阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第一章第四節:阿姜索

        

                                             

                    

第一章第四節:阿姜索

        在阿姜曼早期修行的期間,經常與阿姜索結伴奉行頭陀行腳,他是一位善知識,在修行方面很有經驗的好老師。但當阿姜曼在修行上遇到了特殊的難題而向他請益時,阿姜索總是這樣回覆:「我在禪修方面的經驗與你的很不一樣,你的心充滿著好奇,而且傾向極端。前一刻它飛向了高空,然後又投進地底深處。接著,又潛入大海底,然後又再度飛騰到虛空中經行。有誰能追趕得上你的心去解決你的問題?我建議你好好反省這些問題,自己找出解決的方法。」阿姜索從未給他具體的意見去真正幫助他,所以阿姜曼不得不自己想辦法解決問題。有時候,就在他找出解決面臨愈來愈多難題的方法之前,險些要了他的命。

        阿姜曼形容阿姜索是一位沈穩、有寧靜的氣質、能喚起深度宗教情懷的老師。阿姜索修行上的一項相當奇異的特徵就是在他入定的當下能騰空,他的肉身很顯著地在地面上空漂浮。一開始,他很懷疑自己的身體真的有騰空漂浮,但他睜眼看自己時,就在他睜眼時,因為對自己身體的關注使得他的心退出了禪定,因為立即出定使他立刻掉到地上,就像某物從高空掉落一樣。然後他又重新入定,再度感到身體騰空,他在定境中保持穩定的正念,然後小心翼翼地睜眼看自己。然而,這一次,他沒有掉下來摔到地上,因為正念的現前維持住了完整的專注。

        這次經驗給阿姜索上了一堂很寶貴的課,由於他是一個特別謹慎小心的人,所以他不是完全的確信。於是,他拿了一個小東西,放進茅屋屋頂的下緣,然後繼續禪修。當他覺得自己又再度飛升時,他將心穩定地安住在禪定中,任由自己向上飛升,直到碰觸屋頂下方的那個小東西。他劃下自己飛升的高度,然後慢慢觸及並小心地將小東西取下放在手中,依靠禪定的力量將小東西給取下。這意味著他已經抓到了它,然後慢慢退出禪定,讓身體緩慢安全地降落 —— 但還是沒有完全出定。經過了這樣的實驗,他確信自己真的能飛升,雖然不是每一次入定都會這樣。

        從阿姜索開始修行一直到他最後的一刻,他的心始終保持著平穩、沈著的特質;與阿姜曼那種老愛向外攀緣奔馳的心形成強烈的對比。阿姜索跟他不一樣,他不會去犯難,過冒險的生活;更不像阿姜曼那樣老是喜歡探索各種不同的奇特現象。

        有一次,阿姜曼告訴我們,在前生,阿姜索曾發願要成為一尊辟支佛,但後來因禪修的精進,使他憶起過去久遠以前所發的願,以及他對於這個目標的執著反讓他不願在今生為解脫涅槃而努力,這個誓願很快就明顯變成了證悟涅槃的阻礙;因此,他立刻決定放棄這個舊的誓願,取而代之,他發願盡可能速證涅槃。他下定決心要在今生達到這個目標,不再有下一生。

        因為拋棄了他最初的誓願,也因此,他的禪修進展得很順利,直到有一天他終於達到了他鎖定的終極幸福之境。然而,他的教學技巧卻非常的有限,這很可能是跟他想要當辟支佛的天性傾向有關:因為辟支佛雖能無師而自悟解脫,但卻不教導他人修行。此外,他能輕易地放棄了前生的願並在此生達到新的目標,表示前生的誓願尚未成熟到不退轉的階段。

        阿姜曼也講到在過去久遠的前生曾發過類似的誓願 —— 他的情形,是一個想要成佛的神聖誓願。跟阿姜索一樣,他也是因精進的禪思使他想起了前生的願,以及這個根本的執著反而讓他不願在今生為解脫涅槃而奮鬥。就在阿姜曼開始修持頭陀行,他放棄了成佛的願,因為他瞭解到如果要實現這個願,那要花上非常不可思議的時間,他必須在生死輪迴中不斷地流浪:一次又一次的出生、成長、衰老、疾病、死亡,無限期地忍受憂悲苦惱。放棄了最初的誓願使阿姜曼放下了執著,為他的修行開啟了一條順利進展的坦途,而他能如此輕易地放棄前生的誓言,也意味著這份願力在他的意識中還沒有堅固到不可分離的地步。

