Venerable Acariya Mun's Path of Practice

by Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno | 256,801 words

This book includes many things that may not be easy to understand for the reader who is not familiar with the theory and practice of Theravada Buddhism. This book is a translation of the Dhutanga practices of Venerable Acharn Mun Bhuridatta....

Chapter II - Training The Mind

It is necessary to have many different methods and ways of train­ing and constraining the citta in order to be competent to deal with the deceptive tricks of the many different kinds of kilesas which dwell in the citta and which display themselves in all situations, in different ways according to type. If one is observant one will see that the citta is the meeting place of all affairs and this causes one much disturbance so that one can never have any time to be quiet and relax even for a moment. In general, these affairs are of a low, unworthy nature, which lay in wait to draw and divert one’s activities in their direction and they hardly have anything of the teaching of Dhamma within them which could bring one some calm and peace of heart.

So one who intends to find out everything that is false and true must be a person who observes the citta and who trains and disciplines the citta in various different ways. The Lord Buddha and the Savakas are the most excellent examples of this to all of us who practise the way, for they liked to stay in the forest until they became used to it.

In truth, the feelings of all people are likely to be much the same, for nobody by himself would normally like to go and live in the forests, hills or lonely places that nobody in the world wants. But the Bhikkhu only thinks about and does this because he has the purpose of becoming a good and worthy person with faith and confidence in himself with thoughts and actions that he sees will be of value to himself and others. Therefore he goes against his inclinations of heart and does it in the same way that people everywhere in the world do their work, for in truth, nobody likes to do things that are difficult both physically and mentally. But they have to do it because the necessity of it compels them — and so they have to run around busily, everywhere in the world, instead of just eating, living, sleeping and lying down which is their natural inclination.

But the difficulty of training the citta is much greater, and those who have never done it should not try to compare it with the difficulties in doing other tasks in the world. For if the time comes that one does the work of training the citta, one may not be able to put up with the difficulty of it and one may call it “torture” or an imposition. Then one may lose interest in going on with this work without ever considering the results which will come from it and how wonderful and miraculous they are.

At this point one may have seen enough of the strength and tenacity of the kilesas which are the overlords ruling the heart to realise more and more how much tenacity and resistance they have and how much they oppose and torment beings in the world. Because training the citta is just the work of eliminating or driving out the kilesas from the heart. But the one who drives them out does not want to do so, for the one who has for ages been the overlord, having power over the hearts of people and other beings, does not want to go. Because to go and live elsewhere is not so easy as living over the heart of a person where it gets such affectionate treatment and lavish care all the time and where it is not likely to go wanting or be hard up for anything.

If it wants to admire forms, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and mental perceptions (arammana) of any kind, the one who is acting as the servant of the kilesas immediately runs about searching for these things to gratify them without delay. However much the cost or the credit payment, the pleasure of it satisfies the craving and the accounts can be left to be thought about later.

Thinking out and paying the accounts is the work and the duty of the one who underwrites everything, but the Chief who has the power makes no complaint and is not the least troubled by this. In such a situation, who can make his heart so hard and from where can he get the steel resolve to be able to train the citta with the thought of driving out the kilesas — those lords who are so eloquent — from the heart?

Therefore training the citta so as to know and see with true mindfulness and wisdom, that the kilesas are the enemy of the heart is a difficult training and the most difficult thing to see. In fact one should call the work of training the citta to torment the kilesas “a life and death struggle”. This work is not play, nor is it fun like sports on a playing field, and all of those who are able to know what the kilesas look like, destroy them so that they die from the heart. This means, such ­people as the Lord Buddha and they are therefore special people. If with us ordinary people there arises the ability to destroy the kilesas so that they die from the heart, even if we do not become special people like the Lord, we must be special in the field of all the kilesas. For if the wonder of the ability to destroy the kilesas and the wonder of the citta which has gone beyond the power of the kilesas is within any person, such a worthy person is beyond the world.

Striving, in all its aspects for the purpose of capsizing the “Round of Samsara” (vatta) which is imposed on the heart is therefore a task which is full of difficulties and torments in every way. The Kammatthana Bhikkhu who opposes his natural inclinations and goes to stay in places of hardship to train himself, such as the wild forests and hills, is thus like someone living in a prison. Before he can free himself from the shackles of each of the kilesas he must go to the limit — “make or break”.

Training the citta for the real truth of Dhamma is as difficult as this. Not only does he live under self-discipline but his mode of eating food is also a discipline. Because it is also an aspect of the work that he is doing and one who is anxious to pass through and get free from the jungle of darkness and obscurity will strive to apply the discipline to develop virtue in this direction also.

When eating food, even though he may be very hungry and feel like eating a lot, after he has thought and taken Dhamma into consideration he will be sure to restrain and resign himself to eating only a little — enough to provide a balance between the needs of the body and of the citta — and he will try to make it his constant practice to eat that small amount which suits his needs.

If he should increase the amounts he takes on some occasions he must be fully aware of it at the time, not forgetting himself. But by alternating and taking more at times and less at others, the body and mind can be kept in balance without becoming too exhausted or getting sick, which would spoil the work. Thus the citta will at least be in balance and will develop steadily in accordance with the amount of work which is being done continually to promote it.

