阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第七章第四節:阿姜措的奇幻歷險記

        

                   

           

第七章第四節: 阿姜措的奇幻歷險記

    阿姜曼是一位具有獨特修行模式的老師,他永遠不會被我們這些曾與他有密切互動的人所遺忘。他的許多資深弟子到今天都還健在,每一位阿姜與生俱來的德行、特定的修行方法都不同,因此他們證得的成就也多少有些不同。早先我曾提過一些阿姜的名字,但還有很多其他的名字都已經無法確認了。不管怎樣,阿姜曼的傳記已經完成,我還是想要特別介紹他的某位資深弟子,好讓讀者們能從他的修行方法、遇過的經歷、獲證的內明等學到一些東西。阿姜曼的弟子跟隨他的腳步,很多方面都跟阿羅漢弟子追隨世尊的情形一樣,在最後達到跟老師一樣的成就之前,一路上也都歷經了千辛萬苦。他們在修行環境上遇到的情況有多驚險或多恐怖,有很大的程度是取決於他們生活及行腳地點的特質。

        這使我想要介紹阿姜曼的某位資深弟子,我對他非常地崇敬。因為這位阿姜的頭陀經歷迥異於跟他同時期的修行人,我這裡要公開他一些修行方面的事件,作為某些超自然現象的可能證據,而且這些都是佛陀時代很常見、到今天可能依然存在的超自然現象。在佛陀時代的某些特定事件 —— 像守護他的大象以及供養他蜂蜜的猴子 —— 跟這位阿姜在現代的經歷可能有其相似之處。為了要證明我以下所述事件的可信度,我要介紹這位阿姜的名字,他叫做阿姜措,已出家多年,現年約七十歲。他向來喜歡住在偏遠的森林和山區裡,到今天依然沒變。由於他喜歡在夜間的曠野山區長途跋涉,所以他常會遇到像野生老虎一樣的夜行性動物。

        某一天的下午,他從碧差汶府的Lom sak出發,準備長途跋涉前往北方的清邁府。就在他即將進入一大片森林之前,他遇到了一些當地的村民。這些村民非常擔心他,建議他先在村子的附近過夜,隔天再繼續啟程。他們警告他,他將要走進的森林很大,沒有人能在下午的時候進入,天黑前能從另一邊走出森林。那些天黑後被困在森林裡的人,到最後都一定會成為大老虎的食物。已經是下午了,他也不可能及時穿越森林,一旦夜幕低垂,老虎就會開始出沒尋找獵物,他們認為這些被老虎遇上的人都會成為牠們的食物。由於從來沒有人能活著脫逃,所以村民們都很怕阿姜措會遇到相同的命運。當時已經過午了,所以他們不希望他進森林。他們告訴他已經有貼出一張告示,警告遊客有「森林中的夜叉」,以免他們被猛獸給吃掉。阿姜措感到很好奇,便詢問他們口中的夜叉是什麼,他曾聽過這方面的古老傳說,但從沒實際看過。他們告訴他,那就是他們所說的在夜幕低垂時,如果不能走出森林,會把人生吞活剝的大老虎。他們邀請他跟他們一起回村裡去過夜,隔天吃過飯後再繼續他的行程。

        阿姜措告訴村民他無意回村莊,他已決定要繼續前往。他們實在很擔心他,他在白天這麼晚才出發,不管他的腳程有多快,都不可能在日落前穿越森林,他一定會被困在這片廣大的森林中。但是他心意已決,不會打退堂鼓。他們問他難道不怕老虎?他承認他怕,但沒有關係:不管怎樣他還是要走。他們堅稱那裡的老虎絕不會放過任何人,如果他遇到任何一隻,都一定會丟了性命。如果他想要避開會吃人的老虎,就應該等到隔天早上再出發。他回答如果他的業力注定讓他會被老虎給吃掉,那也是沒辦法的事;但如果他注定會活下來,老虎就不會來傷他。

        阿姜措告別了村民,無懼於死亡,繼續他的行程。他一踏進森林後,便注意到步道的兩旁有老虎劃在土地上的爪印。他還看到老虎的糞便堆在路旁 —— 有的都已經乾掉了,有的還很新。他邊走邊經行,他發現了這些警告他的記號,但他還是不怕。他走到森林的正中央時,夜幕已籠罩了他。

        突然,他聽到身後傳來老虎的吼聲,緊接著又傳來另一隻向他走來的老虎吼聲,兩個吼聲在彼此叫喚,因為牠們接近他了。從兩個方向傳來的吼聲愈來愈響亮,直到這兩隻老虎同時在黑暗中現身 —— 一隻距離他只有六呎遠的老虎,另一隻則在他身後六呎遠。牠們的吼聲震耳欲聾。阿姜措眼看事態嚴重,便站在步道的中央怔住不動。他看見在他前面的這隻老虎蜷伏在地上準備伺機撲上來;他向後瞥了一眼,後面那隻也一樣,蜷伏在地上準備撲上來。這時恐懼在心中生起,因為他相信這代表他已走到了生命的盡頭,他嚇得腿都軟了,定在原點,動也不動。但他的正念仍然很強,於是他全心全意集中注意力不讓自己恐慌。雖然他很可能會被這兩隻老虎給吃掉,他還是不允許自己的心動搖。有了這種決意,他將注意力從老虎的那邊給拉回到自己的身上,將意識以外的一切都給排除。那一刻,他的凝神收攝於一境,很快就入深定了。當這個情況發生時,他就知道老虎不會傷他。之後,這世上的一切都消失了,包括他自己以及老虎。他沒有任何身體的知覺,完全不知道發生在他身上的事。對外在世界的一切知覺,包括他身體的存在,全都消失了,當然這也意味著老虎消失了。他的完全凝神在一境上,進入了甚深的禪定,就這樣在出定前經過了幾小時。

        當他最後出定時,他發現他跟之前一樣還是站在相同的位置。他的傘和缽都還是掛在他的肩上,一手仍提著燈籠,裡面的火早已熄滅。於是他又重新點燃燭火,察看老虎還在不在;但老虎已不知去向,他也不知道牠們跑去哪裡。

