阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第七章第五節:完結篇

        

           

              

第七章第五節:完結篇

        阿姜曼傳承下的修行比丘都喜歡住在山中和森林裡,阿姜曼會以身作則,鼓勵所有的弟子也這樣修行。自然,他也樂於讚嘆在曠野中生活的功德好處。他說他之所以喜歡這樣的地方,是因為相較於人群聚集處,住在偏僻的森林裡對「法」的知見與體悟更能生起,而人口擁擠、密集的地方並不利於解脫修行的寧靜與滿足,即使現今他的弟子所傳的「法」也都是在那種相同曠野環境中的死亡邊緣修行。

        在現實中,阿姜曼雖已去世多年;然而,有禪定能力去感應這種(超自然)現象的弟子,他的身影會經常自動出現在他們的禪定中,就彷彿他還在世一般。如果他們當中有人在修行上遇到了困難,阿姜曼的身影就會出現在他的禪定中,為他說明解決問題的有效方法。他會現身坐在那裡親自提供意見,就如同我先前提過的那樣,過去的阿羅漢會在各種情況下來指導他的情形一樣。當一個修行即將要到達一定程度的比丘,發現他自己無法解決的特殊難題時,阿姜曼的身影就會現身並針對那個問題給他意見,然後他會自行消失。之後,比丘會將阿姜曼給他的指導謹記在心,仔細咀嚼並盡力去運用它,也因此使他在修行上會有新的體悟。

        那些有自然傾向能感知外在現象的比丘,都有一定的通靈能力去接收這種修行上的建議。這就是所謂「經由出現在禪定中的禪相來聞法」,也就是說,老師會藉由禪相的方式來傳法,而弟子們在接收禪相時,就會瞭解其中的意義。這對那些從未有過這種經驗且聞所未聞的人來說,可能是相當的神秘。有些人可能會拒絕接受這種無法捉摸的超自然溝通,並視之為無稽之談;但事實上,它確實發生。天生有這種通靈感知能力的修行比丘會以同樣的方式去感應各種外在的現象,然而,這種天賦並不是每一個比丘都有。應該說,有這種能力的比丘是特例,也就是說他們在過去生就已培育過相應於這種超自然成就的功德素質(波羅蜜),例如:佛陀及阿羅漢會以禪相的方式現身在阿姜曼的禪定中,所以他能以這種方式去聽聞他們的教導。同樣地,有相同通靈感知能力的阿姜曼弟子也能感應到他或佛陀及阿羅漢的禪相,並因而聽聞到他們的教導。大致來說,類似於佛陀以禪相在忉利天對母親說法的情形,但佛陀的例子又是另一種非常特殊的情況,比起遠不如佛陀的人來說,佛陀的例子更容易讓人接受,就算兩者的原理相同卻很難在這個議題上再去進一步說明。

        對於這個議題我就不再多著墨了,就留給那些修禪定的人自行去探索這種知識 —— 緣自覺知 —— 也就是依靠他人的解釋,遠不如親自去求證,還比較實在。我完全確信這一點,不論是什麼樣的議題被拿出來討論,如果我們無法以自己的感官直接去感應這種事情,我們就無法完全信賴他人的解釋,雖然這樣的人可能是提供我們準確的訊息,但總會對某些特定的事項,我們還是會懷疑或不以為然,儘管事實上此人是以清淨心慈悲地對我們做了解釋。問題是:我們一般人都不夠清淨,所以往往對於聽聞到的會躊躇不決,不輕易接受別人的判斷,所以倒不如我們自己去體驗這些事情。只有這樣,我們才會接受它們的正確性,不需以爭辯來冒犯別人。誠如佛陀說的:我們都必須接受自己行為的業果,如果我們造下了業,就要承擔所造惡業帶來的痛苦折磨,也會享受善業的幸福樂果,這絕對正確,也非常簡單。

        阿姜曼的傳記是一篇精彩的故事。從他還是在家人開始,就展現了一位真正聖者的特質。他處事始終謹言慎行,大家都知道他從不會惹事生非或讓父母及親友蒙羞。出家後,他努力不懈地開發內心的堅定信念,也因此在他的餘生中,他成了比丘、沙彌、在家人的心靈避風港。他的一生從開始到結束,都是一個明亮、璀璨的典範 —— 對於現代的人來說,絕對應被視為一種優秀的楷模。他的禪修方法極其嚴格,他有最高的修行成就。無明根本沒有機會可以侵擾他的心,因為他都已按部就班逐一消滅(無明),直到一個都不剩,正因如此,他被親近的弟子公認並尊奉為現代的阿羅漢。

        他贈送給這個世間的功德一直都與正念和智慧之道相應 —— 從修行的初期直到最高的境界,他所傳的法從未偏離「法」的真道。對內,他非常善於判斷學生的個性與脾氣;對外,從單純的山地部落居民到城市裡的知識分子,他都能很有智慧地協助社會每一個階層的人。即便是他瀕臨死亡的時候,他都沒有放棄對他人由衷的慈悲。在修行上遇到問題的弟子來尋求他的協助,他會慈悲認真探討這個問題,直到所有的疑惑都已消除。所有的弟子都從他那裡得到了些許的臨別忠告,並永遠記在心中。能這麼幸運地遇到這樣一位至高無上的人並竭誠地奉他為真正的皈依,他們都相信已不枉此生。很多的資深弟子在「法」的原則中都已站穩了腳步,由於他們的修行成就,他們也都成為能傳法給學生們的阿姜,也因此確保了世尊至高無上的財富不會就此消失。還有更多的資淺弟子到今天都仍健在,在可預見的未來可成為佛教強而有力的基礎。雖然他們都從未公開宣稱過,但其中仍不乏有優秀「法」的資歷。這些比丘的每一個人都深受阿姜曼慈悲教導的神奇特質所啟發。

