Venerable Acariya Mun's Path of Practice
Chapter XVII - How Questions Differ In Samadhi And Pañña
The word “question” or “problem” is a general way of speaking and it does not give any clear indication of what kinds of questions or problems are involved; nor how they arose, or under what circumstances. So I will give some words of explanation which should be enough to show the way to those who do the practice of citta bhavana. For this can be something to think about as a way to overcome their problems when they arise, by grasping and relying upon the principles which have been laid down, as a way to test and try to bring about a cure.
The problems that arise in the fields of samadhi generally arise in those cases in which the citta has already become calm and then it draws back from this state and comes to know all sorts of things of endless varieties with which it gets involved. In order to overcome this difficult problem, which is beyond one’s ability in the early stages shortly after one has developed the practice, one should turn the citta back and go inwards into the state of samadhi entirely, without getting involved in probing and thinking about those things which become manifest at all. Then whenever the citta goes down into a state of calm one should have mindfulness to watch and take care of the citta, causing it to remain in that calm state and preventing anything from putting pressure on it to leave this state and go outside. Such as for example, suggesting that it should fly up into the sky, or to go on a tour of the hells, the heavens and paradise, or play about in samadhi by thinking of doing things like wanting to look into the cittas of other people when one’s own citta is calm.
Things such as these disturb and excite the citta, making it move about and go out towards external objects and situations (arammana). Instead, one should let the citta remain calm and happy with the objective situation which is there within the samadhi — this being the state of calm present at that time. One can admire this calm and happiness with a pure heart without anything disturbing and inciting one and causing trouble and bringing up questions and problems uselessly; because it is not yet the right time and one has not yet reached the level of development to be able to know and gain value from such questions. For instance, wanting to know whether good and evil are true things, and whether hell, heaven and Nibbana are true facts, or not.
All such questions are nothing but self-indulgence — or, indulgence in the world within one. So one should develop samadhi and pañña — which is the way to know good and evil, to know heaven and hell, and to know Nibbana — and to make it firm and strong. These things will not be beyond the ability of the heart which does the training well. Or if the training has already been done well, it can go ahead and is bound to know them clearly for itself by experience rather than by guesswork and mere thinking, which is a way of dealing with problems that damages the heart. We should realise that those who have told us and pointed out what is good and evil, heaven, hell and Nibbana make us, who hear about these questions, speculate and use guesswork until we go wrong in the head. Like a child who climbs onto the roof of his home and jumps off holding on to an ordinary umbrella to break his fall, and ends up breaking his legs and getting concussion. But the true Acariyas know them by the fundamental principles in their hearts and in Dhamma, and this is what enables them to know and to see. Therefore, they know clearly, speak clearly and can point out the way clearly without making mistakes or deviating from the truth. But even though the truth of those things is available in the true knowing and seeing of the Acariyas, we still use false guesswork.
One thing that is undeniably right about us is how silly and nonsensical we are, how we lack any essence of truth (sara) and how we deny that those things — such as good and evil, and the rest — have any existence. So we act accordingly and make and accumulate kamma, piling it up on ourselves until we can hardly bear the burden. But even then, we are still foolhardy enough to make the same assumptions and to go on disputing the existence of these things with the view, which we hold tightly and intimately, that there is nothing beyond death and there is therefore nothing which remains and goes on into the future to receive the results of all this kamma. We never think how those who have been born into this world all complain about the suffering and discontent here. If all the complaints about the sufferings and discontent, which weigh down on beings until they can not find a way out, were to give out a loud noise like thunder and explosions, all people in the world would probably have died of broken hearts long ago. Because the loud explosive sounds of their complaints would have resonated around the material world and there would be no corner of it, or time in which it would be possible to breathe freely. But as it is, most people complain about the discontent in their hearts without knowing about kamma and how kamma brings back to them the results which come from their past to arise in the present and in the endless future. But then if they cannot see the ways of kamma here, in what realm of heaven or hell will they ever learn to accept it?
I who am writing this, also live in this realm of dukkha in the same way as everyone else, but I don’t have enough wisdom to show them how to see kamma and its results as well as the place where those who have kamma must experience the results of it. All I can say is that wherever there is dukkha, there also is the manifestation of kamma, and those who are free of dukkha are also free of kamma — like the Lord Buddha and all the Savakas who have come to the end of dukkha. So kamma has no power to follow them and force them to accept its results, as it does with all those in the world who like to complain about it. Where I have written about those questions concerning such things as thinking about the heavens and hells in the foregoing discussion, these are the basic kinds of problems which do harm to the mind. One should be very cautious and one should not be overly concerned about such questions. Rather, one should try to make one’s heart know clearly and see through everything that is concealed and obscured. If one goes to see and know for oneself, nothing remains covered and one is bound to know for sure. For such things as these do not hide themselves, and they are not concealed or obscured at all, apart from the way that the world conceals and obscures them. People in the world have the eye to see — that is, the inward eye — and if they open it, they will see for themselves.