        那一夜他出定後,他再也不感到害怕。他的心充滿著無畏的勇氣,就算當時有上百隻老虎出現,他也依然處變不驚;因為,他完全看到心的不可思議的力量。能逃過這兩隻老虎的虎爪,他感到很訝異 —— 一種難以用言語形容的驚訝。阿姜措獨自站在森林中,突然對這兩隻老虎生起慈愛,在他的心裡牠們已經變成是給他上了一堂佛法課的朋友,上完課就神奇地消失了。他不再怕牠們 —— 事實上,他還非常想念牠們。

        阿姜措是這樣描述這兩隻老虎的巨大:每一隻都跟賽馬差不多大,雖然牠的身長已超過馬,從牠們的兩耳之間可以很容易估算出牠們的頭大概有十六英吋寬,他這一生中從未看過有大到這麼奇怪的老虎。也因此,他第一次看到牠們的時候,就像一具屍體一樣嚇得不敢動。好在,他始終保持很強的正念;接著,出定後,他感到喜樂與寧靜。他知道今後不管到哪裡,都不會再懼怕這世上的任何事物。當他與「法」合而為一的時候,他全心全意相信「心」,在全宇宙中君臨天下,他確信沒有任何東西可以傷害他。

        寧靜的「法」填滿了他的心,他在森林中又重新啟程,邊走邊經行。在他心中的兩隻老虎依然鮮明,他時常想到牠們。他覺得,如果再看見牠們,他可以很輕鬆地走上前,把牠們當寵物一般摸牠們的背,只是不知道牠們會不會讓他這麼做就是了。

        阿姜措帶著一顆喜悅的心,平靜與孤獨地在後半夜中走著。當黎明破曉時,他還是沒有抵達森林的另一頭,一直到隔天上午九點,他才走出森林,抵達另一處村落。他放下了隨身的行囊,穿上了袈裟,走進村裡托缽。當地的居民看見他帶著缽走進村子裡,便呼朋引伴一起供養他食物。他們把食物放進他的缽裡後,有一些人跟在他的後面回到他放置行囊的地點,並問他是從哪裡來的。這些森林的居民對於森林的路徑都很熟,當他們在不尋常的時間看見他從大森林中出現,他們就想要問清楚。他告訴他們,他是從南邊開始出發,整晚在森林中趕路,都沒有睡覺,他想要繼續往北邊行腳。他們對他的說法感到很訝異,因為他們知道這根本是不可能的事,就常識來說,在午夜穿越那裡幾乎就是在虎爪下必死無疑,他怎麼可能避開這些老虎?難道說他整晚都沒遇到老虎?阿姜措坦承他有遇到幾隻,但都沒有被騷擾。村民不太相信他的話,因為眾所周知,在森林中出沒、會吃人的凶猛老虎都會在夜間埋伏伺機抓人。他解釋他遇到老虎的真實情況後,他們才相信他,並瞭解到他的神通是一種特例,不能適用在一般人的身上。

        不論是心靈的道路或穿越森林的實體路徑,如果我們都還搞不清楚自己正走上什麼樣的路,那麼必須要走的路程以及沿途潛藏的危險,都可能成為我們前進時的障礙,所以我們必須依靠經驗豐富的嚮導以確保我們的安全。正朝向平安、幸福與昌盛的今生與來世邁進的我們,都應該謹記在心。正因為我們都是用特定的模式來思考與作為,所以我們不得不小心假設這不一定是正確的路。事實上,我們既有的思考與行為模式往往都傾向錯誤,把我們大多數人帶往歧途。

        阿姜措的頭陀生涯中,曾有多次與野生動物近距離接觸的經驗。有一次他行腳到緬甸,待在一處常有老虎出沒的洞穴裡禪修。雖然這些大野獸在他住的地方自由出沒,但牠們都從未傷害過他,所以他作夢也沒有想過真的會有一隻來找他。就在某日的下午五點左右,當他從禪坐中起身,他瞥見有一頭斑紋大虎接近洞口,牠非常的巨大,而且樣子很嚇人;但阿姜措保持不動 —— 很可能是他已經習慣在所到之處看過這些巨獸。老虎往山洞裡頭盯著看,就像他也在望著牠一樣監視著他。但牠沒有對他示警,也沒有用恐怖的方式發出吼聲,牠就像是一隻家庭寵物一樣,只是乖乖地站在那裡。牠完全沒有表現出恐怖的樣子或張牙舞爪,老虎隨意看了一下,便跳到洞口的一塊平面大石上,離阿姜措站的位置有十八呎遠。牠若無其事地坐在那裡,舔著爪子,雖然牠很清楚他就在洞裡,但似乎對他不感興趣。牠就像一隻寵物狗的樣子平靜地坐在那裡,漸漸地累了,噗地一聲倒下,伸長了腿,像寵物狗一樣舒服地趴在那裡,不停舔著爪子,彷彿無拘無束的樣子。

        由於阿姜措的經行步道就在山洞的前方,所以他不敢走上前-- 跟大老虎這麼接近讓他還是有些緊張。他從未看過野生動物會表現得像居家寵物一樣,他的不安因此而加劇。於是他在洞裡的竹台上繼續禪坐,雖不怕老虎可能會跑進來傷害他。牠沒有起身移動的意思,只是滿足地趴在那裡,一段時間後,牠就像個老朋友一樣不經意地瞥了他一眼,阿姜措認為牠最後會離開,但牠就是沒有要走的意思。

        起先,阿姜措在蚊帳外禪坐;但一到天黑他便進帳內並點燃蠟燭。當燭火照亮洞穴,老虎仍無動於衷,直到深夜當阿姜措終於躺下來休息,牠還是滿足地趴在石塊上。他在凌晨三點左右醒來,點了一根蠟燭,發現老虎像以前一樣仍無動於衷地趴在原處。他洗了臉,開始禪坐,直到第一道曙光透進來;接著他從禪座起身,收拾蚊帳,他看了老虎一眼,發現牠依舊舒適直直地趴著,看起來就像主人家門前超大的寵物狗。最後,每日的托缽時間已到,可是走出洞的唯一方法就是直接經過老虎,他不曉得經過的時候牠會有什麼反應,當他穿上袈裟,他注意到老虎用一種很溫柔的眼神看著他,就像一隻殷切望著主人的狗。

