所以他們可以在叢林茂密的森林區中隨意居住。

  Ban Nong Pheu的村莊坐落在一處完全被群山環繞且相當寬廣的山谷裡。村民把地給整平,在地上種植作物維生。此外,森林山脈向四處延伸,對那些想要輕易找到首選僻靜地點的頭陀比丘來說,不啻為一處理想的地方。因此,雨季、乾季都一樣,都會有大量的頭陀比丘住在這個地區。許多人會定期來見阿姜曼,然後又再走回山裡繼續修行;再從那裡走下來去聆聽他的教導,然後回去繼續他們的修行。特別是在乾季交通比較便利的時候,有些人會從別的府、甚至是別的地區,來Ban Nong Pheu村接受他的訓練。

        在家人也會千辛萬苦長途跋涉來頂禮他並聽他的教導。他們從四周各地徒步走到這裡;有的,則從更遠的地方來。每個人都是用走的來,除了年長的人或婦女,不習慣長途跋涉,才會租牛車載他們到寺院。從Phanna Nikhom的市區通往Ban Nong Pheu村的泥土道路約有十二英里長,它直接穿過山區;若是走另一條從山底周圍更曲折蜿蜒的路,大概是十五英里距離。不習慣徒步的人若走直達的路,可能會走不到,因為一路上前不著村、後不著店,找不到食物跟休息的地方。更曲折迂迴的路沿途也只有幾處村落,而且都相隔甚遠,所以也不是很方便。去見阿姜曼的比丘都是用走的,因為去Ban Nong Pheu的路,都不適合機動車行駛。當時的大眾交通工具只行駛於主要的幾條府道上,而且班次相當的少,通常晚到而錯過班次的人得浪費一整天的時間才能等到下一班。

        頭陀比丘喜歡徒步旅行,他們會覺得坐車子挺不方便,因為車子裡通常擠滿了人。一個頭陀比丘會將從一處走到另一處視為他禪修的另一個方式。一旦決定好要前往哪一座山脈或森林,他就會將心持續繫在禪修上,開始踏上旅程,彷彿他一路上都在經行,而森林的小徑則是他經行的步道。他不會擔心下個村莊可能在哪裡,或是否能在天黑前抵達。他會決心要走到日薄西山後才休息,到時再找過夜的地方。第二天一早,他繼續出發,直到走進最近的村落。當他經過的時候,他會在那裡向村民托缽乞食。不管村民供養什麼食物,他都會心滿意足地吃完。當地的食物通常很差,但他不會為此困擾 —— 只要食物的量足以讓他能走完一天的路,他就心滿意足了。吃完餐後,他平靜地繼續趕路,直到抵達目的地。在森林裡,他會找到一處最適合他個人需求的地方,他會特別留意水的供應 —— 一個在野外生活時至關重要的必要條件。

        在合適的地點紮營後,頭陀比丘會把注意力轉向於內心精進的功課上,他會全天候焚膏繼晷地交替禪坐與經行。透過正念與觀智的觀照,他會專注在一個適合自己根性的業處上,藉此引導他的心在不知不覺的情況下滑入正定的安詳寧靜。出定後,他會開始觀照意識領域所生起的任何現象,並專注於開展智慧,包括從外界的六塵與內在六根觸及後的印象覺知,如身體的四大及感官持續運作而不斷波動。他持續觀照「無常是苦」:即萬事萬物都不停來來去去,瞬息萬變,沒有永恆不變。他對任何可能會糾結繫住心的事物,都不可能無動於衷。他會用觀智去深入分析身與心,清楚洞悉它們的本質,並逐漸放下對它們的執著依戀。觀智是他用來挖掘無明錯節盤根的工具,毫不留情摧毀它們的枝幹、根莖及一切。他的「心」定在一個單一的所緣:觀照一切生起的現象。一切與心接觸的事物都以三法印來仔細觀察,深入洞悉其真正的本質,進而消滅與其相關的無明。任何對自己的修行方式有疑問的頭陀比丘,都會盡速去請教阿姜曼。一旦疑惑解除後,便逕自離開,回到山中的僻靜處,繼續努力「心」的開展。