        身為一名老師,就幫助在家人開發精神潛能這一方面的能力來說,阿姜曼堪稱是第一把交椅,他使他們能抓住「法」的重點以及主導世界的一般因果法則。所謂的心靈開展是指開發出對世界福祉絕對必要的因素。除非人類的心靈價值先毀滅,世界才會跟著毀滅。當心靈價值墮落,那麼人類所作的每一件事都將會變成是在摧毀世界與毀滅正法。當人類的心在心靈價值方面受到了良好的修持,那麼他們的言行都會變成是促進世界繁榮的一種有效方法,於是「法」也必然會跟著興盛。會認真在心中開展解脫之道的人又豈會回過頭來做出毀滅性的行為、表現出無慚無愧?像這種行為對他們來說就是邪惡 —— 當然,除非他們只是記住並在心中背誦解脫之道,卻未曾在心中付諸行動努力開發心靈價值。

        阿姜曼一定會給見過他的人留下一個深刻的印象,那些真誠尊敬他的人都願意為他付出生命 —— 而且是無條件的。不管是善良的或邪惡的事,一旦入了心,那麼對此人就會造成非凡的影響,世上將沒有其他的力量可與之抗衡。如果不是這樣,人類就不會那麼有自信去按自己的意志行事 —— 不管它們是善良的還是邪惡的。正因為他們讓心接受了這樣的東西,他們才會這麼大膽行事。也因為有這種態度,那麼結果就是必然的。

        這一點,在尊敬阿姜曼的修行比丘之間特別的明顯。那些比丘將他所傳的法都放在心裡,他們對他的尊敬都變得堅定不移。他們對他的信心,力量已大到為他犧牲寶貴的生命也在所不惜。雖然他們可以毫無困難地付出生命,但他們對他堅強的信心卻不可能被捨棄。在他還在世以及過世的時候,就是他這種極富魅力的特質,吸引了人們並對他產生尊敬。

        就我自己來說,嗯……,我一直都是一個不堪造就的人,所以我的心情與大多數人很不一樣。雖然從阿姜曼過世到今天已過了二十多年,但對我而言他就像是昨天才過世一般。雖然他的身體在當時已死,但他的心似乎從未遠去。我一直都感到他與我同在,繼續在幫助我。

        作為他傳記的完結篇,我想在阿姜曼傳過的法裡面提出一個代表性的例子,先從他最後的一場病他發病時做出的演說開始,到他給予比丘最後的指導為結束 —— 至今都仍是讓我印象深刻的教導。

        在他最後的病開始發生時,他以警告的方式對他們說法,而病痛就在他身體的根源處展開了毀滅的過程,包括身體的所有功能都注定漸漸地退化、分解、最後完全無法運作。

        他開始說:「我觀察這副軀體有關生與滅的一切已將近有六十年的時間,而我在色蘊中從未發現有任何值得貪戀或其逝去會令我不捨之物。在我證悟到『法』的最高真諦那一刻起,對於這些事情我不再有疑惑。不管它們存在於身體之內或之外,所有的物質都是由相同的地大元素所組成,它們日漸崩壞分解,因而回復到原始的自然狀態。雖然我們會妄想這個身體是屬於我們的,實際上它只不過是地球上隨處可見的地大元素的聚合物。」

        「現在最令我擔心的是從全國各地來這裡的學生,我放心不下的是在我死前你們還是不能在心中獲得『法』的穩定基礎,這就是我為什麼一再警告你們不可自滿於無明,因為它們是無盡生死之源。千萬不要以為無明不重要或沒什麼害,在時間還夠的時候就不認真對付它們。一旦死亡擊潰了你們,到時就束手無策了,別說我沒警告你們!」

        「在這個星球上的每一個人與動物都沒有例外地在受苦,不要誤解所謂的苦因:它就是你們認為好像不那麼重要、也無害的無明。我已用盡一切的正念與觀智去觀照生、死與苦痛的緣起,造成眾生的心在生死領域中去經歷不同程度的苦與折磨的因緣只有一個,這個因緣就是各地的人都忽略的無明。事實上,它們就是始作俑者。心被無明所統治的你們,態度是如何?你們真的覺得不重要嗎?如果是這樣,那麼不管你們跟我一起修行多久,就會變得跟一鍋美食中的杓子一樣;如果你們真想品嚐鍋中食物的美味,就必須集中心力聆聽我傳給你們的法,並牢記在心。不要像那根杓子一樣,因為無法欣賞它(法)的價值便障礙我的教學。不然的話,你們的生與死就會變得沒有意義,比畜生還不如,畜生的肉與皮至少在死的時候還有點價值。漫不經心(放逸)的人一直都沒有存在的價值的 —— 不論是生與死。」

        「自從這場病開始,我就已不斷提醒你們我正一天又一天地步向死亡。一個已經滅苦的人在各方面都是怡然自足,所以他死的時候也是毫無牽掛,永無瑕疵,他已是無學,因為在他完美的滿足感中已沒有任何的遺漏;但在無明的影響力下死去的人,都是帶著不滿足的心投生它處。無明的力道愈強,他受的苦就愈劇烈。不要妄想在你們死的時候會有哪一個投生的世界是愉快與喜樂之處,這種想法都只是死前的渴望與不滿在擾亂心的一種呈現,這也意味著你們還不願意將無明視為在心中不斷製造麻煩的敵人,就是因為這種態度,你們又怎麼可能找得到幸福與安樂呢?如果你們不能將再生的渴望給徹底根除,那麼我也就不知道該怎麼幫你們了。」

