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With robes and bowl preamble: The Bhikkhu Life - The Thirteen Austere Practices The Triple

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<poem> WITH ROBES AND BOWL he Bhikkhu Life - The Thirteen Austere Practices The Triple

          The Bhikkhu Life -- The Thirteen Austere Practices
     The Triple Gem or the Three Precious Ones are the highest ideals 
 of the Buddhadhamma. To the Lord Buddha, to the Holy Dhamma (Teaching) 
 and to the Noble Sangha (Order of Monks) are given veneration by all 
 Buddhists since they aspire to mould their lives according to the 
 qualities represented by these three ideals.[*]
 * [See 'The Wheel' No. 76:  The Threefold Refuge, by Nyanaponika Thera.]
     In the English language, there are now a number of books 
 describing the life of the last Buddha, Gotama, also many explaining 
 what is meant by the ideal of Buddhahood. Likewise, we have an 
 ever-growing flood of literature, translations, commentaries and so 
 forth, to help us understand what is Dhamma. Much less information, 
 however is to be found on the Sangha, especially upon the bhikkhu-life 
 of the present day. Of course those living in the Buddhist countries 
 where the Sangha is established, will know more about it than will 
 those who follow the Buddha's Path in other lands. It is to give the 
 latter a picture of bhikkhu-life that this book is written, besides 
 keeping before the eyes of those living in Buddhists lands, the best 
 traditions of the Sangha.
     While Buddhadhamma is a way for everyone, bhikkhu or lay-follower, 
 naturally the bhikkhus, since they have fully devoted themselves to 
 its practice, have more opportunity to penetrate to the heart of the 
 Teaching. To do this, they must, as indeed anyone who wishes to do so, 
 obtain experience in its three trainings (//ti-sikkha//): Learning 
 (//pariyatti//), Practice (//patipatti//) and Penetration 
 (//pativedha//). These lead on one from the other, thus making both of 
 the first two necessary. Without Learning, one's Practice (of keeping 
 the Precepts, Meditation) is liable to stray away from Correct 
 Understanding (//samma-ditthi//). Without Practice, learning is just 
 barren as far as the fruits of Penetration are concerned.
     Commentaries written later upon the ancient Buddha-word give new 
 names to Learning and Practice, calling the former Book-work 
 (//gantha-dhura//) and the latter Insight-work (//vipassana-dhura//). 
 It may have been already in early times that a tendency appeared to 
 concentrate upon either one or the other as though they were 
 alternative ways rather than complementary steps. This tendency, which 
 has persisted into the present, seems to be an expression of human 
 frailty, for it is much easier to study the scriptures and become 
 learned,[*] while largely setting aside the practice, especially 
 meditation, than it is to get down and practice all that has been 
 * [For the life of the `book-work' bhikkhu, see Buddhism, Ch. V.3 
      edited by R. Gard.]
     This separation is however, far from absolute since many bhikkhus 
 gain a groundwork of Learning and then leave the city temples where 
 they have studied for a Meditation Teacher's forest dwelling, there to 
 take up the Practice which will lead, in due course, to Penetration of 
 the Dhamma.
     Although one may gather something of the life of the Insight-work 
 bhikkhus from ancient sources, nothing seems to have been written 
 regarding them in the present day. Hence this short account which 
 attempts to outline their life as found in Thailand (the position in 
 other Buddhist countries is unknown to the writer).
     A bhikkhu undertaking Insight-work bases his life upon the three 
 great foundations. These are: strict observance of the //Rules of 
 Training// (as contained in the Vinaya-Discipline) which he has 
 undertaken to keep at the time of his Acceptance (the higher ordination -- Upasampada). He is one who takes the earnest exhortation 
 of Lord Buddha to heart:
           "Devoted to virtue should you dwell, O Bhikkhu, 
           devoted to the discipline of the Sangha and 
           restrained by that discipline! Perfect should be 
           your conduct and behaviour! Seeing danger in even 
           the slightest fault, you should train yourself in 
           the rules which you have accepted."
     Secondly, he follows his Meditation Teacher in the application of 
 the //Austere Practices// (//dhutanga//), being guided by him as to 
 how and to what extent he should practise them. The first foundation 
 above ensures purification and the removal of obstacles while the 
 second gives rise to strong renunciation and to contentment with 
 little. Thus both become good, indeed necessary, bases for the third 
 foundation of his life, the actual Meditation Practice (//bhavana//).
     Something should now be said about these Austere Practices.[*] 
 Lord Buddha refused to allow extreme asceticism, with which he had 
 experimented before his Enlightenment. However, he did recognize that 
 a certain degree of austerity would be useful in the training of 
 bhikkhus. For instance, we find that in the Four Nissaya (supports) 
 recited to a bhikkhu upon the occasion of his ordination, he is to: 
 (1) wear rag robes, (2) eat almsfood, (3) dwell at the foot of a tree, 
 (4) have fermented cow's urine for medicine.
 * [Fully described in the `Path of Purification' (//Visuddhimagga//), 
      Ch. II.]
     Further, we see from the lives of many bhikkhus in the time of 
 Lord Buddha that the Dhutangas were widely practised, for the early 
 Sangha was a community in which the wandering, meditative life was the 
 normal one. As examples we have the greatly venerated Maha-Kassapa who 
 was acclaimed by Lord Buddha as the foremost among those who lead 
 austere lives; while the first of his disciples to gain insight into 
 the Dhamma, Anna Kondanna, dwelt secluded throughout his life in the 
 depths of the forest.
     With the establishment of permanent viharas, which began even in 
 the Lord Buddha's days, together with the necessity of preserving the 
 Buddha-word, memorizing and learning came to have increased 
 importance. Not all learned bhikkhus practiced and thus Dhutangas were 
 left for those who wished to practice meditation.
     It was also stressed that for a person whose character was 
 strongly rooted in hatred (//dosa//), these Austere Practices would 
 not be appropriate, being liable to increase self-hatred. On the other 
 hand, with characters rooted in greed (//lobha//), faith (//saddha//) 
 and mixed-rooted (so-called `balanced') characters, the dhutangas 
 could help greatly in the cultivation of renunciation and contentment.
     The differences between a thudong bhikkhu and one who practices 
 severe asceticism (some yogis in Hinduism, some Christian monks, etc.) 
 are worth noting. The latter start with some species of view that 
 there is a permanent spiritual entity (//atman//, soul) enclosed in, 
 or even imprisoned by, the fleshly body begotten of and begetting 
 further the so-called `lusts of the flesh.' Holding to such a view, 
 the body becomes something despicable and then hateful as it seems to 
 thwart one's search for the spiritual. Then follows `mortification of 
 the flesh' to quell the evil arising from the possession of such a 
 body (see for instance, the case of Henry de Suso (Heinrich Seuse) 
 related in William James' //Varieties of Religious Experience//). Such 
 attempts to `control' desires are really only extreme examples of 
 repression effected by means of self-inflicted torture. To begin to do 
 this, one must hold a view which hates the body and the outcome of 
 such asceticism will be greatly increased body-hatred. Masochistic 
 tendencies, where present, will also be gratified. All this can hardly 
 be said to indicate a healthy psychological state and Lord Buddha has 
 many times criticized these ways as unskilful (//akusala//). His words 
 found in the Dhammapada (verse 304) show the insufficiency of 
 `exterior' asceticism, which must fail to accomplish salvation.
           "What is the use of your matted hair, O witless 
           man! What use your garment of antelope's hide? 
           Within you is a tangle (of passions); outwardly 
           you clean yourself."
     In Buddhist Teaching, the inter-dependence of mind-body 
 (//nama-rupa//) is emphasized. Moreover, it is the mind which has 
 charge at the helm, while materiality (//rupa//) is a passenger. As 
 the Dhammapada stresses in its first and second verses: "Mind precedes 
 all states and is their chief, they are all mind-wrought..."
     A Buddhist knows that he has acquired his present body through his 
 own craving (//tanha//) and that it is in the //mind// that one must 
 look to find the source of all unskill including all types of greed 
 and all hatred whether for self or other. The Dhutangas are therefore 
 a mainly physical discipline with a psychological basis and are 
 invaluable as a complement to the greater part of the Dhamma which is 
 a psychological discipline based on materiality (i.e., the 
 `possession' of a human body). The thudong bhikkhu thus makes use of 
 these practices in so far as they help him to discipline himself in 
 the promotion of skilful mental states like renunciation and 
     These thirteen Austere Practices allowed by Lord Buddha [*] have 
 been characterized as a moderate and sane ascesis; they are as 
 * [The //Buddhist Dictionary// notes: `These 13 Ascetic exercises are 
      all, without exception, mentioned in the old sutta texts but 
      never in one and the same place; Majjh. 5, 112; A. v, 181-190" 
      Niddesa has 8 of them at M. Nid 1, p.188 P.T.S. edn.]
     I. Refuse-rag-wearer's Practice (//pamsukulik'anga//) -- wearing 
          robes made up from discarded or soiled cloth and not 
          accepting and wearing ready-made robes offered by 
     II. Triple-robe-wearer's Practice (//tecivarik'anga//) -- Having 
          and wearing only three robes and not having additional 
          allowable robes.
     III. Alms-food-eater's Practice (//pindapatik'anga//) -- eating 
          only food collected on pindapata or the almsround while not 
          accepting food in the vihara or offered by invitation in a 
          layman's house.
     IV. House-to-house-seeker's Practice (//sapadanik'anga//) -- not 
          omitting any house while going for alms; not choosing only to 
          go to rich households or those selected for some other reason 
          as relations, etc.
     V. One-sessioner's practice (//ekasanik'anga//) -- eating one meal 
          a day and refusing other food offered before midday. (Those 
          Gone Forth may not, unless ill, partake of food from midday 
          until dawn the next day.)
     VI. Bowl-food-eater's Practice (//pattapindik'anga//) -- eating 
          food from his bowl in which it is mixed together rather than 
          from plates and dishes.
     VII. Later-food-refuser's Practice (//khalu-paccha-bhattik'anga//) 
          -- not taking any more food after one has shown that one is 
          satisfied, even though lay-people wish to offer more.
     VIII. Forest-dweller's Practice (//Arannik'anga//) -- not dwelling 
          in a town or village but living secluded, away from all kinds 
          of distractions.
     IX. Tree-root-dweller's Practice (//rukkhamulik'anga//) -- living 
          under a tree without the shelter of a roof.
     X. Open-air-dweller's Practice (//abbhokasik'anga//) -- refusing a 
          roof and a tree-root, the practice may be undertaken 
          sheltered by a tent of robes.
     XI. Charnel-ground-dweller's Practice (//susanik'anga//) -- living 
          in or nearby a charnel-field, graveyard or cremation ground.
     XII. Any-bed-user's Practice (//yatha-santhatik'anga//) -- being 
          satisfied with any dwelling allotted as a sleeping place.
     XIII. Sitter's Practice (//nesajjik'anga//) -- living in the three 
          postures of walking, standing and sitting and never lying 
     It will be noticed that the dhutangas help a bhikkhu to find 
 contentment with the first three of his Four Requisites (//paccaya//): 
 Robes (No's I, II), Almsfood (III-VII) and Shelter (VIII-XIII); the 
 fourth of his Requisites, not covered here, is Medicine.
     As regards their present practice in Thailand, III, V, VI, and VII 
 are most commonly found amongst thudong bhikkhus. Having and wearing 
 only three robes is also widely practised (II). Individual thudong 
 bhikkhus may gather rags, stitch them together, dye and then wear them 
 although made-up robes are so plentiful that this not so common (I). 
 The fourth practice is the normal kind of almsround in many Thai 
 villages where every house gives a spoonful or so of rice to every 

In the towns, IV is not practised, it being more usual for

 bhikkhus to have a few houses where he is invited to call each day. 
 All thudong viharas comply with VII. The next two are practised 
 subject to the conditions of the weather for fierce sun or torrential 
 rain make them both impossible. The eleventh may be recommended by a 
 teacher for the practice of some of his disciples according to 
 character while XII is a special aspect of that contentment which all 
 bhikkhus must cultivate. 

