3rd February 2009
Today and this year mark the 50th anniversary of the passing of a Great Sage and Compassionate Teacher without Peer, Luang Phor Chao Khun Mongkol-thepumuni, Sodh Candassaro Mahathera who passed away on 3rd February 1959 at age 74 leaving behind an eternal and priceless legacy of the Vijja Dhammakāya so central to the pursuit of Full Enlightenment and inextricably integral to the Sublime Dhamma itself.
We especially mark and honour this day and year with a Special Commemorative Tribute to be expressed in two parts - the first being this short Commemorative Tribute published today; and the second, a Commemorative Essay to be released later.
As disciples of Luang Phor Wat Paknam (“LP”) as he is affectionately called since his own lifetime, we pay deep homage and reverence to him each day (not just for today and this year) for the enduring and lasting legacy that he had so compassionately bequeathed to us all, sentient beings, as we study and practise the Dhamma. That eternal treasure that LP left behind when he exited Samsara, fifty years ago is called the Vijja Dhammakāya and the Dhammakāya Method of Meditation.
As we honour the Triple Gem, so we also honour LP as the restorer of the Dhamma to its pristine original condition and purity. He has righted the lamp that was knocked down by time and a tide of conflicting and confusing albeit, well-intentioned and eloquent views of the Dhamma. His was to teach the Dhamma as the Buddha Himself had taught without differentiation, but a single unity and simply as the Eternal Dhamma, no less.
The Vijja Dhammakāya is the supreme knowledge and method used by Buddhas to attain to Full Enlightenment and that self-same knowledge and method was clearly and cogently expiated by LP since he discovered it on the full-moon night of September during the Rains in his eleventh year of bhikkhu-ship. That LP taught the Dhamma with an evenness of zeal, thoroughness born out of personal knowledge and profound understanding and mental toughness was testimony of his own achievements in the area of the supramundane.
We recollect today and celebrate again that momentous night of striving and struggle in order to appreciate a little of the enormity of that supreme enterprise which re-established that which was, perhaps for almost two thousand years, shrouded in the mist of time soon after the passing of the Buddha. We celebrate anew the beacon of light that shines forth with full brightness for those who seek Deliverance from all pain and suffering as promised by the Buddha. On that fateful night,
“Once having settled himself down to meditate, he forgot the time, and many hours must have passed, although there was no clock to tell. But although all was still and dark in this lonely place the hours had not passed in vain. For it was during this session that he perceived the truth, the reality, the path his Master before him had trodden.” #1
The Dhamma discovered was so profound that initially the Sage almost despaired as to whether there were any worthy recipients for the Sublime Dhamma; his concern mirrored that of his Master’s when the Buddha attained to Full Enlightenment some 2,500 years ago. LP was later to say:-
“…the dhamma was indeed profound. If one wished to penetrate it, one had to sink all perception, memory, thought, and knowledge right down into the diaphragm and stop at just this point. But as soon as stopped, it died. As soon as died, again arose. That was the truth. The truth was centred right at this point. If concentration did not sink exactly to centre here, right into the void of the sphere which appeared, then for certain nothing could be seen, nothing at all.” #2
That “centre” was the 7th position at diaphragm pit of the meditator’s own body. It provides the most critical entry point into the Path itself, the Pathama Magga (First Step). And, conversely, if the mind could be stopped thus, all could be known, as LP proclaimed:
“As soon as your mind has stopped, it has great power and can flash anywhere at will in a moment, right up even to Nibbāna itself." #3
Prior to his embarking on this noblest of enterprises, LP supplicated for light and dispensation from the Buddha to let him see the Truth, or a “little” of it which his Master had known. And if he was successful and the revelation was for the prosperity of the religion and well-being of the many, he would serve the Buddha Sāsana as a monk for the rest of his life otherwise, let it be denied him. As history has recorded, LP was supremely triumphant and so he lived as he had promised to teach the Sublime Dhamma as a unity, in its original condition and purity pristine, for some 40-odd years.
LP’s scriptural and meditational prowess was without peer and it was matched by a totally unblemished personal life with him upholding the monastic vows perfectly until he passed on. His virtues and good works became the banners for the spread of the Vijja Dhammakāya which became to be celebrated as knowledge for investigating and realising the Dhamma fully without taint. It also encompasses the method of meditation which teaches the aspirant to access the sphere of dhamma within his own body, right in the centre, two-finger breaths above the navel; and, thereafter all the other spheres that follow in the Path to Enlightenment.