        因為他別無選擇,只好從離牠幾呎的範圍內走出去。他準備好以後,便走近洞口,開口對老虎說:「現在是我早上托缽的時間,就像世上所有的生物一樣,我肚子會餓,需要填飽我的胃。如果可以的話,我要出去乞食。請你慈悲讓我通行,如果你想繼續留在這裡,我沒有意見;或者,你喜歡到別處找食物,那也不錯。」

        老虎趴在那裡歪著頭聽他說話,就像一隻在聽主人聲音的狗一樣。當阿姜措走過去,牠用一種很溫柔的目光望著他,就好像是在說:去吧,不用害怕,我只是來這裡保護你的。

        阿姜措走向當地的村落托缽,但沒有告訴任何人有關老虎的事,因為他擔心他們可能會殺了牠。他回到洞窟時,看著老虎原先待的地方,老虎已經不知去向,他不知道牠跑去哪裡了,但之後他停留在洞窟裡的那一段時間,牠就再也沒有來拜訪過他了。

        阿姜措懷疑那不是一般的森林動物,而是天神的化身,這也許就是為什麼牠跟他在一起的那一段期間會這麼溫順與不具攻擊性的理由。他很喜愛牠,而且在幾天之後還是很想念牠的身影。他認為牠還是有可能會偶爾回來看他,但後來連一次也沒有。雖然他每晚都會聽到老虎吼叫的聲音,他卻無法分辨他的朋友是否就在其中。無論如何,整片森林中到處都充滿著老虎,心臟不夠強的人是沒辦法在那裡生存的,但他卻並沒有被這種危險所影響。事實上,那隻看起來很溫馴的老虎,讓他覺得喜愛勝過了恐懼。阿姜措說那次的經歷以一種相當特殊的方式增強了他對「法」的信心。

        阿姜措在緬甸度過了五年的時間,他在那裡學習到的緬甸話就跟他自己的母語一樣的流利,他最後會回到泰國,與第二次世界大戰有關。當時英國與日本在緬甸四處開戰 —— 城裡、村落、甚至在山裡。那一段期間,英國指控泰國與日本結盟,因此,他們在緬甸大肆搜索泰國人,要抓到他們施以報復。他們一律處決在緬甸的泰國人,不分男、女或出家人 —— 毫無例外地處決。

        阿姜措每天托缽化緣的村民都很敬愛他;所以當他們看到英國軍隊如此猖狂,他們很擔心他的安危。他們趕緊帶他到深山裡,將他藏在一處英國人找不到的地方。但最後就在他向一群村民給予祝福的時候,一整隊的英國士兵還是碰巧看見了他。村民們都嚇得面如槁木,面對士兵的詢問,阿姜措告訴他們他在緬甸已經住了一段很長的時間,從未過問政治。他說就一名比丘而言,他對這種事情一無所知。村民也挺身為他辯護,說他不像在家俗人,比丘跟戰爭沒有關係,所以無論如何若將他牽扯其中,那就大錯特錯。他們警告士兵,如果他們對他有任何傷害的行動,就等於是傷害無辜的緬甸百姓的情感,不必要地破壞了與當地居民的關係,這將是一個天大的錯誤。他們向士兵保證早在戰爭開始前他就已經住在這裡了,而且他根本就不知道國際事件。就算他們的國家目前正處於戰爭狀態,緬甸百姓也不認為這名比丘會是一種威脅;因此,如果士兵一定要傷害他,就等於是傷害緬甸的全國百姓,緬甸人民絕不會寬恕這種行為。

        整隊的英國士兵就站在那裡討論該如何處置阿姜措,半小時後,他們告訴村民趕緊把他帶去別的地方,因為如果別的陸軍巡邏隊來這裡看到他,那就麻煩了。如果到時候他們的請求被拒絕,他的性命很可能就會有危險。雖然士兵將阿姜措視為敵人,但他安靜地坐著,散發四無量心並憶念佛、法、僧的功德。

        就在軍隊離開後,村民將他帶往更深入的山區裡,告訴他別再回村裡托缽了,他們會在每天早上偷偷帶食物來給他。就從那一天起,英國的巡邏隊會固定來擾民,不久,偵查員每天都會來追問這名泰國比丘的下落,情況變得愈來愈明顯,如果他們找到他,他一定會被殺掉。隨著情勢惡化,村民愈來愈擔心他的安危。最後,他們決定經由一條能穿越深山的偏遠森林古道將他給送回泰國,他們知道這條古道很安全,英國巡邏隊無法入侵。該怎麼走他們都有給他詳細的說明,並警告他不管發生什麼事都要堅持原來的路徑,即使發現有些地方蔓草叢生,也千萬不可嘗試不同的路徑,這條路是被山地部落世世代代所使用的一條古道,最終可直達泰國的邊境。

        他有了這些說明後,便開始動身。他日以繼夜不停地走,一路上都不吃、不睡,只有喝水。他費盡千辛萬苦好不容易穿越了充滿各種野生動物、到處都能看見老虎與大象的足跡的蔭鬱荒野。他怕他逃離緬甸後無法生存下來;他一直擔心萬一不小心走上了岔路,可能就此絕望地迷失在荒郊曠野中。

