阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第一章第五節:沙里卡石窟

         

                                

         

第一章第五節:沙里卡石窟

    阿姜曼在沙里卡石窟花了一年的時間修行,他留在那裡的整個期間都充滿了最奇特稀有的經驗,是他一生中值得回憶的一段經歷。就我記憶所及,他先到離石窟最近的Ban Gluay村,這樣可方便他托缽。但他對當地的環境並不熟,所以他請村民帶他去沙里卡石窟。但村民很直接警告他,那是一處被強大的超自然力量所掌控的詭異石窟,並堅稱除非是有清淨的戒德,不然比丘是不可能在那裡生活的。凡是嘗試在那裡生活的比丘很快就會罹患各種疾病 —— 甚至有很多人還來不及送下來治療就死亡了。他們告訴他這個石窟是一個神通廣大、法力高強的鬼神的地盤,它的脾氣很暴躁凶猛,這個巨大的鬼神守護著這個山洞,不讓其他入侵者靠近 —— 就算是比丘也不例外。在山洞裡會有很多不可預料的事情等著入侵者,許多人最後的下場就是死亡。這個鬼神特別喜歡修理那些吹噓有趕鬼符咒的比丘,他們的下場不是生病,就是猝死,無一倖免。村民擔心阿姜曼也會遭遇不測,所以力勸他千萬不要去。

        阿姜曼對村民口中的這個巨大且神通廣大的惡靈感到好奇,村民還告訴他通常就在第一個晚上入侵者就會看到一些靈異現象,比如在半夢半醒間會伴隨著惡夢:一個巨大的黑影,壓在頭上,在夢中威脅要奪走對方的性命,並大聲咆哮說它一直都是石窟的守護者,有無上的法力,不准任何人逾越雷池。於是每一個入侵者都會立刻落荒而逃,因為它不接受法力比它還要弱的人,除非此人有無暇的品德,對一切蒼生有慈悲心。只有這種高尚的人才會被允許住在石窟裡,這個鬼神甚至會反過來守護他並向他頂禮,但它無法容忍心胸狹窄、自私自利、品行不端的入侵者。

        大部分的比丘發現在石窟裡生活是一種非常不舒服的經驗,都不願意久待;他們也怕死,所以趕緊席捲而逃。一般來說,沒有人能在那裡久住 —— 頂多就是一、兩天,很快就會離開。就在他們爬出來時,還會顫抖並幾近失常,他們都說裡面有某種凶猛的邪靈。因為受到驚嚇而得到教訓,他們都逃走了,再也不回來。還有更慘的,有人進去後就再也沒出來。因此,村民很擔心阿姜曼,不希望他成為下一個受害者。

        阿姜曼問他們所謂有些比丘一去不返是什麼意思?為什麼他們沒再回來?村民說他們都死了,所以他們不可能再回來。他們跟他說了不久前有四個外表看起來很有修行的比丘死在石窟裡的故事。就在他們進入石窟前,其中一個還跟村民保證他一點都不怕,因為他有很靈驗的符咒,能保護他不受鬼及其他非人的侵害。他確信沒有非人能威脅他,村民一再警告他很危險,試著打消他的念頭;但他重申他不怕,堅持要進石窟。村民無可奈何只好告訴他怎麼去。他一到了那裡便染上各種怪病,包括發高燒,劇烈的頭痛,以及可怕的胃痛。就在半睡半醒之間,他夢到自己被奪走了性命。

        過了幾年,許多不同的比丘也嘗試想要住在那裡,但他們的經歷都一樣;不是死,就是很快逃走了。最近有四個比丘在相當短的時間內死亡,村民不確定他們的死都一定是惡靈造成的;可能是有其他的原因,但他們都一直提到洞內有一個法力高強的鬼怪。當地的人都不敢去挑戰它的法力,因為他們很敬畏它並想像自己性命垂危或變成一具屍體被抬著出來。阿姜曼為了想瞭解真相,所以想確認他們說的都是真的。他們向他保證這樣的事情經常發生,連用想的都會讓人覺得恐怖。因此,他們警告想要去石窟的比丘或在家人最好先準備法器或護身符。姑不論石窟裡是否真有鬼怪;但,就是會有人喜歡宣稱他們隨身配有聖物(法器、護身符)而且一定會去那裡。村民從未親眼目睹石窟裡的鬼怪;也沒看過那些去探險的人遇到了什麼東西,因為他們不是死亡,就是死裡逃生。因此,為了阿姜曼的安全起見,他們求他不要去。

        阿姜曼很慈悲聆聽村民的陳述,但最後他仍然很好奇想一探那個石窟。不管是生是死,他都想要考驗自己,所以他決定去一探究竟。他聽到的這個恐怖故事根本沒有嚇到他,事實上,他把這次的探險看成是喚起正念的一種手段,一種獲得禪修的機緣。他鼓起勇氣,不管發生什麼,他都會去面對,就像是一個熱衷發掘真相的人。於是,他以委婉的方式告訴村民,雖然這些故事很嚇人,他還是要在石窟裡住上一段時間。他向他們保證,當麻煩一出現,他就會趕緊下來。他請他們帶他去石窟,他們只好照辦。

        一連幾天,阿姜曼的身體狀況很正常,他的心很安詳平靜。石窟四周的環境隱蔽,很安靜,只有森林裡的野生動物在覓食的時候發出的自然聲響。他很滿意地度過了前幾晚;但接下來的幾晚他開始胃痛,雖然這種疼痛不是什麼新毛病,但這次的狀況卻逐漸惡化,終於變得很嚴重,有時他的糞便中還帶血。沒多久,他的胃不能適當地消化食物。這使他想起村民說最近才死掉的四個比丘,如果情況一直沒有改善,搞不好他會是第五個。

        某一天的早晨,當在家人來探望他時,他請他們去森林裡找他先前發現有療效的特定植物藥草。他們蒐集各種不同的根莖及木頭的精華部分;他將它們煮成口服劑,或磨成粉狀,滲在水中溶解服下。他嘗試各種不同植物的組合,但都無法改善他的症狀。隨著日子一天又天的過去,病情每下愈況。他的身體變得相當的孱弱;但他的心智並沒有受到太大的影響,但相較於以往已明顯變得虛弱許多。

        有一天他坐著喝藥並自我觀照,突然一個念頭跑進他的腦海中強化了他的決意:這個藥我已經喝了這麼多天,如果它真的是有效的胃藥,我早該看到療效了。但我的情況卻逐日惡化,為什麼它沒有預期的效果?可能它完全沒效,相反的它可能加劇了病情,所以造成持續的惡化。如果真是這樣,那我幹嘛還繼續服用?當他完全意識到他的狀況時,從那一天開始他只用「法的療效」來治療他的胃疾。如果能活得下來,那當然最好;如果他會死,那就算了。如果傳統的治療方法沒有效,那麼他決定停止服用所有的藥,直到他被「法的療效」給治癒為止,又或者死在洞裡算了。因為心中堅定的決心,他提醒自己:「我是一個佛教的比丘,我已經修了很長的一段時間,已經很清楚走向『道』、『果』、『涅槃』的正道。到現在我的信心應該已經很穩固,我為什麼要因為這麼一點小疼痛就變得這麼軟弱?這不過是一點疼痛而已,畢竟,又還沒到無法忍受的地步。我現在因為突如其來的挫折就變得如此不堪一擊;將來,當我的生命走到了存亡危急 —— 當身體的四大開始崩解、死亡降臨的時刻 —— 那種直撲而來的痛楚會無情地粉碎身與心,那時我又該去哪裡尋找超越世界並戰勝死亡的力量?」

        由於這個莊嚴神聖的決意,他停止服用所有的藥物,並開始認真專注在禪修上,以此當作治療身心病痛的唯一方法。因為他不擔心自己的生命,所以他任由身體去自然運作,而將注意力轉向觀照心 —— 絕不會死亡的基本「覺知本質」,尚未死亡時的忠實伴侶。他用盡一切長期以來所培育的正念、智慧、信心、精進之力展開對心的觀照,他不再關心身體的嚴重狀況;對於死亡的擔憂也不再出現。他以正念及觀智直接去觀照他所經歷的疼痛感,讓它們分解成身體的四大元素,然後逐一徹底去分析它們。他審查觀照色蘊rūpa以及其中的疼痛感;他去分析能假定身體的一處或他處有疼痛的記憶功能;他分析能想像出身體處於疼痛中的想蘊saññā。以上這些關鍵處,都是他持續念「身」、「痛」、「心」時以正念與觀智鎖定的對象,就這樣他從黃昏到半夜堅持不懈去探索它們的關聯性。經過了這樣的歷程,因為他完全洞悉了它們彼此之間是如何地相互影響,於是成功地擺脫了胃痛所引起的折磨。就在他領悟的那一刻,他的凝神收攝進入了絕對的寧靜(定境)—— 看到了心意無量無邊地茁壯擴展,身體的病痛徹底地消失了。疾病、疼痛以及心所專注的對象業處也都同時消失了。

