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....
The reader should please understand that in all the forms of practice which are described herein and which are associated with the practice of Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus, I have tried in all cases to write only what is factually true, which I have seen or heard from the Acariyas who have received training under Venerable Acharn Mun. This applies both to the causal conditions; how, in one case, this Bhikkhu has such and such characteristics so he liked to train himself in this way, whereas that Bhikkhu liked to train himself in that way; and also to the results which they attained from their training mixed together with their causes, which we have been relating and will continue to go on doing so. But the names of these Acariyas who have done these things and attained the results will not be disclosed, so as to guard those things which should be kept to oneself. There may however be exceptions to this when it is necessary to disclose the identity of an Acariya.
When I use such expressions as “some Bhikkhus”, or, “in some case the Bhikkhus like training themselves by this method”, for example, the reader should please understand that this is an indirect way of naming a Bhikkhu. Thus the words “some Bhikkhus” or “some cases” in fact stands for the name of a particular Bhikkhu who trained and disciplined himself by such and such a method — like fasting, or walking cankama while competing with the sound of tigers roaring, for example.
In addition every offshoot of the methods of training and discipline which these Bhikkhus used, is a method in itself from which they have gained results that are distinct and certain. Therefore as they have all been tested in practice I have included them herein. For it must be stated that none of this writing has come from speculation or guess work, for if it had, there would be no certainty whether the results would be real and permanent, nor whether they would be acceptable amongst those who practise the way. So the reader should please understand that these writings, both those which I have completed up to this point and those yet to come, are in accordance with the true facts of what happened in the case of each Bhikkhu. But whether it is right or wrong to write such things is my responsibility as being a writer who has the tendency to put down everything without sufficient consideration, which has always been my natural inclination. Therefore, as always, I hope that you will forgive me for this.
The methods of self-training and discipline which these Bhikkhus used, until they became Acariyas teaching Bhikkhus, Novices and other people up to the present day, seem to be activities which nobody has come across before, which have never been heard of before and which never have been thought of as methods of training oneself. Nor would one think, in this present day society, which wants to get results more than doing the work that causes them, that there are those who are daring enough to do these things which put their lives at risk. For life is the thing which people want and preserve more than anything else in the world. But in fact, there are those who do these things and who are ready to take the risks involved until they are a “vital nature” which survives death. If they also come to know Dhamma from the use of these methods, they may be said to be the “death defying Dhamma” of each of these Bhikkhus, because the cause goes beyond death, so the result should equally go beyond death. But such causes and results as those are unlikely to come to Bhikkhus whose interest is in thinking and firmly believing that their lives are so very valuable. Even if they were to think of going in for these methods, they would probably not be able to get into the way of them fully and intimately, because of their overpowering love of their lives which conceals the value of the Dhamma which they have within themselves so that they cannot see it.
On the other hand, there are those Bhikkhus whose interest in the principles of truth is equal to, or greater than their concern for lives; for if they were to let go of these principles it would only result in their lives being in continual disorder and turmoil without any purpose or path. Such Bhikkhus will carefully think over and make tests by comparing what happened to the Acariyas and what has happened to themselves, and how their lives are now, in so far as going into the principles of truth is concerned, and in what aspects they are superior or inferior to the Acariyas. Thus for example: “I have done these things in this way, but why did they do them in that way without any fear that Maccu–raja — the Lord of Death — would laugh and mock at them? Is there anything hidden and obstructing the truths of Dhamma which is different between myself and them? How can they do these things and take the risks and know that they have experienced various things both superficial and deep, revealed and secret from those methods? Nor did they throw their lives away uselessly in using these methods of training and discipline. So the causes and the results which came from them are their own valuable possessions, the signs of which are still there for us to read about now, in the present. They also had physical bodies which are things that they must have cherished much in the same way as I do, and they were individual people who probably had feelings of the same sort as people everywhere. But then, how were they brave enough to make such a sacrifice — and for what? Those things which they did, I have not done yet, and those things which they knew, I have never known. But why? We are all people in the same way, and we all desire those things which are so good and so valuable. So I should take up one of their methods which is well suited to my citta and my ability and go and practise it myself to try it out and see what the results will be like.”