If his ability is enough and his characteristics of perfection (vasana–parami) are well developed, he can go beyond to what his heart is intent upon. Because each method of working in the direction of Dhamma aids his development, so those who find that going on fast is to their liking and accords with their nature, will try to alternate fasting, eating fully and eating little for longer or shorter periods as they see fit.

The citta then stirs up effort every time it has an opportunity. Meanwhile the physical body will be weakened so that his work may go ahead with facility and so that the citta may steadily go on increasing in evenness and clarity. Then the way of samadhi will strengthen when the time is appropriate for it. And the way of wisdom will be active, and depending on the situation it will alternate with samadhi.

Those Bhikkhus who stay in the forest, in the hills, under an overhanging cliff or in various other places, and those who reduce their intake of food, or who fast, all have Dhamma as the firm aim of the citta, and in their various ways they are all working and striving in the direction of samadhi bhavana in their various situations and activities. They are also constantly watchful of the changes of heart that take place in association with objects that cause emotional reactions (arammana).

When the heart is consistently brought up and looked after in the right way, it will steadily develop. Then samadhi will develop and become firm and wisdom will become more skilful and widespread every time it is used. Things which were never known before become known, never seen before are seen and never existed before then arise in the heart which is continually searching for the truth wholeheartedly with complete commitment. Then the laziness and weakness, the distraction and instability, the confusion, restlessness, darkness and obscurity which are normally always present in the ordinary citta gradually fade away day by day, until it can be seen clearly how much they have disappeared. But in particular, for those who discipline the heart by means of fear, for those who fast for many days, depending on their suitability for this practice, and also for those who discipline themselves by sitting for a long time and investigating the resulting painful feelings (dukkha–vedana) as the object of attention (arammana), the results which they get from each of these three methods are unusually wonderful and far more so than come from other forms of discipline. But they will be explained later on as the occasion demands.

Here, we will describe the general way in which the Bhikkhus practise. The way in which they train and discipline their hearts by the foregoing methods, depends on the technique which each individual thinks out for himself to train himself and this is different for each person. Some of them, as well as going to live in fearful forests and hills, also think up special methods to suit the time, place and circumstances and increase their effectiveness. Thus for example; in such a place at night, when fear arises in the citta they may go and walk in another part of the forest, in order to discipline the fear which was getting stronger, by going and sitting in samadhi bhavana on a rock on top of a hill or in the open, or by walking cankama in various places where large tigers pass by, and doing this for a long time.

At the same time, the citta examines the nature of fear and death, and it also looks into the nature of tigers, which the citta assumes to be so frightening, and the nature of oneself by asking in what way the tiger is so different that one should be so afraid? One must investigate this by dividing up the different parts and comparing these things which the citta thinks are so different Thus for example:

“What is it that the tiger has that is frightening? What about its teeth? I also have teeth. What about its claws? I also have nails. Its hair? I also have hair. Its head? … Its body? … Its eyes? … Its stripes? I also have tattoos and birth marks. As for its tail, even the tiger itself is not afraid of it, so why should I be?”

“As far as the heart of the tiger and my own heart are concerned, they are both alike — indeed my heart is that of a man, a Bhikkhu, which has a much higher value. Even though the various parts of the body are not identically the same, yet the elements of which they are made are the same and there is not enough difference between the tiger and myself to justify this fear of each other.”

“The heart of the tiger is the heart of an animal whereas my heart is the heart of a Bhikkhu with Dhamma in it, so it has value and power far beyond that of a tiger. Why then should I turn round and lower my value and status as a Bhikkhu by being afraid of a tiger which is only an animal? Is this not degrading to one who is a complete Bhikkhu?”

“Furthermore the Sasana has such wonderful excellence throughout the “three worlds”, but in it there is a Bhikkhu who is timid and frightened, who is a blemish on it, who stains it and gives it a bad name and who also degrades it. To degrade the Sasana, which is the priceless treasure of the “three worlds” by being more concerned for one’s life than for Dhamma is not right and proper, and if I am to die I would do so in bad spirits and stupid, without any dignity in myself or in the circle of the Sasana at all. The Kammatthana Bhikkhu who dies in this way is said to die in the manner of one who “sells” himself and one who “sells” the Sasana and all those who practise the way everywhere. This is not dying in the manner of a warrior in battle who firmly believes in kamma and who courageously faces up to whatever is about to happen. I am a Kammatthana Bhikkhu in all respects, and I ought not to die in such a way, but rather in the manner of a warrior, ending my life in battle with bravery and courage and this will be for the honour of myself and the Sasana as a symbol for the world to uphold for a long time.”

“I must think rightly and see clearly the nature of both the tiger and myself; all the parts of its body and of my own, as well as the fear of death which penetrates and possesses me inwardly. I must see this quite clearly with wisdom, not letting this fear inundate me and play with me and then pass by in vain for this would spoil my standing as a Son of the Tathagata and as a full Kammatthana Bhikkhu. So whatever happens I must fight to the end until I see either victory or defeat and life or death today. Whichever way it goes, whether the side which brings power and honour to me and credit to the Sasana, or the side which destroys both myself and the Sasana because of this fear, I shall know tonight — and now I must contemplate and investigate and go on working it out until it breaks apart.”