The last Dhutanga has been mentioned below as

 a communal practice in some viharas upon Uposatha-day. When a bhikkhu 
 practises this individually, he will usually only do so after 
 consulting his teacher and, lest conceit arise, he will take care that 
 others do not know that he practises in this way. It is likewise true 
 of all these practices that they are to be undertaken in seclusion and 
 a real thudong bhikkhu always shuns the public gaze. The //Buddhist 
 Dictionary// says, quoting the Puggala-pannatti: "These exercises are 
 however properly observed if they are taken up only for the sake of 
 frugality, of contentment, of purity, etc."
     The Thai word `thudong', however, has a rather wider connotation 
 than that of these practices themselves. It is applied to anything 
 connected with them and thus we have: thudong-vihara, thudong-bowl, 
 thudong-life and so on. As the Dhutangas may be practised either 
 strictly, middlingly, or mildly according to the standards laid down 
 in the //Visuddhimagga//, so there are many variations in thudong 
 practice and different teachers place different emphases and therefore 
 different viharas have different conditions.
     For 2500 years and more, this thudong life has been lived by 
 bhikkhus in many different lands. Not much can be found to record 
 their life since those who take the thudong way are not usually 
 writers and carry out their practice in seclusion. In Thailand, many 
 of the ancient records, religious and secular, were destroyed in the 
 conflagration of the capital Ayuthaya in 1767 CE. Still, we know that 
 there were before that time, many Arannika (forest-dwelling) bhikkhus. 
 Probably our oldest records now are the temple wall paintings from the 
 early reigns of the present dynasty. They illustrate thudong bhikkhus 
 undertaking the thirteen practices according to the three grades of 
     At the present time there are a good number of viharas where this 
 way of life with its three foundations is taught by experienced 
 teachers. Most of them prefer to be well away from the commotion of 
 city life, the distractions and luxuries of which are far removed from 
 the thudong ideal.
     Finally, it is interesting to record that a large stupa (or 
 cetiya, -- `relic-monument') with thirteen white pinnacles piercing 
 the blue sky, is now being completed in a large thudong vihara named 
 after that great Indian monarch who helped in widely disseminating the 
 Buddha's Teaching, the Emperor Asoka. In the topmost cetiya will be 
 enshrined relics of Lord Buddha whose life was this very thudong way, 
 while below will be placed the ashes of a famous meditation teacher 
 who had followed his Great Master's way with devotion, until his 
 recent death.
                              DAILY LIFE
           Control of the senses, contentment, restraint 
           according to the Patimokkha and association with 
           friends who are noble, energetic and pure in life, 
           these are the very basis of the holy life for the 
           wise bhikkhu.
           The bhikkhu who abides in the Dhamma, who delights 
           in the Dhamma, meditates on the Dhamma, and who 
           bears the Dhamma well in mind, does not fall away 
           from the sublime Dhamma --
                                               (Dhp. 375, 364)
     It is rather difficult to write about the thudong bhikkhu's daily 
 life as the conditions in which they live are so different. However, 
 there are certain features of this life which are general and these 
 may be taken as a basis for this outline.
     The material which is presented in this and succeeding sections is 
 composite in origin, some of it being experience heard from others and 
 more again being stories told of others. Therefore we shall speak of 
 `the bhikkhu' or `our thudong bhikkhu' and present all these varied 
 sources under this anonymous label. While doing this, it should be 
 borne in mind that much of what will be said is quite common 
 experience for those following the thudong life.
     Wherever the thudong bhikkhu is, whether in a cave, in the forest, 
 or in some other solitary place, his day begins early and with 
 stirred-up vigour he rises. All is quiet except for the night-sounds 
 of some insects and perhaps the swishings of bats -- and at such a 
 time, long before dawn, say two or three o'clock, conditions are 
 excellent for the practice of meditation. Of course, our bhikkhu, 
 unless he is very skilled, will have to shake off Mara, (the 
 personification of evil) in the guise of sloth-and-torpor 
 (//thina-middha//), for this aspect of the Evil One would urge him to 
 loll abed until daybreak. Instead he rises and after refreshing 
 himself, fixes his mind upon his meditation- subject which he had put 
 down the night before upon going to sleep. Making the triple 
 prostration to the Three Jewels, quietly intoning, "Namo tassa..." and 
 perhaps the Three Refuges, the bhikkhu, his mind rightly directed and 
 guarded, settles into his meditation. 

The extent to which he is able to fix his mind upon his subject, to prevent the arising of the five hindrances [*] (//panca nivarana//) and make it more and more

 one-pointed, will depend of course upon his own progress and ability. 
 The two greatest obstacles which he will encounter will be the 
 sloth-and-torpor already mentioned above, and distraction 
 (//uddhacca//); and between these two his mind is liable to vacillate 
 as Odysseus' boat dodging between Scylla and Charybdis. Being wrecked 
 upon one or the other will be a common experience for him in the 
 beginning. When he finds his mind to be like a fountain bubbling up 
 ideas, phantasies, memories, anticipations and so forth, he sits 
 firmly upon his seat unmoving employing mindfulness (//satipatthana//) 
 until the mind becomes quiet. But when sleepiness creeps into his mind 
 and interferes with his bodily posture, then he gets up and practises 
 his meditation while walking up and down. 

If he is settled for some

 time in a cave or in the forest, he will have made his walking place 
 (//cankamana//) even, and neither too long nor too short. Pacing 
 steadily up and down, sleepiness leaves both the mind and body and 
 after some time, with the mind made one-pointed, he may try standing 
 practice. After bringing the mind to a fully quiet and one-pointed 
 condition in this position, he may return to fruitful practice 
 * [See THE WHEEL, No. 26: The Five Mental Hindrances.]
     His practice will be concluded when the cockerels, birds or 
 alarm-clock inform him that daybreak is at hand. Then, if he has them, 
 he will offer a candle and a few sticks of incense and, having 
 reverently prostrated, our bhikkhu will intone his morning puja to the 
 Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The standard formulas for this, found so 
 many times in the Pali Canon, gain deeper and deeper meanings which 
 become clear to him as his devotion (//saddha//) deepens and as his 
 practice makes progress. Indeed, when our bhikkhu's calm is well 
 established, the slowly chanted phrases do not disturb at all and they 
 may even be the basis for insight (//vipassana//). 

He may supplement

 these standard chants with others selected according to individual 
 preference or tradition: among the latter will be the meditation chant 
 upon the 32 Parts of the Body, the Pali of each repulsive part being 
 followed by a translation into his own language, just to make their 
 significance quite clear. This may well be balanced by the meditation 
 chants of loving-kindness (//metta//), first filling himself with this 
 spirit to get rid of inward conflict and then spreading out his loving kindness to other beings. [*] It is also usual to chant the 
 Recollection-before-use of the Four Requisites of a bhikkhu (robes, 
 almsfood, shelter and medicines.) The reason for doing this is that 
 the true purposes of the Requisites then readily come to mind during 
 the day when he is actually using them. 

Finally, our bhikkhu chants a

 sincere wish that the merits which have accrued through this chanting, 
 be made over for the good of all beings. Perhaps, being in Thailand, 
 he may use the beautiful, "//Ya devata santi viharavasini...//", even 
 more excellent when intoned in the rising and falling `//sarabhanna//' 
 style of chanting. This chant is now beloved in Thailand since apart 
 from the merit of its meaning and the euphony of style, it was 
 composed by the greatly respected and deeply religious king, Phra Chom 
 Klao, known to the West as King Mongkut (reigned C.E. 1851-1868).
 * [For many of these chants see THE WHEEL No. 54: The Mirror of the Dhamma.]
     Now is the time for our bhikkhu to prepare himself to obtain that 
 medicine which will allay but not cure the greatest disease -- hunger. 
 He will see that his bowl is in order, clean and tightly bound in its 
 sling. Then rolling his two upper robes together (uttarasanga and 
 sanghati), he is ready to set out. A few remaining possessions may be 
 secured by him in his bag and hung up in some safe place to await his 
 return; however, his three robes should go with him since in ancient 
 days cloth was not always easy to obtain and even now the double outer 
 `cloak' (sanghati) is expensive to make and must thus be guarded 
     Many things may happen on his almsround (//pindapata//), the 
 subject of another booklet in this series. [*] His almsround is not 
 only to collect food for himself since it serves two other important 
 aspects in Buddhist life. On the one hand he gives lay-people a chance 
 to make merit (//punna//) by their acts of giving, while on the other 
 he trains himself in many good qualities at this time, for as he goes 
 his way collecting food, so he cultivates humility, loving-kindness 
 and compassion, mindfulness and perhaps his meditation subject.
 * [See THE WHEEL No. 73: The Blessings of Pindapata.]
     Having taken sufficient food to last the day and knowing at the 
 same time moderation in quantity, the bowl has then to be washed and 
 dried carefully so that it will not rust, returned to its sling and 
 tied to its stand, being then ready to be taken anywhere.
     If the bhikkhu is temporarily resident in one place, he will then 
 engage in some walking up and down. This is in accordance with one of 
 the discourses of Lord Buddha which recommends this form of meditation 
 exercise to ward off sleepiness after having taken what is usually a 
 substantial meal. Having thus established himself once again in 
 mindfulness, he may take up any work which has to be done. It is 
 difficult to list all the possible jobs that he may do at this time 
 but readers should realize that he tries to be as self-sufficient as 
 is practicable. Even though he has but few things (see section on 
 "Wandering"), these have to be kept in good repair. 

For instance, it

 is important for him to keep his robes mended. Going through jungles, 
 thorns catch and tear and there is always ordinary wear and tear; in 
 fact, the thudong bhikkhu is well aware of the household truth -- `A 
 stitch in time, saves nine.' A thudong bhikkhu's robes are usually 
 well-patched and look as though they have seen long service. Or he may 
 make certain things from bamboo or wood, and many a thudong bhikkhu is 
 very skilful at such manufacture. A bowl-stand is needed or the bamboo 
 shafts of his //crot// (umbrella-cum-mosquito-net) must be replaced, 
 or he may make quantities of toothbrush-and-picks out of bitter wood 
 to give to other bhikkhus. 

Our bhikkhu may be conversant with the

 medicinal properties of the herbs, trees and climbers which grow all 
 about him, and compound from these, with honey, milk, red peppers and 
 fruits, medicines for many diseases. Then again, he may manufacture 
 out of tins, wire and fine white cloth, a collapsible candle-lamp 
 which no wind can blow out; or perhaps he is gifted in the ability to 
 carve and if so he may fashion small pieces of hardwood or ivory into 
 images of Lord Buddha. He may, if he lives in a cave, like to adorn 
 the mighty walls of his residence with drawings of the Buddha all 
 executed in simple colours from the earth round about.
     If there were many thudong bhikkhus in this world, they would 
 truly be the bane of modern commerce which insists that man's 
 happiness depends on having many things and that he buys them in 
 particular and new brands, from others. Quite contrary to all this is 
 the thudong bhikkhu, whose ways are directly set against the worldly 
 stream where it is not a multitude of things impermanent which bring 
 happiness -- but contentment with little. Thus lightened of the 
 clutter of things he goes more swiftly towards his goal of 
     Or, if his pindapata has been long and his food got with 
 difficulty, he may feel bodily tiredness and lie down mindfully. This 
 is usually done by lying on the right side placing a supporting roll 
 of robes (or pillow if he has one) under the upper half of the body, 
 the head being supported in the palm of the right hand while the elbow 
 of that arm rests on the ground. This was the lying posture 
 recommended by Lord Buddha and balanced thus, it is not possible to go 
 to sleep while mindfulness will be maintained.
     Whenever he feels that his body is light, all tiredness gone, we 
 should picture our bhikkhu sitting down cross-legged upon his 
 sitting-cloth and arousing mindfulness and all the other salutary 
 factors of meditation, and then striving to succeed, or perhaps 
 succeeding in his subject of meditation. He may sit for many hours at 
 a stretch especially if he is skilled, or he may vary his sitting with 
 more walking and even, if his back becomes tired, with lying down. The 
 latter posture can only be practised during the day as sleep is liable 
 to overcome him if he lies down during the hours of darkness. He may 
 also find it helpful in moments of mental stress or when he is 
 experiencing too much of the monkey-mind.
     His meditation time will take him round to early evening when, the 
 heat of the day over, it is the usual time to do the sweeping. If he 
 lives in a meditation-vihara there may be large areas to sweep. If in 
 a hut in the forest, then only his hut and its surroundings. But this 
 work is quite unnecessary for one who is living under his crot 
 wherever he has pitched it and he will probably not have a broom 
 anyway. General mindfulness at this time is accompanied by the 
 `sweeping reflection': 

