阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第六章第五節:老虎是最好的老師

    

                                          

           

第六章第五節:老虎是最好的老師

        當阿姜曼認為某種特定的建議能幫助弟子,他就會直截了當地對弟子說,他對特定的比丘可能會很直接。

        「你去山洞裡禪修會比住在寺院裡要來得好。像你這樣的個性,需要的是強硬、高壓的方法。更好的做法,就是去找一隻老虎來當你的老師-- 對牠的懼怕可調伏你的心,迫使它平靜。以這種方式來體認『法』,你將能獲得滿足。住在寺院裡並不適合你。固執的人需要用強硬的東西來軟化,使他們更柔軟。既然老虎這麼令人害怕,害怕牠的人就應該要找一隻來當自己的老師,這比起找個你不會害怕的老師要來得有效得多。如果你怕鬼,那麼你就應該以鬼為師來增進精神的修持。找一個你心中最害怕的東西來當老師,這就是智者迫使自己投入修行的方法。」

        阿姜曼說的那個弟子,在出家前就是一個脾氣很強硬、說到做到的人。一旦他說要做什麼,那麼他就一定會做到。他是一個相當固執的人,卻是一個擇善固執的比丘。當他聽到阿姜曼堅決的建議後,當下就決定照著去做。他自忖:像阿姜曼這樣水準的比丘一定不可能叫我給老虎吃掉。我一定要去他說的山洞裡居住。如果那意味著死亡,我就接受它;若我想親眼見證他所說的真諦,就不該擔心死亡。聽說他講的話都一定有他的道理,他說話前一定會周延考慮每一種情況。任何理解他的教導並付諸實踐的人都一定能獲得善果。我一定要認真地照他的話去做 —— 那是出自對我個性的一種洞見,與對我福祉的一種關心。這就好比他把我的心給挖出來反覆端詳,看透了我的一切。我怎麼可以懷疑他的建議?如果我現在不去做,怎麼還能稱自己是比丘?倒不如還俗做一個在家俗人算了!我現在就要去山洞 —— 不管會發生什麼事。如果我死在那裡 —— 那就這樣吧;如果沒死,那麼我祈求能有機會體證某種不可思議的法。很顯然,他提到的固執又頑強,就是在說我。這就是他智慧的一種技巧:他比我還要了解我自己!我的確就是那樣的人,百分之一百。為了我自己好,我無法忽視他有關老虎的建議,我一定照他的話去做,讓自己投身苦修中。

        就像阿姜曼說的,這個比丘的個性真地很固執,也不肯聽他人的意見。經過一番思索後,他做了明確的決定,準備立刻出發。當他走上前,阿姜曼問他要去哪裡。

        「你要去哪裡?你看起來已穿好衣服,一副準備要去行軍打仗的樣子。」

        「我要去你跟我說的那個山洞裡赴死。」

        「什麼!我是怎麼跟你說的,是死在那山洞裡?還是到山洞裡禪修?」

        「嗯……,你是叫我去那裡禪修,不是叫我去死在那裡。但我聽別的比丘提過,有一隻老虎就住在我要去的山洞上方的另一個洞穴裡。他們說老虎的巢穴就在附近,經常可以看見老虎出沒。當牠外出獵食的時候,牠就會從我的山洞前經過,所以我很懷疑是否能活下來。我只是說出了我的擔憂。」

        「很多的比丘因不同的因緣都在那個洞穴裡待過,也沒有人被老虎吞掉。所以,為什麼老虎會突然想要把你一口吞下去?你的肉跟別人的肉比起來有什麼不同?為什麼會特別挑起老虎的食慾?你到哪裡可以找到不會撲向他人而只會把你吃掉的老虎?」

        阿姜曼接著解釋「心」會欺騙人的本質,這些蠱惑人心的方法多到讓人難以看得清。

        「如果你不能以嚴謹、慎思明辨的態度去檢驗並測試每一件事,你就會飽受『心』的各種折磨,且永遠學不會要怎麼做才能調伏桀敖不馴的本性。你還沒有離開,卻相信『無明』的耳語已遠勝於老師給你的建議了。你要怎麼處理這件事?雖說世人都還沒死,然而每一個人都怕死。但『出生』,引誘眾人邁向死亡之物,卻沒有人怕它,每一個人都渴求出生。我想不通為什麼人們會如此迷戀出生,肉體的誕生便意味著無止盡的痛苦與憂慮。假設人類能像一大叢竹子那樣繁衍:那麼人類對誕生的渴求將無法抑制。每一個人都想要開枝散葉,想擁有成千上百的後代子孫,卻不曾想過這麼多人在同一時間死亡所帶來的恐懼[1],整個世界將會因死亡的恐懼而呈現一片混亂,沒有安穩的處所。」

        「你是一個有修行的比丘,一個訓練有素的心靈戰士。然而,你對死亡的恐懼卻已遠超過沒有修行的在家人。你為什麼要讓無明如此不斷地擾亂你?你有足以保護自己的正念與觀智,為什麼不使用它們?主動出擊吧!把埋伏在心中的狡詐無明全給驅走,之後你就會了解到自己有多麼愚痴,盲目地服侍它們,察覺不出它們對你的控制。一名戰士的勝利取決於他自願勇敢的戰死沙場。如果你不想死,就不該進入戰區。只有不怕死,才能擊敗你的敵人。如果你是真心想要以洞悉苦諦來滅苦,那麼你就必須把死亡的恐懼看做是苦的一種型態-- 一種深植在心中無明的產物。你只能站在有助於勝利的戰場上去解決這個問題,就如同我剛指出的。堅持下去,你就能了解恐懼所帶來的不良影響:它會翻攪情緒並讓意志消沈,總是不斷地生起苦。最好就是現在採取反擊的立場,不要只是執著於恐懼,將恐懼緊緊抱在胸懷裡並燃燒你的心,直到你因痛苦不堪而哭泣為止。如果現在不採取行動,你的痛苦會一直持續下去!」

        「你是要相信老師與法的至高神聖?還是要相信被無明釋放到內心並吞噬掉可擊退無明的正念與觀智的恐懼?看清楚吧,你好像只看到老虎,全都跑出來撕碎你的肉並飽餐一頓。」

「怎麼會這樣呢?請好好想清楚。我向你保證,我自己的修行也是用同樣的戰鬥訓練方法來取得良好的效果。」

        這個比丘說當他聽到阿姜曼嚴厲的斥責後,感覺到內心的勇氣正閃閃發光,而這就是他的法喜。當阿姜曼說完後,這個比丘逕自離去,準備動身前往山洞。

        他抵達山洞時,仍懷抱著勇氣與喜悅。他放下隨身攜帶的物品後,開始巡視山洞附近四周。接著,很不幸的,「這個山洞就是老虎的家」的念頭在心中生起了。就是因為這個想法,他的眼睛在山洞前的地面掃視,他察看到土中有一個老虎的足印。他也沒有仔細想過那可能是很久以前留下來的印子,看到這個景象,恐懼立刻傳遍全身,把他嚇到幾乎失去理智。那一刻,他完全忘了他的老師,也忘了他在寺院聽訓時閃閃發光的勇氣。恐懼淹沒了他的心,無力阻止。他走過去,用腳抹去地上的爪印,但恐懼還是持續著。不過,不用再看到爪印讓他好過一些。

