阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第六章第四節:法的療效

     

             

            

第六章第四節:法的療效

    Ban Nong Pheu村的寺院坐落在一處茂密的森林裡,當地瘧疾肆虐橫行。隨著雨季來臨時,阿姜曼會警告那些只是來拜訪他的比丘要趕緊在雨季來臨前趁早離開;若是在乾季的時候,他們留下來就沒有感染的風險。感染到瘧疾的比丘,由於沒有能對抗瘧疾的藥物,只能忍受痛苦不堪的症狀,因為在當時這種藥極為稀有;因此,他們只有依靠「法的療效」,意思是當苦生起時,以強而敏銳的正念與觀智去觀照苦的感受。否則,他們沒有其他可減輕痛苦的有效方法。如果成功的話,他們便可減輕高燒的症狀,而且痊癒的速度一般會比預期還要來得快。

        一個勇敢的比丘,透過正念與觀智克服了因病而生起的痛苦,打造出一處不論在健康或生病時都能支持他的穩固基地。最後,當死亡來臨時,他不會感到無力或絕望,也不會不知所措。由於已全然通曉了苦諦,他可以無畏地面對我們稱之為「死亡」的自然過程。正念與觀智已教會他洞悉苦的內在本質,於是他不再擔心疼痛了。經由觀照,他會一直保持他已證得真諦的穩定基礎;之後,當危急情況出現時,已經熟練的正念與觀智將會來解救他。他可以用觀照的技巧來蓋過疼痛,立即安穩下來。這樣的修持,正念與觀智不會怠忽職守,在他證悟苦的真諦以前不會就這樣讓他陷在苦中;相反的,它們會立刻對敵人正面迎擊。他呈現在外的病痛就跟其他的病人沒有兩樣:也就是說,他跟其他人一樣會虛弱、疲憊;但他的內心,正念與觀智會像擐甲持戈的戰士一樣在心中顯現,不管有再多的苦痛也都無法影響他的心境。他只會向內探索身、痛(受)、心及隨之生起的各種精神現象的真正因果關係[1];因為,這恰好是所有劇苦在彼時匯聚之處。因為他面對疼痛與忍受的能力都已經不是問題,所以他的信心已經不可動搖,他主要關心的是正念與觀智是否能及時成功地洞悉這些現象的整體實相。

        一旦比丘洞悉並完全清楚四諦中的一諦的本質,如苦諦,直到完全清楚其本質,下一次他會希望重複這一項成就,他絕不允許觀照的障礙去擋他的路(解脫道)和不必要地削弱他的決心。他只會想到先前已使自己那麼清楚見到了真諦,接著應該再付出同樣的努力。那麼,一種對真諦清楚的體證會一直在他的正念、智慧、信心與持續不斷的精勤之中,這個真諦就是:痛、身與心這三者都是獨立存在,每一項在各自的領域中都是真實的,彼此不會互相干擾或牴觸。藉著證悟之力,「集諦」 —— 苦的原因,被征服了,且一切對痛苦、病況或死亡的憂懼都將因此而潰散。這些恐懼實際上都是一種情感上不必要的憂慮,那只會削弱心智並導向挫敗的無力感。一旦達到了決定性的突破,疾病可能會消退。即使症狀沒有完全消失,也不會嚴重到心被苦受的猛烈攻勢所淹沒的程度,從而產生雙重的病:一是身體的病苦,另一個是「心」的煩惱焦慮苦。

        當病情嚴重時,頭陀比丘一定會觀照隨之生起的痛苦,這被看作是一種鍛鍊正念與觀智的方法,藉此磨練技巧,使速度能快到跟得上心理的所有活動 —— 也就是與身心的苦痛必然有關的念頭。若生病的比丘表現出焦慮或不安的樣子,在頭陀比丘的圈子裡會被看成是一名失敗者。因為在精神方面,他的定與慧在危難時都無法給他足夠的支持。由於缺乏正念的緣故,他的修行肯定不好也不穩。就一名累積正念與觀智,並與各種痛苦奮戰時當作保護自己之武器的比丘來說,這是不及格的。這些已開啟這種特質的修行比丘,一定會保持正念自我控制,絕不會表現出焦慮不安的樣子,他會被看成是有典型武士精神且值得讚嘆的典範。在危急的情況下,他們堅定自己的立場而奮戰,這對他們在禪修方面的好處是很明顯的。這些功德利益也會被其他同修比丘注意到,大家最欽佩的就是英勇奮戰的心態。大家都堅信一件事,那就是:不管痛苦有多麼巨大,頭陀比丘也絕不會被打倒,就算是死亡也是一樣。也就是說,他的正念與觀智絕不會接受挫敗,因為當最後身心不調(生病)時,那是一種能找尋安穩、無憂之道來超越苦痛的觀照工具。