        在完全的定境中只短暫地停留了一下,他的心稍稍地退出,退到了近行定(欲界定)的階段,這個「光明清晰」的心緊接著離開了身體的侷限,立刻遇到了一個約有三十尺高的巨大黑影站在他的面前。這個高聳的黑影拿著一根約有十二尺長、像人腿一般粗的鐵棒。祂走向阿姜曼,語帶恐嚇說要從他的右側將他猛烈擊倒在地上。祂警告阿姜曼如果還想活命的話就趕快滾。這根架在祂肩上的鋼鐵棒真的很大,只要一擊就足以把一頭公象給打入地底。

        阿姜曼集中心念跟這個巨大的鬼神溝通,問祂為什麼要這麼殘忍地去把人打死。他提醒這個大鬼神他住在這裡的時候並沒有傷害過任何的生靈;既然他沒有惹麻煩,就不該受到懲罰。這個巨大的鬼神回應他說長久以來祂是守護這整座山唯一的神靈,絕不允許任何人侵犯祂的地盤,祂是迫不得已對入侵者採取行動。

        阿姜曼喝斥道:「我並沒有要侵犯任何人的地盤,我來這裡是從事神聖的修行,我要侵犯的是在我心中作怪的無明地盤。用任何的方式去傷害聖潔的比丘絕對是一種卑鄙的行為。我是世尊的弟子,一個能將無盡的慈愛普及於一切蒼生的聖潔的人。你吹噓的神通能壓過『法』及業力Kamma的力量 —— 那支配一切眾生的不變定律?」

        這個非人回答:「不行,尊者。」

        阿姜曼接著說:「世尊有方法與勇氣能摧毀像你這種吹噓神通與權力的陰險垢染;因此,世尊已消除了傷害或殺害一切眾生的惡念。既然你自以為聰明,你可曾想過採取行動去對抗心中的無明?」

        這個非人坦承:「從來沒有,尊者。」

        「既然這樣,這種傲慢專橫的神通權力只會使你變成一個殘忍又兇狠的厲鬼,最後帶給你毀滅的惡果。你不具有能驅除內在邪惡的能力與神通,所以你會用神通去傷害他人,沒有意識到你在玩火自焚。事實上,你在自掘墳墓。但這好像還不夠糟哦,『法』的功德對世界的福祉很重要,而你竟然想要攻擊能代表法的人。當你堅持從事這種空前的惡行時,怎麼還有臉自誇功德?」

        「我是一個有德的沙門,我帶著最崇高聖潔的目的來此 —— 為了自利利他而修行。就算這樣,你還是要恐嚇把我打到地上,卻從沒想過這麼做所招來的惡果。難道你不瞭解這會讓你下墮地獄,為你所播下的種子去承受悲慘的報應?我真的為你感到遺憾,而不是我自己 —— 你沈迷在玩火自焚的神通權力,你那法力無邊的神通真能抵擋你將犯下的惡行所招來的惡果嗎?你說你統治整座山,但你的神通真的比『法』還要厲害並能逃脫報應嗎?如果你的神通真的比『法』還要優越,那麼你就動手吧 —— 儘管打死我!我不怕死,因為就算我今天不死,有一天我還是會死。世上的一切有情都注定會死,就算是你也不例外,但你卻被驕慢自大給蒙蔽了。你不可能超越死亡,又或者是控制一切蒼生的業力因緣果報法則。」

        阿姜曼的話說完了。突然間,這個心生悔意的精靈拋下了肩上的鐵棒,自動將黝黑巨大的外型變成一名看似虔誠又謙和有禮的佛教居士。祂帶著最誠摯的敬意走到阿姜曼的面前請求他的原諒,並致上深深的悔意。以下是祂的大意:「我初次看到您的時候,很訝異,也感到有些驚恐。因為我立刻就注意到您的四周有一種奇異又驚人的光輝四射並包圍著您,而且這個光輝我從來沒有看過。您的出現對我造成相當大的衝擊,令我感到很虛弱及驚愕。我什麼事都不能做 —— 因為散射的光華讓我深深著迷。雖然這樣,我仍不明白那是什麼東西,因為我從來沒有經歷過像這樣的事情。」

        「先前我威脅要取您的性命,其實都不是出自真心。應該說,我之所以會這樣都是因為我在非人的世界裡神通廣大、所向披靡,以及沒有道德感的人類所造成的。這種神通可以在任何時候控制任何人,而且令對方無力抗拒。」

        「就是因為這種『自我感覺良好』的驕慢讓我遇到了您,當我倍感威脅時,我丟不起這個臉。甚至當我恐嚇您的時候,都還會覺得緊張及遲疑,不太敢採取行動,其實就是習慣掌控他人的一種武裝罷了。請慈悲原諒我魯莽及令人厭惡的行為,我不想再承受惡報了。就像現在,我已經受夠了,我再也受不了了。」

        阿姜曼感到很好奇:「你是一個神通與威勢都很廣大的非人,你沒有肉體,所以你不用經歷人類的飢餓與辛苦工作等困頓。你不像在地球上的人類一樣需要辛苦工作謀生,你為什麼還要抱怨很苦?如果連非人的存在都這麼不快樂,那還有什麼眾生是快樂的?」

        這個精靈回答:「就表面來看,也許沒錯,有飄逸精緻的非人身軀確實是比人類要快樂得多了。但若以精靈的立場嚴格來說,精靈的空靈飄逸身軀在非人的世界裡仍要承受某種程度的不適。」

        阿姜曼與精靈之間的對話對我來說實在過於深奧複雜與難解,所以我無法詳細記錄每一個細節,對於缺漏之處,我懇請各位讀者見諒。

        隨著對話的結束,這個神祕的非人,對祂聽聞到的「法」展現了崇高的敬意,祂請阿姜曼為祂作證,並宣示願終生皈依佛、皈依法、皈依僧。同時,祂成為阿姜曼的護法神,願將石窟供養給阿姜曼,請他無限期地住在石窟裡。如果阿姜曼同意,他可以在此度過餘生。這個非人很珍惜能守護阿姜曼的機緣 —— 祂不允許任何人或事打擾阿姜曼的修行。事實上,祂並不是什麼妖魔鬼怪,祂的原形也不是什麼巨大的黑影鬼怪 —— 那是祂變出來嚇人的。祂是當地地居天鬼神的首領,祂廣大的部屬、兵將、隨從等都散居在泰國的那空那育府及其近郊許多的山區。

        阿姜曼的心在午夜時分凝神收攝入了定,當他退至一般正常的意識狀態,以禪定(近行定、欲界定)的方式與他遇到的地居天神bhummā deva一直溝通到凌晨四點,一直困擾他的胃痛毛病就在黃昏時分入座後便完全的消失了。法的療效,都是透過禪定的力量發揮作用,也是唯一有效的治療方法 —— 一種阿姜曼自己也感到很驚訝的經驗。於是他放棄睡眠,打鐵趁熱,繼續禪修,直到天亮。經過了一整夜的努力,他反而不感到疲累,他的身體相較之前感到更加精力充沛。

        他整晚經歷了許多不可思議的經驗:他見證了「法」能降伏凶神惡煞的力量,將驕慢狂妄轉化為虔敬的信仰;他的心安住於寧靜的安止定中好幾個小時,歷經難以言喻的喜樂禪悅;長期的慢性病已經痊癒,消化功能也恢復了正常;他對於自己的心獲得了堅定的禪修基礎感到很滿意 —— 一種他能信任的基礎,從而消除了原先揮之不去的疑惑;他體驗到了從未體驗過的許多奇特非凡的內明,不但消除了粗重的垢染,也增長了特殊的證悟,這些都形成了他個性中內在的部分。

        接下來的幾個月,他的禪修進展得很順利,一直伴隨著難以言喻的平靜與安寧。由於恢復了健康,身體的不適也不再困擾他了。有時,在後夜時分(凌晨兩點到六點),他會接見來自各地的地居天神,諸神都很恭敬圍繞著阿姜曼並聽他說法,因為先前跟他發生口角爭執的這個神祕非人,如今通知其他的諸神,並邀請祂們組團來參訪他。如果,當晚沒有其他的訪客,他便會沈浸在禪悅中。

