阿 姜 曼 正 傳 

 

第一章第六節:聲聞阿羅漢

       

                                  

               

第一章第六節:聲聞阿羅漢

   

        阿姜曼住在沙里卡石窟的時候,有時會有一些聲聞阿羅漢Arahant以禪相的方式現身來拜訪他。每一位阿羅漢都會為他說法,講述的內容都是聖者們傳統的修行方法,大意如下:

        「經行的時候,一定要寧靜、泰然自若。集中注意力以正念繫念在每一項你所從事的例行任務。如果你觀照身體色蘊或組合因緣的本質,又或者只是繫念於某個特定的法的議題,都要確保正念能穩固地繫念在對象之上。不要讓你的注意力飄散到其他的地方;這種注意力不集中的疏忽就是缺乏穩固的心錨來定住它及缺乏可靠的內在庇護的特徵。正念的覺知應該要在你每天的每一個動作中都要到位。做這些動作時不要像是在睡覺一樣不自覺地身體搖晃或做很多夢的樣子。早上托缽的時候,進食、大小便:像這些基本的生活動作,你都應該緊緊跟隨聖弟子們的傳統修行,不要表現得像缺乏適當的修行與紀律一樣。要始終保持一個出家弟子應有的平靜、祥和的威儀舉止,要像一個真正的沙門,也就是說在每一個動作與姿勢都要保持正念與觀智,以此消除深植在心中的毒素。徹底地觀照省思所有你吃的食物,不要讓食物的美味增添了心中的毒素。就算食物可以增強體力,但如果沒有適當的觀照省思,心就會因其破壞性的影響而變弱;如果是為了滋養身體而進食,就是不具正念,實際上,你將會被營養所毀而耗盡心智的活力。」

        「一個沙門絕不會無慚無愧地累積無明去損人不利己;因為,這不但會傷了自己,還會如雨後春筍般損及他人。以佛陀聖弟子的觀點來說,所有精神方面的垢染都非常的可怕,應該要非常地小心不要因一時的疏忽而讓無明氾濫,因為這些微小疏失就像是可以燒毀一切的星星之火。為世尊的一切聖弟子所修持的尊貴聖潔的法,在任何情況下都一直著重在嚴謹的自律 —— 不論是行、住、坐、臥或大小便,以及一切與他人的對話及社會互動。散漫、沒有紀律的放逸行為就是一種無明的惡習,會導向惡思惟,也因此,令出生及死亡不斷循環。想要跳脫生死輪迴的人都應該要避免這些惡習,因為它們只會讓人墜入萬丈深淵,最後使人變成一個不受歡迎的人 —— 一個不幸的沙門。沒有人喜歡享用不潔的食物;沒有人喜歡住在惡劣之房子裡;沒有人喜歡穿著難看的衣服,甚至多看一眼。一般來說,人們都會厭惡及逃離令人不悅的事物 —— 一個有卑劣之心的卑鄙小人更是令人不悅。但世上最令人厭惡的莫過於外貌是佛教的比丘,但骨子裡卻是卑鄙的沙門,因為他同時深深影響著好人與壞人的心,也毫無例外地影響著諸天與梵天的心。因此,比丘在任何時候都應保持正念及持戒清淨,努力成為一名真正的沙門。」

        「世上的人所重視及關心的事物中,人的心是最珍貴的。事實上,心靈才是全世界最重要的寶藏,所以務必要好好地照顧它。瞭解了心就是瞭解了法。一旦洞悉了心,也就能全然認識法。洞悉了心的實相就是解脫涅槃的成就。很明顯,心是一種無價之寶,絕不可忽視。那些沒有好好去培育心在身體中的特殊地位的人,其出生都必有缺陷,不論他們輪迴幾百次或幾千次都一樣。一旦我們瞭解心的珍貴本質,我們就不應該疏忽,且完全清楚之後一定不會有悔恨。像這樣的懊悔都是可以避免的,我們絕不可任其發生。」

