Mind Development Is Mind Treatment for Mind Diseases

Extract from biography of Venerable Phra Acharn Mun
Compiled by Ven. Phra Acharn Maha Boowa Nyanasampanno


There may be a number of readers (especially lay disciples) who are discouraged when it comes to following the system of mind development.  The common complaint of the householder whose time is occupied in earning money and raising a family, is that it is just impossible to find more time for meditation without affecting their immediate duties in one way or another, and they are satisfied with this self-consoling excuse. Frankly speaking, complaints such as this on the part of lay disciples are likely to cause them much harm and decline unless this attitude of mind is corrected.

The system of mind-development is the curative measure for mental suffering in much the same way as are those curatives for physical suffering employed by the world. In warm weather we bathe; in cold weather we cover ourselves with blankets; when we are hungry and thirsty, we eat and drink; in time of illness we take medicines. These are the conventional curative measures for bodily suffering and discomfort. People afflicted with the above-mentioned do not procrastinate, nor do they make excuses that it is too hot or too cold, or that they are too busy doing something else to attend to such troubles or afflictions. This is common to all, regardless of background. Even animals are no exception to this and we can see how they really have to struggle for their survival. The system of mind-development is the same, the only difference being that it is directed at the mind, which is the root of all progress and decline, and since, it is the root of all progress and decline, it merits special attention on the part of all.

The mind of the worldling has a peculiar characteristic. It tends to reach out [with tentacles like an octopus] to attach itself to all that it can reach which it has decided must be associated with it or which be- longs to it. It pays little heed as to whether or not those things are right or wrong, good or evil, harmful or helpful, and less still as to whether or not it has power enough to deal with them. Often these self- imposed burdens become exhausting 'homework', robbing one of even time to eat and sleep. There appears to be no limit to the activities of the hungry mind, or does it appear to take a rest. When 'the body is exhausted from the burdens it bears, it cries out for a rest, and sooner or later it must of necessity get such a rest. But the mind is not that fortunate. It is always troubled by its own restless reaching out, even during sleep when it still churns and seethes in the symbols of dreams. There is no method of moderation which acts as a brake. Such a mind heaps untold miseries on itself.

Mind can be called a 'born fighter' or a 'reckless fighter'. Unless its attitude is corrected by dharma, the fight is sure to continue on recklessly or more importantly, hopelessly, life after life. There is no hope for its unloading its self-imposed burden. There is no check put on the mind on the of dharma. The mind may succeed in accumulating piles of riches, but Its long as it does not avail itself of the shelter of dharma, such piles of riches will only be piles of suffering, never of happiness and peace. Dharma, all men of wisdom agree, is the protector of a person's riches as well as of his mind. The more obedient a person's mind is to dharma, the more happiness his riches, small or great, will bring him. Without dharma, however, a mountain of riches would not be enough to produce happiness in its owner." Material possessions are, in fact, but the instruments or mediums of happiness for a man of wisdom! They cannot of themselves produce any happiness whatsoever. The mind deprived of dharma will not be able to extract any happiness from them. To a mind properly trained and adequately developed, no suffering, no hardship, no obstacle or torture can adversely affect it. Mind can be ennobled by proper training and it can remain self-collected and self-possessed. Mind is subjected to incessant work and worry, day and night, year after year. If it were a piece of machinery, such as a car, it would have been turned into scrap iron long ago. There is no hope to be able to repair any machine under so heavy a burden as is the mind. A person's mind is like a machine in one sense—it needs maintenance, repairs, and safeguarding against dangers, and nothing can perform all these functions better than the system of mind-development. Having realized this truth, a wise man should not neglect to take care of his own mind as he would take care of his most precious possession.

The health of the mind is no less important than that of the body, and to preserve and promote this, the wise man should be aware of his own mind-conditioners—his thoughts and his moods—differentiating the malevolent from the beneficial. Malevolent thoughts and moods destroy health, sapping the strength of body and mind, whereas beneficial thoughts and moods promote their health with a pacifying and purifying effect. The nature of the body should also be contemplated. With the lapse of time, is there anything fresh and new that can be relied upon, or is there any sign of decline and depreciation that manifests itself more plainly? Should we rest satisfied with it, or should we prepare ourselves to minimize its impact on our mind? Deathbed repentance does not pay!

This is one instance of mind-development, which is, in reality, self- warning, self-instructing, and self-observation, detecting one's own faults and drawbacks in order to rectify them. When this method of mind- development is applied in sitting meditation or in any of the other postures of the body as often as possible, the mind will he calmed down and not be carried away by pride [in youth, health, and life]. In thus experiencing the bliss of peace, the mind stops consuming, itself with self-imposed suffering. Moderation is then cultivated in the mode of life and the kind of work involved. The sources of ruin [such as gambling, drinking, night-roving, etc.] are willingly avoided.

There are many more benefits to be obtained from mind-development than can be described here, but as this instruction was meant for lay devotees, the Venerable Acharn did not elaborate as much as he would have with his bhikkhu disciples. What is presented in these pages has been arbitrarily selected and extracted. Any criticism should be directed at the compiler, not at the Venerable Acharn, who knows nothing of this.

It is known that the Venerable Acharn spoke about high dharma only in the circle of his close disciples. What is written in this book is the result of  information supplied by a number of his contemporary disciples who had been trained under his guidance for a period of time. This book has been compiled so that it may be of some use to a number of people who are interested in this aspect of Buddhism, and so that they will be encouraged in some way by his mode of practice, which was so unique and remarkable in his time. The Venerable Acharn's practice was that of an immovably determined fighter with the indomitable courage to face anything and everything.' There appears to have been none under his guidance and training who were as steadfast in either the dhutanga observances or other practices as was he. Truly his mode of practice and inward attainments are unexcelled in modern times.