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....
At this point I shall relate the story of Acharn Chob, an elder disciple of Venerable Acharn Mun who had many experiences of a similar nature to those of Venerable Acharn. When you who read this and have thought about his experiences and what the truth of them is, from your viewpoint, which is that of a reader reading about the experiences of someone else that are not your own experiences, you should consider how you will think and feel about it when the time comes for you to experience such things yourself — if you attain the ability to do so. This should be kept in mind constantly while reading the following.
This Thera, who is still alive today, has a natural tendency to like wandering in the forests and hills, but he dislikes any involvement with other Bhikkhus and Samaneras. For he sees the value in living alone, deep in the forests and hills, both for himself and for other beings whose nature is subtle and mysterious, such as the Devaputta, Devata, Indra, Brahma, ghosts, Nagas, Asurakaya and so on. The beings in these realms of existence are hidden from the sight of human beings, so it seems as if they have no meaning and no existence in the world of people and in the “three worlds” of existence at all.
These unusual beings begged the Thera to consider them, saying that they have belief in good and bad kamma, in merit and demerit, in the hells, the heavens and Nibbana, in the same way as human beings who also believe in these things. But they have no way to show themselves and what they understand so as to let the world know about themselves in an open, self-evident manner like others who live in the world. Only rarely do they meet a person who is “long sighted” — meaning one who has special means of knowing which is not prejudiced or biased in the totality of what exists — who comes and acknowledges them once in a while. They said that:
“None of these beings like becoming involved with human beings — men and women — who are gross in body and mind and whose minds have aggression hidden within them which gives no confidence and freedom from fear to others living together with them in the world. Excepting only those who have a moral nature (Sila–Dhamma) in their hearts, for even though their bodies are gross, this is just the way of nature for those who are subject to the laws of kamma to which all must submit. For these, none of the Devatas hold any objection or dislike, but such people are very rare and difficult to find and to meet, although they are able to give peace to us because of their virtue which they also impart to others in various ways. But they are not able to know about and make contact with us directly and the only link between us is virtue.”
“People of this kind bring widespread peace to the world, both directly and indirectly, and in ways that are manifestly apparent or hidden, and not restricted to place or time and are boundless. Even amongst the ghosts, those whose kamma is sufficiently mild also get peace from people of this kind who always give and share out their merit and virtue, and those who have Deva bodies always rejoice (anumodana) with them. May they have prosperity and long life, and long may they continue to help the world before they give it up to go and enjoy their own valuable and subtle wealth.”
“But in your own case Venerable Sir, you are a special person in that you are complete with moral behaviour, replete with Dhamma and your heart is bright with knowing and with the virtue of Dhamma, which is worthy of the highest praise and faith. All of us ask and invite you to stay here to bless us by your presence for a long time, and so as to help with your compassion those beings in the world who are unfortunate, in so far as their state of being and level of existence is concerned as understood from the viewpoint of people in the world. Then we could all come and listen to your teaching to increase our “pure merit” (puñña–parami) greatly and also to act as a condition or cause leading to the “Path, Fruition and Nibbana,” which is the highest Dhamma in this kind of world.”
The Venerable Acharn said that while he was staying far away in the mountains, those who generally made contact with him ranged from the Devas living nearby or far away and in the higher or lower realms to Nagas and ghosts of all kinds and there was hardly a single night that they did not come. But he was also able to do his own practice for Dhamma at suitable times and regularly. In finding time for resting the body there was no difficulty and he was able to keep on receiving his mysterious guests without ceasing. Both by day and night he hardly had any spare time with nothing to do, yet everything went more smoothly than usual. Much more so than would be the case in living with a lot of people, Bhikkhus and Samaneras, when it is hardly possible to get any peace while in contact with them. But having association with those living in the realms of the Devas at all levels, regardless of however many came the effect was as though nobody was there at all, and in presenting Dhamma to them it came entirely from the heart without any need to use any physical energy for communication. In fact, while presenting Dhamma to them it seemed, in respect to what one feels, that the body was not there at all, for there was just “knowing” and Dhamma meeting together and coming out. Meanwhile, feelings of tiredness never arose while presenting Dhamma for those beings to hear.
As soon as the Acharn finished his teaching it seemed that these beings were all smiling, bright and cheerful and all of them simultaneously said “Sadhu” three times, and the sound of it echoed through all the realms (loka–dhatu). Venerable Acharn Mun used to tell us of some of his experiences which were almost identically the same.
When there was a Dhamma discussion their aim was to gain true knowledge and understanding. In the same way as someone going along a road where they had never been before may fear that they were going the wrong way and would ask with concerned interest whether they were on the right road. Some of them would converse using the usual “language of the heart”, but others would talk using the Pali language which was the language of the Buddha. But the Acharn understood the meaning of the Pali they used which had one and the same meaning as the “language of the heart”.
The Venerable Acharn said that when he had withdrawn from samadhi he tried to write notes of the many questions in Pali which the Devatas often asked. While Venerable Acharn Mun was still alive, he would go and ask him the meaning of those questions. But Venerable Acharn Mun said:
“Although Pali words as used everywhere in the world have specific meanings, those which arise spontaneously within one and those which the Devatas use in asking questions are words used in a special way, only applicable to the people concerned at that time and place. It would probably be quite unsuitable to relate what was said to the world in general. For even though the meaning may make good sense and be quite clear when translated from Pali as used in the world, the Pali which arises spontaneously in a specific individual to express what he intends, has a meaning which relates only to that individual and is not generally applicable elsewhere. So even if I were to translate this to you, it may not correspond to the meaning which you understand from those same Pali words, and I do not want to translate them. Because words which arise from the heart, whether Pali or the “language of the heart”, and whether giving a warning or advise or whatever else, are only likely to be understood and to give their meaning with certainty to that person alone. Others could only analyse the words which were intended for that person, and this would distort the meaning of the Dhamma which was spoken just for that person.”
“I understand well enough about the Dhamma which is spoken and arises spontaneously within one, both that which is for myself as well as that which is for the Devaputtas, Devata and for all the others who are capable of making contact. For these “Dhammas” have been arising within me continually, and in fact, if I were to say that they constantly arise as the complement of the practice of samadhi bhavana, it would not be wrong. But “Dhammas” such as these can also arise at other times. Sometimes they arise while walking cankama, while just sitting down normally, while walking for pindapata, while eating food, and while talking with friends and associates. When one stops they arise, and also when pausing just for a moment while presenting Dhamma they arise. They arise without any regard for time, place or situation, but to say they come from my character does not seem right to me, because when I first started to practise and was still floundering about I never saw any of these Dhammas arise. They only began to arise when my practice had developed to the point where I knew a little bit about it. From then until my citta had developed samadhi and wisdom, right up to the present, these Dhammas gradually became a constant companion as the citta became stronger.”
“Nowadays these Dhammas keep arising all the time, endlessly, without any special conditions, such as the need to be in a special situation or place. For they arise in any situation, any place as they will, and in general I consider them as private and personal Dhammas, to be understood just by myself. I never think of asking anyone to translate them to me, except when I want to know the meaning from someone who is able to translate Dhamma sayings such as this, so as to compare it with my own understanding. So I sometimes ask someone about such things. Not because I haven’t understood the meaning of that saying of Dhamma and want to know what it means, for I fully understand everything that is Dhamma both within others and myself.”
“Therefore I do not want to translate this for you, for even though I am your Acariya, the essential meaning which you should know and understand from this Dhamma which spoke up within you is something which has more value than any translation of mine.”
He never did translate it. But in fact I never really had any doubts about it, and what Venerable Acharn said was absolutely true and I had to agree with everything.
The Devatas Visit Him to Hear Dhamma
Venerable Acharn Chob said that the Devatas would come and listen to his Dhamma. At times many came and at other times few, but in general there were not so many as came to visit Venerable Acharn Mun. Sometimes between fifty and sixty came, sometimes from one to six hundred and on rare occasions there were thousands.
“The clothes which the Devatas wore, whether from the upper or the lower realms, would all be the same, sometimes white sometimes red but none of them would be obtrusive. None of them ever had on any jewels, decorations or make-up, whatever group they were and however often they came. For when they came to visit a Bhikkhu who was possessed of Virtue and Dhamma which all of them venerated highly and had faith in, their leader would let it be known that none of them should wear any decorations or make-up while visiting the Bhikkhu, and their dress should be appropriate and correct, in the manner of the Buddhist lay devotees. Their manners and behaviour were beautifully graceful, impressive to see and captivating to the heart, and having seen them one never felt bored and uninterested. It is an example which we human beings would do well to adopt when visiting a Bhikkhu or the Sangha in a monastery or elsewhere so as to give an appearance of seemliness, which does not cause offence or revulsion such that having seen it one feels a disgust which one cannot easily shake off.”
“But who is capable of telling people about the Devaputtas and Devatas, so that they would believe it enough to learn and to take them as an example to be followed and practised? Who is bold enough to undertake this task? For as soon as they hear anyone talking about Devatas, Pretas and ghosts, whether in fun or seriously, they just laugh at him. As for anyone suggesting that the world of human beings should take up the standards of social behaviour of the Deva worlds, they would say he was mad, deranged. Even a mental institution would hardly accept him for treatment, so don’t you think he would just die worthlessly, while still being infected by madness?”
After the Elder had finished, we both laughed and paused for a short while. Then I could not resist the impulse to sound out the Elder, half seriously, half in fun, saying: “I think the Venerable Acharn should himself be the one to introduce people to the etiquette of the Devatas, because you have actually seen them yourself so why should they say that you are mad? People in the world, when they go abroad and see things in various foreign countries, talk about them after they return home, and they introduce some things from abroad to improve things and solve problems in their homes and towns. Thus they introduce regulations and customs for people in our country to follow. For instance, in Thailand the styles of dress and clothing have almost completely changed into those as used in other countries, both for men and women, young and old. For our Thai people are easy to teach, not being stubborn and inflexible like in some other countries. For the more styles of dress and decoration they have, the more they like it, and they make copies of other peoples styles as well as, or better than the originals. They also have the most wonderful memories for anything which they see or hear that is strange and fascinating. Now when we think of the dress styles in the realms of the Devas which none of them have ever seen, not even those who go flying about in space, there is no doubt that they would grasp at them and admire these Deva styles as soon as they were displayed to the world. If people were shown the way I think that there would be many who should be interested, because this is the style of the upper classes.”
After I had finished saying this we both had a good laugh. Then the Venerable Elder replied saying: “What you say is, as usual, too extravagant. If I was to do as you say I would not be able to live in Thailand for certain. I would surely have to be exiled amongst the Pretas and ghosts. Because people would accuse me of being one of them and they would drive me out to live with the Pretas and ghosts for sure. As for sending me to live amongst the Devas and Brahmas, there is no hope of this because their status is very exalted and respectable. But it is to the realms of the Pretas and ghosts that they would exile me, because their status is low and inferior, which nobody wants to pay respect to. If this were to happen, what would you say then?”
Again, we had a good laugh, and the Venerable Acharn went on speaking: “Please don’t ever suggest that I should introduce the manners and customs of the Devas and Brahmas to people in this world. For people still respect the Sasana and the Lord Buddha and hold them in the highest regard and the Dhamma which we have discussed is to be found within them. So if anyone is interested enough to practise this way, there is nothing lacking in all the teachings of Dhamma which are available to people — unless, that is, one is too stupid. But that which I told you about was for you alone and I did not think of it as being for other people. Then as soon as I tell you of these things that happened you immediately ask me to teach the ways and customs of the Devatas to people in general. It would be the greatest misfortune for anyone who starts to think of teaching these subtle ways and manners to the world. I couldn’t do it, in fact I shouldn’t even think about it.”
“I merely suggested it on the spur of the moment,” I replied. “If you don’t like it you should not force yourself to do it.” We talked together in a relaxed intimate way as Bhikkhus who are alone and have complete confidence in each other.
Many groups of Devatas who came to visit him on various occasions had preferences for different aspects of Dhamma. Some liked to be given the moral precepts (sila) before listening to Dhamma, some wanted to listen to Dhamma straight away, some liked the higher and some the lower Samyojana Dhammas, but most preferred the lower group. Some liked to hear the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, others the Karaniyametta Sutta, and yet others preferred to listen to the Sangaha–Dhamma which is concerned with helping each other.
He said that they variously had their own peculiar preferences, each being different but they followed the wishes of the majority when many of them came. They variously liked listening to Dhamma in accordance with their tendencies of character, much as some people do. Some liked to hear about metta and the Brahmaviharas, others liked to hear some suttas which I had never heard of before and I could only tell them that I didn’t know anything about these suttas. So they asked to hear another sutta which they liked.
He said that the Devatas loved and respected him very much and did not want him to go elsewhere. They wanted him to stay a long time with them, for they told him that while he stayed there their hearts were very peaceful. At night they would hear the sound of his chanting and developing the Dhamma of metta, and they were deeply affected by the Dhamma which he chanted a great deal, so that they did not want him to stop. He said that in doing this chanting he only did it mentally and did not do it out loud such that anyone could hear it. But when the Devatas came to visit him they would ask him to chant various special suttas which made them feel happy and which they enjoyed listening to more than any other suttas. While he was chanting they listened intently and completely absorbed. He asked them: “How do you know when I am chanting these suttas?” They immediately answered saying that: “The sound of your chanting reverberates through all the worlds and how could we not hear it?” Dhamma is very subtle and refined, and when it is brought out and proclaimed by chanting or recitation it is bound to resonate throughout the worlds to let everyone hear it who is able to hear it in the whole Loka–dhatu.
An Arahant Comes to Reveal Dhamma
The Acariya was staying in a cave and late at night while it was very quiet and he was practising samadhi bhavana an Arahant whose name was Venerable Bhakula who was tall, light complexioned, beautiful and such as would inspire faith in those who saw him, used to come through the air to visit him by the way of samadhi bhavana. One day the Acariya had lost something and had been quite unable to find it. That evening, as soon as he had sat to do his meditation practice the Arahant came through the air to visit him. As soon as he had descended and sat down he immediately said: “I believe you lost something of yours earlier in the day, is this not so?” The Acariya said that it was so. The Arahant then pointed and said, “It is over there, it’s not lost, you just forgot where you put it.” The next morning he went and had a look and found the article where the Arahant had indicated. The Acariya was quite surprised at this, for he had not made a plea for help nor said anything about it at all, “So how did the Arahant know about it, for I found it in the exact spot that he had indicated, which is remarkable!”
While visiting the Acariya, the Arahant expressed his admiration for the way in which he kept up the Dhutanga observances, and he praised him highly for his behaviour and practice which were good and true and it was this that inspired him to come and visit the Acariya.