        在他前往泰國邊界的第四天早晨,某件不可思議的神奇事件發生在阿姜措的身上。各位在讀完整個故事以前,都請勿對這件事妄下論斷。當他攀上了山脈的主峰時,因極度飢餓與虛脫,使他覺得他已經不可能再走下去了。他已經連走三天三夜都沒有睡覺或進食,只有稍事休憩,以減緩這種險峻的旅程帶給身體上的壓力。在山頂上拖著已經沒有力氣的身體,突然一個念頭跑進了他的心中:隨著我每一次的呼吸,冒著生命危險,走了這麼遠的路,來到了高峰,但不知為什麼我還是活了下來。從我開始出發,到現在我都還沒有看到有任何可以讓我托缽維持生命的住家,難道我就因為少了一餐而死得那麼不值得嗎?一路上我歷經千辛萬苦 —— 在我一生中都還沒吃過這麼多的苦,難道一切都是白費力氣?我逃離了戰爭,一種人人都怕的死亡領域,到頭來卻死於跋涉的艱苦與飢餓?如果,真像佛陀說的,在虛空的領域裡真有那種能用天眼與天耳感應遠方的天神,難道祂們看不到這名比丘隨時快要死了嗎?我相信世尊說的,但,從佛陀時代到今天,慈悲護持過這麼多比丘的龍天護法善神,難道對這個比丘就這麼鐵石心腸嗎?如果龍天護法善神的心,事實上沒有那麼硬,那麼請對這個將死的比丘展現慈悲,就讓祂們聖潔的天界美德受到讚揚吧。

        就在阿姜措動了這個念頭後不久,神奇且不可思議的事發生了,簡直令人難以置信。當他沿著偏僻的山路拖著蹣跚的步履,他看到一位穿著很體面的紳士,樣子一點也不像山地部落的居民,他靜靜地坐在步道旁,將一盤用來供養的食物高舉在頭頂上。這怎麼可能?!阿姜措對看到的景象大吃一驚,這使他雞皮疙瘩、毛髮豎立。他幾乎忘了飢餓與疲憊,看到一名坐在路旁距離他前方約二十五呎的英俊紳士在等著要供養他,他驚訝到不行。

        當他走上前,這名紳士對他說:「尊者,請在這邊休息一下吧,吃點東西,舒緩您的飢餓與疲憊。等您恢復體力,您就可以繼續趕路。您今天一定能走出這片荒野。」

        阿姜措停了下來,放下隨身攜帶的微薄資具,拿出缽準備接受這位紳士食物的供養,接著他上前接受了食物。他驚訝的是,當食物逐一被放進缽裡的時候,一股甜美芬芳的香氣似乎瀰漫整個森林四周,他供養的食物數量也剛好滿足他的所需,而且那是一種難以形容的精緻味道。這可能似乎太誇張了些,但就在那個時候他的感官接觸到的事實,就真的是這麼不可思議,簡直難以形容。

        當這位紳士將食物都放進了缽裡,阿姜措便問他的家在哪裡,他說他連走了四天三夜都沒有看到一戶人家。這位紳士曖昧含糊地往上指,並說他的房子就在那裡。阿姜措又問是什麼原因促使他準備食物在路旁等候供養一個比丘?他又怎麼可能一開始就知道有一個比丘會來這裡?這位紳士笑而未答。之後,這位紳士說因為他的家很遠,所以他要走了,於是阿姜措祝福隨喜他的功德。這位紳士跟一般人很不一樣,儘管他的話很少,但舉止卻相當莊嚴。他看起就是一個中等身材的中年人,膚色光澤,舉止十分安詳。他告別後,便起身離去。因為很明顯他非常人,所以阿姜措很仔細觀察他。他大概走到二十五呎遠左右,便在一棵樹後停了下來,從視線中消失。阿姜措盯著那棵樹等他從樹的另一端出現,但他沒再現身。這讓他更加茫然費解;於是他站起來走向那棵樹後仔細察看 —— 但沒有人在那裡。如果他還在附近,他就肯定看得到他,但他到處看都沒看到人影,這個人消失的怪異情況更讓他感到驚訝。

        儘管是那麼的不可思議,阿姜措還是走回來開始用餐,品嚐他供養的各種食物,他發現它們不同於他平常吃的人間食物。所有的食物都極香又美味,無微不至地照顧到他身體的需求,他從來都沒有吃過這樣的食物。食物的精緻美味在他長時間飢累交迫的身體裡擴散,並滲透在他每一個毛細孔中。到最後,他已經分不清到底是因為極度的飢餓還是食物本身的天界特質才會那麼好吃。他把供養的食物都吃得一乾二淨,而且剛好填飽他的肚子,如果再多一點,他恐怕就吃不下了。

        吃完飯後,他再度感到體力充沛、容光煥發,完全不像之前那個在鬼門關前走一遭的人。他順著路往前走,一路想著那個神秘的紳士,忘卻了旅程的艱辛、還要走的路程、以及路線是否正確等等。當夜幕低垂時,真的就像神秘紳士預言的那樣,他從曠野的另一邊出現。一整天他都帶著同樣喜悅的心情,跨越邊境來到了泰國,先前旅途中折磨他的身心壓力,都在那次的早餐供養之後消失得無影無蹤了。當他終於跨進了泰國,他的出生地,他就知道他肯定可以活下去。

        他說他遇到的那位奇怪的紳士肯定是一位天神,不是任何當地的居民。他想到:從他遇見那位紳士開始,到他進入泰國,他都沒有碰過任何一戶有人的住家,他完全想不通整件事。正常來說,在穿越緬甸的整段路上,應該至少可以遇見某些住家才對,但結果事實是:他固然成功逃離了軍隊的搜查,卻遇不到人,也得不到食物,而且還差點餓死。

        阿姜措說,他從曠野中幾近奇蹟般逃離死亡,使他懷疑有天神暗中相助。雖然他穿越的那片曠野充滿著像老虎、大象、熊、毒蛇等危險的野獸,但他都沒有遇到,他碰見的都只是些無害的動物。照理來說,在這片曠野中長途跋涉的人應該會遇到危險的野獸,特別是老虎和大象,而且非常有可能會被那些猛獸殺害。當然,他的安全通行要歸功於「法」的不可思議,或天神冥冥中的護佑,又或者兩者都有。雖然幫助他逃離的村民們都十分擔心他會因為野獸的威脅而無法存活下去,但這也是沒有辦法的事。如果他留在緬甸,戰爭與英國士兵所造成的威脅更迫在眉睫。於是兩害相權取其輕,他們只好幫助他從嗜殺殘忍的人所在的這片土地上逃離,希望他能避開猛獸生存下來,並安享長壽。這也就是為什麼他被迫踏上這趟充滿危機的長途旅程,而且幾乎要了他的命。

