February 28 (Sunday)- Magha Puja (‘Sangha Day’)- It commemorates the spontaneous gathering of 1250 arahants, to whom the Buddha gave the exhortation on the basis of the discipline (Ovada Patimokkha). It will be a public holiday for Thailand (and some office may take Monday as a replacement day off)
Never doing the least evil,
In virtue always ready,
Purifying one’s own heart,
These three are the teachings of the Awakened Ones.
Khantī paramaṃ tapo tītikkhā,
Patient endurance burns up defilments supremely,
Nibbānaṃ paramaṃ vadanti Buddhā,
All Englighten Ones say Nibbana is the Supreme,
na hi pabbajito parūpaghātī
those who destroy life are not the ascetic,
samaṇo hoti paraṃ viheṭhayanto
those who oppress others are not recluse,
not speaking evil, not doing harm,
Pāṭimokkhe ca saṃvaro
restraint within the Training Discipline,
mattaññutā ca bhattasmiṃ
knowing moderation in taking food,
sleeping and sitting in secluded places,
adhicitte ca āyogo:
devoted in training for higher mentality,
These six are the Teachings of the Awakened Ones.
It is a short discourse but with very deep meaning. I chant this sutta almost every morning as part of my morning chanting.
Years ago, I was told by a nun who have underwent tudong (ascetic practice) that during a very difficult time when she was all alone in the forest, she asked the Buddha for guidance. She then heard an authoritative voice, "My teachings are all summarised in Ovadapatimokkha. " She then looked up the sutta and true enough, the answers to the questions that she was searching for was there. Tears came to her eyes.
Note: If you have read Ajahn Maha Boowa's biography, you would have read that devas, and sometimes Arahants who have passed away and even the Buddha come to teach monks and nuns who are practicing deep into the wilds. They appear as human form as it is a form that can be perceived and understood by a human being. Even though it is not logical, it happens to those who have achieved a level of purity in their hearts or have past affinities to be able to perceive them.
The nun also taught me that that we still need to be careful at forms or external knowledge that we are perceiving as the result of our meditation. All messages have to be examined and not to be believed blindly. If we choose to follow these forms, and gaining more ego because we thought we've attained psychic abilities, our practice will suffer. As our mind moves outward to perceive external objects, our mindfulness and concentration will weaken. The best is to direct that powerful skill back into observing our own bodies- the 32 parts of our bodies till we are able to achieve true insight and realization. If we are misled and our egos got bigger, our practice will not progress- instead, it will degenerate. The timely guidance of a good teacher is invaluable at this stage.
Teachers like Ajahn Mun and Luangta had been known to come down hard on students who have attained psychic abilities as a result of intense concentration and jhanas- and use it to perceive heaven, hells, read people's mind, etc. And students who listened to them eventually emerged as great meditation masters. Sadly, most of the first generation of meditation masters who practiced under Ajahn Mun (except Luangta Maha Boowa) have since passed on.
Decades ago, during the early years when he was a monk, Luang Phor Fan used to direct his attention outward but each time he sent his citta outwards, he would see Luang Phor Mun's face looking at him. This happened each time that he was sure that Luang Phor Mun did not seemed to sleep at all. Out of fear of being reprimanded by his teacher, Luang Phor Fan stopped sending his attention outwards- instead, he used his powerful concentration to focus inward by looking at his body and eventually saw through impermance, suffering and non self. Eventually he became a well-known vipassana teacher teaching disciples like Ajahn Suwat Suvaco. Ajahn Suwat taught Ajahn Thinassaro, who made the Thai Forest Tradition teachings known to the English speaking world through his translations.
Translating the teachings of Thai meditation masters is not about the mastery of Thai and English language, but the translations must be done from the heart. Teachers like Ajahn Thinassaro, Ajahn Panna and Ajahn Sumedho are able to capture the essence of the teachings and put it into English language. As the teachings are still available and we are able to experience the teachings of the Masters, let us not delay our practice. Start from wherever we are.... no matter how small, take a step.