Then the Arahant taught and revealed Dhamma to arouse joyfulness in the Acariya, and he taught him to be firm and unrelenting in the maintenance of the Dhutanga observances. He said: “You must always keep up your practice of the Dhutangas so that they become firm and strong, and you must never let them deteriorate. The deterioration of the practice of the Dhutangas is equal to the deterioration of the religion (Sasana). For even though all the books of Dhamma may still be available, they are not likely to be of real value to people who are not able to become interested in them in the way they should. The Dhutanga duties are very high forms of Dhamma and anyone who is able to stick to the practice of them is bound to have an exalted citta (heart).”
“You should know that: “all the noble Ariya of all classes originated from these Dhutanga duties because all of them are methods of Dhamma which can destroy all the various types of kilesas.” Thus it is that the Dhutanga duties are the path to go along for the Ariya–Dhamma and the Ariya–person (puggala). But those who keep no Dhutanga observances, in fact keep no practical observances at all. They are like an empty village, an empty town, which however fine it may be is not attractive when it is empty. So you must keep up the Dhutangas, the destroyers of the kilesas. You must always look after them and make them good and strong. Don’t let the story of your life be vain and barren so that it becomes a channel for the Path, Fruition and Nibbana to leak out and trickle away. For the Path, Fruition and Nibbana are what you should reach and attain.”
“All the Buddhas and Savakas and all others who have reached the final excellence, maintained and upheld the Dhutanga observances. But those who are careless and think that they are unimportant lose that which is essential and important within them. So you must always guard that which is important within you by means of the Dhutanga observances. One who is possessed of the Dhutanga observances has a strange, subtle power and authority, both outwardly and inwardly, of a kind which is quite charming and hard to explain. Such a person stands out in all the Deva realms throughout the universe and both people and Devatas of all classes praise and respect one who is endowed with the Dhutanga observances, and he never causes any harm either to himself or others wherever he goes, for he is always peaceful and calm in himself.”
“The Dhutanga duties are subtle Dhammas and it is difficult to appreciate their importance even though they have always been important Dhammas in Buddhism right from the beginning. For the Dhutanga observances are a major principle of Buddhism; and those who have the Dhutangas as inherent characteristics within them, who know what is important within them and who guard well that set of conditions which is within themselves which is important, are worthy of our heartfelt admiration and praise.”
“Those who are well possessed of the Dhutanga observances will have hearts full of metta and kindness for all beings, and while there are still people who practise and maintain the Dhutanga observances, Buddhism will still be flourishing and giving results in that place. Because the Dhutangas are the way of bringing the Path (Magga) and Fruition (Phala) of all levels flowing towards them and there is no place, time or anything else that can act as an obstacle barring the way to the Path, Fruition and Nibbana as long as the Dhutanga observances are kept up by all who practise the way.”
“You should take good note of all this concerning the Dhutanga observances so that it gets into your heart, and think about it and contemplate it so that it reaches Dhamma. Then wherever you stay, wherever you go, peace and happiness will be with you in yourself, for these Dhutanga observances are the source from which all Dhamma arises.”
As soon as he had finished this Arahant said farewell to the Acariya and then flew into the air and disappeared. After the visitor had gone, the Acariya thought over and thoroughly examined what the Arahant had revealed and taught him. He became overwhelmed with wonder, for he had never even dreamed that an exalted Arahant who had reached Nibbana already should make a special effort and come with metta to teach him about the Dhutanga observances and many other aspects of Dhamma. He became very confident in all aspects of Dhamma and felt sure that he had not wasted the opportunity of being born as a human being, and he was full of praise for the supremely wise being who had come with metta to teach him. For it was one of the “Khinasava” who came through the air to him. “I have probably got some vasana parami (accumulated tendencies of perfection) which enable me to see things which are normally not visible, and to hear things which were completely unexpected, things which I never even dreamed I would hear or see since the day I was born. My practice of the way is probably not worthless in the sphere of Buddhism, for otherwise why should an exalted Arahant waste his time coming here through the air to favour me with metta?”
Later that night when he had come out of the place where he had been doing his meditation practice to walk cankama, he felt as if his body would float up into the sky until he could follow the way the Arahant went. In striving to practise the way he did not feel tired nor stiff and sore anywhere and it seemed as if the Path, Fruition and Nibbana had come within arms reach, even though in fact there were still kilesas in his heart. His citta was calm and peaceful, his body was light, and wherever he looked everything appeared free from danger, clear and open. It seemed that nowhere were there any things or emotionally disturbing objects coming into association with the heart and getting entangled with it, to disturb it and make trouble for it, always acting as a demonic influence (Mara) as they had always done in the past.
He went on walking cankama until the dawn came, without feeling in the least tired or stiff. He told me that a Dhamma saying which he had known before: “Dhammapiti sukham seti” — one who has joyful enthusiasm (piti) in Dhamma lives and sleeps happily — occurred to him and became absolutely clear and obvious to him that night.
On hearing this the writer felt as if his hair stood on end due to joyful enthusiasm and being so glad in hearing of the experiences of the Venerable Acharn who had the vasana parami to develop the way of Dhamma until he saw the Path and the Fruition right there before him. For outwardly a supreme Arahant flew down to favour him with metta and inwardly he “drank” of the Dhamma, the taste of which seemed to spread throughout the body and heart, the taste of a rare and indescribable peacefulness. Such as this cannot be found anywhere in the world, in the sky, far, near or anywhere else except only in the effort and striving to practise and train oneself in the way of Dhamma. But those who really try and strive in this way are likely to gain such experience one day, because that which brings about such experiences are within Dhamma, and Dhamma is in the heart and is never separated from it nor ever goes to stay elsewhere.
It seems probable that this Acariya will have the strangest biography of all Venerable Acharn Mun’s disciples, for he encountered so many unusual things. Most of them involved hardship, difficulties and lack of normal requisites, as well as encounters with wild animals and tigers which meant putting his life at risk — life which the world cherishes and looks after more than anything else! The results which came from this were like jewels decorating and enriching the heart both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly, means that he saw and heard mysterious, subtle things which were beyond the capacity of the ordinary person to know, see and hear. For he continually saw such things which went hand in hand with his practice of Dhamma right from the beginning. Whereas inwardly, means that the “taste” of Dhamma was always present in the heart.
Going on from here, the reader will be able to use his imagination in following the stories of this Acariya which we will continue to relate.
The Venerable Acharn was striving for the way of Dhamma while living in a cave in a hillside, and it seems that he was staying much farther from any village than he ever had in the past. It took him more than two hours to walk on pindapata every day, and return, and by the time he got back he was covered with sweat. But he was quite contented to do this and he willingly accepted the conditions without any thought of the difficulties and lack of amenities, for his meditation practice was absorbing and never boring and insipid. Then one night, not long after his citta became calm and went down, there appeared before him an Arahant coming towards him through the air until he came right up in front of him and then slowly came down, almost as if he had brakes. He came right down until he reached the ground, ever so gently, and then sat down in front of him in the most seemly manner. His name was Venerable Kassapa Thera, he was smiling, while his whole countenance was full of radiant brightness and his expression and bearing displayed the mild gentleness of metta. It was as if he were a doctor who was full of concern and thoughtfulness for a sick patient, asking how he was feeling and anxious to help with various medicines and other methods to the best of his ability. Such was the manner of this Arahant.
As soon as he had sat down, his whole bearing displayed metta and a willingness to assist the Acariya in Dhamma, he asked quietly:
“How is it between the five khandhas and the heart which is the owner of your round of birth and death (vatta), are they going alright? Is your citta able to see well enough the banefulness of birth and death, and is it wearied of them yet? I feel anxious for you and I am afraid lest your citta which has been in the habit of lying asleep without waking up for endless ages, will not be interested enough to want to wake up sufficiently to see the way to go on to Nibbana. For this is a mysterious realm for worldly beings who are not interested in waking out of their sleep. This sleep which is their deluded engrossed absorption in all things which deceive them, which are always there in the realms of worldly beings who delight in their infatuations much more than they delight in knowing and seeing the whole truth which is there to be found in those same realms.”
“This is why I came, and now that I am here I would like to praise (anumodana) you for the strength of your faith and the intensity of the practices which you are doing at present.”
These were the first few words of greeting spoken by the Arahant to the Acariya, out of concern and with metta for him. As for the Acariya, it seemed to him in this meditation vision (bhavana–nimitta) as if he actually got up and then prostrated to the Arahant and greeted him with a full felt heart, even though his heart was still in samadhi.
In reply to the first question of the Arahant after he had come down out of the sky, he said, in connection with his samadhi meditation that: “I can put up with the khandhas alright in the way that people in the world have to put up with them. But when it comes to the citta I am still trying to strive and scramble up so as to see how bad and harmful it is to be self-forgetful and to get involved in all sorts of things which are inwardly troublesome and which lay in wait to deceive me, always causing me to fall into delusion. And thus to get some peace and see the banefulness of the round (vatta) — of samsara as far as my mindfulness and wisdom are able.”
When the Acariya had finished speaking, the Arahant started to reveal Dhamma to him with special emphasis on the Dhutanga observances, in much the same way as the previous Arahant, finally ending with some explanations of the Vinaya (discipline).
The gist of the Dhamma which this Arahant revealed to him was based upon the Dhutanga observances which the Acariya was correctly practising, thus:
“The practices which you are doing at present are the right way to act (samici–kamma). The Lord Buddha and all the Savakas, who were the most wonderful people, used to like living in the lonely forests, in caves, under overhanging cliffs, under the shade of a tree, and in dense jungle. Or in charnel grounds where there are always things to remind one of death. For every day the local people come to dispose of their dead bodies. Bodies of women and men, brothers and sisters, children and old people — all the time. Now you are staying here searching with mindfulness and wisdom into such things that happen, things which are there all the time, so that mindfulness and wisdom shall have a way to rouse yourself up to search for a way out. The Bhikkhus of old lived in the way that you are living and acting now. So the way you are living is right, as it should be, and not scattered and disturbed by things that increase the suffering of the round of samsara (vatta–dukkha) so that it accumulates in the heart until one cannot find anywhere to lay down the load. But in fact beings in the world hardly ever think of laying down the load. Rather do they think, each in their own way, of ‘accumulation and development’, so that suffering and its causes increase until it becomes immense suffering (mahanta–dukkha). Therefore, the birth and death of beings in the world goes on taking place everywhere on earth, and nowhere can one find anything more prevalent than the charnel grounds of beings who are intent on birth and death. Even the whole of this place where we are now sitting down, is the charnel ground of various kinds of life. Nowhere is there a vacant space which we can say is not a charnel ground of beings, and even your own body is a charnel ground. So when there is nothing but the birth and death of beings in this way everywhere, where can we find any peace and comfort?”
“Have you yet examined and seen how even your own body is a charnel ground where various kinds of beings are born and die, in a similar way to those which are external? If you have not yet examined this, it means that your wisdom is still not circumspect enough to make you frightened of samsara (vatta) so that you look for a way out, and so that it will no longer come to trouble you and lead you on to be born and to die time after time — endlessly — which is a most vexatious and woeful thing in the eyes of all those who are the wisest of men.”
“Wisdom, means the skill and ability of the heart alone which must penetrate into everything without excepting anything — even to pebbles and grains of sand — which are nothing but relative conventional things (sammuti) that can also cause one to become involved and caught up in attachments. The wisest of men therefore examine them all and uproot them until there are none left at all.”
“You are one of those in the circle of Dhutanga Bhikkhus whose heart is firmly intent on attaining the realm which is free from suffering, and you are practising in the well established way of the highest of the Noble Ones (Ariya–puggala). So you should use mindfulness and wisdom in the same manner that they used them. Then you will be doing what is correct and in line with the original intention of the Dhutanga observances. For these observances were originally established for the purpose of promoting the mindfulness and wisdom of those who use them; and also for the purpose of arousing their skilful ability to know thoroughly every aspect of everything with which they come into contact and for the purpose of being able to uproot and get rid of them one by one.
This is to be done not merely by looking at these Dhutanga observances in an idle, passive way without knowing what they are for, but by knowing their purpose and seeing what kilesas and evil states of mind each of the Dhutanga practices is aimed at curing; and also knowing what benefits they bestow on those who practise them variously in the proper way. For in truth, each of the Dhutangas has its purpose in curing, or pulling out and getting rid of the kilesas within oneself root and all. For whatever types of kilesas are to be found in the hearts of those living in the world these Dhutangas are capable of uprooting them completely, provided that the one who practises has the ability to know the purpose of the Dhutangas thoroughly and correctly. For these Dhutangas have been the means of purifying very large numbers of ordinary people and turning them into wonderful and special people.”
“The way in which you are practising at present is praiseworthy, but this additional explanation is given so as to act as a boost to your mindfulness and wisdom to make them go on increasing and growing more and more. For this is appropriate to the Dhutangas which are the means of refining people to make them become steadily more and more clever and sharp-witted — not merely being attached to the words and the idea of ‘upholding the Dhutangas’ by rote, which is just stupidity and complacency and not thinking of going the way of wisdom to search for skill and cleverness to imbue oneself with.”
“Each Dhutanga has a very subtle meaning which is difficult to know in all its aspects. Therefore, you should use mindfulness and wisdom to examine and reflect upon each of them, one by one, in fine and subtle detail. By this you will gain immeasurable value from the Dhutangas. Even the ultimate attainment of the freedom (vimutti) of Nibbana is not beyond the scope of these same Dhutangas when acting as the agents of one’s development in Dhamma.”
“All of the Supreme Ones cherish these forms of Dhamma very much and they entrust their lives and hearts (citta) to them. They also admire and commend those who are interested enough to practise the Dhutangas and say that, such a person will gain what is valuable, leading him to completion (Enlightenment) without running into obstacles. He will also be able to maintain the tradition of the Ariyas, because this is the tradition of the Ariyas, the tradition which they have practised in every age and period. This is true, not only of the religion of the Lord Buddha who attained Enlightenment in this age, for in whatever age and place an enlightened Buddha arises, the Dhutanga observances which are always a pair with the religion, are always bound to be there.”
“You should not think that these Dhutanga observances are only there in the religion of one of the Buddhas, for they have always been there in the religion of every one of the Buddhas, right up to the Buddhist religion of the present day. Each of the Buddhas, who became enlightened in the essence of purity which is completely free from all the kilesas, are bound to teach and introduce the Dhutanga observances to the Bhikkhus who are his followers, in the same way in every sasana. Because the Dhutanga observances are the most suitable form of practice for those who are ordained; and those who have a heart felt anxiety that they must attain freedom will be able to do so with the firm determination to filter out and remove the kilesas from their hearts. This happens immediately once the causes are produced, without delay and without having to wait a long time for the results.”