        請仔細想一想這些神秘的事件對你們的意義,我把我所聽到的故事都記錄下來,但我不願獨自去評判它們,我比較喜歡你們自己來下結論。雖然如此,對於這些看似不可能實際發生的事情,我不得不說真是不可思議。由於阿姜措頭陀生活方式的嚴格特性,他還有很多其他類似的經歷,因為他總是喜歡在偏遠的曠野區中生活與修行。由於他都住在森林的深處,很少人敢去參訪他,所以他與社會的互動也非常的有限。

          

Ãcariya Mun was a teacher whose unique mode of practice will never be forgotten by those of us who were closely associated with him. Many such senior disciples of his are still alive today. Each ãcariya differs somewhat in his inherent virtuous qualities, his specific mode of practice, and the special kinds of knowledge and understanding he has attained as a result. Earlier on I mentioned some of these ãcariyas by name; but there are many others whose names were not identified. Nonetheless, it was always my intention to identify one of his senior disciples in particular, once the story of Ãcariya Mun’s life was completed, so that the reader could learn something of the way he practiced, the experiences he encountered, and the insights he gained. Ãcariya Mun’s disciples followed in his footsteps much in the same manner that the Lord Buddha’s Arahant disciples followed in his, experiencing many difficulties along the way before ultimately attaining the same knowledge and understanding that their teacher had before them. The extent to which these monks met with spine-tingling, frightening situations in their practice environment depended largely on the nature of the places where they lived and traveled.

This brings me to one senior disciple of Ãcariya Mun for whom I have a great amount of respect. Since this ãcariya’s dhutanga experiences are quite different from most of his contemporaries, I would like to present here some episodes from his practice as evidence of the possibility that some of the unusual external phenomena commonly reported at the time of the Buddha may still exist today. Certain incidents in the life of the Buddha – like the elephant who gave him protection and the monkey who offered him honeycomb – may have their modern-day parallels in some of this acariya’s experiences. To demonstrate the authenticity of the episodes I’m about to relate, I shall identify him by name. He is Ãcariya Chob   who, having been ordained as a monk for many years, is now about 70 years old. He has always preferred living in remote forest and mountain areas and still does so to this day. Since he likes to trek through such wilderness areas at night, he’s constantly encountering nocturnal creatures like wild tigers.

Leaving Lomsak in Phetchabun province one afternoon, he started trekking north toward Lampang in the province of Chiang Mai. As he was about to enter a large tract of forest, he met with some local villagers who advised him, with obvious concern, to spend the night near their village and then continue on the next morning. They warned him that the forest he was about to enter was vast, so there was no way someone entering it in the afternoon could get through to the other side before dark. Those who ended up stranded in this forest after dark invariably became food for the huge tigers that roamed there at night. Since it was already afternoon, he had no chance to hike through it in time. Once darkness fell, the tigers began roaming around looking for something to eat, and they considered any person that they happened on as just another source of food. Since no one ever escaped from them alive, the villagers were fearful that Ãcariya Chob would meet the same fate. It was already well after noon, so they did not want him to enter the forest. They told him that a notice had been posted, warning travelers about this ‘forest of yakkhas’ to keep them from being eaten by those monsters. Being curious, Ãcariya Chob asked what yakkhas they were talking about. He had read old accounts about such creatures but had never actually seen one. They told him that it was just their way of referring to those huge, striped tigers who devoured anyone failing to make it through the forest by nightfall. They invited him to return with them to their village and spend the night there. He could then have a meal the next morning and continue on his journey.

Telling them that he intended to continue walking anyway, Ãcariya Chob refused to return to the village. Concerned for his safety, they insisted that, no matter how fast he walked, by having started this late in the day he could not possibly reach the other side before nightfall and would end up stranded in the middle of that vast forest. But, determined to press ahead, he refused to be deterred. They asked him if he was afraid of tigers. He acknowledged that he was but said it was irrelevant: he intended to go in any case. They insisted that the tigers there never ran away from people. If he encountered one, he was sure to lose his life. If he wanted to avoid being attacked by man-eating tigers, he should wait until morning to proceed further. He replied that should his kamma dictate that he was destined to be eaten by tigers, then that’s the way it would be. If, however, he was destined to continue living, then the tigers wouldn’t trouble him.

Taking leave of the villagers, Ãcariya Chob resumed his journey, feeling no qualms about dying. No sooner had he begun to enter the forest than he noticed that both sides of the trail he was on were covered with claw prints, where tigers had been scratching in the earth. He saw piles of tiger scat scattered all along the trail – some of it old, some of it quite fresh. As he walked along doing meditation practice, he observed these telltale signs, but he wasn’t afraid. By the time he had reached the very middle of the forest, darkness had closed in all around him.

Suddenly, he heard the roar of a huge tiger coming up behind him, followed by the roar of another huge tiger moving toward him, both calling out to each other as they quickly closed in on him. The roaring sounds from both directions grew closer and louder until suddenly both tigers emerged from the darkness at the same moment – one, merely six feet in front of him and the other a mere six feet behind. The sound of their roars had become deafening. Seeing the gravity of the situation, Ãcariya Chob stood transfixed in the middle of the trail. He saw that the tiger in front of him was crouched and ready to pounce. Glancing behind him, he saw that the tiger there, too, was crouched and ready to pounce. Fear arose in him then, for he was sure that this signaled the end of his life. Petrified with fear, he stood stock-still, rooted to the spot. But his mindfulness remained strong, so he concentrated his mind intently, and that prevented him from panicking. Even though he might be killed by those tigers, he would not allow his mind to falter. With that resolve, he turned the focus of his attention away from the tigers and back within himself, thus excluding everything external from his awareness. At that moment, his citta ‘converged’, dropping quickly into a deep state of samãdhi. As this occurred, the knowledge arose in him that the tigers could not possibly harm him. After that, everything in the world simply vanished, including himself and the tigers. Experiencing no physical sensations whatsoever, he was totally unaware of what then happened to his body. All awareness of the external world, including his physical presence, had utterly disappeared. Which meant that awareness of the tigers had also disappeared. His citta had ‘converged’ completely, dropping to the very base of samãdhi, and many hours passed before it withdrew from that state.

