Chapter 05: A Vietnamese Monks expiates his Karma


Phra Rajsuddhinanamongkol 

How can vipassana meditation expiate one’s karma?

We all have to day debt to our previous karma that we have done in the past. When we are conscious of our karma, we have to face its consequence and pay the debt. Performing a lot of merit cannot eradicate the bad deeds. It is the law; merit is separated from bad deeds. It is like water and oil that cannot be mixed.

Today, I am going to tell the story of a Vietnamese monk who came to Wat Ambhavan in order to expiate his karma. He did not know Wat Ambhavan or me before, but in his past life, he might have done some good deed that inspired him to come here, since this temple is an ancient one.

This event occurred more than ten years ago, when the Young Buddhist Association organized a vipassana meditation course of students. The course was held at Wat Ambhavan. The organizers of the course were Khun Somporn Tepsiddha, the president of the association and Ajahn Wisarn, the former director of Mahasarakarm Teacher’s College.

At that time there was no auditorium and few toilets. The main pavilion was not finished. The students had to stay in tents. The Young Buddhist Association gave each student a tent. We still have these tents.

The Vietnamese monk’s name before his ordination was Mr. Buahuey. He was a butcher in Changwat Kalasindhu. He used to slaughter cows and buffaloes, but the salary was insufficient. He had to find a new employer. A Chinese tradesman hired him to slaughter swine. He killed four to five pigs everday. He also told me that when there was a festival, he had to kill cows in addition to killing pigs.

The time of Exhausing His Karma

The time for exhausing his bad karma had arrived. One day on his way back from work, he met a monk who was a forest-dweller. He had never respected any monk before, but he felt respect for this monk. He presented some water to the monk.

“What is your name and what do you do for a living?”, the monk asked him.

He then told the monk everything about himself. The monk felt sorry for him because he had such a terrible profession. He also instructed him and guided him to understand right and wrong, merit and demerit and suggested to him to find other profession because he had an unwholesome job. If he believed in the monk, he should follow what the monk taught. Buahuey told me that he had faith in that monk even though he had never had faith in any monk or Buddhism before. I did not ask Buahuey what his religion was. He continued his story that he could not sleep that night and he did not want to slaughter any more pigs, but he had to do it for one more day. The next morning he quit that job. After that he was ordained as a Buddhist monk and studied meditation. He searched for Dhamma by dwelling in forest seclusion for more than ten years. He practiced tranquil meditation, using “Buddho” as his recitation. He recited “Bud” as he inhaled and, recited “Dho” as he exhaled. Gaining concentration, he saw only pigs, cows and buffaloes that he had killed before. It made him very sad and he could not solve anything. He traveled through the forests in the northeast and the north of Thailand. He met several monks who taught him the Dhamma and meditation.

His Nimitta

Phra Buahuey continued dwelling in the forest in the northeast of Thailand. One day, after setting his sunshade in Changwat Sakonnakorn or Changwat Nongkai or some province nearby, he sat down and meditated. A nimitta occurred to him.

“Do you want to expiate your karma? You still cannot expiate the karma that you have done.”

“Why can’t I expiate my karma?,” he asked.

“You should attend a vipassana meditation training course that will be held for students on the 16th of this month at Wat Ambhavan in Amphur Promburi of Changwat Singhburi.”

The nimitta went on to reveal the details.

He told Phra Buahuey what the temple and the abbot looked like. “You must go there immediately, then you can expiate your karma by practicing vipassana meditation.”

This was quite a miracle to him. He did not know where Wat Ambhavan was because he had never been to Singhburi. He had been in the south, the north and the northeast of Thailand, but not in the central plains. He understood that there were a lot of meditation monks in the north and the northest regions, and scholar-monks in the central plains.

The next morning he went for alms and ate his breakfast. After that he started walking to Wat Ambhavan by asking the way from Changwat Nakornrajsima to Changwat Saraburi. He walked all the way, stopped at night and set up his sunshade. After three days, he reached Wat Ambhavan. He came to my lodging and paid respect to me. He told me that he had had a nimitta that there would be a vipassana meditation training for students here, and asked whether it was true. I answered that it was right and we were preparing tents for the students. He arrived three days before the training. So Phra Buahuey set up his sunshade near the spirit-house. Ther used to be two tall old trees and four rows of Mango trees there.