        阿姜曼經常陪同阿姜索在泰國東北部各府處進行短程的頭陀行腳。由於在個性方面的差異,他們的禪修經驗在某些方面也不同;但他們都很珍惜彼此的相伴。由於個性使然,阿姜索不太愛說話,他不是很喜歡當老師,尤其是當在家信眾的老師。有一次,他不得不教導在家人,但仍惜字如金。他說過的話屈指可數,總不出以下這些:「諸惡莫作,眾善奉行,如此方能有幸再生為人,勿枉此生!生而為人,自具有高尚的特質,所以不要做出如畜生一般的惡行。否則,就會落入到畜生道,甚至更慘的惡道。萬一你們真的墮入地獄,那恐怖扭曲的處境將遠勝於任何的畜生道。所以,切莫造惡!」

        說完後,他便離席逕自回到禪屋,不再理會任何人。

        他就是這麼惜字如金,一整天下來他可能說不到幾句話。但另一方面,他卻可以持續好幾個小時禪坐與經行。他的儀表相當的莊嚴及聖潔,贏得了眾人的尊敬與忠誠。只要瞥見他安詳與平靜的面容,便能讓人留下深刻的印象。他深受出家眾與在家眾一致的尊敬,一如阿姜曼一般,他有很多忠實的弟子。

        大家都知道這兩位尊者都非常地敬愛對方。早期的時候,他們喜歡結伴行腳。他們一年中大部分的時間都生活在一起,不論是雨季夏安居期間或結束之後。

        中期的時候,他們通常會分開來各自度過雨安居,但仍保持密切的互動。後來,他們就非常少一起度雨安居,因為他們各自的弟子人數日益龐大,很難在一個地點找到足夠的空間同時容納這麼多人,分開來住可消除必須安排這麼多學生住宿上的麻煩。

        就算是分開來住,他們還是經常關心對方。有一次,阿姜索的弟子造訪阿姜曼,阿姜曼第一個問題就是問候阿姜索是否健康及安好;而當阿姜曼的弟子去拜訪阿姜索時,阿姜索也是同樣問候阿姜曼的近況。透過這樣的互動,在每一次的機會中保持聯絡。他們對於對方的修行成就都抱以崇高的敬意,當他們對各自的弟子提到對方時,所用的詞彙都是正面稱讚與欣賞,絕不會含有任何負面批評的暗示。

        對於阿姜索提到阿姜曼的心易於向外境攀緣及傾向極端:一下飛到高空,在潛入海洋深處前又鑽入地底……,阿姜曼都全然接受,因為他的心的確有善變無常的特質。在開始禪修的初期入定時,他的心就容易向外境攀緣,然後開始觀察各式各樣奇特的異象 —— 而且都是些他作夢也沒見過的事。例如,他看到眼前有一具腐爛膨脹的屍體。就如我先前提到過的,當他專注於這幅景象時,很快地它會改變樣子,又變成一個半透明的圓盤,然後無止盡地變化下去。

        即便是找到了正確的禪修方法之後,當他的凝神收攝於定境,還是容易去注意外境,去感應無數種類的異象。有時,他會覺得自己的身體飛升到空中旅遊好幾個小時,在他降落回來之前瀏覽天界的宮殿;又有時候,他又會深入地府去遊歷各層的地獄,目睹他們因前生的惡行所招致悲慘的苦果,對他們的不幸寄予深深的同情。因為觀看攤在眼前的這些事件,他浪費了許多的時間。那時,他一直不確定那些景象究竟是真的還是想像出來的幻象。他提到後來只有當他的修行愈趨成熟,才有能力去觀察這些現象,並瞭解其具體的道德意義及其背後的心理因素。當他的凝神收攝於定境時,只要稍不留神,又會打開一個出口向外去探索那些現象。儘管在禪修上愈來愈熟練,但只要一向外攀緣,他的心又會瞬間偏離。

