Venerable Acariya Mun's Path of Practice
by Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno | 256,801 words
This book includes many things that may not be easy to understand for the reader who is not familiar with the theory and practice of Theravada Buddhism. This book is a translation of the Dhutanga practices of Venerable Acharn Mun Bhuridatta....
Chapter XI - he Nature of Greed
& Fighting Pain And Kilesas
The Baneful Nature of Greed
If one is forgetful and careless of oneself and welcomes greed (lobha) without inhibition, it will be like an animal which lays in wait to destroy the world, for it has never done any good to anyone. Like a disease which is much feared by the world, and is very difficult to treat and cure if it has once got a hold of anyone. It is a type of disease in which those people who have got it can give up all hope of ever curing it while they are still alive. All they can do is to wait for the day when they reach the end of this life — and die.
Whatever else the world wants, apart from wealth, there is no hope of getting it from this disease. Therefore, those who hope to get what is truly valuable as an insurance so that they may live in safety, free from dangers, at ease and relaxed both now and in the future should begin to think and consider this matter deeply so as to see how evil greed is. For it is full of evil throughout — worse than a bomb which explodes and spreads destruction all about. Because when a bomb goes off it makes plenty of noise and disturbance and it displays its power so that everyone knows about it and they are afraid and hurry and find shelter as fast as they can to allay their fear and save themselves.
But greed does not display itself in this way. Rather it tends to set up subtle traps deep in the hearts of people of all races, colours and nationalities. It is even there in the Sangha, from the Samaneras up to the Mahatheras, and the lay followers, for it is not in the least ashamed of getting in where it can. For if their hearts are low and base enough for it to take hold of them it is bound to force its way in and immediately turn them into its means of satisfaction — its servants. Then it sets up a production unit in their hearts, forcing those who are strong willed and resolute to go into training until they are experienced and skilful, after which they are made to go out to work, to think and search out all sorts of ways to make money and become wealthy. It matters not whether they get it by right — or wrong, crooked and illegal ways. All that matters is that it satisfies the “boss” — greed — who sets his expectations of reward so high that the heart which has a normal awareness of good and evil, right and wrong, such as people have everywhere, feels that it cannot go against it and reduce its expectations. Then the boss passes on the responsibility for doing this to its most favoured servant — the heart — which does the work of thinking out how to do it and passing on instructions to the body and speech faculties to go about acting and searching for profit. Each one does this in his own way and direction, both near and far, inwardly and outwardly, over water and land, by day and by night, whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, all the time, the only exception being when they go to sleep. We can see them in various places where they congregate together in large numbers, both “raking in” the wealth, as well as bringing suffering down upon others without any concern for who they might be. They are not afraid to think, speak and act both openly and in secret, without feeling the least bit ashamed or afraid that anyone may blame or criticise them. Nor are they afraid of other people’s hatred, resentment and anger. All they want is to profit by following the teaching of the great powerful one — which is “Lobho dhammanam paripantho” — and this is the refuge which makes them feel satisfied.
As far as safe-guarding what they have gained so that it does not leak out and slip far away from their grasp, “Master Greed” must tell them to store it securely, without thinking about how wide the world is and whether there will be enough space to keep it all. But they store it and accumulate it all until they forget to consider whether — “We are upholders of the sky and earth, immortal gods who know not death” — or whether — “We are people whose end is in the graveyard just like everyone else — or what kind of people are we?” Because it casts a magic spell over them which closes their ears, their eyes and their minds so tightly that they never get a chance to even glance at the faces of their “bosses” to see what kind of a secret this is that they have together.
In addition, the nature of this greed leads them to display external characteristics which are not good to see. It makes no difference what the sex, nationality, race, colour or class of the person is, nor how much power and influence he has, what he displays are characteristics that nobody likes to see — for they fill people with loathing and repulsion. For in fact this is likely to lead to nothing but the downfall and ruin of the world, because the fire of greed spreads to burn and engulf everything so that nobody will be able to find shelter to withstand it.
For reasons, which we already know and see — which are obvious in our sight and mind — reasons which are not at all secret or obscure, the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha should be accepted, affirmed and promoted as the “Svakkhata–Dhamma” which has been so well and truly taught. Thus in the example of greed, the Dhamma of the Lord teaches that it is a danger which disturbs the peace and happiness of people who live together socially. In saying that greed is a danger, the Lord did not mean that it should only apply at that time when he said it, for this Dhamma has been known in the world for a long time, together with this religion which has taught it to the world.