The samadhi citta may give rise to questions in many ways. But wisdom is the “embankment or dam” which holds them back, so that no questions of any kind can get past it. If it is put into use one is bound to see results from it straight away.
But in the early stages of practice, one should not promote thoughts which give rise to tricky and complex questions and problems before they even start to arise on their own, in the way mentioned above. Generally and normally, if the citta has interest only in the aspect of Dhamma contained in the preparatory meditation (parikamma) and it integrates in calm, going down into a state where it dwells with calm and happiness, none of these questions and problems are likely to arise and bother the citta causing it disturbance and distraction. The tendency to think in ways that are quite irrational is therefore always likely to create a lot of anxiety in oneself. There are many problems associated with the way of samadhi, but this is enough for the moment and we must turn and consider the problems associated with wisdom (pañña).
Before explaining the problems that arise in the way of wisdom, I should write about some of the results of the problems, associated with samadhi which has been well developed, as examples for the reader to think about. Because the basis of samadhi and the various problems, which arise from samadhi in those who have venturesome cittas, will probably be of great value, once they have been trained in the right way — and then they will be able to put them to use in unusually deep, profound and extensive ways. An example of this may be seen from the “Biography of Venerable Acharn Mun,” for he was an Acariya whose citta was bold and venturesome while he was in the stages of training and discipline, and then became a master after he had completed his training.
The Story of Khun Mair Kaew
But the following story refers to a woman, who was a follower of Venerable Acharn, and who had received training from him, when she first started to practise. She is still alive today and lives as a white robed Upasika. Her citta tends to be venturesome and is similar to that of Venerable Acharn Mun in many respects, so this is a suitable place to reveal this story as food for thought for those who practise the way, to think about and to extract the “essence” from it as it suits themselves and as far as they are able to.
When this woman was a young girl, Venerable Acharn Mun stayed for one rains retreat period (vassa) near her village with a large company of Bhikkhus and Samaneras. It seems that this was the first time that this village had as many as forty or fifty monks and novices staying nearby for the vassa. There were a number of elderly Bhikkhus there, who had been in the robe for many vassa already and who were followers of Venerable Acharn, who spent the vassa there with him. There was also one Bhikkhu who had skill in paracittavijja — knowing the cittas of other people — and he had the duty of helping Venerable Acharn to catch out those Bhikkhus who were skilful at “robbery” (i.e. those Bhikkhus whose cittas liked to steal away to think of other things and to wander away from the path). Sometimes, when Venerable Acharn was about to give a Dhamma talk at night, so as to give teaching to the Bhikkhus, he would tell that Bhikkhu, who was skilled at the paracittavijja, saying:
“Today I want you to help me a bit to put down the thieves! While giving a Dhamma talk I don’t have much chance to trap and catch these thieves. For even though I can do it, it is not as efficient as waiting to catch them at the door (waiting prepared and ready to catch the cittas of the others present, which slip away into wayward thoughts at a time when there is no business intruding and calling for their attention). Since I shall be active in giving a Dhamma talk, I will not have much chance to think of anything else, for by the time I should have turned my citta to examine and catch the thieves, they would have stolen away a large hoard of things and returned to normal and I would have no chance to catch them in the act. So I would like you to help me a bit to catch them in the act, for these thieves are very skilled at slipping out when I am occupied with other essential business. Try to catch the really skilled ones which are most clever at it!”
After that, Venerable Acharn would start to give a Dhamma talk without taking any notice of anything else. After a short while a thief would slip out and wander about in his usual way. Then he would hear the Bhikkhu, who was on ‘duty’ keeping the thieves down, speak to him saying:
“Venerable.., why are you thinking like that?”
Venerable Acharn would stop his Dhamma talk for a short while to help and give some weight in quelling the thieves, saying:
“That’s exactly the way to do it so as to outwit these rogues who are so quick and slick.” Then he would continue with his Dhamma talk.
After a short while another thief would come out somewhere else. Again the “duty” Bhikkhu would catch it, saying:
“Venerable So and So, why are you thinking like that? Bring your citta back and fix it within you. Don’t let it go out and think about all sorts of things for that’s the wrong way to go.”
The thief returned, afraid of that Bhikkhu, and frightened by what had happened, did not dare to go out wandering about everywhere in its accustomed way after that.
The duty Bhikkhu only had to warn a few of them for all the “outlaws” to become quiet and the effect was obvious. But in some cases they became very afraid of the duty Bhikkhu from that time on and from then on they did not dare to let the citta go out wandering much, as they had in the past. But just why Venerable Acharn chose to tell the ‘duty’ Bhikkhu to do this on some occasions and what the full meaning of it was, we were never able to find out, because he never said anything about it. As for the ‘duty’ Bhikkhu who helped Venerable Acharn on these occasions, at other times when he was not told to do anything, he acted as if he did not know or see anything; in fact, almost as if he knew nothing. But all the Bhikkhus and Samaneras were more afraid of him than anyone else except Venerable Acharn Mun.
What I have written above has led me away from the main theme — almost worse than those Bhikkhu thieves. So now it is time to go back to the story I started to write about.