While the contemplation and analysis are going on, turning round and about sorting out the elements, the khandhas, fearlessness and fear and searching for the underlying principle of truth with meticulous care and a resolute heart, the heart begins to know and understand from the wisdom which is continually teaching it all the time without letting up. Until the heart goes quiet and peaceful and all the previous anxiety disappears, resulting in a state of calm and happiness. All the emotionally charged images based on memory (sañña–arammana) which one had formerly believed in, in various ways then disappear entirely, leaving only calm and happiness of the citta which appears noble and dignified. The citta then gains faith in the method of contemplation which is the cause of this state, and it sees that it truly is the way to get rid of confusion and the tendency to run about searching for excitement and trouble, and also fear. It also gains faith in the results which arise at that time, that — “This is a state of calm and happiness of a strange and unusual kind which I have never experienced before and I did this contemplation by taking fear as the motivating cause.”

This is a method which the Bhikkhus use to get rid of fear, until they see the results of it for themselves. But in the beginning stages of training in the way of kammatthana they use a preliminary meditation (parikamma–bhavana) on some aspect of Dhamma such as “Buddho”, when a lot of fear arises, rather than the method of contem­­plation. This can result in the attainment of calm and the dispersal of fear in the same way, but it differs in that one gains no skilful or clever methods such as one gets from the way of contemplation.

Some Bhikkhus, when fear arises while they are sitting under the mosquito net, lift it up and sit without any cover. They put up with the bites of the gadflies and mosquitoes for nothing else matters but the resolve to practise their meditation using various methods to defeat the fear that is there at that time. Until they succeed. Then they stop and rest.

The citta which gains calm by training and discipline based on fear seems to gain a deeper more subtle state of calm which lasts much longer than the calm attained by the usual methods of meditation. While the citta is in the deepest state of calm, in the above example, it feels as if the body has completely disappeared, and the contact (samphassa) between the internal and external fields of sensation (ayatana) ceases until the citta draws away from this state, after which they start to function again as normal.

The state of the citta in which the functions of the fields of sensation cease, closely resembles a state of sleep although it is not the same thing, for when one sleeps nothing very strange and unusual happens. But when the citta is completely calm something very strange and unusual manifests and there is only “knowing” in that state of calm at that time. The generally accepted results that come from normal sleep are different from the subtle state of calm-of-the-citta which those who practise get from their samadhi meditation. Those results always stick in mind and make them long for this state which is never tasteless or insipid.

It is results such as these that make those who have experienced them resolute and courageous in their methods of training and discipline which they apply to themselves on future occasions by following the same pattern of practice, and they will never give in to fear however strongly it arises. In fact they will rather take fear as a reminder which prompts them to both overcome that fear and to grasp victory in order to be the master with honour and dignity, as they have done so before. This is the reason which induces them to search for frightening places in which to develop themselves, and the more frightening a place is, the more are they determined to go and stay in such a place and do their practice there. Because, even though the heart is displaying a bold, venturesome spirit, training it by means of fear until a fearless courage arises quite clearly, using the methods of mindfulness and wisdom which are competent to deal with all the tricks within it, is something that is most desirable to them.

When I said that these places are frightening, I mean this in truth because they are forests where tigers live and like to wander about searching for food, coming and going all the time. In some places, they wander about even in broad daylight, but much more so at night when these areas are their natural hunting ground and they are not afraid of people — which they are in the daytime. But in general they are just not very interested in people, but rather in animals, which they look on as their natural food. So even though they go back and forth round about where a Bhikkhu is staying, he would hardly know they were there unless they roar or growl. But it is a natural instinct of man to think of tigers as fierce wild animals and in those circumstances who could avoid thinking and being afraid of them. For as soon as he enters such a place a Bhikkhu knows very well that: “I have entered the Tigers’ jungle!” Under such circumstances who could be so fearless as to stay there relaxed and at ease as if he was in an ordinary market place? He is bound to think of them with mistrust and fear all the time.

The skilled Dhutanga Bhikkhu is very skilled indeed and is worthy of a lot of respect and faith. When walking cankama and tigers roar in the area where he is staying, he still keeps on walking as if nothing had happened, and when later someone questions him about it he answers quite casually with good reasoning. So that when asked a question such as: “Tigers are fierce animals which can bite and eat both animals and men and I’ve often heard of them taking and eating people. How then can you walk cankama in such an unconcerned manner? Do you have a magic spell so that the tiger can’t open its mouth to eat people? If so, please teach it to me so that when I go into the forests and hills I need not fear the tigers and bears coming to eat me. Then I will be able to do my meditation at ease without fear, for the main difficulty in going to stay in forests and hills now is just because of fear. If I don’t need to be afraid because I’ve got a magic spell to keep the tiger’s mouth shut so it can’t eat people I’ll feel a lot more easy and comfortable.”