The world should therefore know, or at least be able to assess that greed has been a danger to the world for ages, just as it has been taught in the Dhamma which has also been with us for a long time. So people should be aware to some extent of its evil nature even if only in brief flashes of inspiration, for this is enough to bring them calm and happiness for a short time so that they are not always in blind darkness. This hazard which is called greed, has never brought blessings and benefit to anyone at all anywhere, and even though the whole world may praise it and think that it is good, all the results which in fact come from it are not what people expect or imagine they will be. For those results are bound to follow this same course as they have since the remote past in a fixed manner without any variation. So the wisest of people destroy the evil of greed and then live in happiness — which is so different from us ordinary people who lead each other to develop greed and make it thrive and increase its power until there is hardly any room left for it to increase further in the whole world. If greed were a physical thing like objects and things everywhere, the world would surely be inundated by greed objects with nowhere left to put anything else. Because people are making more of it in various ways all the time and using it openly until they forget themselves and lose all sense of shame in the face of their nature which is that of a human being and usually extolled as being a high state, inherently clever and instilled with moral behaviour.
Even if they were to search for wealth and get it, piled as high as a mountain under the influence of greed, which goes about leading them on and directing them to go after it in evil ways, such people would get no happiness for the rest of their lives. And they would die in vain having wasted their lives looking after masses of suffering for which their greed led them to be energetic in accumulating it in large quantities — which is a sorry thing to happen. As for themselves they feel no apprehension, but other people feel afraid for them, for this is not a thing about which people can afford to be careless or indifferent. For when the time comes for the fire to start burning and destroying, it will do so truly without regard for status or rank. For every part of the world both small and large seems to be boiling and getting hotter and more disturbed everyday. In fact it seems to be accelerating because of greed which is like an engine, a prime mover, that drives everything else which has got to follow and cannot resist or stand on its own.
What else but greed has such regal power to make the world run around doing its bidding until nobody is ever his own master. Nothing else but lobha (greed) has been raised up so high and established as the great lord and master over the hearts of people at the present time. What we have here called “Lord Lobha” is the one that has greed for anything and everything at random without selecting or choosing. All that is necessary is that there should be a liking for something for it to arise. Even the moon up in the sky has been laid claim to by people who were forced by greed to go up there and “take it” and stick a flag in it to indicate that they were the owners without feeling in the least afraid or ashamed that someone might laugh at them. In fact it is sensual craving (kilesa–kama) that is not afraid and does not turn away from sensual things. Once it finds a liking for anything it becomes so greedy for it that it cannot have enough of it and even if it means facing death it will put up with it, right up to the end of life without giving up. Even though it has things which support it, piled up until the owner is inundated by them and the greed cannot be seen under them, it is still not afraid of the burden. Even if it meant that it would break its back carrying this load it is not afraid and it never retracts.
The words “retract” or “enough” are words which this type never utters, because its “stomach” is not made of skin and flesh such as people and animals have, but it is made of insatiable greed for which there is never “enough”. So the heart and greed can live together, go about together and compete with others sufficiently well so that they can both reach wherever they are going, together without being afraid of a burst stomach, a broken back, that the body may die and that they may end in disgrace without having any virtue at all.
Those necessities of life, whatever they may be, greed goes about acquiring and raking them in to fill up the heart. If the heart were like any other vessel it would have burst and been thrown away as garbage long ago. But the heart is of an immaterial nature (nama–dhamma) which is tough and durable for it has been able to stand up to birth and life in all forms for a long time. So it can stand up to these conditions well enough and is not likely to be destroyed by all these baneful things which destroy everything else and which are associated with the heart all the time. But even then we are still not roused up enough to think more about the importance of the citta than about those things which destroy everything. Therefore, even though the heart is what brings us the greatest boons and benefits, it is generally forgotten, like something thrown away and left to go the way of nature and there are few who give it the attention that they ought to. But those things which are enemies of the heart are generally exalted and praised by people of all classes, so day by day they become more skilled and penetrating, and they steadily drag the heart down and bruise it and debase it all the time.