The Arahant paused for a moment and the Acariya took the opportunity to ask him a question:
“There are some who are doubtful and think that, since the Parinibbana of the Lord Buddha, more than two thousand years have passed. In such a long time the fruit of a tree and other things in general would have withered in accordance with the law of impermanence (anicca) and nothing would be left, not even the dead wood of the tree. In a similar way, other things in the world like industries, businesses and shops would have all fallen to the ground and decayed with nothing left to show for them. Even the hills, so firmly established, can also change and alter for there is nothing which escapes the law of impermanence. So when we consider the “penetration of Dhamma” (Dhammabhisamaya) in which the Lord Buddha and all the Savakas were enlightened and attained in that age, by the time we reach the present day, not even a trace of the skeleton of the path, fruit and Nibbana should remain for all good people to taste by means of those practices which they used. It is likely to have diminished gradually until it vanished in the same way as all other things.”
“For myself, I do not have enough wisdom to be able to correct such wrong ideas as this in a satisfactory way. But today I have the most wonderful opportunity and the unexpected good fortune to be visited by a most exalted Arahant who has come through the air and has favoured me with metta and compassion. So by your leave, I will ask this question which comes from my heart: Concerning the Path, Fruition and Nibbana in the Sasana, which is a revolt against everything of the supposed, relative world (sammuti), does this also go the way of nature together with the changing (anicca) world? Or what otherwise happens? In other words, when the world changes, does the Dhamma change, when the world deteriorates does Dhamma deteriorate, when the world disappears does Dhamma disappear, and when everything becomes meaningless, can Dhamma also become meaningless? Do these disturbances effect the Path, Fruition and Nibbana so that it is bound to come to an end, to be cut off and disappear, taking the same course as the whole environment following the Parinibbana of the Lord Buddha? Or how else should it be?”
“As far as my understanding goes, the Parinibbana of the Lord only concerned the Lord and was not connected with the principles of Dhamma and Vinaya which the Lord laid down and taught for the attainment of the Path, Fruition and Nibbana in any way at all. But there are those who have doubts about whether the time that has elapsed since the Parinibbana of the Lord has effected the Path, Fruition and Nibbana. They say, for instance, that the Lord entered Parinibbana more than two thousand years ago and it is likely that the Sasana of the Lord will have steadily deteriorated and that there will thus be no Path and no Fruition of it by now. Also, that even though one may do the practice it will only make for difficulties and be in vain, giving no results at all. This is the sort of thing I have heard and I feel that it is quite contrary to the words of the Buddha and likely to cause wavering and instability in the Sasana and people who are Buddhists, leading to doubt and uncertainty, as can be seen. Such forms of understanding bring no benefit to anyone and only disturb the Sasana and the hearts of people, causing them to be gloomy and confused.”
The Arahant replied:
“If Dhamma was of the same nature as fruit growing on trees, industries, shops, houses and all sorts of other things in the realm of the relative world (sammuti), which is subject to the law of impermanence (anicca), Dhamma would have disappeared completely, long ago. Then nobody could take it up and know the taste of it with the heart, even just momentarily. Nor would any of the Buddhas and each of their countless Savakas have any opportunity to come into being in this world of impermanence (anicca). Even those countless number of people who will attain Enlightenment in the future could not be, which would mean that the Aryan birth, the Aryan characteristics (Ariya–vasana), and the Aryan lineage would consequently all be void. But in fact all the Buddhas and all the Savakas both of the past and future have been and are still appearing, one following from another, steadily without any loss or disappearance of their foundations, their roots (Dhamma). It seems that virtue and good — special people — still appear, to whom those in the world pay homage and worship with puja as their ideal right up to the present day, and this is because Dhamma is not of the same nature as buildings and houses and things which only wait their time to fall on people and kill them, all being bound by the law of impermanence to this end.”
“What else should the saying — ‘Dhamma is timeless (Akaliko)’ — mean if it does not refer to the Dhamma state of absolute purity beyond the bounds of the relative, conventional world? What is the meaning of Dhammasara? The Dhammasara (Dhamma essence) which is timeless; ‘that’, is the True Dhamma, not be found within the limiting conditions of the ‘good Dhamma’ (Kusala–Dhamma) and the ‘evil dhamma’ (akusala–dhamma), which go the way of impermanence in the same way as all other things in the world. Thus, we say that: ‘Dhamma develops’, or ‘Dhamma deteriorates’ — which follows the same principles as the world in general. But there is no room for this in the ‘Dhamma essence’ — such as the Dhamma in the Heart of the Lord Buddha and in the hearts of all the Enlightened Ones (Jinasava), where there is nothing but the ‘timeless Dhamma’, where no laws or conditions can get in to influence or harm it.”
“This kind of Dhamma is the true essence of Dhamma. Dhamma which has no causes or conditions to combine together and cause all sorts of things to arise — such as all things we find in the world. For however much these things change and lose their meaning, deteriorate or disappear, the Dhamma essence is still Dhamma which has meaning in itself, regardless of whether anyone respects and has faith in it or not. This Dhamma is still able to endure in all its fullness and eternally remain the ‘Akalika Dhamma’. All the Buddhas and Savakas pay homage to and revere this Dhamma, and the world also recollects this Dhamma essence and reveres it. The Parinibbana of all the Buddhas, not just for some of them such as the Venerable Samana Gotama but for all of them, concerned only their physical bodies which followed the path of the three characteristics (Ti–lakkhana) which are always there in all beings and formed things (sankhara) everywhere — and so they just left this world. But this can in no way influence the “Pure–Buddha–Nature” which is this true Dhamma essence, nor cause it to change, to deteriorate or to disappear at all.”
“Wherever and whenever any of the Buddhas enter Parinibbana the event is not able to disturb the Path, Fruition and Nibbana, which those who practise in the right way (samici–kamma) should still attain in the future. In other words those who go the right way entirely in the same manner as the Buddhas have taught should expect to see results arising continually from their own practice in the same way as if the Buddha was still living. Nothing has really changed, for even if the Parinibbana took place one thousand or ten thousand years ago, they are just relative times and conventions upheld by people in the world. As for this ‘Dhamma’, it is independent of time or place — as these are understood in the world — for ‘Dhamma’ depends on Dhamma and not upon any other support or condition which is outside the characteristics of the true Dhamma.”
“This ‘Dhamma Essence’ is the greatest wonder in the world, whether anybody knows it or not. But as to what Dhamma is, and whether it is to be found in the world or not, Dhamma remains just Dhamma, existing in its own nature.”
“Therefore, in saying that: ‘The Lord Buddha entered Parinibbana between two or three thousand years ago, that the Path, Fruition and Nibbana has degenerated and faded beyond recovery, and that it is completely lost in antiquity so that even if one were to practise the way, however strictly or well, one would just make difficulties for oneself in vain without getting any appropriate results from it at all’; whoever says such things does not conform to the meaning and intention of the Lord Buddha who proclaimed and taught the world by using the Dhamma–truth (Sacca–Dhamma). Nor does this conform to the path or the purpose of the Sasana which was bestowed on us by the Great Teacher, the Buddha who had dispelled all his kilesas and reached the state of highest excellence in the world. It is not a principle of the Dhamma teaching in Buddhism which those who have faith in the Great Teacher, the Dhamma and Vinaya ever take up, to think about, waste time upon and make obstacles for themselves without bringing them any results at all. In fact it is just such thinking and learning which blocks one’s path so that one can find no way out. Therefore, those who have faith in the Sasana which is the Dhamma that the Great Teacher, the pure one, gave us, ought not to talk in such ways, which are like a bed of thorns that stick into themselves. For to do this is like someone who has given up, unable to find a way out to escape from his situation, even though there still is a way out. So he becomes a pathetic, hopeless person, full of self-pity, although he is still alive and capable and should take the opportunity to do something useful while he can.”
The Arahant went on further to teach in his inspiring way, thus: “Don’t you know that there are still people who are waiting for an opportunity to make themselves into the leader of the Sasana so as to be the great teacher to the world, even though their characters are full of kilesas and stupidity? There are still plenty in this world who have such obscene things within them. And how about you? Are you another of those who are waiting for an opportunity to become a savaka of this obscene teacher?”
The Acariya replied: “For myself, I have never been disturbed nor wavered from the principles of Dhamma by such talk at all, not even for a single moment of thought. Every moment the citta and the body in their various situations are firmly resolved on the purpose of reaching the Path, Fruition and Nibbana by means of the Svakkhata Dhamma with absorbed interest and joy. The reason I respectfully asked about this was that it seemed to me necessary, in that I am a person who tries to do things to help the world as much as I can, but if I have to rely entirely on my own resources I fear that I would not have sufficient ability to point out the way and set right the doubts in the hearts of those who have these ideas. Because this is something which deeply affects both the sphere of the Sasana and the lay Buddhists who are associated with it. Therefore when I saw such a good opportunity as this I took my chance respectfully to ask you about it, so that this occasion may be like a bright lamp lighting the way for myself and for those people who have some brightness in their eyes and ears, because of the metta which you are showering on me here. For you Venerable Sir, one of the excellent, most precious ones, have favoured me with metta and you know the whole Dhamma with certainty — which is a rare thing to find in this world of people.”
The Arahant went on with his teaching:
“To ask such questions for the sake of other people is good and right. But to be truly right you should look at those times when the citta is a danger to yourself. Even if there is only a slight danger, you should know that this is so and you should also know how to get rid of it, because internal danger, such as those which we have already talked about, have a capacity to cause harm which is very much greater than that of external dangers. This is well known by all those who are the wisest of men. But so as to make sure that you understand all this, I shall go over the basic facts of these Dhamma truths once again.”
“There is no person, power, or thing in the whole universe that can force Dhamma to be void of results for anyone who practises it in the right way (samici–kamma). This applies not only to such times and places as we talked of before but anywhere and any time. Whatever powers there may be in all the three realms of the universe, if they were to muster their people and their powers to prevent the Dhamma giving results to those who practise it well, there is no need to fear that they could ever succeed. Dhamma must always be Dhamma and always give results in accordance with Dhamma, so that whenever the right and appropriate practices are done there is nothing which has the power and ability to prevent the attainment of the Path, Fruition and Nibbana, regardless of who it is that practises, where or when. Don’t let your thoughts be like thick wet mud so that you tread on thorns that you cannot see, causing pain and suffering to yourself — the one that has such great value — causing its downfall and ruin due to the over-ruling power of stupidity and ignorance which compels and draws one in their direction. For these are the ‘Dhamma truths’ (Sacca–Dhamma) which each one of us has within ourselves. The first pair of Dhamma truths which are concerned with involvement and attachment are Dukkha and the Production of Dukkha (Samudaya). These two, by their psychic influence are what drive on beings, who do not know the meaning of life and death, to like accumulating them very much without ever being satisfied. In other words, they are what truly block the Path, Fruition and Nibbana and will not let it arise in the hearts of beings while they still have some liking for them and go about accumulating them.”
“Whenever Dukkha arises within the hearts of beings it tends to make them lose all their rational faculties (sati–pañña). Thoughts, which they had previously been able to use in a rational and skilful way, then become completely stupid, self-indulgent and obstructive, leaving them with no way out. All they can do is sit or lie down looking at their own suffering while acting in ways that display their suffering outwardly — as people do who have no way out and no interest in searching for a way that leads out in the right direction.”
“Samudaya, the Production of Dukkha, means thought which arises, grows and develops in endless varieties, or imagination of various kinds, which are derived from the three kinds of craving (tanha) — these being the cravings, for sensation (kama–tanha), to remain the same (bhava–tanha), and to change and become something else (vibhava–tanha). These three are the leaders, leading one to think, to conceptualise and to imagine endlessly, and they bring on discontent to burn in one’s heart so that it becomes a fire, which turns into the same kind of fire as that which one has already created and has at present, and cannot extinguish. Or, which one has no interest in extinguishing and instead, goes on to develop so that its flames go up and up, and it may go on to set fire to the whole world without there being any way for it to end. Samudaya — the production of dukkha consists of these three forms of craving. It is these three which can ‘close the door’ against the Path, Fruition and Nibbana, so obstructing it as to make it completely unattainable. There is no special occasion or bright light that can get rid of these three, for there is nothing that can do it except the Dhamma Truths (Sacca–Dhamma). This is the only thing which is capable of eradicating the production of Dukkha (Samudaya), this darkness, and annihilating it with certainty.”
“The remaining two Dhamma Truths which are the cure, are the cessation of Dukkha (Nirodha) and the Path (Magga), which are the tools for doing the job. In the whole field of the Production of Dukkha (Samudaya), there is nothing which is like these two, nor anything with such ability as they have. Nirodha is what extinguishes Dukkha, getting rid of it steadily bit by bit, in accordance with the strength and power of the Path (Magga) — which consists of moral behaviour (sila), samadhi and wisdom (pañña). When the ‘Path’ is strong enough the kilesas are not likely to be able to find anywhere to hide. This then becomes the complete cessation of Dukkha without any dependence on the time, place or anything else which most people think to be necessary. Only Nirodha and Magga perform this function of destroying the kilesas, nothing else.”
“What difference in results should there be from holding a belief in the Dhamma truths of the Lord Buddha, replete with the Truth of Dhamma, as I have just explained compared with those empty beliefs which are void of substance, showing themselves merely in talk, such as you spoke of earlier? You should use your wisdom to examine this question and gain value from the Dhamma in this. For having come to this point, you should not just let it pass by uselessly. If you have any more doubts left you should bring them up now, because the chance of having a discussion on Dhamma (Dhammasakaccha) such as this, which is a true blessing, is rare and hardly ever happens.”
Then the Arahant remained quiet for a short while, and when he saw that the Acariya was not going to ask any more questions, he went on to talk more about the Vinaya (rules of discipline and training).
“The Vinaya when practised is what decorates the Samana (recluse), confirming on him a gracefulness in his behaviour and manner. For whoever strictly observes the Vinaya will have graceful manners of body, speech and mind. The gracefulness of a Samana is in his modes of behaviour which are faultless and it shows up in everything he does, and the Samana who holds intimately to the Vinaya in his life and ways of living is one who is at peace. He is at peace when living alone, at peace when living with his colleagues and with other people generally. When he is in the forests and hills or when confronted with dangers of various kinds, nothing dares to harm him for the Devatas protect him and people are very fond of him. For the Vinaya acts both as a source of nutrition and a protective wall preventing the Path and Fruition from breaking out and seeping away.”