        「還沒有發展出禪定的寧靜與專注的比丘,都不該期待能找到世上的平靜與安樂;相反的,他們只會遇到隱藏在紛亂的心中的挫敗,你們現在必須趕緊發展出對抗焦慮的有效方法來對治這種情況。藉由精進、勇敢、以及與無明不斷奮戰的堅持 —— 因為無明總是跟『法』對立 —— 你們不久就會發現心中生起真正平靜的祥和本質。因為持續不斷的堅持,結果就會很快出現;特別是跟你們在生死輪迴中流浪,從一世到另一世所耗費的無止盡時間相比。」

        「世尊的教法都是用來幫助那些相信『苦』能逐漸被超越的人,而且是一步一腳印,直到他們最後絕不會再回到這個重複生與死的世界。那些不想再回頭出生的人,必須從每一個角度來分析整個宇宙中的存在,從最粗糙到最精細,就一切存在的三個基本特質 —— 無常、苦、無我 —— 運用觀智從每一個角度徹底去觀照,直到一切的疑慮都已清除。一旦這種情況發生時,即使是最強且難以斷除的黏著也都會一眨眼便消失。克服那些沈重疑惑的唯一方法就是靠敏銳的智慧,因為與無明對峙時,再也沒有比正念與觀智的組合更有效、更新型的方法了。世尊與一切的阿羅漢都是運用正念與觀智去對抗每一種無明 —— 並沒有使用其他的方法。世尊自己也認同正念與觀智是打擊無明的最佳利器,但這並不是貶低其他心靈特質的價值,而是說它們扮演的是配角 —— 就好像在戰爭中支助與維持士兵戰鬥的食物,然而,士兵與他們的武器才是不可或缺的。所謂的士兵,我指的是在與無明交鋒時絕不退縮、也絕不再陷入生死泥淖讓煩惱再次嘲笑他們的人;而首選的武器則是正念與觀智,在每一種層級的戰鬥中都很有效,他們都應隨時保持武器不離身。」

        「在你們修行的過程中,如果遇到了停滯不前的時候,這時你們就必須勇敢、不畏懼生死地去仔細觀照並找出斷除生死輪迴的力量。當你們面對死亡時,我希望你們像個勇士一樣光榮地戰死,不要讓自己死於潰敗,否則你們必將繼續長期受苦。你們必須窮盡一切的努力繼續戰鬥,直到把生死輪迴變成一片荒蕪。試試看!生死輪迴真有可能會變成荒漠,那裡不可能有愚痴的人。如果你們在修行中付出了努力,又何須這麼擔心會退回到生死輪迴之中?你們現在又還沒死,但心中所生起的每一個念頭卻都為你們自己預留了『未來有』(來生)。怎麼會這樣呢?每當你們在修行中偷工減料,就自動會在不斷生死的輪迴中給自己預留了一席之地,如此一來,生與死便與你們的『心』緊密相隨,而你們的『心』也將一直與苦緊密相隨。」

        「我已盡了每一分力量教導你們解脫之道,很直接地揭露出你們都該知道的四聖諦以及四念住的一切。我只保留了與超自然靈異有關的特定事項,因為那些與解脫覺悟沒有直接的關連,就像我有時候會提起的那些特殊內在感應力,但我還是很樂於聽到有人有這方面感應力的經驗並盡我所能去協助他們。如果我死了,就很難再找到可以給你們這方面建議的人了。你們都必須記住『法』的實修完全不同於理論,那些尚未證得禪定和觀智,或者『道』、『果』、『涅槃』的人,是不可能傳授他人達到這些成就的正確方法。」

        阿姜曼闡釋諸法因緣生的重要性來總結他的遺教,就如同世尊在他般無餘涅槃時對僧團最後的開示,阿姜曼開始詮釋世尊的教誨:比丘們,諦聽!諸法都趨於變異,它們都必經:生(成)、住、異(壞)、滅(空)等歷程,所以你們都應力求精進。接著他開始解釋這一段的實質意義。

        「在佛陀的遺教中,『諸法』一詞與無上正法有關,『諸法』這個詞彙泛指一切因緣所成的法,但他當時希望表達的是超越一切的內心諸法,他要比丘們明白它們的重要性,因為它們就是四聖諦中的集諦 —— 苦因。它們就是擾亂『心』的因緣,使心陷入一種無法體驗寧靜與超然獨立的苦惱境界。如果我們審視諸法 —— 從我們最粗俗到最高尚的思惟 —— 直到我們完全領會它們真正的內涵,接著它們會歸於消滅。當諸法歸於消滅時,就不會有任何東西再來擾亂心。雖然就某種程度來說,思想與概念還是會生起,但它們也只是隨著五蘊的自然傾向在運作 —— 此時的五蘊已清淨無暇。它們不再隱藏任何形式的垢染、貪欲渴望、無明,如果比作睡覺,就等於是一種深度、無夢的睡眠。此時,這種心就是一種清淨解脫心,也就是說,是一種所有垢染都一點不剩的寂靜。世尊及一切阿羅漢的心都是這樣,所以他們是無學,此時的垢染都已在心中息滅,取而代之的是清淨生起,這就稱之為「有餘涅槃」。這就是阿羅漢果發生的時刻 —— 心的一種絕對清淨的本質,三界中沒有任何東西可與之相比。」