Just as this broom is sweeping away dust, so

 may this meditation practice sweep away the defilements (//kilesa//). 
 There are some other excellencies to sweeping: for instance it is a 
 chance to test the strength of the calm (//samatha//) which has been 
 developed mostly in the sitting posture. Also it is good exercise for 
 the body after sitting still most of the day. Our bhikkhu does his 
 sweeping rhythmically and silently.
     Next comes the time for bathing, perhaps in a forest pool or 
 river. Taking his bathing-cloth our bhikkhu goes -- not with the 
 worldly idea of enjoying the water but bearing in mind an aspect of 
 his body's repulsiveness which makes it necessary to bathe. He 
 reflects: having got this body through craving (//tanha//), one has 
 daily to wipe off the sweat which oozes out of it, and the dirt which 
 sticks to it, otherwise if would quickly become evil-smelling and 
 unbearable both to oneself and to others. This also applies to his 
 robes which require washing frequently while at this time he may 
 occasionally have to dye his robes.
     Returning, still bearing his meditation-subject in mind if he is 
 able, there may be some allowable drink awaiting him at his abode to 
 refresh him further. Nains (novices) are expert at preparing these 
 from jungle fruits adding sugar or honey, while if hunger disturbs him 
 much, one of the bitter fruits allowed in the Vinaya may be taken with 
 salt, sugar and perhaps some chili. Before he takes these, he will 
 reflect carefully upon the real reason for doing so, according to the 
 passage repeated in his morning puja.
     If we were watching him, we should soon notice the care that he 
 takes so that no small creatures come to destruction. Before he pours 
 out his drink, he inspects the glass to see whether ants or other 
 insects are inside. If there are, he removes them very gently to a 
 safe place. In lifting the glass and putting it down, he takes the 
 same care and even when a mosquito alights on his body, it is not 
 squashed but blown away for even the smallest creatures must not come 
 to death either through his intention or through negligence. 
 Harmlessness (//ahimsa//) has for him many practical applications.
     The time has come now for his evening meditation and taking his 
 seat refreshed in body, he makes further endeavours in governing the 
 mind. Perhaps before he begins, Lord Buddha's oft-repeated exhortation 
 comes to mind: "What a master can do for his disciples, wishing them 
 well, out of compassion and sympathy, that I have done for you. Here, 
 O bhikkhus, are the roots of trees and secluded places. Practice 
 meditation, O bhikkhus! Be not negligent lest you regret it later! 
 This is my exhortation to you." And so we may imagine him sitting long 
 into the night, as long in fact, as he can keep off sleepiness. When 
 this becomes too pressing, he lights a candle and some incense and 
 begins his night chanting. If he knows much Pali, this may continue 
 for a long while softly and steadily proceeding with that euphony 
 peculiar to this ancient language. It is recorded in commentarial 
 stories that the gods came to listen to the Pali chanting of those 
 bhikkhus living in wild places, who had pure hearts.
     At last finishing, after again making over all merits for beings' 
 happiness (for one should not have greed even for merit), he lies down 
 mindfully bearing in mind his meditation-subject and the necessity of 
 arising early to proceed with his practice.
                          THE HAND OF DEATH
           Ere long, alas, will this body lie upon the earth, 
           unheeded and lifeless, even as a useless log.
                                                       (Dhp. 41)
     Living in sylvan solitudes is not always, alas, ideal, for dukkha 
 must show its fangs from time to time to remind our bhikkhu, if indeed 
 he needs reminding, that it is in a world subject to birth and death 
 that he lives. Having got himself into the condition of being born, he 
 and all other beings will surely die.
     This lesson he learned from close acquaintance for he recently 
 lost a good companion. He was an intelligent young man recently 
 ordained as a nain, one who would have been well capable of 
 understanding the Dhamma. He was able to live the thudong life and to 
 enjoy it to his profit -- a not inconsiderable combination of factors.
     His life ended suddenly when he was about twenty years old, for he 
 fell over a forty-foot cliff and dashed his brains upon the rocks 
 below. Our bhikkhu was the first person to reach the nain after having 
 raced down a circuitous path. Little enough could he do. Telling 
 another nain to run into the nearest village for a stretcher, he knelt 
 beside his only other companion on the rocky hill where they lived. 
 The nain's breathing still functioned but in great, irregular gasps. 
 Blood, already clotted, oozed from the sundered skull and trickled 
 from many other cuts and bruises upon the body, arms and legs. Death 
 was near at hand.
     Taking a rosary from his bag, the bhikkhu opened one of the nain's 
 hands and placed it there. It would thus act as a skilful object of 
 touch (//phassarammana//), if the nain's touch-consciousness still 
 functioned. After sprinkling him with cooling water, he began to 
 intone the suttas (discourses) for protection (//paritta//). This he 
 did so that there would be a skilful sound-object (//saddarammana//) 
 upon which the nain's death-consciousness (//cutti-citta//) could be 
 concentrated. Though he tried to chant steadily and evenly, to give 
 confidence to the dying nain -- if indeed he heard him, his voice was 
 not without trembling.
     The minutes drew on and after the opening salutation of "Namo tassa....", the Karaniya Metta Sutta (on loving-kindness), the 
 Mahamangala Sutta (on the greatest blessings), and the Ratana Sutta 
 followed each other. [*] As the closing words of the last sutta: 
 "Sangham namassama, suvatti hotu (To the Sangha let us bow: May bliss 
 abound!)" -- as these words were softly chanted upon the shimmering 
 air, a last breath arose and gaspingly fell -- and the body was still. 
 His good companion had passed on according to his kamma and as the 
 bhikkhu earnestly vowed: May it truly be to a better state of affairs 
 than this! After that, if only to relieve his own mind -- and who 
 knows, perhaps his erstwhile friend could still hear him in his new 
 condition -- he intoned further the Buddha Jayamangala stanzas with 
 their refrain of: "By the power of this (truth) may you be endowed 
 with victory and blessings."
 * [For these discourses, see Wheel No. 54, The Mirror of the Dhamma.]
     It is widely believed in Buddhist lands that merits (//punna//) 
 are transferable providing that one has a compassion deep enough with 
 others and a wisdom grown great. For the well-faring of the dead nain, 
 his friend made over to him all and any merits which he might have 
 accumulated, including those gathered by the recitation of these 
 hallowed scriptures.
                       *     *     *
     We take up the story again three days later when bhikkhus have 
 gathered for reciting the traditional chants for the dead. The father 
 of the dead nain has also arrived. The chanting is solemn indeed and 
 rolls on sonorously through the tropic night, spreading its peaceful 
 sound far beyond the range of the pressure lamps which light up but a 
 small circle in the bamboo forest. Seated upon mats covering the 
 ground lay-people listen reverently with joined palms (//anjali//), 
 while the chanting proceeds. Our bhikkhu, seated with others upon some 
 more mats, concentrates all his attention upon the chanting, making it 
 proceed not from the throat but deep down from the heart.
     At its conclusion, there is some informal talk upon Dhamma 
 especially regarding death and kamma and then more general 
 conversation opens concerning what arrangements should be made. A 
 westerner might notice, if one had been present, that although this 
 ceremony roughly corresponded to a funeral service, no one was 
 weeping, or even looking particularly sad -- and certainly not the 
 father of the late nain. 

Whatever tears there had been over his death,

 they were long since over and quickly stopped by such Buddhist 
 recollections as the fact that rebirth takes place according to kamma 
 and that nothing of this can be changed by weeping. And again, the 
 injunction to live in the present without attachment to the past which 
 is irreclaimably gone. And the reflection that rebirth may already be 
 accomplished and (it is always sincerely hoped) be superior in 
 happiness to this state; would it not be strange to be miserable 
 because someone else was now more happy than he was in this life? 
 Putting aside all self-pity which makes for most of the tears at 
 death, a good Buddhist concentrates upon the situation //now// and 
 sees what can best be accomplished in the present.
     The conversation has turned to the customary presentation, in this 
 case by the father, of robes (//civara//) upon the death of a 
 relative. Sometimes ready-made robes are laid upon the coffin and 
 received by bhikkhus as //pamsukula// (intentionally cast-off cloth); 
 at other times, white cloth is similarly given to be made up into 
 robes. The strictest practice and one which is followed by a few 
 thudong bhikkhus is to take cloth which has been used as a 
 corpse-wrapping and make this into robes -- this is a practice from 
 the time of the Lord Buddha and such robes may truly be called 
 `rag-robes.' [*] 

Our bhikkhu wishes to benefit from the present

 circumstances so as to obtain such a robe. The father of the dead nain 
 has already bought about twenty yards of white cloth for pamsukula 
 robes. This has then to be inserted into the coffin and then to be 
 extracted at the time of burning. Later, our bhikkhu will cut it up 
 and sew it to make traditional patchwork pattern and the robes that he 
 makes from this cloth will ever remind him of death, by stains and 
 smell for some time and for longer by the memory of how they were 
 * Pamsukulik'anga (Refuse-rag-wearer's) Practice, the 1st Dhutanga -- 
      see Preamble.]
     The next day, food being finished, our bhikkhu turns his attention 
 to the large coffin which rests under some trees. Candles and incense, 
 the Buddhist symbols respectively of Enlightenment and of the perfume 
 of strict morality (//sila//), are burning round about. As he 
 approaches the coffin, the smell grows stronger -- the peculiarly 
 repulsive smell of a human body's decay, which spreads its sweetly 
 sickening odours for many yards about. It is not without some 
 apprehension of what he will see upon raising the lid that he 
 proceeds, for he has read the descriptions of bodily decay as used for 
 meditation purposes but reading does not satisfy him, the bhikkhu 
 wishes to see for himself.
     Lifting the lid, he gazes within and is immediately and deeply 
 impressed that these descriptions as found for instance in the 
 Satipatthana Sutta, [*] are but poor substitutes for beholding the 
 real thing. His companion in life was a handsome young man, even with 
 his hair shaved off: this body which lay before him was quite as 
 hideous as temple wall-paintings sometimes show and emphasized for him 
 that words are quite inadequate for portraying such sights.
 * [See Wheel No. 19, The Foundations of Mindfulness.]
     So, the young nain with unblemished body and pleasing face died 
 but three days before and now what does our bhikkhu perceive? His 
 companion is certainly not there! This puffed, distorted, oozing mass, 
 blueish in colour is not the man he knew! Nothing resembles him. Three 
 days have sufficed to change everything. Gaining this insight and the 
 perception of impurity in even living bodies -- what to speak of dead 
 ones -- he continues with the work he has set out to do. The body is 
 already covered by the stained robes of the late nain and the white 
 cloth is laid over this. Having completed his work, he reseals the 
 coffin to await the time of cremation. 

As the lid is replaced so the

 stench grows less but the whole experience has burned itself deep into 
 his mind and will not lesson. Indeed, he may develop it into a 
 fruitful meditation when he sees with inward sight his //own// body 
 not only as liable to such a condition but actually experiences the 
 body (not then `his' body) as //being// in such a state. 
     Climbing back to his dwelling high above the forest, he muses: 
 Where such a terrible sight as this can be found so soon originating 
 from apparently pleasing conditions -- where such and worse can be 
 found, what sort of world is this? Who will waste their lives after 
 such a perception? Who will longer be deluded by the sugar-coating of 
 the world's sense-attractions after seeing thus? Will they not rather 
 sense the bitter pill beneath? Is this not the time to turn away from 
 those conditions giving rise to the bitterness? Is it not the time to 
 devote oneself to that Dhamma which is "lovely at its beginning, 
 lovely in its middle course, and lovely at its ending"? Some such 
 thoughts as these, our bhikkhu thinks.
     For those who can do more, this is the time to join those millions 
 who have gone forth like our bhikkhu with robes and bowl, rejecting 
 all that the world values, and seeking to reject both ignorance and 
 craving (//avijja-tanha//), those twin conditions for bitterness, to 
 win in the Dispensation of the Conqueror, that Enlightenment which he 
 also won.
     So urges the Enlightened One:
           "Shed thou householder's finery,
           As coral tree its leaves in fall:
           And going forth in yellow clad,
           Fare lonely as rhinoceros.
           And rid of passion, error, hate,
           The fetters having snapped in twain
           Fearless when as life ebbs away
           Fare lonely as rhinoceros."
                            THUDONG ABODES
           The bhikkhu who has retired to a solitary abode 
           and has calmed his mind and who comprehends the 
           Dhamma with insight -- in him there arises a 
           delight that transcends all human delight.
                                               (Dhp. 373)
     Our bhikkhu will live anywhere that is conducive to his practice of meditation and to winning insight but certain types of abode are 
 generally more suitable for him than others.
     From ancient times a favourite dwelling-place of the thudong 
 bhikkhu has been a cave, indeed this is really the best environment 
 providing that a suitable one can be found. Not all are good for 
 meditation and our bhikkhu upon arriving at a cave new to him would 
 inspect it with the following points in mind.
     People are very fond of making caves into shrines -- and some of 
 these are very beautiful with hundreds or thousands of Buddha-figures 
 of different sizes ranged about the cave, sitting on blocks of stone 
 and stalagmite near to the floor and gazing down compassionately from 
 apparently inaccessible niches near the lofty roof. Such caves and 
 others more rustic acquire fame as places of pilgrimage in proportion 
 to their beauty and ease of approach. 