        任何依法奉行、證得了佛陀所宣說真諦的人,都一定會肯定它(真諦)是放諸四海皆準的。當與敵人正面對峙時,他絕不會接受失敗,撤回他的軍隊,他一定會奮戰到死。萬一身體無法承受壓力,他會放手讓身體死去。但他絕不會放棄他的心,或能支持及保護它(心)的正念與觀智。他致力於爭取勝利,失敗從來就不是他的選項。他展現出一個想要贏得勝利的戰士特質,因而安抵一處真正安穩的庇護所。他以堅定不移的信念,按照聖諦的原則修行,必能體驗如下的偈語:「法庇護行者」 —— 也就是「法」會庇佑那些認真修行的人。但,如果他有遲疑或不認真,那麼結果只會與聖諦背道而馳,不可能驗證其真實性。不可能會有其他的情況,因為「法」,佛已善說的法,都一定是「果」直接與「因」密切相關。

        儘管世俗似乎給了一些回報(名聞利養),但頭陀比丘卻寧可專注在透過法所獲得的即時、內在的那種回報。例如:由定所生起的寧靜以及能拔除刺在心中的無明的直觀智慧,這兩種回報都讓他(頭陀比丘)逐漸增加滿足感,而且是很明顯且時時刻刻出現。這些都是頭陀比丘努力證得的即時、具體的結果。在此過程中,他克服了惱人的難題與未解的疑惑。如果他真有能力在今生現世超脫輪迴 —— 可能就在今天或明天或下個月或明年 —— 這樣的功德成就一定是透過每分每秒不斷地努力才能達到。

        阿姜曼會採用激勵人心的方法來強化這種戰鬥的精神,不管他的弟子是否生病,他都堅持他的比丘們要當一名為拯救自己逃脫危險而奮戰的戰士;但在生病時,他會特別強調絕不妥協。他擔心他們可能會在面臨這項挑戰時變得委靡頹喪,若有生病的比丘表現出虛弱或焦慮的樣子,缺少了他所期待以正念自我駕馭的表現,肯定會遭受嚴厲的訶斥。阿姜曼可能會禁止寺院裡的比丘去照顧生病的比丘,他相信虛弱、焦慮或怨天尤人都不是對待疾病的正確方法。病人一直都表現出這樣的反應,從不認為這有什麼不對。但身為一名比丘,一定要忍受艱苦的情況,並仔細地去觀照,不該有這種反應。這會豎立一種壞榜樣,因為如果一個比丘把這種失敗主義的態度帶進修行的圈子裡,很可能會像傳染病一樣開始蔓延,容易感染到其他的人。

        試想這種糟糕的情況可能造成的結果:比丘呻吟哀號,像垂死的動物一樣輾轉反側。你們是修行的比丘,所以不要表現出像動物的舉止。如果你們的思想及行為像動物,很快就會有動物的特質,四處傳送混亂 —— 這肯定不是佛的教法。

        我們都曾在某個時候生過病,因此我們也都清楚一般人生病時大概是怎樣的一個狀況。沒有必要向大眾展現你的不舒服;如果心理上的苦惱與哭天喊地可以治好病,那麼世間的藥物就不需要了。生病的人,可能會大聲嚷嚷抱怨自己的處境,好讓病痛消失 —— 如果真這麼簡單,就沒有必要耗費這麼多的時間精力來治療病人。但哀嚎真可以治好病嗎?如果不能,那為什麼還要用毫無意義的抱怨去招人討厭呢?這就是阿姜曼可能會教訓造成整個僧團困擾比丘的例子。

        另一方面,當他去探訪一位正在生病但仍能保持很強的正念、對自己的病況沒有表現出任何擔憂的比丘,阿姜曼總是會表現出對他的肯定。他會稱讚這位比丘的堅忍,並以激勵人心的話來鼓勵他。就算他康復後,阿姜曼還是會繼續表揚這位比丘精神方面的堅毅,以他作為其他比丘的楷模。

        「這是一個與痛苦奮戰的真正戰士該做的事。別抱怨敵眾我寡,盡一切的力量與能力毫不退縮地去打倒敵人。絕不能退縮,也絕不可承認失敗,在你倒下時也絕不能讓敵人在你的身體上踐踏。在修行的領域中,我們必須是個戰士。去抱怨疾病有多麼痛苦是毫無意義的 —— 當痛苦生起時,應該專注在痛苦上並試著去了解它的本質。不管我們經驗到的痛苦有多少,一切的痛苦都只是苦聖諦的一種展現。」