Never can the heart be free even for a few moments such that it could know that —
“Now there is a chance for the heart to get a bit of peace and happiness and freedom from all those oppressive burdens,”
which is the way it should be and is appropriate to the heart which is the great one and the paramount essence within each and every one of us throughout the world. But instead of being like that, the heart always has to accept and experience the results of one’s actions and put up with the suffering. This is true even though one may have so much wealth that one can hardly find room to store it; wealth which one has sought for the purpose of ensuring one’s physical and mental happiness. But there is no way for it to act as a balm to bring some happiness, in the way one thinks it should, without any suffering, discontent and trouble. So in the end one never sees any hope of getting any freedom from it.
The practices which the Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus strive to develop in various ways are all for the sake of freedom and salvation, and these practices are such as we have depicted in this book. Apart from the purpose of overcoming the evil kilesas which makes it necessary for them to put up with suffering, hardship and a strict discipline, inherent in these practices, it is hard to see any other reason why they should do all this.
What I have known and described here in this book, are just those methods which are used by those Bhikkhus who hope to slip quietly out of the snares of Mara which we have been discussing. They keep trying to force themselves onward with whatever mindfulness, strength and ability each one of them has, by using their own individual methods of making progress, as we have already seen, and each of them tends to stress that method of development which suits him most.
The Way to Fight Against Pain and the Kilesas
We have not yet come to the end of the story of those Bhikkhus who liked to sit in samadhi for long periods of time — for many hours so as to get to know the nature of the painful feelings which arise in the body and heart quite clearly. But I got side-tracked and involved in the topic of the kilesa of greed, so I delved into it and dealt with it enough to allay my characteristic tendency to become excessively profuse. So now I shall return to the story of these Bhikkhus, and I hope that you will forgive me for this habit of going on and on beyond what is reasonable.
It is well known amongst those who practise the way that many of the Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus prefer to train and discipline themselves by sitting for long periods of time. This is much the same as with other methods such as eating little food or fasting.
They say that they sit for long periods, not with the purpose of fighting against the painful feelings that arise in the manner of dull and obstinate slogging which is lacking in thought and wisdom, but by using their heads to think and fight — in other words, by using their faculties of mindfulness, wisdom and the rest. They use their heads to think with wisdom so as to know the nature of all forms of feeling quite clearly, for they are a fundamental Dhamma Truth (Sacca–Dhamma) which is to be found in the body and citta.
They say that the method of resolving the nature of painful feeling by constantly changing one’s posture, is upon examination, shown to be nothing but one’s own fear of pain, and not contending with it so as to get to know pain. Because the changes of posture conceal the painful feelings, so that one cannot see them clearly enough to be able to have complete confidence in oneself when painful feeling arises at a time of dire necessity.
In experiencing the truth in the Sacca–Dhamma such as the truth of dukkha, and doing so by confronting it while sitting in bhavana one can experience it in a way that reaches causes and results, and reaches the heart (citta). This brings certainty and complete confidence in oneself both in the present and for the future, that one will never be afraid or overwhelmed by painful feeling again however strong it may be. This includes the final period before one dies when it is instinctive to feel afraid. But now one will have no fear because the fear of death and the fear of dukkha arise from the same hidden place and are the same thing. They are a contradiction of the truth which comes from investigating in a manner which is not thorough and does not take all sides of the problem into account based on the principles of truth.
But when one investigates thoroughly on all sides until one sees the truth in dukkha and the truth in what we call “birth” and “death” until one is fully satisfied, there remains no reason why one should be afraid any more. Because the nature of the four elements — which are earth, water, air and fire, all gather together within the body, as well as the nature of the heart — each retain their fundamental natures as elements and do not die. They just change their interrelationships all the time in accordance with the causes and conditions which effect them. In other words, when the four elements have broken apart and departed from their association together in the body, they just revert to their original elementary natures, but they are not annihilated.
As for the heart, it remains the heart as it always has been, even though it dwells in dependence on human or animal bodies of various kinds within those three realms of existence. But also, there are those who do not dwell in any bodily form, such as the hearts of the Lord Buddha, of the Pacceka Buddhas and all the other “Victorious Ones” (Jinasava) all of whose hearts are completely pure. Therefore one should not be afraid when one searches for the way it all works and fits together and can find no reason or basis for it, for this can only create a lot of fanciful and doleful ideas, all of which are caused by such thoughts.