Now, if our bhikkhu were to make

 his sitting place in some such cave, he would surely be disturbed by 
 the people visiting the shrine. Apart from the noise that they make, 
 some would certainly approach him, perhaps trying to engage him in 
 ordinary conversation, or coming to ask for charms or blessings, since 
 popular ideas of `holiness' are rather less exacting or more vague 
 than the freedom from the fetters (//samyojana//) which mark a Noble One (//ariya//) according to the Pali Canon. Therefore, if he does not 
 wish to instruct in Dhamma, much less to engage in worldly matters, he 
 will avoid all such caves.
     Apart from people, bats are also fond of caves in the dark depths 
 of which they live in their thousands. They also make their noises, 
 cheeping and swishing about, but their noises are much less 
 objectionable than is the smell of their dung. This is very good for 
 growing plants but less agreeable to a meditator's nose. Usually, they 
 will not live near to the cave entrance, especially if the sun comes 
 in and so, other conditions being favourable, our bhikkhu may live 
     Other conditions include sound and heat. In this noisy age, 
 rackety iron boxes of various shapes travel over land, water and 
 through the air and their sound is surprisingly hard to escape from. 
 It is understandable therefore that caves adjacent to airfields, 
 motorways or railways, will also be avoided.
     The great advantage of a cave in a tropical country is its equable 
 temperature. Cool even on the hottest days of the hot season, and warm 
 in the coldest nights of the cold weather, it is very favourable for a 
 meditating bhikkhu. Caves which have wide openings to the south or 
 west are therefore less suitable for the hot weather. Other 
 inconveniences to consider are the danger of falling rocks and the 
 presence of carbon dioxide. Also, it sometimes happens that earth 
 godlings (//bhummadevata//) take up their residence in caves and not 
 all of them will welcome a bhikkhu staying there as this will 
 interfere with their pleasures. Indeed, there are stories of bhikkhus 
 being evicted by spirits but there is at least one instance of an 
 experienced bhikkhu (lately a famous meditation teacher in this 
 country) who sat night after night in a cave defeating all the efforts 
 of godlings to oust him. Our bhikkhu, if he is wise, seeks for the 
 protection of any gods there abiding, when he first arrives at a cave. 
 With gods giving their blessing to his efforts, meditation certainly 
 becomes easier; while, if the opposite should occur, it may be 
     Finally, a consideration of great importance: its distance from 
 the nearest village. As most thudong bhikkhus go to collect alms every 
 day and as bhikkhus are not allowed to store food, so a village must 
 be within walking distance. How far this is depends upon the vigour 
 and age of our bhikkhu. Half a mile or a mile's distance is desirable 
 in any case being thus beyond village noises but it does happen that a 
 cave otherwise ideal may be too far from the village for the bhikkhu 
 to walk there and back. In this case the villagers will help the 
 bhikkhu by taking their food out half-way.
     He may find that living in a cave is a little eerie at first and 
 should any "fear, trembling or hair-raising" take place, no doubt he 
 will at least remember the Metta Sutta (Lord Buddha's discourse on 
 loving-kindness). Also well-fitted for recitation at such a time is 
 the Discourse on the Flags (//Dhajagga Sutta//) where the medicines 
 recommended for fear are the Recollections of the Buddha, Dhamma and 
 Sangha. If our bhikkhu is still better read in the Pali Canon, he will 
 remember the Discourse on Fear and Dread (//Bhayabherava Sutta// in 
 //Majjhima Nikaya//) where Lord Buddha describes the way in which he 
 trained himself to be mindful of fear while he was yet a Bodhisatta 
 (Wisdom-being striving for Buddhahood).
     What sort of picture do we get of our bhikkhu in his cave? If he 
 is staying long he will probably have built himself a bamboo or wooden 
 pallet above which will hang his crot. To one side somewhere, hang his 
 bag and candle-lamp. Near to him will be a water-flask and, if it is 
 dark, possibly a torch. His bowl is placed securely on a flat rock 
 while any robes which he is not using are folded up neatly upon his 
 pallet. He is sitting quietly facing the direction of his head when 
 laying down.[*] If one were to watch intently, it would be difficult 
 to detect even breath movements in his body, swathed as it is in 
 rather shabby patched robes of folded ochre. Above him, the roof 
 vaults in great arches and mysterious hollows half-lit by the dim 
 light. Steady and distant is the dripping of water which makes through 
 long ages great columns slowly joining roof and floor. Sunlight 
 filters through a leafy screen for a few minutes and is gone and 
 perhaps a bee drones in but finding little of interest soon finds its 
 way out. All is very still, very silent.
 * [Because if he has a small Buddha-figure or Dhamma-book, it will be 
      placed respectfully near to his head.]
                        *    *    *
           He who sits alone, sleeps alone, walks alone,
           who is strenuous and subdues himself alone,
           will find delight in the solitude of the 
                                               (Dhp. 305)
 * [This verse summarizes the 8th Dhutanga Practice (//Arannik'anga//) 
      -- see Preamble.]
     Caves are by far the best abode but they, especially ideal ones, 
 are rare so that we should go on to describe something of the more 
 common `home' of thudong bhikkhus -- the forest.
     The advantages of dwelling in the forest are several. First, there 
 is much of it in many Buddhist countries. Then, as it is the sort of 
 place where most men do not like to live (except they are secure and 
 comfortable in a strong house), the thudong bhikkhu is not likely to 
 be disturbed, not at any rate by his fellow-men. Like other thudong 
 abodes, it conduces to contentment with little; also, it makes very 
 necessary the development of metta or loving-kindness. [*]
 * [See WHEEL No. 7, The Practice of Loving-kindness.]
     Besides advantages, there are quite a number of possible 
 hindrances to practice while forest-dwelling. For instance, metta is 
 made rather essential by the presence of all sorts of potentially 
 antipathetic creatures, the most dangerous of which are snakes. This 
 is certainly emphasized in the Pali Canon by the presence of a special 
 chant, the [[Khanda] Paritta]], in which the person chanting stresses that 
 he has metta towards and does no harm to all creatures including four 
 species of snakes.
     There is a little story to illustrate this. An old Buddhist nun 
 was living in a small hut close to the jungle. Her hut had one doorway 
 and she usually sat on the bamboo floor for meditation against the 
 opposite wall. She was quite accustomed to see the tails of large 
 lizards appear out of the thatch overhead where they lived. 
 Occasionally they fell out but being quite harmless, they would 
 scamper away quickly. 

One day, hearing such a bump on her floor, she

 opened her eyes but instead of seeing a lizard, there was an angry 
 snake of the poisonous species coiling and uncoiling itself. Instantly 
 recollecting the meditation on metta, she pervaded herself and the 
 whole hut with this spirit. The snake which lay between her and the 
 door and had been threatening to strike her now quietly coiled up and 
 after a few minutes, slithered out of the doorway. This anecdote 
 illustrates quite a common occurrence for one dwelling in the jungle: 
 how a meditator can be brought into close proximity with the untamed 
 animal world. Is it necessary to stress further the value of metta in 
 such surroundings?
     While the power of Lord Buddha's metta was so great that he could 
 calm the rutting wild elephant Nalagiri, there have been many thudong 
 bhikkhus up to modern times who have lived continuously in the forest 
 developing the Brahma-viharas [*] (the Divine Abidings -- in 
 loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity), and with 
 whom forest animals become friends. For the man who has love -- and no 
 fear because no hatred -- of other creatures, those creatures will not 
 fear him. In this connection there are a number of Jataka stories 
 which tell of the Bodhisatta's life in the forest when, living in a 
 hermitage, all manner of animals became his companions.
 * [See WHEEL No. 6; "The Four Sublime States".]
     Still, there do seem to be some creatures which do not respond so 
 well to metta and therefore, returning to the case of our thudong 
 bhikkhu, he will be wise not to spread his sitting cloth over the 
 entrance to an ants' nest, nor to pitch his crot near places where 
 stagnant water lies. Regarding the latter, he would be courting the 
 attentions of vast numbers of hungry mosquitoes. The crot is an 
 effective protection against but it can be hot inside while cooler air 
 blows without. So if a place can be found fairly free of mosquitoes, 
 at least during the day, our bhikkhu will abide more happily. As to 
 ants, they come in all shapes and colours and a good range of sizes 
 and mill about everywhere and our bhikkhu knows that it is safe to 
 assume that all bite, so it is well to stay away from their roads, 
 tunnels and doorways. A few drops of paraffin sprinkled round his 
 sitting-cloth will ensure that he is fairly secure against invasion.
     Unless the forest is really ancient with dense shade, our bhikkhu 
 will experience extremes of heat and cold unknown to the cave-dweller. 
 In the hot season the sun blazes down from our of the cloudless sky 
 overhead and the small shade of his crot will be insufficient. Even 
 under a tree, at least in open forest, hot winds are liable to blow 
 and make life less pleasant. [*] The conditions in densely-shaded rain 
 forest rather resemble cave-dwelling but there is an increase of 
 biting life to reckon with as well as the rainfall.
 * [The practice of the 9th Dhutanga (//Rukkha-mulik'anga//) is 
      therefore possible at some places and times, See Preamble.]
     Forest-dwelling is only possible for the thudong bhikkhu all the 
 year round, if he has a small hut to supplement the protection of his 
 crot. [*] During the three months of the Rains Retreat (Vassa -- 
 approximately July to September), he must in any case dwell with a 
 roof over his head. It is quite common for thudong bhikkhus to have a 
 small wood and bamboo hut built by a supporter in some favourable 
 place in the forest and to dwell there either alone or with a nain or 
 boy to assist him.
 * [Thus limiting the practice of the 10th Dhutanga, 
      //Abbhokasik'anga// (Open-air-dweller's) Practice, to the dry 
      season and cool places: see Preamble.]
     Forest life is very far from silent for, quite apart from the 
 occasional noises of the larger animals, smaller ones, especially 
 insects keep up an almost continuous racket. Cicadas and grasshoppery 
 creatures although small, manage to produce incredible volumes of 
 sound sometimes resembling that of railway trains! The only times when 
 they are silent is when presumably they are sleeping. This is during 
 the heat of midday and afternoon and during the middle watch of the 
 night. Unfortunately this quietness coincides with the times when 
 human beings also are most inclined to sleep.
     However, forest conditions vary very much and our bhikkhu will not 
 find all the unfavourable conditions together, but since this world is 
 one level of samsara, there are bound to be one or more flies in the 
     We may think of him on a moonlit night in the hot weather. A 
 cooling wind blows stirring the trees many of which are leafless, 
 while filling the air with the fragrance of some tree's blossoms. A 
 little bamboo hut stands raised upon wooden legs and upon its open 
 platform a boy sleeps. The bhikkhu paces up and down his walk which is 
 some thirty feet long and made under tall trees. The dark end of it is 
 lit by his candle-lamp hanging from a tree while the moon lights up 
 the rest. Light is necessary since thick, tubular millipedes have 
 their homes on either side of his walk and also like to wander upon 
 its smooth and freshly- swept surface.
     Our bhikkhu finishes his walking and contemplatively returns to 
 his hut. Mounting the bamboo ladder to the platform, he stops before 
 the door to his tiny room. Over the door is fixed a polished wooden 
 board upon which the following words are cut and coloured:
           Handa dani bhikkhave, amantayami vo:
           Vayadhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha'ti.
           "Pay attention, O bhikkhus, I exhort you:
           Going to destruction are all compounded things, 
           With heedfulness make an effort!"
     These are the last recorded words of Lord Buddha: his final 
 exhortation to the thudong bhikkhus of those days. [*]
 * [See WHEEL No. 67-69, p. 75]
     For our thudong bhikkhu now they not only have the significance of 
 being the last instructions, since his own practice -- and perhaps 
 realization -- accord well with them.
                        *    *    *
           `Should one find a sagacious man who points out 
           faults and reproves, as if indicating a hidden treasure, let one associate with such a wise person. It is always better and never worse for 
           him who cultivates the acquaintance of such a one.
           Let him admonish, instruct and shield one from 
           evil; a dear one is he to the good, detestable to 
           the wicked.'
                                                  (Dhp. 76-7)
     The greatest teachers of the thudong tradition have very often 
 wandered all their lives, never settling down long in any one place 
 except for the annual Rains Retreat, or when extreme old age forced 
 them to do so. Some have never founded viharas (monastic residences), 
 leaving this to those of their disciples who had an aptitude for such 
     Our bhikkhu, however, especially if he still requires guidance, 
 may live in a thudong vihara. This will be rather different from the 
 ordinary run of viharas where bhikkhus usually live two or three 
 together in large huts (//kuti//), or even if they live singly, their 
 residences will be crowded closely together being built about an open 
 hall (//sala//). A thudong vihara is distinguished by having the huts 
 set so that from one, another cannot be seen. This is not difficult as 
 wood, bamboo and thatch blend easily into the jungle. In each hut, one 
 bhikkhu lives and orders his time according to his practice and 
     Our bhikkhu will not often meet others resident there; once or 
 twice a day at most. The first time is when all gather in the hall to 
 prepare themselves for pindapata while the second may be in the 
 evening when some fruit drink is served. At this time also, the 
 venerable teacher of meditation may give some instruction, as he sees 
 fit. General instructions, for instance on matters of Vinaya (monastic discipline), will be given to the community of resident bhikkhus every 
 Holy Day (uposatha -- the Full and Half Moon Days) after the 
 recitation of the Patimokkha (the bhikkhus' Fundamental Precepts).
     If our bhikkhu wishes for individual instruction in some matter, 
 he will approach his teacher after the evening instruction has been 
 given and, after saluting him with the triple prostration, he will 
 question him respectfully. If we were present in the hall, pillared 
 with roughly shaped tree trunks and lit by candles burning before the 
 gilded and painted shrine of Lord Buddha, we should notice the great 
 respect which he pays to his teacher. 