        而面對痛苦表現出軟弱及順從的比丘,會聽到阿姜曼的另一種語氣:「如果你想要真諦,但因為怕痛而拒絕觀苦,那怎麼可能知道真諦在哪裡?世尊是藉由觀照一切而成功體證了聖諦,不是像那種丟自己臉的沒用比丘一樣,對每件事都只會哀叫。佛陀在什麼地方說過要達到證悟就要抱怨與哀叫?我沒有讀過很多的書,所以可能我有漏看,哪一部經典裡有提到抱怨與呻吟?你們當中有哪一個精通經典的人曾看過佛陀在某段經文中讚嘆抱怨與呻吟的功德,請指出來告訴我。這樣的話我就不必教比丘這麼麻煩去觀苦及忍受艱難了。如果你們只要一直抱怨與怨天尤人,聖諦就會自動出現,遍及整個宇宙;然後我們就可以見證到聰明、睿智的人只要憑著大聲抱怨與哀叫就能成功證得『道』與『果』 —— 如此一來,兩千五百年前佛陀所說的『法』的正當性與適切性都將會因他們而處於一個備受質疑的處境。」

        「這些現代聖者的『法』都很新穎、時尚,不須費力去內觀便可達到成就;而證得『道』與『果』只需要抱怨與呻吟一起發作即可。當人們只想從不正確的『因』去獲得正確的『果』 —— 一種消耗現今整個世界有害的態度,就會是適合這個時代的一種修行方法。要不了多久,這些現代聖者就能遍布在各地了(反諷)。而我自己有一個保守的心態,只相信世尊教授的法,不敢去用什麼速成的方法。我擔心的是,當我跨出一步,就會立刻滑倒,會頭臉朝地跌倒 —— 不光彩地死去,對我來說那真的太慘了。」

        任何因疼痛而表現出軟弱的比丘,都可能會得到這種強硬的對待。既然已經在修頭陀行,若屈服於軟弱或沮喪的頭陀比丘就會受到同樣嚴厲的訶斥,因為這些都將是他運用各種觀照技巧的障礙。阿姜曼不斷激勵弟子們展現出必要的戰鬥精神去克服這些障礙,所以他們經常聽聞這樣充滿活力的教學。對他們來說,正法的追尋者,他的話就是一種治療,激發出他們的勇氣,激勵他們的修行,並保持他們高昂的士氣。因為這樣的激勵,一步又一步,踏上「法」所應允幸福美滿領域的路上。因為鼓舞人心的承諾,驅散了即將走向生死之苦的懦弱與懶惰的傾向。

        當阿姜曼住在Ban Nong Pheu村時,有兩位比丘在寺院裡過世,還有另一位比丘在附近的Ban Na Nai村過世。第一位死去的是一位中年的比丘,他真的是為了禪修而出家。當他成為阿姜曼的弟子時,一開始是住在清邁府,但他後來跟阿姜曼去烏隆府,之後再到色軍府 —— 有時候他跟阿姜曼住在一起,有時他獨自修行,一直到最後在Ban Nong Pheu村過世。他對於入定的技巧非常地熟稔,並且,再加上阿姜曼不斷對他個人教導,他的智慧修持已開展出一種迫切感。他是一個非常虔誠、有著不屈不撓個性的人。儘管他沒有接受完整的教育,但是他說法時,機智又聰敏,總能善用各種比喻來闡釋法義,讓聽眾很容易抓到重點。不幸的是,他罹患了肺結核,已持續多年,當他住在寺院時,已到了末期的階段。某日的早上七點左右,他安詳平靜地過世了,對一個長期修行的比丘來說,真的是名實相符。見證了他生命中最後的階段,以及當他呼吸停止的時刻,我不禁對這位比丘以及他在禪修上的功夫,生起深摯的敬仰。

        死亡時,只有我們能夠掌握自己的命運,所以我們必須為自己的未來負起全責。不管他人與我們有多親密,沒有任何旁人可以去干預我們的業果。在那個時刻來臨前,我們一定先發展出一個能夠凝聚所有力量與技巧的方法,有智慧地去面對危機的關鍵時刻,好使我們自己脫困並安全過渡到來生。我們最後的一刻將會以一個重大的挑戰呈現在眼前。我們每一個人,不論是否做好準備,都一定會遇到這種情況。我們這些人當中已經想出聰明方法幫助自己的人都可以活得很安穩;但仍處在疑惑與無知的人,只能絕望地坐以待斃,無法扭轉命運。

