PATIPADA – CHAPTER X: THE PRACTICE OF THE DHUTANGAS
The thirteen Dhutanga observances are necessary forms of Dhamma for the kind of Bhikkhus as described in the last chapters and they are an essential part of the way of life of those whose aim is to progress towards the Path, Fruition and Nibbana. This is no different from the way in which the Dhutanga observances were necessary forms of Dhamma for the Bhikkhus at the time of the Lord Buddha.
Some Bhikkhus like to live under the shade of a tree in the dry season, until their mosquito nets and klods all go mouldy and discoloured after becoming wet by the dew every night in their exposed unprotected position. For in the cold season the dew is very heavy and the mosquito nets and klods become completely soaked every night. In the morning they must lay everything out to dry in the sun every day, but even so they still go mouldy. Wherever the mould grows in the cloth it makes a small black spot which cannot be washed out and remains there until the cloth is destroyed. But no way has been found to prevent fungus moulds from becoming established in cloth which is out in the open for a long time, becoming saturated with dew every night and drying before it can be put in the sun to dry.
These Bhikkhus also do the practice of walking cankama in a true and genuine manner so that they can attain calm and happiness from it. Each time they do it they may go on for three to five hours, until they feel genuinely tired. Then they stop walking cankama and go and sit in meditation practice for several hours, after which they stop and rest.
Those who resolutely practise the Dhutanga Kammatthanas while being completely committed to them, will see the value of each Dhutanga practice and how much benefit they can attain from them. For each Dhutanga is a means of assisting those who practise them to reach the higher levels of Dhamma step by step. Not one of them is ever an obstacle in the way of the Path, Fruition and Nibbana. They are all forms of Dhamma as the means of training those who practise to become courageous and full of cheer in Dhamma, and also to become “warriors” who fight in every way that weakens and drives the kilesas from their hearts.
Those who have only lived in houses or buildings and have never gone out to the forest are not likely to have seen the kinds of things that happen in the forest. They have probably seen only the things that happen where people live in houses — which are ordinary kinds of things which all of us have come across and which we are all quite familiar with. But it is also likely that they never think in such a way as to see what disadvantages come from these kinds of things, and how they may extricate themselves and go free from them. Day by day they are bound to run into the same things that they have met in the past, and they get the dukkha that comes from them every hour of every day without exception. But they have no interest in searching for the reason why, even only to the extent of being able to avoid them.
To live in the forest in the right way, which accords with the true purpose of the Dhutangas, a person must be a “warrior”, a fighter in order to extricate himself truly from the various obstacles which are in his own heart. He does not merely live there like an animal in the forest, which has always lived there and is completely familiar with the forest life. But he lives there for the purpose of examining things which are within himself and which arise in various circumstances, with Dhamma as his ultimate goal.
Of all the enemies to his life in the forest, the greatest is likely to be fear. This type of kilesa is an obstacle which makes the heart sink down so that it no longer wants to stay in the forest. When he understands that this kilesa is an obstacle barring his way forward towards the Path and Fruition, he must clear it away and drive it out from his heart until it is entirely eradicated and there remains only bravery and courage. Then he will be able to go anywhere, live anywhere and lie down anywhere without fear of death — which is yet another type of kilesa — and he will see clearly in his own experience just how valuable and how important this Dhutanga is. This is why the Lord Buddha prescribed the Dhutanga of living in the forest as a routine practice. But apart from this, living in the forest is also valuable in so far as one has no distractions and involvement with all those things that one associates with. Things which generally speaking tend to depress the heart and bury it so that it goes right down, giving it no chance to recover and emerge for it to be able to be its own master even for a few moments at a time. Admiring the natural scenery in various places in the forest where one is staying is not the sort of thing that disturbs and upsets the heart causing it to be agitated and confused — as do those things which arouse one’s thoughts and imagination which are just waiting to “put one to sleep” as soon as one is invaded by any one of these many kinds of things. The more one is invaded by these things by day and night, all the time, the more difficult it is to say how long one would be able to stand up to it and how many times before becoming unconscious and falling down, due the various poisons which one is “inhaling” all the time from those things.
Those Bhikkhus who think about the Dhutangas and examine them to see the purpose behind them, whatever understanding they gain, they will see the value of the Dhutanga of living in the forest, to the extent of their understanding. Because this Dhutanga Dhamma is a beautiful adornment which has always decorated the Sasana in the most wonderful way; and amongst those Buddhists who maintain it and do not give it up nor let it degenerate there is no sadness or lack of cheerfulness. This Dhutanga will also adorn the Bhikkhus who continue to uphold it, making them into a Sobhana Sangha in the Dhamma and Vinaya, which gives no cause for adverse criticism whether externally or internally.
The Forest University
Places such as forests, hills, caves, overhanging cliffs, charnel grounds, jungle and remote hill forests where the natural environment remains undisturbed far away from any villages, are the places which bring mindfulness, wisdom, knowledge and skill to the Bhikkhu whose interest is in Dhamma, with the aim of attaining freedom for himself. Such a Bhikkhu does not like the distraction and turmoil associated with anything which is an obstacle, an enemy, hindering his progress towards freedom from Dukkha. In Buddhism, such places have always been favoured, right from the beginning when the Lord Buddha was the courageous leader undaunted in the face of death who practised for his own development in such places, before he became fully enlightened in the highest Dhamma, and then went out to teach those who were fit to receive the teaching. All the Savakas who heard the Dhamma teaching and learnt from the Lord about those places which were suitable for them, variously went off and practised the way. They followed in the footsteps of the Buddha until mindfulness, wisdom and skilfulness arose which were equal to the internal tricks (of the kilesas) which had deceived them and led them down to hell in past lives both short and long through countless ages. Then they shook off and entirely got rid of all that was filthy and loathsome in their hearts, and this they did in this forest, or on that hill, or in a cave over there, or under an overhanging cliff in that district, in a charnel ground, a deserted house, or under the shade of a tree while living in a remote district in this forest or that hill. These are the places where Dhamma was planted and cultivated in the hearts of those who practised the way, giving them an unshakeable root principle within them, and this has continued right up to the present day. If one compares this with modern institutions, it is analogous to those large and well known Universities where students may work for their Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor’s degrees, or whatever other scholarly distinctions there are, so that those students who are interested in learning all that they need to know to finish the course may return home and be of value in developing their own country and people.
All of the above places were considered important at the time of the Lord Buddha and since then throughout the ages right up to the present for the “students” practising Dhamma at various levels of development. In these places they did everything to the utmost of their mindfulness and strength in the various stages of skill which they should aim for and attain in such a “forest university”. In other words they attained their “degrees” at their various levels of development until they reached the topmost level. The levels of Dhamma which they learnt and practised in those places, which we have likened to a university, are those of the Path and Fruition of Sotapanna, the Path and Fruition of Sakadagami, the Path and Fruition of Anagami and the Path and Fruition of Arahant with, at the same moment, the attainment of the one Nibbana. At this final stage the student becomes a great Master because whoever reaches this final level is a perfect “field of merit”, both to himself and for others, and there is no grade of learning which is higher than this throughout the threefold Universe.
So, as to accord with the world, which has always been a pair with Dhamma, the forest hills, jungle and other such places may be called the University of the Great Master, the Lord Buddha, the founder of the religion. The Lord prescribed such places right from the beginning when he first formulated our religion by his teaching, which he bestowed on the Bhikkhus and others from that time on with such brief injunctions as “Rukkhamula–senasana” (dwelling at the foot of a tree). Afterwards he gradually increased the number of Dhutangas up to thirteen which also includes the Rukkhamula–senasana Dhutanga.
These “universities”, are where the Bhikkhus at the time of the Lord Buddha liked to stay, to learn and practise the way truly and to their utmost with complete dedication until they attained the first, second and third grades and finally the fourth which was their Master’s degree. Then they brought the pure and true Dhamma to their associates and taught it in place of the Lord, the Great Teacher, so as to lighten his burden to some extent. So Buddhism developed and prospered and spread out to countless numbers of people because it relied upon the “university” of forests and hills and other such places which were so favourable. For they proved to be of the greatest value both to the Great Teacher and to all his “Savaka” followers who reached the final stage of learning. They became “Masters” to whom the world bowed in homage as their ideal, both in behaviour and in what concerns the heart. This has continued through the ages right down to us who are here now and who uphold them as the guiding line of our lives and hearts and practise the way following their example, enough to know the significance of being a person at a level of what is generally accepted as that of a “genuine human being”.
When we think of the Dhutanga observances and make comparisons with the places where universities should be established, what course of study should be provided and what syllabus should these universities in the world have? A good guide may be found in the thirteen Dhutanga observances and the fourteen Khandha observances as taught in Buddhism. These can give an indication of a suitable location to set up the “university” and the basic principles of such a Buddhist University. Thus, some of the Dhutanga observances give a good indication of the kind of places that would be suitable for their practice, such as the injunctions to “live in the forest”, to “stay under the shade of a tree”, to “live in a charnel ground”, to “visit a charnel ground”, to “accept whatever place to stay is arranged by other people”, to “live out in the open without any shelter”, and to live in any other appropriate and suitable place, such as, a cave, an overhanging cliff, or an empty building where nobody is staying.
As for getting some indication of the principles of the curriculum — which is the way of practice — in such a university, the Sangha is able to give some help in this regard. Thus, the students should keep the observances of using only cloth from the charnel ground, having only the three robes as their clothing, relying only on pindapata food, eating only out of the bowl, eating food only once a day, refusing food given after pindapata and not lying down to sleep for any set number of nights. In addition there are the Forty Kammatthanas which are the basis of the way of meditation practice which also give assistance in this curriculum in conjunction with the Dhutangas.
In summary, Buddhism is a religion that is complete with many branches of knowledge and it has acted as a university ever since the time that the Great Teacher started teaching Dhamma to the world. There are many places where this university is established and there are many forms of learning which are available which the students may choose to take up and learn and practise. Those places which the Lord Buddha recommended as being the foremost, the most important, and the highest branch of the university are the forest, the shade of a tree, a charnel ground, and living out in the open. In addition there are other special places including, a cave, an overhanging cliff, the top or sides of a hill, a valley, and the edge of the forest or hills, all of which are also to be considered as special places which are recommended in the same way by the Lord. The principles of training as used by this “university” in the various courses that are offered, are based on the practice of the various Dhutanga observances which are to be kept up all the time in all situations — as we have already described herein. In other words, the practices of using only discarded cloth obtained from the charnel ground, using only the three robes, going on pindapata every day as an observance, eating only from the bowl, eating only once a day, and in addition the Forty Kammatthanas such as, for example, the practice of Anapanasati (which will be discussed further on) are forms of learning which will not lead to disappointment in those who variously practise them for they lead to the attainment of the third, second, first and the Master’s degrees. These are the titles given to the performance of those students who have had the interest and the commitment to follow the course through in all its parts at the level of the degree that they worked to attain.
The place where this university is located is very extensive and is not crowded and constricted as are the universities where the “world” goes to get their learning. The number of students can be very large, including both men and women, monks and lay people of all nationalities, race and colour regardless of class, age or educational background. It is open and accepts students in all seasons, every day of the week and at all times of the day or night. In fact it is always open and has been so ever since it was founded almost two thousand six hundred years ago by the Lord Buddha, who was the first “professor” to teach in it. From the beginning he accepted students and taught them from the most elementary levels up to the level of the Master Citta — which is Dhamma throughout.
The students of the Lord Buddha are of four types, these being: Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, Upasakas and Upasikas, but as there are no Bhikkhunis left now, we may put Samaneras in their place. The first students to graduate from the university were the Pañcavaggiya — the first five, of whom Venerable Aññakondañña was the first. The second group included Venerable Yasa Kulaputta and sixty friends of his. The third group was composed of the three Jatila brothers who were Teachers, and all their followers, altogether making up one thousand and three Bhikkhus. All the members of these three groups attained the completion of their learning and training from the principles of the course of training (vijja) in freedom (vimutti) in various places in this “university”, and they all became Masters. These were the “assistant professors” under the Lord Buddha, who were also called the Savaka Arahants. They helped to teach other people, thereby taking on some of the burden of teaching and reducing the load that the Lord was carrying. Their reward was the result of their work which their followers gained to a greater or lesser extent, and they looked on this as being sufficient reward, taking into account the metta which they had for them. If we consider the value that they got from this in terms of worldly things, then each of them received thirty bowls of food per month equally, from the Lord down to the smallest Samanera — which is a very good example of equal treatment. It is not easy to find such kindness to equal that of the Great Masters who always have metta for the world, which never diminishes or dulls.
Therefore we who are Buddhists can confidently assert that the “university” and its various “courses” of instruction which belong to Buddhism, as founded and formed by the Lord Buddha, and where he himself taught and directed all the Savaka Arahants so that they then went out to teach in his place, is the foremost “university” and the foremost teaching in the world, and there is no other teaching to equal it in the universe. Even the Devaputtas, the Devatas, Indra, Brahma, Yama, the Yakkhas, the Nagas and the Garudas, all still pay homage and reverence to the Lord and accept him as the foremost Teacher and the greatest Master in the universe — as in the often repeated verse in praise of the Buddha: … sattha devamanussanam … etc.
Even with the Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, his Enlightenment arose in the midst of this “university”, as well as all of his knowledge of the way to attain freedom (vijja–vimutti), which has already been mentioned above. This is why he praised and extolled the virtues of those “forest institutes” in his religion. When a worthy man was ordained as a Bhikkhu, the Lord taught him the Five Kammatthanas and the Anusasana (instructions as to the mode of living), such as dwelling under the shade of a tree, to act as a pointer to show the general way of practice and some of the things which they should do. These are also the means of cutting down the thick, tangled forest with persistence — in other words, the various kinds of kilesas in the heart which enclose it and prevent it from seeing the path leading to the Path, Fruition and Nibbana — and clearing the place with the Dhamma weapons which the Lord provided. But when Samaneras were ordained he only taught them the Five Kammatthanas to fight against the various vicious Maras, to destroy them and clear them from the heart. He did not teach them the anusasanas concerned with living in the forests and hills — probably because they were still too young for this. So he did not send them out into the front line of battle, which was not yet necessary for them. In the time of the Lord Buddha the number of people who became Savaka Arahants was very great and nearly all of them attained Enlightenment from the forest institutes which we have discussed.
The Lord Buddha and all the Savakas graduated in Dhamma from the hills and forests where they gained their Master’s degrees. The courses of training which they completed in this “university” were concerned with liberation (vimutti), so when they went out to teach the world, it was a subject which they could be absolutely sure about and in which they had full confidence. There was nothing which was modified, false or ambiguous in it, both in regard to those worthy ones who had fully attained to it as well as the knowledge of it in which they were fully proficient. This is very different from the knowledge and the students which are found everywhere else in the world, but the “Sangha University” which we have described has difficulty in finding students who want to learn. This may be because this institute gives more authority to each student to look after himself than it gives to anyone else to look after him and direct him and govern him in the way that they do in the world’s universities. In other words, to enter, to stay and to train in any of this institute’s places or branches is for the student to choose and decide as he likes. In a similar way, amongst the various subjects and courses of training which are available in this institute, each individual has the right to choose those which he finds suitable to himself. Both the Acariya and the student are chosen by himself, and if his Acariya — who is himself — is strict and resourceful in training his follower — for both the Acariya and the pupil are in one and the same person — driving himself on with skill, then both will steadily progress towards a state of calm and happiness. Then even if he should go into a forest which is full of all sorts of wild animals and tigers, he has no fear and can stay there calmly relaxed, peaceful and happily enjoying the noises made by all the animals which serenade the forest with their “music”, each in its own characteristic way, to which he can listen with absorbed attention. This does not cause one to lose one’s wealth like man made music which penetrates deeply and catches the heart. If one’s heart is still excitable, only waiting to emerge and “put its head out” to get some fresh air, it may be blown away by the storm of music and scattered about in an uncontrolled manner, which is most unseemly. This can also spoil oneself and that which is of value to one, leading to loss of restraint and loss in a very real way.
On the other hand, the music of the forest animals is a soothing lullaby which they each sing at their own time and the sound makes one become pleasantly absorbed in listening to it with a sympathy that touches the heart. But wherever a Kammatthana Bhikkhu goes to stay, all sorts of animals, two legged, four legged, winged and without wings tend to gather round in his vicinity, and the longer he stays there the more seem to come. At times the sound of them calling to their friends who are all about the place, in their own animal languages resounds loudly through the forest; and this is the same sort of thing as happens with us human beings. For all beings who have hearts, naturally think of each other, but they are not able to speak human languages to let us know about themselves, although each species has its own inherent language which derives from its birth and upbringing — as also do people. Their calls and the noises they make to each other are what the Bhikkhus call music, and it goes on all the time. In the morning one type of animal will make its call; later in the morning another species will start up; then in the afternoon yet others will call out to each other, and so it goes on throughout the day and night. It is almost as if they work in shifts, one taking over when the previous one finishes. Although in fact they are probably like the chickens which people keep round their homes which just crow at that time which is natural to them. But in the forests there are many kinds of animals, each kind having a different time for wandering about searching for food and making their characteristic calls and cries and never are they all silent, even at night, when many species search for food as others do by day. Therefore their cries and calls never cease throughout the twenty four hours of the day.
Living and training in the subject of Dhamma, in accordance with the policy and way of Buddhism, in the institutions that we have described above is far more difficult than the way of learning from text books. But if one can put up with the difficulties of this way of learning and practice and if one gets the results they will be great results, one will have great merit and one will know clearly in one’s own heart the value of striving persistently to the limit of one’s endurance.
Anyone who is not as resolute and bold as a true warrior is not likely to be able to stay there. Because it is rather like being in a reformatory the whole time — even though there is nobody there to force or intimidate one — apart, that is, from the volition due to anxiety about what one will become in the future, which compels one from within oneself to go on.
When one has oneself done the work of training in Buddhism in the foregoing way until one has seen the awesome power of the hardships and tormenting conditions in everything of all kinds, then one will be able to realise fully how proficient and courageous the Buddha and his Noble Disciples were, and one will see how their lineage was truly that of skilled warriors.
The business of getting rid of all one’s doubts and uncertainties entirely, in such a way that one knows and sees quite clearly for oneself, means — that other people have fear, but if one has not yet experienced fear of that kind one will not yet appreciate that there is anything special about it that should make one think much of it; other people have suffering (dukkha), but if one has not experienced suffering such as that, one will not appreciate that there is anything special about it which should make one think; others discipline themselves in their various ways of striving to develop, which involves much dukkha and difficulty, but if one has not experienced this kind of discipline and dukkha, for oneself, one will not appreciate that there is anything special about it which should make one think; there is suffering and torment which comes from various causes and which arises out of the strenuous training undertaken by other people, but if one has not yet experienced these things for oneself, one will not appreciate that there is anything special about it which should make one think; and this goes right the way through to happiness, which is the result that arises to a greater or lesser extent from all the training and discipline done by other people, but if one has not yet experienced this in one’s own heart one will not yet appreciate that there is anything special about it which should make one think and wonder greatly. Even if one has the belief that these things can truly be as others describe them, it still doesn’t reach one’s heart. But when the time comes that one has actually experienced these things oneself, both the causes — which means the training and disciplining of oneself in various ways and the acceptance of the ensuing sufferings and discomforts of many kinds; and also the results — which means the happiness of heart which one derives from the various forms of training, from the lowest to the highest levels, then one will see for oneself that it is something special which makes one think much of it. In fact one may say that it makes one appreciate it from the full depth of one’s heart, as well as making one see in the fullness of one’s heart just how baneful is the state of dukkha. Then one will see full well the value which has come from those causes which one has enacted, and all doubts of all kinds will disappear, without any more need to go and ask anyone else. Because the answers have all become obvious to oneself, both in connection with good, evil, happiness and suffering, which all arise from oneself alone.
The Lord Buddha, whose metta brought the greatest blessings to the world, intended that people and other beings should practise and realise or experience things for themselves. He did not want them to accept his words in the manner of someone who brings exciting news just for us to listen to, even though it is true. So the practice of Dhamma at each and every level as it becomes appropriate to each one, should be a matter of knowing and seeing, and he wanted this to be experienced by each one for himself in his own heart. This is far better than hearing and gaining knowledge from other people which one has not actually met and attained for oneself. For it was the aim of the Lord to get each one to do the work for himself, to know for himself, and to see for himself so that it may be truly his own possession and treasure. Then nobody, however bold or daring will be able to take any part of it away from him, nor make him lose any of it.
It was the intention of the Lord that one who practises should go into the forest by himself. Even if he meets up with wild animals, like tigers, he should do so himself; and when he meets a tiger he should know for himself how much fear he has. In evading and curing it in various ways, the methods he uses should be his own methods derived from his own skill in mindfulness and wisdom. The heart which he trains and disciplines to stand up to such incidents should be his own heart; and the ease of body and peace of heart which he gets from the training and discipline should be the value which is in his own heart. This is far better than having the good news of the value of someone else. The heart (citta) is what penetrates the Path and Fruition at all its levels, because of this training and discipline; so let it be your own heart that breaks through. In gaining freedom from dukkha of heart, let it be your own heart that gains freedom, rather than hearing about someone else attaining freedom due to their own efforts. It is also right that our religion should be the special wealth of those who are interested to promote and guard it. Normally this religion is the general wealth of all those who have interest in practising and looking after it, but then it turns into your own abundant wealth due to its development to completion in your own heart. We may say that such a person is skilled and clever, using his own mindfulness and wisdom to lead him to by-pass the world and samsara and to reach Nibbana, thus conforming to the intention of the Great Teacher, to whom the religion belongs, who taught his followers with such insight and ability with the purpose that those who come to stay in the shade of his supreme perfection should gain skill and cleverness so that they may penetrate the Path and Fruition to become Ariya Puggala of the highest level and safe, having got rid of all the evil, vile things which had been their enemies for countless lives.
When they have attained the level of the Master of great learning and wisdom they will have reached the completion of their learning and training in the Sangha University of Buddhism with full honours, and there is no need for them to go elsewhere for them to learn anything for the remainder of their lives. This is called the complete and perfect learning of the “Brahmacariya’’, and it is nothing but this that the Lord Buddha and all the Savakas learnt to completion in their hearts. They did not learn anything elsewhere but in the heart, because it is the heart alone that, being deluded, leads one into birth and death. So when learning is completed in the heart, all affairs of all kinds come to an end.
The Purpose and Places of Practice
The Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus in the line from Venerable Acharn Mun endeavour to learn about and around the “body–city” and the “citta–city” which are the great source of the threefold universe (Ti–bhava). Even though they may go and live in the forests, the hills, in caves, under overhanging cliffs or anywhere else, the most important point to realise is that they are doing this so as to learn primarily about the citta. Even nowadays (1970), it may be seen how there are many Kammatthana Bhikkhus in the lineage of Venerable Acharn Mun who spend the rains retreat (vassa) in the forests and hills, following his example, and they do this primarily for the sake of the citta. The training and discipline of various kinds which accord with their characteristic tendencies, mindfulness, wisdom and ability, are done primarily for the sake of knowing the end-point which is the heart — this alone is the one that matters.
A Bhikkhu who is really determined to gain freedom is thus rather like someone who dies without having anything arranged for his funeral, so that others can cremate or keep the corpse. When his time comes anywhere will do without being concerned about it — and that place becomes the cemetery where he dies. While his khandhas are still together and alive he will continue to stay in any such place that is suitable for him to strive and develop himself in Dhamma, and there he will strive all the time without let up or ceasing. When sitting he strives, when standing, walking or lying down he strives, and the only time he stops is when he sleeps. If he does not do it this way he will never be able to catch up with the tracks left by the kilesas and tanha which have the knack of leading beings to death and wandering round the worlds of samsara, and much faster than the wind in the greatest storms. Even in one moment they can drag him round the worlds in the three realms of the universe without his being able to follow and keep up with them, and they bring dukkha to their owner who is more stupid and lacking in wisdom than they are. Thus he experiences dukkha which is sharp, hot and troublesome as well as being painful and tormenting, for there is no dukkha that can compare with the “taste” of that dukkha which the various kilesas bring to burden the heart.
Therefore, someone who sees how baneful these kilesas are in a way which goes to his heart, is bound to strive to get rid of them all the time — every moment — and he has no time whether in the morning, afternoon or evening to rest, relax and take it easy, letting the kilesas and tanha walk all over him and do any more harm. One way or another he will reach the “far bank of the river” where it is safe and free from dukkha. However arduous and difficult this may be he will put up with it, supported by the thought of all the various births and lives through which he must otherwise whirl about because of the force of avijja and tanha, which means dukkha, which is bound to infiltrate everything in all these lives. He should hurry to cure himself, to get free and to overcome them entirely in this life now, while he can, and should, be curing himself. Because there is no doubt that in this life he is a complete and normal human being who also has the status of being ordained as a Bhikkhu who should indeed be able to dry out the kilesas from his heart in whatever way is suitable. One can hardly think of any possible future lives when conditions will be as suitable as those that he has at present. Whatever work ought to be done to completion to reach and attain that which man should reach and attain, that work is what he is doing at present, and he should finish it off while still alive in these khandhas. He must not be slow and sluggish, wasting time all the time, for when the baneful one, which is death, and which has such power, reaches him, he will be in difficulty and he will lose everything which he should have attained and have when that time comes.
These are some of the ways in which such Bhikkhus rouse up and encourage themselves to hurry and increase their striving in their various places and situations, so that they do not become complacent and self-satisfied. Those who are in the stages of samadhi development then work at it with urgency so that it will become much stronger, and so that when they turn to investigation in the way of wisdom, it will be strong and fast — as they want it to be. On the other hand, those who are starting out on the stages of wisdom development, or who are already working at them, do their investigation with increasing urgency until they know clearly and see truly into the elements (dhatu), khandha, ayatana and the various types of kilesas which penetrate into things which are closely associated with the activities of the body and citta. This enables them to extract the kilesas one by one, steadily, all the time while they are full of zeal and striving, by depending on the forests, the hills and the jungles, which by acting as a strategic battleground and a suitable environment, help them to gain victory in their fight while struggling and striving to smash up all the kilesas. Then depending on whatever strength of mindfulness, wisdom, faith and effort they have, they destroy so much of the kilesas each day — these kilesas which have established and concentrated their “armies” and forces within.
Some of these Bhikkhus win these battles stage by stage and leave the university of the jungles, the hills, the caves, the overhanging cliffs or the charnel grounds. Sometimes when they have won the battle and leave completely fulfilled, perfect, smiling and bright, with their hearts pure throughout like the moon on the day of the full moon, they meet up with their colleagues and discuss the results that they have had from their practice of the way. They tell each other about the things that happened, and it is the most wonderful thing that one can listen to. Nowhere else can one hear anything to compare with it in any gathering of people anywhere. For in such a group one will hear Dhamma which is pure, fresh and direct — as if one were listening to a group of Savaka Arahants at the time of the Lord Buddha, telling each other about the Path, Fruition and Nibbana which they had attained. Nowadays it is extremely rare for anyone to hear such a discussion, but there are still some Bhikkhus who are able to talk and who are skilled enough in their knowledge of these Dhammas to be able to have a discussion together and they are the most revered amongst those Bhikkhus who practise the way in the present era. The Dhamma of these Bhikkhus can be a great encouragement to others who practise the way, making their faith both firm and strong so that they have the power of body and heart to be active and vigorous in destroying their own kilesas, without any weakness of the kind that makes for slackening of effort and zeal. This they do by taking up the ways of practice which Venerable Acharn Mun so skilfully bestowed on us when he was alive. Places like the hills and forests are therefore where the Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhus who follow in line from Venerable Acharn have always liked to go wandering to do their practice ever since.
Nowadays there are many Kammatthana Bhikkhus who spend the vassa period in the forests and hills in the same way as Venerable Acharn Mun taught when he was still alive. Generally these Bhikkhus are followers of those Teachers who were themselves direct followers of Venerable Acharn Mun, living in various localities, and they point out the ways of practice to these Bhikkhus. Some of the places where many Kammatthana Bhikkhus in this line of teaching spend the vassa period are in Nong Khai Province in the districts of Tha Bo, Si Chiang Mai, Phon Phisai, Bung Kan which are mostly covered by forests and hills. These are the kinds of places that Kammatthana Bhikkhus like to stay in to do their practice, but they do not like going where there are no thick forests and few hills. Generally they just pass through the latter places, or at most, stay temporarily at the invitation of the villagers to help them sometimes. Other places where they like to stay are in Nakhon Phanom Province in the districts of Khamchai where it borders on the district of Lerng Nokta in the province of Ubon where there are plenty of hills and forests. In the district of Si Songkhram where there is good forest and in the districts of Ban Phaeng and Mukdahan where there are both hills and forests in plenty, the Bhikkhus like going to stay right up to the present day. In Sakon Nakhon Province they like to stay in the district of Sawang Daen Din and Panna Nikhom where there are hills and forests in the southern part of the district. In Udorn Province, in the districts of Ban Phu, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Na Klang, Nong Han and Muang, there are hills and forests in plenty, as also in Loei Province in the districts of Wang Saphung and Muang. The Kammatthana Bhikkhus like staying in these provinces and districts more than any others in the Northeast of Thailand.
There are still many who are interested in practising the way, fully intent on attaining Dhamma and understanding. Sometimes when there is some special function such as the funeral and cremation of an Acariya in whom they have faith and respect, the Bhikkhus and Samaneras gather together, as for instance, at the funeral and cremation of Venerable Acharn Prom at Dong Yen village in the district of Nong Han, Udorn Province. They like going to such functions because they expect to hear talk on Dhamma from all the Acariyas whom they respect and revere and who come to this function. Those who have problems in their hearts, associated with their meditation practices have an opportunity at such a time to go and talk and learn about it from the Acariyas. As soon as the function is finished they disperse and variously return to the forests and hills where they have been living and doing their practice.
When the Kammatthana Bhikkhus come together in large numbers they are very impressive to see. One also feels sympathy for the small Samaneras who have come with their Acariyas, and who are more loveable than impressive. We can get some idea of how strong the cittas of some of the Bhikkhus are when they go to such occasions as this and we have a chance to talk together about citta bhavana. We can also do this when they come specially to visit us at other times, and also when we meet them on various other occasions. Because, generally speaking, when Kammatthana Bhikkhus meet each other they rarely talk about anything but Dhamma in the heart. Even when they talk for a long time it is only about Dhamma in the heart and they do not bring in any other topic of conversation. After seeing them one feels respect and confidence in them, and great sympathy for each one of them in what they are trying to attain. It makes us feel sure and satisfied that, if there are still those who are interested to practise Dhamma by striving with effort like these Bhikkhus that we have learnt about, they will get the results of what they are doing, so that both they and other people will feel happy and contented that the teaching can be handed on continually into the future, and will surely not be lost and become devoid of fruit. As in the saying of Dhamma: “We have seen, Ananda, how if there are still those who practise Dhamma in ways that are appropriate to Dhamma this world will not become void of Arahants.”
In the above saying of the Buddha, how does one “practise Dhamma in ways that are appropriate to Dhamma?” When one has assessed the essential meaning of this phrase, it means, “whatever is appropriate to oneself”. “Appropriateness of Dhamma”, means being in accord with the reasoning which is in the Teaching that the Lord Buddha himself taught, which is called the “Svakkhata–Dhamma” — “The rightly taught Dhamma” — which is not deficient anywhere in any way. If it is thought of as a path or a way then it is a path that goes straight to its intended destination without breaking into many tracks and branches to mislead those who go along it. Or if it is likened to food, it is food which is plentiful and perfect, straight from the most skilled cook and complete with its full natural flavours, being not too spicy or salty and well suited to the taste of whoever eats it without exception. Or again, it may be likened to a suit of clothes which are tailor made to fit, being neither too tight nor too loose, but just right in all cases. Not like those clothes which they make up to fit tightly, which are most unseemly for both men and women to wear. To look at them much is very disturbing and offensive to one’s sensibility. So much so that if one were in mourning for three months one would still not be able to forget them, because they are so peculiar and far from the realms of human beings and the gods as well. Thus the appropriateness of Dhamma in all its parts and aspects, is to be assessed by whether it leads onward to the Path, Fruition and Nibbana. This alone and no other is to be called “Dhamma which is appropriate” — in other words, appropriate just for the Path and its Fruition, that is all.
Where I wrote above: “… who practise Dhamma in ways that are appropriate to Dhamma…,” it means doing practice which accords with those ways of Dhamma which are called: Supatipatti, Ujupatipatti, Ñayapatipatti and Samicipatipatti. These are what is meant by “appropriateness”, not deviating from the way of Dhamma, not going beyond nor falling short of Dhamma, and not modifying or obscuring Dhamma according to one’s fancy, as if one was oneself the Great Teacher of all Dhamma. These are what is meant by “practising Dhamma in ways that are appropriate to Dhamma.” So if one practises in the manner of Supatipatti, Ujupatipatti, Ñayapatipatti and Samicipatipatti, it means that one is practising Dhamma in a manner that is truly appropriate to Dhamma, and the results which come from it will be those which one has been led to expect from it, and they are bound to come in this way. It does not have to be within the lifetime of the Lord Buddha, nor during any other particular time or era for these results to arise, for it depends mainly on the practice that is done, and this is more important than any other thing.
It is like going along a smooth road, which is the right road going straight to the intended destination. Whether one travels by day or by night, in the dry season or the rainy season, when one does not turn away from this right road one is sure to reach the destination as all others have. Therefore it is important that one should go along the right road, both in the world and in Dhamma. Because the “Dhamma that is appropriate”, that we have been talking about, is the akalika (timeless) Dhamma, which is always aimed directly towards the Path, Fruition and Nibbana, without there being any time or place which is more favourable than any other. What is favourable is the right Dhamma practice, and this is more important than anything else.
If one does not practise the right Dhamma, it makes no difference what age or time one is in, there is no hope of attaining the results which one should attain, because it contradicts the principle of “practising Dhamma in ways that are appropriate to Dhamma”. These wrong ways of practice do not conform to the principle which says, “… appropriate to Dhamma,” and they are likely to be an enemy to oneself and to Dhamma as well. The Dhamma that has been taught by the Lord is well suited to all states and situations everywhere and it does not set up any opposition to anything in the world and so it is called, “well taught”. Therefore someone who is anxious to attain a satisfactory refuge as a result of their actions, should consider what causes they are currently making and whether or not they conform to the principle of what is, “… appropriate to Dhamma”. If they do not so conform it means that one has gone astray, that one is without doubt opposing Dhamma and the Path, Fruition and Nibbana.
It is hoped that the reader will forgive me for getting diverted from the main theme all the time. As soon as I leave the subject I am dealing with I get carried far away before mindfulness returns, by which time I have gone all over the place. So now I will return and say more about the Dhutanga Bhikkhus.
There are many Kammatthana Bhikkhus in line from Venerable Acharn Mun who are still alive, although they rarely come out of the forests and hills. So people who live in towns, or in Bangkok hardly ever get a chance to know how they live nor where and in which provinces, so we have taken the opportunity to let people know some of the provinces and places where they stay. They do not like to stay much in the populated areas of these provinces but prefer to live far away where there are forests and hills and where it is calm and quiet. Such places are far from the places of administration in each province and its districts, and some places cannot be reached by car, whereas others can, with difficulty, for a car has to force its way into the forest through muddy places which become impassable in the rainy season.
Normally, when the Kammatthana Bhikkhus go anywhere they like to travel in the Dhutanga way, which means going about on foot all the time. Walking up one hill, clambering up another, searching for a place to stay and practise bhavana which suits their temperament. They have little interest in leaving such a place to go to the villages and towns, for they do their practice in a quiet way which other people do not know about. But those who are Kammatthana Bhikkhus in the same way, all know about each other both inwardly and outwardly. Thus they know the whereabouts of the others, which districts of which province, and with how many other Bhikkhus and novices they are staying. These things they know well, because they keep in touch with others frequently. In particular they have faith and respect for the senior Acariyas, and the Kammatthana Bhikkhus have a great liking for visiting them, paying respect to them and training in Dhamma and its meaning with them and there are always some going and staying with them all the time.
As soon as one goes, another comes, changing about, going and coming all the time, both during the dry season and the rainy season, excepting only during the three vassa months when it is difficult for those living far away, who have to stop visiting others for the time being. As for those who live close enough to visit each other, they will probably go to see the Acariyas and their friends quite frequently. They go to see the Acariyas to learn about Dhamma with an attitude of faith and reverence for those who are endowed with the quality of Dhamma. The need to visit, to pay homage, and to listen to the various forms of teaching of the Acariyas, whenever the time is appropriate, is looked on as a custom of Kammatthana which goes back to its origins. Therefore each of them know where the others are staying and what their movements are.
In regard to those whose levels of citta and Dhamma are very high, there are still many of them who are living at present. But generally speaking, they are not likely to bring out their “Dhamma wealth” and spend it in an opulent manner, for they act rather like a rich man who does not like to show off. Their possessions, they have and use in the same way as other people and they do not show off nor make out that they are important, causing a lot of fuss. This is the way that those Bhikkhus who are truly intent on Dhamma behave, and each of them in their own way lives quietly, which accords with the characteristics of those who are intent on Dhamma, and they do not like talk which is vain and boastful, which is the way of the world.
The Kammatthana Bhikkhus in this lineage (from Venerable Acharn Mun) have quiet natures and they like quietness in the spheres of the ear, the mouth and tongue, the eye, and the heart. If they are with others who are not truly of their own kind they hardly ever speak about the Dhamma which they have within themselves. So when they hear anyone speaking in a rather boastful way without there being good reason for it, in the manner of someone who likes to show off, they are likely to get a bit dizzy and feel nauseated. This is the nature of the Kammatthana Bhikkhus of this lineage, who like to be unassuming and modest in speech and not boastful. For they are not well versed nor familiar with those forms of society which are always given to being pretentious and boastful. In this they generally tend to accept those forms of behaviour which come from their Acariya who taught them to be calm and modest. If anyone were to speak rather big and boastfully the others would all immediately feel sick with stomach ache and want to get away to find medicines to cure it. For amongst those who go the way of Kammatthana nobody is normally boastful. But if by chance anyone is a bit boastful, the others are likely to laugh to themselves and turn and face the wall or go outside into the forest, for fear that they might faint if they put up with it and listened for a long time.
Amongst Bhikkhus of the same group, if one of them is inclined to be boastful, the others all dislike it, for they say he is worse than cats or tigers who know how to hide their claws and fangs better than this raving Bhikkhu. After all, they only spread their claws and fangs in situations that warrant it. But we who are human and also Kammatthana Bhikkhus should consider carefully in a refined and subtle way before speaking out. If then we brag boastfully without shame or consideration for the place, people or time, the others may misunderstand and think that such a Bhikkhu is a Kammatthana monk who knows no shame. All those who are experienced in Dhamma will probably be reluctant to associate with such a monk, thinking of him as being worse than ordinary good lay people. Because of this it is difficult for anyone outside the field of those who equally do the practice, to know the level of citta and the level of Dhamma of those who practise — except of course with those who are boastful, and plenty of people will probably know their level already. But they don’t ask because they are not interested.
Those Bhikkhus who practise the way properly do not like talking much and tend to keep to themselves, quietly, so as to accumulate Dhamma within themselves more and more all the time. This Dhamma they cherish and guard and they do not like to let it out and spread it about without good reason which would be like picking fruit before it is ripe, or selling things before one has bought them, which is considered to be a bad way of doing things in the world. Those who practise are all, from the lowest right up to the Acariyas, very careful of this, for the reason that speaking about one’s own inward Dhamma, which is just one’s own “wealth”, and telling other people who are strangers about it, people in whom one has no reason to feel especially confident, is not knowing what is suitable and proper in oneself, in society and in all forms of Dhamma. It is just “selling oneself” instead of doing what is useful and what brings good results.
This not only concerns Dhamma which is by nature entirely subtle, but also the world where decent people who are endowed with the wealth of civilised behaviour know how to be modest and careful. They are not boastful nor do they show off, which would display a vulgarity within them which would be vexatious to other decent people and leave a “bad taste in the mouth”. Far more valuable than this is Dhamma, which is the wealth of those who are the wisest in this world, and one should be careful and cautious with it. This is appropriate for one who has a basis of Dhamma in his heart, not letting go of his restraint and scattering it about all over the place as if Dhamma was a thing of little value, which is a sorry sight in the eyes of those who practise the way and all other Buddhists as well.
Those who practise the way therefore keep a proper reserve in themselves and in Dhamma. Even though I who am writing this am not imbued with knowledge as keen as the wisest of men, yet I know how to respect and look up to them. For this is a way of maintaining quiet modesty and humility in oneself so that one does not become haughty and vain, like a monkey that has got hold of a crystal ball without knowing how to use it properly. All he can do is carry it along with him while he swings from branch to branch in the forest at the edge of a deep chasm. After going a short distance, both of them fall into the chasm and both he and the valuable crystal ball are smashed to pieces. This example should make us think, both those who go the way of the world and those who go the way of Dhamma, how we should not be like this monkey with its crystal ball who makes a mess of the world and Dhamma. For this can become a chronic disease spreading into an epidemic which destroys both the world and Dhamma without any foreseeable end.
There are some Kammatthana Bhikkhus who have only been ordained a few years, yet they practise well and resolutely by themselves, and they are an example and an ornament to those who practise the way well. There are still many of these Bhikkhus, all of whom are amongst the last generation of Venerable Acharn Mun’s followers, and at present they are working hard in themselves to hurry the development of their practice. In the future we will have to rely on these Bhikkhus to be the strength of the Sasana and to be the leaders when the present Acariyas who are the Elder disciples of Venerable Acharn Mun have all gone, for this is the natural course of events which we cannot help thinking about.
Today, this Bhikkhu or that person dies. In a few days another one dies and so it goes on from day to day, month to month and year to year, and the time comes when it is also this Acariya’s time to go. For all these things are unstable and uncertain and each one of us is going about step by step in this world of uncertainty in the same way the whole time. None of us know when we ourselves or anyone else is going to make a false step which may drop us into the pit of anicca — in other words death. The Acariyas therefore teach that we ought not to be careless and indifferent to our sankharas — which means ourselves. Those Bhikkhus who are determined and resolute in their striving without letting up or giving way may have had some deep insight into the “law of decay and destruction”, which nobody can avoid. Because of this they swim on in all sorts of different ways without giving up or backsliding in their efforts.
Sometimes they may have to conform to orders from the local government authorities who ask them to leave the hills for a period because the area is not safe for the Bhikkhus or for other people. This is because of trouble in the local villages when different factions arise which are antagonistic to each other, and amongst them there are both ferocious bad people and also good people but it is not worth the risk of staying there. As soon as the area has become peaceful again and they can go there without fear of danger they will return to live and practise the way as they choose. These Bhikkhus still feel uncomfortable and restricted in having to follow the requests of the authorities by leaving the forests and hills for a more ordinary environment, even though the place where they go to stay is still forest which is fairly quiet and isolated without much disturbance. The reason for this is because of the ease with which they were able to do the practice which always brought results to them in such places. In addition, such places suit the disposition of those whose aim and hope is towards Dhamma and this is strong within their hearts and always present in their characters. So they don’t want to depart from those places where they have found happiness and contentment in their hearts. For when they go to another place they feel very uncertain about their practice and whether it is going to be equally as good as they have been accustomed to.
The Hardship of the Kammatthana Bhikkhu
The Dhutanga Kammatthana Bhikkhu whose heart is intent on attaining that state where there is no discontent (dukkha), willingly accepts that he will probably come across nothing but lack and insufficiency in all external things as part of his practice. In other words he likes to go and live in places where things are insufficient and hard to get. But apart from the natural lack of things in the environment where he lives, there is also his own willing intention to go without things and to live a life of poverty. The food which he gets on pindapata may be plentiful, but he only eats a little of it, perhaps only the rice, even though he was given other food as well. He may decide to fast some days or for several days at a time, or perhaps to alternate doing now one way now another. While doing bhavana, he must look and see what results of calm and skilfulness his citta gets in the direction of mindfulness and wisdom. He must watch and define what methods give better results than others. Then he must strive to go that way all the time.
Sometimes he may fast for several days and then eat less than normal. Or else he may eat less than normal for a few days, followed by a complete fast for four or five days and then eat normally or less than normal as he sees fit. In observing the state of the body (dhatu–khandha) and of the mind or heart it is necessary to keep a watch on both of them at the same time. If the body feels too tired and weak he should increase his food intake by a reasonable amount, but not as much as the body calls for all at once, for this would depress the citta too much. He may for instance increase his food by fifty or sixty percent above the meagre diet that he has been taking. If however he feels that his body is functioning abnormally due to malnutrition, he must stop fasting and dieting entirely for the time being, until his body has had time to recover. After which he may gradually start dieting or fasting again.
Those who are most likely to progress steadily by using these methods are those who are characteristically suited to them. Even though they ought to ease off for the sake of their health when their bodies show signs of malnutrition and weakness, generally the heart does not want to give way. They still want to go on dieting or fasting continually, because they have already seen the resulting development which takes place in the heart every time they do so. But if they have to ease off, they should try to find a balance which is enough to satisfy the needs of the body and the citta, so that their progress will be smooth in accordance with their intended purpose.
When dieting or fasting for a long period of time it is quite normal for the body to be somewhat hungry, tired and weak, but if they let themselves get troubled and anxious about this hunger and weakness they will not be able to keep on doing it. This is one of the ways in which suffering comes in the practice of Kammatthana, therefore those Kammatthana monks who are hoping for calm and happiness of heart will generally have to make themselves accept hardship and poverty the whole time even though they do not like doing it. But their characteristic tendencies and their hope in Dhamma make it essential for them to do and to put up with these things.
It should be understood that where we talked of alternatively fasting and eating or dieting and eating, this did not mean just for one or two months, but trying to keep it up all the time, for years; or until they become quite certain in their own hearts that there is no need to do so any more. Then the citta can go on from there comfortably and smoothly without obstruction, they can stop using those methods and revert to more usual ways of practice in regard to the body and mind.
But generally speaking, from what the writer has observed, those things that are called “kilesas”, of whatever type and however much or little, are always bound to manifest as our enemies with whatever power they have remaining in our hearts, for never have the kilesas been any respecter of persons anywhere at any time. Therefore, those who practise the way and who believe deeply in their hearts that the kilesas have been their enemies are not likely to be complacent and let the kilesas flourish by being over confident and thinking:
“The kilesas will become our friends and no more will they create poison and harm causing us to experience more suffering and trouble.”
Rather do they see full well that:
“If we destroy them right now, so that none are left, this will indeed be entirely satisfactory and by far better than letting them stay there to bring more harm to us sometime in the future.”
This is the fundamental motive which drives them on without let up in striving to follow and round up the kilesas in various ways such as by dieting or fasting. For these are methods of helping and supporting their mental striving which makes their practice of samadhi very much more easy than normal, and they are not ready to relax or give up these methods which have always given such good results. In fact it is generally true to say that they are not likely to relax those methods of striving and struggling to climb upwards by training and discipline which they have seen to give good results, even after many years. For there are good and compelling reasons which are bound to make them strive in these ways.
There are many Bhikkhus in this lineage who have used the ways of dieting and fasting to aid their striving by way of the heart. It is probably more effective than other methods such as, not lying down and therefore they have always liked the way of fasting, right up to the present day. If one has already used the methods of dieting or fasting it is also probable that there will be no need to give up lying down, for it will tend to happen of itself without any deliberate intention. This is because dieting and fasting tend to overcome drowsiness and sleepiness which disappear of themselves. They can then spend the whole night without lying down and without feeling drowsy or sleepy as they would when eating food normally. For them, lying down and resting for a while is only for the purpose of gaining strength of body so as not to let it get too weak and exhausted and not because drowsiness compels them to lie down and sleep — not while they are dieting and fasting. For the fact is that after they have been on a diet or have fasted for three or four days, all drowsiness and sleepiness which would otherwise lead them to lie down and sleep disappears. This makes it easy for them as there is no longer any need to force themselves not to sleep. Then concentrating attention and controlling the mind become easy. The citta is not so wild and playful in its various accustomed obsessions (arammana) and mindfulness is not so easily lost in forgetfulness. They are then able to know those various situations and things which they come across much more quickly than in normal times when they are not dieting or fasting. When they practise for samadhi they are able to drop into a state of calm easily, and in going the way of wisdom they are much more skilful and quick than they normally would be.
These Bhikkhus see the value of dieting and fasting and how it brings advantages and makes it much easier in many ways for those whose dispositions are suited to it. So they endeavour to keep on doing it even though it may bring them more hardships than they would normally encounter, for their inherent tendencies of character bias them to go that way and they must put up with these hardships. They cannot use the method which is both easy and expedient like those who have gone the way of “Sukhapatipada khippabhiñña” — easy practice and quick insight — for their inherent tendencies are not suitable for this way. They are more likely to be amongst those whose way is “Dukkhapatipada dandabhiñña” — difficult practice and slow insight. Therefore they must go against their inclinations, “swallow” the hardships and take up this way with full commitment so as to “swallow” the calm and happiness — which is samadhi, and also to “swallow” the skilfulness which is mindfulness and wisdom down into the heart each time.
They have got to concentrate dukkha into the body and heart in a very big way to start with, to the point where they can hardly stand it, and there is also some danger that if their constitutional strength is not enough, they may die before they gain results. When one thinks of the struggling and striving of each one of those who practise the way before they can experience the taste of Dhamma each time, one cannot help but feel deep sympathy for them; for each time they must put up with a lot of deprivation and hardship. It is good however, that there are still some Bhikkhus who are prepared to oppose their natural inclinations and put up with the deprivation and hardships which are necessary all the time in their training and discipline without relaxing or slackening in their striving. But once they have taken a drink of “sunlight and moonlight” from the flow of Dhamma by the way of their practice, they no longer have to put up with the deprivation and hunger experienced in countless lives of all sorts of becoming and birth which the citta has grabbed and held on to in its countless wanderings.
If they look into the truth of what the citta is bound to come across in the various circumstances which they will surely meet up with in future lives, it will make them feel wearied and sick of carrying these burdens. For they are bound to be born again and again and to experience these things endlessly, unless they hurriedly endeavour to cut them short right now, so that all their heavy burdens may be made lighter, or got rid of entirely — which means that they shed the burden entirely. Seeing in a way that penetrates to the heart just how baneful is this samsara which has become bound up with each individual who has made his contract with it entirely by himself, is what makes them resolve to put forward the whole of their strength every time they go down inwardly for the purpose of striving on without giving way, relaxing or weakening and saying that they cannot stand it any more. But in fact they go on with outstanding and earnest determination, fighting for their own salvation to become foremost amongst people. They are not lacking in any aspect of striving, nor are they deficient in putting up with the hardships in doing their work — their duty. Mindfulness and wisdom, their skill which enables them to fight and destroy their kilesas is generated and arises all the time, every minute. Even the greatest dukkha is not likely to make them give up in their efforts to be self-restrained, to put up with hardship and to hit back at the kilesas until the dukkha breaks up and falls away from them and they can emerge from it, no longer ready to accept their own inferiority. This is appropriate for those who are the followers of the Lord of the “Ten Supernormal Insights” (Dasabalañana) who was a bold and valiant warrior and who never consented to ease off nor evade these hardships.
However thick and obtusely the body of the kilesas, which are dukkha and its origin (Samudaya), are wrapped around obscuring the sphere of the heart we must strive to undo them, to cut and tear them away by attacking them with mindfulness, wisdom, faith and effort which are our weapons, until the wonder of Dhamma becomes apparent, arising in the sphere of the citta, such as one has never before experienced even in the remote past. It is the heart itself which is wonderful beyond what one could ever have imagined and after this nothing will ever again be able to hold it in subjection. This is the Dhamma that reaches the “shore of death” as Venerable Acharn Mun expressed it at the time when he had reached the end point after the fight was over — which has been described in the “Biography of Venerable Acharn Mun”.
It is this Dhamma which all those who practise the way struggle to reach so as to pay homage to it all the time, without weakening in their striving while trying out various methods which in most cases are resolute, severe and ascetic, such as we have mentioned before, but none of these methods give any scope for easing off or relaxation to cure their weariness at all. If the Lord Buddha was still alive and should meet them while they were energetically striving to fight the kilesas and all their dukkha with patient acceptance of their difficulties, he would surely praise their efforts and encourage them soothingly saying: “All of you who are outstanding in your striving for the sake of Nibbana, the Supreme Abode, are followers of the Tathagata. At present you are displaying courage and resolve in fighting against the enemy with all your strength so as to destroy all further becoming and birth by rooting out this tendency from your hearts without giving up, and so that your fame and honour should spread and be proclaimed loudly throughout the three realms of existence. For are you not striving to dig out the original root which is the chief enemy — in other words avijja the all powerful one who leads beings into birth and death — and doing this with mindfulness and wisdom that is sharp and penetrating? We the Tathagata express our appreciation and approval of this and may you strive to make Nibbana clearly apparent within your hearts quickly, with urgency. The Supreme Dhamma is waiting to fall into your hands, for you are at present strong and clever in the ways of mindfulness and wisdom.”
Thus he would lift them up and encourage them to increase their resolve by speaking soothingly to them so as to arouse strong and lasting faith and a fighting spirit by using gentle words. He would gently and persuasively talk to them, increasing their strength of resolve by expressing his appreciation of the striving of these “sons of the Sakya” who are going to reach Vimutti Dhamma in their hearts in a short while. For they will bring the wonder of Dhamma to the world to cure the sorrow, grief and confusion of all people who are in a state of trouble and turmoil with the kilesas and tanha which spread a coating of poison everywhere. For there is no cure for this apart from the cleansing power of the Dhamma remedy, which goes down to the heart as given by those who have the wonder of Dhamma within themselves.
As for those Bhikkhus who should be able to gain victory over the enemy because of their persistent striving, the Lord Buddha is not likely to come to express his appreciation nowadays, for he has already attained Parinibbana and there are no longer any bodily constituents left. But the Lord’s pure heart is a constant presence which is unshakeable, even beyond death, giving assurance that: “Whoever sees Dhamma sees the Tathagata.”
What we have repeated in the foregoing passages is some further explanation of the ways of striving associated with dieting or fasting as done by those Bhikkhus who practise with resolve in this way. As for the results which they should get from this, may the reader try it and find out for himself by following the gist of what we have already explained above. I who am writing this am quite certain about the practices which are described herein, both in regards to those things which are to be done — the causes — and also the results which come from them, that they are in harmony with each other. Because those things which have been described are things which I have done and practised and gained results from. Therefore I have written about them so that those who are interested may also take them up and practise them, and maybe gain the same kind of results.
Sitting in Samadhi for Many Hours
Those Bhikkhus who like to train and discipline themselves in other ways, such as sitting in samadhi practice for many hours on some occasions, use this to train themselves according to circumstances. I consider that sitting for long periods of time brings more dukkha and torment than any other method, due to the unpleasant feelings which bombard those who do this practice. If mindfulness and wisdom are not able to keep up with the painful feelings which concentrate together to attack them so strongly that they can hardly find anywhere in the body and mind to relax they are not likely to be able to go on resisting them and sitting there much longer. The “throne of samadhi” which is usually well polished will break away within a few hours without any ceremony. Because the painful feelings quickly spread to all parts of the body both big and little. Even the backs of the hands and feet feel as if they are on fire, all of which makes them anxious and restless both physically and mentally. As for what goes on inside the body, it seems as if every one of their bones where they are joined to each other, are about to break apart and separate, for the pain is spread throughout the body. Apart from this, their hearts become agitated with the fear that the body is just about to die at any moment. So they are in trouble both in the body and in their hearts, afraid that they will not be able to stand up to it much longer.
The painful feeling which comes at that time will arise and die away three times before reaching the most intense and painful period. Each time it arises, it remains quite a long time before it calms down and subsides on its own without anything being done to reduce it or make it easier to put up with. After it has calmed down and eased off giving a short respite it then begins once again, and this happens three times. Each of these periods of painful feeling must arise and establish themselves and penetrate throughout the body in all its parts both big and small, then it remains there for some time until it gradually dies away and becomes calm. But when they reach the fourth period which is the period of the great “dukkha vedana” — or one may call it the period in which the armed forces of the great dukkha reach right up to the “throne” where one is sitting in samadhi at that time, one may reckon that the army of the great dukkha has reached one’s self. Every part of the body will then be as if it were burning in a mass of flames; externally, as if it was being roasted over a fire and internally, as if it was being beaten by hammers and stabbed with sharp steel daggers. It seems that the whole body is in agony, as though about to break apart and fall into bits until it becomes dust, dispersing and spreading apart due to the power of the pain and torment which is burning and destroying every part of it.
From the moment when this greatest dukkha vedana becomes established in the body, one has no time to move about or fidget so as to get some relief in one’s body at all, for there is nothing left but pressing and squeezing and smashing and beating it to bits. Up to this time the citta may have been contemplating other aspects of Dhamma, but now it will have to withdraw from it so as to turn mindfulness, wisdom and all its strength to enquire into the question of one’s life, and to do this in real earnest. Otherwise the body and mind will become a sea of flame, because these most excruciating painful feelings are “trampling the body under foot” and destroying it, and at the same time disturbing one’s heart, making it quiver and shake with the fear of death. One fears that one will not be able to withstand it, for it seems to oneself that this body is turning into a mass of fire and there is no part of it where one can put one’s attention, and relax, that has not been affected by this painful feeling.
From the start when they first sit down up to the time when the period of the most painful feeling just begins it is probable that anyone doing this who has not yet experienced this last stage, will not know which is the lesser and which is the greater of these periods of pain. It is quite likely that they will assume one of the lesser periods to be the greatest possible, whereas in fact they are merely its “offsprings” and the greatest one is still dormant, yet to wake into activity. But those who have already been through it before know straight away which period of feeling is which, for the most painful of them will only appear after about five or six hours. Before this there are only minor periods of painful feeling which are rather like children coming to play and tease and make a nuisance of themselves. But those who have never sat for long periods of time and who have never met such feelings before should begin to meet up with the “children and relatives” of painful feeling in the early stages — in other words, in the first two or three hours. This brings dukkha and restlessness from that time on and if mindfulness and wisdom are not able to catch up with this situation and correct it one may not be able to withstand it and go on sitting much longer. Then one may dismantle the “throne of samadhi” within the first two or three hours and feel satisfied that one has withstood the period of maximum painful feeling until one could stand it no more — even though this period of maximum dukkha has in fact not yet even started and one has not truly reached the stage when one can break away from it.
But those who are used to sitting in samadhi meditation who have experienced calm of the citta enough to know about it and who are also used to sitting for fairly long periods of time — such as three or four hours regularly will probably have known and experienced feelings of dukkha of various kinds to some extent. If they have not experienced the final period of the greatest dukkha, they will probably say that the lesser forms of dukkha which arise two or three times and then die away and become calm, are the greatest dukkha. But once they have truly met and experienced the greatest period of dukkha, those lesser forms will seem to be quite mild, because the differences between the two is very great — like an elephant compared with a cat!
When the greatest period of pain has arisen, it seems as if every part of the body hurts and aches with pain all over, as if it really is just about to break up and fall to bits right then and there. The heat on the backs of one’s hands and feet is very intense, as though someone had built a fire on them to cook up some food, and the bones in the various parts of the body are as if someone has taken a hammer and is hitting them and pounding them until they all break up. Because the painful feelings become so excruciatingly severe and all embracing until in the end there is nowhere that one can put the body and the citta to get any relief, for the whole of it seems to be a mass of fire. The only things which can stand up to it at that time are mindfulness, wisdom, faith and effort, aided by patient endurance which supports one’s refusal to give up and withdraw one’s forces and lose the battle to the enemy who is fighting with every bit of power that he has, as though he is going to smash one to bits and grind one to powder right then without giving one any chance of survival. When it is driven into a corner such as this, the citta cannot find any way to escape and it is forced to dig in and fight as a matter of life and death, using mindfulness and wisdom to get at the truth of the body and citta which it may only come to know and experience by means of striving.
Wishing that the painful feelings should stop and disconsolately thinking that one will not be able to stand up to it are aspects of “samudaya” — the cause of dukkha — which enhances dukkha, making it stronger and more intense. At this time one must under no circumstance allow thoughts of this kind if one does not want to lose out in a graceless unseemly manner. All one has left is mindfulness and wisdom which one must arouse by using various skilful means to cope with the feelings which arise at that time, by discriminating between the body, feelings and the citta, examining them and comparing them side by side — until one knows the truth of each of them quite clearly by means of wisdom.
In separating out the body from the others, one should go to the focal point where dukkha seems to be stronger than elsewhere and single it out for investigation. Thus for example, if a bone in the leg, or the knee is the most painful, one fixes one’s attention on that place and establishes mindfulness to investigate it with wisdom, by questioning: “Is this bone really the pain, or is the pain this bone? If the bone is really the pain, why does the bone not disappear when the pain goes? For if the two are identically the same, both must go together in order to conform to the truth of nature. Furthermore, after a person has died, all painful feeling in the body is at an end, yet the bones are still there, and when the body is taken away and cremated, do the bones give rise to any pain or not? If they do not give rise to any dukkha in the sense of painful bodily feeling at all, right up to the point when the fire burns them down to ashes, to think as people usually think, that the bone itself is the pain when this is evidently not the case should make one ashamed in the face of the bones and all the other parts of the body which have similar characteristics. For none of them are the painful feeling itself in the way that people talk about them. And again, if the pain and the bone were truly the same thing, this bone has been there since the time one was born, so why does the pain only rise at times, such as while sitting here in samadhi? Why is the pain not continuous, much as the bones themselves are continuous, being joined one to another as they have been since the beginning? This being the case, to believe that this bone is dukkha or that dukkha is the same thing as this bone is bound to be false — a belief which contradicts the truth — which should make one feel quite ashamed in the face of the truth which does not conform to one’s beliefs and assumptions at all.”
While one is disentangling the bones and feelings so as to find out the truth about them, the citta, mindfulness and wisdom must be fully attentive and truly committed to what they are doing. One cannot afford to let the citta go elsewhere, for one must be fully involved with what one is investigating, and one must go on investigating going back and forward and all over it until one understands it clearly. It does not matter how many times one goes over the problem, but only that one goes on investigating until one understands, which is the main purpose of what one is doing. When one has understood quite clearly in regard to one part of the body, the citta will probably penetrate all the other parts of the body which have the same characteristics, automatically, on its own.
After doing that he will go straight on to separate feelings from the citta without any break, to examine them and compare them together, looking into them in detail, thoroughly, with mindfulness and wisdom. This is done in the same kind of way as was used to separate the body from feelings for investigation, by putting up questions to ask oneself, such as:
“The citta is the same as feeling, or feeling is the same as the citta, is this true? If the citta is truly feeling, as I have supposed, when painful feeling dies away and disappears, why does the citta not also die away with it? And if feeling is identically the same as the citta, then whatever way the citta goes, this painful feeling must go along with it and it cannot die away and disappear. But in fact, painful feelings both arise and cease while the citta goes on, knowing and being the citta throughout time, for it does not die away together with feeling? This being the case, does it not contradict the truth and make one ashamed in the face of the truth to stick to the view that the citta and feeling are one and the same? — or to think in a way that “swallows the truth” so that it turns into falsehood, and goes the way of crazy, wild forms of knowledge and understanding such as this?”
To analyse and distinguish between the body and feeling, or between the citta and feeling, it is essential for mindfulness and wisdom to move about quickly, with agility throughout the field of the work that one is doing. One cannot let them go out to anything else at that time for the more intense the painful feeling becomes, the more must mindfulness and wisdom go on investigating it without stopping, in order to come to know those things which one wants to know, to see and to understand. Whether the feeling becomes more intense, or abates or disappears, it is important that one should know it clearly in the sphere of one’s investigation. It is also important that one must not be anxious for the dukkha to disappear before one’s investigation has brought understanding of the truth of the body, feeling and the citta and how they are each different and separate from one another.
What in fact is the truth about oneself? To find out one must go on investigating until one understands the body, feeling and the citta. After having truly understood by means of mindfulness and wisdom, one will have realised that:
“The body is just the body and one no longer accepts the usual view that it is dukkha and feeling. Feeling is just feeling and again, one no longer accepts the view that it is the body and citta. Even the citta is just the citta and one no longer accepts the view that it is body and feeling in the way that one used to think, based on the mere assumption and guesswork that one had before one did this investigation and came to understand the situation.”
As soon as mindfulness and wisdom have thoroughly investigated all sides of the problem, all painful feeling disappears immediately and it never gets worse than that on any future occasion. The citta then goes down into an absorbed, concentrated state which is fully integrated such that it accepts no stimulus at all. Or it may happen that the citta does not actually go down into absorbed concentration to the point where it is fully integrated and quiescent, but it still does not get any disturbance from feeling. In other words, the body is real, feeling is real, the citta is real, each is real in itself and each of them exists in its own way in accordance with its true nature. At this time when each is real in its own way, one will see the wonder of the citta and how valiant it is, in that it has been able to pull one away from all feeling in the most wonderful, incredible way. In addition there also arises an imperturbable courage in the face of any “life or death” situation which one comes across, nor does any fear arise any more. This is because at that moment one saw clearly for oneself what the nature of feeling is and how it has deceived one and made one afraid of life and death. After that, however intense feeling may become, the heart is able to examine it in the same way as it has already done so and understood its nature. To know and see in this way is to know and see the truths of Dhamma (Sacca–Dhamma) with true mindfulness and wisdom. Even though one may not know and see the level of unshakeable resolve which attacks the kilesas causing them to fall and be utterly destroyed, yet it will penetrate to the core of the kilesas without their being able to offer any resistance. So one must depend on this method as the one to use for one’s further development.
Those who have the courage to fight against painful feeling by using this method of investigation are not likely to pull back their army and give up the throne without being able to find a way out. They are without doubt bound to grasp victory by using this method, as well as coming to see the fresh and new footprints of the Great Master (Sasada — the Buddha) and his disciples (Savakas), one by one on the path along which they went. In this, they may also be inclined to forget that the Lord attained Parinibbana more than 2500 long years ago, because the “Truth” is the same thing as the “Great Teacher — the Sasada”. For the real “Sasada” is not limited to time, place or people all of which have changed and gone and which we look upon as being far away in the past, separated from us by more than 2500 years. But we should realise that wherever the “Truth” is, there also is the “Sasada”, because Dhamma arises from the Truth which has been investigated and fully comprehended — and by no other means.
Therefore, those who are able to investigate painful feeling until they reach the truth of the body, feeling and the citta will steadily come to see Dhamma quite clearly, and this Dhamma does not depend on the time or the place to prove its validity. This is illustrated in the recorded teachings of Dhamma where it says: “Behold Ananda, if the practice of Dhamma is still being done in a way that is appropriate to Dhamma, the world will not be void of Arahants” — and this is the teaching which has just been taught and the sound of it has gone just a moment ago. For the true Dhamma does not depend on the right time or the right moment, because in truth it is always there, and nothing is superior to the “Truth” throughout the Threefold Universe.
This explanation of the method of investigating painful feeling is only a brief summary which should be enough to show the way to those who have the characteristics of a warrior, a fighter whose aim is to salvage himself and curtail further birth and death. Not one who gives up and lets his future births be endless, haphazard and scattered about in the various possible realms of birth. For his aim is that of vimutti — freedom — freedom from all concern about the mass of dukkha, great or small in the endless future. For this is what causes so much anxiety and is such a burden to the heart. So in order to search for a way-out he uses the method of investigation by taking up this mass of dukkha which is there in the khandhas. Like an abrasive stone, for sharpening up his mindfulness and wisdom so that they becomes very keen. Then depending on skilful expedients, to change and cure himself by all sorts of methods, of which there are so many kinds that it would be quite impracticable to mention all the details of them here. Because the investigation into every Dhamma requires a technique which each individual must devise and use for his own liberation.
One who tends towards contemplation and reflective thought will find the way of escape from the mass of dukkha in the prison of the round (vatta) of samsara. Nibbana will be his dwelling place, with eternal peace and happiness. But those who are afraid of dukkha may refuse to do any investigation, which is like keeping a thorn that has become buried in one’s foot and letting it stay there and get worse until it suppurates and becomes infected, painful and throbbing, so that one lies down groaning. It may even get worse than this until it causes damage to the foot so that it becomes useless, disabled and lame. On the other hand, those who see the danger hurry to pull out the thorn and get rid of it, and however much it may hurt they put up with the pain while pulling it out. Then they know that the pain won’t last long and it will all heal up in a few days. By doing this, the pain does not go on causing torment for long, and the day soon comes when it is all healed and they become free from all dukkha and trouble. And this is because of their courage in facing up to dukkha so as to bring happiness (sukha) to themselves. We may reckon that people who act like this make blessings and good fortune for themselves that is rightly directed and as it should be.
Those who have the courage to fight and to investigate the painful feelings within the khandhas, act in a similar way, for however much dukkha they have, they are able to go on investigating it until they know that they have reached the whole truth, and they don’t keep holding on to this dukkha to start a fire to burn themselves for a long time to come. That which we call Nibbana will be their treasure bringing satisfaction to their hearts one day for sure and this is bound to be so.
The Lord said that dukkha should be defined and known — defined until it is truly self-evident to the heart — as we have already explained above. This is called: “Defining, knowing and abandoning the two Truths (sacca)” — these being dukkha and the cause of dukkha (Samudaya), by means of the Path (Magga) — which means, mindfulness and wisdom, both of which work together at the same time to extract the defilements.
The Lord said: “Dukkha should be defined and known and the cause of dukkha should be abandoned.” But if one does not bring in mindfulness and wisdom, both of which are factors of the Path, to define, know and get rid of them, what else can one use to do this? “Nirodha” is the quenching of the defilements and the whole mass of dukkha. But in order that there may be a way for the quenching of dukkha, it is essential for mindfulness and wisdom to be brought in and put to work. When this is done, dukkha will at the same time be steadily reduced until finally it is completely eliminated due to the power of the Path. So this can show us a way of escape from dukkha.
The inter-relationship between all four of the Noble Truths is therefore of such a nature that they cannot functionally be separated. They must all work together simultaneously like a chain, from beginning to end. Whatever strength the mindfulness and wisdom which are factors of the path, may have, they will weaken the various kilesas accordingly. So that they even come to the point of Nirodha — the cessation of all the kilesas and dukkha — which gradually quenches them in accordance with the strength of the Path, until finally there are no kilesas or dukkha remaining within. Then a state of complete purity arises inside, without there being any need to go and look for it anywhere else, for it is right there in the heart which is completely free of all kilesas. This is what is meant by the “Real Buddha”, the “Real Dhamma”, and also the “Real Sangha” which is this state of Purity. What is “Dhamma”? It is this state which is the “True Dhamma”, which the world has always paid homage to and longed for through past ages.
Those whose aim and desire is to experience and see what is meant by the “Real Dhamma”, in a way which goes deeply into the heart, should not overlook or neglect the training of the heart which is always ready to become Dhamma throughout at any time. But how can we interpret the real meaning of the word “Dhamma”? We can go on finding meanings for it until we “reach the seashore”, without ever being satisfied. We can try to explain its meaning with as much imagination and skill as we like, but our doubts will never be set to rest in this way. Like someone who has never seen the “finest jewels of the first water”. He may look at photographs of them and pictures of them piled as high as a mountain, but they are still only pictures of them and not the real jewels themselves, so they cannot get rid of his uncertainty or bring him any satisfaction. For this can only be brought about by seeing the genuine finest “jewels of the first water” as they actually are. So it is with Dhamma, the nature of which remains deep and mysterious while we have not yet found it, for it matters not how much we read or learn about Dhamma, it will still be like the pictures of those precious jewels being shown to someone who has never seen the real thing — it will never bring us real satisfaction.
In order to get rid of our uncertainty as to the real nature of Dhamma, we should learn all about the heart, which is the direct way to learn about Dhamma. The more we learn and know of the heart, the more we get to know about the real nature of Dhamma — until we come to the point where we know Dhamma throughout, in our own hearts. When our hearts know the complete story quite clearly, all our doubts and uncertainty will be set to rest immediately and doubt will never arise again.
As to the question, “What is Dhamma?” It is that which we know and see just here in our own hearts; what else could it be and where could it come from? But although we know it full well in our own hearts, when we come to try and explain this true Dhamma as it really is, there is no way to do so at all, and all we can do is to use similes and talk a lot. It is like getting an irritation in one’s throat, one does not know how to scratch it or to get at the sore spot. However one scratches, one can only do so externally and one can never reach the actual spot, even though one knows in one’s mind where it is quite clearly.
Therefore it follows that, what we call Dhamma is of a very recondite, subtle nature in the understanding of people everywhere, and there have always been many who are confused and uncertain and who ask bothersome questions about it. But there has never been anybody who can explain it in a way that others can understand sufficiently well to make them feel fully satisfied. There is also no likelihood that this situation will change in the future. But those Bhikkhus who practise the way and discipline themselves strictly and unremittingly, such as by sitting and fighting painful feeling with unrelaxing mindfulness and wisdom without giving up, are likely to find that Dhamma, which is so difficult to interpret and explain, much more quickly than would normally be possible.
Most of the Acariyas whose Dhamma is determined and resolute and who come to teach the way to others, have attained it by methods such as we have outlined above, far more than by the usual methods of developing gradually little by little. When they come to teach others they are also likely to do so in ways that are characteristic of the methods which they used in their own training — teaching in forceful, provocative ways, both as to their manner of speaking, the tone of their voices and the Truth of Dhamma, all of which blend together — as they did with Venerable Acharn Mun for example. But those who are determined to reach the true Dhamma find that when they listen to such teaching, it reaches their hearts and brings results, much more than with the more usual forms of teaching.
I who am writing this am a forest monk with inherently rough characteristics. So my temperament is such that I like the assertive, determined way of teaching which is never insipid. The kilesas are still very coarse, so I like what is hard and rough. The heart then submits easily and is afraid to be high spirited, arrogant and provocative. Like when I used to think that I was more bold, fearless and clever than my teacher, while I had still not met anything hard and penetrating to cut me down to size. Venerable Acharn Mun knew the nature of such smart useless people and how they would only give way to strong corrective methods frequently applied, rather than more mild and gentle methods. After having taken this special, powerful and penetrating medicine, such people only have to hear the sound of Venerable Acharn, or even just his name, for the busy meddlesome ones to crouch in submission or run into hiding faster than a monkey, which is the best thing that could happen and entirely appropriate. Even now, this busy meddlesome one here, is still afraid of Venerable Acharn and dare not “swing from branch to branch” in a most daring and exciting way, for the moment he recalls Venerable Acharn he submits and gives way immediately.
When one talks about the inner Dhamma with those Bhikkhus who like to go wandering in search of wild places to practise the way; or those who like to go and stay in lonely places which arouse fear; or those who like to fast for the purpose of increasing their efforts as much as possible; or those who like to practise samadhi for long periods of time and to tackle painful feeling using mindfulness and wisdom; or those who like to train and discipline themselves in various other ways, such talk is truly wonderful to hear in a way that is impossible to describe. For the Dhamma which they relate each time is Dhamma which has truly arisen from the heart, and whether it is strange, peculiar or wonderful, it is rare to hear such things. When relating these things, if one watches their behaviour they will be seen to be solemn and well controlled, which suggests that what is within them is awesome and in keeping with the true Dhamma which flows out of them and which makes one have profound confidence and faith in them. But when they are with other people in general, they behave as if they are fools who know nothing about the ways of Dhamma at all. They speak little and have no liking for associating with others, preferring to live by themselves, alone. They like to go about on their own and dislike giving talks on Dhamma or talking with others in general — as if they truly know nothing at all.
When however these Bhikkhus are with their intimate friends and they talk together, the listener can hardly keep up with what they say. One can hardly imagine where the Dhamma comes from, for it comes out in a torrent like water flowing free of all restriction, and without ever repeating themselves. Each time one listens to them, they speak about different aspects of the Dhamma which is entirely within them. When one thinks about it, it would seem probable that the day and time will come when they know Dhamma arising in their hearts continually, which is fitting for those who strive diligently and have no fear of death and do not look on the cemetery as being their final conclusion. For when they reach the end of their lives, whatever sankharas are still there, they will probably dispose of them without any longings or regrets. How different this is from the average run of people — as different as the earth and sky! In eating food, whatever they get is good enough. In dwellings, wherev
er they rest and sleep, it is good enough. However things go with them, it is good enough and they are not concerned or anxious about how it is going to be in the future, or how it has been in the past. They are light and unburdened, their ears are very keen, and their hearts are firm and resolute — as if a diamond were buried in them. When they walk “cankama” they go on for many hours, either by night or by day for they resolutely strive as if it was all one night for them. When they sit in samadhi bhavana, their bodies are like a post and they remain there for many hours. For they act as if something unusual and wonderful had arisen in them, or so it seems to us who see them and admire all their ways and find nothing in them that we should blame. In fact, they are good examples to all of us in all their ways and actions.
With such people as described above, even if they were full of kilesas, they would all be destroyed by this kind of effort. If the kilesas were physical beings, they would all be lying dead in great heaps. Some would die where the Bhikkhus walk “cankama”, some where they sit in samadhi, some near the trees which they shelter under, some on rocky ground where they sit in the open, some at the mouth of a cave, under overhanging cliffs, in jungle graveyards, in the places they sit, stand and walk striving to practise the way, and some of the kilesas would die where they lie down to sleep under the mosquito net; this is how it would be all round the place where they do their work. In fact if the kilesas were living beings with physical bodies like animals and people, the forest, where the Bhikkhus work to get rid of them, would be frightful graveyards full of all sorts of cadavers, ghosts and fearful spirits, killed by the force of striving in various ways, until it would become impossible to cremate and bury all of them. If any timid person, afraid of ghosts, were to go to such a place they could hardly breathe and must get out quick and go home because of the ghosts of the kilesas that had been killed and destroyed by those who were not afraid of death in the battle of the “round of samsara”. In fact there is a very large number of them including those that died in the past and in recent times, by being beaten out and forced out, all over the place making a sorry sight such as we would never have seen before. But those who destroyed all these various kinds of kilesas by means of their striving, gained happiness and contentment and cured all their worries, concerns, depression and melancholy states, and happily enjoyed their great inner wealth which is so excellent and theirs alone. Nothing ever gets into it to cause disturbance and trouble, which is so different from wealth in the outside world, for all that one possesses is just waiting to slip through one’s hands and disappear for all sorts of reasons. For one may lose one’s wealth by frittering it away and destroying it oneself, by thieves stealing it, or by countless predators of all sorts; so that in sleeping, sitting down, or whatever else one does, one is anxious, because one must watch and guard it all the time. Even then, wealth is also a danger to its owner in another way, as in the Dhamma aphorism: “Lobho dhammanam paripantho” — greed (lobha) is a danger to Dhamma — in other words, to all forms of calm and peace. Those forms of Dhamma which are what we call calm and happiness are not likely to be able to develop and thrive as they should in one whose heart is infected by greed, which is bound to destroy and wipe out all that he has without remainder.
Therefore those who are anxious to gain happiness and increase of heart with Dhamma as their rest and support must think well about themselves and look on greed with apprehension as being a great destroyer. They must also be strict, unyielding and firm with that which is always waiting for a chance to destroy the Dhamma which is within their hearts, and they must never be easy and give way to it, letting it take charge of them — for it can lead to their death, even while they are still living.