        某一天的下午,他離開了禪座,走到離洞口不遠處的曠野中盤腿而坐,思惟著世尊慈悲傳授給人類的法。他覺得法是如此的深奧,他明白依法奉行以及徹底證悟箇中的真諦,都將是那麼的困難。他生起了一種滿足感,想到自己能夠學習「法」以及洞悉內明和實相是多麼幸運的事 —— 這是一種不可思議的感覺。即使他尚未達到終極的證悟,一種長期以來渴望實現的夢想,他所體驗的心靈滿足已經是難得的回饋了。如今他確信,除非是死亡來干擾,不然他的期望有一天必將實現。由於咀嚼著這份滿足感,讓他思惟修行解脫之道以及他所期待成就的道果,都正一步一步地進展,直到他達到了苦的徹底止息,清除了仍盤踞在心中的一切苦跡。

        接下來,有一大群猴子爬到洞口前來找食物。猴王最先到,其它的猴子跟在後面好一段距離。牠抵達洞口前,阿姜曼睜開雙眼坐著不動,靜靜地看著猴王靠近。猴王對於他的出現感到很懷疑,因為牠對猴群的安全感到緊張又焦慮,於是在樹枝間來回跑跳,小心翼翼盯著他。阿姜曼瞭解牠的焦慮,也很同情牠,便對牠發送慈愛:「我是來這裡修行的,不是來這裡傷害任何人或動物;所以不用怕我。繼續找你們的食物吧,如果你們喜歡的話,可以天天來這裡。」

        才一眨眼的功夫,猴王又爬回樹枝上,在阿姜曼能看得到牠的距離。他很慈悲、也很有興趣想看接下來會發生什麼事。當猴王與其他的眷屬們聯繫,牠很快地喊說:「Goke!(喂!)不要跑那麼快!那裡有東西!可能有危險!」其他的猴群立即開始問道:「Goke goke?在哪裡?在哪裡?」同一時間,猴王將頭轉向阿姜曼的方向,像是在說:「就坐在那裡 —— 你們看到了嗎?」或諸如此類,但動物間的語言,對絕大多數人來說都是既神秘又深奧難解;但對阿姜曼來講,他卻能瞭解牠們說的每一句話。

        一旦猴王對猴群示意阿姜曼的出現,牠警告牠們慢慢小心前進,直到能確定前方到底是什麼東西。然後牠跑在前面,小心翼翼靠近阿姜曼禪坐的洞窟前。因為擔心後方猴群的安危,牠很緊張,但也很好奇想搞清楚那到底是什麼。牠偷偷溜進去靠近阿姜曼,就像猴子的本性,在樹枝間跳上跳下,就像大家知道的那樣,因為牠們相當焦躁不安。猴王一直盯著阿姜曼,直到牠確定他不會造成危害。接著,牠又會爬回去對同伴們說:「Goke,我們走吧。Goke,沒有危險了!」

        那一段時間,阿姜曼坐得非常地端直,不斷猜測猴王內心的感受來判斷牠會有什麼反應。牠跑回去對同伴說話的方式很滑稽;然而,當知道牠們在說什麼的時候,阿姜曼不禁對牠們心生悲憫。因為對我們這些不懂得牠們語言的人類,牠們彼此來回傳送的喊叫不過是森林中動物的叫聲罷了,有點像我們每天所聽到的鳥叫聲。但當猴王跑回來,對牠的猴群發出叫聲,阿姜曼瞭解那是什麼意思,就像是人類之間對話那樣的清楚。當猴王一開始盯著他看的時候,牠趕緊跑回到猴群,警告牠的同伴要小心並仔細聽牠要說的一切。雖然牠是以「gokegoke」的聲音做為溝通的信號,但對其他猴群的實質意義是指:「喂!等一下!」、「不要衝那麼快!」、「前方有危險!」。當猴群聽到警告後,便想知道有什麼危險。這時就會有猴子跳出來問道:「Goke,那是什麼?」接著也會有其他的猴子跳出來問道:「Goke,發生什麼事了?」猴王回答:「Goke gake,有東西在前方,可能有危險。」其他猴子會問:「Goke,在哪裡?」猴王回道:「Goke,就在那裡!」

        這一大群猴子間所發出的鼓噪聲,就是他們彼此間的問與答,聲音在林梢間穿梭迴響。首先,一隻猴子先發出聲響,接著其它跟著回應,直到大大小小的猴子發狂似來回跳躍,想搞清楚狀況。因為牠們害怕可能面對的危險,牠們在一片混亂中彼此興奮地狂叫 —— 就像我們人類面臨危急時的反應一般。猴王有義務說話並搞清楚狀況,牠警告牠們:「Goke gake,大家先在這裡等著,我先去前方查探情況。」在下達臨行前的指示後,牠趕回來再察看一遍,然後爬到阿姜曼修行的洞口前,小心翼翼盯著阿姜曼,並在樹枝間亂竄。牠抱著強烈的興趣察看他,直到牠確定阿姜曼不是敵人才放心。接著,牠又趕回去對猴群們說:「Goke gake,我們可以走了,沒有危險,不用怕!」於是,猴群向前爬行,一起爬到阿姜曼禪坐的地方,牠們以一種依然不信任的態度凝視著阿姜曼。當猴群的好奇心被激起時,就會在樹林間跳來跳去,發出「goke gake」的聲音,好像是在說「那是什麼?」、「他在幹嘛?」。這些聲音不斷在林間穿梭迴響是急於想知道究竟發生了什麼事。

        這段敘述已經重覆了,但因為這是阿姜曼說故事時敘述的方式,他想要對聽眾強調有趣的重點,並清楚指出它們的重要性。他說野生猴子一旦察覺有危險時就會感到焦慮,因為長久以來,人類總是用極殘忍的手段殺害牠們無數的同類,所以牠們對人類是極度的不信任。

        動物之間意念的交流使不同的聲音都注入了與其相應的意義 —— 一如人類的詞彙能表達出人類心中的意思。所以,對於猴子來講,自然很容易理解牠們平時叫聲背後的涵義,猶如人類理解自己所使用的語言一樣。每一種從動物的意念傳送出來的聲音都能精準表達出特定的意義與目的,這些聲音都在傳達清楚的訊息,而聽到的動物也都能瞭解其中的意義。所以,當猴子發出像「goke」的叫聲時,人類雖然完全不懂是什麼意思,但牠們卻懂其中的意義,因為那是猴子間溝通的語言。就像不同國家的人都有他們自己特定的母語一樣,每一種動物也都有牠們特殊的溝通方式。只要我們能接受每一個族群都有屬於自己的語言及風俗習慣,那麼不論動物或人類是否能瞭解彼此之間的語言就不會是一個問題了。

        猴群最後克服了恐懼,自由自在於石窟附近出沒找尋食物。牠們不再防備,也不再擔憂安危。就從那一天起,牠們把那裡當作自己的家,對阿姜曼也不再感興趣了,而他也不對牠們投以特別的關注,就這樣他們每天生活在一起。

        阿姜曼說在他住的地方出來找食物的動物,都會很安心,沒有恐懼。一般來說,如果有沙門samaṇa在的地方,住在附近的各種動物都會覺得很舒適平安,因為動物在情緒方面跟人類很像,只是牠們缺少跟人類一樣的優勢與智能,牠們的智商水準只限於為了生存,日復一日地找食物及尋覓躲藏的處所。

        某一天的傍晚,阿姜曼因一種深深的傷感,以致淚水奪眶而出。他修持身念處,他的凝神收攝進入一種呈現出全然空寂的寧靜境界。就在那一刻,他感覺整個宇宙彷彿都消失了,獨留空寂 —— 心的空寂。他從這份深度的定境中出定,思惟著佛陀為了淨化眾生內心的垢染而開出的藥方 —— 也就是由佛陀的睿智所生的知見。他越是思惟這個議題,就越能感受到佛陀驚人的睿智 —— 也為自己的無知感到更深的悲哀。他瞭解到適當的訓練及指導是至關重要,就像吃東西和舒緩我們的一般生理功能也是要教的。我們經由訓練及指導使它們適當地運作。事實上每天的日常活動如洗澡、穿衣等,都須經由教育而學習 —— 不然的話,人們一定沒有辦法正確做好每一件事,甚至弄得更糟,最終犯下嚴重的錯誤,也就是可能招致道德上嚴重的後果。正如同我們有必要去學習如何照顧自己的身體,所以我們也應該學習如何導正我們的心。如果我們的心不接受適當的訓練,那麼我們就注定會犯下嚴重的錯,不論我們的年紀、性別、社會地位為何。