        他低頭發現老虎爪印的那一刻,他真的嚇到了 —— 一整晚都嚇到動彈不得。就算是白天,他也一樣害怕;但當夜幕低垂時,他一想到山洞四周到處都有大老虎,恐懼就變得更加劇烈。更糟的是,他的瘧疾突然復發了,忽冷又忽熱。他覺得自己彷彿墜入了毫無任何身心安樂的人間地獄。難能可貴的是,他在精神方面還夠強硬,足以去抗拒那個叫他放棄尋找克服恐懼方法的誘惑。然而,日益嚴重的高燒,加上對老虎的恐懼,已讓他失去了冷靜,快要逼瘋他了。

        曾有一段很長的時間,他一想起阿姜曼的慈悲與教誨,便能暫時熄滅心中熊熊燃燒的痛苦火焰。而當瘧疾的症狀變得越來越嚴重,他回想原本在山洞裡犧牲生命的打算:「在此之前,我決定在這裡犧牲生命。當阿姜曼問我要去哪裡,我馬上宣稱我要去山洞裡赴死。當我走到這裡,我感覺彷彿踏在雲端,這就是我從容就義的決心。那麼,為什麼當抵達洞穴,真的走入虎口時,卻又改變主意不想死了?現在,我這麼怕死,怕到都快撐不下去。我跟當時的我是同一個人,我並沒有跟膽小鬼交換心臟,那為什麼我似乎變成了一個新的懦弱的人?在寺院裡,我已準備就死;現在我真的在這裡,卻又改變了心意。到底是要怎樣?快下定決心吧 —— 別再浪費時間了。這樣吧,我乾脆到陡峭的懸崖邊禪坐吧。如果我的正念搖擺不定,那麼就讓我摔死在山谷底,讓禿鷹與蒼蠅去處理我的屍體,不必再麻煩村民了。不該為處理一個沒用的比丘的屍體而弄髒他人的手 —— 我的沒用可能會傳染給他人。話說回來,我也可以在通往老虎洞穴的路徑中間禪坐。這樣老虎出外獵食的時候會比較方便些,牠可以直接咬住我沒有用的脖子,把我當作今晚的點心。到底要哪一種?快下定決心 —— 現在就去做!」

        他的決心增強了,他走到洞穴前站了一會兒,等候自己的決定。衡量這兩種選擇後,他決定第一個選項:去禪坐,就坐在離山洞不遠處的一個懸崖邊緣。只要正念稍有閃失,禿鷹與蒼蠅就會來照顧他的遺體。決定這樣做以後,他走向前並坐下,面對著深谷,背對著老虎出入巢穴的路徑。他開始覆誦「buddho」,他很明白,只要一個不留神,他可能馬上死掉。坐在那裡默念「buddho」,警醒地觀察他的心,看哪一種恐懼最強勢:是怕摔下懸崖,還是怕被老虎攻擊。當清楚知道害怕摔落懸崖的恐懼最嚴重,他便聚精會神於兩個禪修業處之一:不是「buddho」就是「念死」 ── 就看當時哪一個業處在心中生起。這樣禪修後,面對死亡的邊緣已能鎮定下來,他的心很快地聚焦在一處,接著突然就墜入了深層的定境,然後突然就進入了安止定,快速凝神在全然平靜的一境上。那一瞬間,他已無視於長久以來席捲他內心的猛烈動亂,只留下「心」必要的「認知」本質-- 全然獨立,璀燦亮麗。對死亡的恐懼已經完全消失了。

        晚上十點,這個比丘戲劇性地進入了安止定,這是一種深度的體驗,以致他到第二天早上十點才出定。他睜開眼睛,發現已日上三竿。既然已過了清晨托缽的時間,他乾脆不入村 —— 那一天他完全不進食。出定後,他感覺不到一絲的恐懼,那是他從未經歷過的一種驚人的勇敢。他的高燒在那一晚之後也完全消退 —— 完全痊癒了,而且之後他的瘧疾也不再復發。他確信「法的療效」同時治癒了他的瘧疾與對老虎的恐懼。從那一天起,他的身體不再受瘧疾的折磨,他的心不再受恐懼的蹂躪!不再懼怕老虎,他可以去任何的地方,住在任何的地方 —— 坦然自在且隨遇而安。

        偶爾,他會希望有老虎突然出現,好測試他的心智是否夠堅定。他會想像自己能夠毫無恐懼並冷靜地走到老虎的面前。仔細回想整個經歷,他對阿姜曼無限的感激油然生起,因為他慈悲地教他看清關於恐懼的腐敗力量。現在的他明白了心是如何運作,他也會持續採用這種高壓強硬的修行方式。當準備禪修時,他喜歡找最恐怖的地方。在他待在那堛熙悀U的日子,他持續這種修行方法,會特別找最恐怖的地方來促進禪修。弄清楚老虎例行出沒的特定路徑後,他就坐在那條路的正中央;而在山洞內禪修時,他決意不放下傘帳,因為坐在一個低矮的傘帳內,在面對老虎的威脅時,會提供更多的保護。若減少恐懼的元素,他的心就不易進入他所想要的定境。每一次他會坐在什麼地方,便取決於他的心在何處最有可能快速進入深層的禪定。

        某一天的深夜,他在外面禪坐。儘管盡了最大的努力,他的心仍不肯進入定境。他洩氣地坐在那裡好一陣子,直到他終於想起大老虎經常出沒的區域:不知道今天老虎在哪裡?如果牠今天能來這裡幫我的心進入禪定那就太好了。若牠經過這裡,我的禪修就不會像這般費力了 —— 心就會本能地入定。

果不出所料,想起他的朋友後沒多久 —— 或許半小時 —— 他就聽到有巨大動物的腳步聲朝洞穴走去。時間接近凌晨二點,聽到老虎靠近時,他給自己發出了一個及時的警告:牠來了!就現在!你真的那麼不在意嗎?你就不擔心牠會一口咬住你的脖子把你生吞活剝了嗎?如果你不想成為老虎的食物,那麼最好趕緊找個安全的避難所躲起來。