He sits in a respectful position

 never pointing his feet towards the teacher and he always raises his 
 joined palms (anjali) when speaking to the teacher while, when the 
 latter speaks to him, he places them clasped together in his lap and 
 listens attentively. Our bhikkhu's teacher is for him one who has 
 experienced some degree of the Dhamma in his own heart and not merely 
 read about it out of books. Such teachers are therefore accorded great 
 veneration and anyone going to such a teacher, yet not making the 
 usual salutations, would probably be regarded as being difficult to 
 teach -- because of the presence of strong conceit. [*]
 * [For an interesting case of this in ancient times see the "Sutra of Hui Neng (Wei Lang)" and the master's encounter there with 
      Bhikkhu Fa-Ta.]
     In some thudong viharas, usually those inclined to less strict 
 observance, there is communal meditation and puja in the morning 
 before pindapata and again in the evening. Some teachers favour this 
 while others prefer their disciples to lead a more solitary life. Both 
 may be valuable to our bhikkhu according to his character and 
     Upon uposatha-nights it is also a feature in some thudong viharas, 
 to chant Lord Buddha's discourses all through the night, the bhikkhus 
 not sleeping. [*] This may be interspersed with some instructions from 
 the meditation master and perhaps by the individual practice of 
 walking. Where practice already goes deep, this chanting, slow and 
 rhythmic, may well be an aid to attainment in meditation.
 * [This is a modification of the 13th Dhutanga (Nesajjik'anga -- the 
      Sitter's Practice).  See also Preamble.]
     Regarding this, there was once a twelve year old boy who sat down 
 one evening with other pious lay-people who were practising meditation 
 while the bhikkhus chanted. He knew nothing about how to practise, nor 
 had he ever sat in meditation posture before. But a very great 
 meditation-master lived there at that time and was leading the 
 bhikkhus in chanting. 

These factors all combining led that boy through

 successive stages of mental concentration until he reached complete 
 meditation (//appana samadhi//). He was still sitting rapt in 
 stillness when the bhikkhus prepared to go collecting pindapata. The 
 meditation-master upon seeing him, decided not unnaturally, that the 
 boy would make a good disciple. After rousing him, and giving him the 
 precepts, the boy lived in that vihara learning the way from his 
     One bhikkhu, well-practised in meditation, was famous for the easy 
 control he had over his body. Sitting down in the temple at eight 
 o'clock upon uposatha-nights, he would not find it necessary to change 
 his posture until six o'clock the next morning. He never got up from 
 his seat, his gaze never wandered anywhere, he just concentrated upon 
 chanting from the heart being completely absorbed in this.
     Our bhikkhu will be encouraged by his teacher to live with him 
 until such times as the latter feels that he has sufficient knowledge 
 of the Dhamma and strong enough meditation to go off on his own, to 
 practise in a cave or forest. There are disciples who like to stay 
 with their teachers until death parts them. There are others who want 
 to go off quickly and practise alone. It sometime happens that the 
 latter experience one of the ecstatic absorptions (//jhana//) and 
 conclude from this, since they lack sufficient Dhamma-knowledge and 
 the guidance of their teacher, that they have won a noble (//ariya//) 
 attainment. Sometimes such bhikkhus proclaim this out of ignorance and 
 gain quite a following: however, their fame soon dwindles for one 
 cannot //pretend//, intentionally or otherwise, to be an Arahant (an 
 Accomplished Sage), or even to have reached one of the lower stages of 
 ariyan attainment.
     A famous teacher once had a pupil who esteemed himself to be an 
 Arahant but the former knew that he was not so but that his mind was 
 really overcome by the perversions (//vipallasa//). Now this teacher 
 had another pupil who, although he could neither read nor write, had 
 such experience of Dhamma that many consider that he was really an 
 Arahant. He lived alone in a cave and seldom spoke and when he did so, 
 he uttered only words of Dhamma, never mere pleasantries. The famous 
 teacher was in the habit of sending any of his pupils who became 
 deluded to this great pupil, of whom he thought very highly. So he 
 sent his deluded disciple to him. 

The first and only words which the

 great pupil spoke to the deluded one, were: "Sit here." The former 
 gave the latter no instruction, he only sat in meditation with him day 
 and night only rarely breaking off for the barest necessities. After 
 two weeks of this rigorous treatment, the deluded one at least gained 
 the insight that he was not after all an Arahant and then returned to 
 live with his teacher. In this way he was cured of this manifestation 
 of the perverted mind (//vipallasacitta//).
     Living in a vihara, at least for some time, will enable the 
 thudong bhikkhu to make his meditation practice grow strongly and that 
 "fear, trembling and hair-raising" which he might easily experience in 
 other more remote surroundings, are less likely to arise there.
     He has the guidance of the Good Friend (//kalyana-mitta//, as the 
 meditation teacher is called), and the companionship of the good, that 
 is of fellow-bhikkhus and nains who are likewise striving to 
 accomplish the goal of complete liberation of the mind. In this way he 
 has the best possible environment for progress in his meditation and 
 may stay with his teacher for many years. This is particularly true if 
 the pupil finds just the right teacher who can instruct him in the 
 right way to go. For just as pupils vary as to the proportions of 
 differing defilements in their characters, so teachers vary with 
 regard to different attainments and ability.
                             *    *    *
           `Just as a storm cannot prevail against a rocky 
           mountain, so Mara can never overpower one who 
           lives devoted to the meditations on impurity (of 
           the body), who is controlled in senses, moderate 
           in eating and endowed with faith and earnest 
                                                       (Dhp. 8)
     What can we say of other bhikkhu abodes? Generally the thudong 
 bhikkhu looks with disfavour upon living on a mountain -- unless that 
 is, there happens to be a village near and at approximately the same 
 altitude. Our bhikkhu knows that his bowlful of rice is quite heavy 
 enough, especially after a long walk, without having to haul it up a 
 mountain path. Whenever bhikkhus ceased to rely on pindapata, as for 
 instance in China, they were able to live upon mountain heights in 
 peace and solitude.
     Among abodes recommended in the "Path of Purification" is the 
 charnel-field or bone-yard. This is said to be an excellent abode for 
 greed (//lobha//) characters. It appears to have been a common custom 
 in ancient India to take corpses to a special part of the forest and 
 to leave them there to go to their dissolution. Thus a thudong bhikkhu 
 lighting upon such a place might be able to see all the various stages 
 of decay of the body -- as they are described in detail in the above 
 work. [*] Such was, of course, an unforgettable lesson upon the fate 
 of his own body.
 * [See Ch. VI, "Foulness as a meditation subject." This is also 
      Susanik'anga (Charnel-ground-dweller's) Practice, the 11th 
      Dhutanga. See also Preamble.]
     Nowadays, in this country, bone-yards like this cannot be found, 
 for burning the body sooner or later has taken the place of the 
 natural process of its return to the component elements. Therefore it 
 is now almost impossible to live in this environment and the best that 
 can be done is to dwell near a burning ground. Usually there will not 
 be much of bones remaining, only piles of ashes, still there is for 
 many the fear of spirits (//peta//) to overcome. It is commonly 
 assumed that such a birth follows a human one and that the hungry ghost or spirit lurks about near its former body, sometimes with evil 
 intent while others are supposed to be more kindly disposed. This may 
 sometimes happen when peta-birth actually follows the human one 
 because of peta-like kamma, but popular belief assumes that this is 
     However this may be, a certain amount of caution is required 
 before dwelling in such a place. If our bhikkhu is of imaginative 
 disposition, he must have his imagination well under control before 
 dwelling in a burning-ground. An uncontrolled imagination coupled with 
 loneliness, the natural noises of the night and the dimly lighted 
 surroundings can result in an unbalanced mind.
     A good many years ago now, there was a nain recently ordained and 
 fifteen years of age. His meditation master sent him to dwell 
 overnight in the local burning-ground-cum-graveyard which was well out 
 of the village, in the jungle. Not knowing that it is proper to 
 inspect such a place in full daylight first, noting how all the rocks, 
 trees, tombs etc. are placed -- he arrived there only at dusk. After 
 laying a cloth to sit upon and hanging up his crot, he began to look 
 around. Finding a suitable place to walk up and down, he decided to 
 begin his meditations in this way. 