        這世上的一般人就像小孩一樣都需要大人的教導及持續的看顧才能長大成人,而我們大多數人都只是表面的成長,如頭銜、名聲、社會地位及自尊……;但對於如何能帶給自己與他人平安與喜樂的正確方法的知識及智慧卻並未隨著年紀而增長,也沒興趣開發這方面的智慧。結果,不管我們身在何處,都一直會經歷各種困難。而以上這些就是那一個晚上讓阿姜曼悲從中來的想法。

        以沙里卡石窟為起點通往山頂的一條步道,在山頂上座落了一處正念禪修中心,裡面住著一位老比丘。這個老比丘出家前結過婚,有過家庭,到很老的時候才出家。某一天的傍晚,阿姜曼想起這名老比丘,他很想知道他平時究竟在做什麼,於是,他由意念生出一道心念波去察看。那個時候,這名老比丘的心完全被過去的家庭與家人的妄想眷念繫縛住。再一次,阿姜曼在當晚由意念發送出心念波去查探,發現情形還是一樣。就在黎明拂曉前,他再度集中心念,卻只發現老比丘心裡仍是一味忙於為他的孩子及孫子們規劃人生。每一次他從意念射出心念波去察看時,都發現老比丘汲汲營於現世世俗的活動,以及未來數不清的生活。

        第二天一早他拖完缽,在回程路上,他停下來去拜訪老比丘並開門見山直接切入重點對他說:「計劃得怎樣啊,老同修?是不是要蓋一棟新房並跟你的妻子再結一次婚?你昨晚徹夜未眠,想必是已安排好一切,所以傍晚就可以輕鬆了,不用再為孩子及孫子們這麼辛苦地計劃。如果我猜的沒錯,你昨晚睡不好是因為一直都在煩惱這些俗事,我說得對不對?」

        老比丘覺得好丟臉,難為情地笑問:「有關昨晚的一切您都已經知道了?您真是厲害啊!阿姜曼。」

        阿姜曼也回以微笑,並說:「我相信你自己比我更清楚,所以,又何必問我呢?我想你是因為很認真在想這些事,所以腦子不停地在轉,以致於整晚沒能好好地睡上一覺。甚至到現在你還是不知慚愧地放逸下去,無法以正念停止胡思亂想,你還要付諸實踐,不是嗎?」

        當阿姜曼說完後,他注意到老比丘的面容慘白,像是受到了極度的驚嚇或困窘而即將昏厥,在一陣踉蹌中開始胡言亂語,發出如鬼魅般瀕臨瘋狂的聲音。阿姜曼看到他這種情況,直覺繼續講下去將恐生意外。於是,他隨便找了一個藉口改變話題,跟老比丘閒扯了一會兒,好讓他冷靜下來,然後便回到石窟。

        三天後,一位護持老比丘的在家居士來到了石窟,阿姜曼便問起老比丘的情況。在家居士說他在前天一早便已倉促離去,不知去向。在家居士問他為什麼走得這麼匆忙?他回說:「我怎麼能還待在這裡?前天清晨阿姜曼來我這裡犀利地訓斥了我一番,我差一點就在他面前昏倒。如果他又像那天一樣繼續來訓斥我,我一定會昏死並當場暴斃。照那天的情況來看,還好他不再說了,且改變話題,我才能活到現在。經過那次的事件,你教我如何繼續留在這?今天無論如何我一定要走!」

        在家人問他:「阿姜曼很嚴厲地責罵了你嗎?不然為什麼幾乎讓你死掉,也讓你現在不想待在這裡?」

        「他完全沒有罵我,但犀利的問題卻比嚴厲的斥責來得更可怕。」

        「所以他問了你一些問題,是不是?你可不可以跟我說他問了些什麼?也許我可以從中得到一些啟示。」

        「拜託你就別問了!我羞愧得要死。如果讓人家知道,我真要鑽到大地裡。也沒什麼特別的啦,我可以透露一些:他知道我心裡在想什麼,這比斥責要來得糟。對人類來說,心中有好的念頭及壞的念頭本來就是很正常的事,又有誰能控制呢?但當我發現阿姜曼能窺知我心中所有私密的想法 —— 真是太過份了!我知道我已經不能待在這裡了。離開這裡並死在他處都比留在這裡好,我腦中那些難以捉摸的念頭也不會再打擾他了。我絕不能留下來讓自己再受辱。昨晚我一夜都睡不著 —— 就是因為我沒辦法不想這件事情。」

        但在家人有不一樣的看法,他挽留老比丘:「阿姜曼怎麼會被你的念頭所打擾?這又不是他的錯!有錯的人應該是那種被自己的行為所打擾的人才對,只要知錯能改,就善莫大焉!那樣的話,我相信阿姜曼一定會稱讚這樣的人。所以,請你再待一陣子吧!這樣,以後那些妄念又生起時,你就可以從阿姜曼的警告中受惠了。因為你可以發展出解決這方面難題的必要正念,而這總比逃避要好得多吧?你覺得如何?」

        「我不能留下來。就算讓我進步的正念增長,我也不敢跟阿姜曼相比:就好比一隻小貓對一頭大象那樣的渺小。只要一想到阿姜曼能完全窺探我的一切,就足以讓我膽顫心驚,又怎麼可能維持任何程度的正念?如果我繼續留在這裡,一定穩死無疑,請相信我。」

        在家居士告訴阿姜曼他對老比丘感到很遺憾,但他也不知該說什麼才能勸他不要走:「他的臉真的很蒼白,很明顯是真的嚇到了,所以我只好讓他離開。他走前,我曾問他打算去哪裡?他說他也不知道,但如果他沒死,將來有一天我們可能會再相見 —— 然後他就走了。我的兒子替他送行,他回來的時候我問他,但他說他也不知道,因為老比丘沒說他要去哪裡。我真的很替老比丘感到難過,像他年紀這麼大的人,真不應該獨自離開。」

        看到自己的善意造成這樣意外的結果,他的慈悲竟造成如此不幸的後果,阿姜曼實在感到難過。事實上,看到老比丘受到驚嚇的那一天,他就有疑慮會有這種事情發生。就從那天起,他不再發送心念波去窺探他人,因為他擔心會有同樣的事情再度發生。最後,他的懷疑成真了。他告訴在家人他是用一種跟老朋友聊天的方式與老比丘交談,比如:上一分鐘在開玩笑,下一分鐘正經。他真的沒有料到會有這麼大的麻煩,讓老比丘會覺得被迫捨棄他的精舍。

        這起事件給阿姜曼很大的教訓,深深影響到他與別人之間的互動。如果在開口前不仔細考慮情況,他擔心會舊事重演。就從那一天起,他不再直接指出他人心中在想什麼來勸告對方,只會以迂迴間接的方式暗示某些類型的偏差思維來幫助他人認清自己想法的本質,而且會考量到別人的感受。

        凡夫的心就像小孩初學走路一樣很不穩定,而大人的工作就只需在一旁小心看顧避免意外發生就好,不需要一直過度地保護。這個道理也可以適用在心的修持:他們應該靠自己的經驗去學習。有時候他們的思惟是正確的,有時候是錯的;有時候是好的,有時候是邪惡的 —— 這只是自然的現象。去期待他們每次都完美與正確根本是不切實際。

        阿姜曼住在沙里卡石窟的那段時間裡獲益良多,他獲得了許多啟發性的領悟,不只加深了禪修內明的領悟,也包括在禪境中遇到各種外在稀有奇特現象的理解。他變得更熱衷於禪修,以致忘卻了時間:當歲月從身旁流逝,他幾乎渾然不知。直觀的領悟接連在心中生起 —— 猶如雨季的水和緩地湧出。某一天的下午,天氣晴朗,他走進森林裡欣賞樹林及高山,邊走邊禪修,沈浸在四周的自然美景。當夜幕低垂時,他又慢慢地走回石窟。

        石窟附近的環境充滿著各類的野生動物,也充滿著野生植物及果實,這些都是豐富的天然資源。動物包括葉猴、飛鼠、長臂猿等,牠們靠野生果實維生,並自由自在穿梭在林間。牠們只在意自己的事情,對阿姜曼的存在根本就不感到懼怕。當他看到牠們出來找食物,就會特別注意牠們好玩的動作。他感受到在這些動物之間流露著一種對同伴的真摯情感,使他想起同伴們的生、老、病、死。就這一點來說,動物與人類是平等的。因為縱使動物與人類在道德與善行的程度上並不一樣,但動物在某些程度上還是具有一定良善的特質。事實上,善德的累積程度也可能會在這兩種族群之間呈現出顯著的消長變化。甚至,有很多的動物可能比某些人類累積了更多的功德,只是不幸生在畜生道裡,必須暫時忍受這些惡業果報。而人類也面臨相同的困境:雖然人類一向被視為比動物更高級,但一個因時運不濟而陷入窮困的人也必須忍受苦難,直到厄運消失 —— 又或者說惡業的果報耗盡為止。也只有這樣,情況才會開始會好轉,業力與果報就是以這樣不確定的方式呈現。就是基於這樣明確的理由,阿姜曼總是堅持不應看不起地位或身分比我們還低的人或其他惡道的眾生。他總是一再教導我們,善惡業都是由眾生所造,而眾生又是其善惡業的真正繼承者。