        說到這裡,阿姜曼就不再說下去,並回去休息。那一天之後,他就不再對任何比丘說法,這也就是為什麼我會稱之為他的遺教,以此來結束他的傳記,是非常貼切的註解。

        身為作者,我已盡最大的努力去寫出一本完整及精確的阿姜曼生平。我覺得這會是我一生中僅有一次的努力,我盡可能以很詳盡、很有條理的方式寫下整個故事,如果有任何不精確之處,我相信你們會原諒我的缺失。我已經花了相當長的時間去試著記錄從他開始到結束的一生,但就算還要花三年的時間繼續寫作,也不可能涵蓋全部。雖然我很想為那些無緣見過阿姜曼的讀者盡可能多寫一些,但我蒐集與抄寫阿姜曼生平事件的能力如今已山窮水盡,但不管怎樣,很多讀者現在還是可以讀到他的傳記,學習從他出家那一天開始到他過世是如何的自我修行與鍛鍊,至少他的生平還是能引起讀者的興趣,就算它決非阿姜曼與其非凡成就的完整版。

        在編輯這本傳記時,我非常努力只選擇與他生平及教學等方面的事,因為我覺得這些才會帶給一般讀者最大的利益。與此同時,我也省略了目的不明確的部分。蒐集到的相關資料中,約有百分之七十都收錄在本書裡,這些都是我覺得對讀者來說不會那麼深奧難懂、也不會造成理解上混淆的部分;剩下被排除的百分之三十是因為我覺得那些都是很難以讓讀者容易閱讀與理解的方式來呈現阿姜曼生平與教學的部分,我會擔心收錄它們無助於讀者,雖然常會覺得有些不捨,還是省略了;但就算這樣,對收錄在這本書中的某些部分我還是沒有那麼滿意,即便它們已忠實呈現了阿姜曼說過的一切原貌,然而,由於無法寫出更好的,我還是保留下來。

        阿姜曼的傳奇,是以許多顯著不凡的事蹟,講述了一個充滿細緻與優雅的真實美麗人生。在今天這個時代,真的很難找到跟他一樣的人。如果在每一個細節上去講述他的一生,那麼可能與那些佛陀時代已達到這種成就的阿羅漢沒有什麼明顯的不同。聆聽他從每一個角度去解釋佛法,以及他接觸過的各種數不清的超自然現象,我真的被他的成就所折服。當他說出令我們印象深刻的法,就好像他是世尊與有慧根的阿羅漢弟子的化身一樣。我們幾乎可以想像世尊與阿羅漢就坐在我們的面前,以清淨的法雨甘露洗滌我們的心。

        如果要我試著從每一個角度去描述阿姜曼的知見與證悟,我會對我自己在這方面的不足感到很慚愧 —— 慚愧於我只是徒有森林比丘的外表、實際上卻是一個有時侵犯佛法教義的冒牌貨。因為我的無知,很可能會不小心損及他極佳的名聲,而這些都是應該不計一切代價予以維護的東西。雖然在本書一開始的時候我就有聲明,我想以過去的大師在寫世尊及阿羅漢生平的那種方式來寫這本書,但我沒有他們那麼厲害,所以不禁讓我感到汗顏。不管怎樣,我已經盡力了。如果本書還是有不符你們期待的不完美之處,懇請原諒我的缺失。

        現在是這本傳記已接近尾聲的適當時刻,如果我寫的內容在事件本身或表達方式有任何不正確之處,我虔誠地向阿姜曼懺悔,因為他就像是一位慈愛的父親,讓我在「法」中產生了信心。願他無盡的慈愛與悲憫能帶給各地的人平安與幸福,願你們大家都有滿滿的信心與功德資糧去追隨他的足跡,去學習他教導你們最圓滿的法。願泰國能享有持續、不間斷的昌盛,免於敵人的迫害與各種自然災害。願泰國人民不會被不幸與困苦所惱,恆常體驗到與法相應的喜樂與知足。

        如果對於阿姜曼生平的表達方式有任何地方不當,不論是主題內容方面或在寫作風格上,我都在此誠摯致歉。希望各位能體諒我森林比丘的背景,因為很難將一名森林比丘的單純質樸性格轉化為傳神達意及老於世故。雖然我試著以合適、精確的方式來呈現阿姜曼各方面的生平,但我必須承認我的雜亂無章是無可救藥的。在寫這種書的時候,難免會出現一些可能會造成讀者混淆的矛盾 —— 這也是為什麼我會煞費苦心地強調我的缺失。

        阿姜曼的生平史記在我心中成功地收尾之前,我花了很長的時間仔細地考慮過這整件事。這促使我四處去記錄許多在過去不同的時期與他一起生活過的阿姜的回憶,我還添加了我記得他告訴我有關他生平的部分,這花了我很多年的時間去蒐集他傳記的各項資料,並將它們編排成值得信賴的整本書。然而儘管如此,我這種經常會讓人混淆的寫作方式,加上許多看起來好像失序的事件,都可能會讓讀者覺得很混亂。

        我願對這本書的一切負起全部的責任。我因自己的努力不夠而感到有些不好意思,所以我樂於接受你們的批評。同時,如果知道本書能帶給讀者一些微薄的利益,我也很樂於接受稱讚。願此功德全都迴向給讀者與協助完成此書的人,如果因為身為作者也能分得部分的功德,我也願與尊崇阿姜曼的每一位分享,願我們大家共享這份功德。

        最後,願佛、法、僧的無上威德 —— 加上阿姜曼的偉大功德以及我可能有的任何功德 —— 及世上一切的龍天護法善神都能看顧並護佑所有的讀者及Srisapada出版社的編輯,因為Srisapada出版社的同仁不厭煩的辛勤,讓本書得以開花結果,努力地將分期寄給他們的大量手稿印刷出版發行。他們從未抱怨過跟這個工程有關的困難與不便,或者我請求協助跟發行有關的任何事項。願他們都能免於疾病與不幸,在今生和來世都能享有富饒與安樂。願他們在法界中的渴仰都能得到最圓滿的實現。

西元一九七一年十月

 

                                                                  

Practicing monks in the lineage of Ãcariya Mun tend to prefer living in mountains and forests. Leading the way in this life-style himself, Ãcariya Mun encouraged all his disciples to do the same. By nature, he was fond of praising the virtues of life in the wilds. He said the reason he preferred such places was that knowledge and understanding of Dhamma was much more likely to arise while he lived in remote forest areas than while staying in congested ones. Crowded, congested places are hardly conducive to calm and contentment in the practice of Dhamma. Even the Dhamma that his disciples are teaching today was earned practicing at the threshold of death in that same wilderness environment.