He answers in an unassuming manner, “The tiger was roaring over there whereas I was walking cankama here. It was several sen (1 sen = 40m) away or maybe a kilometre and what is the use of being afraid? If it had come to me, roaring and acting as if it were truly about to jump on me and take me away to eat, there would be enough cause to be afraid. Wherever I’ve been I’ve only heard the sound of them roaring in the languages of animals who have mouths, but I’ve never seen them acting in any way towards me that would warrant being afraid. As for magic spells, everybody has them if they would only make use of them, but for people like you, even if you went to learn such spells from Lady Vessuvana in heaven, as soon as you went into the forest and just heard the roar of a tiger you would run for your life taking the magic spells with you. However powerful those spells may be, they would be carried away by a timid person afraid of death, running so hard that his robes fall off, and the spells would all be lost and forgotten. Even if I had any magic spells as a protection I would never think of giving them to someone like you, for I am afraid that you would take them and ruin them completely. However good a magic spell might be, if the person is incompetent, the spell cannot help in any way. Like someone who has a gun slung over his shoulder in case of danger. But when the time comes he doesn’t know how to use it, so the gun is of no help to him.”

“Here, we are just talking about tigers and ghosts and you have already started to get frightened and beginning to shiver. How then could you have the presence of mind to recall a magic spell to protect yourself? You would think only of running away which is so shameful that you would never forget it. I don’t think in the same way as you, for if I did I would also have to go about learning magic methods and spells to subjugate tigers and various other animals without having any interest or concern for overcoming the fear which is an internal danger, so that it may be cured by various methods. Until finally I would just be an incompetent person without any self-esteem for the rest of my life.”

When one thinks about it, it makes one ashamed that tigers should be more powerful than man. For many people are frightened of their power when they are just lying down or growling in their animal language, or having fun and playing together. One feels that a good tiger has many times more power than an incompetent person who wants to learn magic spells from such a Bhikkhu. But the answer they get should be a valuable lessen to them for a long time.

Previously the citta of such a Bhikkhu would have been accustomed to jumping about and running everywhere with bold obstinacy and without any bounds or limits, but when he has trained it with persistent effort until it submits and becomes docile and responsive to reason and the ways of Dhamma, he is not disturbed or frightened by the various things which happen to people and which they are always liable to meet up with. He can live anywhere or go anywhere whatever the conditions may be. In the forests and hills where timid people dare not go, he can live comfortably, and look on it as a place of refuge where he can relax, recover and develop the true practices of a Bhikkhu (Samana–Dhamma) in a satisfactory way all the time. Those who are concerned to become good and developed people should thus take up the way of doing things of such a Bhikkhu as their own path, although it is not essential to go and live in the forests or hills like him. But the methods and means of training oneself in various activities and duties so that one shall become a good person with firmly established basic principles within, both in the present and the future, is something which can be taught and received from others. Otherwise the Lord Buddha would have had no way to proclaim Dhamma and teach the world, because nobody else has the ability to practise in the same way as the Lord. But there are those who take up the principles of Dhamma and then go and practise them as a follower of the Lord until they become the best of men. They are good people who uphold the traditions in the circle of Buddhist followers right up to the present day, and it is generally accepted that there are a very large number of them who have gained the results from doing the practices which come from the Lord in the manner of a pupil following a teacher.

The various methods of training and asceticism which each individual uses to develop his citta are chosen by each one depending on his need and ability. However, the Dhutanga Bhikkhus in the lineage of Venerable Acharn Mun have always followed his ways of practice without discarding any of them, right up to the present time.

Concerning the aforementioned Bhikkhu who found it hard to believe that the other Bhikkhu could walk cankama and be able to compete with the sound of tigers roaring, and thus thought that he had a magic spell to lock up the mouths of the tigers; in fact he genuinely thought like this, because he was very afraid of the tigers when he heard them roar in the vicinity of where he was staying, even though they did not come close to him. He therefore had to ask such a question.

When several Dhutanga Bhikkhus meet and talk Dhamma together on a suitable occasion, it is very interesting to listen to: for the Dhamma which comes from the heart and arises from the way of practice; for the asceticism and the types of ascetic training of the citta in various different ways; for the courage and fear which arise at various different times, and for the sufferings and difficulties at those times when the body is pushed to the limit of endurance. But the most important thing is the Dhamma within. This means the samadhi and wisdom which each one of them has experienced in his own way in various places. When they talk together about their experiences, each one from the ground level of his own citta and Dhamma, it is so absorbing that one forgets the time and the aches and pains of sitting on the floor for a long time.

In some cases, but not many, a Bhikkhu talks of his citta dropping into a state of calm in three distinct stages to attain the full state of samadhi. Thus in the first stage it becomes mildly calm such that there is a relaxed well being. In the second stage the calm and well being increase in a manner that is clearly evident. When it gets to the third and final stage the body vanishes and it feels as if one has no body. The fields of sensation (ayatana) also cease to function, and there remains only “knowing” of a subtle and most wonderful kind which is beyond all description. This is what they call the full ground of samadhi and it is the type which can form a firm and stable foundation for the citta. The heart which goes down into a complete state of calm at a ground level such as this will generally rest there for several hours before rising out of it. Sometimes it may stay there for as much as twelve hours. Some may wonder whether the body would not be very painful and stiff when the citta withdraws from samadhi after sitting in one posture without any change for many hours. What in fact happens to the citta and the khandhas is as follows.