        每一天的下午,阿姜曼都會在石窟前附近清掃。然後接近傍晚時分,他會開始專注禪修,在經行和禪坐之間輪流交替。他的三摩地samādhi愈來愈進步,心中滿溢著平靜。同時,就在他以三種共通的特質在心中分析身體各個不同的部位時,他逐漸增長了智慧:這三種共通的特質也就是「無常變異(anicca)」、「苦(dukkha)」、「無我(anattā)」。就是以這樣的方式,他的信心與日俱增。

                

Ãcariya Mun spent three years living and practicing in Sarika Cave. His entire stay there was filled with the most unusual experiences, making it a memorable episode in his life. To the best of my recollection, he first arrived at Ban Gluay village, the village nearest the cave and thus close enough to be convenient for almsround. Unfamiliar with the area, he asked the villagers to take him to Sarika Cave. Straightaway they warned him that it was a very special cave possessing numerous supernatural powers, insisting that no monk could possibly live there unless his virtue was pure. Other monks who had tried to live there quickly fell ill with a variety of painful symptoms many had even died before they could be brought down for treatment. They told him that the cave was the domain of a spirit of immense size possessing many magical powers. It also had a very foul temper. This giant spirit guarded the cave from all intruders monks being no exception. Unexpected occurrences awaited all intruders into the cave, many of whom ended up dead. The spirit delighted in testing any monk who came bragging about his mastery of magic spells for warding off spirits. Invariably, the monk would suddenly fall ill and die a premature death. Fearing that Ãcariya Mun might die likewise, the villagers pleaded with him not to go.

Curious about the talk of a huge, malevolent spirit with supernatural powers, Ãcariya Mun asked and was told that a trespasser usually saw some sign of those powers on the very first night. An ominous dream often accompanied fitful sleep: An enormous black spirit, towering overhead, threatened to drag the dreamer to his death, shouting that it had long been the caves guardian exercising absolute authority over the whole area, and would allow no one to trespass. So any trespasser was immediately chased away, for it accepted no authority greater than its own, except that of a person of impeccable virtue and a loving, compassionate heart, who extended these noble qualities to all living beings.

A person of such nobility was allowed to live in the cave. The spirit would even protect him and pay him homage, but it did not tolerate narrow-minded, selfish, ill-behaved intruders.

Finding life in the cave a very uncomfortable experience, most monks refused to remain for long; and fearing death, they made a hurried departure. Generally, no one managed a long stay only one or two days at most, and they were quickly on their way. Trembling and almost out of their minds with fear as they climbed back down, they blurted out something about a fierce, demonic spirit. Scared and chastened, they fled, never to return. Worse still, some who went up to the cave never came down again. Thus, the villagers worried about the fate that awaited Ãcariya Mun, not wanting him to become the next victim.

Ãcariya Mun asked what they meant by saying that some monks went up there never to return. Why hadnt they come down again? He was told that, having died there, they couldnt possibly come back down. They recounted a story of four seemingly competent monks who had died in the cave not long before. Prior to entering the cave, one of them had assured the villagers that he was impervious to fear, for he knew a potent spell that protected him against ghosts and other spirits, plus many other potent spells as well. He was convinced no spirit could threaten him. Warning him repeatedly about the dangers, the villagers tried to discourage his intentions, but he reiterated that he had no fear and insisted on being taken to the cave. The villagers were left with no other choice, so they showed him the way. Once there, he came down with a variety of afflictions, including high fevers, pounding headaches, and terrible stomach pains. Sleeping fitfully, he dreamt that he was being taken away to his death.

Over the years, many different monks had tried to live there, but their experiences were strikingly similar. Some died, others quickly fled. The four most recent monks died within a relatively short period. The villagers couldnt guarantee that their deaths were caused by a malevolent spirit; perhaps there was another reason. But they had always noticed a powerful presence connected with the cave. Local people werent so bold as to challenge its power, for they were wary of it and envisioned themselves being carried back down in critical condition or as corpses. Ãcariya Mun questioned them further to satisfy himself that they were telling the truth. They assured him that such things happened so often it frightened them to think about it. For this reason, they warned any monk or lay person who came to search the cave for magical objects or sacred amulets. Whether the cave actually contained such things is another matter; but, the fact that some people liked to claim their existence meant that those with a penchant for sacred objects inevitably went there to search for them. The villagers themselves had never seen such objects in the cave; nor had they seen those seeking them encounter anything but death, or narrow escapes from death. Thus, fearing for Ãcariya Muns safety, they begged him not to go.

Ãcariya Mun gave the villagers a sympathetic hearing, but in the end he was still curious to see the cave. Live or die, he wanted to put himself to the test, and so discover the truth of those stories. The scary tales he heard didnt frighten him in the least. In truth, he saw this adventure as a means to arouse mindfulness, an opportunity to acquire many new ideas for contemplation. He possessed the courage to face whatever was to happen, as befits someone genuinely interested in seeking the truth. So in his own unassuming way, he informed the villagers that, although the stories were very frightening, he still would like to spend some time in the cave. Assuring them that he would hurry back down at the first sign of trouble, he asked to be escorted to the cave, which they obligingly did.

FOR SEVERAL DAYS, Ãcariya Muns physical condition remained normal, his heart calm and serene. The environment around the cave was secluded and very quiet, disturbed only by the natural sounds of wild animals foraging for food in the forest. He passed the first few nights contentedly; but on subsequent nights he began to suffer stomach pains. Although such pains were nothing new, this time the condition grew steadily worse, eventually becoming so severe that he sometimes passed blood in his stool. Before long his stomach refused to digest food properly it simply passed straight through. This made him reflect on what the villagers had said about four monks dying there recently. If his condition didnt improve, perhaps he would be the fifth.

When lay people came to see him at the cave one morning, he sent them to look in the forest for certain medicinal plants that he had previously found beneficial. They gathered various roots and wood essences which he boiled into a potion and drank, or else ground into powder, drinking it dissolved in water. He tried several different combinations of herbs, but none relieved his symptoms. They worsened with each passing day. His body was extremely weak; and though his mental resolve was not greatly affected, it was clearly weaker than normal.

As he sat drinking the medicine one day, a thought arose which, prompting a self-critical examination, reinforced his resolve: Ive been taking this medicine now for many days. If it really is an effective stomach cure, then I should see some positive results by now. But every day my condition worsens. Why isnt this medicine having the desired effect? Perhaps its not helping at all. Instead, it may be aggravating the symptoms and so causing the steady deterioration. If so, why continue taking it? Once he became fully aware of his predicament, he made an emphatic decision. From that day on he would treat his stomach disorder using only the therapeutic properties of Dhamma. If he lived, so much the better; if he died, then so be it. Conventional types of treatment proving ineffective, he determined to stop taking all medicines until he was cured by Dhammas therapeutic powers, or else died there in the cave. With this firm resolution in mind, he reminded himself:

Im a Buddhist monk. Ive certainly practiced meditation long enough to recognize the correct path leading to magga, phala, and Nibbãna. By now my practice should be firmly anchored in this conviction. So why am I so weak and cowardly when faced with a small degree of pain? Its only a slight pain, after all, yet I cant seem to come to grips with it. Becoming weak all of a sudden, I now feel defeated. Later, when life reaches a critical juncture at the moment of death as the body begins to break up and disintegrate the onslaught of pain will then crush down mercilessly on body and mind. Where shall I find the strength to fight it so I can transcend this world and avoid being outdone in deaths struggle?