Before that young girl started to do any meditation practice she used to visit the Wat with the other villagers quite regularly. Then when Venerable Acharn went to spend the vassa there, he taught her to do meditation practice and explained how she should do it at home. Whenever any results came from her practice she was to report them to him so that he could tell her what to do next.
After she had been ordained as an Upasika, she told me how:
“After he had told me what to do and then told me many times that I should do the meditation practice, I thought to myself with some surprise that I may in fact have some inherent ability (vasana) in me after all. For Venerable Acharn has been exceptionally kind to me all the time. If there was nothing of value in me, why should he show any interest in me, for I am just an ordinary village girl, rather like a faithful old dog and no more? So from now on I should do the practice in the way that he has so kindly taught me.”
She said that Venerable Acharn gave her the practice of using the repetition of “Buddho”. One evening, after she had finished her evening meal she got herself ready and went into her bedroom early. Her intention was to get down to some bhavana and to do it truly and properly as Venerable Acharn had taught. After she had paid homage to the Ti–sarana, she started to do her practice in the way that Venerable Acharn had taught her. She started repeating the preparatory meditation (parikamma–bhavana), “Buddho, Buddho.....” and went on for about fifteen minutes when her citta became calm and integrated and went down. But she did not realise that her citta had integrated because she had never had any experience of it in the past and this was the first time it had happened. When her citta integrated and went down, it was if she fell down to the bottom of a well in an instant and everything disappeared into silence for a short time. Then it seemed to her that she had really died, for she could see clearly an image of her own body, dead, right in front of her. It was so real that she was quite sure she was seeing her own dead body right there in front of her. But the thought that came to her then was:
“Oh my! I’m dead! Who’ll cook the rice to put into the Bhikkhu’s bowls tomorrow instead of me? When Venerable Acharn goes round on pindapata and he doesn’t see me putting rice in the bowls he’ll ask about me, and who’ll answer and tell him that I died while sitting in bhavana tonight?” Then she made up her mind, thinking: “All right, if I’m dead, I’m dead! Everybody in the world, and all other living things in this world are bound to die in the same way as I have. Nobody is free from death; even an Emperor ruling the whole world is also bound to die in the same way.”
Having made up her mind in this way, she turned her attention back to her own dead body which was apparently lying there in front of her and which had not faded, altered or changed in any way, as if to make her realise that her body was definitely dead. While she was pondering the fact of her own death without having reached any conclusions, the villagers came and picked up the body and carried it to the charnel ground. As soon as they reached the charnel ground she saw Venerable Acharn Mun with all the Bhikkhus there, walking towards the corpse which was lying there. Then Venerable Acharn Mun turned to the Bhikkhus and said:
“Now this girl is dead, let us give her the rites (Matika).”
But it was only Venerable Acharn Mun who repeated the words of the Matika in the midst of the Bhikkhus of the Sangha who were standing and watching. “Anicca vata sankhara,..” When the sankharas which make up the body have died, the body is no longer of any use. But the citta does not die and can go on doing work endlessly. If the heart is used for going into evil ways, it becomes dangerous and harmful to oneself. He repeated this three times in succession, after which she saw him gently tapping the body with a stick, while saying:
“The body is not steadfast, having been born it is bound to die. But the citta, the heart, is steadfast. It has no birth, or death when the body dies. It only whirls around in accordance with the causes and conditions which make it go round like this.”
He kept on repeating this, over and over, but whenever he tapped the body with his stick, the skin, flesh and meat rotted and withered away, until the whole body had rotted away. For he kept on tapping it until he had covered the whole body. All that was left was the “kernel” of the heart. This he picked up from the remains and said: “This, the heart, cannot be destroyed. If it were destroyed one would be bound to die without ever coming back again.”
She had been watching all this closely, from when it first appeared to her. Then she thought: “If one dies and the whole body decomposes, leaving only bones behind, what is there left to come back again?” He answered her thought immediately without looking at her, saying: “It’s bound to come back again! How could it not come back when that which brings it back again is still there. When it starts to get light at dawn tomorrow you will come back.”
She said that from the start of it in the evening when there was all the activity concerning the dead body, until it finished and Venerable Acharn went off with the Bhikkhus, took a very long time. She related the story to me at length, but I cannot remember all of it. She said how the citta started to display these things from the moment it first dropped into a calm state and the experiences which she had went on continuously until just before dawn when it arose out of it. As soon as the citta withdrew and she became aware of herself and heard the cocks crowing in the early morning, she saw herself still sitting there as normal, and not dead as she still thought. Then she returned to a normal waking state, glad that she had not died as appeared to happen in her vision. But when she had become fully aware of herself and knew that she had truly not died, she started blaming herself in her mind, thinking:
“Venerable Acharn told me to sit and do bhavana, but why then did I fall asleep while sitting? And I went on sleeping until I started dreaming that I was dead and I didn’t wake throughout the whole night. Really, my bhavana was so bad last night!”