In the physical sense, Ãcariya Mun died many years ago. Nevertheless, disciples of his who naturally possess the meditative ability to perceive such phenomena still regularly experience visual images of him arising spontaneously in their meditation, just as if he were still alive. Should one of them experience a problem in his practice, a visual image of Ãcariya Mun will appear to him while he is meditating, demonstrating effective ways to solve the problem. He appears to be sitting there in person giving advice, much in the same way that past Arahants came and instructed him on the various occasions I mentioned earlier. When a monk, whose practice has reached a certain level, finds a specific problem that he cannot solve himself, a visual image of Ãcariya Mun appears and advises him on that very question, and then disappears on its own. After that, the monk takes the teaching that Ãcariya Mun has given him, analyzes it carefully and uses it to the best of his ability. And thus he gains new insights in his meditation practice.

Those monks who are naturally inclined to perceive external phenomena possess the necessary psychic ability to receive such advice on their practice. This is known as ‘listening to Dhamma by way of nimittas appearing in meditation’. That is, the teacher presents his teaching in the form of a nimitta, while the disciple understands that teaching as he perceives the nimitta. This may seem rather mysterious to those who have never heard about it or experienced it for themselves. Some people may reject such psychic communication out of hand as being sheer nonsense; but in truth, it does occur. Practicing monks having a natural psychic inclination perceive various external phenomena in the same manner. However, this talent is not shared by all practicing monks. Rather, individuals possessing this capability are special cases, meaning they have previously developed the specific virtuous qualities suited to such psychic achievements. . For instance, the Buddha and the Arahants appeared in Ãcariya Mun’s meditation as nimittas, so he was able to hear their teachings in that way. Similarly, disciples of Ãcariya Mun, who possessed similar psychic tendencies, were able to perceive nimittas of him, or of the Buddhas and the Arahants, and so hear their teachings. In principle, it can be compared to the nimitta that the Lord Buddha used to teach his mother when she resided in the Tãvatiÿsa heavenly realm. But the Lord Buddha constitutes a very exceptional case, one which people consent to believe in far more readily than that of someone less exalted, even though both share the same causal basis – which makes it difficult to further elaborate on this matter.

Being reluctant to write any more on this subject, I leave it up to those practicing meditation to discover this knowledge for themselves – paccattaÿ – which is better than relying on someone else’s explanation, and far more certain as well. I am wholly convinced of this. No matter what is being discussed, without having the ability to perceive such things directly with our own senses, we will be reluctant to simply rely on another person’s description of them. Although that person may provide us with accurate information, there will always be certain aspects that we are bound to doubt or take exception to, notwithstanding the fact that the person is compassionately explaining the matter to us with a pure heart. The problem is: we ordinary people are not pure ourselves so we tend to balk at what we hear, hesitant to accept someone else’s judgment. So it is better that we experience these things for ourselves. Only then can we truly accept their validity. Then we needn’t annoy others with our remonstrations. As the Buddha said: All of us must accept the consequences of our own actions. We shoulder the burden of pain and suffering and enjoy the fruits of happiness that we have created for ourselves. This is absolutely right and beautifully simple too.

THE STORY OF ÃCARIYA MUN is a splendid story. Beginning from the time he was still in lay life, he demonstrated the characteristics of a true sage. Always conducting himself in a safe, steady manner, he was never known to have caused any disgrace or undue trouble to his parents or relatives. Having ordained as a monk, he strove relentlessly to develop firm principles within himself and so became a spiritual refuge to monks, novices, and lay people for the rest of his long life. He was a man whose life was a bright, shining example from beginning to end – a life of virtue that should definitely be considered an excellent model for people in this day and age. His meditation methods were extremely rigorous, his spiritual development of the highest caliber. The kilesas never had a chance to overrun his heart, for he systematically destroyed them until not a single one remained. So much so that he was acknowledged by his close disciples and those revering him to be a present-day Arahant.

The spiritual benefits that he bestowed upon the world were always in line with the principles of mindfulness and wisdom – from the initial stages of practice to the very highest level, his teaching never deviated from the true way of Dhamma. Internally, he was very astute at judging the character and temperament of his students. Externally, he was very clever in the way he gave assistance to people in every strata of society, from simple hill tribes people to urban intellectuals. Even when nearing death, he did not abandon his natural compassion for others. When a student with a problem in his practice went to seek assistance, he kindly made an effort to discuss the issue until all doubts had been allayed. All his disciples received some piece of farewell advice from him to carry in their hearts forever. Having been fortunate enough to meet such a supreme individual and having wholeheartedly accepted him as their one true refuge, they were confident that they had not lived their lives in vain. Many of his senior disciples were able to establish themselves firmly in the principles of Dhamma. By virtue of their own spiritual development, they also became ãcariyas passing on the teaching to their students, thus assuring that the Supreme Noble wealth of the Lord Buddha does not disappear. Many of his more junior disciples are still alive today serving as a strong base for the sãsana into the foreseeable future. Though they may not openly demonstrate it, many of them possess excellent Dhamma credentials. Every one of these monks was inspired by the magic quality of Ãcariya Mun’s compassionate teaching.