For those searching thoughts are the cause of one’s experience of the Dhamma Truths while one is sitting, investigating and fighting against the pain by using mindfulness and wisdom. And this brings the experience of tangible results to one very quickly — in fact much more quickly than one would normally expect. This experience then becomes deeply buried in the heart and always remain firmly fixed there within oneself. Even though after this one may not always be able to investigate and see the truth as one did the first time, that which one has once experienced will never revert and change and alter and become something else, for it must always be the truth within one’s heart.
After that there is nothing left but to develop it and become skilled and far seeing in the truth, going deeper and more subtle all the time. Until one understands all aspects of it and can let go of all one’s attachments entirely. Therefore the investigation of painful feeling which arises when one sits for a long time, or at other times such as when one is sick and in pain, is a way to experience and reveal the truth of Dhamma fully — and this method is no problem for those Bhikkhus who are warriors and fight using true mindfulness and wisdom.
On the other hand, no kinds of painful feelings are likely to be of any value to those who are weak and complaining and wanting all painful feelings to disappear without doing any investigation to find some way out. Painful feeling will continue to be a danger to such people and its danger will steadily increase the more they think in ways which oppose the truth. This is why, even though all people and animals everywhere have painful feelings, hardly anyone seems to be able to think of a way to gain some value from them. In fact, it is generally true that people are more likely to grasp hold of that painful feeling — a thing which they should not want — and to burn themselves with it by means of thoughts which oppose Dhamma. Rather than by investigating and examining it so as to remove dukkha and the cause of dukkha (Samudaya) from their bodies and minds, to whatever extent they should be able to do this in accordance with their level and ability — as it is taught in Buddhism.
The Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus have knowledge and experience which is very different from that of the average person. Such as the ways of practice which we have delineated, including their stories and the things which branched off from them in accordance with the way that each of these Bhikkhus progressed. These are the things which we should think about. But it would not be right to assume that the way they practised was contrary to the regular way or path, because the principles of the practices which they did were entirely in conformity with the principles of truth, which are the truths of Dhamma (Sacca–Dhamma), and there is no way in which one can find fault with them. To say that they are conceited and that they practise so as to show off to others is certainly not true, because they never have any intention of becoming associated with external things in the world. Instead, their intention is just that of training and disciplining themselves alone. Even the results which they get from doing these practices are fully in conformity with the aim of Dhamma — which is to know the Dhamma Truths, that are the chief and fundamental principles of Buddhism.
Venerable Acharn Mun, who is the teacher to this line of Kammatthana, also followed this same path, and he trained and taught his followers to do so in the same way as he had done it. By for example, teaching them to be fighters so as to know the various painful feelings which arise within them. But I feel that I have not enough ability to describe properly and assess many aspects of Venerable Acharn’s way of practice. It is just that I think about it and how, if I had had enough courage and ability to oppose the kilesas and withstand the dukkha in my khandhas and citta as Venerable Acharn had, I should by now have gone free from dukkha and attained something. I would then probably not be so clumsy and so poor in my ability to think and to be quick and nimble in wisdom as is presently the case, which is so vexatious to myself. In speaking or writing about others, when I know their story well enough I can probably do so reasonably well. But the important thing is my own lack of wisdom and ability so that I cannot find any way to express myself when speaking or writing so that others may understand.
Therefore the writer can only write about the story of other Bhikkhus so that you who read this may gain some value from it, for each of us have our own characteristic good tendencies deeply hidden within us which are quite individual in their modes and directions, so that the Lord taught that we should not be thoughtless about each other. All of you who read this, both men and women probably have many good characteristic tendencies and much meritorious endowment. Some may even have much more than the Dhutanga Bhikkhus whose stories are told herein, as well as myself, in fact some may have such tendencies and merits as are incomparably greater — but none of us can know or see whether this is so or not. Like the work of writing this book which puts us in mind of the ways of a millionaire, loaded with wealth who is never likely to go anywhere without his servants. He is bound to keep in touch with them and to use them to do all sorts of business even though he is a millionaire. So I keep thinking how I can get a story from this person and another from that person and then I go and get them to tell me their stories so that I can turn whatever is suitable in them, to good use — in the same way as the millionaire puts his servants in his house to good use.