        世尊說:「Kho nu hāsa kim ānando……」。它可以翻譯成:當世界已被貪欲、瞋恚及愚痴妄想所吞噬 ── 熊熊的烈火日夜燃燒著 ── 你們怎麼還能終日尋歡嬉戲呢?你們為什麼不趕緊去尋找一個可依靠的皈依處?不要再荒唐了!不要一直蹉跎到臨終的那一天,否則未來你們將會體驗到痛苦的後果 ── 無止無盡。佛陀一直在告誡人們不要過分漫不經心地生活,如果今日的人們聽過佛陀的雋語,他們一定會感到很尷尬,對自己追逐感官之樂的放逸感到慚愧,羞愧到無地自容。但儘管羞愧,他們還是會被慾望所擺佈 —— 愛這個、恨那個 —— 因為這種根深蒂固早已是世俗觀念不可或缺的一部分,他們不知道該如何讓自己停下來;因此,真的太可悲了,他們對佛陀的警語也只能報以羞赧而已。

        對於朝向同一命運的你們所有人,在Ban Nong Pheu村死亡的比丘應該印證了寶貴的一課。請認真去想一想他死亡的方式。就在他快要過世的時候,正要出發去托缽的阿姜曼與其他的比丘,都停下來見證了這個令人哀傷的事件。後來,阿姜曼安靜地站著,沉思了片刻,然後以莊嚴的語氣對大家說:「不需要再替他擔心了,他已經在光音天(色界二禪梵天)重生了 —— 色界梵天的第六層天,他現在一切都安好。但還是有一點令人遺憾,因為如果他能再活得更久一點,便能再加深他的內明,那麼他就能重生於淨居天的五重天之一了。在那裡,他能夠繼續修行,直到最後的目標,註定不會再有來生。而你們這些人呢? —— 你們為自己準備好了什麼樣的來生?是畜生道、鬼道,還是在天界?會重得人身、天神、梵天?還是涅槃?到底會是哪一種呢?如果你們想要確定這件事,那麼就仔細去看心的指南針,看它指著你前往的方向是在哪裡。現在就立刻去檢查,去看清自己的方向到底是向善、還是向惡。一旦你死了,就再也來不及改變什麼了。每個人都知道人死不能復生 —— 死後什麼事都不能做了。」

        第二位死者是來自烏汶府的比丘,他得的是瘧疾,並在一個月後死亡。這件事發生不久前,另一位住在那裡的比丘在禪境裡預見了他的死亡。隔天傍晚,這位比丘去找阿姜曼說話。在經過一番有關禪修各個面向的討論之後,他們的對話提到了這位生病的比丘,而這位比丘也告訴了阿姜曼出現在他禪境裡的徵兆。

        「昨晚在我的禪境中出現了一些奇怪的現象。當我入定後,我依照著平時的方法去觀照,而突然看到了一個景象,你站在一堆柴火前,說:『在這裡把這個比丘火化了吧,這裡是最合適的地方。』我無法完全理解它的意義,這是指那位生病的比丘會死於瘧疾嗎?他現在的情況看起來並沒有那麼嚴重啊?!」

        阿姜曼立刻回答:「我已經觀察這件事情有一段時間了。他註定會死,已無法避免。雖然如此,他不會平白死去。我已查過他的心智狀態:非常的卓越。所以,他一定會很安詳地離世。但,我嚴格禁止你對他透漏這件事。如果他知道他註定會死,他會非常地失望。那麼,他的健康狀況就會變得更差,而他的心智狀態可能會動搖,錯過他目前可重生的善處了。就這一方面來說,失望是一種非常負面的情感。」

        幾天後,那位比丘的狀況突然急轉直下,於凌晨三點平靜地去世。這件事讓我想到阿姜曼一定會去深入探究出現在禪境中每個事件背後的情況,找出背後的答案,直到他能完全了解它們的意義為止。然後,他會放下它,隨順因緣任其自然發展。

        某天的早晨,一個阿姜曼的弟子因為感染瘧疾而引發嚴重的高燒,他決定那一天不去托缽,要整日禁食。他從清晨開始就用觀照的技巧與劇烈的疼痛奮戰,一直到下午三點,高燒才開始減退了些。那一天的正中午,他感到體力完全耗盡,於是他轉移注意力,集中精神關注在疼痛最嚴重的地方,但卻未以觀智去探究、分析痛苦。在正午時分,阿姜曼立刻發送心念波去察看該名比丘是如何處理自己的疼痛。在下午稍晚的時候,當比丘去見阿姜曼時,阿姜曼立刻質問他的修行方式,讓這位比丘很是訝異。