With this solemn determination, he stopped taking all medicines and began earnestly focusing on meditation as the sole remedy for all spiritual and bodily ailments. Discarding concern for his life, he let his body follow its own natural course, turning his attention to probing the citta that essential knowing nature which never dies, yet has death as its constant companion. He set to work examining the citta, using the full powers of mindfulness, wisdom, faith and perseverance that he had been developing within himself for so long. The seriousness of his physical condition ceased to interest him; concerns about death no longer arose. He directed mindfulness and wisdom to investigate the painful feelings he experienced, making them separate the body into its constituent elements, and then thoroughly analyzing each one. He examined the physical components of the body and the feelings of pain within it. He analyzed the function of memory which presumes that one or another part of the body is in pain.  And he analyzed the thought processes which conceive the body as being in pain.  All such vital aspects were targeted in the investigation conducted by mindfulness and wisdom as they continued to probe into the body, the pain, and the citta, relentlessly exploring their connections from dusk until midnight. Through this process, he succeeded in fully disengaging the body from the severe pain caused by his stomach disorder until he understood, with absolute clarity, just how they are interrelated. At that moment of realization, his citta converged into complete calm a moment that saw his spiritual resolve immeasurably strengthened, and his bodily illness totally vanish. The illness, the pain, the minds preoccupations all disappeared simultaneously.

Remaining only briefly in complete stillness, his citta withdrew slightly, reaching the level of upacãra samãdhi. This luminous citta then left the confines of his body and immediately encountered an enormous, black man standing fully thirty feet tall. The towering figure carried a huge metal club twelve feet long and thick as a mans leg. Walking up to Ãcariya Mun, he announced in a menacing voice that he was about to pound him right into the ground. He warned Ãcariya Mun to flee that very instant if he wished to remain alive. The metal club resting on his shoulder was so huge that a single blow from it would have been enough to pound a large bull elephant into the earth.

Ãcariya Mun focused his citta on the giant spirit, asking why he wanted to club to death someone who had done nothing to warrant such brutal treatment. He reminded the giant that he had harmed no one while living there; that he had caused no trouble deserving of such deadly punishment. The giant replied by saying that he had long been the sole authority guarding that mountain and would never allow anyone to usurp that authority. He felt compelled to take decisive action against all intruders.

Ãcariya Muns response was reproachful: I did not come here to usurp anyones authority. I came to carry on the noble work of spiritual development, for I aim to usurp the authority that the kilesas exercise over my heart. Harming a virtuous monk in any way is an absolutely despicable act. I am a disciple of the Lord Buddha, that supremely pure individual whose all-powerful loving compassion encompasses the whole of the sentient universe. Does the great authority you boast give you power to override the authority of Dhamma, and of kamma those immutable laws that govern the existence of all living beings?

The creature replied: No, sir.

Ãcariya Mun then said: The Lord Buddha possessed the skill and the courage to destroy those insidious mental defilements that like boasting of power and authority. Thus, he banished from his heart all thoughts of beating or killing other people. You think youre so smart, have you ever given any thought to taking decisive action against the kilesas in your heart?

The creature admitted: Not yet, sir.

In that case, such overbearing authority will just make you a cruel, savage individual, resulting in very grave consequences for you. You dont possess the authority needed to rid yourself of evil, so you use the fires of magic against others, unaware that youre actually burning yourself. You are creating very grave kamma indeed. As though that werent bad enough, you want to attack and kill someone who represents the virtues of Dhamma which are central to the worlds well-being. How can you ever hope to lay claim to laudable virtues, when you insist on engaging in evil behavior of such unparalleled brutality?

I am a man of virtue. I have come here with the purest intentions to practice Dhamma for my own spiritual benefit, and the benefit of others. Despite that, you threaten to pound me into the ground, giving no thought to the consequences of such an evil deed. Dont you realize that it will drag you into hell where you will reap the terrible misery you have sown? Rather than feel concerned for myself, I feel very sorry for you youve become so obsessed with your own authority that its now burning you alive. Can your potent powers withstand the effect of the grave act you are about to commit? You say you exercise sovereign authority over this mountain, but can your magic powers override Dhamma and the laws of kamma? If your powers really are superior to Dhamma, then go ahead pound me to death! Im not afraid to die. Even if I dont die today, my death remains inevitable. For the world is a place where all who are born must die even you, blinded as you are by your own self-importance. You are not above death, or the laws of kamma that govern all living beings.

The mysterious being stood listening, rigid as a statue, the deadly metal club resting on his shoulder as Ãcariya Mun admonished him by means of samãdhi meditation. He stood so completely still that if he were a human being we would say that he was so frightened and ashamed he could scarcely breath. But this was a special nonhuman being, so he didnt in fact breathe. Yet his whole manner clearly showed him to be so ashamed and fearful of Ãcariya Mun that he could barely restrain his emotions, which he still managed to do quite admirably.

Ãcariya Mun had finished speaking. Suddenly, the contrite spirit flung the metal club down from his shoulder and spontaneously transformed his appearance from a huge, black creature into a devout Buddhist gentleman with a mild, courteous demeanor. Approaching Ãcariya Mun with heartfelt respect, the gentleman then asked his forgiveness, expressing deep remorse. Here is the gist of what he said: I was surprised, and felt somewhat frightened, the first moment I saw you. I immediately noticed a strange and amazing radiance extending out all around you, a brilliance unlike anything I had ever seen. It created such a profound impact that in your presence I felt weak and numb. I couldnt do anything so captivated was I by that radiant glow. Still, I didnt know what it was, for I had never before experienced anything like it.

My threats to kill you a moment ago didnt come from my hearts true feelings. Rather, they stemmed from a long-held belief that I possess unrivaled authority over nonhuman beings, as well as humans with evil intent who lack moral principles. Such authority can be imposed on anyone, at any time; and that person will be powerless to resist.

This arrogant sense of self-importance led me to confront you. Feeling vulnerable, I didnt want to lose face. Even as I threatened you, I felt nervous and hesitant, unable to act on my threat. It was merely the stance of someone accustomed to wielding power over others. Please be compassionate enough to forgive my rude, distasteful behavior today. I dont wish to suffer the consequences of evil anymore. As it is now, I suffer enough. Any more, and I wont have the strength to bear it.

Ãcariya Mun was curious about this: You are a prominent individual with enormous power and prestige. You have an nonphysical body, so you neednt experience the human hardships of hunger and fatigue. You arent burdened having to make a living as people here on earth are, so why do you complain about suffering? If a celestial existence isnt happiness, then which type of existence is?

The spirit replied: On a superficial level, perhaps, celestial beings with their ethereal bodies do actually experience more happiness than humans, whose bodies are much grosser. But speaking strictly in spiritual terms, a celestial beings ethereal body still suffers a degree of discomfort proportionate to the refined nature of that state of existence.

This discussion between spirit and monk was far too profound and complex for me to capture its every detail here, so I hope the reader will forgive me for this shortcoming.

As a result of the discussion, the mysterious celestial being, showing great respect for the Dhamma he heard, affirmed his devotion to the three refuges: Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. He let it be known that he considered Ãcariya Mun to be one of his refuges as well, asking Ãcariya Mun to bear witness to his faith. At the same time, he offered Ãcariya Mun his full protection, inviting him to remain in the cave indefinitely. Had his wish been granted, Ãcariya Mun would have spent the rest of his life there. This being cherished the opportunity to take care of him he wanted to ensure that nothing whatsoever disturbed Ãcariya Muns meditation. In truth, he was not some mysterious being with a huge, black body that was merely a guise. He was the chief leader of all the terrestrial devas living in that region.24 His large entourage lived in an area that centered in the mountains of Nakhon Nayok and extended over many of the surrounding provinces as well.

Ãcariya Muns citta had converged into calm at midnight, after which he met the terrestrial deva, communicating by means of samãdhi meditation until four a.m., when his citta withdrew to normal consciousness. The stomach disorder that was troubling him so much when he sat down at dusk had completely disappeared by that time. The therapeutic power of Dhamma, administered by means of meditation, was the only remedy he needed to effect a decisive cure an experience that Ãcariya Mun found incredibly amazing. Forgoing sleep, he continued striving in his practice until dawn. Instead of feeling tired after a night of exertion, his body was more energetic than ever.

He had passed a night full of many amazing experiences: He witnessed Dhammas powerful ability to tame an unruly spirit, transforming arrogance into faith; his citta remained in a serenely calm state for many hours, savoring that wonderful sense of happiness; a chronic illness was completely cured, his digestion returning to normal; he was satisfied that his mind had acquired a solid spiritual basis one he could trust, thus dispelling many of his lingering doubts; he realized many unusual insights he had never before attained, both those that removed defilements and those that enhanced the special understanding which formed an intrinsic part of his character.

ONE AFTERNOON HE LEFT his meditation seat to sit in the open air not far from the cave, reflecting on the Dhamma that the Lord Buddha had so compassionately given to mankind. He felt this Dhamma to be so very profound that he understood how difficult it was going to be to practice it to perfection, and to fully realize its essential truths. He felt a sense of satisfaction, thinking how fortunate he was to be able to practice Dhamma and realize its many insights and truths an amazing feeling. Even though he had yet to reach the ultimate realization, a dream hed long desired to fulfill, still the spiritual contentment he experienced was very rewarding. He was sure now that, unless death intervened, his hopes would surely be realized one day. Savoring his contentment, he reflected on the path he took to practice Dhamma and the results he hoped to achieve, proceeding step by step, until he reached a complete cessation of dukkha, eliminating all traces of discontent still existing within his heart.