As he was turning round, at one

 end, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a great black phantom 
 looming up, its jagged arms outstretched, the claw-like fingers ready 
 to seize him. In fear and trembling he continued his walking and so 
 great was his terror of the unknown `thing' that he did not sit or lie 
 down all that night but walked and stood meditating (with a glance 
 every so often to see that `it' had not moved). When dawn came, the 
 'thing' became less black and menacing, slowly resolving itself into a 
 stricken tree-trunk!
     As custom has changed so much that the boneyard is no longer to be 
 found, there was in this country many years ago a senior bhikkhu who 
 decided to remedy this lack. This teacher dwelt in a little vihara in 
 a patch of woodland outside a small town and near the old capital of 
 Ayuthia. Very few bhikkhus stayed in this vihara for after they had 
 seen what they came to see, he sent them away to practice on their 
 own. And what did they see?
     This teacher had constructed a flower garden and all round it he 
 had built a high wall pierced by only one door and that was padlocked. 
 The flowers that grew in this garden were very special ones, special 
 bhikkhu flowers. The flowers of laymen are of gorgeous colours, 
 entrancing shapes and subtle perfumes but these flowers for bhikkhus 
 although they had their colours, shapes and perfumes, were rather 
 different. Inside the garden there were constructed a number of open 
 troughs covered by glass frames from one end of which rose a long 
 pipe. When a man died in the town, the teacher would go and personally 
 carry away the body, slinging it over his shoulder. Taking it to his 
 garden he would lay it in a trough and cover it with a frame.
     When a bhikkhu desiring a subject of meditation came to him, he 
 would be told by the teacher that he only instructed in the Cemetery Contemplations. At first the teacher would go with him into the garden 
 during daylight and let him select a suitable `flower' for his 
 meditations. Then he let the bhikkhu go in there alone, to fix the 
 subject in his mind. Finally, he was permitted to go in at night and 
 spend the hours of darkness meditating upon his `flower'. Then having 
 settled the meditation subject firmly in his mind, the teacher would 
 tell the bhikkhu to go and to meditate alone. 
     Before he went, he would receive instructions upon a further 
 aspect of the meditation which emphasized that it was not a body `out 
 there' which was to be seen, even in the mind. It was his own body 
 which had to be seen with insight as bloated, festering, or just dry 
 bones, according to the stage of the decay selected. Thus were 
 bhikkhus of that time enabled to free themselves from the deluded 
 identification of this body as being `myself' or as `mine' -- by the 
 special exertions of this teacher.
     Every teacher, as we have mentioned before has his own 
 characteristic ways, both of instruction and of conduct. If our 
 bhikkhu went to a certain teacher, a disciple of a yet more famous 
 master, he would have to put forth energy if he wished to live with 
     This teacher lived in a little ramshackle hut -- he would not let 
 lay-people build him anything else, in a small jungle vihara -- and 
 was about eighty-five years old. It was his practice to begin his 
 working day at five o'clock when he would vigorously start to sweep 
 the vihara grounds. Then, when it was light, he went out to collect 
 food. Returning, he ate a single meal of small quantity and for the 
 rest of the day drank only water. Besides the two normal pujas, he 
 made a third one in the middle of the night. To do this, he slept from 
 ten o'clock until midnight -- and never used a mosquito-net -- and 
 then got up for puja, after which he slept again for another two 
 hours. Arising vigorous, he would sit in meditation until the 
 sweeping-time. His appearance was hale and it appeared that he might 
 very well carry on with his way of life for another twenty years at 
     Stories about teachers are endless and this short account could 
 never contain a tithe of them. So we must let these few suffice as 
 examples and close this section on thudong abodes.
                             *    *    *
           `Those who exert themselves and are mindful, 
           delight not in any abode. They are like swans that 
           abandon their like, leaving home after home 
                                                       (Dhp. 91)
     Today, when it is possible to go quickly everywhere by some 
 conveyance or other, why wander? What is the purpose of the thudong 
 bhikkhu who, alone or with one or two companions, prefers to go his 
 way on foot? There are quite a lot of reasons why wandering in this 
 manner is preferred. For example, the wanderer goes quietly and at 
 whatever speed he wishes. He is not brought into contact with others 
 who might disturb his contemplative way and he may stay at a place 
 just as long as it pleases him -- and leave it when he wishes. Also, 
 he is uninvolved with other people, no arrangements has he to make for 
 them while he gives trouble to none. In fact, his is the way of 
 freedom. Then again, he reflects that this way of travel was used by 
 his great Master in the forty-five years of his teaching in India and 
 has been that of countless other bhikkhus seeking Enlightenment. The 
 modern ways of travelling are good for getting to places quickly but 
 not so good for gaining Enlightenment. There is distraction enough in 
 the mind without churning it up still further -- some such thoughts he 
     Reasons for wandering are also rather various and we are only 
 concerned with those motivated by the search for Enlightenment. The 
 real purposes are threefold: to be able to dwell in solitary places 
 for meditation; to visit meditation-masters who often stay far into 
 the country or forest; or to go on pilgrimage to some famous shrine.
     While the first and second have already been touched upon, the 
 third needs a few more words. By pilgrimage to a shrine is meant the 
 desire that arises in some bhikkhu who has taken to thudong life, to 
 visit and make his puja at a great stupa (reliquary monument) where 
 are enshrined some remains of Lord Buddha or the Arahants. Or perhaps 
 to go to some famous temple where an exceptionally beautiful image of 
 the Enlightened One is enshrined. All this he does with the idea that 
 merit is gained from such actions and indeed, if our thudong bhikkhu, 
 or anyone else, goes on such pilgrimages single-mindedly and in deep 
 devotion, the results for his own development in the Dhamma are bound 
 to be fruitful.
     If he wanders every day, especially if the weather is hot, the way 
 rough or both, his power of meditation must be very strong indeed, or 
 it will suffer from the impact of these external conditions. Tiredness 
 of the body after walking only four or five hours can be a great 
 obstacle in the way of peaceful practice. Therefore, either he will 
 walk one day and then finding a suitable place, stop there for three 
 or four days, or, if he wishes to reach a definite place by a certain 
 time, then he puts by his practice of mental calm (//samatha//) and 
 takes up the full time application of mindfulness (//satipatthana//) 
 in its various aspects. [*]
 * [For these see: Wheel No. 60, //The Satipatthana Sutta and its 
      Applications// and, //The Heart of Buddhist Meditation//, Rider 
      and Co., London.]
     Besides the necessity of strong samadhi, it is quite sure that he 
 must have a strong body able to endure blazing sun, heat, sweat, rough 
 ways, insects and cuts and bruises. These latter, together with 
 blisters, are not infrequent in thudong life and can make his way very 
 difficult. If he goes without sandals, rocks will cut and thorns 
 pierce his feet, or going with them, the feet must be very hard or 
 they will surely be chapped.
     Strength of body is required so that he can carry comfortably his 
 few essentials. What does a wandering thudong bhikkhu carry? First of 
 all, there are his eight essentials which are a bhikkhu's only 
 possessions. They are: three robes (one waist-cloth, one upper robe 
 and one double robe, [*] a bowl (usually of thin malleable iron with a 
 brass cover), a waist-band to secure the waist-cloth, a needle and 
 thread, razor (of cut-throat pattern), and lastly, a water-strainer. 
 These items he //must// take with him or if he loses any of them at 
 any time, they should be made good as soon as possible. In the thudong 
 life, all these things have their relevance -- including the water- 
 strainer which is a very important piece of equipment.
 * [Having only three robes is the Ticivarik'anga 
      (Triple-robe-wearer's) practice -- the 2nd Dhutanga; see 
     Besides these, there will be certain other things which he is sure 
 to have: a water-flask or kettle, his crot, a sitting cloth and one 
 for bathing and probably a bhikkhu-bag containing a few additional 
 articles. Among these may be a candle-lamp, and or two medicines, 
 toothpick-cum-brushes, perhaps a small folding clock and a penknife. 
 He may also carry a copy of the Patimokkha (his Fundamental Precepts) 
 in Pali with a translation into his own language and some small book 
 on the teaching such as the Dhammapada. All these together make up a 
 good weight and generally he will only want to carry them before the 
 sun gets too high and the late afternoon or evening when it is 
     How then should we picture our bhikkhu as he makes his way by 
 footpaths and stony tracks, through deep forest or open rice-fields? 
 He wears two of his robes, the double-thick one being usually wrapped 
 and stowed inside his bowl, unless it is very cold. His bowl is 
 secured in its sling and tied tight to its stand, while the strap of 
 the sling passes over one shoulder. 

His sitting cloth and a few other

 things may also be put inside while the bathing-cloth forms an 
 additional outer protection for the bowl. His bag, the //crot// in its 
 sling and the water-flask, hang from the other shoulder. A thudong 
 bhikkhu does not wear his robes long but hitches them rather high and 
 so passes more easily through streams and over mountains. If he is in 
 open country and the sun is shining, he may place any handy piece of 
 cloth on his head, although this is always removed in accordance with 
 the Vinaya's injunctions when passing by houses or through villages. 
 The sandals on his feet are stout ones -- they have to be to take all 
 the knocks that his feet would otherwise suffer. In this way he goes, 
 mindful of and joyful in the Dhamma.
     He may go alone or with a nain or small boy following, or he may 
 be with one or two other bhikkhus. Probably they will not be walking 
 very close together but prefer to be rather well-spaced so that 
 mindfulness does not suffer, nor conversation tend to break up their 
 silence. Every so often, at least in forests, one of the bhikkhus will 
 spot some refreshing fruit tree and then they may turn in that 
 direction and after gathering the wild fruits -- providing that it is 
 not yet twelve o'clock -- sit eating them while taking a well-earned 
 rest. Certain bitter fruits, such as the emblic myrobalan, may be 
 taken after midday as they have medicinal properties and our bhikkhu 
 will be glad of these to help quench his thirst in the heat of the 
     A few thudong bhikkhus //en marche// in some ways resemble a small 
 detachment of soldiers. They both have uniforms, they both carry all 
 their needs along with them and in both cases the senior leads and the 
 juniors follow, but here the resemblance ends. The former wear the 
 robe of peace, of harmlessness towards all living beings and all their 
 possessions speak of a pacific way of life. No guns do they carry, but 
 //crots//, no grenades, but almsbowls. The wandering bhikkhu has 
 conquered eastern Asia by these means, without dissension, without 
 resort to violence, without wars but with loving-kindness and 
 compassion. And those mighty empires which ambitious and victorious 
 men have raised one after the other, by the use of force, shattering 
 opponents by wars innumerable -- all this might and glory has passed 
 away, has crumbled to defaced stones and time-smoothed coins found in 
 distant jungles. But the Dispensation of the Conqueror who practised 
 and preached a morality based upon non-violence, this empire of peace 
 has endured. What is the message here for the empire-makers, political 
 or economic, of the present day? What has this Dhamma to say to those 
 who think of their lives as a fight against others? Upon this matter, 
 the Dhammapada has the following verse:
           Though he may conquer a thousand thousand men in 
           battle, yet, he is indeed the noblest victor who 
           would conquer himself.
                                                 (Dhp. 103)
     Our wandering bhikkhu may decide at the end of his day whether he 
 will stay the night in the forest, or cave or other suitable place, or 
 whether, the country proving unfavourable, he will go to the nearest 
 village. If he elects in favour of the latter, it may well be that in 
 approaching the village in the evening light, some villagers will see 
 him. Then some pious laymen will approach him and saluting him 
 respectfully, relieve his shoulders of bowl and crot and invite him to 
 stay for the night in the village vihara, or where there is no 
 established residence for bhikkhus, in the `hall' (//sala//). Word 
 will soon get round the village that a venerable thudong bhikkhu has 
 arrived and people will then come to the hall bringing with them 
 things for his comfort -- a pillow, mat and of course, tea. In 
 Thailand at any rate, this means `water-tea' (literally translated), 
 or as westerners would say, Chinese tea. He may also be offered honey 
 or sugar to refresh himself and while he does this, people will sit 
 upon a lower level of the hall and respectfully enquire where he has 
 come from, whereto he will be going, how long has he been a bhikkhu 
 (how many Rains-Retreats?) -- and so forth. If our bhikkhu wishes, or 
 has the gift of teaching, the general conversation may well be turned 
 towards Dhamma and the lay-people will sit listening intently and 
 perhaps putting a question now and then upon some point which they do 
 not understand.
     Whenever there is time during the informal gathering, or when 
 people have departed, our bhikkhu will have to see about patching up 
 his skin bag which is so liable to become punctured even though he 
 takes great care. Villagers will give him more medicines, often of 
 their own manufacture, if those he carries do not suffice. His various 
 wounds, usually very small matters, may nevertheless give him plenty 
 of room for reflection upon the nature of the body. A small pimple 
 soon grows into a large sore and an insignificant cut quickly pulsates 
 with oozing pus; and he remembers that each day he chants: "There are 
 in this body -- //kesa// -- hair of the head, //loma// -- hair of the 
 body ... and so forth, to... //taco// -- skin, //mamsam// -- flesh... 
 //pubbo// -- pus, //lohitam// -- blood..." . His cuts and blisters are 
 reminders for him that the bag of skin holds much which although 
 usually hidden from ordinary sight, is liable to erupt and compel 
 attention. The thudong bhikkhu gives attention here willingly whereas 
 the worldly attitude is to turn away from and try not to consider such 
 nasty things. Our bhikkhu, however, knows that the seeing of all these 
 parts of the body, traditionally thirty-two in number, as they really 
 are, that is, as a danger, as repulsive and as liable to decay, leads 
 him towards freedom from the `own- body-view' (//sakkaya-ditthi//) and 
 towards that state where the body is viewed quite impersonally and as 
 a collection of processes, acting and reacting. At best, it will be 
 seen, after insight into its nature has been experienced, as an 
 instrument of the Dhamma.
     Towards such insight and mature understanding, our bhikkhu 
 strives, and he will, if he has still energy enough, sit in meditation 
 after the last villager has departed and, attaining calm, shift his 
 attention to these thirty-two messy parts, or some one or two of them, 
 endeavouring to develop insight. Perhaps he may vow before taking his 
 rest: "Oh, may this body be devoted to the Dhamma, may it become a 
 Dhamma-instrument." And his night will be spent peacefully, no dreams 
 will disturb him and he will awake refreshed, the body ready for 
 active service in the Dhamma when he takes up his meditation-subject 
 again in the cool of the morning.
     When it is fully light, many villagers will come to the hall to 
 make merit which means that our bhikkhu will not have to go out for 
 pindapata. Every house will send a bowl of rice and some other food to 
 accompany it and perhaps he may get sweets and fruits as well. One 
 person from each house will place one or two spoons of rice into his 
 bowl as it stands upon the raised platform-floor. When they have 
 finished, the other food, together with his bowl will be reverently 
 given into his hands -- for a bhikkhu should not take any food which 
 has not actually been offered in this way. The senior layman may well 
 ask him for the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts, and the giving of 
 these being completed, our bhikkhu will intone a chant (//[[Yatha 
 varivaha pura paripurenti]].....//) whereby the merits made by the laity 
 are formally dedicated to the happiness and comfort of the hungry ghosts (peta). Before he begins his meal, he remembers that this food 
 is one of the four requisites (//paccaya//) and the proper reason why 
 he will eat it.
     His meal over and his bowl washed, he sets out again upon his way.
     Generally, however, the serious wanderer will prefer wherever 
 conditions permit, to spend his nights in the forest where his own 
 quiet of mind will be better company for him than many people. Of 
 course, he will not get good tea, nor honey -- nor the other comforts 
 of the village hall but if he has practised diligently, he will have 
 comforts enough and far superior to those who have not sat in 
 meditation. He will be able to sit as long as he can in the cool of 
 the night, without interruption if he has chosen a site far enough 
 removed from the village.
     So our bhikkhu stays out of sight and hearing until he appears the 
 next morning in the village upon his round for pindapata. Of course, 
 there will be no special food for him as there would be if he had 
 stayed in the hall. He will just get the ordinary fare. As he has 
 cultivated contentment, he will not care whether it is finest culinary 
 art or plainest village rice -- it is all the same to him. [*]
 * [//Pindapatik'anga// (Almsfood-eater's) Practice, the 3rd Dhutanga; 
      see Preamble.]
     He will find a considerable difference in the villages along his 
 way; some will be prosperous, while others are poor, some tidy and 
 others uncared for, and so on. And he will not always be welcome and 
 though this will be very unusual; it does happen, especially where 
 villagers are for some reason without bhikkhus to guide their lives. 
 When he chances upon such a village, if he is an ordinary bhikkhu, he 
 will have a good opportunity to test the strength of his patience. 
 While if he is a teacher, he may stop there for some time and, using 
 all his skill, teach the people what is wrong with the way that they 
 are going and what is the right way to fare through life.
     Turning now to another matter, we should mention here the custom 
 among thudong bhikkhus of making certain vows (//addhitthana//). It 
 may be that the vow is made to observe a definite practice among the 
 thirteen ascetic modes (//dhutanga//), such as refraining from lying 
 down for a certain number of days, weeks or months. A wandering 
 bhikkhu may vow never to stay in a hall such as we have described, or 
 to go on some pilgrimage by foot all the way, not accepting proffered 
 transport -- and so forth.
     Regarding this last vow, there is a story. A few years ago, a Thai 
 bhikkhu of about fifty years of age, made a vow to walk from Bangkok 
 to the holiest place for Buddhists, the `Diamond Throne' (The Buddha's 
 Seat of Enlightenment) at Buddha Gaya in India. So he set off with 
 bowl and robes and a few other things such as we have described. He 
 took no money upon his pilgrimage, neither did he worry about such 
 modern encumbrances as passports and visas. Falling in with a party of 
 Mon bhikkhus going to make their puja at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in 
 Rangoon, he went with them and from there made his slow progress up 
 the length of Burma. 

