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Enlightened monks and the Dhutanga Kammaṭṭhāna practices

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  • Enlightened monks and the Dhutanga Kammaṭṭhāna practices

    I have two questions which are kind of interrelated
    Question 1:
    I was wondering whether Venerable Ajahn Anan AkiƱcano who I believe was Ajahn Chah's personal attendant (see http://watmarpjan.org/en/ajahn-anan/biography) and Ajaan Mahā Boowa (who has passed away) are arahants/arhats (Enlightened monks) as widely believed? Also, is it true that Ajahn Brahm is not an arhat but he is very close to this stage?

    Question 2
    I have been listening on youtube to the translation of the Dhutanga Kammaṭṭhāna practices of Venerable Ajaan Mun Bhūridatta Thera, written by Venerable Ajaan Mahā Boowa. From the account given in the book these monks in their initial stages of practice ate infrequently as it apparently helped them to reach deeper stages of meditation. Ajahn Anan states that in the beginning stages Ajahn Chah only came to the village about every 2 weeks for alms round (he does say however that everyone has their own limit on how much is the appropriate amount to eat). Could you please comment on whether monks/nuns who are serious meditators find eating less helps them with meditation practice?

  • #2
    Hi Gayathri,

    Q1. I had some of these doubts at some point. Who is enlightened, who is not? Whose teachings can I trust? Then I realised that the Buddha is the teacher of all teachers, so all we need is faith that the Buddha was enlightened. Compared to that, whoever may or may not be enlightened nowadays is really not important at all. That's a great way of approaching things I think, because you become quite independent of any contemporary teachers.

    If, for example, Ajahn Brahm would disrobe tomorrow (don't worry, I don't think he will! ) then for me that would be no big deal. I have placed my confidence in the Buddha, not in any Ajahn. (Although me choosing Ajahn Brahm as my teacher of course says enough about what I think of him.)

    Q2. I wouldn't say fasting leads to better meditation. The Buddha specifically gave up fasting and said he could not get good meditation through it. I've seen people forcing fasts on themselves hoping it will help their meditation, but it more often seems to do the opposite. So fasting I'd say does not lead to better meditation.

    The opposite can happen, though, in my experience: If my meditation is good I tend to eat less. I'd say that's because the brain uses way less energy if you are relaxed. Other factors have to be in place too, such as being in a warm climate (if it's cold your body needs much more energy) and not having to do much work (being on a retreat helps), having the right food when you do eat, having healthy digestion etc. So in short: the food one eats (or doesn't eat..) I don't think actually says anything about ones meditation practice.

    By the way, long-term fasting isn't a dhutanga practice mentioned by the Buddha, as far as I know. Eating once a day is one of those practices, but not long lengths of times like you are implying. In fact the Buddha says that eating once a day (or eating only in the morning) is healthy. And in the Pali Canon he himself is specifically said to have food brought to him on his retreats, even if they were short(ish), like two weeks. (I don't remember which suttas these are.)

    In Bodhinyana monastery nobody structurally fasts long-term. Some monks occasionally fast for a few days, but then mainly for the purpose of health. If I'm on retreat I prefer to eat smaller portions once a day instead of skipping a few days (you tend to make up for the lost days, anyway! ).

    With kindness,
    Sunyo
    Last edited by Bhikkhu Sunyo; 22nd-October-2017, 09:35 AM.

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