        「人類是大地上最聰明的生物,因此,不該自甘於愚痴;否則,必將過著難以忍受的悲慘生活,無法找到幸福之道。真正的沙門從事每一件事的態度及舉止,不論在入世或出世,都會為後世豎立一個值得信賴的典範。他所作的任何事都是清淨且無可指摘;他的行為正直又沈穩;努力去培育你自己的沙門典範,慢慢地讓它成長茁壯,不論你身在何處,你的修行成果必將繁榮昌盛。一個愛惜戒德、禪定、正念、智慧、精進的沙門,一定很快就會達到沙門崇高的成就,並在未來持續下去。」

        「我給你的教誡都是要你成為努力且精勤不懈的人、一個戰勝無明的心靈戰士、一個完全超脫了苦並擺脫束縛的勇者。使你達到完全的解脫,即成佛:三界dhātu的心靈老師。如果你能瞭解這個教導對你的特殊價值,過不了多久你將能徹底除去內心一切的垢染。我將法的教導託付予你,希望你能以最大的敬意珍惜它。那麼,你必能體驗到心中生起的不可思議的驚喜,即莊嚴又美好。」

        一尊聲聞阿羅漢說完了法後便離開,阿姜曼恭敬地接受了法的教導,並從各種角度仔細地沈思,區隔每一個獨立的觀點,然後一個又一個徹底地分析。當愈來愈多的阿羅漢以這種方式在他的面前現身來教導他,他經由聞法而獲得許多修行上新的內明。聽著他們精彩的開示,增長了他對禪修的熱忱,也因此大幅提升了他對法的領悟。

        阿姜曼說,雖然他從未見過佛陀,但聆聽每一位聖弟子阿羅漢的開示,都會讓他覺得彷彿佛陀就在他的眼前。專心地聞法,使他的心洋溢著法喜,他全神貫注在「法」上,以致外界的物質世界,包括他的身體,對他而言在那一刻都不存在了。只獨留「心」的存在,他的心意識閃耀出「法」的光芒。只是後來,當他退出這樣的境界,他意識到他所背負的沈重負擔:因為他再度意識到他的身體 —— 其他四蘊所積聚的焦點,每一蘊khandha都是他的大苦聚。

        阿姜曼長期逗留在沙里卡石窟的期間,曾遇過很多的阿羅漢並仔細聆聽他們的建言,使得這個石窟成為在他住過的地方中變得很獨特。住在那裡的時候,「法」清淨無誤地在他的心中生起;也就是說,他證得了阿那含果(Anāgāmī)。根據佛教的經典,阿那含果的成就已經擺脫了重返低下欲界的五種束縛:欲貪、瞋恚、有身見、戒禁取見、疑等五下分結。有這種成就的人絕對不會再重生人間,或者由四大(地、水、火、風)組成身體的其他有情存在。如果這種人死前不能證得阿羅漢果,那麼在他死亡的那一刻,他會投生到色界梵天的五淨居天。阿那含聖者依照他們抵達解脫的程度,將分別投生在無煩天、無熱天、善現天、善見天、色究竟天。

        阿姜曼只有單獨對親近的弟子揭示他在沙里卡石窟的那段時間已證三果;但,考慮到讀者,我決定在此公開。如果這樣的公開有任何的不妥當,我願意為思慮不周而接受指責。

        阿姜曼持續靜修了好幾個月,在某一天的晚上,他對他的同修生起了一種異常強烈的悲憫。就在那個時候,驚人的內明每晚都在他的禪修中浮現,他敏銳地察覺到許多奇特、美妙的事物 —— 那些都是在他一生中作夢也看不到的事。當晚他想到了他的同修,他的禪修對此達到了一種極度不尋常的境界。他的心在禪定中達到了一種如空氣般特別輕盈飄逸的精緻狀態,生起了許多非凡的內明。他充分瞭解到過去的愚痴所帶給他的傷害,他感動到流下了眼淚。同時,他瞭解到持續精進的價值,並且從中他可以得到驚人的成果。他在心中對世尊無上的教導生起了一種深摯的感恩之情;因為,世尊慈悲弘法並讓他人跟隨他的腳步,從而使他們瞭解業力的複雜本質,因此有這麼一項重要的法偈:眾生皆因業而生,亦為業之繼承者,佛陀如是說。