Although the eighteen bodies or forms were extant knowledge in the Pali Canon, its proper use had to be clarified by a personage of LP’s status, no less otherwise its true significance was not appreciated at all. He explained:
“This dhamma gives rise to eighteen forms. These are the human form and its refined counterpart, the celestial form and its refined counterpart, the Brahma form and its refined counterpart, the Arūpa-Brahma form and its refined counterpart, the Dhammakāya Gotrabhū form and its refined counterpart, the Dhammakāya Sotāpanna form and its refined counterpart, the Dhammakāya Sakadāgāmin form and its refined counterpart, the Dhammakāya Anāgāmin form and its refined counterpart, the Dhammakāya Arahatta form and its refined counterpart.” #4
Explaining further he said that -
“Now in these forms it is necessary to establish a path. First of all there must be mindfulness. This is the sphere of dhammanupassanā satipatthāna. In its centre is established the sphere of morality, which is sila. In this centre again is the sphere of concentration called samādhi. And again in the centre of this sphere established the sphere of wisdom, which is paññā. When the sphere of this is penetrated, in its centre another sphere arises, which the sphere of release called vimutti. And in this sphere again is the perception and knowledge or release called vimutti ñānadassana.” #5
LP also declared in no uncertain terms that this is the way to release, to put an end to all suffering.
"All these forms must be penetrated in this same style, from the human form up to the Arahatta form. There is no other way to release. This is the only way, which is called ekāyano maggo.” #6
To the few detractors that suggested that the method taught by LP was heretical, the authoritative commentary on Meditation in the Visuddhi Magga, which LP studied in detail, provided the rebuttal. In the text how the forms are to be attained was stated, viz-
“Establish the human form in consciousness (of jhāna) as hollow. It becomes hollow. Whence advert to another form therein, and having done the preliminary work once more (of establishing it in consciousness of jhāna as hollow) resolve that another form emerge therefrom. Then draw it out like a reed from its sheath... The sheath is one, the reed is another. But it was from the sheath that the reed was pulled. Even so the mind-made forms.” #7
The Sage never tires to remind his disciples that the mind must be “stopped still” at the 7th position – the “heart base” (haddaya vattu) without which, nothing substantial or enduring could be achieved. The mind must be stopped still right in the dead centre of each sphere at this base.
“It is termed so in that the aggregates of perception, memory, thought, and knowledge emerge therefrom. Centred there the faculties are in what is called ceto-samādhi, 'heart-concentration'. It is only at this focal point that the mundane faculties are able to emerge and issue out (through transmutation process) in release faculties (ceto-vimutti) that are supramundane.” #8
LP taught using a chart to show all the 7 positions within the body – a route, as it were, beginning at the nostril as the first position and so on until the mind’s eye is lodged at the 7th position.
In meditational practice, the mantra “Sammā Araham” prescribed by LP is mentally and sustainedly recited in conjunction with fixating the vision of a crystal sphere used to steady the mind at each of the seven positions. Meditational adepts may dispense with the aid of the crystal ball as an object of meditation if they so desire, as long as they are able see the actual spheres themselves without external aid.
It is worth emphasizing that the Vijja Dhammakāya that LP taught is integral to the Sublime Dhamma as the following passage citing the Buddha’s own meditation puts this point beyond doubt.
“Thus steadied, perfectly purified and translucent, free from blemish, purged of taint, made supple and pliable, fit for wielding, established and immovable, I bent down my mind to the recalling of my former existences ….. divers births… evolutions and involutions of aeons… conditions of births… and experiences in such… the rise and fall of being and their characteristics in the different worlds with the eye divine…..” #9
The “eye divine” here, as explained by LP means the Dhammakāya eye for neither the human eye nor that of the deva eye could penetrate right up to Nibbana which pertains to the supramundane. And, it has to be “bent” to the 7th position, by this unique “involuted” technique, so essential to success. In this example, the Buddha was investigating his previous lives and other dhammas.
The Path that LP taught is the Path or process of Purification whereby starting with the crude human self as base, then through all the other seventeen selves, in ascending scale of refinement, the transmutation and smelting process would extrude the refinedest self, the Dhammakāya Arahatta eventually as the resultant Fruit of the Noble Path.
The primary purpose of this incredibly intensive process of psychic transformation and transmutation is to winnow all “selves” of all defilements born of ignorance. In the words of the Buddha himself, to Nigrodha, he declared that the purification process is to put all defilements away and replace them with wholesome things. The Lord said:
“All corruption shall be put away and wholesome things brought to increase.” #10
Corruptions refer to unwholesome conditions such as delusion (moha), hate (dosa) and greed (lobha) caused by ignorance are eradicated and must be supplanted totally by insight, wisdom and concentration (supernormal) – the wholesome things. With this process the ancient advice that “Self is the refuge of self” makes sense although at first blush, it seems to run counter to the doctrine of anatta which postulates that the “self” being constantly changing and insubstantial cannot be regarded as “self”. So, anatta is often rendered as “not self”, “non-self “or “no-self”. The Path of Purification thus enables this “amorphous plurality” or ever-changing self to be smelted and transformed into a permanent self, the Dhammakāya Arahatta. With this advice understood, the Buddha’s true nature may now be appreciated.
