LUANG POR THONG APHAKARO
Wat Sanamnai , Bangkruay , Nonthaburi province
THE EXPERIENCE OF MEETING LUANG POR THIAN
Luangpor Thian , Luangpor Thong Aphakaro,Luangpor Phian Attapoonyo,Luangpor Khamkhian Suvanno, Luangpor BoonDham Auttamadhammo
I am a monk from out in the country , my parents were farmers . Before I ordained , I made merit and made offering , I would go to the monastery as the tradition goes and my parents used to do. At that time , I didn't practice yet. I ordained when I was nearly 23 years old, in 1961. Having ordained , I studied in an ordinary monastery in Udorn province . I practiced some meditation but I didn't understand it very well . In 1968 , I spent the rains-retreat in Chayaphoom province and after that I learned to give Dhammatalks in those day , in order to give talks , one had to study with a teacher.
It so happened that a lay-person form Loei province came to visit his relatives here and he had heard Luang por Thian speak Dhamma with Ajahn Maha Buathong , the latter being one of his first disciples. He practiced with Luang por Thian and he was invited to give a talk to the lay-people . This man kept talking to me , telling me all about it and it struck my mind how he could talk about the Dhamma.
I had been a monk for 7 years but still didn't know or understand Dhamma . This made me doubt and I felt ashamed of myself , I had studied some scriptures but where is the Dhamma? Ajahn Maha Buathong had studied until he had agree and still practiced too. Where is the Dhamma to be found? If I stay to be a monk for many years , when I give a talk , there might be meditation-monks present and then I would be embarrassed . So I thought to myself 'This year I have to go and practice the Dhamma , I have to go and study the Dhamma with Luang por Thian and know and understand '. As for learning how to give talks , it can wait.t
At that time , I was imagining that one would probably get psychic powers from practicing meditation and that one would be able to drive in the earth , become invisible , disappear and those kind of things , because that is what I had read in the books, it said that one would get the divine eye and ear and I thought that it really was like that . That would be great ! So I decided to find a teacher . I had very high expectations , they pushed me onwards. I went to see Luang por Thian at the Buddhayan forest in Loei province . I arrived in the evening and asked to see Lunag por Thian but he had gone to his home-village to open a meditation-retreat there . I wanted to go after him ,at that time , I had very strong confidence in Luang por . I wanted to see what Luang por Thian looked like . However , the monks told me to spend the night there first and tomorrow they would take me to him, I agreed . I had a talk with Ajahn Maha Buathong but I was still thinking , I want to see Luang por Thian.
The next morning we set out to find Luang por Thian at Boo-hom village. We arrived around 10 in the morning ,I paid my respects to him . He asked me 'where do you come from?' , I told him that I ordained at my home-village in Udornthani province and that I had been studying for 7 years . I told him about my doubts and that i wanted to practice the Dhamma with him. He didn't say much , he asked 'Are you really interested ? ', I said yes . He asked 'Are you going to practice sincerely?' , I said yes. He said 'Practicing Dhamma is easy , there is no need for ceremonies and rituals , I liked that. I had alrady decided that if he told me to recite 'rising-falling' , I wouldn't do it because I found it was embarrassing. But he was talking about practicing in a simple way , being at ease , using movements. No need to close the eyes while sitting , raising the hand , lowering the hand , making movements . Hey , that sounds simple ! He showed me how to do it and I followed him. When I was able to do it , he let me do it by myself . I felf a bit embarrassed at first , I am somebody who easily feels ashamed. He told me to stay alone in a hut. I practiced alone at Boohom village for as long as 15 days but I still didn't understand.
After that, I practiced at Budhayann forest for about 1 month . Luang por come to see me everyday , 2 to 3 times . He would ask me with a few words whether I understood or not , I didn't.
Later on , one day after the chanting . I sat chatting with Luangpor and Ajahn Maha Buathong . I told him that I would probably not understand if I practiced like this. I had been ordained for 7 years and still didn't know , still didn't understand , Luang por asked me if I understood Roop-Nahm yet . No, I asked Luangpor if I could practice intensively for a while , which means not to go for the chanting , not to go on almsround and just practice by myself in my hut. Would Luang por allow me to do that?
Luang por said , 'Hm , nobody has ever done that before'. He thought and talked for a while and then agreed . It was decided . As for the food , it was up to Luang por to tell a layperson to bring it over to the hut.
I practiced intensively for about 1 week and I understand , it was just basic understanding , at first I didn't see Roop-Nahm , but later I did. I understood. Altogether , it took me about 1 month . Now I understood the meaning of ordination , even though I had been a monk for 7 years. I didn't know before , I just studied from books . Before , I just shaved my head and wore the brown robe without understanding anything about the way of life of a monk.