        雖然有這些內明,然而阿姜曼仍繼續提醒自己,儘管它們真的很驚人,但他尚未達到路(八正道)的盡頭,也沒有滅苦。為了要完成修行的功課,他仍須傾全力繼續修行 —— 以無盡的決意。同時,他很高興看到長期以來罹患的胃病,如今已完全痊癒。不但如此,他的心,現在也已牢牢地被釘在堅實的精神基礎上。雖然,他尚未完全根絕心中的垢染,但他確定他正走在正道上(解脫道);他的禪修,目前進展得很順利,已沒有早年那麼波動搖擺不定。當他在黑暗中摸索時,也不像往昔那麼孤獨無助,如今他已確定他正走向一條通往最高的「法」的路上,他完全確信有一天必將斷除一切的「苦」。

        他的「正念」與「觀智」已達到一種不停地完美交互運作的境界。他不再需要催促它們運作,「明」與「覺」,日以繼夜不斷地生起 —— 也就是:內在精神的內明及對外界無盡現象的察覺。他的心在如此神奇的法中愈明亮,就愈為他的同修感到悲憫:因為他多麼急切想與他們分享這些不可思議的內明。最後,這份深摯的悲心促使他離開了這座吉祥的石窟。儘管有些不捨,但還是離開了,去找他先前住在東北部時所認識的其他頭陀比丘。

        就在他離開沙里卡石窟的前幾天,他先前第一次遇到的那個神秘非人,帶著一群地居天神來到他的面前聽他說法。當他結束說法後,阿姜曼告訴了祂們他的決定,說他即將要離開祂們了。聚集在那裡的地居天神不忍見他離去,懇求他為了祂們長期的幸福與利益繼續留下來。阿姜曼解釋,如同當初他就是因這個因緣而來到這座石窟;所以,他也是因這個因緣必須離開。他並不是像奴隸般受他人的使喚而來去,而是憑他的意願。他請祂們能諒解,告誡祂們不要因此而沮喪。他承諾,將來因緣成熟時,他還是會回到這裡。地居天神表達了祂們由衷的遺憾,以及一直以來內心對他的敬愛與恭敬。

        在他離開前的某晚大約十點左右,阿姜曼突然想起Wat Boromaniwat寺的Chao Khun Upāli長老,他想知道這位長老在想什麼。於是他集中心念,由意念生出一道心念波,往長老所在的方向發射出去觀察他。他發現Chao Khun Upāli長老當時正在思惟有關無始paṭiccasamuppāda的無明avijjā,阿姜曼留意了日期與時間。當他終於抵達了曼谷,便向Chao Khun Upāli長老求證他看到的一切。Chao Khun Upāli長老帶著爽朗的笑聲立即承認他看得沒錯,並讚美阿姜曼:「你真得很厲害,我自己已是一位受人尊敬的禪師,但無法跟你相比 —— 我感到很慚愧。你真的是一位大師,這才是追隨無上導師的真正佛弟子該有的表現。我們這群追隨世尊腳步的佛弟子不能都不及格 —— 總要有人去護持崇高原始教義的法,不允許在我們所居住的現代,對法至高的成就心存一種懶散放逸、失敗主義的態度,而你就是能展現出佛陀教法至高無上且永恆不朽的代表。缺少像你一樣的比丘,正法將不可能在世上流傳。你剛才展現的特殊能力令我致上最高的敬意,這才是世尊的教法應該發展並付諸實踐的一種方式。」

        阿姜曼提到了Chao Khun Upāli長老對他極為欽佩與尊敬。有幾次他協助阿姜曼解決了他解決不了的難題,讓他感到很滿意。最後當因緣成熟,阿姜曼離開了曼谷並直接回東北部。

        阿姜曼逗留在沙里卡石窟之前的幾年,曾到過鄰國緬甸,然後經由泰北的清邁府回來;繼續再走入寮國,在寮國的龍坡邦附近過了一段時間的頭陀行腳生涯,最後再回到泰國黎府的Ban Khok村度雨安居,該處與Pha Pu石窟相當的近;當時,那些地方都是荒蕪之地,充滿野獸,村落稀少,村與村之間也相隔甚遠:從一村走到另一村都要花上一整天的時間,且一路上前不著村、後不著店。在這一大片荒野地區,如果有人走失,可能就會發現自己的處境相當的危險,必須在荒涼的環境中露宿,任由老虎及其他野獸宰割。