        當他想到這裡,腦海中也出現老虎猛撲到他身上的畫面,牠張開虎口緊咬住他的脖子。此時此刻他專注在這個影像,他的凝神並快速入定,直到進入非常深層的安止定。瞬間所有外在的現象都從他的知覺中消失了 —— 自己、老虎及所有的一切。留下的只有寧靜與平靜 —— 「心」與「法」融合為一種不可名狀的奇妙一體。他的心安住在那種超凡神聖的境界中足足有八個小時 —— 從凌晨兩點到隔天早上的十點。出定後,他看見太陽已高掛,所以他又不打算托缽,決定不吃飯了。他接著走上前去檢查他聽到有老虎出沒的地方,看是否真有老虎經過的跡象;又或者只是他的耳朵在戲弄他?看著地面,他看到大老虎的足跡,就離他禪坐的地點十二英尺處。老虎的足跡在地上呈一直線持續前進,直通向牠的洞穴,完全沒有轉往禪修朋友的方向。整個事件很奇特,可以說相當的不可思議。

        在安止定的體驗中,會收攝凝神到心的最深層,隨著每個人的性情、傾向而呈現出不同的經驗。有些人因其個性傾向而經歷到非常快速的凝神,感覺好像跌入一口深井底部一樣。在那個時候,內在的感官機能都停止運作,也就是說他們完全覺知不到外在的一切。這個比丘的心正是這種情況:當他完全入定時,其結果對外在現象的覺知也都將停止。如同這個比丘的解釋,當他的完全凝神入定時,任何與它有關的一切都會立刻消失。只有當他出定後,他的覺知才會恢復正常。但,他發現除非是處於外在威脅的逼迫,否則很難契入這種境界。一種真實迫切的危機才能逼使他的非常迅速地凝神 —— 一瞬間就直抵其最深處。他說這就是為何他喜歡找恐怖的地方的原因了。

        「我發現這是促進我禪修最方便的方法:在能夠生起恐懼的地方禪修。事實上,我比較喜歡有老虎頻頻出沒的荒山野嶺,而不去找那些沒有老虎的地方。就如同你們所見:有老虎出沒的地方最適合像我這種個性粗獷的人 —— 這也是我喜愛荒山野嶺的原因。」

        「當我住在洞穴的時候,曾有過其他奇異的經歷。除了實現我的目標達到深層的禪定以外,我也同時開發出幾種超凡的心靈感應力。比如說,有幾晚地居天神來拜訪我,並與我交談;還有更特別的,如果當地村落有人去世,我總是會第一時間就知道,雖然我不確定這個訊息是怎麼來的,它就是會自然地在我心中浮現,而且一定準確無誤 —— 我沒有任何理由去懷疑。我住的山洞離村落約有五英里遠,但這些村民仍堅持要我幫他們舉行葬禮的儀式,這對我來說真的很困擾。當村落裡有人去世,我都會知道,也知道隔天我又得長途跋涉去村落的墓地。而果不其然,村民在隔天就會來麻煩我,不管我怎麼說都沒有用。他們告訴我比丘在那一帶區域很稀有,所以他們別無選擇,只能來找我幫忙。村民們相信死者會因比丘替他舉行喪禮而獲得利益。我很憐憫他們,所以只好去了。禁食的期間有利於密集的禪修,我不希望有干擾修行的事情發生;但,通常就是會有事情發生。」

        「住在山洞時,我總是依靠我的老虎朋友在我的修行上推我一把。每隔一晚,就如同所有飢餓的老虎會做的事一樣,老虎會下來找食物。但就算牠從我的身旁經過,也從不對我感興趣。下山就只有這一條路,所以牠一定會走這一條路。」

        這個比丘的習慣相當的特別,他在深夜離開山洞,走到山上高聳的石頭露地上禪坐。他看起來一副泰然自若的樣子,對於野生動物可能帶來的危險一點都不擔心。由於他的個性傾向,他比較喜歡獨自一人在荒野中行腳。我收錄他的故事是因為它帶來許多珍貴的啟示。他以不動搖的決心來禪修,直到他成功地揭露不羈的心,因此調伏並控制它。他利用野生老虎 —— 一種最不受控的動物 —— 來激勵他的修行,從而達到明顯的效果。

        過去阿姜曼住在Ban Nong Pheu村的寺院時,他對於在他指導下的僧團能夠成長感到很滿意。在雨安居期間,二、三十位比丘跟著他一起修行。雖然人數增加了,但是會讓他擔心的紛爭,卻極少出現。每一個比丘都很認真地專注在自己的修行之上。同修之間的和諧存在於有共同目標的比丘們之中。每天早晨比丘們平靜地走進村落托缽 —— 那真是一幅令人為之動容的景象。村莊裡擺放了一張長椅,僧眾在接受食物的供養後就坐在長椅上為村民祈福。然後,他們回到寺院,安靜地坐在一起,按戒臘年資就座。當吃完飯後,每一個比丘會清洗自己的缽,徹底晾乾,以乾淨的布覆蓋,再整齊放好。當早上的工作完成後,他們各自散開,每一個比丘會走進寺院附近的廣大森林裡,找一處僻靜的小徑專注在修行上 —— 依照個人的喜好,或禪坐或經行。他們在森林裡修行到下午四點,直到傍晚的功課開始,他們才從自己的禪修地點返回寺院,彼此幫忙打掃寺院的四周。當完成清掃後,他們一起到井邊去打水,然後把水提回到寺院並倒滿各種裝水的水桶 —— 有飲用的水桶、洗腳用的水桶或洗缽的水桶。他們在井邊快速洗澡,又返回繼續禪修。夜晚,如果沒有集會,他們通常會一直禪修到就寢的時間。一般來說,阿姜曼每七天舉行一次集會,但比丘如果需要個人的指導,可在任何一天去拜見他。想請教禪修問題的比丘可在阿姜曼有空的時間去諮詢 —— 通常是在上午用餐後、下午剛開始、下午五點或晚上八點。

        在傍晚安靜的時刻聽阿姜曼說法並回答問題是一種愉快的經歷。那時,附近各地前來求教的弟子會提出許多不尋常的問題。有些與比丘禪修期間發生的問題有關;其他則是與外在世界的現象有關,比如天人。那些來與他討論修行的比丘在禪修方面都已經是老手了,有些人會敘述自己特殊的禪定經驗。我們都迫不及待聆聽,陶醉在他的回答之中,都不希望集會結束。每一次我們都能獲得可讓修行進步的寶貴啟示,讓我們都非常的滿意。