        阿姜曼早期告訴過我們,當他專注於觀照檢視身體下半部時,由於對心捉摸不定的本質缺乏調御的經驗,反而他的心會從各部位跑到腳底,穿過下半身並深深鑽入地底下 —— 完全如阿姜索精確地提到過一般。一旦他趕緊把心給拉回到身體,它又會竄出頭頂往上飛升到天空,悠閒地在空中來回遊蕩,似乎不想回到身體中。他集中注意力,必須強迫心念重返身體中去執行他想要的工作。

        早期的那段時間,他的心發展成一種趨向,可以很快地墜入定境 —— 好像從懸崖上墜落,又如跌入井中 —— 他的正念根本就追趕不上,他的心易於向外境探險,去遊歷各種稀奇古怪的事情,以致在他稍稍退到近行定[1]的層次之前只能短暫地安住在安止定[2]appanā中,這一點讓他感到非常的挫敗。他試著強迫自己將它留在身體內,但常常徒勞無功。他的心太過於變化無常難以捉摸,以致於正念與觀智paññā根本就趕不上它的腳步。

        對於有效解決這方面的問題仍太過欠缺經驗,以致於他對禪修的方向感到很不安。然而,對於一個嚴肅的內在修行問題,他無法對任何人提到他的困境。於是,只能以深度的正念與觀智來引導他的精進,他試過很多不同的技巧,在他找到調御捉摸不定的心的可行方法之前,承受了相當大的精神壓力。一旦他清楚瞭解了馴服驛動的心的正確方法,他發現他的心在任何情況下都是如此的易變無常、精力旺盛以及極端的快速。最後,正念、智慧、心都水乳交融一起運作,它們合而為一了。因此,心強化了,像一顆神奇的水晶球在運轉,他已能完全追趕得上它所生起的各式各樣一切的現象。

        阿姜曼擁有勇敢無懼的個性,也絕頂聰明。因為他極為嚴格的修行方法迥異於其他的比丘,所以他的修行方法獨樹一格 —— 且極難仿效。就我個人的觀察,我可以明確地宣稱:「他有真正高尚的人格,他以不屈不撓的決心來修持敏捷、好奇的心,他嚴厲的修行方法往往相當的獨特,他以綜合強硬高壓與柔性勸導的善巧來馴服躁動的心;這顆心,一個不注意,就會向外探索那些容易帶給他困擾的事物。」

        阿姜曼修行的時候並沒有可靠的修行指南,還得要承受困難,獨自拚命地找出能控制難以駕馭的心的方法,有時感覺好像是在抓自己的頭去衝撞一座山。不像其他人那樣,在沒有經過善知識認證的禪修方法的協助下,他必須靠自己去摸索 —— 後來他經常藉此警告他人不要重蹈覆轍。對於他自己的弟子,他總是特別樂於為他們釐清禪修上的難題,使他們避免浪費時間去重蹈他早年所犯的錯。

        阿姜曼出家後不久,便從泰國東北部的那空帕農府開始頭陀行腳,最後穿越湄公河進入寮國,那裡是他曲的山區,他認為那裡很適宜頭陀的修行。寮國這個地區充滿著極多兇猛的老虎 —— 而且被認為比河邊泰國邊境的老虎還要更加的兇猛。牠們會一再地攻擊並撲殺當地的居民,吃他們的肉。儘管牠們這麼的兇殘,但當地大多數的越南人,都不像寮國及泰國鄰居那樣那麼怕這些老虎。

        他們屢次目睹這些可怕的老虎攻擊他們的親朋好友時,都似乎顯得無動於衷。就算他們親眼看見朋友在他們的面前被老虎生吞活剝、屍首異處,但到了第二天他們依然若無其事地勇闖原先出事的地點,就好像什麼事都沒發生過一樣。而寮國及泰國的居民都為此感到很煩惱,但越南人就很奇怪,似乎不為所動。很可能他們早就司空見慣,對他們根本沒有影響。

        越南人還有另一種很奇怪的習慣:那就是當他們看到這些吃人的老虎一下子跳出來撲殺他們的同伴時,他們竟然把對方丟下不管任其聽天由命,並各自逃命。假設有一群越南人在森林裡過夜,如果這時有一隻巨虎一下子跳進營地並抓走他們其中一人,其他的人,被吵醒後,只會跳起來逃走;然後,很冷靜地找旁邊的地方繼續睡覺。就像小孩子一樣,在這種事情的反應上他們的行為沒什麼邏輯,他們認為老虎會笨到不會找上自己對他們做出同樣的事。