        「你為什麼會那樣子觀照呢?如果你只把心專注在單一的點上,怎麼可能洞悉關於身、痛、心的實相呢?你該做的是,用你的直觀智去一併分析這三者。以這種方式,你將能發現每一個實相。你的修行方式只是那種想從瑜珈師那裡得到某種『定』:那只是一頭栽進一場混戰中而已!那不是想要發現苦諦的比丘該有的修行方式。不要再這麼做了。想要從身、痛、心這三者中悟出實相,這樣做是行不通的。今天中午的時候,我查看過你的修行狀況,看你是如何處理因高燒所引發的痛苦。我注意到你只是把注意力集中在疼痛之上,並沒有藉由觀看『身』、『痛』、『心』這三個層面,並以正念及觀智來減輕痛苦。而這才是能平息疼痛並減緩症狀、同時讓高燒退去的唯一有效的方法。」

 

[1] 即四念處,身、受、心、法。

            

Ban Nong Pheu monastery was situated in a dense forest, rife with malaria. As the rainy season approached, Ãcariya Mun advised monks, who came simply to visit him, to hurry and leave before wet weather arrived. In the dry season they could stay without risk. Monks who fell victim to malaria just had to put up with the debilitating symptoms. They had no access to anti-malarial medicines – such medicines being scarce everywhere back then. So, they had to rely on the ‘therapeutic qualities of Dhamma’ instead. This meant investigating painful feelings as they arose with an intense, incisive degree of mindfulness and wisdom. Otherwise, they had no effective means of alleviating the pain. If successful, they reduced the fever, thus effecting a cure much quicker than could normally be expected.

A courageous monk who succeeds through the power of mindfulness and wisdom to overcome the painful feelings caused by illness, creates thereby a solid base of support that will serve him well in times of good health as well as in times of sickness. Ultimately, at the time when death is imminent, he will not feel weak and disheartened, and thus not be overwhelmed. Having succeeded in establishing total mastery of the truth about dukkha, he boldly faces the natural process we call ‘death’. Mindfulness and wisdom have taught him to recognize dukkha’s intrinsic nature, so he never again worries about pain. He always maintains the firm basis of truth he achieved through his investigations. Later, when a critical situation does arise, the mindfulness and wisdom that he has trained to proficiency will come to his rescue. He can utilize their investigative skills to override the pain, allowing him to immediately reach safety. Thus trained, mindfulness and wisdom will not abandon their duty, leaving him simply to wallow in misery as he did before he came to realize the true nature of dukkha. On the contrary, they will immediately engage the enemy. His external manifestations of illness will resemble those of any other sick person: that is, he will appear just as weak and exhausted as anyone else. But internally, mindfulness and wisdom will manifest within his heart like soldiers preparing to do battle. Then no amount of pain will affect his state of mind. His only consideration will be the inner search for the true causal basis of the physical body, the painful feelings, the citta, and the mental phenomena arising in conjunction with it; for, this is precisely where the full intensity of dukkha will converge at that moment. Since his ability to confront the pain and endure its effects is no longer a concern, his confidence is unshakable. His primary concern is whether mindfulness and wisdom will successfully realize the entire truth of these phenomena in time.

Once a monk has investigated a Truth of Dhamma, like the Truth of Dukkha, until its true nature is fully understood, the next time he wishes to repeat that accomplishment, he does not allow the difficulties of the investigation to block his way and needlessly weaken his resolve. He simply considers what he previously did to enable him to see the truth so clearly, then reproduces that same effort in the present moment. In that way, a clear realization of the truth always lies within the powers of his mindfulness, his wisdom, his conviction, and his persistent effort. The truth is: pain, body, and citta all exist separately, each one being true within its own sphere. They in no way conflict or interfere with one another. By the power of this realization, samudaya – the cause of dukkha – is conquered, and all apprehension about the pain, the condition of the illness, or the prospect of dying is vanquished with it. Such fears are really emotional concerns that demoralize the spirit and lead to a debilitating sense of frustration. Once this decisive breakthrough is achieved, the illness is likely to subside as a result. But even if the symptoms don’t entirely abate, they will not intensify to the point where the citta is overwhelmed by an onslaught of painful feelings, thus producing a twofold illness: one of an ailing body, the other of an ailing mind.