        若時機適當,阿姜曼會敘述他過去教化的故事。他跟我們說他早年俗家時的生活、如何出家、一開始是沙彌、然後成為比丘的故事。有些故事有趣到讓我們發噱;有些經歷讓我們感到同情;而有些,是有關他的修行成就,精采到令人難以置信。跟一位好老師長期住在一起,會有許多明顯的利益。以老師為榜樣,弟子們會漸漸改正原本的習性態度與行為模式,調整外在的言行,一點一滴配合他來充實內心的能力,盡可能跟上老師的腳步,直到最後他們的個性能自然地與老師調和。他提供弟子們一個安全的環境,便意味著他們的修行不可能誤入歧途。持續浸染在他深具啟發的教導之下,逐漸讓「法」的精髓滲入穿透他們的心。他令人畏懼的威儀,促使了某種能強化正念與觀智的警覺與自我控制。畏懼能使弟子們免於自滿,迫使他們在行為與思想上敬小慎微。即使是這樣,他們盡了最大的努力,阿姜曼還是可以逮到他們的小過失,然後公開給大家知道。像這樣在大眾面前暴露自己的缺失是一件很丟臉的事;但比丘必須接受不謹言慎行的後果。

        跟阿姜曼一起生活與修行,我們都經驗到了一種不可思議的喜樂。但如果我們不正思惟,我們的喜樂就很容易轉變為挫敗,因為這些邪見會是一種持續性的障礙。我不能替別人表示意見,但我的情況一直相當的不穩定,所以我依靠阿姜曼來訓練我。只有這樣,當無明令我窒息時,我才能找到某個能喘息的空間。聽他在講述自己修行的各種階段,我的心是如此的悸動,彷彿飄浮在空中,走在雲端之上。每當聽他說法時,我整個人感覺就像是一縷棉絮,但後來,當我試著在禪修時重現這種輕飄飄的感覺時,卻感到重如泰山般的辛苦,除了沈重的阻礙以外,什麼也沒有。我對自己感到很灰心,慚愧到想把頭埋在地底裡 —— 然而,對我這樣無法全心接受教導的人來說,遇到失敗與羞辱都是很應該的。

        我在這裡會提到我粗俗且強硬的個性,是為了讓讀者能夠明白,當心裝滿了具毀滅性的影響時,將會沉淪到有多深;而要把它(心)從泥淖中給拉出來並加以導正,又將是多麼費力的一件事。如果現在不付出最大的努力,那麼不管我們是誰或身在何處,這種傾向終將使我們陷入不幸的深淵。因此必須努力去馴服心。能成功調伏從無始以來背負沈重的負擔且不受控的心、並完全解脫的人,這種人才值得受到最高的禮敬。而佛世尊及其阿羅漢聖弟子們便是這種成就光輝的典範。

        同樣地,我絕對確信阿姜曼就是佛陀的現代阿羅漢聖弟子之一。他以勇敢並有主宰力的方式去生活,從不屈服於無明力量的危險之中。即使到了晚年,他已可以休息並稍事放鬆,不用再從事修行,但他還是一如往常從事經行 —— 年輕的比丘幾乎都跟不上。他以大慈大悲來履行教學的義務,從不放棄任何一個學生。他對學生的敦促可看出他剛毅的性格,他總是喜歡以戰士的樣子來說話。他的演說鏗鏘有力,旨在喚起弟子們必備的勇氣與力量來徹底滅苦。他對他們的過失很少會妥協或原諒。那些在修行中已經露出缺點的可悲傾向的比丘,他不會隨便讓他們好過。

        阿姜曼對佛法的各個面向,不論是從理論、實修與內心的體證,都充滿了最高的敬意。而在今天這個時代,很難找到這樣的一個真正的佛弟子。

        各地的佛教徒早已對十三頭陀支失去了興趣,沒有人會想到將它們重新放在應有的重要位置,而阿姜曼卻強調奉行十三頭陀支的重要性。它們現在已變成頭陀森林比丘在修行上很重要的部分,而這都是阿姜索與阿姜曼在泰國東北部地區重新提倡十三頭陀支的成果。阿姜索與阿姜曼兩人在他們一生中的某些時候會奉行全部的十三頭陀支,而我在前面的章節提到的那些頭陀支只是他們每天基本修行的功課之一。其他的頭陀支,比如墓地住或樹下住,這兩位阿姜都全然熟稔,也經常奉行。今日在泰國東北部的頭陀比丘,就是直接承襲了他們的傳承。

        阿姜索與阿姜曼很清楚意識到持守頭陀支對於修行比丘在修行上的價值。他們很清楚地瞭解到,十三頭陀支的任何一支,都是防堵比丘因無明氾濫而流向外界出口的最有效方法。對於因這些出口所造成的(無明)氾濫,若沒有苦修的約束,那麼所謂「苦修」一詞也不過流於空有虛名而已,他們的無明將恣意流竄,造成他人的困擾。藉由頭陀支的幫助,比丘們可放心自己的言行不會冒犯到他人。每一個頭陀支都能促進一項具有美德的品質,奉守頭陀支能提醒比丘要當心不可牴觸培育中的德行。若處於謹慎戒備的狀態,對於任何會誤判的情況便能保持清醒,未來反而增長能發現過失的正念。若從全面來看,頭陀苦行所涵蓋的範圍很廣,每一項頭陀支都有各自的特殊目的。假設比丘了解到他所奉守的頭陀支的真正目的,並正確依法奉行,他必能輕易地滅除煩惱,它們的威力強大到能給每一種類型的煩惱予以致命的一擊 —— 沒有煩惱能逃出它們的攻擊。

        只要我們害怕因奉守頭陀支所遇到的艱難,那麼煩惱就不會那麼怕我們。當沒有可降伏煩惱的頭陀行,我們不知怎的忘了無明帶給我們的艱難,卻替自己開闢出一條去指責這些修行太過困難的路 —— 或說它們已過時。當我們的想法變成了我們的敵人,無明早已悄悄地贏得了最高的尊敬;但我們卻看不出這一點,只會急於向它們輸誠。這種籠絡性的臣服,其害處很明顯,且範圍顯然無止盡。

        認真持守一條或多條頭陀支的比丘,必然會表現出一種令人愉快、莊嚴的外觀。他的基本需求很少,易於護持。不管吃什麼,或睡在哪裡,對他來說都不是問題。他總是滿足於隨身攜帶的簡單資具,沒有物質的占有或情感的執著等負擔,他的身心輕安。即使是在家人也可以修持某些頭陀支,就如同僧眾,並從中獲得功德利益,因為比丘或在家人都背負著相同的無明。畢竟,頭陀行旨在對抗無明,所以各行各業的人都應該盡可能利用它們來達到這個目的。頭陀行包含了「法」的所有特質,是如此的深奧,以致於很難完全領會它們真正的重要性。

        我自己對頭陀行的知識與了解也沒有那麼廣泛,但以我單純的方式,已盡可能公正地去闡釋它們,希望你們在這方面能原諒我的缺失。事實上,頭陀行是如此的深奧微妙,實際上不可能完整詳述它們所有卓越的功德特質。它們(頭陀行)有能力帶領真心致力於修行的比丘,從「法」的基本層級一路到最高的神聖層級。事實上,沒有任何一種「法」的成就能超出頭陀行的範圍。身為一個老師,阿姜曼總是帶領他的弟子們一起奉守這些頭陀行,直到他生命的最後一天。只有當他的力氣已完全耗盡,他才會跟他的身體一起放手。對於那些想要淨化心中一切垢染的比丘,顯然頭陀行是必要的修行 —— 這一點毋庸置疑。