        曾有一次,阿姜曼渡過湄公河,在靠近寮國旁的一大片山林裡落腳。當他在那裡露宿時,一隻巨大的孟加拉虎在他住的地方經常出沒。牠總是在晚上的時候來,牠會保持一定的距離,看著阿姜曼來回經行。牠從未表現出張牙舞爪的行為,但牠在附近徘徊時,仍不時會發出吼聲。阿姜曼早已習慣與野生動物為鄰,所以根本不太注意這隻老虎。

        在他短程的行腳旅程中,有另一位比丘相伴,他是阿姜悉達(Ācariya Sitha),比阿姜曼出家的時間還要早一些。他與阿姜曼同年,但他在禪定方面的修為非常得好。他喜歡選擇如曠野般的僻靜之地禪修,也喜歡住在靠近湄公河的寮國山中獨居靜修。偶爾也會渡河到泰國,但不會停留太久。

        在這種情況下,阿姜曼與阿姜悉達彼此分開一些距離露宿,每一個人依靠著各自的村落方便他們維持每日例行性的托缽。某晚,當阿姜悉達在經行的時候,一隻大孟加拉虎來拜訪他。這隻老虎悄悄地爬行並蜷伏在經行步道前約六尺處,他在經行步道的頭尾兩處都點燃燭火,以方便他在黑夜經行時可以看得到路。牠平靜地坐在那裡,面對著步道,靜止不動,像一隻家庭寵物專心望著阿姜悉達在步道上來回經行。當阿姜悉達走向老虎蜷伏的正對面時,他察覺似乎有異物。他立刻起疑,因為正常情況下應該沒有東西才對。他掃視了一下,他看見一隻大老虎蜷縮在前,盯著他 —— 因為當時他無法辨識出究竟是什麼。雖然如此,他並不害怕。因為老虎坐著不動,他只是望著牠,覺得牠就像是一隻大布偶一樣。

        過了一會,他繼續來回經行,每一次都在老虎前經過 —— 但沒有任何恐懼的念頭從心中流過。他注意到,雖然,老虎蜷伏在旁已好一段時間。他開始同情牠,於是直接用一連串的意念與老虎溝通:為什麼不到別處去找東西吃?為什麼一直盯著我看?就在這個念頭生起沒多久,這隻老虎便發出震耳欲聾的吼聲,迴盪在整座森林裡。這個吼聲讓阿姜悉達很清楚瞭解老虎想要留下來的意思,於是他很快改變想法,想道:我會這樣想只是因為替你感到遺憾 —— 我是擔心你坐在那裡那麼久,恐怕都已經餓了。畢竟,你需要填飽你的胃,就像其他一切生物一樣。但如果你不餓,想坐在那裡一直看著我,也沒關係,我不介意。

        這隻老虎對阿姜悉達改變的心意沒有任何的回應 —— 仍蜷縮在一旁繼續望著他。然後他繼續禪修,不再理牠。一段時間後他離開經行步道,走向旁邊的小竹台上休息。他在那裡吟誦了一下佛經sutta,然後靜坐,直到躺在竹台上睡覺。那一整段期間,老虎都一直蜷伏在原來的位置,沒有離開。但當他在凌晨三點起來繼續經行時,他已經看不到老虎的蹤影 —— 他不知道牠跑去哪裡。他就只有那麼一次看見過牠;自從那次起,直到他離開那個地方,牠都沒有再出現過。

        這件事情讓阿姜悉達覺得很有趣,所以當他遇見阿姜曼時,便跟他說了整個經過。他告訴阿姜曼當他以意念要老虎離開的那一刻,老虎大吼了一聲。他講到,雖然他沒有意識到恐懼,但仍汗毛直豎,感覺像頭皮發麻。但很快他又回復正常,繼續經行,彷彿什麼事都沒有發生過。

        事實上,可能有些微的恐懼埋藏在內心深處,那時他並未察覺到自己在害怕。雖然老虎沒有再回到他露宿的地方,但他仍常常聽到老虎的吼聲迴盪在附近的林間。儘管如此,阿姜悉達的心仍是相當的勇敢堅決,且一如往常持續安心地禪修。