In times of severe illness, dhutanga monks are sure to examine the resultant pain. It’s considered an essential means of sharpening up mindfulness and wisdom, thus honing their skills until they are quick enough to keep pace with all mental activity – thoughts that are inevitably bound up with physical and mental pain. Any monk showing signs of anxiety or uneasiness when ill is considered a failure within the circle of practicing monks. Mentally, his samãdhi and wisdom are insufficient to sustain him in a time of crisis. Lacking mindfulness, his practice is unbecoming and unreliable. This doesn’t fit with a monk’s obligation to stockpile mindfulness and wisdom as the weapons of choice for protecting himself in his battles with pain of all kinds. Those who have developed the qualities needed to remain mindfully self-controlled, never showing signs of agitation, are considered truly praiseworthy examples of the warrior spirit typical of practicing monks. In critical situations, they stand their ground – and fight. The benefits of this to their meditation are self-evident. Those good results are also noticed by their fellow monks, all of whom greatly admire a fighting mentality. The others have faith that, no matter how overwhelming the pain is, a dhutanga monk will never be defeated – even in death. That is, his mindfulness and wisdom will never accept defeat, for they are the investigative tools he uses to search for a safe, trouble-free way to go beyond when it finally becomes impossible to keep body and soul together.

Anyone practicing Dhamma, who arrives at the Truth proclaimed by the Lord Buddha, is absolutely certain of its universal validity. Confronted with the enemy, he will never accept defeat and withdraw his forces. He is obligated to fight to the death. If it so happens that his body cannot withstand the pressure – he will let it die. But he will never relinquish his citta, or the mindfulness and wisdom which maintain and protect it. He is committed to fighting on to victory. Failure is never an option. He displays the attributes of a warrior who expects to be victorious, and thus reach a sanctuary that is truly safe and secure. Practicing with unwavering faith in the principles of Truth, he is certain to personify the maxim: dhammo have rakkhati dammacãriÿ – Dhamma protects those who practice it faithfully. If, however, he practices in a hesitant, halfhearted fashion, the outcome will only contradict the Truth, never validate it. It cannot be otherwise, because Dhamma, the svãkkhãtadhamma, requires that results be directly correlated with their causes.

Despite all the rewards the world seems to offer, a dhutanga monk prefers to concentrate on the immediate, inner rewards offered by the sãsana. For example, the peaceful calm of samãdhi and the intuitive wisdom needed to extract the kilesas piercing his heart, both reward him with a steadily increasing sense of contentment that is clearly evident, moment by moment. These immediate, tangible results are the ones a dhutanga monk strives to realize. In doing so, he cuts through burdensome problems and unresolved doubts. If he truly has the capability to transcend the world in this lifetime – be it today, tomorrow, next month, or next year – this feat will be accomplished by means of his unflagging diligence at each and every moment.

Ãcariya Mun employed inspirational teaching methods to reinforce this fighting spirit, regardless of whether his students were sick or not. He insisted his monks always be warriors fighting to rescue themselves from danger. But it was in times of illness that he placed special emphasis on being uncompromising. He worried they might become dispirited in the face of this challenge. A sick monk showing signs of weakness or anxiety, lacking the mindful self-control expected of him, was bound to be severely rebuked. Ãcariya Mun might actually forbid the monks in his monastery to care for a sick monk, believing that weakness, anxiety, and a whining mentality were not the right way to deal with illness. Sick people react in that way all the time and never see it as a problem. But a monk, whose status demands that he put up with difficult situations and investigate them carefully, should never react like that. It creates a bad example. For if a monk brings this kind of defeatist attitude into the circle of practice, it may spread like a contagious disease, easily infecting others.

Think of the mess that might cause: Monks moaning and groaning, tossing and turning like dying animals. You are practicing monks, so don’t adopt animal-like behavior. If you begin thinking and acting like animals, the religion will soon develop animal characteristics, spreading confusion everywhere – definitely not the way of the Buddha.

We have all been sick at one time or another, so we are well aware of what someone else feels like when sick. It isn’t necessary for you to make a public display of your discomfort. If mental anguish and vociferous complaints were effective cures, then conventional medicines would not be needed. Whoever fell ill could just whine about his plight in a loud voice to make the illness go way – easy as that. There would be no need to spend a lot of time and trouble treating the patient. Can whining really cure your present illness? If it can’t, why disgust everyone else with your useless whining? This is a sample of the lecture Ãcariya Mun might give a monk whose inability to face hardship was an annoyance to the whole monastic community.

On the other hand, when he visited a sick monk, who maintained a strong, mindful calmness, showing no signs of agitation about his condition, Ãcariya Mun invariably demonstrated his approval. He commended the monk for his fortitude and gave him some very inspiring words of encouragement. Even after his recovery, Ãcariya Mun continued to praise that monk’s mental toughness, holding him up as an excellent example for the others.

“That’s how a true warrior in the battle with pain gets the job done. Don’t complain about the enemy’s overwhelming numbers. Just dig in and fight them all to the limit of your strength and ability without flinching. Never withdraw your forces, never accept defeat. Never let the enemy stomp on you while you’re down. We within the circle of practice must be warriors. It is no use complaining how extremely painful an illness is – just focus on the pain as it arises and try to understand its true nature. Regardless of how much, or how little pain we experience, all pain is a manifestation of the Truth of Dukkha.”