        許多頭陀比丘都依靠阿姜曼在禪修上給他們的指導,然而他的道場無法容納所有的人;所以,這些比丘在接受指導後,便會離開並住在附近的山丘或森林裡。各自向不同的方向散去,如果不是一個人,就是要兩兩成行,每一個比丘各自找一處僻靜且可步行前往阿姜曼道場的距離內紮營。這樣一來,他們回去見他時就會方便很多。依據每個人的喜好,有的住在三到四英里遠的地方,有的則住在五到八英里遠,有的甚至住在十二到十五英里之遠。住在十二英里或更遠地方的比丘,在請教阿姜曼之後,隔日清晨走回他們各自的住所之前,整晚會留宿在道場。

        森林山區村落連結的路徑,完全不同於現今隨處可見的府道,它們都只是村落間彼此聯絡且經年使用過的泥土道路,當地的人對這些路徑都很熟悉。由於村民很少長途跋涉去彼此拜訪,所以這些路都已雜草叢生,而且被遮蔽住。任何對這些路徑不熟悉的人都要非常小心,才不會走上岔路而迷失在密林中,否則最後很可能會發現自己迷失在一個完全看不到任何村落的地方。有些村落之間可能會相隔十二到十五英里遠且不間斷的叢林,這樣長的路徑更需要小心,因為一旦有人走錯路,他最後一定會在沒有食物的荒野中過夜。除此之外,如果他沒有碰巧遇到獵人為他指路或帶他回通往目的地的主要路徑上,他很可能就永遠找不到出路了。


[1] 泰曆三月(遇閏年則為四月)的月圓日,相傳佛祖釋迦牟尼的一千二百位弟子在這一天未經約定而聚集一處,共同聽佛祖講道。約是國曆二或三月的月圓日。

[2] 昔日古印度僧尼認為泰曆八月十六日至十一月十五日三個月內外出會傷害稻穀和草木小蟲,應在寺內坐禪修學,接受供養。這段時間稱為雨安居期。約是國曆七月月圓日之次日至國曆十月的月圓日。。

[3] 守夏節,或稱入夏節。

[4] 解夏節,或稱出夏節。此時為期三個月的守夏安居期滿,僧人可以恢復正常外出。

         

One day, shortly after my arrival – during a time when I was extremely wary of Ãcariya Mun – I laid down in the middle of the day and dozed off. As I slept, Ãcariya Mun appeared in my dream to scold me: “Why are you sleeping like a pig? This is no pig farm! I won’t tolerate monks coming here to learn the art of being a pig. You’ll turn this place into a pigsty!” His voice bellowed, fierce and menacing, frightening me and causing me to wake with a start. Dazed and trembling, I stuck my head out the door expecting to see him. I was generally very frightened of him anyway; but, I had forced myself to stay with him despite that. The reason was simple: it was the right thing to do. Besides, he had an effective antidote for pigs like me. So, I was in a panic. I stuck my head out, looking around in all directions, but I didn’t see him anywhere. Only then did I begin to breathe a bit easier. Later when I had a chance, I told Ãcariya Mun what happened. He very cleverly explained my dream in a way that relieved my discomfort – a tolerant approach that I don’t always agree with, since soothing words can easily promote carelessness and complacency. He explained my dream like this:

“You’ve just recently come to live with a teacher and you are really determined to do well. Your dream simply mirrored your state of mind. That scolding you heard, reproaching you for acting like a pig, was the Dhamma warning you not to bring pig-like tendencies into the monkhood and the religion. Most people do only what they feel like doing, failing to take into account the value of their human birth and the consequences of their actions. This makes it difficult for them to fully realize their human potential. There’s an old saying that someone is ‘not all there’. It refers to a basic lack of human potential arising from callous insensitivity to the fact that human beings possess intrinsic qualities that are superior to those of animals. This attitude promotes such degrading behavior that some people end up damaged almost beyond repair – an empty human shell lacking all intrinsic goodness. Even then, they are unaware of what has happened to them, or why.