When the citta goes into a state of rest and calms down until it reaches full samadhi as related above, the citta and the body do not react to any disturbance from anything whatsoever. Then the integration of the citta and of the physical elements (dhatu) as they exist at that time are understood to be much more subtle than when one is in deep sleep. This is so, because, sometimes after sleeping for a long time, when one wakes one still feels aches and pains in those parts of the body upon which one was lying. But when the citta withdraws from this type of samadhi, there are no aches or pains of any sort at all, every part of the body being in its normal, natural state. This gives one good reason to believe in the truth about those Bhikkhus who are said to enter into “complete cessation” (Nirodha–samapatti) for several days. For it is said that, firstly, they can in fact remain in samadhi for such a long time and secondly, their health and body remain normal without any weakness or harm from it whatsoever.

Dhamma talk amongst Dhutanga Bhikkhus generally revolves about the results of the practice which they have done which derives from the level of attainment that they have experienced, and also about the places where they have done the practice in various locations. This is the way in which the truth of their knowing and seeing by way of the heart is passed on to each other and it gives them all food for thought for a long time.

Their talk never concerns the world of samsara, of business or politics, of gain or loss, love or hate, of anger, loathing, envy, vindictiveness, or jealousy, nor are they ever even suggested, for their only concern is the practice of Dhamma. However long they go on talking, which depends on what is necessary, it is a means of uplifting the citta of the listener, so that he “drinks” it in deeply and is permeated with Dhamma the whole way through.

This is a most excellent occasion which is well described in the ­saying of Dhamma: “Kalena Dhammasakaccha etammangalamuttamam” (Talk on Dhamma at the right time is the highest blessing). Because such talk is between those who are all practising the way and their aim is knowing what is true and seeing what is true and promoting truth, and not at all for boasting about degrees and levels of attainment, nor about how much one knows and how clever one is. Each one’s citta is poised all the time, waiting and interested to hear the truth while each of the others is presenting it. But if any one of them, when talking, is seen to be deficient or mistaken in any point he is always ready to submit with genuine and heartfelt respect and to accept correction from one of the others whose ground of Dhamma is higher. Such talk is a way of checking the knowledge and understanding and the state of the citta of each other in connection with the attainment of samadhi and the Path, Fruition and Nibbana (Magga–Phala–Nibbana).

When such Bhikkhus have full confidence in the value and wealth of practice of each other without feeling any doubts or reservations they can talk together intimately and reveal to each other all the Dhamma that they have within them without holding anything back or keeping anything secret. In this way, those who practise can get to know quite clearly what ground of Dhamma each of them has attained. This Bhikkhu has such and such a ground of citta and a ground of Dhamma; that one has a subtle citta; that one has a high level of wisdom; that one is close to going beyond becoming and birth whereas this one here has already gone beyond it and is free from all anxieties and can relax. As for this one here, he is lazy and weak in his meditation and when he sits in samadhi he just nods his head and sleeps inwardly. In fact wherever he sits he just sleeps inwardly, for this one is most skilled at sleeping inwardly. Therefore, amongst those who are Dhutanga Bhikkhus one should not assume that every one of them is entirely good. I also once became skilled at sleeping inwardly — but I don’t like to boast about it.

This Bhikkhu here, his citta is steadily becoming calm; this one is beginning to develop into samadhi; this one has strange knowledge about external things such as the Pretas, Ghosts and Devatas. This one likes practising meditation while sitting down; that one likes practising while lying down; that one prefers meditating while standing. This one likes to discipline himself by not lying down; this one by reducing the amount of food he takes; this one by fasting. This one likes to discipline himself by going into the forests to look for tigers or bears as a means to help him overcome fear, by examination and inquiry into it while using the tigers or bears as the cause of the fear. This one likes to discipline himself by walking about looking for tigers in the hills at night. This one likes to receive mysterious guests such as those who have Deva bodies.

But this one here is afraid of ghosts and Pretas as if his parents had brought him up in a house of such beings and dead bodies about the place to scare and haunt him all the time, so that after he was ordained he was in the habit of being afraid of Pretas. This one here has a nature which easily accepts and believes anything which anyone says and he does not like to think it over first to see if it is reasonable before accepting it. Whereas this one here has a lot of opinions and does not readily agree with other people.

This one has a nature to be clever and every time he likes to examine and think well about things before accepting them and he does not believe blindly. When the Acariya teaches them Dhamma, after he has finished his talk, a Bhikkhu of this kind will probably have various questions in his heart which he will ask the Acariya and a dialogue then takes place between them based on reason. The others who were present would thus be enabled to increase their own knowledge and ability in many ways by hearing this dialogue; and this is a good method of assisting those who are practising the way, to develop their mindfulness and wisdom. Such a person is an ornament to those who accompany him, he gives dignity to the circle of those who practise the way and he gives a feeling of confidence to the Acariya who trains and teaches them. Wherever he goes and whatever Bhikkhu he stays with, everyone feels confident and assured about such a person. When he goes to stay on his own he endeavours to look after himself properly by using reason and Dhamma, without doing anything that would lead to deterioration or loss to his friends and associates who practise Dhamma. When contacting lay people he acts in a proper and seemly way, never getting too involved with them, for in the field of Dhutanga Bhikkhus this kind of thing is always liable to creep in. Although, generally speaking this is not done intentionally, yet a lack of skill and carefulness of one kind can also cause loss of virtue of another kind.