        我也認識這些對老虎沒有正常恐懼的人,當他們來到我們的國家時,他們喜歡在稠密茂盛、且有老虎及其他野生動物出沒的叢林裡落腳,他們涉險深入叢林尋找木材,然後在遠離村落的地方過夜,一點也看不出害怕的樣子。就算是獨自一個人,這些人也敢在森林深處裡睡覺。如果晚上很晚的時候他們想回到村莊,如果必須回去時,獨自走在大樹下濃密的灌木叢間,他們也一點都不擔心。如果問他們為什麼不怕老虎,他們會這樣回答,他們自己國家的大老虎喜歡吃人肉,而泰國的老虎則不喜愛人肉,牠們甚至怕人。他們家鄉的環境條件這麼的危險,以致於想在他們家鄉的森林裡過夜的人就必須圍一圈類似豬圈的柵欄睡在裡面;否則,他們可能就回不了家。甚至在當地的一些聚落的境內,四處覓食的老虎很凶猛,入夜後就沒有人敢出門,因為他們怕暗中會有老虎跳出來攻擊他們。越南人甚至會怪泰國人膽子太小,總是成群結隊才敢進入叢林,不敢一個人走進去。因為這些理由,阿姜曼才會說越南人缺乏對老虎的本能恐懼。

        然而,當阿姜曼跨進他們的國家時,這些凶猛的老虎都沒有騷擾過他。當他一人獨自在森林中露宿時,常看到牠們出沒的行蹤,也常在晚上聽到響徹林間的吼聲。可是,他從不覺得這對他個人會造成任何的威脅;因為牠們只是森林的自然態樣。總之,阿姜曼一點都不擔心老虎會傷他,他反而擔心此生可能無法解脫生死輪迴並證悟涅槃的無上之樂。

        當他提到他橫渡湄公河的短程時,從未提及害怕。他顯然是將所謂的「危險」看成是穿越叢林尋常的一部分。如果換做是我面臨同樣的危險,當地的居民肯定要組隊去援救這個膽小的頭陀比丘。當我在夜間的叢林中獨自經行時,不時的老虎吼聲總是讓我很不安,讓我幾乎無法走到步道的盡頭。我很怕與任何一種野獸面對面 —— 因而失去冷靜。你看,從我大到可以瞭解這類的事情,我一直聽到我的父母及鄰居嚷著老虎是非常兇狠的動物,且極度的危險。之後這個想法一直深植我心,我必須承認我找不到可以消弭這種恐懼的方法。

        阿姜曼早期的出家生活花了大部分的時間在泰國東北部的不同府長期地行腳,後來,他的內在修持已穩定到足以抵禦外界的誘惑及個性中那些善變的部分時,他走進了中央各府,在中央平原區愜意地行腳,過著頭陀生活,直到他終於抵達了首都曼谷。在雨季前不久抵達,他來到Wat Pathumwan寺,並在那裡結雨安居。在雨安居期間,他照例特別去Wat Boromaniwat寺參訪Chao Khun Upāli Guṇūpamācariya長老並向他請益,以獲取更多能增長智慧的修行技巧。

        雨安居之後,阿姜曼離開了曼谷,徒步來到了華富里府(Lopburi),在Phra Ngam山脈的Phai Khwang石窟住上一段時間,然後才前往Singto石窟。生活在這麼美好的地區,給了他良好、持續不斷的機會,讓他得以充分加強修行。這麼做,他發展出一種對於心以及與之有關的事物都無懼的態度。到了那個時候,他的禪定功夫已經穩若磐石,他以此作為修行的穩固基礎,他以「法」的角度去觀照一切,並持續開發出能增長智慧的新技巧。過不久,他又折返曼谷,再次參訪Wat Boromaniwat寺的Chao Khun Upāli長老。他對他的善知識報告他的禪修進展心得,並請教有關智慧修持的疑惑。他對於學到能讓他更進步的觀照新技巧非常的滿意,最後拜別了Chao Khun Upāli長老,前往那空那育府的Khaw Yai山,在沙里卡石窟(Sarika Cave)獨居靜修。


 

 