Two rains retreats he spent upon the way and

 still he had not reached India. Finally, he crossed the Indo-Burmese 
 border in the wild hills of Nagaland and there some Nagas, who had 
 probably never seen a bhikkhu before and took him for a spy, severely 
 beat him, taking away even his robes and bowl. Fortunately, he was 
 able to recover these although his few other things were gone, and so 
 limping, he made his way down the Assamese plain. Knowing not a word 
 of any Indian language and having to rely on pindapata which is not so 
 easily got in India, his first concern was to get someone to write on 
 a piece of paper in Hindi and Bengali: "I am a Buddhist bhikkhu. I 
 collect cooked food which is to be placed in this bowl. May you be 
 well and happy." This piece of paper he showed everywhere he went so 
 that people would understand what he required. Luckily he was a 
 vegetarian and not troubled regarding food. After many months of 
 walking, he came to Buddha Gaya. His vow was fulfilled after two and a 
 half years: he had wandered to good purpose.
     There is wandering in this way with some profitable end in view 
 and there is also an aimless wandering. The thudong bhikkhu wanders 
 (//carati//) in order to put an end to wandering (//samsarati//). He 
 wanders purposefully in the Dhamma-faring so as to come to an end of 
 the infinitely long wandering in birth-and-death (//samsara//). He has 
 taken up this way of life, that of a homeless one, because he sees the 
 dangers which beset all who drift in the currents of //samsara//. 
 Birth and death, ageing and disease afflict all beings who are like so 
 many pieces of driftwood dashed about by the ocean waves, first this 
 way and then that -- but never getting anywhere and forever at the 
 mercy of wind and water. As driftwood, so beings do not know why they 
 are here and instead of trying to probe this matter, they invent all 
 sorts of fanciful explanations.
     Our bhikkhu sees, if only to some extent and for part of the time, 
 that beings are overcome by the poisons of the three roots of unskill 
 (greed, hatred and delusion) and that these blind them and make them 
 the prey of all the worldly conditions which they experience. And so 
 they go, pulled this way and that by the results of their own actions 
 (//kammaphala//) leaping from birth to birth. He knows that beings do 
 not always spiritually evolve, but that devolution is always possible 
 -- into states where darkness is complete, the black night of 
 ignorance (avijja) where the lamp of the Dhamma is no longer 
     Why wander blindly in this round of woes?, thinks our bhikkhu. Why 
 wander on and on to such states as will be difficult to escape from 
 (as for instance, animal-birth)? Perhaps he calls to mind a picture 
 painted by a master of old [*] which shows a long, long track a 
 winding from the distance into the foreground and from thence out of 
 our ken. This track so tortuous, passes through an unbeautiful 
 landscape of shattered, spiky rocks, smitten, storm-struck trees, 
 fire-blackened grass and earth and here and there lying about, are 
 bones -- a skull bone here, a leg bone there. 

Along this dreadful

 track there comes a man, his clothes all in tatters, a wide-brimmed 
 pilgrim's hat upon his head and a staff held skew-wise in one hand. 
 His face bears all the marks of foolishness, from his eyes which are 
 wandering and not fixed upon his way before him, to his mouth set in 
 the most imbecile smile imaginable. He has wandered all down that long 
 way, grinning foolishly at the bones which would warn him if only he 
 would heed them. He has wandered long, infinitely long and he will 
 wander longer -- uncomprehending. He sees no other way to go but the 
 dreary track in front of him.
     * [The reverse panels of a diptych by Hieronymus Bosch.]
     Our bhikkhu (and all those who earnestly take to this Dhamma) is 
 one who is determined no longer to wander aimlessly but to be one who 
 marches along the high road to freedom, that glorious bliss-bestowing 
 Way, the Noble Eightfold Path.
           If one find friend with whom to fare
           Rapt in the well-abiding, apt,
           Surmounting dangers one and all,
           With joy fare with him mindfully.
           Finding none apt with whom to fare,
           None in the well-abiding rapt,
           As rajah quits the conquered realm,
           Fare lonely as rhinoceros.
     A good deal has already been written upon companionship while 
 leading the holy life and this need not be repeated. The point that is 
 really important is whether one makes progress best in the 
 Dhamma-company of others, or whether one's mentality and progress are 
 sufficiently strong and mature to "fare lonely as rhinoceros."
     One who has the company of others has many chances to learn from 
 them. Not only from his teacher but from other bhikkhus, and not only 
 from them, from nains, in fact, from everyone with whom he has 
 contact. Every person is one's teacher, if only there is the facility 
 and humility to learn from them and in all situations. From the wise, 
 our thudong bhikkhu upon his Dhamma-pilgrimage, learns wisdom. But 
 also from those lacking in good qualities, he learns how not to 
 behave, he learns through their mistakes and reflects upon himself; 
 `Now, is this unskilful way of speech or bodily action to be found in 
 me, or not?'
     He also learns more humility from this mindfulness of others' 
 action, for while perceiving some fault of others, he does not make 
 this an opportunity for the arising of pride. When noting greed in 
 someone else, besides the above reflection upon his own behaviour, 
 perhaps he can add the thought: `But he has (for instance) a very 
 strong devotion.' In other words, he learns through his contact with 
 fellow Dhamma-farers, to see their good qualities also and to strive 
 to bring those excellencies to perfection in his own personality.
     Through the effort that he makes, we should note certain qualities 
 which, being present to the extent that his training has been 
 successful, mark him out as one who has indeed taken the following to 
           Good is restraint in eye, good is restraint in 
           ear, good is restraint in nose, good is restraint 
           in tongue.
           Good is restraint in action, good is restraint in 
           speech, good is restraint in thought, restraint 
           everywhere is good. The bhikkhu restrained in 
           every way is freed from all suffering.
                                                   (Dhp. 360-361)
     We should notice that all his actions were marked by this 
 moderation. If we saw him in company, he would be one who laughed but 
 little for he will have to some extent, perceived the truth in the 
           When the world is ever ablaze, why this laughter, 
           why this jubilation?
                                                       (Dhp. 146)
     But we should not from this gain the impression of a gloomy 
 saintliness or that his face would be forbiddingly harsh, for our 
 bhikkhu has made loving-kindness and compassion (//metta-karuna//) 
 grow and will upon occasion smile gently. Likewise, his speech is 
 marked by a softness of expression and lack of rough words. He would 
 be inclined to speak to others upon the Dhamma and be little attracted 
 to other subjects except where they touched upon what for him, is 
 all-important: the Way to Enlightenment.
     Besides contact with teachers and other bhikkhus he may have a 
 nain as his companion or perhaps a boy who wishes to train for 
 ordination later. If a suitable boy can be found and is given the 
 going-forth to become nain then he will be of great help to the 
 thudong bhikkhu. `Suitable,' here means that he feels a genuine urge 
 to live not only the holy life but also to live it in the sort of 
 places where thudong bhikkhus live. he must also be devoted to the 
 bhikkhu with whom he lives, looking upon him as his teacher. 
 Suitability includes as well the ability of the nain or boy to 
 practise meditation, for living in the wilds with few or no books and 
 out of range of the sense-distractions of the towns, such boys must be 
 able to employ themselves through at least part of the day without 
 disturbing the bhikkhus. There are, in Buddhist countries 
 particularly, numbers of boys who, one supposes, have practised 
 meditation in past lives and who take to it in this one as ducklings 
 to water.
     The nain or boy helps in so many ways that it would not be 
 possible to list them all. He is ever-solicitous for the well-being of 
 bhikkhus and never loses an opportunity for doing them some service. 
 In particular this applies to the teacher of the nain and to any other 
 bhikkhus whom he particularly respects -- for their wisdom, patience, 
 gentleness, learning, energetic striving or whichever other fine 
 qualities are manifest in them. In the training of the nain, 
 helpfulness towards others and humility to learn from them are prime 
     Whenever our thudong bhikkhu finds the occasion proper to instruct 
 or correct, he will find if he has a really good nain that he will 
 listen with ears open wide to the former, while accepting the 
 correction humbly and with a good heart. It does happen even with the 
 best of nains that he will make some mistake, particularly regarding 
 carelessness. Then the bhikkhu will quietly admonish the nain and 
 perhaps prescribe some punishment-work (//danda-kamma//) for him to do 
 -- and the nain gently smiling accepts his work, which is often 
 sweeping and sets about it with a right good will.
     Such a novice, keen for the training, is positively avid for 
 Dhamma and listens particularly to stories, with great attention. As 
 there is no lack in Buddhist literature of stories to illustrate 
 points of training, nains soon come to have a fund of such material 
 both of the Buddha-time and from later Buddhist history. Thus begins 
 the Dhamma-education of what will probably be a good thudong bhikkhu.
     What then of one who chooses to live alone? Two points stand out: 
 Positively his character must be deep and resourceful enough to 
 surmount all the obstacles he may encounter, while on the negative 
 side, his defilements (//kilesa//) must be sufficiently held in check 
 by his culture of mindfulness (//sati//) and meditation (//samadhi//).
     It is no good living in the wilds boorishly unrestrained as in the 
 case of venerable Gulissani. [*] On the contrary, our bhikkhu knows 
 that the greatest restraint is needed as there is no longer any 
 companion to upbraid or advise him whenever this is necessary. He has 
 then to be his own instructor and this is plainly impossible unless 
 such excellent qualities as mindfulness, shame (//hiri//) and fear of 
 blame (//ottappa//) are well-developed.
 * [See Gulissani Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya, No. 69.]
     Our bhikkhu who wishes to taste solitude must also be sure that he 
 does so for the right reasons. There are those people who like to live 
 by themselves simply because they cannot bear their fellow-men. Their 
 solitary life is thus based upon the root of hatred (//dosa//). Far 
 different must be the thudong bhikkhu's reason for desiring 
 loneliness. He wishes to course deep in the Dhamma and have no drags, 
 no ties whatever, which might prevent his increasing perception of its 
 truth. His whole life revolves around the Dhamma and he has, or wishes 
 to develop the central thought of Dhamma, that is, of the Three 
 Signata of Existence (//tilakkhana// -- impermanence, suffering and 
 non-self). [*]
 * [See Wheel No. 20, The Three Signata.]
     To do this his emotional nature must be mature and this, in 
 Buddhist practice, means the development of the Divine Abidings 
 (//brahma-vihara//), each one of which replaces a certain aspect of 
 emotional instability. Thus hatred is replaced by loving-kindness; 
 indifference to others' sufferings is remedied by compassion; envy by 
 sympathetic joy with other's happiness; while involvement with and 
 attachment to others is, in maturity, replaced by equanimity. Even if 
 our bhikkhu cannot yet reach to the heights of equanimity, at least 
 his gentleness and compassion must have grown to some degree. 