 

              

Living in Sarika Cave, Ãcariya Mun was occasionally visited by sãvaka Arahants, who appeared to him by means of samãdhi nimitta. Each sãvaka Arahant delivered for his benefit a discourse on Dhamma, elucidating the traditional practices of the Noble Ones. Here is the substance of what was expressed:

Walking meditation must be practiced in a calm, self-composed manner. Use mindfulness to focus your attention directly on the task you have set for yourself. If you’re investigating the nature of the khandhas or the conditions of the body, or simply concentrating on a specific Dhamma theme, then make sure mindfulness is firmly fixed on that object. Don’t allow your attention to drift elsewhere. Such negligence is characteristic of one having no solid spiritual basis to anchor him, and thus lacking a reliable inner refuge. Mindful awareness should attend each and every movement in all your daily activities. Don’t perform these actions as though you are so sound asleep that you have no mindful awareness of how your body tosses about, or how prolifically your sleeping mind dreams. Going on your morning almsround, eating your food, and relieving yourself: in all such basic duties you should adhere strictly to the traditional practices of the Lord Buddha’s Noble disciples. Never behave as though you lack proper training in the Teaching and the Discipline. Always conduct yourself in the manner of a true samaõa with the calm, peaceful demeanor expected of one who ordains as a disciple of the Lord Buddha. This means maintaining mindfulness and wisdom in every posture as a way of eliminating the poisons buried deep within your heart. Thoroughly investigate all the food you eat. Don’t allow those foods that taste good to add poison to your mind. Even though the body may be strengthened by food that’s eaten without proper investigation, the mind will be weakened by its damaging effects. By nourishing your body with food that is eaten unmindfully, you will, in effect, be destroying yourself with nourishment that depletes your mental vitality.

A samaõa must never endanger his own well-being or the well-being of others by shamefully accumulating kilesas; for, not only do they harm him, but they can easily mushroom and spread harm to others as well. In the view of the Buddha’s Noble disciples, all mental defilements are to be greatly feared. Utmost care should be taken to ensure that the mind does not neglect to check any outflow of the kilesas, for each one acts like a sheet of fire destroying everything in its path. The Noble Dhamma, practiced by all of the Lord Buddha’s Noble disciples, emphasizes scrupulous self-discipline at all times and under all conditions – whether walking, standing, sitting, lying down, eating or relieving oneself; and in all of one’s conversations and social interactions. Inattentive, undisciplined behavior is a habit of the kilesas, leading to unwholesome thoughts, and thus, perpetuating the cycle of birth and death. Those wishing to escape from the cycle of rebirth should avoid such deplorable habits. They merely lead deeper into the abyss, eventually causing one to become that most undesirable of persons – a wretched samaõa. No one wishes to partake of wretched food; no one wishes to reside in a wretched house; and no one wishes to dress in wretched clothes, or even look at them. Generally, people detest and shun wretched things – how much more so a wretched person with a wretched mind. But the most abhorrent thing in the world is a wretched samaõa who is ordained as a Buddhist monk. His wretchedness pierces the hearts of good and bad people alike. It pierces the hearts of all devas and brahmas without exception. For this reason, one should strive to be a true samaõa exercising extreme care to remain mindful and self-disciplined at all times.

Of all the many things that people value and care for in the world, a person’s mind is the most precious. In fact, the mind is the foremost treasure in the whole world, so be sure to look after it well. To realize the mind’s true nature is to realize Dhamma. Understanding the mind is the same as understanding Dhamma. Once the mind is known, then Dhamma in its entirety is known. Arriving at the truth about one’s mind is the attainment of Nibbãna. Clearly, the mind is a priceless possession that should never be overlooked. Those who neglect to nurture the special status that the mind has within their bodies will always be born flawed, no matter how many hundreds or thousands of times they are reborn. Once we realize the precious nature of our own minds, we should not be remiss, knowing full well that we are certain to regret it later. Such remorse being avoidable, we should never allow it to occur.