When his citta finally withdrew, he found that he was still standing in the same position as before. His umbrella and alms bowl were still slung over his shoulder, and in one hand he still carried a candle lantern, which had long since gone out. So he lit another candle and looked around for the tigers; but they were nowhere to be found. He had no idea where they had disappeared to.

Withdrawing from samãdhi that night, he felt no fear whatsoever. His heart was full of such remarkable courage that even if hundreds of tigers appeared at that moment, he would have remained completely unperturbed; for, he had seen with absolute clarity the extraordinary power of the citta. He felt amazed to have escaped the gaping jaws of those two tigers – a sense of amazement defying description. Standing there alone in the forest, Ãcariya Chob was suddenly overcome by a feeling of compassionate affection for the two tigers. In his mind they became friends who, having provided him with a lesson in Dhamma, then miraculously disappeared. He no longer feared them – in fact, he actually missed them.

Ãcariya Chob described both tigers as being enormous: each was about the size of a racehorse, though its body length well exceeded that of a horse. Their heads would easily have measured sixteen inches from ear to ear. He had never in his life seen tigers that were so grotesquely large. Consequently, when he first saw them he stood petrified, stiff as a corpse. Fortunately, his mindfulness remained strong throughout. Later, after his citta had withdrawn from samãdhi, he felt joyful and serene. He knew then that he could go wherever he wished without fearing anything in the world. Believing wholeheartedly that the citta, when fully integrated with Dhamma, reigns supreme in the universe, he was convinced that nothing could possibly harm him.

With this serene Dhamma filling his heart, he resumed his trek through the forest, practicing walking meditation as he hiked along. His two tiger friends were still fresh in his mind and he often thought about them. He felt that, were he to see them again, he could easily walk up and playfully stroke their backs as if they were pets, though it’s questionable whether they would ever allow it.

Ãcariya Chob walked the rest of that night in peace and solitude, buoyed by a joyful heart. When day finally broke, he still had not reached the end of the forest. It wasn’t until nine o’clock that morning that he emerged from the forest to arrive at a village settlement. Putting down his belongings, he put on his outer robes and walked through the village for alms. When the inhabitants saw him entering the village with his alms bowl, they called out to one another to come and offer him food. Having placed food in his bowl, some of them followed him back to where he had left his belongings and asked where he had come from. These being forest people who knew the ways of the forest, when they saw him emerging from that vast wilderness at an unusual hour, they wanted to questioned him about it. He told them that, having begun at the southern end, he trekked all night through the forest without sleeping and now intended to continue wandering north. Astounded by this statement, they wanted to know how it was possible, for it was common knowledge that passing through there at night meant almost certain death in the jaws of a tiger. How had he managed to avoid the tigers? Had he come across no tigers during the night? Ãcariya Chob admitted he had met some tigers, but said he hadn’t been bothered by them. The villagers were reluctant to believe him because the ferocious man-eating tigers roaming that forest were renowned for waiting to ambush anyone caught there overnight. Only after he had explained the actual circumstances of his encounter with the tigers did they finally believe him, realizing that his miraculous powers were a special case, and not applicable to ordinary people.

Whether it is the spiritual path of the heart or the physical path through the forest, ignorance of the path we are on, the distances that must be traveled, and the potential dangers along the way are all obstacles to our progress. So we must depend on a knowledgeable guide to ensure our safety. We, who are journeying along the path toward safe, happy, prosperous circumstances now and in the future, should always keep this in mind. Just because we’ve always thought and acted in a certain way, we must not carelessly assume that it is necessarily the right way. In truth, our habitual ways of thinking and acting usually tend to be mistaken, continuously leading most of us down the wrong path.

DURING   HIS   LIFE   AS a dhutanga monk, Ãcariya Chob had many close encounters with wild animals. Once while wandering through Burma,  he stopped to do his practice in a cave frequented by tigers. Although these huge beasts roamed freely through the area while he lived there, they never harmed him. So he never dreamed that one would actually come looking for him. But then one afternoon at about five o’clock, as he was getting up from his meditation, his eyes glanced up to the mouth of the cave to see a huge, striped tiger approaching the entrance. It was an enormous animal and very frightening-looking; but Ãcariya Chob remained unperturbed – probably because he was so accustomed to seeing these creatures wherever he went. Peering into the cave, the tiger spied him just as he was looking up at it. Instead of showing alarm at the sight of him or roaring out in a terrifying manner, it just stood there passively, as though it were a house pet. It showed no signs of fear and made no threatening gestures. Looking casually about, the tiger leapt onto a large, flat rock at the entrance to the cave, about eighteen feet from where Ãcariya Chob stood. Sitting nonchalantly, licking its paws, it seemed uninterested in him, though it knew perfectly well he was in the cave. It sat there calmly with the air of a pet dog sitting in front of the house. Growing tired, it flopped down, stretched out its legs, and lay there comfortably just like a pet dog, continuing to lick itself as though feeling right at home.

Since Ãcariya Chob’s meditation track was right in front of the cave, he didn’t dare go out and walk there – the proximity of the huge tiger made him feel a bit nervous. His uneasiness was compounded by the fact that he had never before seen a wild tiger behave like a household pet in this way. So he continued his sitting meditation on a small bamboo platform inside the cave, though with no sense of fear that the tiger might try to harm him there. Once in a long while it casually glanced at him in the nonchalant manner of an old friend, while lying contentedly with no evident intention of moving. Ãcariya Chob expected it to eventually wander off, but it showed no interest in going anywhere.