As a teacher, Ãcariya Mun was unrivaled in his ability to help develop the spiritual potential of members of the lay community, enabling them to grasp the significance of Dhamma and the basic moral principles of cause and effect, which are universal principles governing the world. Spiritual development means developing the one factor that is absolutely central to the well-being of the world. The world comes to ruin only if people’s spiritual values come to ruin first. When spiritual values deteriorate, then everything people do becomes just another means of destroying the world and subverting Dhamma. When people’s hearts are well trained in spiritual values, their speech and actions become an effective means of promoting the world’s prosperity. So inevitably Dhamma flourishes as well. How could people who have sincerely developed the way of Dhamma in their hearts possibly turn around and act ruinously, showing no compunction? Such behavior would be unnatural to them – unless of course they simply memorize the principles of Dhamma, reciting them by heart without ever making an effort to develop those spiritual values within their hearts.

Ãcariya Mun invariably made a deep impression on the people who met him. Those who sincerely respected him were willing to offer their lives to him – unconditionally. Whether it be matters of good or matters of evil, once such concerns are embraced and taken to heart they then exert a powerful influence on that person, one no other force in the world can match. Were this not the case, people would not have the self-assurance to act upon their intentions – be they good, or evil. It is precisely because they take such matters to heart that they can act boldly upon them. Having assumed this attitude, the outcome becomes inevitable.

This was especially evident among practicing monks who revered Ãcariya Mun. By taking the Dhamma that he taught to heart, those monks became uncompromising in their respect for him. The power of their belief in him was so strong that they would even dare to sacrifice their precious lives for him. But although they could have given their lives without difficulty, their strong faith in him was never sacrificed. It was this extraordinary magnetic quality he possessed that so attracted people and engendered such veneration in them, both during his lifetime and after he passed away.

As for myself, well, I have always been a rather hopeless individual, so my sentiments are very different from most people’s. Although over twenty years has elapsed since his death, to me it feels as if Ãcariya Mun passed away only yesterday. And though his body died at that time, his citta seems never to have passed away. I feel he is always here with me, helping me continually.

AS A CONCLUDING CHAPTER to his biography, I would like to present a representative sample of the teachings Ãcariya Mun gave, beginning with comments he made at the onset of his final illness and ending with his last instructions to the monks – teachings which have continued to make a profound impression on me ever since. The Dhamma he presented to the monks at the start of his illness took the form of a warning to them that the illness had begun a process of uprooting the very source of his physical existence, including all his bodily functions, which were destined to steadily deteriorate, break down, and finally fail altogether. He began:

“I have been investigating matters concerning the life and death of this body for nearly sixty years now and I have found nothing in the physical khandha that is worthy of the least attachment or that would cause me to regret its passing away. I ceased to have doubts about such things the moment I realized Dhamma’s Supreme Truth. Whether they exist inside of the body or outside of it, all material substances are composed of the same physical elements. They gradually break down and decompose with each passing day, and thus are always reverting back to their fundamental natural state. Although we imagine the body belonging to us, in truth it is just a conglomeration of physical elements that are commonly found everywhere on this earth.

“What most concerns me now is my students who have come here from all over the country. I worry that you will not have gained a firm basis of Dhamma in your hearts before I pass away. That is why I have always warned you against being complacent about the kilesas, which are the source of an endless procession of births and deaths. Never assume that the kilesas are insignificant, or somehow harmless, and thus fail to tackle them seriously while the time is still right. Once death overtakes you, it will be impossible to take any action against them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

“Every human being and animal on this planet suffers dukkha as a matter of course. Don’t misunderstand the cause of this suffering: it is caused by those very kilesas that you seem to think are so insignificant and harmless. I have examined the origins of birth, death and suffering with all the mindfulness and wisdom at my disposal. Only one cause induces the hearts of living beings to seek a place in the realm of birth and death experiencing various degrees of pain and suffering, and that cause is the kilesas that people everywhere overlook. In truth, they are the principal instigators. All of you who have kilesas ruling over your hearts, what is your attitude? Do you also consider them unimportant? If so, then no matter how long you live under my guidance, you will always be like the ladle in a pot of delicious stew. If you want to be able to taste the flavor of that stew, then you must listen with keen interest to the Dhamma that I teach you and fully take it to heart. Don’t act like ladles and obstruct my teaching by failing to appreciate its value. Otherwise, you will live and die having nothing of value to show for it. Which is worse than being animals, whose flesh and skins are at least of some value when they die. Heedless people are always worthless – alive or dead.

“Since this illness began, I have reminded you constantly that I am slowly dying, day by day. When a person transcends dukkha he is perfectly satisfied in every respect, and so he dies free of all concerns. Forever unblemished, he has nothing further to attain, for nothing is missing from his sense of perfect satisfaction. But someone who dies while under the influence of the kilesas, which are never satisfied, will find the same sense of dissatisfaction clinging to his heart wherever he is reborn. The stronger the influence of the kilesas, the more intense the dukkha he will suffer. Don’t imagine this or that realm of existence will be a pleasant, joyful place to be reborn in when you die. Such thoughts are merely an indication that craving and dissatisfaction are disturbing your hearts before you’ve even died. Which means you are still unwilling to view the kilesas as enemies that constantly stir up trouble in your hearts. With that attitude, where will you ever find happiness and contentment? If you cannot rid yourselves of the desire to be reborn in the future, then I am at a loss as to how I can help you.