Understanding arose as I was doing the rhythmic-meditation , raising the hand , I was aware and knowledge arose . I know without anybody telling me . What I knew , I had never heard before and had never read in any book . Knowledge and understanding arose by itself. I saw Roop and Nahm , I saw Roop-Pa-Dham and Nahm-Pa-Dham , I saw Roop-disease and Nahm-disease , I saw convention , I saw impermanence , instability and non-selfhood , I saw evil and merit , I saw religion and Buddhism - I saw until the end. I knew all this in an instant . This is the basic stage. I knew this after having practiced intensively for 7 days but altogether I had been practicing exactly 1 month . I knew Roop-Nahm , I knew many things , it was the knowledge that comes from the defilements due to insight , It is the knowledge of analytical knowledge . Luang por had a way of teaching but I didn't know it . Even while doing walking-meditation , there were things in my mind . I was thinking about my father , I had been an orphan since I was 5-6 years old , my mother looked after me. I thought about my father , he was somebody who didn't know anything , he didn't know why he was born , he didn't know and see himself. But I couldn't help him , I could only do something about myself.
The next morning , Luang por told me to stop the intensive practice , he was afraid others would want to follow my example , if would not be fair if he wouldn't allow others to do it also , if they asked to do so . That's what he said . Nobody had done this before , one would just a practice continuously , working at the same time , there was no intensive practice. He told me to stop , so I stopped . But in my mind , I still wanted to continue practicing alone. But out of respect , I stopped whatever he said , one had to follow it.
When I was first practicing , he didn't let me look at thought , until I had stopped for 4-5 days . At that time , I threw myself into it , it was powerful , I was caught up in analytical knowledge and joy. I was bold , I wanted to be alone , I was not afraid to have a Dhamma-discussion with anybody , no matter how many degrees one might have. I knew the matter of materiality-mentality well . I had never experienced something like this in my life. This is the way it is ! The Buddha teaches what it means bo be a monk ! Even though one has ordained and studied , if one doesn't practice this , if one doesn't know and understand like this , it can be taken that on hasn't ordained as a Buddhist monk ! Before ,when studying the scriptures , I thought that it was just a matter of the past in India.
Luang por asked me ,'When it is like this , can you go back home?', I said ,'I can , I'm confident to speak with the teacher' . My teacher had been a monk for over 10 years and had studied the Pali language , he was a preceptor and the head monk of the vicinity , he had a lot of theoretical-knowledge, Luang por wanted me to go and teach.
I felf that there was something unfinished ,at that time , I had only just started . Why did Luang por say that ? I guess he had a reason for it . Luang por wanted me to talk with my parents and relatives , he wanted me to talked about my experience with them . That's how it was in the old days , but now he has changed to another style . But I'm not like other people , others , Luang por would urge on . At that time , I had ordained 7 years . Venerable Mana Buathong was one of the first disciples , later Ajahn Kamkhian , Ajahn Boondham and Ajahn Sommai came , they followed each other closely.
After this , Luang por had me look at thought . When one first sets out to practice and one knows and understands materiality-mentality , almost everybody gets caught up in analytical knowledge . Some people experience strong feelings of rapture , others don't. Luang por didn't let them watch thought , if that what the case, instead he had them to work . Others he just let them be. But he said not to be interested in thought , just let it go . The mind was thinking all sorts of good things and ideas , about the future as well as the past , thinking about teaching people , but Luang por said not to follow it .He said let the thought 'cool down' , to let them come to rest . Luang por taught with a kind of psychology, he had a way to watch peoples' minds , to watch those who came to practice . He would ask 'How are you , is your mind good or not ? Is there something in your mind or not ? Is your mind in its original state or not?' . When the mind was in its original state , just like there was nothing there , not knowing or seeing anything at all, he would tell that person to watch thought.
The Buddha was enlightened because he works with the mind. To watch the with awareness . One has to look right here . Luang por advised to look at this place . He said , 'Know thought and let it go '. He had us do the rhythmic-meditation , to be aware of movements and to watch and see thought . That's about all he said and then he would vanish.
I watched for 9 days and I saw 'objective matter , ultimate meaning and changing conditions '. It was in the evening that I saw it , there was a change in my mind . When I saw Roop-Nahm there was another kind of change but on seeing ultimate meaning , there was another change . I felt very confident at this point , I realised that I was a Noble one . Being a Noble one is to be found right here , it is not to do with shaving the head or wearing brown robes . I saw that it was right here!