If one is interested in using reasoned thought to round up the mind, and lead it toward the principles of truth which accord with the Dhamma that the Lord taught, then regardless of sex or age there is sure to be a way that one can accept and take up and use and gain value from. Because “truth” does not depend in any particular way on sex or age, but upon reasoned thought and searching for the ground of truth which is in every person.
Those Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus who practised and developed themselves until they became very impressive people, to such an extent that we have seen fit to include their stories here for you to read about, all showed that they had a strong and firm intention and longing for the results which they were aiming for. Therefore they did not think, when they put all their strength and effort into attaining those results, that they would find it difficult or easy, whether they would live or die and gain or lose. They just had the single unshakeable resolve that they could succeed, without a thought of the difficulties and the possibility of whether they would live or die. Because, due to the effort that they were making the results of their efforts, which they hoped for, began to come steadily, and they were results of such a nature as they had never experienced before, which made them forget all their fears entirely. These things which seem so amazing to others who have never come across them are to be found in plenty of cases amongst the Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus, such as those you can read about in the remainder of this book.
A First Encounter With a Tiger
Now we will turn to the story of one of the Acariyas who at this time was walking cankama, back and forth in front of a cave in the hills at night without any thought that anything unusual may happen. Because while walking cankama he had hung up a candle lantern which gave enough light to see where he was walking quite clearly, and normally wild animals know that fire is an indication of the presence of human beings. But as soon as this Acariya had become absorbed in walking cankama he heard the sound of a tiger making a threatening roar at one side and slightly above the path where he was walking, about four yards away, after which it continued to roar on and off.
As soon as he heard it, the Acariya knew it was the sound of a tiger and right then he was afraid in his citta and he stopped and looked in the direction from which the sound came. But he did not see the tiger and so continued to walk cankama. Almost immediately he heard it roar again, so he stopped walking and once more tried to see it, but he still could not get even a glimpse of it. Meanwhile his feelings of fear continued to increase all the time, until he shivered and broke out in a cold sweat which drenched him, and this despite the fact that it was the cold season and the weather was very cold just then. But he roused up his courage and resisted the temptation to flee away; meanwhile the tiger kept on growling. So he looked for a way to shake himself out of this state, to gain courage and take control of himself, and he thought like this:
“I have taken up the practice of Dhamma in the same way as they did it at the time of the Lord Buddha when they acted with great courage and were willing to make all kinds of sacrifice, even including their own lives, without any longing or regrets. In those days it is said that there were many animals and tigers which could be dangerous to Bhikkhus, but there do not seem to have been any cases in which those wild animals ever took Bhikkhus to eat as food. Even if there were such cases, very few of them have ever been recorded — maybe only one or two cases. Yet those Bhikkhus attained Dhamma, brought their kilesas to an end and taught the way to the world until people gained confidence and faith in them and looked on them as their refuge. This has continued right up to the present day and it doesn’t seem that the tigers ever took them to eat as food.”
“As for myself, I am a monk in the Buddhist religion in the same way as they were at the time of the Lord Buddha and I am practising the way to attain the same Dhamma, leading to the one goal, which is the Path, Fruition, and Nibbana (Magga–Phala–Nibbana). But why then, as soon as I hear the sound of a tiger coming to visit me and ask me how I am getting on, do I stand stiff and shiver like someone who is out of his mind and jealously attached to his body, life and heart as if I am not ready to die, in the same way as people in the world, even when their time has come. Why then am I stubbornly resisting this fact of nature which has ever been the way of the world, even to the point where I am standing here shivering, jealously attached to life wanting only not to die? And why am I standing here stiff and opposing the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha in this way? Am I not ashamed in the face of this tiger which is roaring at me — with laughter, right now? If I am not ashamed before the tiger, why do I not think of turning inward so as to be ashamed before myself, a Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhu who is standing here shivering?