Any monk who was weak and submissive when faced with a painful affliction heard a different tune from Ãcariya Mun.

“If you want the Truth, but refuse to investigate it because you are afraid of pain, how will you ever discover where the Truth lies? The Lord Buddha succeeded in realizing the Truth by thoroughly investigating everything, not by whining about everything like this useless monk now disgracing himself. Where did the Buddha ever state that reaching a true understanding requires moaning and groaning? I didn’t study many books, so perhaps I missed it. Where in the suttas does it refer to moaning and groaning? If any of you who are well-versed in the scriptures comes across a passage where it states that the Buddha extolled the merits of moaning and groaning, please point it out to me. Then I won’t have to teach monks to trouble themselves about investigating pain and putting up with difficulties. You can all just moan and groan until the Truth arises to fill the whole universe. We can then witness the appearance of wise, sagacious individuals who have succeeded in reaching magga and phala by the power of their loud moans and groans. They will be in a position to question the legitimacy, and the current relevance, of the Dhamma that Lord Buddha proclaimed over 2,500 years ago.

“The Dhamma of these latter-day sages will be a new, modern Dhamma whose attainment requires no troublesome investigations. All that’s required to attain magga and phala is a chorus of moaning and groaning, a method suited to an age when people prefer to seek righteous results from unrighteous causes – a pernicious attitude consuming the whole world today. Before long there won’t be enough room on the planet to hold all these modern-day sages. I myself have an old-fashioned mentality. I trust what the Lord Buddha taught and dare not take any shortcuts. I am afraid that, as soon as I put a foot forward, I would fall flat on my face –and die there in disgrace. That would be immensely heart-breaking for me.”

Any monk who showed weakness when in pain could expect such uncompromising treatment. The same kind of punishing rebuke was meted out to a monk who succumbed to weakness or discouragement while undertaking any harsh training practice, since they were obstacles preventing him from making use of the various investigative techniques at his disposal. Ãcariya Mun constantly urged his monks to display the fighting spirit necessary to overcome these impediments, so they very often heard this dynamic teaching. For them, seekers of the true Dhamma, his words were a kind of therapy which roused their courage, invigorated their practice, and kept their spirits high. Thus buoyed, they were ready to advance triumphantly, step by step, up the path to that sphere of blissful contentment the Dhamma promises to reveal. Inspiring commitment, his stimulating instruction dispelled tendencies toward weakness and laziness that prepare the way for the misery of saÿsãra.

W HILE ÃCARIYA MUN lived there, two monks died in the monastery at Ban Nong Pheu, and another one died close by, at Ban Na Nai. The first to die was a middle-aged monk who ordained specifically to practice meditation. Living in Chiang Mai as Ãcariya Mun’s disciple, he eventually followed his teacher to Udon Thani, and then Sakon Nakhon – sometimes staying with him, sometimes practicing alone, until he finally passed away at Ban Nong Pheu. He was very skilled in samãdhi meditation, and, prompted by Ãcariya Mun’s constant tutoring, his wisdom practice had already developed a sense of urgency. He was a very devout, resolute character who gave wonderfully lyrical talks on Dhamma, in spite of being wholly illiterate. His talks, quick-witted and clever, were invariably illustrated with skillful similes, allowing his listeners to easily grasp his meaning. Unfortunately, he had tuberculosis. Long a chronic illness, it eventually reached a critical stage while he was living in the monastery. There, early one morning at about seven o’clock, he passed away in a calm, peaceful manner, befitting one who had been a genuine practicing monk for so long. Witnessing his final moments, and then the moment when his breathing stopped, I developed a deep respect for this monk and his proficiency in meditation.

At death, it is we who control our destiny. So we must take sole responsibility for our future. For no one else, no matter how close or dear, can intervene to affect the outcome. Before that moment arrives, we must develop a means of focusing all our strength and skill on facing this critical juncture wisely, so as to extricate ourselves from danger and safely move on. Our final moments will present us with a significant challenge. All of us, whether we are well-prepared or not, will eventually be confronted with this situation. Those of us who have devised clever means for helping ourselves will fare well. But those of us, who remain ignorant and confused, will founder helplessly, unable to salvage our fate.