“If we possess sufficient mindfulness and wisdom, Dhamma can guide us in investigating this matter for ourselves. Your dream was a good, timely warning – learn from it. From now on, whenever you’re feeling lazy you can use it as a means of stirring up the mindfulness necessary to overcome your indolence. This type of dream is exceptionally potent. Not everyone has a dream like this. I appreciate such dreams for they effectively stimulate mindfulness, keeping it constantly vigilant. This in turn accelerates progress in meditation, allowing the heart to attain calm with relative ease. If you take this lesson that Dhamma has provided and put it consistently into practice, you can expect to quickly achieve meditative calm. Who knows, you may even penetrate the true nature of Dhamma ahead of those who have been practicing meditation for many years. That dream of yours was very worthwhile. It wasn’t a bad omen by any means.

“Don’t be excessively frightened of your teacher – it will only cause you to feel uncomfortable all the time. Nothing of benefit can be gained from unreasonable fear of the teacher. He has a moral obligation to educate his students, using every means available to him. It’s not your teacher you should fear, but evil, for evil leads directly to suffering. I don’t accept monks as my students just so I can castigate them for no good reason. The training a monk undertakes is a stringent one, following principles laid down by the Buddha. A teacher’s guidance must follow the strict logic of these principles. If he deviates from this path, neither he nor the student benefits in any way.

“So put your mind at ease and work hard at your practice. Effort is key – don’t become discouraged and ease up. Dhamma belongs to everyone who truly desires it. The Buddha did not limit the possession of Dhamma to a particular individual. Everyone who practices in the right way enjoys the same right of ownership. Don’t forget that auspicious dream. Reflect on it often, and all pig-like tendencies will fade into the background – as magga, phala, and Nibbãna draw ever closer. Then it’s only a matter of time before the domain beyond dukkha appears. It’s inevitable. I’m truly pleased about your dream. I have trained myself with a similar fiery intensity and I’ve always had good results. I found it imperative to use such methods throughout my years of practice, and now occasionally I must use similar methods to train my students.”

Ãcariya Mun used this interpretation of my dream to console a youngster who was new to the training. He was concerned this kid might lose heart and give up trying to make an effort, thus rejoining the fraternity of pigs. That’s why he resorted to this method of teaching. His teaching methods always displayed an unparalleled ingenuity. I often went to speak with him during that early period when my mental state was fluctuating between periods of progress and periods of decline – a time of particular stress and uneasiness for me – and he advised me in the same comforting manner. As soon as I paid my respect to him, he asked me how my citta was doing. If it happened to be a time when my meditation was progressing nicely, I told him so. He then voiced his approval and encouraged me to keep up the good work so that I could quickly transcend dukkha. If my meditation was deteriorating, I replied that my mind was so bad it seemed all traces of happiness had gone. He then adopted a sympathetic attitude:

“That’s too bad. Where’s it gone? Well, don’t be discouraged. Just put maximum effort into your practice and it will reappear for sure. It has simply wandered off somewhere. If you accelerate your efforts it will come back on its own. The citta is like a dog: it inevitably follows its owner wherever he goes. It won’t just run away. Intensify your practice and the citta is bound to return on its own. Don’t waste time thinking about where it’s gone to. Wherever it’s gone, it can’t possibly run away. If you want it to return quickly, concentrate your efforts. Any discouragement will only boost the citta’s ego. Thinking you really miss it so much, it will play hard-to-get. So stop thinking about the citta you’ve lost. Instead, think “buddho”, repeating it continuously, over and over again. Once the word “buddho” has been mentally established by repeating it continuously in rapid succession, the citta will hurry back of its own accord. Even then, don’t let go of buddho. Buddho is the citta’s food – as long as there is food, it will always come running back. So repeat “buddho” constantly until the citta has eaten its fill, then it will have to take a rest. You too will feel satisfied while the citta rests calmly. When it’s calm, it ceases to run madly about looking to cause you trouble. Keep this practice up until you cannot chase it away, even if you want to. This is the perfect method to use with a mind whose ravenous appetite is never satiated. As long as it has enough food, it will not leave even if you try to drive it away. Follow my advice and the state of your citta will never again deteriorate. Buddho is the key. So long as its food is there, it won’t stray. Do as I say and you’ll never again experience the disappointment of seeing your citta get worse time and time again.”