“The life of a Samana is the life of someone who has pure moral behaviour, a life which is lively and cheerful. We are Samanas and ‘Sons of the Sakya’ who have pure moral behaviour and for this we do not have to be born just at the time of the Lord Buddha. In whatever age and place we are born and whatever our race, colour or nationality may be, we are still Samanas and sons of the Sakya, from the most senior to the most junior — the most recently born. As parents who have many children who were born in various places and times, but all of them are children of the same parents.”
After he had come to the end of his talk on Dhamma, the Arahant went on to give him his final instruction before leaving, out of his concern for this Acariya and for the Buddha Sasana, in the most moving way.
“I am going to leave you now — at least, in so far as the conventional world understands this in terms of images and forms. You must always have the Sasada in you, which means to have the Dhamma and Vinaya present in your heart, your body and in your speech in every situation. In gaining freedom there is nothing which you can be more sure of and confident of than the Dhamma and Vinaya, which are the “Dhamma of Salvation” (Niyyanika–Dhamma). You should not take up and think about anything unless it is for the purposes of Dhamma and Vinaya — which are the heart of the Great Teacher (Sasada). You should let them enter you to help you, and then purity and freedom will be your priceless treasure, for you alone.”
Just before the Arahant went, by rising up into the air and going up into the sky, he looked at this Acariya with affection and metta for a few moments. Then he gradually rose up, steadily and slowly, which was a way of capturing the Acariya’s attention and making a deep and lasting impression on him which would be fixed in his memory (atitarammana) from then on.
As for the Acariya, he sat with faith, yearning and regret, and with complete concentrated attention through his meditation practice (citta–bhavana) as if he did not even blink his “inward” eyes at that time. Then the vision of the Arahant disappeared in the sky without a trace — except for the memory of this vision which was so deeply impressed within him that it would never fade for the rest of his life. It was a strange and wonderful experience such as he had rarely come across before.
That night he practised his meditation until dawn, the same as he did on the night the Arahant Bhakula came through the sky to visit him and explain Dhamma. The Arahant Kassapa was with him for about three hours while he explained Dhamma and talked generally. When the Arahant had left, his citta then withdrew from samadhi, after which he steadily recalled the Dhamma and Vinaya, which came from the metta of the Arahant, and thought it over once again. Doing this he became completely absorbed, and this state of bliss spread throughout his whole body and mind so that he forgot all about sleeping that night. For the Dhamma which he had received from that Nimitta which he told us about was profound and it was hard to describe the truth of it correctly. Even at other times when his citta was not in samadhi meditation, it made him recall and think of the Arahant all the time, and it seems that this gave his citta strength and encouragement for a long time. Meanwhile his performance in practising the way became firm and resolute, and it seems that the strength of his intention in Dhamma to reach and attain that refuge which the Arahant had explained with such metta, became unusually intense. As if he would reach and attain the “Dhamma territory” which is free from dukkha at every moment that he returned to recollecting the Arahant’s instructions. (In some places the Arahant stressed what he was saying as being important for the Acariya personally. But the writer feels that it would be inappropriate to relate these parts, for he fears it may harm the Acariya and upset the reader also. The writer therefore asks you to forgive him for these omissions which some readers may have liked to read fully.)
An Encounter With a Poisonous Snake
This was a strange and unexpected event which occurred in a remarkable manner as in the following account.
The Acariya was going to stay in a certain cave to practise the way of Dhamma of a recluse (Samana–Dhamma). But before he went to the cave, the villagers in that district warned him that a black poisonous snake lived in that cave and had been there for many years. They said that its body was no larger than a large flashlight battery in girth and rather longer than one meter, but it was incredibly fierce. This snake had already done harm to some people but everyone was afraid to do anything to it for fear that there may be some hidden power behind it. Finally the villagers gave it the name of “The Lord of the Cave”. Nobody was likely to go and spend a night there, they said, for if anyone did so, this snake was sure to come out either in the evening, during the night or in the morning, spreading its hood and hissing threateningly. If it was able to it would actually bite them as well and there were many cases in which people had been its victims, so that now everybody was afraid of it and nobody dared to spend a night in that cave.
The Venerable Acharn however, thought that he would like to go and stay in that cave to go on doing his work on the way of Dhamma. Then he asked the villagers to take him there even though they told him that nobody would believe how fierce this snake was and what harm would come to him due to it, nobody could tell. So they did not want him to go and stay there, but he persuaded them, using reason, pointing out that if one’s time has come one will die even if one is resting in one’s own home, and nobody can do anything about it. “I have seen this often enough to give me a confidence in kamma which is deeply rooted in my heart, and I have lived in caves enough so that I am quite used to it — so much in fact that if it were possible, my body and heart should have turned into rocks and mountains already and would not put up with its present human state. Even if I go to stay in that cave, if I have not reached the end of my time, I am still likely to go on living the life of a Bhikkhu, much as I have been doing up to the present and I am not likely to change into something else. A snake is an animal, I am a human being and also a Bhikkhu who constantly holds close to the way of moral behaviour (sila) and Dhamma. I do not envy anyone, nor do I oppress and harm them, so if the snake attacks me and I die, it should be because of my bad kamma and the evil I have done in the past. This would be better than turning back, afraid, the bad results of which would follow me and come back on me in the future. The supremely wise would also praise me, saying that I truly believed in kamma. For these reasons I want to go there even if I should die because of it.” Having said this he set off for the cave with some villagers to show him the way.
When he got there and stayed in this cave he felt physically well and comfortable and staying there alone, his mind was contented and easy. On the second day he was there, in the evening, he saw the black snake sliding out of a crevice in the rocks, and gradually, slowly, it came up right in front of him while he was sitting there on a small bamboo platform, contemplating the teachings of Dhamma, and it came in the manner of one that instinctively considers itself to be superior in its power to harm others. When the Acariya saw this snake coming up to him without fear, and as if it really meant to do something to him, he immediately recalled what the villagers had told him and he knew that this must be the “killer snake” that they talked about, otherwise it would never have displayed itself in such a bold, fearless manner.
The Acariya thought: “I have come here to practise Dhamma without any thoughts of doing harm to anyone. Even with small creatures I always have metta for them and look on their lives as if it was my own life. I never pride myself that I am a person and a Bhikkhu whose status is much higher than that of other creatures who are companions in birth, growing old, pain and death throughout the three realms of the universe. Even this black snake is one of my companions in happiness and suffering, birth and death also. But why then, when I am showing no signs of contention, or any intent to hit it or harm it at all, why should this snake be so determined to come and kill me who would be its friend in life and death, for on this hill it will not find another friend who would be more reliable. When I reflect on my moral behaviour, it is pure in Dhamma, as for example the metta, of which my heart is full, that comes about due to the power of my citta and Dhamma that I have developed by training. If despite this, this creature is still bold and callous enough to kill me, it must be because in a past life I have been extremely cruel and ferocious so that there is not even an abyss in the great hell which would be able to put up with me and give me the deserved results of such bad kamma. Now I must accept the ferocity of this snake to whom I have been ferocious in the past and there is no escape from it, and I must not now try to escape from my evil kamma. For if I was bold enough to do such things, I must now be bold enough to accept the evil results. Then I will be worthy of the name of one who truly believes in kamma.”
Having come to this decision he then spoke to the snake which had stopped in front of him about two yards away and spread its hood out waiting for an opportunity. He said:
“I have come here, without any evil intentions or any desire to harm anyone, but for the purpose of developing Dhamma for the sake of happiness for myself and for all fellow beings. Regardless of what form they may have or who they are I spread metta for their happiness. You who live here should also be able to partake of it. If you still long for physical ease and peace of heart, in the way that all other beings do everywhere, you should accept this metta Dhamma which is peaceful and melts all hardness, and make it part of yourself. This is far better than intimidating and killing others which will bring nothing of value; and even if you hurt and kill others with your deadly poison, it will not make you any better, virtuous or venerable, so that you get happiness and develop towards a higher state. But rather it will lead you down to be submerged in a sea of dukkha such as hell, for this is the result which comes from tormenting and killing others. I do not accept nor feel any gladness that what you do has any merit or virtue at all, because it only increases your dukkha which torments and presses in on yourself. I can only accept the ways of those who do not torment and kill others, as being actions which do not bring fear and trouble to them. So one has peace in oneself and one brings peace to others. Thus looking on each other as if an intimate friendship has existed for aeons and seeing that we are all friends and companions together in dukkha, birth, growing old, pain and death, it is not right to cause dukkha and anxiety to each other, for it only increases one’s own dukkha as well.”
“I have come here to make friends with you and all other creatures, and you should be sympathetic to me for I am a loyal and honest friend, so please accept my friendship and metta Dhamma and then go and live in peace. Later on, if you want to come to me again from time to time you can do so whenever you want to. I am happy to be your friend always, and I do not have any feelings of revulsion that you are an animal and I am a person and a Bhikkhu, for I just consider that we are friends together in birth and in death and I do not think in terms of who is superior and who is inferior. For, as always, those tendencies of perfection (vasana–parami) which beings have within them are different in each individual, depending on the effort they have put into developing them. So it is possible that you may have tendencies of perfection which are more mature and stronger than mine, there’s no way of telling; and also, because all beings each have their individual kamma, good and bad, intimately attached to them, it may be that when you leave this life you will abandon the state of an animal and slip into a higher level to be born as a human being. Then you may even attain to the perfection of purity and freedom before I do. For I am still struggling with the foul kilesas, so it is quite possible that this can be so as long as you do not create more evil to weigh you down, such as making bad kamma now in regard to myself.”
Having spoken to the snake, he then set a resolve in his heart to produce the overpowering force of Metta–Dhamma, which has always upheld the world, to make this snake change its attitude from that of being an enemy into that of being a close friend in Dhamma. After this a surprising and wonderful thing happened and it is hard to say what brought it about. But something caused the snake, which in a few seconds would have attacked the Acariya, to change its attitude away from that of being an enemy to him quite suddenly. It immediately drew back its head and lay flat on the ground in a submissive attitude and remained there quite still for about ten minutes. Then it turned around slowly and gradually moved away and disappeared from sight.
The next day, the snake came to the Acariya again, and it continued to come to him almost every day from then on while he stayed there, but it never again displayed a fierce and frightening attitude as it had the first time. It just came out quietly and slowly to the same place it had been before and lay there calmly and quite still for a while and then turned and went away. The Acariya said that once again he saw and realised the wonder of Metta–Dhamma while he was there, in a manner that touched his heart.
From that day on, he and the snake lived there in harmony without any mistrust or doubts about each other. Whenever the snake wanted to come out and wander about in the vicinity of the mouth of the cave it would do so in the manner of an animal which is quite accustomed to living with people without any suspicion and watchfulness on either side. It would also go out wandering about at any time it wanted to and not only at particular times of the day as it used to before, as the villagers had told him.
In regard to this kind of story, for a long time I have been quite ready to believe in the truth of such things. If people say that I am a fool I am ready to accept it, but I do so because I have also come across such things, and so have all the other Acariyas such as Venerable Acharn Mun for example. They have often told stories of how animals of all kinds were never afraid of the Bhikkhus and how they liked to come and live in their vicinity. They would come in groups and swarms, both large animals such as wild boars, ordinary deer and barking deer; and small animals like chipmunks, squirrels, civets and snakes. This is because animals generally speaking know the mannerisms and modes of behaviour of those who do not torment and kill them.
In whatever place Bhikkhus go to stay for a time, before long there will generally be various animals coming to live there and to look on that place as a sanctuary. And the Bhikkhus who have metta, like to play with them and also to bring lots of food to give those animals which like bananas, fruit and rice. Water is a necessity for most animals and so, when the Bhikkhus see a lot of animals coming to live round about, they look for vessels to put water in and they place them wherever it is suitable for these animals to drink.
It is because the Bhikkhus have metta in the citta as a basic underlying foundation that people and animals have a special, intimate confidence in them, which is appropriate to their peaceful calling, for they have never been any danger to others. Therefore the story which this Acariya told is readily acceptable as being in conformity with experiences which others have had since the origin of Buddhism.
Generally speaking, the Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhu who practises with determination and courage will tend to come across dangerous situations continually, but he manages to escape unharmed without becoming a victim of these dangers. This encourages one to think and feel confident that, those who have Dhamma in their hearts and who are absolutely intent on the pursuit of Dhamma will always triumph by way of Dhamma when they come across the various things that happen to them. It is rare that anything harms them so that they lose out and come to serious damage as so often happens to others. It seems almost as if they have some mysterious supernatural protection within them which is difficult to describe and cannot be explained to others. But this is the truth, for the writer knows from his friends and colleagues who have often told him of incidents of this kind that they have come across.
This Venerable Acharn has a very resolute, determined character and likes to go off and live on his own, but he does not like mixing with his friends and associates. The reasons he gives for this go to one’s heart, for he said:
“When one goes off alone and lives alone it makes one have the mindfulness to recollect and know oneself all the time. One is not likely to forget oneself and to go out and become involved with all sorts of things as happens when living with friends and colleagues who are sometimes bound to talk together. Whereas, when one lives alone one’s only concern is oneself and there are no distracting concerns in connection with any companions. Whatever attitude one’s body is in one continues to strive for Dhamma associated with mindfulness which is there continually without any breaks. And anyone who has mindfulness present with him is likely to have a way to know well about all sorts of things which happen in himself. Even when he comes to a time of crisis, he is not full of attachments and concerns in regard to other people, for he is responsible for himself. And when the time has finally come for him to submit his life to the way of nature, he does so in the manner of Dhamma. No fuss, no concern, and no holding back, which would be a worrisome burden. Thus he submits to death according to the circumstances, relaxed, at ease with no concern or worry. As far as the corpse and its disposal are concerned, once their owner has relinquished all concern and anxiety, what remains is a worthless lump of matter from then on, which becomes covered with earth and grass like all other things and there is nothing left there which is special or unusual.”
What the Acariya said was worth hearing, it was pleasant and went to one’s heart, but it was also well suited to the character of one who had set himself to be a “Son of the Sakya, The Supreme Buddha (Sakyaputta Buddhajinarasa)” following truly in the Lord’s footsteps, and it is rare that one meets anyone like this. After hearing what he said, one stores it in one’s memory to bring joy to one’s mind and to uplift one’s heart by recollecting it often. Stories of his life will be good examples for future generations, spreading out into the future, so that the Dhutanga observances which have been passed down to us Bhikkhus shall not be buried and wasted, which would be a sad loss and a cause for sorrow.