In the Aggañña Sutta of the Digha Nikāya it is said:
“Tathāgatassa h'etam Vasettha adhivacanam Dhammakayo iti pi… That is: Vasettha, Dhammakāya is the designation by which the Tathāgata is genuinely known." #11
The Dhammakāya referred to in the Dhamma is not the body of teaching or doctrine of the Buddha but a field of personality of the purest element-essences (dhātu-dhamma) which may be explained thus:-
“The Dhammakāya is a composite impermeation and fusion of element and essence (dhātu-dhamma).” #12
With LP’s precise and succinct exposition of the Vijja Dhammakāya against the tapestry of the Eternal Dhamma, the Path to Deliverance becomes a clearly defined and uncomplicated series of excellently well-structured and calibrated steps, and when taken together encompass an entire and complete process to achieving Enlightenment.
The posthumous praise and recognition of his life-long signal service to the Buddha Sasana earned LP this fitting epithet:
“...[T]he finest teacher in both Samatha kammaṭṭhāna and Vipassanā kammaṭṭhāna, as being without peer in this respect, combined with the personality of a great and compassionate sage.” #13
On this anniversary we humbly associate ourselves fully with this deserving accolade.
Space does not permit us here to discuss more about the teachings of LP which we shall leave to the Commemorative Essay to address. This Commemorative Tribute is our humble expression of thanks and gratitude to our LP, our Teacher, for without him, we would have continued to flounder in the sea of uncertainty brought about by a plethora of conflicting interpretations about the Dhamma.
Words cannot also adequately express our gratitude or the fullness of LP’s greatness as a Teacher. In passing we are extremely happy to observe that even today LP is a living force amongst his millions of disciples and devotees worldwide for his fame has spread far and wide around the world; and, in many ways the spread has been ably spearheaded by Wat Paknam which has retained its pre-eminent position as a seat of Dhamma learning and meditation excellence since the time of LP. Contrast with the initial thirteen monks and a clutch of nuns (mae chi #14) and lay followers which that ancient temple, Wat Paknam hosted when LP was appointed as its abbot some 90-odd years ago, the difference is indeed heart-warmingly immense.
The veneration of LP was and is still manifold, profound and widespread and that includes his powers of clairvoyance, mind-reading, distance healing of his sick disciples and the incredible protection that his amulets afford their wearers during the last Great War and the Korean War and other times of conflict. The stories of LP’s miracles abound during his lifetime and have not abated at all since.
Even today, devotees would supplicate LP by merely using his pictures and amulets to obtain boons of all kinds - from career advancement, to resolving all types of personal problems and to overcoming incurable diseases and sickness. Such is the power of this Great Sage, whose stock of punna and parami is equivalent to 84,000 sections of the Dhamma, thus qualifying LP to be reckoned as a Maha Bodhisatta in the ancient tradition of the religion, in his own right.
During the last Great War, LP organised relay teams of meditators around the clock of lay persons and monks and nuns, to bring about an early end to hostilities and peace to the world. The teams were famous for their prowess apart from the total dedication of LP and his teams to do all they could for the wellbeing and happiness of all. It was their selfless service to all humanity in its hour of greatest need and which was performed quietly and without fanfare.
We consider ourselves to be extremely fortunate to have teachers who are the direct disciples of LP during his lifetime. Our three teachers are Archarn Kalywadee Phanrat who was a mae chi during LP’s lifetime, and was trained by the Great Teacher himself; her late husband, Archarn Charoen Phanrat and the Venerable Suratano were also disciples of LP and they practised meditation at Wat Paknam. The venerable sir learned meditation from Archarn Kalywadee. Indeed, we have enjoyed the undoubted boon of having heard “life stories” from these disciples about LP and his greatness and so we honour them as well; for they, too have led unblemished and impeccable lives, after their Teachers. They, too, are our inspirations in our Noble Quest.
Page 6; The Life and Teaching of the Chao Khun Mongkol-Thepmuni and the Dhammakaya by T.Magness (Venerable Suratano Bhikkhu). [All references to this author’s works are to the online editions of our website.] LP sat down to meditate in the Uposatha (Ordination Hall) of Wat Bangkuvieng.
Ibid, page 6.
Ibid, page 17.
Ibid, page 17.
Ibid, page 17.
Ibid, page 17. Emphasis added.
Chapter XXII, Visudddhi Magga, by Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa. [Quotation translated by Venerable Suratano].
Page 19, Vistas – Buddhist Insights into Immortality by T.Magness (Venerable Suratano Bhikkhu).
M.N. i. 247-8. Emphasis added.
Term coined by Venerable Suratano; see Chapter 4, Samma Ditthi – A Treatise on Right Understanding.
Ibid, page 48, Vistas, quoted & translated by the author.
Ibid, page 49, Vistas.
Ibid, p 34, Life & Teaching.
Thai expression for 8-preceptors upasikas who shave their heads, don white and live in the temples as monastics having renounced their worldly life.