“Monks who have yet to develop the calm and concentration of samãdhi within themselves should not expect to find peace and contentment in the world; instead, they will encounter only the frustration that is hidden inside their agitated hearts. You must hurry to remedy this situation now by developing an effective means to counter such agitation. By being diligent, courageous, and persevering in your struggle with the kilesas – which are always antagonistic to Dhamma – you will soon discover the peaceful nature of genuine tranquillity arising in your hearts. With persistence, results will come quickly; especially when compared with the endless amount of time you have spent wandering through saÿsãra from one type of existence to another.

“The teachings of the Lord Buddha are all designed for the purpose of helping those who believe what he taught to gradually transcend dukkha, step by step, until they finally reach the stage where they will never again return to this world of repeated birth and death. Those who desire not to return to birth must analyze every aspect of existence in the entire universe, from the grossest to the most subtle, in terms of the three basic characteristics of all existence – anicca, dukkha, and anattã – and use wisdom to thoroughly investigate each aspect until all doubts have been eliminated. Once that happens, even strong attachments that are difficult to break will evaporate and disappear in the blink of an eye. All that’s needed to cut through those oppressive doubts is wisdom that is sharp and incisive. In all the three worlds of existence there is no more effective, up-to-date means for confronting the kilesas than the combination of mindfulness and wisdom. The Lord Buddha and all the Arahants employed mindfulness and wisdom to counteract every kind of kilesa – no other means was used. The Lord Buddha himself endorsed the unrivaled supremacy of mindfulness and wisdom as weapons for combating the kilesas. This is not meant to belittle the value of other spiritual qualities, but they perform an auxiliary role – like provisions of food used to support and maintain the fighting strength of soldiers in battle. It is the soldiers and their weapons, however, that are indispensable to the war effort. By soldiers, I mean those who are absolutely determined never to retreat in the face of the kilesas and thus slide back into the mire of birth and death where these defilements can ridicule them once more. The premier weapons of choice are mindfulness and wisdom. Being effective at every level of combat, they should always remain close at hand.

“The points in the course of your practice where the citta gets stuck, are the points you must examine fearlessly without concern that the intensity of your efforts to dismantle the cycle of rebirth will somehow prove fatal. When you face the moment of death, I want you to die victorious. Don’t allow yourself to die defeated or else you will continue to suffer for a long time to come. You must make every effort to fight on until saÿsãra becomes a completely deserted place. Try it! Is it really possible that saÿsãra will become deserted, due to lack of deluded people taking birth there, simply because you put forth effort in your practice? Why are you so worried about returning to occupy a place in saÿsãra? You haven’t even died, yet every thought arising in your mind is directed toward reserving a future existence for yourself. Why is that? Whenever you reduce your efforts in practice, you are automatically working hard to reserve a place in the continuing cycle of birth and death. Consequently, birth and death are always bound up with your heart and your heart is always bound up with dukkha.

“I have made every effort to teach you the way of Dhamma, candidly revealing everything that you should know about the Four Noble Truths and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. I have withheld only certain aspects of Dhamma dealing with specific kinds of psychic perception that are not directly connected with enlightenment, such as those special insights that I have alluded to from time to time. I am always glad to listen to anyone who experiences such perceptions and assist them in any way I can. Once I have died, it will be very difficult to find someone who can advise you on these matters. You must keep in mind that the practice of Dhamma differs considerably from the theory of Dhamma. Those who have not actually attained samãdhi and paññã, or magga, phala, and Nibbãna, cannot possibly teach others the correct way to reach these attainments.”

Ãcariya Mun concluded his pacchima ovãda by emphasizing the importance of sankhãradhamma, just as the Lord Buddha had done in his final instructions to the community of monks prior to his Parinibbãna. Ãcariya Mun began by paraphrasing the Buddha’s instructions: Monks, heed my words. All sankhãra dhammas are subject to change. They arise, evolve, decay, and then pass away, so you should always remain diligent in your practice. He then explained the essential meaning of this passage.

“The word ‘sankhãra’ in the Lord Buddha’s pacchima ovãda refers to the highest Dhamma. He gathered together all conditioned things in the word ‘sankhãra’, but he wished at that time to emphasize the internal sankhãras above all others. 11 He wanted the monks to see that these sankhãras are important because they are samudaya – the cause of dukkha. They are the factors that disturb the citta, causing it to languish in a state of delusion where it never experiences a tranquil, independent existence. If we investigate such sankhãras – being all of our thoughts and concepts from the most vulgar to the most refined – until we fully comprehend their true nature, they will then come to an end. When sankhãras come to an end, nothing remains to disturb the citta. Although thoughts and ideas do still arise to some extent, they merely follow the natural inclination of the khandhas – khandhas that are now pure and unadulterated. They no longer conceal any form of kilesa, taõhã, or avijjã. Comparing it to sleep, it is equivalent to a deep, dreamless sleep. In this case, the citta is referred to a ‘výpasama citta’; that is, a tranquil citta completely devoid of all remnants of the kilesas. The citta of the Lord Buddha and those of all the Arahants were of just such a nature, so they harbored no aspirations to attain anything further. The moment the kilesas are extinguished within the citta, a state of purity arises in their place. This is called sa-upãdisesa-nibbãna. That is the precise moment when the attainment of Arahant occurs – an absolutely amazing pure essence of mind for which no comparison can be found in all the three worlds of existence.”

Upon reaching this point, Ãcariya Mun stopped speaking and retired to rest. From that day onward he never gave another discourse to the monks, which is why I have called it his pacchima ovãda. It is a very fitting note on which to conclude his biography.