You who read this and reckon that you should get value from those methods which the Bhikkhus put into practice to fight against their kilesas, ought to get some value from them. Because the kilesas in all their various forms which are there in the Bhikkhus are not likely to be any different from those which are there in men and women everywhere. We should therefore be able to think of a way to correct and cure those kilesas, which are daring, wild and reckless, always wanting to disagree with this and to fight that, so that we may dwell in a state of sufficiency and contentment and that our behaviour may be more seemly and peaceful. The kilesas will then no longer be stubborn and hard to placate as they used to be. For generally speaking one tends to give way to the kilesas and go along with them almost every time until they gain heart and change into kilesas which “must” have their own way. Then they lead one into all sorts of contrary behaviour without considering what one’s loss will be as a result of it — and what loss one’s family will also suffer, as well as the various aspects of one’s work and business for which one is responsible. For they can lead to all these things going wrong until they are ruined, with no way left to recover and put them right.
But opposing the kilesas by going the right way of Dhamma, even if only a little will never do any harm. In fact it will continue to bring value to us, steadily, until it becomes of enormous value to ourselves to our home and to our country. This is in stark contrast to the kilesas which go against us and which we give way to and willingly go along with. The more we give way to them when they oppose us, the more we make ourselves subservient to them. If we are easy and let them go against us in a big way, and we always give way to them, the time will come when we are strongly under their influence, until finally we become people without any value and with nothing left in us that is essential or important, without even realising it. By the time we do come to realise the situation it will have already gone too far for any hope of recovery. It is a most sorry and deplorable thing that people who are complete in all their faculties should willingly give way and lay themselves down like a drawbridge, allowing the various kinds of kilesas to crawl all over their heads and to trample over them going back and forth, as if they were the carcass of a dead animal.
I sometimes think about the kilesas and how they serve their own ends and take advantage of us in that way. It makes me angry, while also forgetting that anger is one of the kilesas which are crawling over our heads and trampling us down. But such thoughts of anger in the direction of getting free, gaining the upper hand and defeating the kilesas, which have had us in their power for a long time, do not seem to be the type of kilesas which bring people to loss or ruin. If anger directed towards the kilesas for the purpose of having revenge on one’s own kilesas were to turn into something which increased the kilesas, causing them to grow greater and stronger, it is hard to see how any of those who have in fact gained freedom from dukkha could have done it, because they would have been dull and unresponsive people who never get exasperated enough to fight against the kilesas. For, the instinct of fighting is widespread, so that both people and animals have tendencies of pride and anger to uphold their position, which come from their past. Thus they have strength of heart to keep working at whatever they do until they can finish it. Even in sports, they have pride and anger to spur them on until the contest is finished. But who wins or loses should not be important because each one is concerned with his performance.
Some of the Dhutanga Bhikkhus tell us how the animosity between the kilesas and themselves seem to be no different from the way that people fight together in a war. The determination, resentment and anger which were there, were quite obvious while fighting the most significant kilesas at a crucial time with neither side ready to give way in the least. One of them said how the kilesas were clever in the way that they liked to get the upper hand while he was off guard.
He also said “How he himself was clever” in the way he liked being off guard, so allowing the kilesas to be there all the time! For even though he had set himself to be watchful and guarded, he would forget, which allowed the kilesas to prevail. But the time came when he felt in himself that because he had been off guard and unmindful, he had let the kilesas swallow practically all that was valuable in him, then determination arose and anger arose. The effort that he had been making to practise the way then got help and support from determination and anger. So it became very strong, to the point where he took no thought of whether he would live or die, or whether it was pleasant or painful, but only of attacking and fighting against the kilesas to the utmost of his mindfulness, wisdom, faith and effort. This Acariya said:
“On each occasion, by the time I managed to defeat the kilesas I almost had to die first, when they would be the ones to cremate me — which in fact sometimes happened — because of the determined effort and hope of defeating the kilesas each time.”