[1]入初禪而生樂時,所生刹那之初步欲界定,稱為剎那定;亦即指在進入"近行定""安止定"之前的初淺禪定境。

近行定:也是一種欲界定,但比剎那定的層次更深,是在進入色界禪定(安止定)之前的一種非常接近初禪的欲界定。因為這種定境近於安止定,故名近行定。

[2]就是進入色界定的定境,是真正的禪定;四禪八定都是安止定。

                     

In his early years of practice, Ãcariya Mun often wandered dhutanga in the company of Ãcariya Sao,  comforted in the knowledge that he had a good, experienced teacher to lend him support. But when he asked his teacher to advise him on specific problems arising in his meditation, Ãcariya Sao invariably replied: “My experiences in meditation are quite different from yours. Your citta is so adventurous, tending always toward extremes. One moment it soars into the sky, only to plunge deep into the earth the next. Then, after diving to the ocean floor, it again soars up to walk meditation high in the sky. Who could possibly keep up with your citta long enough to find a solution? I advise you to investigate these matters for yourself and find your own solutions.” Ãcariya Sao never gave him enough concrete advice to really help him, so Ãcariya Mun was forced to solve his own problems. Sometimes, he nearly died before discovering a way past some of the more intractable problems he faced.

Ãcariya Mun described his teacher as someone with a smooth, serene temperament who inspired deep devotion. A rather strange feature of Ãcariya Sao’s practice was his tendency to levitate while in samãdhi, his body hovering quite noticeably above the floor. At first, doubtful that his body was indeed floating, he opened his eyes to see for himself. As soon as his eyes opened, concern about the condition of his body caused his citta to withdraw from samãdhi. He promptly fell back to the floor, landing hard on his buttocks which was sore and bruised for many days. In truth, his body did float about three feet above the floor. But by opening his eyes to check, he lost the mindfulness needed to maintain his citta in samãdhi. Withdrawing suddenly from samãdhi caused him to come crashing to the floor, like any other object dropped from a height. Practicing samãdhi later and feeling his body levitate again, he kept mindfulness firmly focused within that state of samãdhi, and then, carefully opened his eyes to look at himself. It was obvious to him then that he did levitate. This time, however, he didn’t fall back to the floor, for mindfulness was present to maintain total concentration.

This experience taught Ãcariya Sao a valuable lesson about himself. Yet being an exceptionally careful, meticulous person, he wasn’t entirely convinced. So he took a small object, inserted it into the underside of the thatched roof in his hut, and continued to meditate. When he felt his body beginning to float again, he firmly focused his citta in samãdhi, and he was able to float upward until he reached that small object in the thatch. Drawing level with it, he slowly reached out and very mindfully took it in his hand so that he could bring it back down by means of samãdhi. This meant that once he had it in his grasp, he gradually withdrew from samãdhi to the point where his body could slowly, and safely, descend to the floor – a point still short of complete withdrawal from samãdhi. Experimenting like this, he became convinced of his ability to levitate, though this did not occur every time he entered samãdhi.

From the beginning of his practice to the end of his life, Ãcariya Sao’s citta tended to have this smooth, imperturbable quality; in sharp contrast to the wholly adventurous nature that characterized Ãcariya Mun’s citta. Unlike him, Ãcariya Sao was not so motivated to live dangerously, seeking adventure; nor did he tend to perceive the variety of unusual phenomena that Ãcariya Mun invariably did.

Ãcariya Mun told us that, once, in ages past, Ãcariya Sao had resolved to become a Paccekabuddha.  Intensifying his efforts at meditation caused him to recollect his longtime resolution, and his lingering attachment to that goal made him reluctant to strive for Nibbãna in the present. It soon became apparent that this vow would block any attempt to realize Nibbãna in his lifetime; therefore, he immediately decided to renounce the old vow. In its place, he resolved to attain Nibbãna as soon as possible. He became determined to reach this goal within his present lifetime in order to avoid the misery of being reborn in the future.

Having forsaken his original vow, and thus, unhindered by previous commitments, his meditation practice progressed smoothly until one day he finally reached the Land of Ultimate Happiness that he had been aiming for. However, his teaching skill was very limited, probably due to a natural predisposition toward becoming a Paccekabuddha: someone who has no inclination to teach others although he is able to fully enlighten himself. Furthermore, the fact that he could so easily give up his original resolve and then achieve his new goal meant that his previous vow had not yet matured to the stage of being irreversible.