This was yet another technique employed by Ãcariya Mun to teach those of us who were really stupid. But at least I believed him – in my own stupid way. Otherwise, I would probably still be chasing after a mind in perpetual decline without any chance of ever catching it. I’ve written about this matter for the sake of those readers who may glean some useful ideas from the way a clever person teaches a stupid one. It is not my intention to glorify my own stupidity or the lenient treatment that I received from Ãcariya Mun at that time.

F OLLOWING   THE   RAINS   RETREAT, Ãcariya Mun returned briefly to Ban Na Mon and then moved on to Ban Huay Kaen, settling in the nearby forest for awhile. From there he moved to an abandoned monastery at the base of a mountain near the village of Ban Na Sinuan, remaining there for several months. While he was there, he came down with a fever which lasted for days, curing himself as usual with the ‘therapeutic power of Dhamma’.

In April 1942 he traveled to Ubon Ratchathani to attend the funeral of his teacher, Ãcariya Sao. Once the cremation ceremony was completed, he returned to Ban Na Mon for the rains retreat. During that retreat Ãcariya Mun employed a wide variety of methods to press his students to maximize their efforts, exhorting them to be diligent in their practice. He called a meeting once every four days throughout the entire rains period, helping many monks to develop in Dhamma and attain inner strength. Many experienced unusual insights which they reported to Ãcariya Mun. I had the privilege of listening to those experiences, although I was not as accomplished in my practice as many of the others. Many memorable things occurred during that rains retreat – things that I have never forgotten. I will remember those outstanding experiences for the rest of my life.

During that retreat period Ãcariya Mun began to use tough, coercive measures with us, treating us more like old footrags. Until then, he had used relatively gentle methods, turning a blind eye to our shortcomings. He probably decided that the time was right to get tough with us. If he continued to tolerate our lapses indefinitely, he would feel burdened all the time and his students would never awake from their slumber long enough to open their eyes and see the earth, the sky, the moon and the stars. As a result, all the monks were eager to do meditation practice and excited about the insights they gained from their efforts.  Monks routinely described their inner experiences to Ãcariya Mun so that he could help them to further their understanding. At the same time, he would point out how they could perfect those aspects of their practice that still needed improvement. He did his best to answer every question that was put to him. Those question-and-answer sessions, when he gave advice to specific individuals, were engrossing expositions on the practical aspects of Dhamma. His responses to the monks who approached him about their meditative experiences were never predictable, being dictated by the specific nature of the experience or the question under discussion. He always answered in the manner best suited to the individual student, elucidating points of practice and recommending techniques appropriate for his specific level of practice. Those of us, who had the privilege of listening in, especially enjoyed hearing about the meditation experiences and questions posed by monks whose practice had reached an advanced stage. We were truly captivated then, wishing for those discussions never to end. We were keen to hear such exchanges very often and so this Dhamma to our heart’s content.

à CARIYA  M UN   ADDRESSED  many different topics during the course of a meeting. He told us about his past lives. He recounted the initial stages of his own practice, including insights into various phenomena arising in his meditation. He elaborated on the methods he used in his struggle to extricate himself from the quagmire of saÿsãra to the point where he verged on transcending the world of conventional reality, and how that final transcendence actually occurred. Talk of his supreme attainment made those of us, who yearned for this transcendent Dhamma, eager to attain it ourselves. This prompted some of us to feel a bit dejected, wondering if we really had enough inherent potential to successfully reach that sphere of Dhamma that he had realized to perfection. Perhaps we would remain stuck in this quagmire forever, unable to escape from the deep pit of saÿsãra. How is it he can attain freedom, yet we still cannot arouse ourselves from sleep? When will we be able to realize the same transcendent freedom he has? This sort of thinking had the advantage of awakening a persistent determination in us to tolerate the difficulties and press ahead with our efforts. This in turn facilitated every aspect of the practice. We were so inspired and energized by the Dhamma he so kindly elucidated for us that all sense of weariness and fatigue vanished. Our faith in him gave us the necessary strength to willingly shoulder the heaviest burdens.