For the opening ceremony of the traning course, I invited senior monks and officers to preside over the ceremony. They were Director Somporn Tepsiddha and Mr. Apai Chantavimon.

After the opening ceremony, Phra Buahuey told me that he had had a nimitta that he could expiate his karma here. He knew that he had to come here, but he did not know how to expiate his karma. He did not tell me what kind of karma he had done. He asked for vipassana meditation lessons. I taught him the “Four Foundation of Mindfulness” and told him that he could do tranquil meditation by reciting “Buddho”, but he had to be mindful in acknowledging all actions and thoughts. He understood and started practicing. I assigned him to stay at the lodging for monks.

The Manifestation of Karma

The first night of Phra Buahuey’s vipassana meditation went smoothly. But a miracle occurred on the second night. This was because his mindfulness was in a good state and he could acknowledge “vedana”. Later he told me that when he was dwelling in the forest, he had just endured the pain. He recited the word “Bud” as he inhaled and the “Dho” as he exhaled. He could gain only deep concentration, but without mindfulness. Here, he used the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Five Aggregates and he acknowledged “corporeality” and “mentality”. He also used his mindfulness in walking meditation.

A miracle occurred on the second night. He cried like a pig, a cow and a buffalo, and charged his head long into the lodging poles and the trees. He injured his head and was seriously bleeding. He fell down on the ground and twisting his body and crying like a pig. Several monks and students saw him. Ajahn Somdej, who was student of a Teacher’s College at that time, was also looking on him. They sent for a doctor who diagnosed him to be fine, his heart and blood pressure were normal. At that time, I did not know of the event.

After seeing what happened to that monk, the students felt bad and wanted to give up the training course. They all wanted to go home because day were afraid of what had happened to the monk. Ajahn Wisan held a meeting with the students and explained the situation to them and assured them of their safety.

Use Mindfulness

The following night, we had a vipassana initiation ceremony for the students to commit themselves to heartily practicing vipassana meditation. Phra Buahuey showed up again. Running and knocking his head against the trees, again and again. His robe was torn. He was seriously bleeding and cried like a cow and a buffalo. His neck was cut. His eyes , ears and mouth were bleeding. I visited him and suggested that he could use his mindfulness to acknowledge his vedana by acknowledging “feeling pain”. He vomited and passed bloody stool for three days and three nights. He could not sleep. He kept on acknowledging the vedana during those three days. On the fourth day, he could sit cross-legged and meditated by means of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Finally, he could do the meditation successfully and could reach the meditative attainment. After he came out of the meditative attainment smadhi, he talked to me for three hours and told me his story.

“Venerable, I would like to tell you my background. I am Vietnamese not Thai.” He went on with his story from the beginninig. Killing cows and buffaloes are bad karma. You have to pay the debt. You will suffer pain and you must acknowledge this vedana. Another example of vedana is the pain in the legs that people who have killed fish experience.

A student from Udorntani who studied at Ayudhya Teacher’s College, came here to practice vipassana meditation. He had a terrible pain in his legs. I told him to acknowledge this vedana and not to give up. Eventually, he could recall that he used to break the legs of living frogs. He felt very sorry for the bad karma he had committed, so he acknowledged it, apologized and radiated his loving kindness. All his pain left and he did not feel the terrible pain anymore.

Let’s come back to Phra Buahuey’s story. After his mindfulness condition improved, he told me that:

“I had practiced meditation for ten years, but I could not expiate my karma. I just sat and had concentration, but did not know anything, nor the vedana-state in the vedana. Now, I know it. I have to suffer very terrible pain because I killed many animals.

When his vipassana meditation reached fruition, that is he could gain meditation attainment, all his wounds and bleeding disappeared. This was quite a miracle! He could finally reach meditative attainment.