        我不再詳細解說奉守每一項頭陀支的功德福利與其重要性。有興趣的人可以自己去找出它們的特質,因為跟只是聽別人的解釋比起來,這樣做對你會更有益處,且你會發現一定程度的精妙之處。我從早年成為一個森林頭陀比丘開始,就在探索這些頭陀行,也持續從中獲得了善果,我一直都將它們視為所有修行中的一項重要的部分。若想親眼見證煩惱的終結,從最粗獷的人到最細膩敏感的人,都不應該忽視頭陀行認為自己做不到。

 

[1] 竹叢的死亡會在短時間之內發生。

   

       

When Ãcariya Mun believed that a specific kind of advice would help one of his students, he spoke to him directly about it. He could be very blunt in his advice to certain monks.

“You’d be better off going to meditate in that cave than you are living here in the monastery. Characters like yours prefer tough, coercive measures. Better still, find a tiger to be your teacher – fear of it will subdue your citta, forcing it to enter into calm. Realizing Dhamma in this way, you can gain some contentment. Living here in the monastery is not right for you. Stubborn people need hard things to soften them up and make them more pliable. Since tigers are such good tormentors, anyone fearing them should take one as a teacher. It’s much better than having a teacher you don’t fear. If you are afraid of ghosts, you should take ghosts as teachers to enforce mental discipline. Take as a teacher whatever your heart most fears. This is how a clever person forces himself to submit to the training.”

Before ordaining, the monk he was addressing had been a real tough guy with a bold, no-nonsense sort of character. If he said he was going to do something, he did it. He was a rather stubborn person, but stubborn in the way of a monk. As soon as he heard Ãcariya Mun’s resolute advice, he immediately decided to follow it, reasoning something like this to himself: Surely a monk of Ãcariya Mun’s caliber would never send me to be killed by a tiger. I must go and live in the cave he mentioned. If that means death, I’ll just have to accept it. If I want to see for myself the truth of what he said, then I must have no qualms about dying. I’ve heard that he always has very sound reasons for what he says; and he’s careful to thoroughly examine every situation before speaking. Anyone who can understand his teaching and put it into practice is bound to get good results. I must take what he just said very seriously – it came from an insight into my character, and a genuine concern for my well-being. It is as though he plucked out my heart and examined it, and has found out all about me. How can I doubt his advice? If I fail to act on it now, how can I call myself a monk? I might as well be a lay person. I’m going to live in that cave – whatever happens. If I die there – so be it. If I don’t, then all I ask is a chance to realize some amazing Dhamma while I’m there. It’s obvious that he was talking about me when he referred to being stubborn and recalcitrant. It’s a true measure of his genius: he knows me better than I know myself. I know I’m that type of person, one hundred percent. For my own good, I can’t afford to disregard his advice about tigers. I must do what he said and subject myself to this agonizing practice.

This monk truly was a stubborn character, reluctant to accept advice from anyone, just as Ãcariya Mun indicated. After considering Ãcariya Mun’s remarks and reaching a definite decision, he went to take his leave. As he approached, Ãcariya Mun immediately asked him where he was going.

“Where are you off to? You look all dressed up, and ready to march earnestly into battle.”

“I’m going off to die in that cave you told me about.”

“What! What did I say to you: go die in that cave, or go meditate there?”

“Well, you told me to meditate there, not die there. But I know from the other monks that there’s a tiger living in the cave above the one I’ll be staying in. They say that the tiger’s cave is just close by – it comes and goes there all the time. When it goes out to hunt for food, it will pass right in front of my cave, so I have my doubts about remaining alive there. I was simply voicing my apprehension.”

“Many other monks have already stayed in that cave, on many different occasions, and none of them were devoured by tigers. So, why should a tiger suddenly decide to come gobble you up? What’s the difference between your flesh and the flesh of those other monks that makes it so much more likely to whet a tiger’s appetite? Where did you get this savory flesh tigers like so much that they are waiting to pounce on and devour only you and no one else?”

Ãcariya Mun then explained about the deceptive nature of the mind that deludes people in ways that are far too numerous to easily keep up with.

“If you don’t examine everything and test it out with a critical, discerning attitude, you will be tormented by the mind’s myriad tricks and never learn to tame its unruly nature. You have yet to leave, but already you trust the whisperings of the kilesas more than the advice of your teacher. How will you ever manage? Although people the world over have yet to die, they are all terrified of death. But birth, the enticement luring them into death, is feared by no one – everyone craves birth. I cannot figure out why people are so infatuated with birth. Just one birth in a physical body means immense suffering and anxiety. Suppose human beings could send up shoots like a clump of bamboo: their eagerness for birth would increase rampantly. Each person desiring to branch out into hundreds, or thousands, of additional people, without giving thought to how the combined fear of so many people dying at once might affect them. The whole world would become tumultuous with the fear of death and there would be no safe place to live.

“You are a practicing monk, a trained spiritual warrior. Yet your fear of death surpasses that of the untrained laity. Why do you let the kilesas harass you in this way? You have the mindfulness and wisdom needed to defend yourself, so why don’t you use them? Go on the offensive. Chase out the devious kilesas lurking there in your heart. Then you will realize how stupid you’ve been, blindly serving their interests, unaware of the power they have over you. A warrior’s victory depends on his willingness to brave death on the battlefield. If you’re not willing to die, then you shouldn’t enter the battle zone. Only by braving death will you be able to defeat your enemies. If you are truly determined to transcend dukkha, by realizing its true nature, you must view your fear of death as one form of dukkha – a product of the kilesas stored in your heart. You can only resolve this matter by making a stand on a battlefield conducive to victory, like the one I just indicated. Persevere, and you will come to realize fear’s harmful effects: it stirs the emotions and demoralizes the spirit, always giving rise to suffering. It is better to take a defiant stand now. Don’t simply keep clinging to that fear, hugging it tightly to your chest and burning your heart until you cry out in agony. Fail to act decisively now and your suffering will continue indefinitely.

“Will you believe in the supreme sanctity of your teacher and the Dhamma? Or are you going to trust that fear the kilesas have released into your heart which is depriving you of the very mindfulness and wisdom you need to defeat it? Looking around, you seem to see only tigers, all coming to tear out your flesh and make a meal of you.

Why is that? Please reflect deeply on the matter. I assure you that I have used the same combative training method to good effect in my own practice.”

Such was his delight in the Dhamma he heard that the monk said he felt his citta glowing bright with courage as he listened to Ãcariya Mun’s strong rebuke. When Ãcariya Mun finished speaking, the monk took his leave and immediately prepared to go to the cave.