The Lord Buddha taught us to associate with the wise. The truth of this is obvious to students living in the presence of a good teacher, listening day in and day out to his uplifting instructions. Their enthusiasm gains momentum as his teaching gradually permeates deep into the fabric of their being, and his virtuous qualities eventually infuse their characters. Although they cannot hope to match him in every respect, at least they exemplify their teacher’s virtues. The opposite also holds true: the more we associate with fools, the worse off we are. These two teachings of the Buddha are equally valid: we can become good through association with good people, or we can suffer harm through association with bad people. If we observe someone who has spent a long time training under a good teacher, it is evident that he has gained some steadfast principles from that relationship. Conversely, it’s obvious that those who get mixed up with fools will eventually display the same foolish characteristics – or perhaps worse ones.

That  wisest  of  sages,  the  Lord  Buddha,  taught  us  to renounce all bad things and root them out, completely eradicating them from our hearts. The Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples were perfect examples of this: Both their hearts and their conduct were free from blemish. Wherever they lived they always remained unperturbed and sublimely contented. In my opinion, based on personal observation, Ãcariya Mun was another monk free from blemish. I say this with complete confidence, accepting full responsibility, for I am certain that it is true. Any skepticism should be directed at me, not Ãcariya Mun – his escape from the snares of Mãra is already well completed.

That  wisest  of  sages,  the  Lord  Buddha,  taught  us  to renounce all bad things and root them out, completely eradicating them from our hearts. The Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples were perfect examples of this: Both their hearts and their conduct were free from blemish. Wherever they lived they always remained unperturbed and sublimely contented. In my opinion, based on personal observation, Ãcariya Mun was another monk free from blemish. I say this with complete confidence, accepting full responsibility, for I am certain that it is true. Any skepticism should be directed at me, not Ãcariya Mun – his escape from the snares of Mãra is already well completed.

A FTER   THE   RAINS   RETREAT , Ãcariya Mun continued living at Ban Na Mon for many months. Just prior to the next retreat he moved back to Ban Khok, but not to the same forest monastery where he previously lived. He stayed in a new monastery, built and offered to him by Ãcariya Kongma Chirapuñño. He found the location quite suitable, comfortably spending the rains retreat there in good health. As usual, he held regular meetings to instruct the monks.

In summary, Ãcariya Mun stayed continuously in the area around Ban Huay Kaen, Ban Na Sinuan, Ban Khok, and Ban Na Mon in the Tong Khop district of Sakon Nakhon province for three successive years, including three rainy season retreats. As usual he taught the nonphysical beings who contacted him, though fewer devas came in Sakon Nakhon and their visits were far less frequent than those of devas in Chiang Mai. It was probably because the region was less remote, and thus less secluded. They tended to come only on religious festival days, such as Mãgha Pýjã, Visãkha Pýjã and the observance days at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the rains retreat. Other than that, relatively few devas came to visit him.

Only a small group of monks actually spent these rains retreats with him due to a limited number of available huts. He could not accept new arrivals unless there were vacancies. The situation was different outside of the retreat period. Then monks from many different places came to train under him. Following the retreat, a steady flow of monks came and went at his monastery, and he always very kindly made a special effort to instruct them in their practice.

In the dry season, following the third rains retreat, a group of lay people from the village of Ban Nong Pheu Na Nai went to see Ãcariya Mun, and invited him to return with them to live near their village. He accepted their offer, and was escorted to their village in the Na Nai sub-district of Phanna Nikhom in Sakon Nakhon province, where he spent the next rains retreat. He traveled the distance from Ban Khok to Ban Nong Pheu hiking through thick forest, camping out along the way each night. Making his way through rough, wooded terrain the entire way, he finally arrived several days later.