The Lord Buddha declared: “Kho nu hãsa kim ãnando…”. 7 It can be translated essentially as: When the world is engulfed in lust, anger, and delusion – a blazing bonfire that rages day and night–how can you keep smiling and laughing all the time? Why don’t you immediately search for a refuge you can depend on? Stop this negligence now! Don’t carry on with it until the day you die, or else you will experience the painful consequences into the future – indefinitely. The Buddha was cautioning people not to be unreasonably heedless in their lives. But when people hear the Buddha’s words today, they feel so embarrassed, so ashamed of their wanton infatuation with sensual pleasures that they want to hide their faces. Despite their shame, they are still lured by their desires – loving this, hating that – for this kind of intransigence has always been an integral part of worldly attitudes. And they don’t know how to stop themselves. So, sadly, their only response to the Buddha’s warnings is shame.

The death of the monk at Ban Nong Pheu should prove a valuable lesson to all of you who are headed toward the same fate. Please consider the manner of his death carefully. Just as he was about to pass away, Ãcariya Mun and the other monks, who were on their way for alms, stopped by to witness that sad event. Afterwards, Ãcariya Mun stood in silent contemplation for a moment; then he spoke to everyone in a solemn tone of voice:

“There’s no need to worry about him. He has already been reborn in Abhassara, the sixth brahma realm. He’s all right for now. But it’s a shame in one way, for had he lived longer and developed his insight with a little more intensity, he could well have been reborn in one of the five suddhãvãsa brahma realms. 8 There he would have progressed directly to the ultimate goal, destined never again to enter the cycle of rebirth. And what about the rest of you – what kind of rebirth are you preparing for yourselves? Will it be one in the animal world, the ghost world, or in the realms of hell? Or will it be as a human, a deva, or a brahma? Or will it be Nibbãna? Which will it be? If you want to know for sure, look closely at the compass bearing of your heart to see the direction in which you are headed. Examine yourselves now to find out whether your present course is a good one, or a bad one. Once you are dead, it will be too late to make adjustments. Everyone knows that death is final – nothing more can be done after that.”

The second death was that of a monk from Ubon Ratchathani who came down with malaria and died a month later. Shortly before it happened, his death was foreseen in the meditation of another monk who was living there at the time. The monk went to speak with Ãcariya Mun the next evening. After discussing various aspects of meditation practice for awhile, their conversation turned to the sick monk, and the monk informed Ãcariya Mun about the vision that appeared in his meditation.

“Something odd occurred in my meditation last night. I was investigating in my normal way when I reached a state of calm and suddenly saw an image of you standing before a pile of firewood, saying, ‘Cremate that monk right here. This is the best place to do it.’ I don’t fully understand the meaning of it. Will that sick monk die of malaria? His condition certainly doesn’t appear to be that serious.”

Ãcariya Mun responded immediately.

“I have been investigating this matter for a long time now. He is bound to die, it cannot be avoided. Still, he won’t have died in vain. I have seen his mental state: it’s exceptional. So, he’s sure to fare very well. But I strictly forbid you to mention anything about this to him. If he finds out that he’s certain to die, he will feel very disappointed. Then his health will deteriorate even further, and his mental state could waver to the extent that he misses the excellent rebirth he can expect now. Disappointment is a very harmful emotion in this respect.”

Several days later, that monk’s condition suddenly took a turn for the worse. He died calmly at about three A. M. This prompted me to consider how Ãcariya Mun must have investigated the circumstances that lay behind every incident that appeared to him during meditation, pursuing them all until he clearly understood their significance. Then he simply let go, allowing them to follow their natural course.

One morning, a disciple of Ãcariya Mun, who was running a very high fever due to malarial infection, decided to forgo alms round and fast for the day. He used his investigative skills to battle the intense pain from early morning until three in the afternoon, when the fever began to abate. Feeling completely exhausted in the middle of the day, he drew his attention to and concentrated solely on those points where the pain was most intense, but without making an effort to probe and analyze the pain with wisdom. At midday, Ãcariya Mun momentarily sent out the flow of his citta to check how the monk was coping with the pain. Later in the afternoon, while visiting Ãcariya Mun, he was surprised to hear Ãcariya Mun immediately question his mode of practice.

“Why were you investigating like that? How can you expect to understand the truth about the body, the pain, and the citta, if you merely concentrate your mind on a single point? Instead, use your intuitive wisdom to analyze all three of them. In that way, you discover the true nature of each. Yours is the kind of concentration one expects from a yogi: it has all the single-minded intensity of a dogfight! It is not the right practice for a monk wanting to discover the truth about pain. Don’t do it again. It’s the wrong way to go about realizing the many truths to be found within the body, the pain, and the citta. During the middle of the day I examined your practice to see how you were coping with the pain caused by your fever. I noticed you were just focusing your attention exclusively on the pain. You were not using mindfulness and wisdom to ease the problem by looking at all three aspects of it: body, pain, and citta. This is the only effective way to quell pain, and. neutralize the symptoms, so that the fever subsides as well.”