This should be enough to make me mindful and wake me up and remind me that I am a Bhikkhu, with a vocation and one who has willingly given up everything. But here I am standing and shivering because I have more concern for my life than for Dhamma, which is more gross than the ways of animals. And that tiger is also an animal whereas I am a man and a full Kammatthana Bhikkhu. Then why should I be so afraid of this tiger; there is no sense in it; and supposing now, while I am so afraid of this tiger and standing here shivering like a puppy in cold water, that my teacher, my Acariya should send his citta to see what is happening here. He would laugh at me just like the tiger is laughing now, and where should I hide my face? This that I am doing is quite disgraceful, and it is bringing disgrace upon Buddhism, on my teacher, my Acariya, as well as all those who practise who are all Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus, in a way that is really obnoxious. Just now it is as if I am being a clown, for the tiger and all the Devatas who live in the vicinity of this hill to laugh at, so that I have no face left. What should I do in order to redeem Buddhism and those that are Buddhists so that they will not be denigrated like rotten fish being sold in the market, for at this moment I am in the role of the merchant advertising them for sale.”
While he was calming down and scolding himself, he was in a state of confusion and anxiety, and the tiger kept on showing its derision by roaring — with laughter — while resting from time to time. As if it was warning him that he must become mindful and control himself with those methods of Dhamma which he was thinking and searching for in confusion, and he must also act in a decisive and true way, right at that time. It seems that he was still resisting the tendency to run away and gradually his mindfulness returned to him, and with it a method or way came to him, thus:
“Whatever beings there may be, whether tigers or people or myself; within Dhamma, the Lord has taught that we are all companions, in that we all have suffering (dukkha), birth, growing old, pain and death in the same way without exception. Even this tiger which is growling at me, and I who am so afraid of it that I have almost gone mad, when each of us have birth, growing old, pain and death as our lot in the same way, what is the use of being afraid? Whether I am afraid or not I am bound to die when I have reached my time, for there is no being anywhere who can avoid this. I came here to practise the way of the Samana Dhamma without envy and without any intention to harm any beings. If then this tiger wants my flesh and blood to increase its vitality so that it can go on living from day to day, I should be happy to make this generous gift to it. It would be much better to do this than to stand here in this dull way, jealously clinging to this living corpse so strongly that I am shivering all over, while still not being ready to move it away elsewhere.”
“Those who have been ordained are those who make sacrifices and not those who cling on jealously with so much concern for their lives that it is shameful and a disgrace to themselves and to the religion. Since I was born I have been eating the flesh, skin and meat of all sorts of animals which the Dhamma teaches us to be our friends and equals in both growing old, pain and death, and this has been the food that has enabled me to grow up to my present size. Almost as if I should not feel any pain if I were pinched or scratched because of the flesh and skin of all these animals covering me. And now, when the time has come that I should be ready to sacrifice my skin and flesh and make a gift of it to this tiger, why am I so tight and stingy as a miser, jealously holding on to it? In addition I am still tenaciously clinging to this body so tight that it is shivering, and this attachment is so strong that I have been unable to get rid of it. But what is worse is that I have reasoned about it, yet the citta will not accept it nor will it either believe or listen to Dhamma. Then in this case it must surely mean that my ordination as a Bhikkhu is for the sake of pure selfishness, because my fear of the demonic kilesas is so strong that I have had no consideration for anything else in the world.”
“If I believe in the kilesas more than Dhamma, then I must remain standing here shivering and looking after this body, this mass of discontent which is here. But if I believe in the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, I must sacrifice this blood and flesh to the tiger for it to take as food so as to maintain its life. It is no good waiting about, so what is it going to be, the way of Dhamma or a jump into the awful whirlpool of miserly attachment? Quick! Make a decision! Don’t waste the time of the tiger who is waiting and listening for this monk, who comes from the line of those who renounce things and make sacrifices, to declare his courage based upon wisdom which has carefully considered the situation, — and say: ‘Whether to give way or cling tightly’.”
This intense battle between the tiger and the Acariya probably went on for about an hour, with neither side being prepared to give way to the other. Finally the Acariya decided that he would give way, because he could see the danger in being possessively attached to life. His heart then turned about and became courageous and brim full of metta and sympathy for that tiger by taking the teaching of a verse of the Dhammapada as the basic principle in his heart, thus:
“All beings are companions in suffering, birth, growing old, pain and death, without exception.”