He has shown that there are still those who strive to follow the way and to gain the fruits which come from their own practice, and the line of continuity is not yet broken of those who attain more and more calm and happiness as they reach successively higher levels of the citta and Dhamma. They start from the levels of samadhi, reaching the levels of wisdom (pañña) until it changes into the levels of attaining freedom (vimutti) from the influence of the “Ti–lakkhana” — these being: Anicca (transience), Dukkha (discontent — suffering), and Anatta (being not-self), which all those who have kilesas are stuck with.
Those Bhikkhus who like to live in the forests, in the hills, in caves and under overhanging cliffs seem to have stories which are much more interesting and much more likely to set the reader thinking about them than those Bhikkhus who live in more ordinary places. The Acariya whose stories we are presently considering illustrates this point well. If we were to give him a pseudonym and call him “The Adventurer”, it would suit him without being in any way disrespectful, because his adventurous encounters were for the purpose of clearing out the “weeds” and searching for the true Dhamma. So this pseudonym accords with his mode of practice which is very much that of being a warrior or an adventurer who never gives in nor retreats.
One may laugh at this, for it hardly seems that the instances related above are worthy of such praise. But the reader should first consider the following stories before deciding whether he was a “warrior” at the moment when he was actually face to face with a crisis. I think the reader may therefore learn to admire the courage of this Acariya in the following stories.
Encounters With Various Tigers
At one time the Acariya was staying in a cave. One night when the moon was waxing, the sky was bright and starry and the weather was calm and pleasant, the Acariya was walking cankama in front of the cave. At that time there was a very large tiger with a huge round head, as big as he had ever seen and, speaking colloquially, as large as one of our earthenware water pots. To begin with he heard it growling in a frightening and threatening manner about twenty yards away. Then it started to roar, and it roared as loud as it could, until it seemed that the whole mountain was vibrating. While it was growling the Acariya had still not been able to see it. But before long he saw it emerge from the background coming straight towards him and roaring full volume, until it was about four yards away when it stopped, stood there and sat on it haunches. It did not show any other sign that it would attack him but just sat there, much in the way a dog would sit in front of one. He could see it quite clearly now, its stripes and all, because he had a candle lantern lit and hung up to give light for walking cankama.
When the Acariya saw this tiger come and sit in front of him, he thought to himself: “Why has this large tiger come here? This district covers a large area and there is plenty of room for it to wander about, so why does it not go away? Instead, it comes here, apparently thinking of having a bit of fun by showing its superiority over a human being who is afraid of such things.” He stood there for a short while looking at this tiger sitting in front of him and roaring to its hearts content. The Acariya felt a bit of apprehension in his heart, but it was only slight and he had no external symptoms or signs of fear at all. Then he slowly walked towards it, speaking to it, saying: “This is not the place for you to be wandering about, for this is where a Bhikkhu is working to develop the Dhamma of a recluse (Samana–Dhamma), so what have you come for? You should go and wander about over there where you can play with others of your kind. So go! For Bhikkhus are not made of brick and stone, and they are afraid of frightening things in the same way as all other animals.”
Having finished speaking he then walked straight towards the tiger. He said that he got to within about a yard of it when it leapt away suddenly and disappeared, but where it went he did not know. In fact it disappeared so quickly it was as if it had gone by magic. He looked for it all around but could see no trace of it which surprised him and he has wondered about it ever since, because it could not have disappeared so quickly. The place where he was staying and the place where this large tiger was sitting was clear and open and there was nothing there which was enough to give cover or to obstruct his view or prevent him seeing it the moment after it leapt away. So he was puzzled and kept wondering about it all the time. Later on when he went to visit Venerable Acharn Mun he took the opportunity to tell him what had happened and to ask him about the tiger which jumped away and disappeared so fast and how such a thing could happen.
Venerable Acharn Mun explained it to him saying:
“That was not a real tiger but one created by the Devas, for these Devas have many magical powers which are beyond the scope of us people. They are able to take on the form of a gross body or a subtle body, or create a mental image (nimitta) of an animal, a tiger, a man or women without any difficulty. Sometimes when they come to visit me they come in various different forms and sometimes the same Deva will come in different forms on different occasions. That tiger which came to visit you, if it had been a real tiger, coming up in front of a person like that one must assume that it had the intention to eat the person for certain, even though it knew that man is held in awe by all animals including tigers.”
“There are tigers which act under the control of Devas and there are those which are the Deva himself taking on a created form (nimitta), and the one which visited you was of this latter form. This is why when it leapt away, it disappeared so abnormally fast that you could not see and follow what happened to it and where it went.”
“I have become well accustomed to animals, tigers, Devaputta and Devadhita coming to me. For when one goes to live in the hills and forests alone one goes for the sake of Dhamma, and because the Dhamma is very powerful, all animals have respect and love for it, and so the heart which has Dhamma in it will also be powerful. But the power of Dhamma is not like worldly power which always waits for a chance to become aggressive, and those who are threatened by it are truly afraid while it threatens them. But their hearts don’t want to submit to the threat of this worldly power, and as soon as there is a chance they begin to take revenge on it, and we can see this happening in the world quite often. Therefore, where only worldly power is used, there is no Dhamma in it to back it up and the world finds great difficulty in maintaining peace and calm. So the Lord taught that the world should be governed by Dhamma, and people should govern each other by the way of Dhamma by relying upon what is right, good and appropriate as the authority, and not by taking emotional preferences and conceited opinions as the authority.”
“Dhamma has no form or substance which we can see with our physical eyes, but Dhamma is that nature which is most subtle and recondite and beyond all comparisons with any relative conventions. However subtle the heart (citta) is, Dhamma is equally subtle, and the heart is the abode of all Dhammas. Apart from the heart, there is nowhere else that is a suitable abode for Dhamma and therefore, Dhamma is not easy to talk about even though one knows it full well in one’s heart. That is, with the exception of those who practise the way and know Dhamma at various levels and stages; with them there can be discussion and a good enough mutual understanding. But for those who know Dhamma completely, and have realised the full range of the citta and Dhamma, when they discuss Dhamma they understand each other with complete certainty in all aspects and nuances. Questions such as: ‘What is the meaning of Dhamma?’ or ‘Where is it to be found?’, they already know without having to waste time in explanations. Those who must still depend on asking questions and the answers they receive have not yet attained the qualities of one who knows the field of Dhamma in full measure — this is the nature of the true Dhamma. But if the heart is false it will produce false Dhamma, and however long one goes on asking questions and receiving answers one only gets a lot of views and opinions and a heart full of the conceit of knowledge which can never agree with others. These are only the names and symbols of Dhamma, and in this way one gets only the names and symbols of Dhamma, and nothing of the true Dhamma filters into one’s heart. Anybody can learn and memorise the names and symbols of Dhamma because they are things which anybody should be able to memorise. But the important thing is the true Dhamma whose name and symbol one has naturally in oneself without having to learn it by repetition and memorising — and this kind of Dhamma is difficult to practise, difficult to see and difficult to know.”
“The reason why I said just now that the true Dhamma is difficult to practise and to know, and that it does not arise by asking questions and receiving answers, is because its whole nature is truth and this is the end point of all questions and problems. In addition, this Dhamma is always in the world, for it is eternal, neither developing nor deteriorating under any circumstances. So when we talk about the power of Dhamma, it is this Dhamma that is meant — what else could it be?”
“I am very uncertain whether you and the others who are listening will be able to understand and follow every aspect of the Dhamma that I have just told you, but this was the right time to speak so it was necessary to do so — for it is said “Talk about Dhamma at the right time is one of the greatest blessings (kalena dhammasakaccha etam mangalamuttamam).”
This was the Dhamma which Venerable Acharn Mun gave in answer and explanation to this Venerable Acharn and to others present who were his colleagues and who were listening also. But I had to write this based on what I heard from this Acariya. And although I may not have understood every word of it I have tried to write down everything, because I am sure that as different people have different abilities and cleverness, there are bound to be some who are able to understand the words of Venerable Acharn Mun quite clearly, even though I may not be able to do so. So I have written it down for others to work out its meaning in the hope that it will be of value to all of us in so far as this is possible. Because the words of someone like of Venerable Acharn Mun, even though amounting to only two or three sentences, are usually Dhamma of a kind that one rarely hears. Even though one may not understand it, one still feels satisfied to hear it and to write it down so that those who read it in the future may be helped in their contemplation of Dhamma, which may be a means of promoting their mindfulness and wisdom to some extent.
There are still many more such sayings of Venerable Acharn Mun’s, and I will include them from time to time as this account of the ways of practice involve Venerable Acharn Mun, and according to their suitability — up to the end of this book.
There was another cave in which this same Acariya stayed and he stayed here longer than elsewhere. But it seems that there were no tigers or other animals which came to bother him and cause any difficulties. That is, until he had almost reached the time for him to leave the cave and go wandering and seeking for Dhamma as was his disposition.
Early one morning when it was almost time for him to go for pindapata, he heard a big tiger growling and roaring and coming right up to where he was staying. As soon as he saw it coming up to him and roaring, his hair stood on end and he started to shake all over and he was so frightened that his heart almost stopped. (On this occasion his citta could not yet have become firm and strong enough. But in writing about this Acariya, I do not know in what order the events occurred, for I did not ask him when each one took place. I just took note of each event as he told them, so I do not know in what order they should be to conform to the Acariya’s development in the practice of Dhamma. Therefore it would be best if the reader just takes in the gist of each story by itself.)
He must have been very frightened, because the tiger walked straight up to him in a genuinely determined manner even though it had seen him since it emerged from the forest, and came towards him. For normally it should have stopped for a few moments when it first saw him, but it kept on walking and growling until it came within about four yards of him. Then it stopped and sat down like a domesticated dog and looked straight at the Acariya, staring without blinking, but it did not crouch nor make any sign that it would attack him, in fact its manner was very like the tiger in the story we wrote about previous to this one. This tiger also showed no serious intention to do him any harm — but a tiger is a fearsome animal and even though its actions may not give cause for fear, one is still almost bound to be afraid of it.
When the Acariya saw the tiger looking at him, he looked straight back at it with fear for a short while. Then he recollected himself and as soon as he was able to set up his mindfulness, he raised his arm and pointed his finger straight at it, saying: “This is not the place for you to be wandering about, but a place for Bhikkhus to stay and practise meditation. Now go away to where there is more forest and more hills than there are here.” But it just sat there looking at him without any sign of going away. So the Acariya picked up a stick and pointed it at the tiger saying: “Go away! There are plenty of hills where you can go wandering about, so don’t go on sitting there staring and making a Bhikkhu frightened. I am not an animal, not meat; I am not tiger’s food like they are; I am a Bhikkhu who is possessed of moral behaviour (sila) and Dhamma. So don’t stay here making me afraid, for soon, when you die you will fall into the fearful abyss of hell. Don’t say I haven’t warned you!” Then he pointed the stick at the tiger again, saying: “You must go now, for I am very afraid of you; your eyes are the eyes of a tiger, more sharp and penetrating than anything else and if you go on looking at me for a long time to make me very frightened so that I die, you are sure to fall into hell.” After which he moved from where he had been standing pointing the stick at the tiger and strode straight towards it. Immediately it leapt away and disappeared. When it had gone his own thoughts came up to frighten him some more. “What if it should follow me while I go for pindapata?” For it was thick jungle all the way, but he never saw the tiger as he thought he would.
That day his thoughts were all tainted with fear. He was afraid that it may come again, and during the night he thought of nothing but the tiger coming to get him within the next few moments, until he was unable to develop any concentration at all. So he had to teach and placate himself almost the whole night until eventually his heart submitted to the teaching and he was able to go down into a calm state of peace. From then on all his fear disappeared in a state of calm and happiness.
After that he never saw the tiger again for the rest of the time he was there. He said that this tiger was very big and long and truly very frightening. It seems as though it was probably one of those mysterious tigers for it was as big as the one that came to him in the middle of the night in the previous story of this Acariya. It’s behaviour and characteristics were similar and it leapt away very fast in the same way, which makes one think that it was likely to have been a tiger created by the Devas, as Venerable Acharn Mun explained, which when seen is so frightening that one tends to lose all one’s reason and all control of one’s senses. The Venerable Acharn explained the value of living in the forest and the value of the citta which has faced up to all sorts of happenings. His explanations were wonderfully impressive, but I cannot remember much of it because I have a tendency to forget easily. He said that when necessity arose, in difficult circumstances of various kinds which put the heart under compulsive pressure, he got a feeling as if there was something giving protection within him of a strange and unusual kind which is impossible to describe. Under the pressure of such critical circumstances, the growth and development of the citta took place with ease and very fast which was very different from the normal way of things. This is what made him like living in places which are dangerous and full of uncertainty, even though normally he tended to be timid, easily frightened and cautious. For when he was confronted with these fearful experiences he felt his heart moving up to a higher level every time they occurred. This happened in the most strange and unexpected way which amazed him, and he actually wanted these fearful experiences to occur frequently so that his heart may strive to develop itself and grow up more and more by depending on these experiences to assist it.
Living in the forests and hills is beneficial in subtle and strange ways which is hard to convey to others; although the Acariya never had any desire to talk with others about living in such places, because the nature of this kind of living is only suited to people whose characters have a tendency in this direction. As for the Acariya himself, whenever he left the forest to live in more usual places or in the ordinary forest, his heart tended to be lazy, careless and over confident and he had little interest in helping himself, so that the results which his heart should have been getting hardly ever appeared. He ate more food than when he was living in more rigorous conditions, and he also slept a lot and was more lazy. Then emotional concerns began to arise gradually and to increase every day while mindfulness and wisdom deteriorated and diminished.
Summing up all his characteristics he said:
“While living in places where people normally lived I could see no development or improvement taking place in myself, and for me to live in such places would be just waiting for the day when I shall die, without gaining any value from it. So I thought that if I did not want to die in the manner of a worthless person, I had better go away and search for Dhamma for the sake of my own salvation. Having reached this conclusion I made up my mind to go into the forests and hills again where I had always been.”
“The heart that has experienced peace and calm and which has been bright and scintillating with wisdom, derived from living in the forests and hills, in caves and under overhanging cliffs, cannot be made to come and live in conditions where it is cramped and difficult and where no Dhamma touches it at all. It has got to get back to the forests and hills in accordance with its nature; and as soon as it does so the heart feels easy and relaxed in conformity with the pleasant environment, without having to force or coerce it at all.”
“The effort made in practising the way and the various attitudes and postures of the body then blend together in harmony; and the mindfulness and wisdom which used to go hand in hand with the effort, then arise by themselves without having to call them up or force them to be there. The tendency to be lazy, to eat a lot and to sleep a lot, all die away of themselves, and in place of them whatever arises is Dhamma. Then those things which are not Dhamma — which were so difficult to drive out while living in ordinary, more civilised places — all gradually drop away and disappear without any need to use a lot of effort to get rid of them, which one has to when living in ordinary places.”