On the last day of this training course, Phra Buahuey gave a lecture to the students, telling of his successful meditation, from the beginning to the end. The students were all excited to hear his experience. They realized that vipassana meditation could expiate one’s karma. Phra Buahuey is one example, for he paid his debt by painfully butting his head against many hard objects.

I must emphasize that vedana is very important. Sometimes it comes from yourself, because you used to do wrong to others. You must know it and he able to acknowledge it until it disappears, by applying the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

After the training course, Phra Buahuey went back to his hometown. He asked his relatives and friends to make merit by building a temple. He taught vipassana meditation to them, by following the principles of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, for example, using mindfulness to acknowledge vedana. He did not use “Buddho” anymore. We must expiate karma as it reveals itself in vedana. We have done bad deeds to others. When we mediate, bad deeds reveal themselves as vedana, whick makes us suffer terrible pain, so we will understand that it is the Law of Karma. We must expiate this karma and must not avoid this vedana.

One day Phra Buahuey led his relatives, friends and students to this temple. They came here in three buses and stayed for one night. He guided his friends on a tour to this temple and showed them the trees that he knocked his head against to expiate his karma. One year afterwards, his relatives visited here and told me that after Phra Buahuey built a temple and established a vipassana meditation training center, he went away to search for a higher Dhamma state. No one had ever heard about him since. I tried to find him. Later, I knew from my “Vipassana Nana” that he was staying at a temple in the north of Thailand and had changed his name.

Please remember that vedana is very important and you should not ignore it. You must face vedana, then you will realize the Law of Karma. There are many examples of meditators who face vedana and can expiate their karma. One example is a sergeant in the Thai army, who entered a vipassana course here. After doing sitting meditation for some time, he wanted to quit, but the supervisor encouraged him to acknowledge the vedana. When he could control himself and acknowledge his vedana, the Law of Karma revealed itself. He walked around and around, crying with deep regret. I was lecturing other group of students when he came to see me and asked for help. We discovered that he had killed many people and they showed up in his vedana. I taught him how to deal with vedana. He went on practicing and could later recall his bad karma, killing people and also kicking his father. That time he was so drunk that he had had a fight with his wife. His fater tried to stop them, but he kicked him so hard that he fell from the house into a drainage ditch. I explained to him that pain and suffering that occurred to him was vedana and he could recall his bad karma from this vedana. I asked him whether he knew or remembered that he had killed other people when he was a young soldier. He said that he had totally forgotten about it, including the event that happened when he was drunk. Ehen he experienced vedana during meditation and he successfully acknowledge it, he could recall his bad karma. After the course, he went back home. He is now well and happy.

Another example is a man who walked into a bamboo groove. After he perceived suffering and his bad karma, he disappeared from the meditation room. The supervisor was very worried about him.

“Luang Poh, I am worried. Will he drown?”

“Don’t worry. Please finish your breakfast and we can look for him at the bamboo forest,” I said.

We went to the bamboo forest to the north of the village and found him surrounded by bunches of bamboo. How could he have gotten in there? We had to cut a lot of bamboo in order to get him out. He walked into the bamboo forest at night and got himself in the middle of a clump of bamboo. It was very difficult to get him out. This was his bad karma that he had to pay for. He had committed bad karma by stuffing some living animals in to bamboo shoots.

You should not forget the Law of Karma. You can recall your karma when you have vedana and suffering during your vipassana maditation. If you sit comfortably, you will not be able to recall your bad karma. This is one technique of vipassana meditation. If you avoid the vedana and give up, you will not know your karma nor you can expiate it. That sergeant told me that he recalled his bad karma and was so sorry that he knocked his head against the corridor and knocked down the door and left the meditation room. This is the picture of the Law of Karma. You should be careful. Sometimes it discourages you, but don’t give up.

So the supervisors of vipassana meditation training should take care for some people have committed a lot of bad karma. There can be many strange phenomena. You have to pay close attention to them because they can do many strange things such as run away, knock against something, or jump, in order to re-pay their bad karma. There are many expiation methods for these kinds of people. The supervisors should be ready for them. However, people who do not commit such bad karma will be all right.

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