Human beings are the most intelligent form of life on earth. As such, they should not wallow in ignorance. Otherwise, they will live an insufferably wretched existence, never finding any measure of happiness. The manner in which a true samaõa conducts all his affairs, both temporal and spiritual, sets a trustworthy example to be followed by the rest of the world. He engages in work that is pure and blameless; his actions are both righteous and dispassionate. So, endeavor to cultivate within yourself the exemplary work of a samaõa, making it flourish steadily, so that wherever you go, your practice will always prosper accordingly. A samaõa who cherishes moral virtue, cherishes concentration, cherishes mindfulness, cherishes wisdom and cherishes diligent effort, is sure to achieve that exalted status of a full-fledged samaõa now, and to maintain it in the future.

The teaching that I give you is the dispensation of a man of diligence and perseverance, a spiritual warrior who emerged victorious, a preeminent individual who completely transcended dukkha, freeing himself of all fetters. He attained absolute freedom, becoming the Lord Buddha, the supreme guide and teacher of the three worlds of existence. If you can understand the special value this teaching holds for you, before long you too will have rid yourself of kilesas. I entrust this Dhamma teaching to you in the hope that you will give it the most careful consideration. In that way, you will experience incredible wonders arising within your mind, which by its very nature is a superb and wonderful thing.

A sãvaka Arahant having delivered such a discourse and departed, Ãcariya Mun humbly received that Dhamma teaching. He carefully contemplated every aspect of it, isolating each individual point, and then thoroughly analyzed them all, one by one. As more and more sãvaka Arahants came to teach him in this way, he gained many new insights into the practice just by listening to their expositions. Hearing their wonderful discourses increased his enthusiasm for meditation, thus greatly enhancing his understanding of Dhamma.

Ãcariya Mun said that listening to a discourse delivered by one of the Buddha’s Arahant disciples made him feel as if he was in the presence of the Lord Buddha himself, though he had no prior recollection of meeting the Buddha. Listening intently, his heart completely full, he became so absorbed in Dhamma that the entire physical world, including his own body, ceased to exist for him then. The citta alone existed, its awareness shining brightly with the radiance of Dhamma. It was only later, when he withdrew from that state, that he realized the oppressive burden he still carried with him: for he became conscious again of his physical body – the focal point where the other four khandhas come together, each one a heavy mass of suffering on its own.

During his lengthy sojourn at Sarika Cave, Ãcariya Mun entertained many sãvaka Arahants and heeded their words of advice, making this cave unique among all the places where he had ever stayed. While living there, the Dhamma of unimpeachable certainty arose in his heart; that is, he attained the fruition of Anãgãmï. According to Buddhist scripture, the Anãgãmï has abandoned the five lower fetters that bind living beings to the round of repeated existence: sakkãyadiååhi, vicikicchã, sïlabbataparãmãsa, kãmarãga, and paåigha. Someone reaching this level of attainment is assured of never being reborn in the human realm, or in any other realm of existence where bodies are composed of the four gross physical elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Should that individual fail to ascend to the level of Arahant before dying, at the moment of death he will be reborn into one of the five Pure Abodes of the brahma world. An Anãgãmï is reborn in the abode of aviha, atappa, sudassa, sudassï or akaniååha, depending on the individual’s level of advancement along the Arahant path

Ãcariya Mun revealed that he attained the stage of Anãgãmï in Sarika Cave exclusively to his close disciples; but, I have decided to declare it publicly here for the reader’s consideration. Should this disclosure be considered in any way inappropriate, I deserve the blame for not being more circumspect.

ONE NIGHT, HAVING CONTINUED to practice peacefully for many months, Ãcariya Mun experienced an unusually strong feeling of compassion for his fellow monks. By that time, amazing insights surfaced nightly in his meditation practice. He became keenly aware of many strange, wonderful things – things he had never dreamed of seeing in his life. On the night that he thought about his fellow monks, his meditation had an exceptionally unusual quality to it. His citta had attained an especially ethereal refinement in samãdhi, resulting in many extraordinary insights. Fully realizing the harmful effects that his own past ignorance had caused him, he was moved to tears. At the same time, he understood the value of the effort he had struggled so diligently to maintain until he could reap the amazing fruits of that diligence. A deep appreciation for the Lord Buddha’s supreme importance arose in his heart; for, it was he who compassionately proclaimed the Dhamma so that others could follow in his footsteps, thus allowing them to understand the complex nature of their own kamma, and that of all other living beings as well. Thus the vital significance of the Dhamma verse: All beings are born of their kamma and kamma is their one true possession, which succinctly sums up practically all the Buddha’s teachings.