Ãcariya Mun related that in ages past he had made a similar resolution– in his case, a solemn vow to become a Buddha. As with Ãcariya Sao, intensifying his efforts at meditation caused Ãcariya Mun to recollect this long-standing intention, and this underlying attachment made him reluctant to strive for the attainment of Nibbãna in his present life. Ãcariya Mun renounced his vow to be a Buddha only after he began practicing dhutanga kammaååhãna, for he then realized that its fulfillment would take far too long. It required eons of traversing the round of saÿsãra: being born, growing old, becoming ill, and dying over and over again, enduring misery and pain indefinitely. Renouncing the original vow relieved Ãcariya Mun of this concern, opening the way for his meditation to progress smoothly. The fact that he could so easily abandon the original vow indicates that it was not yet so firmly fixed in his conscious being that he couldn’t detach himself from it.

Ãcariya Mun often accompanied Ãcariya Sao on his excursions wandering dhutanga across the provinces of the Northeast region. Due to differences in personality, their meditation experiences varied in some respects; but each very much enjoyed the other’s company. By nature, Ãcariya Sao preferred to say very little. He was a reluctant teacher, especially of the laity. Occasionally obliged to give instruction to lay supporters, he was always very frugal with words. The little he did say could be summed up like this: “You should renounce evil and cultivate goodness. Being fortunate enough to be born human, don’t waste this good opportunity now. Our status as human beings is a very noble one; so, avoid all animal-like behavior. Otherwise, you’ll sink below the animals, and be much more wretched as well. When you eventually fall into hell, your tortuous existence there will be far more grievous than that of any animal. So don’t do evil!”

That said, he left his seat and returned to his hut, taking no further interest in anyone.

He always spoke very sparingly. In an entire day he might say only a few sentences. On the other hand, he could endure many hours of sitting and walking in meditation. He had a remarkably dignified, noble appearance that inspired respect and devotion. Just a glimpse of his serene, peaceful countenance made a lasting impression. He was greatly revered by monks and laity alike and, like Ãcariya Mun, he had many devoted disciples.

It was well known that these two ãcariyas shared immense love and respect for each other. In the early years, they enjoyed traveling in each other’s company. They spent most of the year living together, both during and after the annual rainy season retreat.

In the middle years, they normally spent these retreats in separate locations but close enough to each other to make visiting easy. Very seldom, then, did they spend a retreat together, for each had an increasingly large following of disciples, making it difficult to find enough space to accommodate them all at one location. Living separately eliminated the burden of having to arrange living quarters for so many monks.

Even when living apart, they often thought of each other with genuine concern. On occasions when Ãcariya Sao’s disciples visited Ãcariya Mun, the first question he asked concerned the health and wellbeing of Ãcariya Sao, who in turn invariably reciprocated by inquiring about Ãcariya Mun’s well-being when one of his disciples paid a visit. Through such messengers, each then conveyed his respectful greeting to the other, maintaining contact in this way at every opportunity. Each of these great ãcariyas had enormous respect for the other’s spiritual achievements. Both used words full of praise and admiration when speaking to their disciples about each other. Their comments never contained a hint of criticism.

ÃCARIYA MUN WHOLEHEARTEDLY agreed with Ãcariya Sao’s comment about his citta being adventurous, and tending to go to extremes: soaring high in the sky one moment, then plunging into the earth before diving to the ocean floor. His citta truly did have such mercurial characteristics. Dropping into samãdhi in the early stages of his practice, his citta tended to focus outward then, perceiving all manner of unusual phenomena – things he had never dreamed of seeing. For example, he saw a bloated corpse laid out before him. As I have mentioned before, when he concentrated his attention on this image, it soon changed into a translucent disc which in turn altered its form, creating an endless series of images.

Even after discovering the correct method of practice, when his citta ‘converged’ into calm it was still inclined to focus outward, perceiving countless types of phenomena. Sometimes, he felt his body soaring high into the sky where he traveled around for many hours, looking at celestial mansions before coming back down. At other times, he burrowed deep beneath the earth to visit various regions in hell. There he felt profound pity for its unfortunate inhabitants, all experiencing the grievous consequences of their previous actions. Watching these events unfold, he often lost all perspective of the passage of time. In those days, he was still uncertain whether these scenes were real or imaginary. He said that it was only later on, when his spiritual faculties were more mature, that he was able to investigate these matters and understand clearly the definite moral and psychological causes underlying them. Any lapse in concentration as his citta ‘converged’ into calm created an opening through which it could again focus outward to perceive such phenomena. His newfound proficiency notwithstanding, if his attention turned outward, his citta would be off in a flash.