Luang por taught whoever when came to practice to look at the mind , to watch the various thoughts . When there is a change in the mind , everybody should know and see it. This was his method of teaching . He would ask the pratitioners what they saw and understood . We would inform him that we knew or understood ultimate meaning or whatever it was . Before , I understood that in order to be a monk (a Noble one) , one had to shave the head , wear brown robes and stay at a monastery , but now , I understood that anybody can be a Noble one , women as well as men , one can wear clothes of whatever colour , one can have any nationality , speak whatever language or uphold any religion . This was not yet clear when I knew Roop-Nahm . I understood it but not yet cleary , but on seeing ultimate meaning , awareness was more clear and I saw things more refined .
I look at thought until I understood ultimate meaning and various other things . Luang por advised me to watch thought and to cross over to ultimate meaning. Another change took place , I saw greed, hatred and delusion , and after that there were more changes , I understood and saw in stages. I understood sickness and death , heaven and hell , evil and merit. But I didn't know in the same way that Luang por knew , Luang por knew in stages but my understanding was different.
It wasn't long before the mind changed a third time , it changed completely, I saw greed , hatred and delusion at the same time as objective matter , ultimate meaning and changing conditions . After that there were insights continuously , I saw virtue , I saw sensuality etc, until I know everything. I understood of the Buddha taught ! I practiced alone and don't talk with anyone.
One day Luang por gave a talk , he spoke all the way from the beginning of practice. I listened to what he said . I thought , ' Hey, that exactly what I've experienced and seen !. When the talk was over , I went over to talk with him , we just talked very briefly .
Since that day , for me, whatever someone may say or teach , I am completely confident that the method that I've practieced with Luang por , the method that Luang por teaches , is a short-cut , is a straight way of practice , it is a method that has nothing to do with ceremonies and rituals.
The paths, fruits and Nibbana that we are doubting about , that we're searching for , that we're trying to attain , have nothing to dot with studying , one can study or not study , it is another thing altogether. I really am confident about it .
Counting from the day that I started to practiced by myself , about 1 month and 20 days have passed , from the outer bark to the heart-wood . On the last day , I sat doing the rhythmic-meditation , I mostly sat , I walked less , it was as if I came to an end , as if I was finished. But awareness was still good , I still felt everything clearly . I was thinking by myself , 'Am I crazy or not? No, I'm not , the eyes still see , the ears still hear and I still know coming and going . I'm not crazy. Why is it like this ? '. At that time , I don't know yet. But when I knew , I relised , 'Eh, this is not wrong , this is really what the Buddha teaches!'. I went to talk with Luang por and informed him that it was like this . He said ,'Birth has ended , being has ended , the practice has finished ! '. Before , Luang por used to say that the Buddha cut his hair only once and that the Buddha kills people , but most of us don't understand these comparisions , we don't know what has been cut . But when I experienced it , I knew that things are like this . When I talked with Luang por , we didn't talk very long , when I knew , he just let me go.
During the last stage that I was watching thought , I looked at my mind changing continuously , in periods , in stages . But there must be an object to know , if one knows without an object to know , If one knows absent-mindedly , it shows that it is not right , it is still wrong , there must be an object constantly , one has to see constantly. I completely understood about the training in virtue , the higher training in virtue , the higher training of the mind and higher training in wisdom , I knew all of it ! But I can not speak in the same way that Luang por did. The way he used to talk was the things have to be like this and like that , but what I saw was more like an immediate liberation , Luang por has another style , it gose in stages. My way is different . Altogether there were 5 shifts in the mind , it happened very guickly . With the last one , I knew the stage of arising/passing that Luang por used to talk about. They say , 'The eye sees a form , it arises and passes , this is what's in the scriptures, anybody can say it , but this has nothing to do with the state of arising/passing , it is something different .
I can really guarantee this method , after Luang por has pass away , I can insist that the principles of the method that Luang por teaches are right. If one really practices , one will get results , regardless of who it is , one can be ordained or not be ordained . It is not connected with having accumulated virtuous qualities in the past , it doesn't depend on anything , this is something defferent altogether , that's the way it is !
Practicing intensively in order to aware , these are just words . One keeps to oneself , one doesn't talk with anybody , one is alone in one's hut , practicing awareness will become more continuous. This is external practice that people can see, but if the internal awareness is continuous , then , even though one doesn't stay alone , it is also intensive practice . But it is difficult , it is not easy to be constantly aware , all the time. But if one can do it , it is intensive practice . Some people can do it without difficultly , wherever one may be , in 100 people there may be 1 or 10 who can do it like that. At first , it is quite hard though , one can not yet catch the awareness and there are a lot of thoughts , awareness can't stand up to the thinking , there is only little awareness . But when practicing for a long period of time , the awareness gradually increases . But at first , one sometimes feels disheartened, awareness arises with difficulty.