He arrived at the cave still buoyed by a sense of courage and rapturous delight. He put down the belongings he carried with him and began to survey the surrounding area. Then, by some mischance, the thought arose in his mind that the cave was home to a tiger. With this thought in mind and his eyes scanning the ground in front of the cave, he spied a tiger’s paw-print in the dirt. Never considering that it was probably made long before, the sight of it sent shock waves of fear through him, nearly scaring him out of his wits. In that instant, he completely forgot his teacher and the sense of courage that glowed so brightly while he sat listening to him in the monastery. Fear overwhelmed his heart and he was helpless to prevent it. He walked over and erased all traces of the paw-print with his foot, but the fear persisted. Still, he did feel a little better not having to look at it anymore.

From the moment he glanced down to discover the tiger’s paw-print, he was terrified – a paralyzing fear lasting all night. Even during the day, his fear remained; but it became especially intense once night fell, as he imagined the whole area around his cave to be teeming with huge tigers. To make matters even worse, he had a sudden recurrence of malaria, with fever and chills. He felt as though he had fallen into a living hell devoid of any physical or mental comfort whatsoever. To his great credit, he was tough enough mentally to resist the temptation to give up his painful attempts at finding a means to overcome his fear. The worsening fever, combined with his agonizing fear of tigers, did unsettle his composure, however, nearly driving him crazy.

Once in a long while he thought of Ãcariya Mun’s kindness and the advice he had given, which temporarily helped to douse the fires of misery burning in his heart. As symptoms of the malaria became more and more intense, he reflected back on his earlier intention to sacrifice his life in that cave: Previously, I made a decision to sacrifice my life here. When Ãcariya Mun asked me where I was going, I immediately announced that I was going off to die in this cave. And as I hiked up here, I felt as though I was walking on air, such was my determination to brave death. So, why is it that upon reaching the cave and actually entering the jaws of death, I have now changed my mind and decided I don’t want to die? Now, I’m so afraid of dying I can hardly hold my own. I’m exactly the same person I was then. I didn’t exchange my heart for the heart of some coward. So why do I seem to be a new person with a cowardly attitude? In the monastery, I was prepared to die. Now that I’m actually here, I’ve changed my mind. Which is it going to be? Make up your mind right now – don’t wait any longer. How about this? I’ll go sit in meditation at the overhanging edge of a steep precipice. If my mindfulness falters, then let me fall to my death at the bottom of the ravine where the vultures and the flies can take care of my corpse. There would be no need to trouble the villagers about it. No one should have to dirty their hands handling the corpse of a useless monk – my futility might prove contagious. Then again, I could sit in meditation right in the middle of the path leading to the tiger’s cave. I’ll make it easy for that tiger when it goes out hunting for food. It can just sink its teeth into my useless neck and have me for a snack tonight. Which will it be? Make up your mind quickly – do it now!

His resolve bolstered, he walked to the front of the cave and stood for a moment, awaiting inspiration. Weighing his two options, he finally decided to go with the first one: to meditate, seated precariously on the brink of the steep precipice near his cave. Any slip in mindfulness, and vultures and flies would be there to take care of his remains. That decided, he walked over and sat down, facing a deep gorge with his back to the path the tiger took to and from its cave. He began repeating “buddho”, intensely aware that, if careless, he could die in an instant. Seated there meditating on buddho, he kept a vigilant watch on his mind to see which fear predominated: that of falling down the precipice, or that of being attacked by a tiger. As soon as it became apparent that fear of the precipice was the greatest, he gathered his mindfulness and focused intensively on one of his two meditation themes: either the repetition of buddho or the recollection of death – depending on which one arose in his mind at any one moment. Meditating thus, poised on the brink of death, his citta soon gathered itself into one point of focus, and then suddenly dropped down to the very base of appanã samãdhi, 9  rapidly converging into a state of total calm. In an instant, he was oblivious to all the fiery turmoil that had engulfed his mind for so long. All that remained was the essential knowing nature of the citta – existing alone, by itself, in all its amazing splendor. Fear of death had utterly vanished.

The hour was ten P.M.when the monk’s citta ‘converged’ dramatically into appanã samãdhi, an experience so profound that he did not withdraw from that state until ten o’clock the next morning. Opening his eyes, he saw the sun halfway up the sky. Since it was already too late for morning almsround, he didn’t bother to go to the village – he simply went without food that day. Withdrawing from samãdhi, he was aware of a complete absence of fear. In its place was an amazing sense of courage he had never before experienced. His fever was gone as well – completely cured that night, and he never again suffered a recurrence of malaria. He was convinced that the ‘therapeutic powers of Dhamma’ had cured both his malaria and his fear of tigers. From that day on, his body was never again plagued by malaria, his mind never again ravaged by fear. No longer terrified of tigers, he could go anywhere, live anywhere – unperturbed.

Occasionally, he wished a tiger would show up to test his mental fortitude. He imagined himself calmly walking right up to it without the least apprehension. Reflecting on the whole experience, he felt immensely gratefully to Ãcariya Mun for so kindly teaching him about the corrupting power of fear. Now that he understood how his mind worked, he persistently used this coercive style of practice. Preparing to meditate, he preferred looking for the most frightening places he could find. For the remainder of his stay there he continued this training, making a special effort to seek out frightening locations for conducting his meditation. Noticing that tigers regularly used a certain path, he made a point of sitting right in the middle of it. While meditating in the cave, he resolved not to lower his mosquito net because sitting inside a lowered mosquito net gave more protection from the threat of tigers. Minus that element of fear his citta was reluctant to drop into the desired state of calm. Where he sat depended each time on where he felt his citta was most likely to rapidly ‘converge’ to the very base of samãdhi.

Late one night as he sat out in the open, his citta refused to drop into calm despite his best efforts. He sat there frustrated for a long time until he finally thought about the huge tiger that came and went frequently in the area: I wonder where that tiger is today. It would be nice if it came by here to help my citta drop into calm. If it passed by, I wouldn’t have to struggle with my meditation like this – the citta would just instinctively drop into calm.

Not long after thinking of his friend – perhaps after half an hour – he heard the footsteps of that huge animal walking towards its cave, as though right on cue. The time was approaching two A.M. Hearing the tiger draw nearer, he roused himself with a timely warning: Here it comes, right now! Are you really so casual? Aren’t you afraid it will sink its teeth into your neck and make a meal of you? If you don’t want to be tiger food, then you better hurry up and look for a safe place to hide.