He said: “For myself, if I had not had the determination and anger to help me I am sure that I would never have done much good. Especially in the fight with the kilesas of obscene tendencies within myself. I could never do it in a playful way like someone who has no heart for it. Even if I walked cankama practically all night I would never see any results from it such as I would remember in the future. But when I acted like a warrior, full of either determination or anger to support me, the effort that arose stood out so clearly that I will never forget it. Though the experience does not go on lasting for long and I had to rely on this method to help me every time. For as soon as these two Dhammas were not present for a short while the kilesas at once started to move in. So I had to keep hold of these Dhammas close to me all the time until the war between myself and the kilesas reached a decisive conclusion with myself as the absolute winner. Only then could I relax and ease off.”
As I have a tendency to be very outspoken, I asked him:
“Have you reached a decisive conclusion yet? And if so, who is the absolute winner?”
He smiled and answered:
“I can talk about fighting all the kilesas using various methods, but as to that victory I must wait to hear about it, that’s all. For I feel quite certain that having done the work, the results of what one has done from the small beginnings right through to the greatest and most decisive actions must steadily become apparent. I have faith in the Lord Buddha and I do not believe that he ever taught with duplicity or deceit. Whatever he taught is bound to be true for all time, so I believe that the things I have done must come back to me as results for sure. From the most gross to the most subtle, my actions are bound to come back for me to experience the results one day — if I have not already experienced them.”
“And now, have you already experienced some of the results?”
I asked. But he just smiled and gave no answer.
What we have understood so far should be enough for us to grasp the underlying essential principle that, when obstinate determination, and anger are set against the kilesas within oneself, leading one to cure the kilesas or to take revenge on them in various ways by using the methods of the Path (Magga) — which are mindfulness and wisdom — then these two factors (obstinacy and anger) should be considered as Dhamma — the way of the Path which goes in the direction of curing both obstinacy and anger — in which case they are not kilesas. This is like using a thorn to extract a thorn. For generally when one gets a thorn stuck in one’s foot it hurts, but when uses another thorn to pull the first one out it becomes a valuable ally. In a similar way, if obstinate determination and anger are put to use in the wrong way they are kilesas and bring one harm in accordance with how strong and persistent they are. But when they are used in the right way they become Dhamma and they are allies whose value also accords with their strength and persistence. This is the way that some Dhutanga Bhikkhus use them all the time as a Dhamma remedy to aid their efforts to cure the various kinds of kilesas.”
I, who am writing this, am in full agreement with the foregoing methods — in fact they can be seen in the methods of training and discipline which the Lord Buddha used, by the way that he gave up everything in order to defeat all the kilesas, and for this he was even prepared to give up his life without any regrets. In addition, the Savakas who followed the Lord, also used those methods of practice which were given to them for training and disciplining themselves in various ways. All of these methods were bound to involve strong and stubborn determination to oppose those obstacles of many kinds which are the work of various kilesas that suggest and intimidate, and which in one way or another they may have become attached to and couldn’t get free from. But they kept on trying to oppose them, until they succeeded by means of stubborn determination — which at times may have been mixed with anger directed towards themselves or their kilesas which penetrated into the field of their striving. This is what helped and supported them and made their striving firm and resolute in their aim of gaining fulfilment of heart, and this has been the case with teachers and Acariyas throughout, right from those times up to the present, including all those who practise the way and who are interested in Dhamma. All of them must have put these two factors into use, for without them they would have got no results — because they are Dhammas which greatly increase their strength of heart.
One’s training and discipline, which uses various techniques and methods which are seen to be necessary for getting rid of all the kilesas and evil dhammas, must have the above mentioned two Dhammas to support and aid it every time. This is necessary in order that the heart shall have a firm resolve and can stand up to those things which are its internal enemies to the absolute maximum of its capacity, without becoming weak and disheartened nor drawing back at those times when one gets into a critical situation — which is likely to happen at any time to those who strive for Dhamma. It is like walking in thick dense jungle, one is bound to come across incidents and obstacles which are on one’s path all the time. Until one has managed to pass free, beyond all of them.
Those who practise for the eradication of the kilesas within their hearts are in the same kind of situation as this person walking through a thick jungle, full of kilesas of all types — some frightening, some obdurate, some overpowering, some lovely, some detestable or repulsive, some of which make one angry, make one cry, or laugh, make one fed up and tired, or make one feel satisfied and happy — on and on until describing them becomes endless. As the Lord said there are countless kilesas and cravings hanging about, ready to block the path of practice and there is no time when those who go this way can relax and take it easy for a while. All these kilesas, which we have rather incompletely described, are to be found in all classes of beings in the world and one cannot find any who do not have these tangled and distorted things as part and parcel of themselves.