Those insights notwithstanding, Ãcariya Mun continued to remind himself that despite their truly amazing character he had yet to reach the end of the path and the cessation of dukkha. To accomplish that he would need to pour all his energy into the practice – with unstinting resolve. In the meantime, he was pleased to see that the chronic stomach ailment which he had suffered so long was now completely cured. More than that, his mind was now firmly anchored to a solid spiritual basis. Although he had yet to totally eradicate his kilesas, he was sure of being on the right path. His meditation practice, now progressing smoothly, had none of the fluctuations he had experienced earlier. Unlike in the past, when he was groping in the dark, feeling his way along, he now felt certain of the path leading to the highest Dhamma. He was absolutely convinced that one day he would transcend dukkha.

His mindfulness and wisdom had reached a stage where they worked ceaselessly in perfect concert. He never needed to urge them into action. Day and night, knowledge and understanding arose continuously– both internal spiritual insights and awareness of countless external phenomena. The more his mind delighted in such amazing Dhamma, the more compassion he felt for his fellow monks: he was eager to share with them these wondrous insights. In the end, this profound feeling of compassion precipitated his departure from that auspicious cave. With some reluctance, he eventually left to search out the dhutanga monks he had known previously, when he was living in the Northeast.

Several days prior to his departure from Sarika Cave, a group of terrestrial devas, led by the mysterious being he first encountered there, came to hear a discourse on Dhamma. After finishing his discourse, Ãcariya Mun informed them of his decision, saying he would soon take leave of them. Unwilling to see him depart, the large company of devas who were gathered there beseeched him to stay on for the sake of their long-term happiness and prosperity. Ãcariya Mun explained that, just as he had come to that cave for a reason, so too he had a reason for moving on – he didn’t come and go slavishly, following his desires. Asking for their understanding, he cautioned them against feeling disappointed. He promised that, if the opportunity presented itself in the future, he would return. The devas expressed their sincere regrets, showing the genuine affection and respect for him they’d always felt.

At about ten p.m. on the night before his departure, Ãcariya Mun thought of at monastery, wondering what was on his mind. So he focused his citta and sent the flow of his consciousness out to observe him. He found that Chao Khun Upãli was at that moment contemplating avijjã in relation to paåiccasamuppãda. Ãcariya Mun took note of the time and the date. When eventually he arrived in Bangkok, he asked Chao Khun Upãli about what he’d observed. With a hearty laugh Chao Khun Upãli immediately acknowledged it to be true, saying this in praise of Ãcariya Mun:

“You are truly masterful. I myself am a respected teacher, yet I’m inept compared to you – and I feel embarrassed. You truly are a master. This is exactly how a genuine disciple of the Lord Buddha follows in the footsteps of the Supreme Teacher. We can’t all be incompetent in the practice of the Lord Buddha’s teaching – somebody has to maintain this exalted Dhamma in the spirit that it was originally taught. By not allowing the modern age we live in to foster a lazy, defeatist attitude toward the highest attainments, you have demonstrated the timeless quality of the Buddha’s teaching. Otherwise, the true Dhamma will no longer arise in the world, despite the fact that the Buddha proclaimed it for the benefit of all mankind. The special knowledge you have just displayed to me is most admirable. This is the way the Lord’s teaching should be developed and put into practice.”

Ãcariya Mun stated that Chao Khun Upãli had the utmost admiration and respect for him. There were certain occasions when he sent for Ãcariya Mun to help him solve certain problems he was unable to resolve to his own satisfaction. Eventually when the time was right, Ãcariya Mun left Bangkok and returned directly to the Northeast.