That morning when Venerable Acharn came on pindapata, he told her to come and see him when the Bhikkhus had finished eating food, and this was before she had said anything to him about what had happened. It was also significant that this was the first time that he had ever told her to go and see him and it was very strange how he must have known all about what happened to her the previous night. When she went to Venerable Acharn, he asked her immediately:
“How was your bhavana last night?”
“It was really no use at all,”
“for after repeating “Buddho” for about fifteen minutes, the citta fell into a deep well and I slept and dreamt almost the whole night. When it had almost reached the time for the dawn to break, I woke and felt so disappointed, I still can’t get over it. I’m afraid that you will tell me off that my bhavana is no use and that all I can do is sleep.”
After hearing this, Venerable Acharn laughed with joy and asked her straight away:
“How did you sleep? And what did you dream? Please tell me about it.”
So she told him the story of what had happened, which I have related above. He roared with laughter and was delighted, saying:
“That was no sleep, no dream! It was the calm citta, the integrated citta. You must remember this! That which you called a dream was not a dream, but a “nimitta” which arose out of samadhi bhavana. This is what they mean when they talk about doing bhavana and seeing all sorts of “nimittas”. What they see is the kind of thing that you also have seen.”
Venerable Acharn explained a lot more to her until she understood well. Then he sent her home instructing her forcefully to keep on doing bhavana. He also said:
“If your citta has any further experiences, relax and see them and let them come as they will and there is no need to be afraid of anything. I don’t want you to be afraid of whatever experiences come and go while doing bhavana, but you must be precisely aware of them all. While I am here no harm will come to you and you need not be afraid. But whenever any knowledge or vision comes to you in bhavana, you should come and tell me about it.”
From then on she was satisfied with her bhavana and she had all sorts of experiences which kept on arising continually, until Venerable Acharn was about to leave the district. Then he sent word for her to come and see him and he ordered her forcefully to stop doing bhavana for the time being. He said that when the right time came she would gradually develop on her own, but that once he had gone she must not go on doing bhavana. He must have thought about her case and seen that she had a citta with daring and venturesome tendencies, and if anything untoward happened when he was not there, there would be nobody to help her and lead her out of trouble and she may go the wrong way and be ruined. So he did not let her go on doing bhavana after he left.
Although she did not understand the reason for this instruction, she had faith in him and followed him and stopped doing bhavana from then on, even though she wanted to do it so much she felt her heart would break. But when she was about forty years old she left her home and family life and was ordained as a nun (Upasika) and went on with her training in bhavana. Her characteristic tendencies to know and see all sorts of things then arose again and she had frequent experiences from then on.
When I met her she told me about the things that had happened in her bhavana. I also saw what her temperament was like, which explained why Venerable Acharn had told her not to go on with bhavana — because of her daring and venturesome temperament. If there was nobody available who knew more and was more capable than herself, and who could control her when she got out of hand she could have gone the wrong way and would have been ruined, because she did not know the way to control herself. So now I shall summarise her story, only taking into consideration those things which are significant in connection with the problem of samadhi and pañña and which are suited to our purpose.
The things which she had come to know in strange and unusual ways were quite extensive. When Venerable Acharn Mun was very sick and close to the time he died, she knew about it in her samadhi, even though they were in separate provinces and long way from each other. At night when she entered samadhi, she would have a vision of Venerable Acharn Mun flying through the sky and hovering above her. Then she would seem to hear him say:
“Father is very sick. You must hurry to visit Father — don’t wait about and waste time. Father will leave this world this time for sure because of this illness.”
The way in which Venerable Acharn flew through the sky was something which she knew through her samadhi bhavana. Almost every night he came to warn her to hurry, for in a short while the chance of seeing the body of Venerable Acharn would be gone and he would die before she got there. As his end came closer, he would come more frequently, until she saw him coming every night without fail. It had been her normal practice since she was ordained to go once a year to pay respect to him and to hear his training and teaching. But when she started to see him coming to her quite frequently, she never managed to go and pay respect to him. Whether this was due to kamma or whatever else is difficult to say, but every time she saw him as a samadhi nimitta she would tell the other nuns about it, saying:
“Venerable Acharn is very sick and he has almost reached the end. He comes flying to tell me almost every night out of his great metta.” Then later on he came every night.
“We haven’t yet gone to visit and pay respect to him. We have still got all these things that have to be done and it is hard to see the end of them.”
When they decided to go and see him and pay their respects to him on any particular day something would obstruct it and the last day that they decided to go was the day that Venerable Acharn died, so they never saw him. Late at night on the previous night when everything was calm and quiet he flew out of the sky and stood in mid-air and in a loud voice saying:
“You see! Father has told you many times to hurry up and visit him. Now it is too late. If you let yourself lie down in satisfaction with this mass of excrement here and if you are not interested in listening to the words of your Father, there is no hope as is the case today. You won’t see the body of Father any more for I have already left the world completely. Have you heard the news? If not you will hear it shortly. I told you the truth but you didn’t believe it. Now all you will see there is a corpse which has nothing left with which to acknowledge you, for I have already left the world. Do you believe this? Or do you still not believe it? For it is just that kamma which arises from negligence which leads the world into despair. Tonight, Father has left this world and is gone for good.”
After which he disappeared into the sky.
When her citta had come out of samadhi it was almost dawn. She could hardly stand it and burst into tears there by herself. For she had seen Venerable Acharn’s metta for her every night since he had come close to the time when he would leave the world and the khandhas. Once the dawn had come she quickly went to tell the others, saying:
“Venerable Acharn Mun has died and gone to Nibbana last night. I know, for I had a very clear and certain nimitta in bhavana like those I have had before, coming to warn and rouse me up.”
Then she burst into tears in front of all the other nuns quite unashamedly while they were confused and rather bewildered. It would not have been right for them to question her sanity because her ability to know things by way of samadhi was precise and accurate, and all of them had complete faith in it so that they could hardly doubt her sanity. While they were talking together about it, someone came running in excitedly, saying:
“Venerable Acharn Mun died last night — have you heard about it Mother? The provincial radio station broadcast this morning at 8 o’clock saying: “Bhuridatta Thera who is the most widely renowned amongst those who practise the way of Dhamma in this present age, died at 2:23 a.m. in Wat Suddhavasa in the province of Sakon Nakhon.” This is all I heard before I ran out to let people know, and I ran straight here to let Khun Mair (Mother) and the others here know, for I was afraid you may not have heard it yet.” Having had a second confirmation of Venerable Acharn’s death, all of them in the nunnery burst into tears once again after the first time earlier on when Khun Mair Kaew told them of her nimitta.
Khun Mair had knowledge of all sorts of strange things in her samadhi, things which were most unusual in all aspects, and it seems that she had been engrossed in and attached to this kind of knowledge for more than ten years. If on any day she did her bhavana and had no experience of various things by way of samadhi nimittas, she would consider that she had gained no value from her bhavana at all that day. She had become attached to this way of practice until it was deeply ingrained in her heart that seeing all sorts of nimittas was the true path and fruit of bhavana.
Later on, a Bhikkhu who was a follower of Venerable Acharn Mun went to stay there for the vassa season, and he trained and taught her both about nimittas and about other things as well. Until she became confident and knew how to deal with samadhi nimittas and how to go in another direction — which is the direction of the Path and Fruition (Magga–Phala) — until her way became smooth and elegant the whole time without going to excess in some directions as had previously been the case. She was therefore ready to accept the “cure” and to change her ways and she saw the results of it to her own satisfaction, no longer being either elated or depressed in accordance with whatever nimitta arose. For she stood firm with sati and pañña as the way to go forward towards freedom from danger and the destruction of Dukkha. In this way she continued to go on with ease and convenience in her practice, right up to the present day, and her reactions to her samadhi nimittas ceased to be a problem to her from then on. In fact this kind of samadhi has become an important factor in bringing value to herself and others round about. She has had knowledge of many strange things which most people who practise the way never come across. Knowledge of happenings in the past and future, knowledge of Pretas, Bhutas (Ghosts), Devatas, and knowledge of various kinds of beings in “heavenly” bodies — all of these she knew about well. But in order to give an idea of what is meant by the eye in the “Deva heart” of someone who practises the way and who has strong tendencies of character in this direction, I will give some brief examples.
One night, Khun Mair was sitting in bhavana and there appeared before her an animal which had come in the guise of a man, to visit her. It was wailing and bemoaning its fate, saying how it had been an animal which they looked after in this village, but it had never been treated well and kindly by its master. He had put it to work at pulling his plough and wagons very often, but instead of appreciating what it did he used to torment it and beat it while it was working and at other times as well. Finally it was led to a tree where it was tied up and slaughtered and cut up for its meat which was a fierce, cruel and inhuman act. Before it died it had to put up with unbearable torment and pain, and it died, not wanting to die.
When it came to the Nun it seemed to be full of hate and vengeance for its previous owner and so strong was it that it could not find any resting place for its citta. It had wandered about all twisted up and distorted until it came to Khun Mair for help in alleviating its dukkha, and to ask for some share in her merit and virtue (parami) so that it may be born as a human being next time. So that it may breathe freely and shed some of its dukkha and not have to be forced and compelled to accept such punishment as it has just recently had to put up with. It said how being born as an animal was very hard with too much torment, for it had to put up with being made to do various things and being tortured in various ways both by people and animals as well. Being born as a human being is far better than being born as an animal, even when one is poor and hard up and can only get enough to eat about every third day, for an animal gets only dukkha, difficulty and torment all the time.
Khun Mair then questioned the “man”, saying:
“Why do you say that your master did not appreciate your value and virtue, and that he has no humanity in his heart, that he was so cruel to you in various ways and killed you, until now you are full of hate and vengeance against him? Could it be that you were not so good, and that you used to go about stealing things which people had planted in their fields and near the fences of their plantations, and eating them? Why normally, should anyone take you and beat you and torment you and then go and kill you? People round about here mostly seem to be good people with a fair humanity in them and one can feel reasonably confident of their behaviour. Why then should they do such a thing to you if you were blameless? It seems to me that you must have gone about doing bad things, such as I have said, for them to have acted like that and to have felt justified in doing what they did to you. Did you not act in some of those ways as I said?”
He replied with a sorrowful heart.
“It was because I was so hungry and starving, just due to my mouth and stomach which are so important to animals of this world. If I saw anything that looked like food and sustenance, as soon as it reached my mouth I would grab it or nibble away at it in the way that animals do. I had no knowledge of what belonged to who or whether anyone was anxiously looking after anything. If I had known some of the language which people spoke I probably would not have done this, nor would I have been born as an animal for them to beat and slaughter, as happened just a short while ago. But then people are more intelligent than animals and they should be more considerate and forgiving and not act in ways that are too repressive — which are contrary to the moral status (Sila–Dhamma) and behaviour of a human being. A good person would not act in this way which is despicable and vulgar and undermines the status of his own birth. Such a person is a good person with moral integrity who is not likely to bring himself to do an act such as this.
What Venerable Mother said about people round here being good and with fair humanity in them is true. But as for the person named....., who was my master, he is not a good person with humane qualities in his heart and not worthy of the human race. He is just the scum of the earth who happens to have been born as a person and he has a fierce and cruel heart and he will act like that with everything and I cannot forgive him. For even with other people, he is quite capable of doing harm to them, not to mention animals who are in a much more unfortunate situation.”
Khun Mair then gave it some teaching with metta and sympathy and she shared her merit with this animal, with a heart full of kindness and compassion while giving it the moral precepts and her blessing, saying:
“May the virtue and the result of the metta which I share with you guard you, nourish you, promote you and lead you to the path which gives those qualities to gain birth in a state of happiness where you may have the food of the gods and golden mansions to live in and enjoy.”
As soon as it had received her boon by saying, “Sadhu”, it took leave of the Nun in a spirit of brightness, joy and happiness, as though it was off to be born in that state and place which it wished for right away.
After day break Khun Mair called her nephew from his home and quietly told him what happened the previous night. She then asked him to go and find out about this man, Mr... and what had happened. (Mr... refers to the man who, the strange animal in her meditation had said, was the one who killed him.) Then she said:
“But you must not let anyone know that I have asked you to find out about this. I’m afraid he would be ashamed in the face of what I know, or he may entertain bad thoughts about us which will increase his evil Kamma far beyond what it is now.”
After she had finished, her nephew immediately replied to her, for he lived in the same village as that man, and he knew all about it, saying:
“Venerable Mother, there is no need for me to spend a lot of time finding out about this, for last night about 8:00 p.m., he led his buffalo out to..... and killed it. The cries of the buffalo in its dukkha and torment could he heard everywhere. After he had finished he took its meat and had a party with his friends, feasting on it and making a lot of noise, yelling, shouting, laughing and carousing until it had almost reached dawn. I doubt whether they have even woken up yet in that household — but all this I know for a fact, so there is no need to waste time making any investigations.”
This incident was one which Khun Mair told me about and it is notable in that the appearance of the nimitta took place the same night as the incident, although it appeared late at night when all was quiet which was a little time after the incident itself. This whole incident is one which we who are yet within the realm of vatta (samsara) should think about, for it is something that could happen to any of us, regardless of time, place or personal status.
The second story concerns an incident with a forest pig — a wild boar. This story is strange and unusual in a special way — but we must start at the beginning. This wild boar was wandering in search of food around the edge of the mountain on its own without thinking that there would be anybody lying in wait for it, because that district was very far away from any villages. It is probable that the hunter was waiting there to shoot any forest animals that came to drink water from a rock pond at the foot of this hill, and that it was also the kamma of this wild boar to go there. The wild boar would have laid down to wait for a while before going down to drink in this pond, then as soon as it had reached the water it was shot and killed.
In the early hours of the morning, shortly before dawn, the wild boar came to Khun Mair who was sitting in samadhi bhavana. It came in the form of a man — as did the buffalo in the previous incident. Khun Mair asked:
“What is the reason, or what trouble are you in that you have come to see me?”
The man told her the story of why he had come, saying:
“I was killed by a hunter named …, when I went to drink some water, for I was thirsty.”
Khun Mair then asked:
“When you went to take a drink, were you not cautious and wary of the danger to you?”
“Yes,” he replied,
“I have always been cautious and have never let my guard drop for fear of danger. Life as an animal such as I was, is very difficult and one has no freedom in oneself. Wherever one goes there is nothing but danger and predators all round one and I always had to be very watchful, but even so I was shot and killed. However, the fact of my death does not concern me so much as being born again. I am afraid of being born as an animal once again, which is a life full of dukkha and torment. Because one must suffer hunger and privation, and also be constantly on guard against danger — all of which causes much dukkha. So one’s life becomes a life of mistrust and watchfulness everywhere, with no place to eat, sleep and live peacefully relaxed. The reason why I have made the effort to come here is because of the fear of being born again in the wrong circumstances without being able to avoid it. I don’t have the merit to help raise me up and support me. Therefore I made a great effort to come here in the hope of taking refuge in the merit and perfections of Venerable Mother who has practised the way of Dhamma and has such merit as supports the world. I beg you to be kind and benevolent and to bestow your blessings on this poor creature lacking in meritorious characteristics.
Then I may be able to take birth in the state which I hope for. I have no wealth of virtue in me which could give me any confidence and assurance of my future state. All I have is the flesh and skin of my body which was killed tonight to offer as a gift of Dhamma reverence to you, who uphold Dhamma and live the holy life. So I came to pay respect to you, to tell you my reason for coming and also to implore you to help me. For when the people bring the parts of my body, both the valuable internal organs and the meat and skin and external parts, to give to you, I implore you Venerable Mother to partake and eat some of it with metta for me. Then the merit which comes from this gift may act to help and support me so that I may be born as a human being in my next life which is what I most desire. What I would really like to offer you are the internal organs of the wild boar which died and which was myself. But people are more greedy than animals and I fear that the best parts they will rather keep for themselves than use to make merit. That they will not bring them to you, afraid that they won’t experience the flavour of them and being driven to do this by their own kilesa of greed. So I am very afraid and anxious that this, my final gift to you may not be as I would wish it to be.”
Khun Mair then kindly taught him, gave him the five precepts (sila), gave him her blessing, shared out some of her merit with him with the hope that he may be born in accordance with his aspiration. After receiving the thanksgiving (anumodana) for his act of merit he took leave of her and went his way.
After daybreak Khun Mair quietly told the others, saying:
“I was sitting in samadhi bhavana late at night when, at about 3 o’clock a nimitta arose of a man who came to me in a manner that spoke of much dukkha and torment in his heart. When asked about his visit he said that he had been a wild boar living in the … hills for many years. But tonight when he went to take a drink of water in a rocky pool on the side of the hill he was shot and killed by Mr... who lives in … village and who was sitting close by. From having been in the form of the wild boar which he had died he came to me as a nimitta having taken the form of a man. He said he had come because he wanted to offer his body and its parts which had been killed as dana to us, so that we should take his flesh and skin and eat it as food.
As a result of doing this he hoped that he would be born as a human being in his next life. I have told you the main facts of this incident so that you shall know about it beforehand, so that when the people bring flesh and meat and whatever else to give to us, we should accept it and be kind enough to eat it as well, so that the merit from it may help him to be born as a human being in his next life. I don’t know why this took place. I have never come across anything like this before, that an animal has wanted to make merit by giving its own meat like this wild boar has done. That is, if it is true, so we must wait and see whether it is true or not and we should know very soon.”
If we think of the order in which these events occurred, it was really quite amazing and remarkable how, before long, at about 8 o’clock in the morning, two or three woman came with the wife of Mr... whom the wild boar had named as the hunter who killed him. One of them brought some pig meat to give to the Nuns, and when they saw it they thought that this must surely be the meat of that wild boar. When they asked these people about this meat and where it came from, the whole story was in accordance with what Khun Mair had told them right through, even to the name of the hunter who had shot him. These are the kinds of nimittas that arise in some people who practise samadhi, and the problems that arise from samadhi are numerous, as we have already said. This is enough about samadhi so we will finish here.
The Problems that Arise With Wisdom
As for the problems which arise from the levels of wisdom (pañña), they are far more numerous than those of samadhi as well as being much more profound and intricate. They can arise any day, any time without forewarning and one must use wisdom to unravel them, to analyse them and to solve them one by one. Otherwise there is no way to clear them and to go beyond them — and if one is still unable to go beyond them, they will go on making one perplexed and stupefied, sometimes for days at a time. Since each problem differs in its nature and difficulty, those who practise the way must be people who are naturally inclined to contemplation and analysis within themselves, without needing anyone to coerce or compel them. Each problem that arises acts as if it were a stimulus to stir up mindfulness and wisdom, waking oneself up. The path of mindfulness and wisdom may be considered to extend from the level of the contemplation of loathsomeness (asubha), up to the levels of the contemplation of the factors of mind (nama–dhamma) — which are the more subtle levels. At this point, the one who practises the way is bound to be rousing up problems and questions, as well as wisdom, far more than at any stage he has passed through.
But if he believes that he has a basic ground of his citta and Dhamma which are already subtle and skilful in the Dhamma of loathsomeness as well as the Nama–dhamma — which are: feeling (vedana), memory (sañña), thought processes (sankhara) and consciousness (viññana) — yet no problems arise to trouble the heart at all, and he prides himself that he is in the group of those who go the way of “Sukhapatipada” — easy practice, he will in fact be the group of those who are complacent and negligent in doing the practices for extracting the tap root and all the smaller roots, or, all the roots and fundamental source of all the kilesas, without realising it. For the process of curing the kilesas by means of the practice, from the beginning of samadhi up to the various levels of pañña, going up step by step will normally be accompanied by many problems and questions which percolate into the practice all the way along. But they also arouse and stir up mindfulness and wisdom, thereby making us wake up.
