Yoga and Buddhism

By Desmond Yeoh SC

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I recently read the Autobiography of Ajahn Mun for a second time and this time round, I am astounded by the consistencies between the Yogic and Buddhist teachings.

In the article, the Formation of the Universe, we explained that the Chitta was first formed from Shakti Energy when the universe was initially created. Within Chitta, two opposing forces exist; the first one is the force that draws the Universe back to God. It is the Wisdom that seeks out the truth and is called Buddhi or Sattva. The second force pushes away from God towards separation or Materialism. It is a Force of Repulsion. The force is attracted to the enjoyment of the material world. This force is not bad but is necessary for creation.

Chitta also exist in everyone and the Buddhist Monks use the term to describe their mind or heart. It is not the thinking mind (referred to as Manas) they are referring to, but rather, the deeper meaning as explained above.

The Buddhist Monks refer to the Force of Repulsion existing in One’s Chitta as Kilesas. Kilesas are the negative mental habits or thoughts that draws us away from the Divine/Sattva or Enlightenment (referred to a Nibbana in Buddhism). The Force of Repulsion is also described as avijjã (ignorance).

The Buddhist Monks spend their entire time battling these Kilesas with just two tools, Wisdom and Awareness. They know that the Kilesas can never defeat these two weapons and they often push the Kilesas to the extreme until the Chitta has no choice but to move into the peacefulness within (Buddhi/Sattva) for relief. Below are examples from the Autobiography of Ajahn Mun (1870 – 1949):

“They (the forest monks) used a variety of techniques to intensify their meditation; experimenting until they found the ones that best suited their character. They tried:- going without sleep; reducing the amount of food they ate; fasting entirely for as many days as they could reasonably manage; walking in meditation all night, from dusk until dawn; sitting in samãdhi for many hours at a stretch; sitting in samãdhi all night, from dusk to dawn; sitting in samãdhi on a trail used by tigers when entering their lair; sitting in samãdhi at night on forest trails frequented by tigers; sitting in samãdhi in a cemetery on the day a corpse was being cremated; sitting in samãdhi at the edge of a precipice; venturing deep into the mountains at night looking for a particularly scary place to sit in samãdhi; sitting in samãdhi late at night at the foot of a tree in a tiger-infested area, relying on the threat of danger to help the Chitta attain calm. These methods were all practiced with the same aim in mind – to torment the Chitta, and so forcibly tame its unruly nature”.

“When a monk discovered that any one or more of these techniques matched his individual temperament, he used it to good effect, focusing his mind and strengthening his resolve, thus achieving his objective and learning many valuable lessons in the process. For this reason, dhutanga (Ascetic) monks actually preferred such harrowing practices. Ãcariya Mun himself had used them and so liked to encourage his monks to do likewise, insisting that this was the way clever people trained themselves. These techniques have never been abandoned – they are still being practiced by dhutanga monks today”.

The Forest Monks attempts to maintain full awareness of their thoughts so that whenever any kilesas arises, which often go unnoticed by the average person, they will immediately battle them with Wisdom. Please read ‘How an Ascetic Monk overcame his fear of Ghosts’ which is a good example of this battle. However, the kilesas can be simple thoughts like ‘This thing is so beautiful; you just must get it’. The wisdom part may respond, “Nothing is permanent. Eventually, I will lose this thing and that would bring suffering. Why chase after suffering and thus destroy the inner-peace which I fight so hard to attain and maintain”.

The most popular question asked in Yoga and Buddhism is, “What is enlightenment?” This is the destination and we cannot start the journey without first having at least a general direction towards the destination. The Autobiography of Ajahn Mun gave a very simple explanation:

“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”. [1]

So only when we achieve enlightenment can we put down our weapons of Wisdom and Awareness. Before that, we must be constantly holding them up because the Kilesas can attack any moment from any direction. True practitioners even sleep with these weapons in hand. Once enlightenment is obtained, the kilesas will never again arise spontaneously. The faithful weapons is no longer used to defend oneself but to help others.

[1] See also Enlightenment of Ajahn Mun

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