AS THE AUTHOR, I have done my utmost to write a thorough and accurate account of Ãcariya Mun’s life. I feel it to be a once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. I have written down the whole story as meticulously and as eloquently as I possibly could. Should there be any inaccuracies in what I’ve written, I trust you will forgive my shortcomings. I have spent a considerable amount of time attempting to record the story of his life from beginning to end. But even if I were to continue writing for another three years, I could never encompass it all. Although I would like to write as much as possible for the sake of my readers who never had a chance to meet him, my ability to recollect and transcribe the events comprising Ãcariya Mun’s life has now been exhausted. Still, many people may now read his biography, learning how he practiced and trained himself from the day of his ordination to the day he passed away. At least the story of his life is available to the interested reader, even though it is by no means a complete picture of Ãcariya Mun and his extraordinary achievements.

In compiling this biography, I have tried very hard to select only those aspects of his life and teaching that I felt would be of greatest benefit to the average reader. At the same time, I have omitted any aspect that I felt would serve no definite purpose. Of the relevant material which was collected to write this book, approximately seventy percent has been included in the text you’ve just read. That much I felt was neither too deep nor too confusing for the reader’s understanding. The remaining thirty percent was excluded because I felt those aspects of Ãcariya Mun’s life and teaching would be difficult to present in a way that’s easy to read and understand. I was concerned they wouldn’t benefit the reader enough to justify their inclusion. Thus they were omitted, though often with some reluctance. Even then, I’m not wholly comfortable with some of the things I have included in the book, though they do faithfully represent the truth of what Ãcariya Mun said. I managed to resist the urge to exclude them, however; yet, I could not bring myself to write about certain other matters, and for this reason they were left out.

Were I to attempt to describe each and every facet of Ãcariya Mun’s knowledge and understanding, I would feel ashamed of my own inadequacies in this regard – ashamed of being a forest monk in appearance only, a phony who has somehow encroached upon the sãsana. Through my own ignorance I might inadvertently damage his excellent reputation, which should be preserved at all costs. Although I stated at the beginning of the book that I intended to write in the style of the Venerable Ãcariyas of antiquity, who transcribed the lives of the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples, I can’t help feeling embarrassed that I am not so gifted as they were. Nevertheless, I have done the best I could. Should this somewhat imperfect biography fall short of your expectations, please be so kind as to forgive my shortcomings.

Were I to attempt to describe each and every facet of Ãcariya Mun’s knowledge and understanding, I would feel ashamed of my own inadequacies in this regard – ashamed of being a forest monk in appearance only, a phony who has somehow encroached upon the sãsana. Through my own ignorance I might inadvertently damage his excellent reputation, which should be preserved at all costs. Although I stated at the beginning of the book that I intended to write in the style of the Venerable Ãcariyas of antiquity, who transcribed the lives of the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples, I can’t help feeling embarrassed that I am not so gifted as they were. Nevertheless, I have done the best I could. Should this somewhat imperfect biography fall short of your expectations, please be so kind as to forgive my shortcomings.

It is appropriate now to bring this biography to a close. If the account I have written contains any inaccuracies or misrepresentations, I respectfully ask forgiveness of Ãcariya Mun who, like a loving father, gave birth to my faith in Dhamma. May the power of his all-encompassing love and compassion always bring peace and happiness to people everywhere. May you all have sufficient faith and resources of merit to follow in his footsteps, practicing the Dhamma that he taught to your ultimate satisfaction. May Thailand enjoy continual, uninterrupted prosperity and remain free of enemies and natural disasters. And may the Thai people remain untroubled by misfortune and hardship, forever experiencing happiness and contentment in harmony with the Buddhasãsana.

Should my presentation of Ãcariya Mun’s life be deemed inappropriate in any way, either in terms of the subject matter or the style in which it was written, I do sincerely apologize. I hope you will make allowances for my forest background, for it’s difficult to transform the natural character of a forest monk into something eloquent and sophisticated. Though I have attempted to present every aspect of Ãcariya Mun’s life in a suitable, accurate fashion, I must confess that my own disorderly tendencies are hopelessly incurable. In writing a book of this nature, there will inevitably be some inconsistencies that may confuse the reader – which is why I have been at pains to stress my shortcomings.

Before the life history of Ãcariya Mun could come to a successful conclusion in my own mind, I had to carefully contemplate the whole matter for a long time. This prompted me to go around recording the recollections of many ãcariyas who have lived with him at various times in the past. To this I added my own memories of what he told me about his life. It took me many years to gather all the strands of his story and weave them into a creditable whole. Be that as it may, my often confusing style of writing, plus the fact that so many events appear out of sequence, will probably confound the reader.

I accept full responsibility for everything in this biography. As I feel somewhat guilty about my own incompetence in this endeavor, I shall be glad to entertain your critical comments. At the same time, I shall be pleased to receive any complimentary remarks with the satisfaction of knowing that this book has been of some small benefit to those who read it. May all the merit gained from this work be fully credited to the readers and to those who helped to make the book possible. Should I deserve a portion by virtue of being the author, I ask to share it with every one of you who venerate the memory of Ãcariya Mun. May we all share this merit equally.

Finally, may the Supreme Merit of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha – plus the great virtue of Ãcariya Mun and whatever virtue I may possess – may everything sacred in the world watch over and protect all my readers as well as the editors of Srisapada Publishing. The folks at Srisapada worked tirelessly in their efforts to bring this biography to fruition, struggling to print a manuscript that was sent to them in numerous installments. Never once did they complain about the difficulties and inconveniences associated with this project or with any of the other issues on which I requested their assistance. May they all be free of sickness and misfortune, enjoying only prosperity and contentment now and in the future. And may their aspirations in the sphere of Dhamma be fulfilled to their ultimate satisfaction.

October 1971