At first, Ãcariya Chob was sitting outside his mosquito net; but once darkness fell he moved inside the net and lit a candle. The tiger remained impassive as the candlelight illuminated the cave. It continued lying contentedly on the rock until late into the night, when Ãcariya Chob finally lay down to take a rest. Awaking at about three  A . M ., he lit a candle only to find the tiger reclining impassively as before. After washing his face, he sat in meditation until the first light of dawn; then he rose from his seat and put away his mosquito net. Glancing up, he saw the tiger still stretched out comfortably, looking like some oversized pet dog in front of its master’s house. Eventually, the time for his daily almsround arrived. The only way out of the cave went straight past the tiger. He wondered what its reaction would be when he walked by. As he put on his robes he noticed the tiger looking at him with soft, gentle eyes like a dog looking wistfully at its master. Since he had no other alternative, he would have to pass within several feet of it on his way out. When he was ready, he approached the mouth of the cave and began speaking to the tiger:

“It’s now time for my morning almsround. Like all other creatures in this world, I am hungry and need to fill my stomach. If it’s okay with you, I’ll go out and get some food. Please be kind enough to let me pass by. If you want to stay on here, that’s fine with me. Or, if you prefer to go off searching for something to eat, that’s all right too.”

The tiger lay there listening to him with its head cocked like a dog listening to the voice of its master. As Ãcariya Chob walked past, it watched him with a soft, gentle gaze as if to say: Go ahead, there’s no need to be afraid. I’ve only come here to protect you from danger.

Ãcariya Chob walked down to the local village for his almsround, but he didn’t tell anyone about the tiger for fear they might try to kill it. Returning to the cave he looked at the place where the tiger had been, but there was no longer any sign of it. He had no idea where it had gone. During the remainder of his stay in that cave, it never came to visit him again.

Ãcariya  Chob  suspected  that  the  tiger  was  no  ordinary forest creature but rather a creation of the devas, which is why it appeared so tame and unthreatening the entire time it was with him. He felt a lot of affection for it and so missed its presence for many days thereafter. He thought it might return from time to time to see him, but it never did. Although he heard the sounds of tigers roaring every night, he couldn’t tell whether his friend was among them. In any case, the whole forest was teeming with tigers. A faint-hearted person could never have lived there, but he was not affected by such dangers. In fact, the tame-looking tiger, who kept watch over him all night, made him feel more affection than fear. Ãcariya Chob said that experience increased his belief in Dhamma in quite a special way.

ÃCARIYA CHOB  SPENT  five years living in Burma, where he learned to speak Burmese as fluently as if it were his own language. The reason he eventually returned to Thailand concerned the Second World War. The English and the Japanese were fighting each other all up and down the countryside – in the towns, the villages, and even in the mountains. During that period, the English accused the Thai people of collaborating with the Japanese.  Consequently, they searched for Thais in Burma, hunting them down with a vengeance. They summarily executed any Thai they found inside Burma, regardless of whether it was a man, a woman, or a monk – no exceptions were made.

The villagers that Ãcariya Chob depended on for his daily alms loved and respected him; so when they saw the English soldiers being very meddlesome, they became concerned for his safety. They hurriedly took him deep into the mountains and hid him in a place where they decided the English would not be able to find him. But eventually a contingent of English soldiers did come across him there, just as he was giving a blessing to a group of villagers. The villagers were crestfallen. Questioned by the soldiers, Ãcariya Chob told them that he had been living in Burma for a long time and was never involved in politics. He said that being a monk, he knew nothing about such matters. The villagers spoke up in his defense to say that, unlike lay people, monks had nothing to do with the war, so it would be wrong to try to involve him in any way. They warned the soldiers that, should they take any action against him, it would amount to hurting the feelings of the Burmese people who had done nothing wrong. It would unnecessarily damage relations with the local population, which would be a grave mistake. They assured the soldiers that he had been living there since long before the war began and knew nothing about international affairs. Even though their country was now in a state of war, the Burmese people did not view this monk as a threat of any kind. Thus, if the soldiers were to harm him, it would be tantamount to harming the whole of the Burmese nation. The Burmese people could never condone such an action.

The contingent of English soldiers stood talking among themselves about what to do with Ãcariya Chob. After discussing his case for about half an hour, they told the villagers to quickly take him away to another location, for if another army patrol came and spotted him, there could be trouble. Should their pleas be rejected the next time, his life might well be in danger. While the soldiers were viewing him as an enemy, Ãcariya Chob sat quietly, extending forth thoughts of loving kindness and recollecting the virtues of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.

When the soldiers had gone, the villagers took him deeper into the mountains, telling him not to come down to the village for almsround. Instead, each morning they secretly brought food for him to eat. From that day on, patrols of English troops regularly came to bother the villagers. Soon patrols were coming daily to ask the whereabouts of the Thai monk, and it became increasingly obvious that he would be killed if they found him. As the situation worsened, the villagers became more and more concerned for his safety. Finally, they decided to send him back to Thailand by way of a remote forest trail that passed through thick mountainous terrain. This trail was known to be safe from incursions by English patrols. They gave him detailed instructions on how to proceed, warning him to stick to the trail no matter what happened. Even if he found the trail overgrown in places, he was not to attempt a different route. It was an old footpath used for generations by the hill tribes that eventually led all the way to the Thai border.

Once he had these instructions, he began walking.  He walked all day and all night without sleeping or eating, drinking only water. With great difficulty he made his way through this dense wilderness region teeming with all manner of wild animals. Everywhere he looked he saw tiger and elephant tracks. He feared he would never survive his flight from Burma; he was constantly worried that he might make one wrong turn on the trail and end up hopelessly lost in that vast wilderness.

On the morning of the fourth day of his trek to the Thai border, something incredibly amazing happened to Ãcariya Chob. Please reserve judgment on this incident until you have read the whole story. As he crested the top of a mountain ridge, he was so extremely hungry and exhausted that he thought he couldn’t possibly go on. By that time he had been walking for three days and three nights without any sleep or food. The only breaks he had taken were short periods of rest to alleviate the physical stress of such an arduous journey. While dragging his enfeebled body over the ridge, a thought arose in his mind: I have walked the entire distance to this point risking my life with every breath I take, yet somehow I’m still alive. Since starting out I’ve yet to see a single human habitation where I could request alms food to sustain my life. Am I now going to die needlessly for lack of a single meal? I’ve suffered enormous hardships on this trip – at no other time in my life have I suffered so much. Is it all going to be in vain? Have I escaped war, a sphere of death everyone fears, only to die of starvation and the hardships of this trek? If, as the Lord Buddha declared, there really are devas in the upper realms, possessing divine eyes and ears that can truly perceive at great distances, can’t they see this monk who is about ready to die at any moment? ? I do believe what the Lord Buddha said. But are the devas, who have received kind assistance from so many monks, from the Buddha’s time until the present day, really so heartless as this? If devas are not in fact hardhearted, then let them demonstrate their kindness to this dying monk so that their pure, celestial qualities can be admired.

