阿  姜  曼  正  傳 

 

第二章第二節:頭陀行

           

                                   

                    

第二章第二節:頭陀行

    阿姜曼堅信常行頭陀是真正梵行生活的典範,他畢生都嚴格奉行頭陀支,總是鼓勵他所教導的僧人也將頭陀貫穿到各自的修行之中。

        除非是在他禁食的期間,否則阿姜曼每日一定不懈地托缽。阿姜曼如是教導他的弟子們:當你們走進村落裡托缽時,應當保持正念在前,善護身、口、意。一名比丘走入人群裡托缽乞食的時候,不容許自己的「心」citta不小心成為眼、耳、鼻、舌、身、意與各種誘人感官對象接觸的獵物。他每走一步,都保持警醒,著重於以正念來導引每一個動作,每一個念頭。對比丘每日清晨例行的托缽而言,這被視為是一種極重要的自省神聖修行。

        比丘只吃缽中來自在家人所供養的食物,應就自己每天的需求來考量缽中接受的食物數量,就好像少欲知足的人的需求程度。對於他而言,托完缽回到僧團後,又期待接受在家人的慷慨布施會產生後患,因為這會滋長無明中慾壑難填、永不知足的貪婪,讓它們的力量增長,進而作威作福,難以抑制。比丘只吃缽中所得到的食物,如果食物不符期待,也不會覺得焦慮或不安。對食物感到焦慮是餓鬼的特質 —— 一種被自己惡業的果報所折磨的有情,永遠找不到可滿足自己慾望的食物,只能四處瘋狂找尋食物,拼命試著填飽塞滿自己的嘴與胃,對食物的盼望遠勝於對修行的興趣。因此拒絕接受任何托缽以後的食物供養是磨練抵禦對食物貪婪及其併生出焦慮的一種最佳方法。每天只吃一餐是適合頭陀比丘禪修的一種生活方式(一天一食),因為他不需要終日時時為食物而煩惱。否則,他很容易會因為擔憂他的胃而忽略了「法」 —— 對滅苦的解脫道來說,這是一種非常不莊重的態度。就算一天只吃一餐,有時比丘也該試著減少所吃的量,試著比平常一天所吃的一餐的量還要少。這樣的修行可促進禪修的功課,因為吃太多會使精神功能變得遲緩及懶散。此外,個性與這種修行相應的比丘將可預期品嚐到對於精神發展非常珍貴的果實。奉行這種特殊的頭陀行對一名貪著食物的比丘來說,是一種斷除貪欲垢染的利器。

        就這一點而言,「法」的護衛就如同社會自我防護機制一樣在運作。無論敵人對財富、財產、生命與身體四肢、心靈的安寧等構成什麼樣的威脅,都將被抵抗與鎮壓。不論是野狗、毒蛇、大象、老虎、致命的疾病或是好鬥的暴民等,世界上各地的國家社會都會有相應的措施或解藥,去有效地遏止並保護自己免於受到這些威脅。頭陀比丘如果心中對食物還顯示出強烈的貪求傾向,或其他任何令人反感的不善法,都一定需要自我克制來對治對食物的貪戀。因此,他要隨時具備這種令人欽佩的自我克制,對他自己來說是一種好事,也會給跟他互動的人一種良好的觀感。所以一天只吃一餐是一種對治精神遲緩及懶散的好方法。

        不使用任何餐具而直接由缽中取食,對於從一個地方行腳到另一個地方的頭陀比丘來說,是一種極其相應的修行。只使用缽,意味著當他從一個地方到另一個地方修頭陀行腳時,沒有必要承載過多笨重的多餘東西。同時,對於想要卸下精神負擔的比丘來說,也是一種很便利的修行;因為每一種多餘額外的東西,他都必須攜帶與看管,也都只會加重心靈的負擔執著。因此,頭陀比丘應特別專注於只由缽中取食的修行。事實上,這會產生很多的功德利益。將各種食物在缽中混在一起,是一種提醒比丘專注在進食的方法,以正念與觀智去觀照其真正的本質,可獲得對食物真相的清晰內明。

