Enlightenment of Ajahn Mun

From the Autobiography of Ajahn Mun (1870 – 1949)

Ajahn MunSeated in meditation late that night, the crucial moment had arrived. The battle lines were drawn: supreme-mindfulness and supreme-wisdom – the razor sharp weapons – against avijjã (ignorance), an enemy especially adroit at repulsing their advances then counterattacking, leaving its opponents in total disarray.

Since time immemorial no one has dared to challenge its might, allowing avijjã to reign supreme and unopposed over the ‘kingdom of birth and death’ inside the hearts of all living beings. But at three a. m. that night when Ãcariya Mun launched his final, all-out assault, the result was the total destruction of the king’s mighty throne and the complete overthrow of his reign in the ‘kingdom of birth and death’. Suddenly impotent and deprived of room to maneuver, the king could not maintain his sovereignty. At that moment avijjã perished, victim to a lightning strike of magnificent brilliance.

Ãcariya Mun described how that fateful moment was accompanied by a tremor that appeared to shake the entire universe. Celestial beings throughout this vast expanse immediately paid tribute to his supreme accomplishment, roaring an exclamation of approval that reverberated across the sentient universe, and proclaimed the appearance of another disciple of the Tathãgatha (an enlightened being) in the world.

Overjoyed to have witnessed this event, they were eager to offer their congratulations. Human beings, however, were unaware of the momentous event that had just taken place. Occupied with worldly pleasures, they were too oblivious to care that, only a moment before, the Supreme Dhamma (Truth) had arisen in the heart of a fellow human being.

When the awesome moment passed, what remained was pure Dhamma – the true, natural state of the citta (mind) [1] – suffused Acariya Mun’s body and mind, and extended its light in all directions. The experience aroused an indescribable feeling of great awe and wonder.

Before attaining enlightenment, mindfulness and wisdom were needed to be in a constant state of alert to combat the kilesas. Once victory was achieved, if nothing came along to stimulate his thoughts, he existed much as though he were mentally idle – a simpleton. Mindfulness and wisdom, which had been caught up so long in the heat of intense struggle, were nowhere to be found. All that remained was a timeless tranquillity that nothing could disturb, eclipsing everything else in his heart. Left totally to itself, free of all external influences, his heart did not think about affairs of the past or the future. It was as though everything had disappeared along with the kilesas – only emptiness remained.

Throughout the remainder of that night Ãcariya Mun considered with a sense of dismay how pathetically ignorant he had been in the past, being dragged endlessly from one existence to another – like a puppet. He wept as he thought of how he finally came upon a pool of crystal-clear, wondrous-tasting water. He had reached Nong Aw, that sparkling pool of pure Dhamma that the Lord Buddha and his Arahant disciples encountered and then proclaimed to the world over 2500 years ago. Having at long last encountered it himself, he tirelessly paid heartfelt homage, prostrating himself over and over again to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.

Should people have seen him then, tears streaming down his face as he prostrated over and over again, surely they would have assumed that this monk was suffering immensely, shedding tears so profusely. They probably would have suspected him of beseeching the guardian spirits, living in all directions, to help ease his pain; or else of being on the verge of madness, for his behavior was extremely unusual. In fact, he had just arrived at the truth of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha with utmost clarity, as epitomized in the maxim: He who sees the Dhamma, sees the Tathãgata (Buddha), and thus abides in the presence of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. Ãcariya Mun was simply engaged in the kind of conduct befitting someone who is overwhelmed by a sincere sense of gratitude.

That night celestial devas of all realms and terrestrial devas from every direction, paid tribute in a resounding exclamation of approval that reverberated throughout the world systems, and then gathered to listen to Ãcariya Mun expound the Dhamma. But being still fully engaged in his immediate commitment to the Supreme Dhamma, he was not yet ready to receive visitors. So, he signaled to the assembled devas that he was occupied, indicating they should return on a later occasion. The devas then left, thoroughly delighted that they had seen a visuddhi-deva on the very night when he attained Nibbãna.

Eager to hear Dhamma, all the devas came to visit Ãcariya Mun the following night. Both terrestrial devas (Divine Beings) and celestial devas arrived in groups, hailing from nearly every direction. Each group described the amazing radiance caused by the incredible power of his Dhamma the previous night. They compared it to a magnificent tremor that passed through all the celestial abodes in the vast realms of all the world systems. This tremor was accompanied by a fantastic incandescence that rendered the length and breath of the upper and lower realms ineffably translucent. They told him:

“Those of us with intuitive knowledge were able to see unobstructed throughout the entire universe due to the luminous quality of the Dhamma pouring forth from your person, venerable sir. Its brilliance was far more radiant than the light of a hundred or even a thousand suns. It is truly unbearable to think that there were those who missed seeing such a wonder. Only humans and animals, living futile earthbound existences, could be so incredibly blind and unperceptive as to have been unaware of last night’s splendor. Devas everywhere were so stunned, astonished, and utterly amazed that they let out an emphatic exclamation of approval to express their exultation at the perfection of your achievement. If it were not such an absolutely amazing achievement, how could knowledge of it have been so widespread?”

“You, venerable sir, are a person of saintly virtue, majestic power, and vast influence, capable of being a refuge to a great number of beings in numerous realms of existence. All will be able to find blessed comfort in the shadow of your greatness. Beings of every class – be they humans, devas, or brahmas, living underwater, on land, or in the air – are rarely fortunate enough to encounter such perfection. We devas consider ourselves especially blessed to have met you, venerable sir, having the precious opportunity to pay our respects to you and to receive your beneficent teaching. We are grateful to you for expounding the Dhamma to brighten our hearts, leading us on the path of practice so that we can gradually become aware of how to improve ourselves.”

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[1] For a more detailed explanation of Chitta, please read The Formation of the Universe

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