Another thing which is always likely to occur in those who practise, happens when the citta attains samadhi, for then it becomes calm, firm and is not distracted or upset by the world. The heart then tends to become unusually eloquent and witty, which can easily cause the one who practises to forget himself. He may then think that he has become skilled although in fact he is not. For he only begins to gain some skill if he first tries to work at the practice without forgetting himself. But those who practise, generally forget themselves in this way more than any other, because they have never known such a thing to happen before. For this is the first step of virtue, calm, happiness of heart and stability of heart which is attained by those who practise and therefore it makes them excited so that they can forget themselves.

If then, there is nobody to warn such a person he may become self-confident in the manner of someone who knows Dhamma, and having the conceit that: “Dhamma has arisen!” The eloquence can then develop into giving clever Dhamma talks; and later he may think that he is skilful at such talks and that Dhamma has developed in his heart. However much he talks, the Dhamma flows out more and more, as though it were water in flood, without limitation or restraint until finally he becomes engrossed in talking and goes on incessantly. Before he realises it many hours have passed by in talking or giving a discourse on Dhamma, and this happens every time.

In making contact with people he has no idea of time, whether it is appropriate to speak, or when to stop, and his discourses have no ending, no “evam”. However much Dhamma he has in him he digs it out to speak and discourse to whoever comes to see him until it is all out, without knowing why they have come. He just shares out Dhamma without any restraint, regrets or thrift, and even though there is not a lot of Dhamma in his heart he still likes to spread it about to his hearts content. He keeps spreading it about without developing it and protecting it by working at the practice, which would act as a dam to prevent the Dhamma in the heart from flowing out, but instead he does damage to it by not knowing when he has gone too far. Even the level of the water in the ocean can drop; and the heart that is neglected so that no work is done to develop Dhamma in it with little time being given to it, is bound to go the way of deterioration and to drop in level. So the citta which “shares itself out” much without also doing any work on its own development is bound to deteriorate and go lower and lower all the time until there is nothing left in it at all.

Finally all that remains is distracted thoughts and vexation through­out his entire mind. If he tries to make it settle it will not remain still and he cannot lead it into a state of calm as he once used to. From having been calm and cool, his mind then changes and becomes conceited, vain, flirtatious, disturbed and gloomy and whether standing, walking, sitting, lying down, or in any other position it is as if his heart is on fire and he cannot find any calm and peace. When he cannot find any way of escape he thinks then of going with the fire, which is the way to make the situation still worse although he does not realise this. Thus he thinks: “When there is only vexation, disturbance and disquietude like this all the time, why should I remain in robes and be a burden on the Sasana? It is better to give up the robe, for I see no value in going on like this. I must disrobe so as to get free from the anxiety which comes from emotional troubles of this kind and thoughts which have not been auspicious all the time since I became a monk.” But even after giving up the robe, such a person will not become auspicious by this type of thinking and will still be lacking in virtue as he was before and useless as he was at first. In saying that he would lighten the burden on the Sasana when he gives up the robe, this is not so, for the Sasana will be no lighter, and in fact it will just be the Sasana upholding the truth as it always has.

Summarising this; the one who is not good is “self”, the one that is no use is “self” and the heavy-heartedness due to wrong doing of the heart is “self”. This should teach one that whatever kind of wealth one has, if one only spends it and disburses it without saving and replenishment it will diminish and finally vanish. The same is true if the heart is allowed to drift and go according to its fate, the result will be trouble and vexation which one must oneself receive everywhere and at all times. Because moral actions — good and evil — are not the fortune of just anybody, but only of the one who has done them and he alone is the only one that can receive the results of them.

The Lord therefore taught that one should be very careful and well guarded and not abandon oneself to one’s emotional impulses. For when the bad results of one’s actions have come upon one they make for great hardship, because these results are far more heavy than a range of a hundred mountains. Wise men are therefore afraid of them and have always taught that one should be afraid of evil and this they still teach right up to the present day due to the fact that they know clearly that the results of kamma both good and evil are not things which change and alter from age to age.

In the manner described above, the Dhutanga Bhikkhus from the most senior to the most junior can know the ground of the citta of each other without the need for insight knowledge (ñana) to find out by going deep down inwardly. Because these Dhamma discussions that take place amongst Kammatthana Bhikkhus are reckoned by them to be very important, and they take place regularly all the time. For they look on them as a means of exchanging knowledge and experience with each other and as a means of “Sammodaniyagatha” — “arousing joy and inspiration” in the Dhamma which they have variously practised and experienced.

When the occasion arises for them to talk together it is up to any of those who are present to speak of something which he has come to know, which may be more or less gross or subtle. Then, while they are talking one has an opportunity to know about them. But when two of the Acariyas talk together, the more exalted they are the more interesting it is. Their Dhamma is all at a profound and high level and it leaves one with a sense of wonder. One feels so inferior and ashamed at one’s own meagre ability (vasana) in mindfulness and wisdom, that one wants to go and bury one’s head in the ground, for one is quite incapable of experiencing the kind of thing that they have experienced.