Ãcariya Mun told us that early on, due to inexperience with the mercurial nature of his own mind, when focusing his citta to examine he lower half of his body, instead of following the various parts down to the soles of his feet, it would shoot out through his lower torso and penetrate deep into the earth – just as Ãcariya Sao had so astutely remarked. No sooner had he hurriedly withdrawn the citta back into his body than it would fly through the top of his head, soaring high into the sky where it paced back and forth contentedly, showing no interest in returning to his body. Concentrating with intense mindfulness, he had to force the citta to reenter the body and perform the work he wanted it to do.

In those early days his mind developed a tendency to drop so speedily into a state of calm – like falling from a cliff, or down a well – that his mindfulness couldn’t keep up with it. Resting only briefly in complete stillness before withdrawing slightly to the level of upacãra samãdhi, his citta tended to venture out so often, and experienced such a variety of strange things, that he became very frustrated. He tried to force it to remain inside the confines of his body, but often to no avail. His citta was far too fleeting for mindfulness and wisdom to keep pace.

Still too inexperienced to work out an effective solution, he felt uneasy about the direction of his meditation. Yet, being a strictly internal matter, he couldn’t mention his predicament to anyone else. So, with an intense degree of mindfulness and wisdom to guide his efforts, he experimented with many different techniques, suffering considerable mental strain before finding a viable means of controlling his adventuresome citta. Once he clearly understood the correct method of taming his dynamic mind, he found that it was versatile, energetic, and extremely quick in all circumstance. Eventually working in unison, mindfulness and wisdom blended so well with the citta that they merged to become one with it. Thus strengthened, the citta functioned like a magic crystal ball; and he was fully capable of keeping pace with all the myriad phenomena arising within it.

Ãcariya Mun possessed a bold, fearless character. He was also extremely intelligent. Because his rigorous training methods differed significantly from ones practiced by other monks, his style of practice was unique – and incredibly difficult to imitate. From my own observations, I can unequivocally state: He was a truly noble character with a quick, adventurous mind who trained himself with uncompromising resolve. His harsh training methods were often quite unique. He had an ingenious way of mixing coercive pressure and gentle persuasion to tame a dynamic mind that, at the least lapse of concentration, ventured out to find things that could easily cause him problems.

Struggling desperately on his own to find ways to control his unruly mind, practicing without a dependable guide and enduring difficulties, Ãcariya Mun sometimes felt that he was beating his head against a mountain. Unlike so many others, he had to manage without the aid of a wise teacher’s proven meditation methods – a disadvantage he often warned others against later on. To his own students he always emphasized his readiness to clarify any problems they experienced in meditation, thus saving them the difficulty of having to waste time as he had in his early years.

SHORTLY AFTER HIS ORDINATION, Ãcariya Mun began wandering dhutanga in Nakhon Phanom province, and eventually crossed the Mekong River to enter Laos, where he contentedly practiced the ascetic way of life in the mountainous district of Tha Khek. This area of Laos abounded in large, ferocious tigers – huge beasts that were considered far more vicious than tigers on the Thai side of the river. Repeatedly they attacked and killed the local inhabitants and then feasted on their flesh. Despite such brutality, those people, mostly of Vietnamese descent, weren’t nearly as afraid of tigers as were their Lao and Thai neighbors.

Time and again they watched these terrible beasts attack and kill friends and relatives; yet, they seemed indifferent to the carnage. Having seen a friend killed right in front of them, the flesh torn from the body by a hungry tiger, the people would casually venture back into that same tiger-infested forest the next day, as though nothing had happened. The Lao and Thai communities would have been extremely upset, but the Vietnamese seemed strangely unmoved by such occurrences. Perhaps they were so accustomed to seeing such things that it no longer affected them.