“Eating, sleeping, reducing emotional concerns and striving to promote the way, all change and become harmonious, each being done in the right order and for the right amount of time — which is very different from the way it was when I was living in more ordinary places. This made me think how the task of extracting and getting rid of the kilesas is very much easier when living in the forests and hills than in more usual places.”
The Acariya said that, going by his own experience of living in ordinary places, instead of extracting and getting rid of the kilesas in the way he had been led to believe, he found in fact, that he was accumulating kilesas in every position and posture which he assumed. This meant that he ate a lot because craving (tanha) came gently whispering to him that he should eat plenty, for the food was of good flavour, easily digested, good for the body’s health, well suited to his nature, — and well suited to the nature and tendencies of the kilesas! The kilesas liked it so much that they must be given plenty. He also slept too much, because the kilesas came whispering to him that he should rest a lot, otherwise he would be tired and weak and would not be able to strive for Dhamma with his full strength. But when the time actually came for him to strive for Dhamma with his full strength it in fact turned out to be the time for resting. In other words, he just went on lying there without having any fixed time when he should get up — for the kilesas never made any decision as to when he should get up! And his “striving with full strength” never showed up at all for him to see it, so that he could say that he had worked hard for so many hours this day and night. Instead, the kilesas lulled him to sleep from the time he finished eating his meal until dusk. He never saw his striving for Dhamma gain power over and penetrate into the laziness which arose from eating too much food. His thinking and imagination then increased until they went beyond all reasonable limits, and all the time in every case, his thought and imagination was concerned with nothing but the story of craving, the cause of dukkha (tanha–samudaya). They led the way, taking him on a tour through all sorts of buildings, places and halls belonging to the King and Queen of the three cravings (kama–tanha, bhava–tanha, vibhava–tanha), all prepared and ready to entertain the tourist who had eaten so much food his belly was over full, and to appease his emotional problems.
Laziness was very much in evidence, for if his head touched his pillow all his cares immediately vanished, and if anyone or anything came to rouse him up it was quite useless. He said:
“Eating a lot, lying down sleeping a lot, and being very lazy have always been companions that nobody can separate. Laziness is the most important member of this group and it gets support from the other two members. Wherever these three comrades go, they go together, never separating in life or death. If I was unable to wash them out and get rid of them, then I would have to go off into the forests and hills to find a tiger to help me drive them out, as well as using the methods of taking little food and having few amenities, to bring them under control. For otherwise I would have gone on like this until I died in their tight grip with no hope of escaping.”
“In order to overpower them so that their influence would weaken, I opposed the desires of my heart and went to live in places where they did not want to go — places where they were afraid. Then in all ways, the effort I made in striving for Dhamma developed smoothly and consistently, and whatever way it went, its way was the way of Dhamma and not the way of the kilesas and craving as it had been when I was living under ordinary conditions. For under such conditions the kilesas could easily take charge of me whereas I never had a chance to take charge of them at all.”
“My character is of a type that is difficult to train and discipline and it was essential for me to find a suitable place and conditions to help in doing this by forcing it to accept training and discipline in a different way. Then I would at least be able to breathe more freely without being weighed down, clogged up and unable to think all the time. Living in the forests, in the hills, in caves and under overhanging cliffs in the way I have been accustomed to living is, I feel, well suited to my character and temperament in that it enabled me to have some calm and peace of heart. For my character is thick with kilesas and dull in wisdom.”
The Acariya said how when he was still fairly young, he was very zealous in self-discipline, which included fasting, eating little, wandering about and living in the forests and hills. He never felt easy in his heart about leaving them to go and stay in more ordinary places as most other Bhikkhus do, and he only did so when he was compelled to. Staying in ordinary places showed him quite clearly that if he was ever to make the Path, Fruition and Nibbana become the wealth of his heart, he must undergo training and discipline of the most rigorous kind. But if he was to go the way of submission to the power of craving he would live like an animal without a master and in a few days he would see the results of its influence quite clearly. This was the reason why he could not live in ordinary places.
When he tried to practise the way of living in a forest environment such as those which we have already mentioned, his heart turned and became peaceful, mindfulness and wisdom which had never been there became apparent, and steadily, as he went on with his training and discipline, he came to know and experience things which he had never before encountered. This gave his heart the encouragement which enabled him to fight those obstacles to his development as need arose from time to time. Until finally, staying in such places brought a deeply felt satisfaction, and he saw how they were the right places to correct those bad characteristics of his, and how they are also places which become the “Temple of Dhamma” (Vimana–Dhamma) in the most unexpected way.
The Acariya said:
“Right up to the present day, my heart has nothing but praises and gratitude for those places in the forests and the hills where I lived with ease of heart. I would like to go and live there, until they become the place of my grave when I come to the end of my life, for I do not want to die in a place which is all distracted and turbulent. To die in those forests and hills is to die in peace, joyfully in Dhamma with nothing acting as a disturbance to pull and influence one, for such things are nothing but a distracting nuisance. The heart is then intent on Dhamma alone, with mindfulness and wisdom as its two associates, joyfully searching and examining with thoroughness and circumspection to get to the causes and the results of the Dhamma truth which dwells within the citta.”
“The heart and Dhamma have the most intimate and close association together, so when the time comes that the body and its parts lose their strength and continue to deteriorate until they are abandoned and left to go their own way in accordance with the truth of what they are, if then one has circumspect mindfulness and wisdom in everything, both inwardly and outwardly, one is oneself entire and complete. Then there is no need to go and pick up and borrow what is called “oneself”, from the conventional relative world, which one puts on and wears, to become a “man of the world”, which is the “way of the world” everywhere. Then one can let go of this burden — the khandhas — that one has struggled with and carried about all the time, by relaxing and letting them go their own way quite naturally. One lets the fundamental elements of the khandhas revert to their own natural state — “analayo” — free from attachment. This is the “wealth” for whoever can do it and he will guard his “Analaya treasure”, and whatever his history has been, this will just be the end of it. Why then should he go about searching for things to get involved in any more, when they would only give rise to more trouble and confusion? For the truth is that the kilesas are at an end, for they have all been driven out of the heart, and since that moment all concerns have ceased.”
This is how this Acariya praised the virtues of living in forests and hills for one who has the same type of character and temperament as himself. He always gained calm and happiness of heart from the forests right up to the present time and he never became tired of them. This conforms to the teaching that the Lord Buddha laid down for Bhikkhus who have just been ordained, thus: “Go out and find a quiet and secluded place in the forest under the shade of a tree for instance, where you can strive to practise the way.”
This Acariya has the faculty of being able to know and see all sorts of things in the realms of the gods which the human eye cannot see, for example, the Pretas, Ghosts, Devaputta, Devadhita and the Naga–kings. His way was very like that of Venerable Acharn Mun, and whenever the opportunity arose they would talk Dhamma together about those beings who have subtle, Deva, bodies. It was wonderful to listen to and quite absorbing, so that one wanted them to keep on talking for a long time. It was even more worth while to hear when they talked about the Devas who came to listen to Dhamma talks and who asked questions, because both Acariyas knew what the other was talking about without any danger of misunderstandings arising. This is much the same as people who have learnt a particular branch of knowledge who can talk together about the subject without difficulty.
It seemed that this Acariya was quite an expert in his understanding and knowledge of those who live in the realms of the Devas. When I asked him questions about these realms, he gave detailed answers which were wonderful to hear. Thus, for example, when asked about the Naga–kings, he said that these Naga–kings have great supernatural powers. When they came to see him they came in all sorts of different bodily forms (kaya–nimitta), and one time the Acariya asked one of them to demonstrate his ability for him to see. The Naga said that to produce bodily forms of various sorts is not difficult for the Naga–kings and they can make the body appear in any form they want. Then he proceeded to display various different forms which the Acariya saw right there. He told the Acariya to just keep watching and he disappeared for a short while. Then the Acariya saw a white robed lay follower (upasaka) walk up to him and when quite close this form suddenly disappeared, then he saw a hunter complete with his weapons come up close to him and disappear. After that a large elephant appeared coming towards him, and so on. The Naga said that in whatever form he wanted to appear he could appear just as he wanted, whether it was that of an elephant, a person or anything else and he could do so almost instantaneously.
Concerning the Naga–kings ability to release poison, the Acariya said that once when he was wandering with Venerable Acharn Mun near the Mekong river, in some places where they stayed there were ponds of clear clean water which should have been good for drinking and bathing. But Venerable Acharn Mun would not let them use the water at all, for he was afraid that the Naga–kings had ejected poison into the water and that if they used it for washing or drinking they would get sick with fever, making them generally unwell and increasing their difficulties. Acharn Mun said: “This is because this group of Naga–kings do not yet have any faith in or respect for us. They have been competing to gain superiority over us for several nights already, but before long their conceited views will die away, for they cannot stand against the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha. This group of Naga–kings still have no faith either in Buddhism or in us and they think that we have come here to contend with them and to drive them away from this place. This is why they have reacted by contending with us for several nights, but I am not interested in the way they react, for I have complete certainty that evil was never able to defeat virtue, and this Dhamma teaching, as with all others which the Lord proclaimed from the day of his first teachings to the time of his entering Parinibbana, has never changed or altered. Because this is a ‘Dhamma Truth’, complete and perfect and cannot be altered.”
This Acariya knew what it was that Venerable Acharn Mun was warning them about because he knew a lot about this group of Nagas and had also talked with Venerable Acharn Mun about them. But before long these Nagas gave way and took the “Refuges” (Sarana) with Venerable Acharn Mun, and they offered protection for the safety and convenience of the Bhikkhus, just as he had predicted. After the Nagas had gained faith, submitted to Venerable Acharn Mun and taken the refuges with him, he asked them saying: “Why did you release poison into the water which is of value to everyone, both people and animals? Were you not afraid of the evil kamma you would make when the water poisoned those who take it? For the Naga–kings themselves must bear the responsibility for this evil, and there is absolutely no way to escape from it, this being the law of kamma as it has always been. Because the results of kamma have power beyond that of all the Naga–kings everywhere, and if the Naga–kings are afraid of evil, afraid of kamma and afraid of falling to hell, they should go and remove that poison from the water in those ponds and turn it into pure water as it was before. Neither I, nor any of the Bhikkhus, have touched that water so far, because I knew perfectly well that the Naga–kings had deliberately put myself and all these Bhikkhus into the danger of drinking and using that water.”
At this point the Naga–kings submitted completely, for this was just what they had in fact done. They had not told Venerable Acharn Mun anything about the poison but he knew of it from his own internal intuitive knowing (ñana) and they admitted that what he said was true. After this they hurried to draw the poison out of the water in the ponds until there was none left, and then they came back quickly to tell Venerable Acharn Mun. At the same time they invited him and all the Bhikkhus to use the water freely without any fear of danger. This is how the Naga–kings who were conceited and contended for superiority with Venerable Acharn Mun, turned round and submitted themselves to him completely. They also dedicated themselves as his followers, learning the Truths of Dhamma from him with enthusiasm and strong faith from then on. As soon as Venerable Acharn Mun knew that the Nagas had given way and removed all the poison he told the Bhikkhus that they may use the water to drink and to wash in from then on.
Venerable Acharn Mun considered this Acariya to be very precise and thorough in his knowledge of subtle, mysterious things, such as the Naga–kings, and it is hard to find any of his followers who could equal him. Venerable Acharn Mun always taught the other Bhikkhus how they should behave in relation to those of the Deva realms. For instance, when they went to stay in some places, almost every day beings of the Deva realms would come late at night to hear Dhamma from him, when it was quiet and peaceful. He had to point out to the Bhikkhus that they should be careful of their behaviour and he told them to lie down and rest in the early part of the night. Once it had become late at night they should get up and get on with their striving for Dhamma so that when all the Devas come they will be able to salute and pay homage to us and to admire the zeal of these Bhikkhus, all of whom would be practising the way and doing their meditation practice when they come to visit us. We should not let them find us in an attitude of sleep, for it is lacking in mindfulness and is likely to give rise to unseemly mannerisms. The Devas often used to complain to Venerable Acharn about Bhikkhus who were asleep and had no manners. But although it may not be possible for one who is asleep to have mindfulness to control his behaviour, it is within the ability of the Bhikkhus to avoid this by not lying down and sleeping at those times when the Devas usually come. Therefore Venerable Acharn told them to rest and sleep before the time when the Devas come. The Bhikkhus then made an effort to do what Venerable Acharn had told them and there were no more complaints from the Devas. As for any of the Bhikkhus who had the ability to receive the Deva guests, they would do so in the same way as Venerable Acharn Mun did. But those who did not have this ability would go on practising their samadhi meditation when the Devas came.
The Way Devatas Liked Hearing Dhamma
Venerable Acharn Mun and the foregoing Acariya both said the same thing about the Devatas in that they have characters which are quite individual, in the same way that people do. Some of them liked to hear the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, some the Karaniyametta Sutta, some liked to hear the Abhidhamma — in other words “Kusala dhamma, akusala dhamma...,” which the Lord Buddha taught to his Mother in the Tavatimsa Heaven. Some liked to hear the Aparihaniyadhamma Sutta and some the Mettabrahmavihara Sutta, in fact more of them wanted to hear this sutta than any other. The different groups, levels and realms variously liked different suttas depending on their individual characteristics and there were so many different ones which they asked to hear. However, I will not attempt to make a list of them, for I have not come across nor looked into all the Suttas which the Devatas wanted to hear, so I cannot let the reader know about them, and I must ask you to forgive me for this. But wherever this Acariya went to stay in the hills and forests the Devatas always liked to go and associate with him in the same way as they did with his Acariya — Venerable Acharn Mun.
Sometimes the Acariya stayed with the Rishi hermits who practised their way in caves in various locations far away from the turbulence of society, and generally four or five kilometres or more from the nearest village, and deep in the hills where nobody goes. For these Rishis do not have the tradition of going pindapata as the Bhikkhus do and they cook and eat their meals themselves, alone. When the Acariya went to stay there in a cave close by, he went to the Rishi for pindapata, and that day the Rishi cooked curried beans and gave them to him with great joy and gladness of heart. The manner in which this Acariya related this story was very funny but we will not elaborate it here. The Acariya said he was very hungry and tired having walked three days through wild country and he had eaten very little while travelling. For in walking through the forests and over hills he came across the occasional small village composed of only three or four houses where some forest dwellers lived who knew nothing about Buddhism, and he had to rely on those people to give him enough food to keep him going. So both because he had walked very far and also gone up and down many hills, his body was quite exhausted and he wanted food much more than was normal for him. So as soon as the Rishi had finished cooking the curried beans and given them to him he ate the lot until his bowl was clean, both the curried beans and the rice, for that day he left nothing, not even any bits sticking to his bowl. But having eaten, instead of feeling strength returning to his body, he felt increasingly weak and tired and he just wanted to lie down and sleep, for the food that the Rishi had given him was quite delicious. Meanwhile the Rishi was very pleased and happy to see him eat all of it, for what he had done seemed to be absolutely suitable to the occasion, without any thought of the situation and what might come of it. As soon as the Acariya saw that his condition was not good he went to a place where he could walk cankama and walked, until the afternoon after which he rested in meditation practice.