Soon after his arrival, he came down with a severe case of malaria. The symptoms of this strain of malaria alternate between bouts of very high fever and shivering cold chills. It’s a punishing affliction that lasts for months. Anyone falling victim to such severe malaria lives to dread it because the fever never quite seems to go away. It may last for years, the symptoms returning again and again after apparently having been cured. The fever can disappear for fifteen days, or maybe a month; and then, just when one thinks it’s finally cured, it resurfaces. Sometimes several months may elapse before it returns.

I previously described how malarial fever caused in-laws to lose patience with each other. If the son-in-law came down with it, his wife’s parents soon became fed up with him. If one of his wife’s parents had it, the son-in-law soon got fed up. The patient became a burden on the rest of the family because – although he couldn’t do any heavy work – he still ate a lot, slept constantly, and then complained bitterly no end. Malaria is a most tiresome illness which tries everyone’s patience. Its effect was compounded by the fact that in those days there were no effective medicines for curing malaria as there are today. A person contracting it just had to wait for it to disappear on its own. If it refused to go away, it could easily become a chronic condition, dragging on for years. Young children who became infected usually had swollen, distended bellies and pale, anemic complexions. Natives of the low-lying plains, who had moved to settle in forested areas, tended to be the worst victims of this strain of malaria. Indigenous forest inhabitants

were not immune, though their symptoms were seldom so severe as those of people who came from open, lowland areas.

 

Malaria was also common among dhutanga monks, as they normally liked to wander extensively through forested mountain areas. Were this dreaded disease something valuable, something to boast about, then I myself could boast with the best of them, having suffered its devastating effects many times. It scares me just thinking about it now. I was hit with a case of malaria my very first year at Ban Nong Pheu, an ordeal that severely chastened me. Fever plagued me the entire rainy season, then lingered on intermittently into the dry season, refusing to completely go away. How could I fail to be chastened? Being fully sensitive to pleasure and pain like everybody else, monks naturally dread the thought of pain and discomfort.

Once Ãcariya Mun became settled at Ban Nong Pheu, the number of monks coming to stay with him on a regular basis steadily increased. As many as twenty to thirty monks came each year to spend the rains retreat with him. In addition to the monks who lived in the monastery, many others stayed close by in the vicinity of other small villages. A few monks lived together in some locations, five or six in others, and occasionally nine or ten in some places. Each of these groups stayed in separate places, all within walking distance of Ãcariya Mun’s monastery. As many as thirty to forty monks from the surrounding area used to assemble at his monastery on uposatha observance days. Combined with resident monks, the total assembly easily reached fifty or sixty. Outside the retreat period, it sometimes exceeded that number, as monks continuously arrived at Ban Nong Pheu seeking Ãcariya Mun’s guidance. During the day they dispersed into the thick forest, surrounding the monastery grounds, to do their practice in solitude. The forest in this region was many tens of miles wide, while its length was almost unlimited as it extended along a series of overlapping mountain ranges that seemed to stretch on forever.

In those days, virtually the whole region from the district of Phanna Nikhom south to the province of Kalasin was blanketed by forests. For this reason, Ãcariya Mun’s monastery at Ban Nong Pheu proved to be an excellent central location for dhutanga monks of the kammaååhãna tradition who were obliged to attend regular recitations of the Pãåimokkha and receive Dhamma instructions from their teacher. Those wanting to come with questions about their meditation practice could easily do so. During the dry season, his disciples wandered off into the surrounding mountains, living and practicing in the many caves and under the overhanging rocks scattered throughout the rugged terrain. Numerous small settlements of thatched huts dotted the mountain ridges where five or six families eked out a living, growing crops. Many dhutanga monks relied on those communities for their daily alms food. But they could live conveniently anywhere in the region’s thick forests since small village communities of ten to thirty houses were scattered throughout.

The village of Ban Nong Pheu was situated in a rather broad valley completely surrounded by mountains. The villagers made a living by farming the land they could clear. Beyond that, forested mountain ranges stretched in every direction, making it an ideal place for dhutanga monks who easily found the kinds of secluded sites they preferred.

Consequently, large numbers of dhutanga monks lived throughout the region, in the rainy and the dry seasons alike. Many went to see Ãcariya Mun regularly, and then wandered off again to practice in the mountains, walking down from there to hear his instructions, then returning to continue their practice. Some traveled from other provincial districts, or even other regions, to train with him at Ban Nong Pheu, especially in the dry season when travel was more convenient.

Lay people also made the arduous journey to pay their respects to him and hear his advice. They traveled by foot from locations all around the region, some, quite far away. Everyone came by foot, except for the elderly and women who, unaccustomed to hiking, hired ox carts to take them to the monastery. The dirt track extending from the main district of Phanna Nikhom to Ban Nong Pheu was about twelve miles long, following a path that cut straight up through the mountains. Following a more circuitous route around the base of the mountains, the distance was about fifteen miles. Those unaccustomed to hiking would never make it if they took the direct route, since there were no villages along the way where they could find food and shelter. The more circuitous route had only a few villages, spread far apart; so it wasn’t very convenient either. Monks traveling to see Ãcariya Mun went on foot, there being no road to Ban Nong Pheu that was suitable for motorized traffic. What public transport there was in those days went along the main provincial highways, and then only infrequently. Latecomers usually missed their ride and wasted a whole day waiting for the next one.

D HUTANGA   MONKS   PREFERRED  traveling by foot. They found riding in vehicles inconvenient, since they were usually crowded with people. A dhutanga monk considered hiking from place to place simply another aspect of his meditation practice. Once he determined which mountain range or forest he wanted to head for, he focused on his practice and started his journey as though he were walking in meditation and the forest trails were his track. He did not fret about where the next village might be or whether he would reach it before dark. He resolved to walk until dusk, then look for a place to rest for the night. The next morning he walked on until he reached the nearest village. There he collected alms food from the local inhabitants as he passed through. He was satisfied to eat whatever they offered. The quality of the food was usually poor, but that didn’t worry him – if it was sufficient to keep him going from one day to the next, he was contented. Having eaten his meal, he continued on his journey peacefully until he reached his destination. There he searched until he found a site in the forest that best suited his personal requirements. He paid special attention to the availability of water – a vital requisite when living in the wilds.

Many dhutanga monks relied on Ãcariya Mun to give them guidance in meditation. There was not sufficient room in his monastery to accommodate them all. So, after receiving his instructions, they went to live in the surrounding hills and forests. Spreading out in different directions, either alone or in pairs, each monk looked for a secluded place to set up camp that was within walking distance of Ãcariya Mun’s monastery. In that way they could return to see him with minimum inconvenience. Depending on individual preferences, some monks lived three or four miles away, others between five to eight miles, while a few might have lived as far as twelve to fifteen miles from him. Monks traveling a distance of twelve miles or more to consult Ãcariya Mun remained overnight in his monastery before walking back to their respective locations.

Many dhutanga monks relied on Ãcariya Mun to give them guidance in meditation. There was not sufficient room in his monastery to accommodate them all. So, after receiving his instructions, they went to live in the surrounding hills and forests. Spreading out in different directions, either alone or in pairs, each monk looked for a secluded place to set up camp that was within walking distance of Ãcariya Mun’s monastery. In that way they could return to see him with minimum inconvenience. Depending on individual preferences, some monks lived three or four miles away, others between five to eight miles, while a few might have lived as far as twelve to fifteen miles from him. Monks traveling a distance of twelve miles or more to consult Ãcariya Mun remained overnight in his monastery before walking back to their respective locations.

The trails that connected forest and mountain hamlets then were very different from the provincial roads seen everywhere today. They were mere dirt tracks that those communities had used for ages to keep in touch with one another; and all the local people were familiar with the routes. Since the villagers seldom made long treks to visit one another, the trails were often overgrown and obscured by undergrowth. Anyone unfamiliar with this network of trails had to be very careful not to take a wrong fork and get lost in the densely forested terrain. One might well end up in an area where there were no settlements at all. The distance between some communities could be twelve to fifteen miles of uninterrupted jungle. Such lengthy trails required special caution, for any traveler who lost his way would almost surely end up spending the night in the wilderness without any food. Besides that, he might never safely find his way out unless he chanced upon a hunter who pointed him in the right direction or conducted him back to the main trail to his destination.