While listening to the Acariyas talking together it is fascinating and wonderful and one feels so strongly that one wants to know and to see in the way that they do. One feels almost as though one’s heart would break, but where has the mindfulness and wisdom been buried which should enable one to experience as they do? One doesn’t know! Even if one looks for it in one’s thoughts, one searches for it in vain. For all is dark and obscure, as if nothing good or special will ever happen which would satisfy and bring some joy to one’s heart for the rest of one’s life, so that one will die with this corpse full of stupidity, in vain.

Looking at the others who are also there listening, they seem to be so dignified and calm. As if they were flying towards the complete destruction of their kilesas, leaving one behind, oneself who is so incompetent that one cannot find the mindfulness and wisdom to save oneself, and leaving one to die alone submerged in the round of samsara (vatta). The more one thinks the more one’s chest feels constricted and the heart apprehensive, as if it had been thrown out into the jungle, desolate and lonely.

As soon as the Dhamma meeting is over one quietly goes and asks the others who were present: “After listening to the talk on Dhamma how do you feel about it? For I felt almost as if my heart would break and I would die on the spot; the Dhamma which they talked was so amazing and wonderful that when I reflected and looked at myself I seemed to be like a crow perched on top of a golden mountain. When I thought about it I wanted to bury this corpse in the ground to get rid of it, thinking that this would probably lighten the load on the Sasana by relieving it of the dead weight of an unfortunate member lacking in inherent ability, as I am at present. But how was it with you and the others who were present, how did you feel about it? Please tell me truly so that I can use it as a lesson in Dhamma which will enable me to breathe more freely and to get rid of this feeling of depression and hopelessness, as if my heart was about to break.”

Generally those who speak up have much the same sort of thing to say because each of them feels a great satisfaction in the Dhamma of the Acariyas. Then they turn and reflect on themselves, for they want to be like that also, but when the essential conditions (hetu–paccaya) for this are not there, disappointment arises. This then results in feelings of discontent (dukkha) in various ways, but as soon as they hear the same story from the others who are also learning and training in the way of Dhamma, they feel relieved and breathe more freely. Then they become determined to go on training themselves without being anxious and afraid that they will not be able to do so or will not be able to attain this or that state, which is an unnecessary way of hurting oneself.

Where we previously discussed how some Dhutanga Bhikkhus are daring enough to put their lives at stake by going and sitting after dark in those places where tigers roam about in search of food; and how some Bhikkhus also do such things as wandering about at night on the hills searching for tigers; this may make some people doubtful or make them disbelieve that it is so. Because such things may make one question: “For what reason should Bhikkhus sit in such places or go about looking for tigers? Even just sitting in the vicinity of his dwelling place is enough to make someone who is timid, so frightened that he can hardly breathe, so why should he use such excessively daring methods? For the ordinary monk would never go to such an extreme — unless he was a bit mad,” and in truth this is how it should be. But the stories of some Bhikkhus contradict this, for they overcome the fear that arises when sitting in the vicinity of their dwelling place, in the same way as they do when sitting or walking on the hills where tigers live.

However, the fear that arises when one is alone and close to one’s dwelling place is of one kind and a suitable method may be used to overcome it. But the fear which they are searching for in various ways such as going to the mountains and sitting on a rock, or searching for tigers, is incredibly strong, much more so than the fear that arises on one’s own near one’s dwelling. If they had no effective method of overcoming the fear it is quite likely that they would go mad when they actually met up with a tiger. Therefore, they must use a very different method to quell this fear until it can be completely vanquished by the skilful method which each individual devises to train and discipline himself.

To train the citta when it is afflicted with fear up to the point where it can get rid of its stubborn resistance by means of skilful methods which are well suited to the circumstances, is a very important thing. The results which become apparent as soon as the citta surrenders to mindfulness and wisdom are wonderful beyond all expectations:

First, the heart turns round and becomes bold and daring as soon as the fear has been dispelled by those skilful and effective methods, after which the citta remains completely calm without any fear whatsoever. Second, when the citta withdraws from this state, the bold fearlessness still remains without going back to the previous state of fear. Third, this acts as evident proof to one’s heart, showing very clearly how the citta can be forced by disciplinary training to give up its stubborn resistance with the support and aid of various conditions such as fear. Fourth, one feels satisfaction in training oneself by that method or any other with skilfulness of heart, and is not afraid of death.

Even in training themselves by other methods, it should be understood that these Bhikkhus do so with the confidence of having seen results from what they have already done. This makes them go on increasing their efforts to progress in the development of the citta and Dhamma in the heart until they reach the goal that the heart longs for.

In consequence, the training of the heart, or of oneself, which the Dhutanga Bhikkhus undertake is of many different kinds, to suit their different temperaments. But generally, the methods which each of them use are those which have given them results in the past and they must therefore go on working at those methods constantly, rather than any others.