One who practises Dhamma and who never has any problems or questions arising at all is sure to be practising in a way that is too easy and relaxed. As if those questions were bits of meat of the type which the chopping block is afraid to take on, and it is not courageous enough to bring them out to be chopped up. One fears that this is just his negligence and complacency — or delusion (moha) that makes him afraid, so that he doesn’t have the courage to bring these questions to be accounted for. He is afraid that it will destroy all the minions of moha who are so numerous, breaking their enclosure and dispersing them all into oblivion.
In particular, the levels of wisdom, for those who have reached them, are bound to be a warehouse full of questions from all sorts of viewpoints which should arise continually, all the time. When these questions or problems arise, mindfulness and wisdom cannot remain quiet and inactive, because they are stirred up by the incessant nagging of the problems until they cannot put up with it anymore and must go to work to examine, to investigate and to solve them and get rid of them one by one. This means that every time one solves any problem, one also takes a step forward and goes beyond that problem. Each time that a problem is solved all sorts of skills and methods will come to one. They arise continually from mindfulness and wisdom which have been put to work to dig up, to search and to unravel them.
The way of practice which has no problems and questions arising at all is indicative of complacency in the one who is doing the practice and it shows that he is not looking for the way to get free with the concern for it that he should have. This is because — generally speaking — problems and questions arise from contemplation and thought searching for causes. The citta is the one that always receives the results of good and bad causes, and when one looks into them and thinks about them one is almost bound to come across things which bring up questions and problems. For someone who is interested in developing wisdom, the means of cutting off the kilesas, these problems are the means of arousing wisdom when he reaches that point in the future.
Therefore my own view of this, of which I feel quite convinced, is that anyone who practises the way of Dhamma and who has no problems or questions arising from his practice at all, from the levels of samadhi onwards, is not practising for the purpose of gaining true wisdom and clear understanding in the Noble Truths (Sacca–Dhamma) and he will not be able to find the way to freedom. This is because the Noble Truth which binds down the citta and which has “uprising” (samudaya) as its most important characteristic is the source of all the problems and confusions which arouse or disturb us. On the other hand, the “Path” (Magga) has ‘Right View’ (Samma–Ditthi) and ‘Right Attitude of Mind’ (Samma–Sankappa) as its most important characteristics, for these are the source of wisdom (pañña) at all levels. And this is what solves the questions which arise from Samudaya Sacca.
Both of these Dhamma principles are bound to perform their respective functions to their utmost at their present level, before they can go on further beyond the present level or basis of each one respectively. The work that mindfulness and wisdom (sati–pañña) does in connection with samudaya (uprising) — the root cause of all these problems — is what is meant by the “arousing of problems and questions”. It is also what is meant by the “curing of problems” — as it is called amongst those who practise the way of bhavana.
Therefore, those who have already gone some way towards the attainment of calm (samadhi) should steadily begin to use wisdom to search out the ways of cause and effect from this stage on. Or one may say that they should begin to search and research into the why and wherefore of things so as to give rise to questions, so that their wisdom shall have some work to do and not be out of work and idle — which is the way of a lazy person who is used to being contented and complacent. This is the meaning of moha — the delusion which lulls them into a waking sleep the whole time out of which, from day to day, they never wake at all. This is not the path of samadhi and pañña, not the way to gain that freedom which is gained by those who follow the principles of curing the kilesas by means of sati and pañña.
But it is not possible to give details of what perplexities and problems should arise, what kind of characteristics they should have, or what kind of wisdom should be used to cure what kind of problem and by the use of what method. All such things must depend on the technique or skill of each individual, who must think out and make up his own methods to suit the circumstances and situation which he is faced with each time and in each case. Because, in regard to such problems and perplexing things as well as the wisdom itself, there are innumerable different kinds and they hop and change about in accordance with the deceptive tricks of the uprising (samudaya) kilesas and the skilfulness of sati and pañña. Therefore, I have only put down what is essential without making it too involved and long winded, which might discourage the reader before he has started to do any of it in practice.
However, in the way of practice in the heart which is aimed at getting at the truth of causes and their results, there is bound to be perplexity as well as wisdom, and these two are always enemies to each other and they remain so until the ultimate resolution of causes and their results has been fully attained. In consequence, all problems and perplexities then die away and disappear whether they are about the “uprising” (samudaya) or about the “Path” (Magga) which is the one that cures it.
All of you who practise the way should therefore be resolute and constant in maintaining mindfulness and wisdom. For they are the factors which will show up the reasons behind the various aspects of the problems which arise and come to you in the way of samadhi and the way of contemplative thought or wisdom. This will enable you to reveal the full meaning of these problems with all the reasons for them, and this is the way to progress in Dhamma. The kilesas with which each of those problems are permeated will also drop away and dissolve as soon as each problem is solved and dispersed.
I feel that this is enough explanation about the problems and questions, that should arise from the way of samadhi and pañña, to act as a guide to those who are interested. So I shall end here.