Anyone who would go this way must use mindfulness, wisdom, faith, and effort as the means of opening up the way, enough so that he can go along the path steadily, with such things as stubborn determination to help him along. This is like the gearbox of a car which can give increased force to drive it through muddy stretches of road until it goes free and beyond them.
In regard to this “stubborn determination”, whether in the world or in Dhamma, those who are anxious to live in safety and security may have to bring it up and use it in some situations in order to gain the results which they intend if they do not want to be driven into a corner due to the suffering and troubles of various kinds which can arise from being in need and at their wits end — or due to some kinds of kilesas overshadowing the heart. And the more they have made a commitment to reach a high goal, the more must they put their whole effort into the struggle, without any thought of whether they will live or die. Their only aim is to bring to completion that which they have set their hearts on. Like those Dhutanga Bhikkhus which we have already discussed, who trained and disciplined themselves in various ways. All of them had the fundamental aim of reaching the great treasure — which is the Path, Fruition and Nibbana, the goal, victorious and free from Dukkha and all concerns or anxieties both great and small. This is why they are prepared to risk their lives and face death and suffering without having any regrets — like the Bhikkhu who walked towards the place where he heard a tiger growling and roaring in a fearful way. If it had been one of us we would probably have died even before the tiger could have reached us — yet those Bhikkhus who are ready to face death for the sake of the Supreme Dhamma can make themselves walk towards the tiger in a way which deserves our admiration. For out of hundreds of people it would be hard to find one who can do this if we think of ourselves in that same situation. This is why they should be praised and admired and held up as a true example of those who are warriors and sons of the victorious Buddha (Sakyaputta Buddhajinorasa) who are fully prepared to die in the battle in conformity with their declaration that they take the Buddha as their refuge from the day when they were first ordained.
Few are prepared to give their lives as an offering to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha with complete commitment. Such people and Bhikkhus are a rarity — which conforms with the Dhamma as being a form of nature that rarely arises — and this has always been the case. Those who do cultivate Dhamma in order to make it grow within their own character in such a way that it is clearly evident to them will probably be quite prepared to sacrifice everything to it — even their own lives. Like those Bhikkhus who walk about the hills at night when there is no moonlight; those who walk cankama, in competition with the tigers roaring in their vicinity in the middle of the night; those who sit and practise samadhi bhavana at the edge of deep, precipitous cliffs; those who go and sit in meditation in the middle of the night right next to the path where tigers walk back and forth to the cave where they live; those who go and sit in meditation on a rocky outcrop in the hills in the middle of the night; those who walk cankama even while a big tiger comes and sits down close by and watches them; those who practise meditation under their mosquito net while a tiger creeps up quietly to look at them, until it reaches the mosquito net; those who sit in meditation practice from dusk until dawn; those who fast and do meditation practice for many days without eating; those who walk cankama from dusk to dawn; those who strive to develop their meditation by the three postures of standing walking and sitting but not lying down for many nights; in fact all the various forms of striving for development which the Bhikkhus practise with determination and ascetic resolve, without being afraid of suffering and death.
If they did not have a stubborn determination of the do-or-die type how could they ever put up with the suffering and torment? In fact they would surely be a dismal failure. But because their effort is of the stubbornly determined kind, ready to do-or-die, these Bhikkhus do not get more suffering and “go broke”. The kilesas are the ones that are broken and their corpses vanish from the heart leaving none behind. The heart then changes and becomes completely pure, beyond and above those things which had previously been oppressing it.
Thus, both stubborn determination and anger, when turned against one’s own kilesas give one a firm basis and strength, and they help one to finish this work without hindrance. So the wisest of men all praise whose who triumph over themselves, saying that this is supreme, and far better than being triumphant over other people or things of any kind. As the Dhamma saying goes: “Atta have jitam seyyo” — “To purify oneself is the most excellent thing.” Therefore, stubborn determination and anger directed against one’s own kilesas is the first stage for someone who would reach the level of those who have triumphed over themselves with complete fulfilment.