People’s characters differ and there are some whose citta loses all mindfulness, which is required for self-control, as soon as fear arises and they become as if hypnotised and the same thing happens to them every time, regardless of what it is they are afraid of. Such people are not suited to the methods of training which use frightening situations for this could cause them to go mad.

So the type of ascetic training which is used, must take into account the character of each person and which methods suit them and enable them to gain strength of heart. One should not just take up a method that one has heard about as giving good results without taking into consideration the nature of one’s own citta, for by doing this one is liable to get results which are not what they should be.

This is said, not for the purpose of increasing the weakness or feebleness in those who practise the way, but only to point out that what one does should be suitable so that one will gain value from it in accordance with one’s state or condition. For when they come across this passage, some people might think that whatever they find to be tedious, difficult and against the grain is not suitable. Thus: “It is not suited to my character to be doing such things, because someone of my type is suited to living comfortably and there is no need for me to have fear of various kinds to hit me in the heart. I can live eating and sleeping comfortably which is a much better way and suits my character which likes comfort.”

But one should recall how the Lord Buddha — the first Bhikkhu and Arahant, who is the “refuge” of the world — was able to attain Enlightenment and the fulfilment of Dhamma by strict training and discipline more than by any of those other methods which lazy and feeble people call good. Nobody has ever got to the fulfilment of Dhamma by the way of living, eating and sleeping as the heart desires without ever opposing the citta and applying disciplinary training to the heart.

These forceful methods of training have been described, based on the understanding that the kilesas of people are only likely to be afraid of being overpowered by vigorous training, rather than by letting the heart go wherever it will. If one uses some force, it will submit a little, enough to open one’s eyes and breathe freely. But if one gives way and goes along with them a little, they gain encouragement and the situation deteriorates greatly.

One must use many ways and means of discipline and training to frighten the kilesas in order to gain some peace, and those who want to see the submission of the kilesas for themselves must take up and use these strong methods as the tools of training and discipline in ways that are appropriate to their individual characters. This may be a way for them to bypass the kilesas from time to time and to weaken and eliminate them bit by bit. This will also reduce the discontent which torments the heart step by step until they reach the place of safety which is the “territory” of happiness and joy, by using these methods to help them.

Those Bhikkhus who have gained results from training by using these strong and tough methods, truly make gains which are clearly visible and apparent to the heart. Usually this is because the citta which needs to be trained in this way is characteristically bold and likes to put everything into whatever it does without vacillating. When fighting he fights truly; when dying he dies truly; but he does not give up.

Thus, when he goes to train himself to overcome his fear, he looks for a place where he can do so truly, like where he can take tigers for teachers to help him in his training. The more frightening he understands a place to be, the more he sets himself to go there and train himself in the manner of a “life and death struggle”.

At such a time he is even prepared to die and asks only to see the disappearance of fear brought about by the superior power of mindfulness and wisdom which are the basis of the training. He submits himself entirely, otherwise he would never be able to train his heart which is already frightened in a frightening place. But in fact, he is able to withstand it until he sees the awesome power of fear and how it cannot compete with the awesome power of Dhamma, so that it then dissolves right before his eyes. In place of the fear, a bold fearlessness arises quite clearly evident and this gives testimony to the methods of training that he has used, that they are not valueless, but in fact have the greatest value, beyond even what one can imagine.

With some people the heart becomes calm as soon as they hear the tigers roaring in the vicinity. With others, as soon as they hear the feet of the tigers walking in their own natural way, unguarded and unconcerned as to whether anyone is interested in being unafraid, or afraid of them, then straight away the citta concentrates and goes down into a state of calm. There are still others who if they work at their practice in the normal way, their cittas will never be able to submit and drop into a state of calm, but as soon as they use the method of going and sitting in meditation in a path or place where tigers normally walk by, then although the tigers may not actually be passing by at that time the citta can turn round and go down into samadhi by depending on the thought and the fear that the tigers will come looking for them.

There are two methods of practising meditation when fear arises. In the first, one makes the citta concentrate and stay with that aspect of Dhamma that one has been in the habit of practising without letting the citta go away outside to think and imagine about any animals or tigers at all. One’s meditation practice just remains with that as­pect of Dhamma, with mindfulness to supervise and control it. Then whether one will live or die, one takes refuge entirely in that aspect of Dhamma which one is using as the initial entry into the meditation (parikamma). As soon as the citta gives way, goes down as one hopes and truly takes refuge in Dhamma without grasping at this or that, it is bound to become calm, and once the citta drops into a state of calm the fear vanishes immediately. This is the method of practice of someone who is in the beginning stages of meditation practice.

The second method is used by those whose cittas are able to attain samadhi and have some basis of heart. When fear arises they will most likely investigate the situation using the way of wisdom. In other words, they analyse and examine the fear and they analyse and examine the whole of the tiger part by part, which the citta assumes to be such a frightening object. Thus they consider the teeth, the claws, skin, head, tail and the middle of the body, going through every part, bringing it up and looking at it to find out in what way it is frightening, until their nature is seen quite clearly with wisdom and the fear disappears by itself. This is the method for those who have been used to practising the development of insight (vipassana) and they will probably be able to cure the fear by the use of this method.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: