Ajahn Mun is one of the great Thai Forest Meditation Masters that brought the heart of the Buddha’s teachings back to the world. Most of the great Theravadan teachers in the west that you hear of today can be traced directly back to him – Ajahn Maha Boowa, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahmavamso, Ajahn Amaro…
So I thought I’d share a teaching from Ajahn Mun that is so easy that simple folk like Thai villagers can understand how to do it and have success with it. The principles of this method are the same as combining Pureland Buddhism (samatha) with Zen (vipassana) – so these Chinese schools use the same principle that Ajahn Mun teaches here to open their enlightenment.
Reciting a mantra stabilizes the mind so it doesn’t keep running out after stuff and once the mind is quietened down, you can then look for your own Buddho – the Buddha Nature within yourself – the “One Who Knows”, the knower, “that which is aware” of the recitation, what is that which is doing the reciting?
Now if Ajahn Mun could explain it so simply that Thai villagers with no education can make use of it and have success with it, how can we with our western education not be able to have the same level of success or even better?!
Ajahn Mun was staying near a village and the villagers were curious. They wanted to ask the monks why they just sat there for long periods and why he walked back and forth (walking meditation).
One of them asked him why he sat still and what was he looking for while walking back and forth.
‘My buddho is lost,’ said the Venerable Acharn; ‘I sit and walk in order to find buddho.’
‘What on earth is buddho?’ they asked. ‘Can we help you find it?’
“Oh yes, you all can,’ replied the Venerable Acharn. ‘Buddho is the only priceless gem in all the three worlds. Buddho is all-knowing. It would be better if you would help me try to find buddho, for then we can find buddho sooner.’
‘How long ago did you lose your buddho?’
‘Not very long ago, and with your help we can find it much sooner.’
‘How big is this priceless gem of buddho?’ the villagers asked.
‘Not so big and not so small,’ he said. ‘The size is proper to both you and to me. Whoever finds buddho is superior in the world, for he can see everything.’
‘Can he see heaven and hell?’
‘Certainly, if he knows how to find buddho. Otherwise, how could we say that buddho is priceless and superior? ‘
‘Can we see our children or husbands and wives who are dead?’
‘Of course,’ he replied.’ ‘You can see everything and everyone when you have found buddho.’
‘Has buddho any light?’
‘Yes, buddho has a very bright light, far brighter than hundreds or thousands of suns, for the suns cannot make you see heaven and hell, but buddho can.’
‘Can women and children help you find buddho?’
‘Yes, everyone can.’
‘In what way is buddho priceless or superior? Can it help protect us from ghosts and demons?’
‘Buddho is priceless and superior in so many ways that it is uncountable. The three worlds of sensuality, form, and formlessness have to prostrate before buddho. Nothing can be superior to buddho. Ghosts and demons are very much afraid of buddho. They are afraid of those who begin to look for buddho even though they haven’t yet found it.’
‘What colour is the gem of buddho?’
In the bright light of buddho there are so many colours that they cannot be counted. Buddho is the priceless treasure of the Buddha. Buddho is the source of knowledge and brilliancy. Buddho is not matter. The Buddha gave it to us a long time ago but we do not find it now. But it is not important where buddho is. If you really want to find buddho, you must sit or walk repeating to yourselves buddho, buddho, buddho. During this time you must not think of anything else. Let your thought dwell in buddho inside you. If you can do this, then you might be able to find buddho.‘
‘But how long shall we have to sit or walk to find buddho?’
‘At the outset, fifteen or twenty minutes are enough. Buddho does not want us to hurry, for then we shall be tired and cannot find buddho. This is enough for today.’
After this ingenious instruction, the villagers returned to their village. They didn’t tell him they were leaving. They just got up and went away. To them there was no saying goodbye. At the village they were questioned in earnest by the others who had remained behind. They repeated the Venerable Acharn’s instruction and said that he and his bhikkhu companion were not tigers in disguise as they had at first suspected. The villagers took great interest in his instruction and before long they were all reciting buddho with earnestness, from the headman down to the women and children who knew how to recite mentally.
The Venerable Acharn’s instruction produced wonderful results much sooner than anyone would have expected. Not long after that, there was a man who was able to find buddho through the Venerable Acharn’s ingenious method. He said that he was rewarded with a blissful peace soon after he faithfully followed that method. According to him, about four or five days before that achievement he dreamt of the Venerable Acharn, who had come to put a big candle with a bright flame on his head. In his dream he was very glad that he was able to produce a light strong enough to penetrate the darkness so many metres from his body. When later he attained to that blissful peace, he came to see the Venerable Acharn and related to him both his dream and his wonderful achievement. The Venerable Acharn then taught him a more advanced practice and told him to make more effort. He followed the Venerable Acharn’s instruction carefully and soon won a higher attainment with the additional power of mind-reading, through which he was able to know how much a person’s mind was defiled or purified. When later he came to see the Venerable Acharn, he spoke out frankly, as is the habit of hill people, that he had observed the minds of both the Venerable Acharn and his companion and now knew them very well.
Then what is my mind like?’ the Venerable Acharn asked playfully, ‘Is it evil?’
‘What,’ the old man replied instantly, ‘your mind is freed of whatever spot of defilement. It is bathed in a wonderful light within. You are superior in the world. I have never seen anything like this. You have already stayed here a long time! Why did you not teach us the first time you arrived here?’
‘But how could I?’ he replied. ‘None of you had ever come to ask me.’
‘But I didn’t know that you were a holy man, otherwise I would have come long before this. Now we know how wise you are. When you were asked why you sat still and what you were looking for while walking back and forth, you said that buddho was lost and asked us to help you find buddho. When asked what buddho was, you said that buddho was a bright gem. In reality, your mind was already buddho, but you wanted to make our minds as bright as yours. Now we know that you are holy and wise. You didn’t want us to help you find buddho for you. You wanted to help us find buddho for ourselves!‘
The news of that man’s attainment, in the dharma soon spread throughout the village. Everyone became more interested in reciting buddho and consequently they became more interested in the Venerable Acharn. And from that time on, the case of the two ‘tigers’ was completely ‘forgotten.
Every morning the Venerable Acharn and his companion would be followed by that man who came to carry his bowl for him and to also learn more dharma from him. Even when he had other business to do, he would ask some other person to tell the Venerable Acharn about his business. There were several other persons, both men and women, who were advanced in meditation practice, but the first man who attained to the dharma appeared to be the best of all.
Now that they had a correct attitude of mind towards the Venerable Acharn, everything changed automatically. Formerly the villagers had never taken any interest in whether the two bhikkhus would eat or sleep, live or die. Once they realized who he was, however, they were earnest in his welfare and comfort. Sheltering places for eating, sleeping and walking meditation were all neatly constructed without a word of request by the Venerable Acharn. They also complained lovingly to him, saying how he managed to walk like a wild hog on a track that was entangled with undergrowth.
‘You even said that this was the track for seeking buddho,’ they said, ‘and you told us you were sitting and walking in order to find buddho’. How strange you are, and how different from other people! You are supreme in the world and yet you don’t boast about it. We like you very much. Your bed is nothing but dried leaves and it is now rotting. How could you have lived with it for so many months? It’s like a sleeping place for pigs. It makes our hearts sink. We were so foolish, all of us. How blind we were!
Extract from biography of Venerable Phra Acharn Mun, Disguised Tigers chapter
Compiled by Ven. Phra Acharn Maha Boowa Nyanasampanno