As he thought this, he conjured in his mind an image of the tiger pouncing on him, its gaping jaws closing in around his neck. The moment he fixed his attention on this mental image, his citta ‘converged’, dropping rapidly until it reached the very base of appanã samãdhi. Instantly all external phenomena completely vanished from his awareness – himself, the tiger, everything. What remained was serenity and tranquility – the union of citta and Dhamma as they melded into one essence of indescribable wonder. His citta rested in that sublime state for a total of eight hours – from two o’clock that night until ten o’clock the next morning. Upon withdrawing, he saw the sun was already high, so he again canceled his almsround and went without food. He then walked over to inspect the place, where he heard the tiger approaching, to see if there were any signs that a tiger really had passed by. Or had his ears merely been playing tricks on him? Looking at the ground, he saw the tracks of a huge tiger, about twelve feet behind the spot where he had been sitting. The tiger’s tracks continued in a straight line all the way up to its cave, never veering off to the direction where its friend was sitting in meditation. The whole incident was strange, and quite amazing.

The experience, in appanã samãdhi, of the citta fully ‘converging’ into its true base, is an experience that varies according to the natural inclination of each individual. Some people are inclined by temperament to experience a very rapid convergence, feeling as though they are falling down a well. The internal sense faculties cease to function at that time, meaning they are totally unaware of all external sense impressions. This monk’s citta was one such case: when it fully ‘converged’ in samãdhi, all awareness of external phenomena ceased as a consequence. As the monk explained it, the moment his citta fully ‘converged,’ everything that was involved with it in any way vanished instantly. Only when he withdrew from that state did his normal awareness of things return. But, he found it difficult to attain this state unless he was under duress by some external threat. A real threat of danger forced his citta to ‘converge’ very rapidly – in a split second it reached its true base. He said this was the reason he liked to seek out frightening places.

“I find this the most convenient way to develop my meditation: practicing in places that arouse fear. I actually prefer wild mountains that have caves frequented by tigers, and tend to shy away from those that don’t. As you can see: tiger-infested areas are perfectly suited to a rough character like me – that’s what makes me so fond of them.

“I had other strange experiences while living in that cave. Besides realizing my goal to attain deep meditative calm, I also developed several unusual kinds of psychic awareness. For example, terrestrial devas came some nights to visit and converse with me. Even stranger still, when someone in the local village died I always knew about it immediately, though I’m not sure where this knowledge came from. It simply arose spontaneously in my heart. And it was invariably correct – never did I find reason to doubt it. My cave was located about five miles from the village, yet those people still insisted on coming to request my help in performing the funeral rites, which was very troublesome for me. As soon as someone died in the village I was aware of it, knowing straightaway that the next day I’d have to make another long trek to the village cemetery. And sure enough, the villagers came once again to bother me. Nothing I said could dissuade them. They told me that monks were scarce in that area, so they had no other choice but to disturb me. They believed that the deceased would benefit if a monk performed the funeral. I sympathized and felt sorry for them, so I had to go. During periods of fasting, which I found conducive to intensive meditation, I didn’t want anything to interfere with my practice; but something usually did come up.

“While living in that cave I always relied on my friend the tiger to give my meditation practice a timely boost. Every other night it ventured down in search of food, as all hungry animals do. But it never showed any interest in me, even though it walked right past me on its way out. There was only one way down so it had to go that way.”

This monk had the rather unusual habit of leaving his cave late at night to go sit in meditation on stone outcrops high up in the mountains. He appeared wholly unfazed by the danger from wild animals. By temperament, he preferred to wander alone through the wilds. I have included his story here because it teaches some valuable lessons. He practiced with unwavering purpose until he managed to expose the truth of his unruly mind, thus disciplining it and bringing it under his control. Things once viewed as threats, like tigers, became friends instead, assisting his practice. He managed to make use of a wild tiger – a most unpredictable creature – to inspire him in his meditation practice, thus achieving remarkable results.

ONCE ÃCARIYA MUN had settled in the monastery at Ban Nong Pheu, he was contented to encourage the community of dhutanga monks practicing under his tutelage. As many as twenty to thirty of them joined him there during retreat periods. Despite the increasing numbers, however, conflicts, that might have caused him concern, seldom arose. Each monk was determined to focus diligently on his own practice. A harmonious sense of fraternity existed among the monks who all lived together in unity of purpose. Peacefully walking together to the village for alms each morning – they were an impressive sight. A long bench had been constructed in the village where the monks sat to chant a blessing after receiving offerings of food. Later, back in the monastery, they ate together in silence, seated in rows according to seniority. Once they finished eating, each monk washed his own bowl, dried it thoroughly, replaced its cloth covering, and put it neatly away. When their morning duties were completed, they separated, each monk walking into the extensive forest surrounding the monastery to find a secluded meditation track where he concentrated on his meditation – walking or sitting, as he preferred. Remaining in the forest until the afternoon chores began at four P.M., they then returned from their meditation sites to help each other sweep the monastery grounds clean. Once they finished sweeping, they worked together to carry water from the well to fill the various water barrels – water for drinking, water for washing feet, or water for washing their alms bowls. A quick bath at the well was followed by a resumption of meditation. On nights when no meeting had been called, they continued to practice as usual until it was time to retire. Normally, Ãcariya Mun called a general meeting once every seven days, though any monk, who wished personal advice, could see him on any day. Monks wanting to ask questions about their practice were advised to approach Ãcariya Mun at a time during the day when he was free – usually just after the morning meal, in the early afternoon, at five in the afternoon, or at eight o’clock at night.

Hearing Ãcariya Mun discuss Dhamma and answer questions in the quiet hours of the evening was a very pleasant experience. Then, many unusual questions were asked by disciples who came from various locations in the surrounding area to seek his advice. Some of these questions dealt with internal matters that arose in the course of a monk’s meditation. Others dealt with external phenomena, such as devas. The monks who arrived to discuss their practice with him had varying skills and abilities in meditation. Some had unusual meditative experiences to relate. We listened eagerly, so mesmerized by his replies that none of us wanted the sessions to end. Each time we learned valuable lessons that led to practical methods for improving our meditation and thus gave us great satisfaction.

On timely occasions, Ãcariya Mun recounted edifying stories about his past. He told us about his early years in lay life: how he ordained, first as a novice, then as a monk. Some of these stories were so funny they made us laugh; some made us pity him for what he had gone through; and some, the ones about his attainments, were just incredibly amazing. Living continuously with a good teacher for a long time had many distinct advantages. Following his example, his disciples gradually altered their basic attitudes and ways of behavior, adjusting their outer conduct and augmenting their inner skills little by little to match his, until eventually their characters naturally harmonized with his as much as possible. The secure environment he offered to his disciples meant that their practice was unlikely to go astray. Constant exposure to his inspirational teaching gradually allowed the essence of Dhamma to penetrate deep into their hearts. His intimidating presence promoted the kind of vigilant self-control that reinforces mindfulness and wisdom. Fear prevented his disciples from becoming complacent by forcing them to be extremely circumspect in their behavior and their thoughts. Even then, despite their best intentions, he could still catch them napping, and then expose their shortcomings for everyone else to hear. It was extremely embarrassing to have one’s personal failings exposed like this; but a monk had to accept the consequences of failing to be properly circumspect.