When I first practiced with Luang por , I sometimes did some walking outside the hut but later , when I practiced intensively by myself , I mostly was inside the hut and didn't go outside. I used the posture of sitting more than the posture of walking . One day , when I was sitting , practicing awareness , making movements in the sitting position : one moment it was just as if things happened very fast, it was like it happened in a flash , it was a flash of lightening . To use Luang por's way of expressing , it was like a blink of the eye or a snap with the fingers.
At that time , it was as if there was something heavy and I threw it off. I felt light , I knew I was light because I had never experienced this before. I felf that something was different. But there was awareness , it didn't go anywhere . I knew that there was lightness. Awareness was stable all the way through , even while being asleep , I knew.
When awareness is perfected , dreams during sleep will become less or they might stop altogether . Ordinarily , we think a lot , but when we develop awareness , thought becomes less and less . In the scriptures , it is said that Noble ones or those with awareness and wisdom , don't dream , this is talking accdording to the books. In the day-time we think and at night we dream. One knows one is dreaming , it is similar to thinking , one knows , sees and understands it and so one knows at the time that one is dreaming.
Developing awareness through making movements with the hands, if we find that it is not convenient to do so , we can be aware of other movements such as , blinking the eyes , breathing or whatever . Awareness can be practiced in many ways , it is univeral , it can be applied to our duties and our work . But what is important is to know , to know that at moment , knowing with in oneself. We make a movement or we take hold of something, know what you are doing ! There must be one point or other to know , without having a focus somewhere , we can't catch awareness . The knowing is the most important , if we are aware of some part of the body, we will automaticly know other parts that are moving because they are connected . If there is awareness within , one knows while working . It is like turning on the light , suddenly there is brightness. It works at the same time , it conects. Just like a tight rope , when it is cut , everything Jerks.
We should trains our minds to be with awareness and watch out thoughts. Never mind if the mind thinks . It is not that we try to stop thinking . Go ahead and let it think ! But look at it. We are just the observer. Observe it continuously and let it go. Try to train like this and oen will make gradual progress , until one reaches 'that point'.
All things arise from a cause , things pass because the cause is no longer there, that is what monks teach. But we don't know what the cause is . The monk teach 'Cause-condition, object-condition' etc. There is a point where causes are finished and conditions are finished. We don't know where they went . Nobody followed to see what happened. Whether one knows or not , one doesn't see it. We shouldn't call this point the end because it would be encouraging people to do evil. It would be misunderstood by people who still don't have enough understanding . Therefore , the way of teaching is a skillful one. Luang por said , 'There is no coming and no going '. One can say as much as that . If we were to say that there is no life after death , it would jus be the end of the matter and people wouldn't do anything. They would call it wrong view , one who does good doesn't get rewarded , one doesn't get merit from meritorious actions , there is no heaven and no hell, this is a wrong teaching . There is no coming and no going , reflect on it yourself , it's up to you to figure is out or not , study if for yourself , know and see and be it for yourself. That is better than what somebody else might say. When you are and have this (knowledge) , you will be at ease . Others may want to be reborn , that's their business, but we don't come or go anywhere . We stay here . In reality , if we understood what really the end of life is , we would be at ease . Everything would be done easily and in comfort . But as it is , we don't understand , so we act out of not-understanding , we act in an ignorant way. To act with knowledge is different . There are people who know but people who don't know still don't know , even when they practice, they are not sure and not confident . But someone who knows , whatever happens , he or she is sure , whether one practices or not , one is confident . Because one knows . One can practice or not, it really is very simple. The Buddha teaches to practice simply . When we get to 'that point' , we see that the Buddha teaches very simple . It is so simple that nothing remains to be said or there is nothing left to teach . What is there to get ? There is nothing to get ! Putting is simply . The Buddha teaches to stop , isn't it ? He teaches people to stop . But we don't stop . We're not willing to stop . When we stop , it will be finished , there is nothing . But the body still goes on living , one still eats , one still does various duties and practices, the body still moves. But inside , there is stillness , there is no wanting , there is coolness , it has stopped , it is enough . We could talk in terms of path , fruit and Nibbana or whatever , there is no birth , there is no death , there is no ageing , there is no sickness , there is no going , there is no coming . These words are convention , words spread out and enlarge.
So , may all of you be able to train yourselves and prepare yourselves . Try to let appear that which exists already and when the time comes that the breath stops , it will really be very easy .