When he saw the image of the tiger in his imagination, which had been his enemy, it was changed and became the image of a close friend and he thought how he would like to stroke it and play with it with love and sympathy and truly heart felt intimacy. So he left his path for walking cankama, taking his lantern which was hung up at one side of the path, and walked straight towards the tiger with kindness and metta in his heart. But when he got to the place where he thought the tiger would be, it was no longer there, so he went in search of it going all over the forest in that region. Yet the whole time he was walking about searching for the tiger, full of courage, kindness and metta, he saw no sign of it at all and he never knew where it had mysteriously disappeared to. After he had been searching for it for some time without finding it, he became tired of it. Then something spoke up within his heart, as if someone had come to warn him, saying:
“Why are you searching for it? Both knowing and delusion are just within oneself and are not to be found in any other being, nor in this or any other tiger. The fear of death which almost drove you mad a short while ago is just your own delusion. And the knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma which teaches that ‘all beings are companions in suffering, birth, growing old, pain and death, without exception’, which enabled you to relinquish your possessive attachment entirely, so that your citta became full of metta and kindness and a friend to all the world, is also just your own knowledge. Both of these states are the property of nobody except yourself, so what else are you searching for? When there is knowing, the one who knows should have mindfulness and energy and this is right and proper. But to go on searching for anything from other beings, or from this tiger is turning it back into wrong understanding again.”
As soon as this knowledge which spoke up within him, came to an end, his mindfulness immediately returned to him.
The Acariya said that, while he was walking and searching for the tiger, he was quite sure that the tiger was a close and intimate friend of his and that he could pet it and stroke it and fondle it as much as he wanted to, and he never thought that it would do any harm to him at all. But whether this would have been the case or not he did not know.
After this he returned and went on walking cankama fully at ease, without any anxiety or fear remaining at all. Meanwhile the intermittent roars and growls, which he had previously heard, had ceased and never reappeared either that night or for the remainder of the time that he stayed in that area.
The Acariya said that it was quite wonderful how the citta which was so frightened it could hardly keep the body standing upright and almost went mad, was able to turn and become bold and courageous as soon as it was mastered and disciplined in various ways; and how it was then quite prepared to give up flesh, blood and life and sacrifice them to the tiger without any fear and trembling or longing for life at all.
He said that since then whenever he walked cankama or sat in meditation practice, if the citta would not calm down easily he would think of the tiger wishing that it would search him out and often let him hear its roars. Then his citta would be roused up and alert and at least it would become calm. Beyond that his heart would change and become full of metta and kindness and happy in sympathy with all animals — and tigers. Because when the heart changes in this way due to the sounds of all sorts of animals, as well as the tiger, the happiness which arises is most subtle and beyond description.
There is a further short passage which the writer forgot to include before, which arose in the heart of the Acariya while he was out searching for the tiger. He said that it came to him as follows:
“Metta which is experienced as kindness and gentleness is a close and harmonious intimacy with all beings. Both those who would be enemies and all others, including all people, the Devatas, Indra, Brahma, Yama, the Yakkhas and Demons, and all throughout the three realms (Ti–loka–dhatu), and at such a time there are none that can be seen as enemies. The hearts of all the Buddhas and Arahants are full of boundless metta for all beings and those who have metta are always happy whether awake or asleep.”
What was said then seemed to be a teaching directed to myself alone, arising softly in the citta, to be heard and known just by myself alone. I can remember much of it quite clearly but I cannot recall everything that was said which I regret now.
Living in the forest and hills which are lonely, desolate places is likely to be unusually beneficial, and particularly so for those whose aim and intention is for Dhamma. As for example in the case of the aforementioned Acariya who told us how his citta became kind and gentle towards all beings, without exception, including the tiger which he wanted to meet, to fondle and caress and play with in sympathy.
I believe the truth of this story without reservation, because I once had a similar experience. At one time I also became very frightened so that I could hardly control myself. So I tried using a method to train and restrain myself, much in the same way as the foregoing Acariya. Until the citta was cured of its stubborn resistance and became courageous and gentle with metta and was able to go and search for its enemies, of all types, without any apprehension at all. So as soon as I heard the story of this Acariya I immediately felt deeply impressed by his story which showed that there are still those who practise the way of the forests and the wilds in the same way as I had done. Before this I thought that I was the only one to have done this. Because it is not easy to explain this sort of thing to people, due to its being outside the normally accepted limits within which people everywhere think and consider.