        阿姜曼說,對他而言,由缽中取食跟其他的頭陀行是一樣的重要。他思惟每天所吃的食物,因而獲得非常多的內明,所以終其一生他都嚴格奉行這一條頭陀行。

        觀照混合在缽中的食物也是一種能有效切除對食物美味強烈貪慾的方法,這種觀照方法是當比丘用餐時用來除去心中貪戀的一種技巧,對食物的依戀也因此被食物本質的清楚覺醒所取代:食物的本質只不過是維持滋養身體,維持每日的修行生活。如此一來, 不管是精美的食材,或是令人作嘔的食物,都將無法再動搖心志。如果比丘在每次用餐時都能很熟練運用這個觀照的技巧,他的心將常保堅定、沉穩與知足 —— 不再對於供養他的食物味道感到興奮或失望。因此,直接由缽中取食是比丘擺脫對食物迷戀執著的一種好方法。

        只穿著由被丟棄的布所製成的糞掃衣是阿姜曼另一項一貫修持的頭陀行。這條頭陀行的目的是用來防堵內心屈服在舒適美觀的僧袍及其他必需品的誘惑之下。這需要在像墳場一類的地方找尋及收集被丟棄的布料,一片一片收集起來,將這些布料拼接縫製出可以穿的衣服,譬如一件上衣、一件下衣、一件大衣、一件浴袍。有時候,喪家的親屬同意,阿姜曼也會在停屍地上取用裹屍布。在托缽的途中,只要他一發現有被丟棄的布,他都會撿起來縫製成僧袍 —— 不管它是哪一種布料或來自何處。回到僧團後,他會把它們洗乾淨,然後用它們來縫補破損的衣服,或製成浴袍。不管他待在何處,這都是他一貫奉行的頭陀行。之後當愈來愈多忠實的護持信眾得悉他的頭陀行,都會將布料故意棄置於停屍地,或者他托缽時經過的路旁,又或是放在他住的附近,甚至是在他的禪房前。因此他嚴格只拾取被丟棄廢布的原先修行也因為情況改變而有所調整:他不得不拾取忠實信眾放置在特定地點的供養布料。然而儘管如此,他身上仍穿著糞掃衣,直到死亡來臨的那一天為止。

        阿姜曼堅持如果要活得安樂自在,比丘就必須表現出如一條沒有價值的舊抹布一般。如果他能擺脫自以為出眾的驕慢自負,那麼他在一切日常的活動或私下與他人的互動中,都會覺得輕安自在,因為真正的美德不是來自於這種自大。真正的德行是從自我謙抑與誠實坦率而生,這樣的人在道德或心靈上都是有良知的人。這才是真正美德的本質:沒有潛藏的自大,這樣的人不管他到哪裡,都能與自己及世上的其他人和平共處。所以穿著糞掃衣的頭陀行,是化解驕傲與自我優越感特別好的良方。

        修行的比丘必須了解自己與他渴望的美德之間的關係,他絕不允許驕慢攫取掌控心中培育中的道德與心靈美德。否則,危險的毒牙與匕首會從這些美德中萌芽竄出 —— 即使本質上它們是祥和與平靜之源。他應該自我修持,採取一種如沒有價值的舊抹布般的謙卑,直到它變成一種習性,同時絕不讓自尊的驕慢浮出檯面。比丘應培育這種聖潔的特質,並深植在個性中,使其成為如大地般堅固的內在特質,他將因此不受世間褒、貶的影響。此外,一顆完全沒有驕傲自滿的心,也會是一顆在任何情況下都鎮定自若的心。阿姜曼相信奉行糞掃衣的頭陀行,一定能削弱埋藏在內心深處的自我優越感。

        打從一開始阿姜曼就已了解到奉行阿練若住[1]價值,他發現住在森林裡有助於產生跟真正獨居有關的毛骨悚然及與世隔離的感覺。在大自然的森林環境中生活與禪修,能喚醒感官並促進日常活動中保持警覺的正念:正念伴隨著每一個清醒的時刻、每一個清醒的念頭。心會感受到輕安快樂與無憂無慮,不被世俗的責任所束縛。心持續警醒中,熱切地關注在主要的目標上 —— 滅苦。當遠離最靠近人群的聚落並住在充斥各種野生動物的偏遠森林深處時,這樣的緊迫感就會變得特別的強烈深刻。在持續的戒備狀態中,心會感覺就像飛上了高空,走出能覆蓋心境及滋長不善行為的無明深淵。煩惱雜染包括了在任何時候的焦慮、恐懼、瞋怒、嫉妒、貪欲、抑鬱等等 —— 就像一隻飛行的鳥一樣。事實上,無明煩惱一如既往隱藏在內心深處,而森林的氛圍卻有利於洞察無明。有時,由於這種有利的環境力量,比丘會確認到煩惱逐日快速減少,而同時殘留的煩惱也愈來愈稀少。這種不受羈絆的感覺有助於禪修的持續。

        住在森林深處的比丘都是以慈心來看待與同他住的野生動物 —— 那些天性有害與無害的 —— 而不是害怕或冷漠。他瞭解所有的動物,有害及無害的,都一樣會經歷生、老、病、死。我們人類只有在道德意識這一點上勝過動物:我們有能分辨善惡之間不同的能力。若失去了這種基本的道德判斷,人類不會比一般的動物好到哪裡去。對牠們來說,我們對這些生物貼上了「動物」的標籤,雖說人類本身也是一種動物的型態。人類這種動物就是喜歡對其他的物種貼標籤,但我們卻不知道其他的動物又給我們貼上了什麼樣的標籤。誰知道呢?也許牠們給我們貼上了「食肉魔」的標籤也說不一定,因為我們那麼喜歡虐待牠們,把牠們宰了當作食物 —— 又或者只是當成運動(捕獵)。我們人類這般剝削利用這些生物實在是很可恥;我們對待牠們的方式可能相當地無情。就算是人類自己的族群,也無法避免彼此仇恨與動亂,不斷相互侵擾與殺戮。人類的世界很亂,因為人類往往會彼此騷擾與殺害對方;而動物的世界也很亂,因為人類也往往會對牠們做出同樣的事。因此,動物會出於本能對人類保持警戒。

        阿姜曼宣稱在森林中生活,對於自心與外在環境有關的許多自然現象,提供了思考與省思的無限機會。任何渴望離苦的人都可以在森林找到許多靈感,大量的激勵使精進波羅蜜增長 —— 持續不斷。

有時,野豬群也會跑進阿姜曼經行的路徑,當牠們看見他時,不會驚恐地跑開,牠們用一貫的方式若無其事地找食物。他說牠們似乎有能力分辨出他與世上毫無慈悲心的「食肉魔」之間的不同,而這也就是為什麼牠們若無其事地掘地找食物,而不會逃離的原因了。

        這裡我先岔開一下主要的故事來論述這個主題。你們可能會覺得野豬不怕阿姜曼的原因是因為他一個人住在森林中。但,我的僧團帕邦塔寺,第一次在森林裡成立,有許多比丘一起在那裡生活時,野豬群會進寺院裡避難,在比丘住的地方自由地穿梭遊蕩。到了晚上,牠們無懼地移動,只與比丘的經行步道隔了幾碼之遙 —— 近到當牠們用鼻子在拱土時都可以聽到牠們鼻子發出的噴氣聲及撞擊聲。就算比丘彼此叫對方過來看這個景象,也不會把野豬給嚇跑。野豬們持續每晚在寺院裡自由出沒,比丘與野豬們很快就完全習慣了彼此。現今,野豬已很少會進寺院了,因為「食肉魔」,我們人類這種動物 —— 根據阿姜曼的說法 —— 幾乎將當地的野生動物都獵殺殆盡並吃光了。再過幾年,牠們可能會全部消失。

        阿姜曼住在森林中的時候,遇到了相同的情況:幾乎每一種動物都喜歡跑到比丘住的地方尋求庇護。不管比丘住在哪裡,總會有一大堆的動物出現。即使在大城市裡的寺院院子裡,動物們 —— 特別是狗 —— 也常會來尋求庇護。一些城市中的寺院是數百隻狗的家園,因為比丘從未以任何方式傷害牠們。從這個小例子就已足以證明「法」對世上一切有情都無害、無敵意的清涼、祥和的本質 —— 除了,也許,對最鐵石心腸、冷血無情的人來說不是。

        阿姜曼的林居經驗使他確信這樣的環境對禪修是多麼地有助益,森林對於想要滅苦的人來說是很理想的環境。為了努力證得解脫的各級成就而去選擇一個適合的戰場是理所當然的事,這一點可由授戒師(阿闍黎)對新出家的比丘所下的第一個指示得到證明:「到森林裡去找個適合的場所禪修吧!」除非在罕見的情況下環境不允許,否則阿姜曼到死都維持奉行阿練若住。住在森林的比丘時時會想到自己是多麼的孤獨且脆弱,所以他絕不能漫不經心,這種警覺的效果,很快就可在他修行的利益上看得到。