No sooner had this thought occurred to Ãcariya Chob than something incredibly strange and amazing happened. It was almost impossible to believe. As he staggered along that remote mountain trail, he saw an elegantly dressed gentleman, who bore no resemblance to the hill tribes people of that region, quietly sitting at the side of the path, holding a tray of food offerings up to his head. It seemed impossible! Ãcariya Chob was so flabbergasted by what he saw that he got goose flesh and his hair stood on end. He forgot all about being hungry and exhausted. He was wholly astounded to see a kind-looking gentleman sitting beside the path about twenty-five feet ahead waiting to offer him food. As he approached, the gentleman spoke to him:

“Please, sir, rest here awhile and eat something to relieve your hunger and fatigue. Once you’ve regained your strength, you can continue on. You’re sure to reach the other side of this vast wilderness some time today.”

Ãcariya Chob stopped, put down what few requisites he was carrying, and prepared his alms bowl to receive the food that the gentleman was offering. He then stepped forward and accepted the food. To his amazement, as soon as the food items were placed in his bowl, a sweet fragrance seemed to permeate the whole surrounding forest. The amount of food he was offered by the gentleman was exactly the right amount to satisfy his needs. And it had an exquisite taste that was absolutely indescribable. This might seem like an extravagant exaggeration, but the truth of what his senses perceived at that moment was so amazing as to be virtually impossible to describe.

When the gentleman finished putting food in his bowl, Ãcariya Chob asked him where his house was located. He said that he had been walking for three nights and four days now but had yet to see a single human habitation. The gentleman pointed vaguely upward, saying his house was over there. Ãcariya Chob asked what had prompted him to prepare food and then wait along that trail to offer it to a monk. How had he known in the first place that there would be a monk coming to receive it? The gentleman smiled slightly, but didn’t speak. Ãcariya Chob gave him a blessing, after which the gentleman told him that he would have to leave since his house was some distance away. He appeared to be quite different from the average person in that he was remarkably dignified while speaking very little. He looked to be a middle-aged man of medium height with a radiant complexion and behavior that was impeccably self-composed. Having taken his leave, he stood up and began to walk away. As he was obviously an unusual man, Ãcariya Chob observed him carefully. He walked about twenty-five feet, stepped behind a tree, and disappeared from sight. Ãcariya Chob stared at the tree waiting for him to reappear on the other side, but he never did. This was even more puzzling; so he stood up and walked over to the tree to have a closer look – but no one was there. Had someone been in that area, he would definitely have seen him. But looking around in all directions he saw no one. The strange circumstances of the man’s disappearance surprised him all the more.

Still puzzled, Ãcariya Chob walked back and began to eat his food. Tasting the various foods he had been given, he found them to be unlike the human cuisine that he was used to eating. All the  food  was  wonderfully  fragrant  and  flavorful,  and  perfectly suited to his bodily needs in every possible way. He had never eaten anything like it. The food’s exquisite taste permeated throughout every pore in his body which had so long been oppressed by hunger and fatigue. In the end, he wasn’t sure if it was his extreme hunger that made it taste so good or the celestial nature of the food itself. He ate every last morsel of what was offered, and it turned out to be exactly the right amount to fill his stomach. Had there been even a little extra, he would have been unable to finish it.

Having eaten, he set off again feeling incredibly robust and radiant, not at all like the person who was at death’s door a short while before. Walking along he became so absorbed in thinking about the mysterious gentleman that he forgot about the rigors of the journey, the distance he had to walk, and whether or not he was on the right trail. As evening fell, he emerged from the other side of that vast wilderness just as the mysterious gentleman had predicted. He crossed the border into Thailand with the same feeling of joy that he had been experiencing all day. The mental and physical distress that had tormented him earlier in his journey had disappeared after his morning repast. When he finally crossed into Thailand, the land of his birth, he knew for certain that he was going to live.

He said that the strange gentleman he met was surely a devic being and not one of the local inhabitants. Think about it: From the point where he met that gentleman to the point where he entered Thailand, he encountered not a single human habitation. The whole affair was very puzzling. Ordinarily, one would expect to meet with at least a small settlement of some sort along the whole of that route through Burma. As it turned out, his evasion of the army patrols had been so successful that he had encountered neither people nor food. It had been so successful that he had nearly starved to death.

Ãcariya Chob said that his almost miraculous escape from death in that vast wilderness caused him to suspect the involvement of divine intervention. Although the wilderness he passed through teemed with dangerous wild animals like tigers, elephants, bears, and snakes, he did never encounter them. The only animals he came across were harmless ones. Normally, someone trekking through such a wilderness would encounter dangerous wild animals daily, especially tigers and elephants. And there was a very strong possibility that that person might be killed by one of those savage beasts. Surely his own safe passage can be attributed to the miraculous properties of Dhamma, or miraculous intervention by the devas, or both. The villagers who helped him escape were very concerned that he would not survive the threat posed by dangerous wild animals, but there had been no other choice. Had he remained in Burma, the threat posed by the war and the English soldiers was even more imminent. So opting for the lesser of two evils, they had helped him escape from the land of blood-thirsty people, hoping that he would survive the savage beasts and enjoy a long life. Which is why he was forced to make the perilous trek that nearly cost him his life.

Please contemplate these mysterious happenings for yourself. I have recorded the stories just as I heard them. But being reluctant to pass judgment on them alone, I would prefer that you come to your own conclusions. Still, I cannot help but feel amazed that something so seemingly impossible actually occurred. Due to the rigorous nature of Ãcariya Chob’s dhutanga kammaååhãna lifestyle, he has had many other similar experiences, for he always prefers living and practicing in remote wilderness areas. Since he lives deep in the forest, few people dare to go visit him, so his involvement with society is very limited.