We all experienced an indescribable sense of joy, living and practicing with Ãcariya Mun. But if we held unreasonable opinions, our delight could easily turn to frustration, for those wrong views became a constant hindrance. I cannot speak for others, but I’ve always had a rather rough disposition, so I relied on Ãcariya Mun to pound me into shape. In that way, I managed to find some breathing room when the kilesas began to suffocate me. Hearing him recount the various stages of his own practice, my spirit was so energized I felt I could float up and walk on the clouds. While listening to him, my whole being felt light as a wisp of cotton. But later, when I tried to duplicate this buoyancy on my own in meditation, I felt as though I was laboring under the weight of a mountain. I met nothing but heavy resistance. I became so frustrated with myself I wanted to bury my head in the ground to hide my shame – a fitting humiliation for such a vulgar character who was loath to accept advice.

I have mentioned my own coarse, callous nature here to let the reader know just how low the heart can sink when loaded down with destructive influences, and how hard it can be to pull it back up again and discipline it in the proper way. If we do not make a supreme effort now, eventually this tendency will plunge us into the depths of disaster, regardless of who we are or where we live. Effort must be used to discipline the heart. Any person who succeeds in subduing the unruly nature that has burdened his heart from time immemorial and who is thus living in total freedom – that person deserves the highest respect. The Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples are shining examples of this achievement.

Likewise, I am absolutely convinced that Ãcariya Mun was one of the Lord Buddha’s present-day Arahant disciples. He was courageous and masterful in the way he lived his life, and was never in danger of succumbing to the power of the kilesas. Even in old age, when he could be expected to rest and take it easy, no longer needing to exert himself in meditation practice, he still did as much walking meditation as he always had – so much so that the younger monks could hardly keep up with him. Fulfilling his teaching obligations with great compassion, he never lost hope in his students. His exhortations reflected his resolute character, and he invariably preferred the rhetoric of a warrior. He delivered his talks forcefully, aiming to arouse in his disciples the strength and courage needed to completely transcend dukkha. He rarely compromised or made allowances for their shortcomings. He did not want to lull to sleep those very monks who already had a deplorable tendency to show weakness in their practice.

Ãcariya  Mun  had  utmost  respect  for  all  aspects  of  the Buddhasãsana, from the theory and practice of Dhamma to its inner realization. And this in an age when genuine disciples of the Buddha are hard to find.

He placed special emphasis on the thirteen dhutanga observances, which Buddhists everywhere had long since lost interest in. No one thought to restore them to the prominent position they deserve. The fact that they have now become such a significant part of a dhutanga monk’s practice is a direct consequence of the earnest efforts that Ãcariya Sao and Ãcariya Mun made to revive their use in Thailand’s Northeast region. Both Ãcariya Sao and Ãcariya Mun observed all thirteen of these ascetic practices at one time or another in their lives, although only the ones I’ve mentioned earlier were practiced on a daily basis. Other dhutanga observances, like staying in a cemetery or living out in the open at the foot of a tree, were practiced so often that these two ãcariyas became thoroughly familiar with them. Dhutanga monks in the Northeast today are descendants following directly in their footsteps.

Ãcariya Sao and Ãcariya Mun were keenly aware of the practical value the dhutanga observances had for practicing monks. They clearly understood that each of these thirteen practices was an extremely effective means of closing off the outlets through which kilesas of dhutanga monks tend to flow. Without the restraining influence of ascetic practices to stem the flow from those outlets, dhutanga monks are ‘ascetic’ in name only, their kilesas being free to roam at will, causing considerable annoyance to everyone. With the help of the dhutangas, monks can rest assured that their conduct will not be offensive to others. Each dhutanga practice promotes a virtuous quality, while its observance reminds a dhutanga monk not to be careless by thinking in ways that contradict the very virtue he is trying to develop. On guard, he immediately becomes conscious of any lapses in judgment, which in turn fosters mindfulness to catch such oversights in the future. Considered in its entirety, dhutanga asceticism is broad in scope, each separate practice having a very distinct purpose. Provided a monk understands the true purpose of each dhutanga he undertakes and then observes them properly, they are easily capable of totally eliminating his kilesas. They are powerful enough to deal a decisive blow to every type of kilesa – no kilesa is beyond their reach.

As long as we dread the hardships involved in observing ascetic practices, then the kilesas have little fear of us. The hardships that the kilesas cause us, when there are no ascetic practices to suppress them, are somehow forgotten, opening the way for us to accuse these practices of being too difficult – or even obsolete. When our own thoughts become our enemies, the kilesas are secretly held in high regard; but in our rush to admire them we fail to realize this. The harmful effects of this supportive admiration are plain, and plainly infinite in scope.

The monk who truly practices any one or more of the dhutangas inevitably presents a pleasing, dignified appearance. His basic needs are easily taken care of. What he eats and where he sleeps are never a problem for him. He is always contented with the simple belongings he possesses. Unencumbered by emotional attachments and material possessions, he feels mentally and physically buoyant. Even lay people can benefit from undertaking some of the dhutanga practices, just as the monks do, since both monks and lay people are burdened with the same kinds of kilesas. The dhutanga practices are, after all, designed to counteract the kilesas, so people from all walks of life should try their best to make use of them for this purpose. The dhutangas comprise qualities of Dhamma so supremely profound that it is difficult to fully comprehend their true magnitude.

I myself do not have as comprehensive a knowledge and understanding of the dhutanga practices as I should, but in my own unsophisticated way I have tried my best to do justice to them. I hope you will forgive my shortcomings in this regard. In truth, the dhutangas are so profoundly subtle it would be virtually impossible to fully elaborate on all their outstanding qualities. They have the capacity to take someone, who is truly devoted to their practice, from the basic levels of Dhamma all the way to the highest ariya levels. In fact, no Dhamma attainment is beyond the scope of the dhutangas. As a teacher, Ãcariya Mun always led his disciples in observing these ascetic practices, right until the last days of his life. Only when his strength was completely exhausted did he let go of them, along with his physical body. Clearly the dhutangas are essential practices for those intending to purify their hearts of all vestiges of the kilesas – this truth is undeniable.

I shall refrain from giving a detailed explanation here of each ascetic observance with its distinctive merits and importance. Anyone interested in looking into them can uncover these attributes for themselves. You may discover a degree of subtlety that proves to be more beneficial to you than simply reading someone else’s explanation. I have been looking into these practices since my early days as a dhutanga monk and I continue to gain good results from them to this day. I have always considered them an essential part of my overall practice. Anyone intent on seeing an end to the kilesas, from the most vulgar ones to the most refined, should never overlook the dhutanga observances, thinking them incapable of doing the job.