        「樹下住」是一種極類似「阿練若住」的頭陀行。阿姜曼說他住在一棵孤獨的大樹底下時,他的心完全超越了整個世界 —— 關於這一點容後詳述。這種依靠大樹遮頂來抵禦大自然惡劣天氣的生活方式有助於持續的內正思惟。擁有這種持續內在心靈專注(內正思惟)的心,將時時處於抵禦無明的備戰狀態,因為它的專注力會穩定集中在正念的四個基礎上 —— 「身」、「受」、「心」、「法」;及四聖諦 —— 「苦」、「集」、「滅」、「道」。總之,這些因素構成了「心」最有效的防禦,保護其不受無明垢染的全面攻擊。住在這種令人毛骨悚然的荒山野嶺中,對危險的持續恐懼可激發「心」集中注意力,專注在正念的四個基礎以及四聖諦之上。在這場與無明搏鬥的戰鬥中,這麼做,會奠定贏得勝利的穩固基礎 —— 這就是正向解脫、通往聖法的真正道路。想要徹底瞭解自己、運用安全與正確修行方法的比丘,應當要先找出適合他自己的禪修業處以及有助於發揮全力的修行場所,這些組合因素都可使禪修進步神速。這種「樹下住」的頭陀行是另一項值得重視的修行方法,從佛陀時代就一直是消滅無明煩惱的好方法。

        「塚間坐」是一種頭陀行,可提醒出家人與在家人在活著時不要放逸,以為自己永遠都不會死。事實的真相是:我們每一個人都正邁向死亡,一點一點逐漸地,每一天每一刻。死掉的人會被遷到墳墓 —— 數量多到幾乎沒有空間可火葬或土葬 —— 都是跟之前一樣逐漸死亡的人;就跟現在的我們一樣。誰會真的相信並敢說自己是世上唯一可豁免死亡的人?

        我們(頭陀比丘)會被教導去參觀墳場,是為了不讓我們忘記那些曾與我們一起分享生、老、病、死的無數親屬們,以便不斷提醒我們自己也是每一天都活在生老病死的陰影下。當然,仍毫無目標地在生死輪迴中穿梭流浪的人,不會這麼大膽假設他絕不會出生、成長衰老、生病、死亡。既然比丘們決意正向解脫輪迴,就該研究自己內在相續的根本苦因。他們應該藉由參觀那些已舉行過安葬儀式的墳場來自我教育,在擁擠的墳場上看到無數的屍體一直被抬來下葬,藉此內觀省思:這麼多的新舊屍體都被埋葬了,且數量多到難以算計。經由思惟世上的生命真正苦的本質,他們用「正念」與「觀智」努力查究、探索,並解析在生死真相之下的基本法則。

        每一個經常去參觀墳場的人 —— 不管是外在的墓場或是身內的墳場 —— 並運用死亡來修「念死」,必可大大減少對於年輕、青春活力及成功等等的驕傲與虛榮。跟大多數人不一樣,那些經常「念死」的人一定不會以自我為中心。相反地,他們往往會看到自己的錯誤,並嘗試逐漸改正缺失,而不是一味批評或找別人的碴 —— 壞習慣會招致不愉快的苦果。這種惡習就像是一種看起來難以治癒的慢性病,但如果人們關心病情,不讓其惡化下去,就有可能會痊癒。

        墳場提供了那些有志於觀察這些事情的人一種開發對死亡本質全面性的認知與體悟的機會。墳場是世界上最大的聚集地,所有的人沒有例外一定都會在那裡碰頭。這個議題在徹底觀透之前,死亡並不是一個可以輕易跨越的小障礙。世尊及其聖弟子們在最後橫渡死亡之前,也都必須在生、老、病、死的「大學府」裡修學分,直到他們通過全部的學分。唯有如此,他們才能輕鬆過關。他們已逃脫魔羅的魔網[2],不像那些忘了自己、就算死亡正面盯著他們看,仍漠視死亡並忌諱思考其必然性的人。

        想要完全克服對死亡的恐懼,參訪墓地並念死是一種有效的方法;也因此,儘管死亡是世上最恐怖的事,當死亡看似迫在眉睫,勇氣會自己產生。這似乎是不可能的功績,但卻被那些有修行的人完成了 —— 世尊及其聖弟子們就是最佳的例子。他們都已所作已辦,也教導其他的人從生老病死的各個角度去深入觀察,以便那些想要為自己的幸福負責的人,在還來得及的時候,可藉此修行來矯正邪見。如果只有在嚥下最後一口氣之前,人們才想要上「大學府」,對於治療的行動來說就為時已晚了:剩下的選擇就只有火葬及土葬,持戒、積功德及禪修等都不可能了。

        阿姜曼很瞭解參訪墳塚的價值,因為墳墓一直都是激勵內省(內觀)的好地方,他一直都很熱衷於參訪墳塚 —— 外在與內在的墳塚。他的其中一名弟子,很怕鬼,在這一點上也曾勇敢地嘗試效法他的行徑。通常我們都認為比丘不該怕鬼,因為這就等於正法畏懼世間一樣 —— 但這名比丘卻是這種情況。


 

[1] 住在山林寂靜處。

[2] 指五欲,染著色、聲、香、味、觸等五境所起的五種情欲。

 

Ãcariya Mun strongly believed that the observance of dhutanga practices truly exemplified the spirit of the ascetic way of life. He strictly adhered to these ascetic practices throughout his life, and always urged those monks studying under his tutelage to adopt them in their own practice.

Going on almsround every day without fail, excepting only those days when a monk is deliberately abstaining from food. Ãcariya Mun taught his disciples that, when walking to the village for alms, they should always have mindfulness present and remain properly restrained in body, speech, and mind. A monk should never permit his mind to accidentally become prey to the various tempting sense objects contacting his eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind while walking to and from the village on almsround. He stressed that mindfulness should bring their every movement, every thought, at every step of the route, under vigilant scrutiny. This should be treated as a sacred duty requiring reflection of the utmost seriousness each time a monk prepares to go on his morning almsround.

Eating only that food which has been accepted in the alms bowl on almsround. A monk should consider the quantity of food he receives in his bowl each day to be sufficient for his needs, as befits one who is content with little, and thus easily satisfied. For him its counter-productive to expect extra food by accepting the generous offerings that are made later inside the monastery. Such practices easily encourage the insatiable greed of his kilesas, allowing them to gain the strength to become so domineering that they’re almost impossible to counteract. A monk eats whatever food is offered into his bowl, never feeling anxious or upset should it fail to meet his expectations. Anxiety about food is a characteristic of hungry ghosts – beings tormented by the results of their own bad kamma. Never receiving enough food to satisfy their desires, they run madly around, desperately trying to fill their mouths and stomachs, always preferring the prospect of food to the practice of Dhamma. The ascetic practice of refusing to accept any food offered after almsround is an excellent way of contravening the tendency to be greedy for food. It is also the best method to cut off all expectancy concerning food, and the anxiety that it creates. Eating only one meal per day is just right for the meditative lifestyle of a dhutanga monk, since he needn’t worry about food at all hours of the day. Otherwise, he could easily become more worried about his stomach than he is about Dhamma – a most undignified attitude for one sincerely seeking a way to transcend dukkha. Even when eating only once a day, there are times when a monk should reduce his consumption, eating much less than he normally would at that one meal. This practice helps facilitate the work of meditation, for eating too much food can make the mental faculties sluggish and unresponsive. In addition, a monk whose temperament is suited to this practice can be expected to experience results invaluable to his spiritual development.  This particular dhutanga observance is a useful tool for eliminating the greedy mentality of practicing monks who tend to be infatuated with food.

In this respect, the safeguards of Dhamma operate in much the same manner as the safeguards that society has introduced to protect itself. Enemies of society are confronted and subdued wherever they pose a threat to wealth, property, life and limb, or peace of mind. Whether it be fierce animals, such as wild dogs, snakes, elephants and tigers, or pestilent diseases, or simply pugnacious individuals, societies all over the world possess appropriate corrective measures, or medicines, to effectively subdue and protect themselves against these threats. A dhutanga monk whose mind displays pugnacious tendencies in its desire for food, or any other unwholesome qualities deemed distasteful, needs to have effective measures for correcting these threatening tendencies. Thus, he will always possess the kind of admirable self-restraint which is a blessing for him and a pleasing sight for those with whom he associates. Eating only one meal per day is an excellent way to restrain unwieldy mental states.

Eating all food directly from the alms bowl without using any other utensils is a practice eminently suited to the lifestyle of a dhutanga monk who strives to be satisfied with little while wandering from place to place. Using just his alms bowl means there’s no need to be loaded down with a lot of cumbersome accessories as he travels from one location to another, practicing the ascetic way of life. At the same time, it is an expedient practice for monks wishing to unburden themselves of mental clutter; for each extra item they carry and look after, is just one more concern that weighs on their minds. For this reason, dhutanga monks should pay special attention to the practice of eating exclusively from the alms bowl. In truth, it gives rise to many unique benefits. Mixing all types of food together in the bowl is a way of reminding a monk to be attentive to the food he eats, and to investigate its true nature using mindfulness and wisdom to gain a clear insight into the truth about food.

Ãcariya Mun said that, for him, eating from the bowl was just as important as any other dhutanga practice. He gained numerous insights while contemplating the food he was eating each day. Throughout his life he strictly observed this ascetic practice.

Investigating the true nature of food mixed together in the bowl is an effective means of cutting off strong desire for the taste of food. This investigation is a technique used to remove greed from a monk’s mind as he eats his meal. Greed for food is thus replaced by a distinct awareness of the truth concerning that food: food’s only true purpose is to nourish the body, allowing it to remain alive from one day to the next. In this way, neither the pleasant flavor of good foods, nor the unpleasant flavor of disagreeable foods, will cause any mental balance that might prompt the mind to waver. If a monk employs skillful investigative techniques each time he begins to eat, his mind will remain steadfast, dispassionate, and contented – unmoved by excitement or disappointment over the taste of the food he is offered. Consequently, eating directly from the alms bowl is an excellent practice for getting rid of infatuation with the taste of food.

Wearing only robes made from discarded cloth is another dhutanga observance that Ãcariya Mun practiced religiously. This ascetic practice is designed to forestall the temptation to give in to the heart’s natural inclination to desire nice, attractive-looking robes and other requisites. It entails searching in places, like cemeteries, for discarded pieces of cloth, collecting them little by little, then stitching the pieces together to make a usable garment, such as an upper robe, a lower robe, an outer robe, a bathing cloth, or any other requisite. There were times, when the dead person’s relatives were agreeable, that Ãcariya Mun collected the shroud used to wrap a corpse laid out in a charnel ground. Whenever he found discarded pieces of cloth on the ground while on almsround, he would pick them up and use them for making robes – regardless of the type of cloth or where it came from. Returning to the monastery, he washed them, and then used them to patch a torn robe, or to make a bathing cloth. This he routinely did wherever he stayed. Later as more and more faithful supporters learned of his practice, they offered him robe material by intentionally discarding pieces of cloth in charnel grounds, or along the route he took for almsround, or around the area where he stayed, or even at the hut where he lived. Thus his original practice of strictly taking only pieces of old, discarded cloth was altered somewhat according to circumstances: he was obliged to accept cloth the faithful had placed as offerings in strategic locations. Be that as it may, he continued to wear robes made from discarded cloth until the day he died.

Ãcariya Mun insisted that in order to live in comfort a monk must comport himself like a worthless old rag. If he can rid himself of the conceit that his virtuous calling makes him somebody special, then he will feel at ease in all of his daily activities and personal associations, for genuine virtue does not arise from such assumptions. Genuine virtue arises from the self-effacing humility and forthright integrity of one who is always morally and spiritually conscientious. Such is the nature of genuine virtue: without hidden harmful pride, that person is at peace with himself and at peace with the rest of the world wherever he goes. The ascetic practice of wearing only robes made from discarded cloth serves as an exceptionally good antidote to thoughts of pride and selfimportance.

A practicing monk should understand the relationship between himself and the virtuous qualities he aspires to attain. He must never permit pride to grab possession of the moral and spiritual virtues he cultivates within his heart. Otherwise, dangerous fangs and daggers will spring up in the midst of those virtuous qualities – even though intrinsically they’re a source of peace and tranquillity. He should train himself to adopt the self-effacing attitude of being a worthless old rag until it becomes habitual, while never allowing conceit about his worthiness to come to the surface. A monk must cultivate this noble quality and ingrain it deeply in his personality, making it an intrinsic character trait as steadfast as the earth. He will thus remain unaffected by words of praise, or of criticism. Moreover, a mind totally devoid of conceit is a mind imperturbable in all circumstances. Ãcariya Mun believed that the practice of wearing robes made from discarded cloth was one sure way to help attenuate feelings of self-importance buried deep within the heart.

Living in the forest. Realizing the value of this dhutanga observance from the very beginning, Ãcariya Mun found forest dwelling conducive to the eerie, secluded feeling associated with genuine solitude. Living and meditating in the natural surroundings of a forest environment awakens the senses and encourages mindfulness for remaining vigilant in all of one’s daily activities: mindfulness accompanying every waking moment, every waking thought. The heart feels buoyant and carefree, unconstrained by worldly responsibilities. The mind is constantly on the alert, earnestly focusing on its primary objective – the transcendence of dukkha.  Such a sense of urgency becomes especially poignant  when living far from the nearest settlement, at locations deep in remote forest areas teeming with all kinds of wild animals. In a constant state of readiness, the mind feels as though it’s about to soar up and out of the deep abyss of the kilesas mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions. Kleshas include states of mind such as anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression, etc. )at any moment – like a bird taking flight.In truth, the kilesas remain ensconced there in the heart as always. It is the evocative forest atmosphere that tends to inspire this sense of liberation. Sometimes, due to the power of this favorable environment, a monk becomes convinced that his kilesas are diminishing rapidly with each passing day, while those remaining appear to be ever more scarce. This unfettered feeling is a constant source of support for the practice of meditation.

A monk living deep in the forest tends to consider the wild animals living around him – both those inherently dangerous and those that are harmless – with compassion, rather than with fear or apathy. He realizes that all animals, dangerous and harmless, are his equals in birth, ageing, sickness, and death. We human beings are superior to animals merely by virtue of our moral awareness: our ability to understand difference between good and evil. Lacking this basic moral judgment, we are no better than common animals. Unknown to them we label these creatures ‘animals’, even though the human species is itself a type of animal. The human animal is fond of labeling other species, but we have no idea what kind of label other animals have given to us. Who knows? Perhaps they have secretly labeled human beings ‘ogres’ , since we’re so fond of mistreating them, slaughtering them for their meat – or just for sport. It’s a terrible shame the way we humans habitually exploit these creatures; our treatment of them can be quite merciless. Even among our own kind, we humans can’t avoid hating and harassing each other, constantly molesting or killing one another. The human world is troubled because people tend to molest  and kill each other, while the animal world is troubled because humans tend to do the same to them. Consequently, animals are instinctively wary of human beings.

Ãcariya Mun claimed that life in the forest provides unlimited opportunities for  thought and reflection about one’s own heart, and its relation to many natural phenomena in the external environment. Anyone earnestly  desiring to go beyond dukkha can find plenty of inspiration in the forest, plenty of incentive to intensify his efforts – constantly.

At times, groups of wild boars wandered into the area where Ãcariya Mun was walking in meditation. Instead of running away in panic when they saw him, they continued casually foraging for food in their usual way. He said they seemed to be able to differentiate between him and all the merciless ‘ogres’ of this world, which is why they kept rooting around for food so casually, instead of running for their lives.

Here I would like to digress from the main story a little to elaborate on this subject. You might be tempted to think that wild boars were unafraid of Ãcariya Mun because he was a lone individual living deep in the forest. But, when my own monastery, Wat Pa Baan Taad, was first established and many monks were living together there, herds of wild boars took refuge inside the monastery, wandering freely through the area where the monks had their living quarters. At night they moved around unafraid, only a few yards from the monks’ meditation tracks– so close that they could be heard snorting and thumping as they rooted in the ground. Even the sound of the monks calling to one another to come and see this sight for themselves failed to alarm the wild boars. Continuing to wander freely through the monastery grounds every night, boars and monks soon became thoroughly accustomed to each other. Nowadays, wild boars only infrequently wander into the monastery because ogres, as animals refer to us humans – according to Ãcariya Mun – have since killed and eaten almost all the wild animals in the area. In another few years, they probably will have all disappeared.

Living in the forest, Ãcariya Mun met the same situation: almost every species of animal likes to seek refuge in the areas where monks live. Wherever monks take up residence, there are always a lot of animals present. Even within the monastery compounds of large metropolitan areas, animals – especially dogs – constantly find shelter. Some city monasteries are home to hundreds of dogs, for monks never harm them in any way. This small example is enough to demonstrate the cool, peaceful nature of Dhamma, a spirit of harmlessness that’s offensive to no living creature in this world – except, perhaps, the most hardhearted individuals.

Ãcariya Mun’s experience of living in the forest convinced him just how supportive that environment is to meditation practice. The forest environment is ideal for those wishing to transcend dukkha. It is without a doubt the most appropriate battlefield to choose in one’s struggle to attain all levels of Dhamma, as evidenced by the preceptor’s first instructions to a newly ordained monk: Go look for a suitable forest location in which to do your practice. Ãcariya Mun maintained this ascetic observance to the end of his life, except on infrequent occasions when circumstances mitigated against it. A monk living in the forest is constantly reminded of how isolated and vulnerable he is. He can’t afford to be unmindful. As a result of such vigilance, the spiritual benefits of this practice soon become obvious.

Dwelling at the foot of a tree is a dhutanga observance that closely resembles living in the forest. Ãcariya Mun said that he was dwelling under the shade of a solitary tree the day his citta completely transcended the world – an event that will be fully dealt with later on. A lifestyle that depends on the shade of a tree for a roof and the only protection against the elements is a lifestyle conducive to constant introspection. A mind possessing such constant inner focus is always prepared to tackle the kilesas, for its attention is firmly centered on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness – rýpa, vedanã, citta, and dhamma – and The Four Noble Truths – dukkha, samudaya, nirodha, and magga. Together, these factors constitute the mind’s most effective defense, protecting it during its all-out assault on the kilesas. In the eerie solitude of living in the forest, the constant fear of danger can motivate the mind to focus undivided attention on the Foundations of Mindfulness, or the Noble Truths. In doing so, it acquires a solid basis for achieving victory in its battle with the kilesas – such is the true path leading to the Noble Dhamma. A monk who wishes to thoroughly understand himself, using a safe and correct method, should find an appropriate meditation subject and a suitable location that are conducive for him to exert a maximum effort. These combined elements will help to expedite his meditation progress immeasurably. Used as an excellent means for destroying kilesas since the Buddha’s time, the dhutanga observance of dwelling at the foot of a tree is another practice meriting special attention.

Staying in a cemetery is an ascetic practice which reminds monks and lay people alike not to be neglectful while they are still alive, believing that they themselves will never die. The truth of the matter is: we are all in the process of dying, little by little, every moment of every day. The people who died and were relocated to the cemetery – where their numbers are so great there’s scarcely any room left to cremate or bury them – are the very same people who were dying little by little before; just as we are now. Who in this world seriously believes himself to be so unique that he can claim immunity from death?

We are taught to visit cemeteries so that we won’t forget the countless relatives with whom we share birth, ageing, sickness, and death; so as to constantly remind ourselves that we too live daily in the shadow of birth, ageing, sickness, and death. Certainly no one who still wanders aimlessly through the endless round of birth and death would be so uncommonly bold as to presume that he will never be born, grow old, become sick, or die. Since they are predisposed toward the attainment of freedom from this cycle by their very vocation, monks should study the root causes of the continuum of suffering within themselves. They should educate themselves by visiting a cemetery where cremations are performed, and by reflecting inwardly on the crowded cemetery within themselves where untold numbers of corpses are brought for burial all the time: such a profusion of old and new corpses are buried within their bodies that it’s impossible to count them all. By contemplating the truly grievous nature of life in this world, they use mindfulness and wisdom to diligently probe, explore, and analyze the basic principles underlying the truth of life and death.

Everyone who regularly visits a cemetery – be it an outdoor cemetery or the inner cemetery within their bodies – and uses death as the object of contemplation, can greatly reduce their smug sense of pride in being young, in being alive, in being successful. Unlike most people, those who regularly contemplate death don’t delight in feeling self-important. Rather, they tend to see their own faults, and gradually try to correct them, instead of merely looking for and criticizing other people’s faults– a bad habit that brings unpleasant consequences. This habit resembles a chronic disease that appears to be virtually incurable, or perhaps it could be remedied if people weren’t more interested in aggravating the infection than they are in curing it.

Cemeteries offer those interested in investigating these matters an opportunity to develop a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the nature of death. Cemeteries are the great gathering places of the world. All people without exception must eventually meet there. Death is no small hurdle to be easily stepped over before a thorough investigation of the issue. Before they finally crossed over, the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples had to study in the ‘great academy’of birth, ageing, sickness, and death until they had mastered the entire curricula. Only then were they able to cross over with ease. They had escaped the snares of Mãra, unlike those who, forgetting themselves, disregard death and take no interest in contemplating its inevitability; even as it stares them in the face.

Visiting cemeteries to contemplate death is an effective method for completely overcoming the fear of dying; so that, when death seems imminent, courage alone arises despite the fact that death is the most terrifying thing in the world. It would seem an almost impossible feat, but it has been accomplished by those who practice meditation – the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples being the supreme examples. Having accomplished this feat themselves, they taught others to thoroughly investigate every aspect of birth, ageing, sickness, and death so that people wanting to take responsibility for their own well-being can use this practice to correct their misconceptions before it becomes too late. If they reach that ‘great academy’ only when their last breath is taken, it will then be too late for remedial action: the only remaining options will be cremation and burial. Observing moral precepts, making merit, and practicing meditation will no longer be possible.

Ãcariya Mun well understood the value of a visit to the cemetery, for a cemetery has always been the kind of place that encourages introspection. He always showed a keen interest in visiting cemeteries– both the external variety and the internal one. One of his disciples, being terrified of ghosts, made a valiant effort to follow his example in this. We don’t normally expect monks to be afraid of ghosts, which is equivalent to Dhamma being afraid of the world – but this monk was one such case.