ONE AFTERNOON HE LEFT his meditation seat to sit in the open air not far from the cave, reflecting on the Dhamma that the Lord Buddha had so compassionately given to mankind. He felt this Dhamma to be so very profound that he understood how difficult it was going to be to practice it to perfection, and to fully realize its essential truths. He felt a sense of satisfaction, thinking how fortunate he was to be able to practice Dhamma and realize its many insights and truths an amazing feeling. Even though he had yet to reach the ultimate realization, a dream hed long desired to fulfill, still the spiritual contentment he experienced was very rewarding. He was sure now that, unless death intervened, his hopes would surely be realized one day. Savoring his contentment, he reflected on the path he took to practice Dhamma and the results he hoped to achieve, proceeding step by step, until he reached a complete cessation of dukkha, eliminating all traces of discontent still existing within his heart.

Just then, a large troop of monkeys came foraging for food in front of the cave. The leader of the troop arrived first, a good distance in front of the rest. Reaching the area in front of the cave, it spotted Ãcariya Mun who sat very still with eyes open, glancing silently at the approaching monkey. The monkey immediately became suspicious of his presence. Nervous, worried about the safety of its troop, it ran back and forth along the branch of a tree, looking warily at him. Ãcariya Mun understood its anxiety, and sympathized with it, sending out benevolent thoughts of loving kindness: Ive come here to practice Dhamma, not to mistreat or harm anyone; so theres no need to fear me. Keep searching for food as you please. You can come foraging around here every day if you like.

In a flash, the lead monkey ran back to its troop, which Ãcariya Mun could see approaching in the distance. He watched what happened next with a sense of great amusement, combined with sincere compassion. As soon as the leader reached the others, it quickly called out: Goke, hey not so fast! Theres something over there. It may be dangerous! Hearing this, all the other monkeys began asking at once: Goke, goke? Where, where? And simultaneously, the leader turned his head toward Ãcariya Muns direction as if to say: Sitting over there can you see? Or something like that, but in the language of animals, which is an unfathomable mystery to most human beings. Ãcariya Mun, however, understood every word they spoke.

Once it had signaled Ãcariya Muns presence to the group, the lead monkey warned them to proceed slowly and cautiously until they could determine exactly what was up ahead. It then hurried off ahead of the group, warily approaching the front of the cave where Ãcariya Mun was seated. Being concerned for the safety of those following behind, it was apprehensive, but also curious to find out what was there. It cautiously snuck up close to Ãcariya Mun, jumping up and jumping down from branch to branch, as monkeys tend to do, for they are quite restless as everybody knows. The lead monkey watched Ãcariya Mun constantly until it was sure that he posed no danger. Then, it ran back and informed its friends: Goke, we can go. Goke, theres no danger.

During this time, Ãcariya Mun sat perfectly still, constantly gauging the lead monkeys inner feelings to judge its reaction to him. The way it ran back to speak to its friends was quite comic; yet, knowing exactly what they said, Ãcariya Mun couldnt help feeling sorry for them. For those of us who dont understand their language, the calls they send back and forth to one another are merely sounds in the forest, much like the bird calls we hear every day. But when the lead monkey ran back, calling out to its troop, Ãcariya Mun understood the meaning of what was said as clearly as if they had been conversing in human language. In the beginning when the lead monkey first spotted him, it hurried back to its troop, warning its friends to take care and pay careful attention to what it had to say. Although it communicated this message in the goke goke sounds that monkeys make, the essential meaning was clear to the others: Hey, stop! Not so fast! Theres danger up ahead. Hearing the warning, the others began wondering what danger there was. First, one asked: Goke, what is it? Then, another asked: Goke, whats the matter? The lead monkey answered: Goke gake, theres something up there it may be dangerous. The others asked: Goke, where is it? The leader replied: Goke, right over there.

The sounds made by this large troop of monkeys, as they questioned and answered one another, reverberated through the whole forest. First, one called out in alarm; then another, until monkeys, large and small, ran frantically back and forth, seeking answers about their situation. Fearful of the possible danger they all faced, they yelled excitedly to one another in a state of general confusion just as we people tend to do when confronted with an emergency. Their leader was obliged to speak up and to try to clarify the situation, cautioning them: Goke gake, everyone wait here first while I go back and check to make sure. With these parting instructions, it hurried back to look again. Approaching Ãcariya Mun who was seated in front of the cave, it looked warily at him while scurrying to and fro through the branches of the trees. Its eyes examined him with intense interest until it was satisfied that Ãcariya Mun wasnt an adversary. Then, it hurriedly returned to its troop and announced: Goke gake, we can go now, its not dangerous. Theres no need to be afraid. So the whole troop moved forward until it reached the spot where Ãcariya Mun was seated, all of them cautiously peering at him in a way that signaled their continuing mistrust. As monkeys tend to do when their curiosity is aroused, the troop was jumping about through the trees. The goke gake sounds of their queries echoed through the forest: What is it? Whats it doing here? The sounds of their replies reverberated in the agitated tone of animals needing to find out whats going on.

This narration has a repetitive quality, for this is the narrative style that Ãcariya Mun himself used when telling this story. He wanted to emphasize the points of interest for his audience, and thus clearly indicate their significance. He said that wild monkeys tend to panic when sensing danger because, for ages, human beings have used various brutal methods to kill these animals in countless numbers. So monkeys are instinctively very distrustful of people.

The flow of an animals consciousness infuses the different sounds it makes with the appropriate meaning just as human verbal expressions are determined by the flow of human consciousness. So, it is just as easy for monkeys to understand the meaning of their common sounds, as it is for people to understand the same language. Each sound that issues from an animals flow of consciousness is attuned to a specific meaning and purpose. These sounds communicate a clear message, and those who are listening invariably comprehend their precise meaning. So, even though it has no discernible meaning for human beings, when monkeys emit a sound like goke, they all understand its intended meaning, since this is the language monkeys use to communicate. Much the same applies to people of different nationalities, each speaking their own native language. Just as most nations around the world have their own specific language, so too each species of animal has its own distinct means of communication. Whether animals and humans can comprehend each others language ceases to be an issue when we accept that each group has the prerogative to decide on the parameters of its speech and the manner in which it is conducted.

Finally overcoming their fears, the monkeys roamed freely in the area around the cave, foraging for food as they pleased. No longer were they on guard, wary of the threat of danger. From that day on, they felt right at home there, showing no interest in Ãcariya Mun; and he paid no special attention to them as he and they both went about their daily lives.

Ãcariya Mun said that all the animals foraging for food in the area where he lived did so contentedly, without fear. Ordinarily, animals of all kinds feel comfortable living in places where monks have taken up residence, for animals are quite similar to human beings in emotion. They simply lack the same predominant authority and intelligence that humans possess. Their level of intelligence extends only to the tasks of searching for food and finding a place to hide in order to survive from day to day.

ONE EVENING ÃCARIYA MUN felt so moved by a profound sense of sadness that tears came to his eyes. Seated in meditation focusing on body contemplation, his citta converged into a state of such total calm that it appeared completely empty. At that moment, he felt as though the whole universe had ceased to exist. Only emptiness remained the emptiness of his citta. Emerging from this profound state, he contemplated the teaching of the Lord Buddha which prescribed the means for removing the defiling pollutants that exist in the hearts of all living beings a knowledge arising from the incisive genius of the Lord Buddhas wisdom. The more he contemplated this matter, the more he understood the amazing sagacity of the Buddha and the more profoundly saddened he was by his own ignorance. He realized the paramount importance of proper training and instruction. Even such common bodily functions as eating food and relieving ourselves must be taught to us. We learn to perform them properly by undergoing training and instruction. Washing and dressing ourselves, in fact all of our daily activities, must be learned through education otherwise, they will never be done correctly. Worse than doing them incorrectly, we may end up doing something seriously wrong, which could have grievous moral consequences. Just as its necessary to receive training in how to take care of our bodies, so it is essential to receive proper guidance in how to take care of our minds. If our minds dont undergo the appropriate training, then were bound to make serious mistakes, regardless of our age, gender, or position in society.