While he was sitting practising samadhi, his citta dropped into a state of calm and he heard the sound of gongs and drums of the Devatas who were expressing their appreciation for the fruits of metta which they had received from the Acariya. They were also glad about the gift of food which the Rishi had made to him when he was very hungry, for the merit and good which he had made was exceedingly great and beyond calculation. So these Devatas were overflowing with delight and thanksgiving (anumodana), for it is very rare that a “holy” man, complete in moral behaviour and Dhamma who is worthy of respect and veneration and makes one glad at heart, should come and favour them. They were truly glad about the fruits which had come from him so they all came to express their satisfaction and thanksgiving and asked that they may share in this merit by their act of thanksgiving.
This was how the Devatas who lived round those hills all expressed their gladness at the gift which the Rishi had made through the Acariya who had been so hungry and had eaten a lot. They came so that he should be a witness to their gladness and they also asked him to tell the Rishi about this and to express their thanks (anumodana) to him. So early that evening, he took the opportunity to talk Dhamma with the Rishi, and speaking in an indirect manner he said: “This afternoon I dreamed that a great company of Devatas came beating gongs and drums to give thanks for the great merit which you made in giving food to me this morning, and they also asked for their share of merit which comes from the thanksgiving. You must have gained a lot of merit for all these Devatas to come and give thanks and to ask for a share in it as well.”
Hearing this, the Rishi put his hands together and raised them above his head in appreciation and agreement with the Devatas, and he expressed his admiration of the Acariya, saying: “You must be very skilled in the ways of intuitive knowledge (ñana); for if you were able to hear the sounds of the Devatas showing their appreciation by this thanksgiving while you were merely sleeping in the middle of the day, how much more skilled you must be at other times when you are not asleep. I have no doubt about this for I have had great reverence and faith in Venerable Acariya since I first saw you, and for this reason I have done whatever I can for you gladly and willingly, so when I saw you eat a lot of that food my gladness and joy was boundless. Can you tell me where these Devatas live so that they were able to know that I had given food to you and then to make their thanksgiving, and also to ask for a share in the merit from me? And why have I never seen them display themselves all the time I have been living here?”
“These are the Rukkha Devas (Devas who dwell in trees) and they live not very far from us. This morning when I was doing the thanksgiving, “Yatha... Sabbitiyo...,” they also heard it and responded with their “Sadhu”; but if we are not aware of them it seems as if there are none of them anywhere around here at all.”
The Rishi was very interested in the story of the Devatas coming to make thanksgiving for the “dana” which he had given and asked the Acariya to tell him more about it. The Acariya then devised a way to get this Rishi to practise meditation, and also, so that he himself may have time for his own meditation practice without having external things coming to bother him too much. So he said to the Rishi:
“In order to see the Pretas, Ghosts, Devaputtas or Devadhita you must look with the internal eye, the eye of the heart; and in order to be able to know all these other forms of existence with the internal eye you must be diligent in practising meditation. Examine the thirty two parts of the body in detail with wisdom. And when you do samadhi meditation practice, keep your attention on your breath, or on the word “Buddho”, just that, and don’t let it get caught up with anything else. When your citta becomes calm by either of these methods of meditation, you will be able to see the Devata for yourself without having to bother other people by asking about them. But if you are lazy in doing your meditation practice you will not see any Devatas, nor will your heart become calm and peaceful.”
“To see the Devas, who have Deva–bodies, you must see with the Deva heart — in other words, you must use samadhi meditation as the means of doing this. If one does not have the means of doing this, there is no way in which one can know or see the beings of these realms.”
After giving this explanation, the Rishi felt eager to practise this way so that he may come to know and see the Devatas. Then this Acariya took his leave and left him so that he could get on with his own practice. Late that night the Devatas came to visit him to ask about the Rishi and his desire to know where the Devatas lived, about his desire to practise meditation so as to know about the Devatas and also how the Acariya had taught him. So the Acariya then explained to them what he had taught the Rishi.
The Acariya did not stay very long with the Rishi even though he had such great faith in this Acariya and was also very attached to him and did not want him to go. Once this Acariya was staying in a certain place in the forest with two other Bhikkhus. Later on he heard from the villagers that close to where the Bhikkhus were staying, they had buried the body of a woman who had died in an abnormal way — the villagers called it a “violent death”. This woman who lived in the forest was pregnant and she was ignorant of the necessary care and attention required in giving birth to a child and she was left to her own devices and died in a sorry state. This is what they told the Acariya, but to start with, none of the Bhikkhus knew about this woman.
When the Acariya practised his meditation, the ghost of this woman came to bother him nearly every night. He explained that as he understood it, ghosts and people have very similar characteristics in regard to the sexual cravings that exist in the hearts of all beings in the world. (The writer apologises for bringing in this subject matter, but it is necessary for understanding the true basis of what happened.) He said that he saw this quite clearly when he went to stay and practise meditation in that forest with the two other Bhikkhus. As soon as night had come, whenever he entered into meditation he would see the ghost of this dead woman coming to him and displaying all the suggestive things of her sex to him all the time. But his citta was too strong for her and she could not do anything to overcome him. Sometimes this ghost appeared to become much more active than normal, almost as if it was going to try and rape him to satisfy her heart’s craving, but she had no way to get at him. He developed metta in his citta toward her but she would not accept it, for all she wanted was the satisfaction of this emotional state of craving (arammana). When he questioned this ghost, she answered quite truthfully without any deception, about how and why she had died, which was later confirmed by the villagers.
It was after this that she tried unsuccessfully to do these things to him that he asked her what had happened to her. She told him that when she was alive as a human being her marriage had broken up and her husband left her for someone else. This had upset her very badly and when the time came to deliver her child there was nobody to look after her and give her medical attention. It was then that she died with her child still unborn. This was the same story that the villagers later told him. In fact he asked the villagers about this ghost because of its improper behaviour and because he would always see it when he entered samadhi. He said that this ghost was quite vicious. When it could not get its way with the Acariya it turned its attention to the two other Bhikkhus by acting as if it would rape them while they were asleep. They shouted out in their sleep, so loud that he could hear clearly what they said. “You are a woman and I am a Bhikkhu, how can you expect me to act like a lay person — I don’t want it — you must go away now quickly before you make worse kamma than you already have and go down to hell. Venerable Acharn! Help me! This ghost of a woman is trying to rape me! Come quickly! Help!” This is the kind of thing they were saying, but very loud, even though they were still asleep. Like someone shouting out something to let us know. The Acariya who was just coming out of his meditation practice after contending with the ghost, turned his attention out beyond himself and heard these strange noises quite clearly. So he quickly went to the Bhikkhu who had called for help and woke him up. When he was asked what had happened, he said that in his sleep he saw a pregnant woman coming towards him as though she would rape him, and she would not listen whatever he said to her so he called to Venerable Acharn for help and he was woken just in time. The Acariya said that he had never come across anything like this before and the whole incident was very strange. The two Bhikkhus both had the same kind of dream, but not on the same night. And both of them called for help to the Acariya when they became afraid that the ghost would make them lose their chastity (Brahmacariya) as Bhikkhus, and they called out loud and clearly. One night one of them called out, the next night the other one did the same thing and it went on like this. The Acariya was also disturbed in his meditation practice, but the two other Bhikkhus were disturbed almost every night.
The Acariya said that the problem with this kind of madness is that it will not let its obsessed victims give way and receive any of their share of blessings and metta. They are so completely obsessed by their desire that they know no shame, which makes their thoughts go into strange and wrong ways, and this is the case quite regardless of their realm, world or form of existence. If such a shameless obsession should take possession of any being anywhere, that realm or world is bound to be of a nature similar to that in which the ghost of this woman lived and behaved in that way towards the Bhikkhus.
“When the ghost of that woman was acting in bad, improper ways, what did it actually do?” The Acariya replied in a manner as if he was still angry with the ghost: “Do you want me to display everything in detail to you — like a boat on dry land? What I have already told you is enough to make me want to bury my head in the ground and I cannot go and reveal everything like someone taking off all his clothes. I am not shameless like that ghost who can speak without any sense of what is seemly and proper; and is it not enough simply to use the word “rape”? What else should one say? Surely everyone should understand what that means quite clearly, whether it concerns a ghost or a human being.”
I then asked another question.
“Did the other two Bhikkhus not know about the ghost from their samadhi meditation? If so, why should this ghost go and bother them when it was time for sleep — when one wants no pleasure more than a good sleep?” The Acariya replied: “They did not say whether they knew about it or not; all they did was to shout out in the middle of the night so that I could not stand it and had to go quickly to help them. When they woke and I asked them about it, all they said was that the ghost was trying to rape them.”
I again asked:
“How long did you stay in that place?” He replied: “We stayed there for several months and the reason why I decided to leave the place was because the other two Bhikkhus did not want to stay there. They said that they could not stand this ghost’s persistent efforts to have its way with them, so we had to go elsewhere.”
“Does not the ghost which caused all this trouble belong to the realm of Pretas, who should be capable of accepting shared merit (puñña)? Why then was it not glad to accept its share of merit when the merit of someone’s good actions are shared out to other beings?” The Acariya replied: “I really do not know what group of beings it belongs to, in fact all I know is that it acted only in its own mad way, having no interest in anything else at all.” After this he smiled and said further. “I was sorry for the other two Bhikkhus who were still very young. They practised the way well and they were very intent on Dhamma, but they could not relax and stay there with an easy heart because of this thing which came to trouble them. At night they seemed to be very uneasy with thoughts of “dukkha” and desire in both of them. When it was time to sleep they both were afraid of the ghost and how it may harm them in the same way as it had already done so. So they did not want to go on staying there and we had to leave.”
“Does this sort of thing happen only to women, or can men also become like this when they die?” The Acariya replied:
“Let us just think in terms of sexual craving (raga–tanha), which not only afflicts women, or men, or Bhikkhus or Samaneras, or Pretas and ghosts, or Devaputtas and Devadhitas; for it is the leader in bringing harm to all of them. It never readily submits to being the servant of anyone and so it does not accept that there is anybody over whom it cannot be the boss and cannot order them about, for it is the one that orders them about. Therefore both men and women are equally susceptible. But in regard to this incident, I merely related what happened without any thought of blaming or criticising women and saying that they alone were bad. For if the situation was reversed and a man acts badly; or his ghost should appear to any woman or to one who practises meditation acting in a way comparable to the incident which I related, she would be bound to talk about it in a similar manner. If anyone says that we, or they, speak in a disparaging way about the spirits (viññana) of women or men, it will be no more than his own ideas which we cannot stop.”
“As for sexual craving (raga–tanha), we should not take much interest in how it effects the ghosts and Pretas and other such beings. It would only waste a lot of time to know what they are all like and how they react to it. We human beings are the clever ones, and clever enough as women and men also, and even though we may not display anything outwardly we are still clever internally. For instance, the difference between the way things were when I was young as compared with the way they are nowadays is enormous, as different as the sky and the earth. Look for yourself, there is no need to go and talk about it both outwardly and inwardly, for the change has taken place just due to this — sexual craving — and it has almost reached the point where the whole world is ablaze with it. Because when one person who is bold faced and brazen makes a point of showing off his cleverness in this direction, then other people pick up these ideas and they also show off their cleverness, and this spreads more and more. So the world becomes more disturbed every day, because there is nothing good or beneficial that comes from this senseless display of vanity. Under normal conditions sexual craving is volatile and rather like a dangerous object such as a weapon or poison which can harm and kill. But when they think of it as being fun and play with it and praise it as being artistic or modernistic, saying how good it is, and then go and display it to the world its powerful influence will spread, because all of them have sexual craving in them, and it can cause the break-up and destruction of the world. Take a look for yourself! But if you don’t believe it you can try it out. You will soon see for yourself quite clearly just how powerful its influence is. But there is no need to talk much or to look far away, for it is there to some extent in the hearts of almost everyone and it shows itself outwardly for us to see how malignant it is, quite obviously. But why then should people go and promote it so that it develops and becomes so powerful that it ruins themselves and destroys the world? This is why the wisest of men have always taught people to be very cautious of it and to restrain and overcome it. This will at least bring some peace and calm in those groups who do this, enough for them to relax and breathe freely.”
“You asked me about this so I have talked about it, but please do not think that I am blaming or criticising anyone. For I also have been afflicted by it and have sought for it and roused it up enough in the past for me to know without doubt that if ‘I’ should search for supreme happiness and satisfaction I must do so in quite another direction. Otherwise it would have kept whispering to me and dragging me down to hell all this time and every day for the rest of my life. Don’t think that it will lead you to the peaceful Dhamma which is a state of calm and tranquillity. If you look for the baneful side of sexual craving you should be able to see it because in itself it is entirely baneful, and it also dwells within the hearts of each one of us. If then you are still unsure of it, what else can I say?”
The Acariya said that the ghosts and Devas have the pretentious wiles and ways of sexual craving quite as much as human beings, but this is not so in all cases. There are some who are bold to the point where they display their sexual craving quite openly in the same way as people who are given to this sort of thing. Sometimes a Deva would make a display of enticing mannerisms and ways and even going as far as grabbing hold of the Acariya saying that she loved him very much. Then he had to point out and explain the situation until she understood, after which she would not act in that way again. “But,” he said, “Going to the extent of grabbing hold of someone — this makes one think some! One should expect that beings in two different realms and states of existence would not be able to love and care for each other in the manner of emotional attachment (arammana). But this showed me how sexual craving is no respecter of persons, for it can make attachments anywhere that there is the opportunity and the appropriate situation. When this sort of thing happens, my gross, physical body is not apparent and I feel no awareness of it. It is probably a Deva body that is known, seen and felt by the Devas and this is what arouses whatever it is in the heart of the Devata. This reaches the point where she makes a display of her love openly without any shame — which is worse than the way of good people who have a proper sense of shame.”
This kind of experience is often found amongst those who practise the way. But generally, they are not ready to talk about it to other people, except to those who also practise the way; or to someone whose character they know well and can trust; or to one who has come across such things.