IN THE YEARS PRIOR to his sojourn at Sarika Cave, Ãcariya Mun traveled into the neighboring country of Burma, later returning by way of the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai. Continuing on into Laos, he practiced the ascetic way of life for some time in the area around Luang Prabang, eventually returning to Thailand to spend the rains retreat near the village of Ban Khok in Loei province, quite close to Pha Pu Cave. The following rains retreat was spent at Pha Bing Cave, also in Loei province. Back then, these places were all wilderness areas, teeming with wild animals where village communities were located far and few between: one could walk all day without coming across a single settlement. A person losing his way in that vast wilderness could find himself in the precarious situation of having to sleep overnight in an inhospitable environment at the mercy of tigers and other wild beasts.

On one occasion Ãcariya Mun crossed the Mekong River and settled in a large tract of mountainous forest on the Laotian side. While he camped there, a huge Bengal tiger often wandered into his living area. Always coming at night, it stood some distance away watching him pace back and forth in meditation. It never displayed threatening behavior, but it did roar occasionally as it wandered freely around the area. Being well accustomed to living in close proximity to wild animals, Ãcariya Mun paid little attention to the tiger.

During that excursion he was accompanied by another monk, Ãcariya Sitha, who had been ordained slightly longer than he had. A contemporary of Ãcariya Mun, Ãcariya Sitha excelled in the practice of meditation. He liked the type of seclusion that the wilderness offered, preferring to live in the mountains stretching along the Laotian side of the Mekong River. Only occasionally did he cross the river into Thailand, and then never for very long.

On that occasion, Ãcariya Mun and Ãcariya Sitha were camped some distance apart, each depending on a separate village for his daily alms food. One night while walking in meditation, Ãcariya Sitha was visited by a huge Bengal tiger. The tiger crept in and quietly crouched forward to about six feet from his meditation track, right in between the lighted candles at each end of the track that allowed him to see as he paced back and forth in the dark. Facing the meditation track while remaining motionless, it sat there calmly like a house pet watching Ãcariya Sitha intently as he paced back and forth. Reaching that place on the track opposite which the tiger was crouched, Ãcariya Sitha sensed something out of place. At once he became suspicious, for normally nothing was at the side of his track. Glancing over he saw the huge Bengal tiger crouched there, staring back at him – since when he couldn’t tell. Still, he felt no fear. He merely watched the tiger as it sat motionless, looking back at him like an enormous stuffed animal.

After a moment he continued pacing back and forth, passing each time in front of the tiger – but thoughts of fear never crossed his mind. He noticed, though, that it remained crouched there for an unusually long time. Feeling sorry for it, he directed this train of thought at the tiger: Why not go off and find something to eat? Why just sit there watching me? No sooner had this thought arisen, than the tiger let out a deafening roar that resounded through the whole forest. The sound of its roar left Ãcariya Sitha in no doubt that it intended to stay, so he quickly changed tack, thinking: I thought that only because I felt sorry for you – I was afraid you might get hungry sitting there so long. After all, you have a mouth and a stomach to fill, just like all other creatures. But if you don’t feel hungry and want to sit there watching over me, that’s fine, I don’t mind.

The tiger showed no reaction to Ãcariya Sitha’s change of heart – it just crouched by the path and continued to watch him. He then resumed his meditation, taking no further interest in it. Some time later he left the meditation track and walked to a small bamboo platform situated close by to take a rest. He chanted suttas there for awhile then sat peacefully in meditation until time to go to sleep, which he did lying on the bamboo platform. During that entire time the tiger remained crouched in its original position, not far away. But when he awoke at three a.m. to resume his walking meditation, he saw no sign of the tiger anywhere– he had no idea where it had gone. As it happened, he saw it only that once; from then on until he left that place, it never appeared again.

This incident intrigued Ãcariya Sitha, so when he met with Ãcariya Mun he described to him how the tiger had crouched there watching him. He told Ãcariya Mun the tiger had roared at the precise moment the thought arose wishing it to go away. He recounted how, although he wasn’t conscious of any fear, his hair stood on end and his scalp went numb, as if he were wearing a cap. But soon he again felt quite normal, resuming his walking meditation as though nothing had happened.

 

Actually, there probably was a subtle measure of fear buried deep inside that he was incapable of perceiving at the time. Although the tiger never returned to his campsite, he often heard the sound of its roars echoing through the nearby forest. Still, Ãcariya Sitha’s mind remained resolute and he continued to practice contentedly, as he always had.