The Vietnamese had another strange habit: When they saw a maneating tiger suddenly leap out to attack one of their companions, no one in the group made any effort to save their friend’s life. They simply abandoned their friend to his fate and ran for their lives. Suppose a group were sleeping in the forest overnight. If a huge tiger leaped into the campsite and dragged one of them away, the others, awakened by the noise, would jump up and run away; and then, calmly find another place close by to sleep. Like children, they acted without much rhyme or reason in these matters. They behaved as though those huge beasts, which had already shown themselves to be so adept at devouring human flesh, were somehow too stupid to do the same to them.

I am also familiar with people who have no proper fear of tigers. When coming to live in our country, they like to settle in dense, overgrown jungle areas abounding in tigers and other wild animal. Venturing deep into the forest in search of timber, they then spend the night there far from the village, showing no signs of fear at all. Even alone, these people can sleep deep in the forest at night without fear. If they wish to return to the village late at night, they have no qualms about walking alone through the dense undergrowth, and back if necessary. If asked why they aren’t afraid of tigers, their response is that, while the huge tigers in their own country have a taste for human flesh, Thai tigers don’t; and that they’re even scared of people. Conditions can be so dangerous in their homeland that people staying overnight in the forest must build an enclosure to sleep in that resembles a pigsty; otherwise, they might never return home. Even within the precincts of some village communities, prowling tigers can be so fierce that no one dares leave home after dark, fearing an attack by a tiger leaping out of the shadows. The Vietnamese even chide the Thais for being such cowardly people, always entering the forest in groups, never daring to venture out alone. For these reasons, Ãcariya Mun claimed that the Vietnamese lacked an instinctive fear of tigers.

When Ãcariya Mun crossed into their country, however, the tigers there never bothered him. Camped in the forest, he often saw their tracks and heard their roars echoing through the trees at night. However, he never felt personally threatened by such things; they were simply natural aspects of forest life. In any case, Ãcariya Mun wasn’t worried about tigers so much as he was worried about the possibility that he might not transcend dukkha and realize the Supreme Happiness of Nibbãna in his lifetime.

When speaking of his excursions crossing the Mekong River, he never mentioned being afraid. He obviously considered such dangers to be a normal part of trekking through the wilds. If I had been faced with those same dangers instead of Ãcariya Mun, surely the local villagers would have had to form a posse to rescue this cowardly dhutanga monk. When I’m walking in meditation in the forest at night, just the occasional roar of a tiger so unsettles me that I can barely manage to keep walking to the end of the track. I fear coming face to face with one of those beasts – and losing my wits. You see, since becoming old enough to understand such things, I always heard my parents and their neighbors vociferously proclaim that tigers are very fierce animals, and extremely dangerous. This notion has stuck with me ever since, making it impossible not to be terrified of tigers. I must confess that I’ve never found a way to counteract this tendency.

ÃCARIYA MUN SPENT most of the earlier years of his monastic career traveling at length through the various provinces of Thailand’s Northeast region. Later, as he developed enough inner stability to withstand both external distractions and those mercurial mental traits that were so much a part of his character, he walked down into the central provinces, wandering contentedly across the Central Plains region, living the dhutanga lifestyle until eventually he reached the capital, Bangkok. Arriving shortly before the rainy season, he went to Wat Pathumwan monastery and entered the retreat there. During the rains retreat he made a point of regularly going to seek advice from Chao Khun Upãli Guõýpamãcariya  at Wat Boromaniwat monastery to gain more extensive techniques for developing wisdom.

Ãcariya Mun left Bangkok following the rains retreat, hiking to Lopburi province to stay awhile at Phai Khwang Cave in the Phra Ngam mountain range before moving on to Singto Cave. Life in such favorable locations gave him an excellent, uninterrupted opportunity to fully intensify his spiritual practice. In doing so, he developed a fearless attitude toward his mind and the things with which it came in contact. By then, his samãdhi was rock-solid. Using it as the firm basis for his practice, he examined everything from the perspective of Dhamma, continually uncovering new techniques for developing wisdom. After a suitable interval, he returned to Bangkok, once again visiting Chao Khun Upãli at Wat Boromaniwat. He informed his mentor of developments in his meditation practice, questioning him about doubts he still had concerning the practice of wisdom. Satisfied that the new investigative techniques he had learned were sufficient to further his progress, he finally took leave of Chao Khun Upãli and left to seek seclusion at Sarika Cave in the Khaw Yai mountains of Nakhon Nayok province.