Some of the Bhikkhus who go far away into the hills are likely to be protected by a Devata who keeps close by him, although nobody is able to see this, although the Bhikkhu who the Devata has become associated with can know about it. But they make no ostentatious show to spoil it, like people in the world who have gross physical bodies. For they come with good intentions, faith and respect, and with a genuine desire to do what is meritorious and virtuous for the Bhikkhus. There are times when such a Bhikkhu may fast for many days until his body becomes weak and exhausted although his heart is still strong and bright. The Devata seeing this feels sorry for him and may want to give him some physical strength. So the Devata asks permission to help him by giving him some Deva food. This Bhikkhu saw what he understood to be the Deva food in the hand of the Devata, which she had brought with her. It looked like an off-white chalky powder, and this, the Devata told him, was the food of all classes of Devas. The Devata then asked if she could give him this food by rubbing it very lightly over his body so that the nutritive essence of this Deva food should permeate all parts of the body very quickly and give it strength, like one gets from eating ordinary food, or more so. The Bhikkhu felt that he should not give permission, for he was afraid that he may be breaking some of the rules of the Vinaya. Because it was already late in the afternoon and the Devata was female and she had come on her own, and if anyone should chance to see them, they would at least criticise him even though it may not be a fault against the Vinaya. Even worse, they might think that she was a real person and blame him in the way of the world, saying that a Bhikkhu and a woman were living together in a cave in the desolate hills and there was no other man anywhere about to act as a chaperone. The Devata who has a Deva body would then be taken for a woman who was making advances to a Bhikkhu. The whole thing may get blown up into a scandal which may cause a lot of damage and trouble, even though in fact there would be nothing between them which was not proper and pure.
With this reasoning he would not let the Devata touch his body, not even to rub the Deva food over him. But the Devata was insistent, saying that no harm would come from the association with a Devata at all because the body of the Devata is a Deva body and the food which she had brought to give him strength was Deva food and there is nothing in it which would contravene the Vinaya and cause him any trouble. As for seeing and hearing each other talking together, it is a case of the heart at the level of the Devas seeing a Deva body and the Deva hearing listening to Deva sounds, and it has no connection with the gross physical body, physical seeing and ears made of skin in any way that would be an obstacle to you and the Vinaya at all. The Devata said that she had come to serve him and help him in the hope of making merit and developing her virtue through this Bhikkhu who was so resolute and intent on Dhamma, and that she had not come to harm him or Buddhism at all. “You should please have metta and agree to let me have the share of the merit which I ought to get through you, and please do not reject this Devata who is anxious to make merit so as to be a condition for the promotion of my future births and becoming; and to cause my development and gain in the present and future to increase by this good action.”
The Bhikkhu replied by saying:
“While you are here with me, whether I shut my eyes or open them, I can still see you. Other people have eyes and if they are not blind they can also see us sitting here. What do you think, would this be proper and in character for a woman, the two of us together like this? Please think well about it before doing anything.”
“What you see here, you see with your heart and eyes which are supported by Dhamma, in other words, you have samadhi and ñana which enable you to see easily and clearly.” The Devata explained:
“Even though you may use your physical eyes to see me, the seeing still comes from the internal ñana which helps them and enables you to see as if your physical eyes were seeing. Because it is just your internal eye which enables the physical eyes to see Deva forms and if you did not have ñana within you to aid your seeing you would never be able to see the Deva body of a Devata at all. In order to give you confidence that you have no need to be afraid of anyone coming and spying on this Devata who is sitting with you I can give you complete assurance that apart from yourself alone, even if people came here in thousands they would not be able to see me at all, not even one of them. I have the power to prevent the ordinary person from seeing me and this is not difficult for me to do. The only exceptions are those who have Dhamma within them, and ñana which enables them to know, and for these people I have respect and reverence and I have no ability to prevent them knowing. But also, you should not think that this Devata is a supernatural being who has come from some mysterious place, for I have come from the realm of human beings who love the way of moral behaviour, who love Dhamma and who are always glad to make merit and make gifts of whatever is appropriate and who have these qualities as their habitual nature. So whenever I come across anyone such as yourself who practises the way properly, I feel great faith and reverence and want to increase it, and however much or little I develop, it is all merit and virtue and becomes part of my conditioned characteristics. You should therefore agree and help me with metta to do whatever is proper and right. I would not dare to do anything which is not allowable for a recluse, for good and bad arise from kamma — the actions which one does oneself — which I understand well and respect and I do not go against. But what I have been pleading for you to accept is entirely within the realm of Dhamma; it is not a matter of Vinaya and there is nothing of the way of the world in it. Like when you give Dhamma talks to us Devatas, it makes no difference as far as the Dhamma and Vinaya are concerned, whether there is only one person listening or however many listen.”
The time when the Devata and the Bhikkhu were talking to each other was the time when he was in samadhi practice and not at any other time. But when he said to the Devata that when she came and sat there with him, he could see her with his eyes closed or open, he was referring to other times in general when he was doing other things and he was still able to see and know such things by means of his own special ability. Therefore, the reasoning which the Devata used in asking him to accept the Deva food was within the bounds of what is reasonable and proper, because it is limited entirely to the affairs of the heart (mind) which is in samadhi meditation. Where the Bhikkhu questioned the Devata and they talked back and forth, all of this took place in samadhi and in accordance with Dhamma. But action done in the attained state of samadhi (samadhi–samapatti) are not within the scope of faults against the Vinaya rules.
It seems that while this Bhikkhu was in samadhi that afternoon, the Devata in fact rubbed this Deva food over his body. But the body which the Devata rubbed was his body in samadhi and not his ordinary body. When the Devata rubbed this food over him he felt much lighter than normal in samadhi, and when he came out of samadhi his body felt light and buoyant and much stronger than usual — as if he had eaten food that day.
This Bhikkhu said that some days he was able to see the Devata all the time, without having to enter samadhi.
But the seeing of Devatas in samadhi or with one’s physical eyes at other times is always likely to be self-deception and false in someone who is just beginning to train themselves in the early stages of meditation. Therefore, even those who are naturally endowed with such abilities and may at times see various things must be cautioned by their Acariya, who should insist that they do not let go and let the citta go out and get to know things in the way they have been used to doing this. They must wait until they have become sufficiently skilled at entering and leaving samadhi, and they understand what to do and how to react to the various things which are experienced, knowing well enough what is genuine and what is false. Then, when the time is appropriate to let go, they may do so to some extent, but not in the manner of letting go of all self-control and having no consideration for what is right and wrong, good and evil which may become involved with this type of samadhi.
Amongst those who practise meditation, there are some who see Devatas that come from their own delusions in this way, but if they are intent on Dhamma, not proud and conceited in this ability, nor believing it to be something special in them, and they do not deludedly go after these things which they experience, then it is not difficult to cure. But what is difficult is the type of person who tends to be haughty and boastful. As soon as he comes across any of the above phenomena, one fears that it will become a chronic disease and he will not be the least interested in taking any “medicine” to effect a cure. Rather he would try to spread the germs so that the disease becomes widespread, causing harm and loss to others who do not know nor understand about these things, nor about their tricky deceptions; and this disease is a type which one should be very much on guard against. I am not a knower or seer of the Devatas, Pretas, ghosts and other such things, but if someone comes and talks about them in an effusive extravagant manner, without any “steering wheel and brakes” to retain some control I feel afraid and concerned. Because, generally speaking most people are susceptible to this “disease” and as soon as the “germs” of it enter their system, there is fear that it would spread and increase and get out of hand.
In order to combat this kind of disease effectively one must ask the help of someone who is an Acariya and who understands well about this sort of thing, as well as the way of samadhi and wisdom and other things also. If anyone goes to him and talks just a little about this sort of thing, he will know immediately whether it is genuine or false, and he can point this out clearly and cure the trouble straight away, provided that this person is interested to listen for the sake of learning the truth of Dhamma and its ways. Then he will be able to practise the way rightly by following the Acariya without losing anything at all. But what is frightening is the way that some people grab hold of anything that comes and passes by them and then hold onto it as their “valuable possession, absolutely genuine and true”, without considering whether it is really true or false. This kind of “true thing” is then capable of causing endless disturbance and loss both to the person himself as well as to others, and because of this such “true things” are most frightening to those who have experienced them and gone beyond them. So those who practise the way should use mindfulness and wisdom to be well guarded against such things, and they must not let such “true things” as these be able to arise. This means that they will know all aspects of the way of practice with circumspection and they will be a blessing to themselves and to the whole field of Buddhism. This Bhikkhu who had the Devata coming to look after him could tell the most fascinating stories and I enjoyed listening to him. He talked of a time when he had gone for a period of meditation practice to a place where he was dependent on two or three families of farmers and every four or five days he would go pindapata to them and would eat one meal and that was all. But it seems that his meditation became progressively deeper without any slackening. He did his meditation both in the day and at night with equally good results, but it was rather hot during the day and at night it was cool and pleasant and the citta was able to go down into complete absorption in the realm of samadhi, and to remain there for several hours at a time before rising out of it. If he thought with sympathy of the Devatas, late at night he would withdraw from samadhi to some extent and look around. If he saw that some of them had come he would receive them for a while, then afterwards he would turn back towards samadhi again, as was his way, until the time came for him to withdraw from it. After that he would investigate and research with wisdom until he finished whatever he was investigating. The total time spent in samadhi at night was four to five hours each time whereas during the day it was from two to four hours, and in addition he would walk cankama after doing samadhi meditation. This was his regular routine, but he was not much interested in the amount of time which he spent, for the effort which he put into these various aspects of Dhamma were his chief concern. He said that whether he ate food or not he did not feel hungry, although there were some mild reactions from the body, but not enough to bother him and cause trouble. When the Devata talked about him being hungry it was just her assumption. For himself, he had no concerns about being hungry because he was absorbed in the Dhamma which was in touch with his heart all the time — which was a more subtle nutrient than any other kind of food.
This Bhikkhu said that sometimes he could see the Devata in the middle of the day sitting on a rock politely watching him about twenty yards or more from him. Sometimes in the middle of the day the Devata would come up to him quite silently, as she did on the day when she came to ask permission to rub the Deva food over his body. At times he would see the Devata who had come to sit only about four yards away from him. He could see her quite clearly as if he were using his physical eyes, but when he opened his eyes he could also see her just as clearly as when they were closed. At that time his citta was only slightly calmed down and he should not have been able to see her. Because the citta which is going to receive guests from the Deva realms must normally be in a deeper state of calm than he was in then. Sometimes he felt strangely disorientated and he had to ask the Devata: “Have you produced a gross bodily image (nimitta) now, like a human body for I can see you clearly both with my “heart’s eye” and with my physical eyes, in the way I see other things in the world?” The Devata replied: “I can create a subtle body or a gross body without any difficulty at all.” “And this image that I see, is it a gross body or a subtle body?” he asked. “This image is a gross body,” she said. “Then what if someone else should come here and see you?” he asked. She replied, “I have made myself visible to you alone as I told you earlier, you need not be afraid.” But this conversation took place via the heart and not at the level of ordinary speech.
The Devatas are able to recall their actions in the past (lives) (pubbenivasa) in the same way as those Bhikkhus who have the ability in this sort of thing. In this case the Devata told this Bhikkhu all sorts of things about her past and the things she had done. But regretfully we must pass over this because I cannot remember all the things that happened.
The above account has been included here so that the reader may think about how the citta which has been continually taking on this or that form of body throughout endless past realms of existence and lives, never has any time when it can stop and rest from this however it twists and turns about.
But there are some people who deny this and say that death is the end and one is then annihilated. In one who believes this, annihilation and the truth which is that one is not annihilated, contradict each other in one and the same person. But who is it that has to accept the results of his past actions, and who is it that gets the truth which is unalterable, coming back on him apart from the one who denied and the one who accepted the truth. There is nobody else to take on the results of each one’s past — which are those of birth and death — for this is bound to be the destiny of beings in this world, each for itself. The happiness and suffering which each one has within the span of each life — between birth and death, is just the destiny of each one who is born and dies and who must accept it themselves. The words, or the opinion which says: “death is annihilation”, or “death leads to rebirth”, are not what will bear the result in place of oneself so that one can take heart and feel easy about making these assertions without any thought of what in fact is the truth of the matter.
The practice of training and developing the citta (citta–bhavana) is the way to get to know about oneself, and most especially to get to know about birth and death which are inherent in oneself. This is far better than any other methods for determining the truth of this matter, for other methods only tend to waste time without getting to the truth that convinces and makes one restrain one’s heart from indulging in all sorts of wayward and playful thoughts which are pointless and cannot lead to the truth. The one that has to accept being born again after death is the heart; and conversely, the one that some say is annihilated after death is also the heart.
This “heart” is the most recondite thing and quite different from all other things, and this ought to be verified by the way of citta bhavana, which is the best way to enable one to see with certainty what in fact happens. In doing this, the important thing is to get the citta to go down deeper and deeper steadily, until it reaches its original ground. Then one will be bound to know about oneself for sure, both about birth and about death and also about not being born and not dying, all of which are to be found in the sphere of this same heart. As for being annihilated when one dies, this is not to be found anywhere within this heart which goes touring about. Nor in the Dhamma of the Lord is there any mention of annihilation upon death to be found in the heart. When one practises citta bhavana one never comes across anything about the citta dying and being annihilated, for if one comes across anything at all it is always and only about death being followed by birth. If the citta gets to know all about itself it will come across “no-birth” and “no-death” within the citta. But never death and annihilation.
Yet there is that within us which vigorously denies this and it is not interested in searching for those causes which are there within each of us and which are proclaiming themselves openly all the time. The important thing here is that, if the heart, which is the leader, refuses to investigate the ways of those basic causes which it should get to know from itself, then even if thousands of people were to come and tell him the truth which they have known from their own experience of having seen it for themselves, they would still have no way to make him accept what they say. Or at least, not so that he will accept that truth in a way which leads him to improve and correct himself so that he becomes a rational person who can take up and hold onto what will be of increasing value to him. In the end he will probably become one who goes through birth and death time after time, defying himself and not looking any further than his present situation.
This is like a person who has a critical illness, who is not interested in thinking about himself so much as about his room in the hospital, the medicine which he must take, the doctors and the nurses and how they are no good and do not respond to his wishes, and he complains and moans and groans all the time disturbing other people as well, even though none of what he does is any use at all.
The account of the Bhikkhu who was visited by a Devata and about his recollection of past lives has been told. The writer has also completed the discussion of life after death as against annihilation after death, and what has been written should be sufficient as a means of verification for those of us who still have doubts and uncertainty in regard to these two views which we should verify ourselves. Now we will go on to tell of various other things.