The average person in this world resembles a young child who needs adult guidance and constant attention to safely grow to maturity. Most of us tend to grow up only in appearance. Our titles, our status, and our self-importance tend to increase ever more; but the knowledge and wisdom of the right way to achieve peace and happiness for ourselves and others, dont grow to maturity with them; nor do we show an interest in developing these. Consequently, we always experience difficulties wherever we go. These were the thoughts that moved Ãcariya Mun to such a profound sense of sadness that evening.

AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN, where the path to the Sarika Cave began, stood a vipassanã meditation center, the residence of an elderly monk who was ordained late in life, after having had a wife and family. Thinking of this monk one evening, Ãcariya Mun wondered what he was doing, and so, he sent out his flow of consciousness to take a look. At that moment, the old monks mind was completely distracted by thoughts of the past concerning the affairs of his home and family. Again, sending out his flow of consciousness to observe him later that same night, Ãcariya Mun encountered the same situation. Just before dawn, he focused his citta once again, only to find the old monk still busy making plans for his children and grandchildren. Each time he sent out the flow of his citta to check, he found the monk thinking incessantly about matters concerned with building a worldly life now, and untold rounds of existence in the future.

On the way back from his almsround that morning, he stopped to visit the elderly monk and immediately put him on the spot: How is it going, old fellow? Building a new house and getting married to your wife all over again? You couldnt sleep at all last night. I suppose everything is all arranged now so you can relax in the evenings, without having to get so worked up planning what youll say to your children and grandchildren. I suspect you were so distracted by all that business last night you hardly slept a wink, am I right?

Embarrassed, the elderly monk asked with a sheepish smile: You knew about last night? Youre incredible, Ãcariya Mun.

Ãcariya Mun smiled in reply, and added: Im sure you know yourself much better than I do, so why ask me? Im convinced you were thinking about those things quite deliberately, so preoccupied with your thoughts you neglected to lie down and sleep all night. Even now you continue to shamelessly enjoy thinking about such matters and you dont have the mindfulness to stop yourself. Youre still determined to act upon those thoughts, arent you?

As he finished speaking, Ãcariya Mun noticed the elderly monk looking very pale, as though about to faint from shock, or embarrassment. He mumbled something incoherent in a faltering, ghostly sounding voice bordering on madness. Seeing his condition, Ãcariya Mun instinctively knew that any further discussion would have serious consequences. So he found an excuse to change the subject, talking about other matters for a while to calm him down, then he returned to the cave.

Three days later one of the old monks lay supporters came to the cave, so Ãcariya Mun asked him about the monk. The layman said that he had abruptly left the previous morning, with no intention of returning. The layman had asked him why he was in such a hurry to leave, and he replied: How can I stay here any longer? The other morning Ãcariya Mun stopped by and lectured me so poignantly that I almost fainted right there in front of him. Had he continued lecturing me like that much longer, Id surely have passed out and died there on the spot. As it was, he stopped and changed the subject, so I managed to survive somehow. How can you expect me to remain here now, after that? Im leaving today.

The layman asked him: Did Ãcariya Mun scold you harshly? Is that why you nearly died, and now feel you can no longer stay here? He didnt scold me at all, but his astute questions were far worse than a tongue-lashing.

He asked you some questions, is that it? Can you tell me what they were? Perhaps I can learn a lesson from them.

Please dont ask me to tell you what he said, Im embarrassed to death as it is. Should anyone ever know, Id sink into the ground. Without getting specific, I can tell you this much: he knows everything were thinking. No scolding could possibly be as bad as that. Its quite natural for people to think both good thoughts and bad thoughts. Who can control them? But when I discover that Ãcariya Mun knows all about my private thoughts thats too much. I know I cant stay on here. Better to go off and die somewhere else than to stay here and disturb him with my wayward thinking. I mustnt stay here, further disgracing myself. Last night I couldnt sleep at all I just cant get this matter out of my mind.

I cant stay. The prospect of my developing mindfulness to improve myself cant begin to rival my fear of Ãcariya Mun: its like pitting a cat against an elephant! Just thinking that he knows all about me is enough to make me shiver, so how could I possibly maintain any degree of mindfulness? Im leaving today. If I remain here any longer, Ill die for sure. Please believe me.

I cant stay. The prospect of my developing mindfulness to improve myself cant begin to rival my fear of Ãcariya Mun: its like pitting a cat against an elephant! Just thinking that he knows all about me is enough to make me shiver, so how could I possibly maintain any degree of mindfulness? Im leaving today. If I remain here any longer, Ill die for sure. Please believe me.

The layman told Ãcariya Mun that he felt very sorry for that old monk, but he didnt know what to say to prevent him leaving: His face was so pale it was obvious he was frightened, so I had to let him go. Before he left, I asked him where hed be going. He said he didnt know for sure, but that if he didnt die first, wed probably meet again someday then he left. I had a boy send him off. When the boy returned I asked him, but he didnt know, for the elderly monk hadnt told him where he was going. I feel really sorry for him. An old man like that, he shouldnt have taken it so personally.

Ãcariya Mun was deeply dismayed to see his benevolent intentions producing such negative results, his compassion being the cause of such unfortunate consequences. In truth, seeing the elderly monks stunned reaction that very first day, he had suspected then that this might happen. After that day he was disinclined to send out the flow of his citta to investigate, fearing he might again meet with the same situation. In the end, his suspicions were confirmed. He told the layman that hed spoken with the old monk in the familiar way that friends normally do: playful one minute, serious the next. He never imagined it becoming such a big issue that the elderly monk would feel compelled to abandon his monastery and flee like that.

This incident became an important lesson determining how Ãcariya Mun behaved toward all the many people he met throughout his life. He was concerned that such an incident might be repeated should he fail to make a point of carefully considering the circumstances before speaking. From that day on, he never cautioned people directly about the specific content of their thoughts. He merely alluded indirectly to certain types of thinking as a means of helping people become aware of the nature of their thoughts, but without upsetting their feelings.

Peoples minds are like small children tottering uncertainly as they learn to walk. An adults job is to merely watch them carefully so they come to no harm. Theres no need to be overly protective all the time. The same applies to peoples minds: they should be allowed to learn by their own experiences. Sometimes their thinking will be right, sometimes wrong, sometimes good, sometimes bad this is only natural. Its unreasonable to expect them to be perfectly good and correct every time.

THE YEARS ÃCARIYA MUN spent living in Sarika Cave were fruitful. He gained many enlightening ideas to deepen his understanding of the exclusively internal aspects of his meditation practice and many unusual insights concerning the great variety of external phenomena he encountered in his meditation. He became so pleasantly absorbed in his practice that he forgot about time: he hardly noticed the days, the months, or the years as they passed. Intuitive insights arose in his mind continuously like water gently flowing along in the rainy season. On afternoons when the weather was clear, he walked through the forest admiring the trees and the mountains, meditating as he went, absorbed in the natural scenery all around him. As evening fell, he gradually made his way back to the cave.

The caves surrounding area abounded in countless species of wild animals, the abundant variety of wild plants and fruits being a rich, natural source of sustenance. Animals such as monkeys, languars, flying squirrels, and gibbons, which depend on wild fruits, came and went contentedly. Preoccupied with their own affairs, they showed no fear in Ãcariya Muns presence. As he watched them foraging for food he became engrossed in their playful antics. He felt a genuine spirit of camaraderie with those creatures, considering them his companions in birth, ageing, sickness, and death. In this respect, animals are on an equal footing with people. For though animals and people differ in the extent of their accumulated merit and goodness, animals nonetheless possess these wholesome qualities in some measure as well. In fact, degrees of accumulated merit may vary significantly among individual members of both groups. Moreover, many animals may actually possess greater stores of merit than do certain people, but having been unfortunate enough to be reborn into an animal existence, they must endure the consequences for the time being. Human beings face the same dilemma: for although human existence is considered a higher birth than that of an animal, a person falling on hard times and into poverty must endure that misfortune until it passes or until the results of that unfortunate kamma are exhausted. Only then can a better state arise in its place. In this way the effects of kamma continue to unfold, indefinitely. For precisely this reason, Ãcariya Mun always insisted that we should never be contemptuous of another beings lowly status or state of birth. He always taught us that the good and the bad kamma, created by each living being, are that beings only true inheritance.

 

Each afternoon Ãcariya Mun swept the area clean in front of the cave. Then for the rest of the evening he concentrated on his meditation practice, alternating between walking and sitting meditation. His samãdhi practice steadily progressed, infusing his heart with tranquillity. At the same time, he intensified the development of wisdom by mentally dissecting the different parts of the body, while analyzing them in terms of the three universal characteristics of existence: that is to say, all are impermanent, bound up with suffering, and void of any self. In this manner, his confidence grew with each passing day.