He has

 almost placed himself outside the world of men, and he is sure 
 therefore to have greater contact with animals than do most men and he 
 may, especially if in him purification is will advanced, have visions 
 of the gods (//devata//). Many are the stories of old told about both 
 sorts of contact. From the context of stories in which the gods appear 
 to bhikkhus it is apparent that they do so because the latter's 
 spiritual development has approached or surpassed that of those gods. 
 It is these Divine Abidings which make possible this meeting of 
     Stories of extraordinary affection between thudong bhikkhus and 
 animals are also frequent. In this country at the end of the Ayuthia 
 period (ended CE. 1767), there were numbers of forest-dwelling 
 bhikkhus who, like the sages of old, would dwell hermit-like 
 surrounded by animals and birds. Deer in particular, came to love the 
 companionship of these hermits who could only attract animals thus 
 because of the loving-kindness which they had made grow in their 
 hearts and the consequent absence of hatred and fear.
     Two other qualities are necessary for the solitary dweller: 
 patience and energy. He will hardly be a thudong bhikkhu at all if he 
 has not the former. Living-conditions for him are many and not all of 
 them are perfect all the time. Although he has backed out of the rough 
 waters of attachments to persons, places and things, he still lives in 
 this world imperfect and must patiently cope with whatever trials he 
 encounters. With patience he trains his mind so difficult to bring 
 under control and with patience he notes the gradual relaxation of the 
 defilements (kilesa). He comes to know that his Dispensation 
 (//sasana//) is as Lord Buddha instructed:
           "Just as the great ocean deepens not suddenly but 
           shelves out gradually, so this Teaching is gradual 
           and understanding of it gradually deepens."
     He has patience in seeing that his efforts are gradually rewarded. 
 `Efforts' means energy, rather necessary for many aspects of strenuous 
 thudong life, as our bhikkhu knows. If he did not make any effort in 
 his chosen way of life, then a speedy decline would follow, in which 
 the defilements, for the weakening and ultimate breaking of which he 
 was leading this life, would re-assert themselves and once more close 
 their stranglehold upon him.
     The thudong bhikkhu makes efforts too, to maintain his observance 
 of the Vinaya and in particular of the Fundamental Precepts 
 (//Patimokkha//) pure and unbroken. Even more diligent must be the 
 observance of the solitary bhikkhu who can ill afford to let slide any 
 of the precepts. If he does so, he will find that his meditation is 
 disturbed by thoughts of the broken precepts and to mend matters he 
 must go and obtain purification of his fault through confession of it 
 to another bhikkhu.
     He has to stir up energy to maintain and develop further his 
 meditative practice. Without effort, instead of going from strength to 
 strength in meditative calm and insight (//samatha-vipassana//), he 
 would be liable to slip backwards practising less and less every day.
     With patience to hold in check agitation and energy to ensure that 
 slothfulness does not lay on its benumbing touch, our solitary thudong 
 bhikkhu has a good chance of making balanced progress along the way.
     Pali Scriptures mention another kind of solitariness and after his 
 practice of bodily seclusion (//kaya-viveka//) together with the 
 mental withdrawal experienced in deep meditation (//citta-viveka//), 
 he may come to possess this lasting solitude. The man with craving 
 (//tanha//) present is said to be accompanied by a second one 
 (//dutiya//), whereas one in whom craving is absent, having been 
 totally eradicated through insight (//vipassana//), is an Arahant who 
 abides in the ultimate solitude from all substrates producing 
 continued existence (//upadhi-viveka//).
     Our thudong bhikkhu strives to use his solitude in forest or cave, 
 in order to be rid of his companion in all samsaric wandering -- 
 craving, and being without this second one to know the true solitude 
 of Dhamma-truth. When he has achieved this, then indeed he may abide 
 anywhere, and whether forest or city it will make no difference to 
     This was the pattern in Lord Buddha's life, first the long 
 meditative seclusion followed by his carrying of the torch of 
 Enlightenment for all to see. sometimes, in those long years of 
 teaching the Enlightened One would betake himself to the forests for a 
 time. Then he would return to the viharas quite near to the important 
 towns of those days or wander among the villages meeting kings and 
 `outcastes', priests and princes and discoursing to all without 
 exception, for the potential of Enlightenment lay within all men, 
 having no regard whether he was estranged from society and labelled an 
 `outcaste' or esteemed by people as a priest (//brahmin//) of `pure' 
     Thus, in following the thudong life our bhikkhu is making his 
 efforts, however small, to follow in the Way his Master trod. To him, 
 the life of the Enlightened One is not something remote, for it is 
 illuminated to some extent by his own experience and is always a great 
 source of precious inspiration and guidance. It shows him what can be 
 achieved and gives him the courage to face all dangers and go forth to 
 make the attempt for this highest achievement. As Lord Buddha assures 
 all people:
           "Those who are always meditative and ever 
           steadfastly persevering, the wise ones, realize 
           Nibbana, the bond-free, the highest."
                                               (Dhp. 23)
     As much as can easily be written of the thudong bhikkhu's life is 
 contained in these sketches. Just as the flavour of soup is not to be 
 told even in one thousand pages, so the real flavour of this Ancient 
 Way cannot be conveyed by words. Soup is to be tasted: the thudong 
 life is to be lived. If it sounds hard, one must remember that its 
 rewards are great, and in the field of Dhamma-endeavour, nothing is 
 gained without effort. The world wants everything quick-and-easy but 
 the fruits of the holy life are thus only for those who have already 
 put forth their energy, already striven hard for the goal. Truly Lord Buddha promises in the Discourse on Mindfulness (//Satipatthana Sutta//) that the noble attainment of the Arahant may be experienced 
 within seven days. There is also the phrase found: "Instructed in the 
 morning, he attains in the evening." Such promise and statements 
 depend upon individual capacities and whether the practice of 
 mindfulness is strong and complete enough and moreover, they only 
 apply providing that there is the ability to renounce this world 
 completely. Nibbana, the supreme goal, is not to be got at while 
 anything, even the most subtle dhamma, is still clung to. Behold, says 
 the Exalted One:
           "Come behold this world,
           Like unto a royal chariot,
           Wherein fools flounder,
           But where the wise find no attraction."
                                               (Dhp. 171)
     The thudong bhikkhu makes efforts to be among the wise who have 
 cast aside all embroilments with things, people and the three periods of time. He has few things among which he can flounder and he tries 
 vigorously to cut off all that might tie him to people. He strives 
 also to win for his own, his Master's realization regarding the three 
           "The past is like a dream,
           The present as clouds appears,
           Mirage-like is the future."
     All bonds, however arising, he tries to shatter. He is inspired by 
 the Enlightened One's exhortations that a mortal disease (ignorance, 
 //avijja//) requires a drastic remedy. he has gone forth from home and 
 family, from all the dear decorations of life, to don the ancient 
 yellow robe of patches, to have little and want less, to pursue the 
 sublime Way shown by the Buddha with every energy he possesses. While 
 unenlightened he wants only one `thing' -- Enlightenment.
     When he wishes to take the step of Going-forth (//pabbajja//, to 
 become a nain), he thrice utters these words: "Give leave, Venerable 
 Sir, and having given me these robes, out of compassion let me go 
 forth for the extinction of suffering and the realization of Nibbana."
     If he is serious in his quest he tries even amid life's diffusion, 
 not to forget these words, not to forget the reason why he is wearing 
 the three robes. They are a great reminder that Enlightenment is his 
 aim and that the well-being of others is best upheld by penetration of 
 Enlightenment by oneself. This thudong way although it seems to be 
 devoted only to the good of the bhikkhu undertaking it, actually 
 stands at the beginning of his progress along the way.
     Lord Buddha emphasized: "Who, stuck in the mud, can pull out 
 another stuck in the mud?" Later, when some mastery is gained in the 
 Dhamma, then is the time to aid others and only then can one actually 
 help them effectively.
     It is this straight-forward attitude to the Dhamma among members 
 of the Sangha and devoted lay-people which has been responsible for 
 the spread of the Dhamma in Eastern Asia, from Sri Lanka to Siberia, 
 from Afghanistan to Japan. And to spread the Dhamma outwardly, it must 
 first be spread inwardly, in one's own heart. The Sangha unencumbered 
 by worldly lumber, has just this work. It is the Sangha in fact which 
 has everywhere in the past been the backbone of the Buddhist religion. 
 It is the mainstay of knowledge of the Dhamma and it is the spearhead 
 of applying that Dhamma to the living of the holy life. 

Efforts made

 to spread Buddhism in the present must therefore take account of these 
 two factors: the necessity of having those who have experienced Dhamma 
 for themselves as guides, as meditation masters: also the importance 
 of the Third Jewel, the Sangha, which must be made to grow strongly 
 since it provides the opportunity for devoted effort to win the Dhamma 
 and the subsequent teaching of others which may follow.
     Such effort is made particularly by the thudong bhikkhu as we have 
 tried to show. This is not to say that others having practices 
 different from those outlined here, do not make efforts toward 
 Enlightenment. Of course they do, but here we have only been concerned 
 with this particular aspect of bhikkhu life. Still, from the high 
 esteem in which the genuine thudong bhikkhu has always been held in 
 Buddhist lands and the fact that his life most nearly approaches that 
 of the original Sangha it would not seem a mistake to regard the 
 thudong way as being first among other modes of bhikkhu life.
     Among the bhikkhus, it is those who have realized for themselves 
 the truth of the Dhamma and who are therefore qualified to teach 
 others, it is they who are the elect. Of course, they do no write 
 books and are often difficult to find but certainly they are the 
 heartwood. Where they are to be found, in whatever Buddhist land or 
 anywhere else, there the Buddhadhamma truly lives, for the light of 
 that Dhamma burns brightly in their hearts. 

Wherever they are there

 Dhamma not only lives, it can also grow. For the Dhamma does not grow 
 by the numbers of its adherents according to governments' statistics, 
 nor by the number of its temples, not yet even by the quantities of 
 yellow robes worn: no, it grows heartwise from teacher to pupil, 
 through the former's instructions and the latter's application.
     The thudong life is one way to this growth. The Dhamma is not 
 secret for it is open to all who have ears to hear, and the Sangha 
 exists for all those who would devote their lives to Dhamma. The Way 
 is there, the Way is always there -- but who will tread it?
                             *    *    *
           "//Grounded on practice (patipatti), sire, is the 
           Dispensation of the Teacher, in practice is its 
           essence. It will last so long as practice does not 
                          //Venerable Nagasena's reply to King Menander 
                          (Milinda) in "Milinda's Questions 
                          (Milinda-panha)" p. 1986, translated by I.B.