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dhutaṅga āraññika

Meaning of the āraññika dhutaṅga

The Pali term "āraññika" means "the one who has the habit to dwell in a country side lodging remote from villages", that is to say the one who lives remote from inhabited areas.

"ārañña" = "forest (country side)"; "āraññika" = "the one who dwells in the forest"

When this practice is conveniently done, with steadiness and diligence, along with the determination of not breaking it, we say that there is "āraññikaṅga " (state of mind of the lodging remote from inhabited areas).

Adoption of the āraññika dhutaṅga

For adopting this dhutaṅga, it is convenient to utter the following phrase whether in Pali, or else into the language of one's choice...

In Pali:

«gāmantasenāsanaṃ paṭikkhipāmi, āraññikaṅgaṃ samādhiyāmi.»

In English:

«I renounce to dwell into a monastery situated close to a village (within or close to an inhabited area), I will train into dwelling in a forest monastery.»

Remark: "village" is a translation of the Pali word "gāma", which means alike "village" and "town".

The three kinds of practitioners of the āraññika dhutaṅga

According to restrictions, there do exist three kinds of practitioners of the āraññika dhutaṅga:

  1. ukkaṭṭha āraññika, the noble practitioner of the āraññika dhutaṅga
  2. majjhima āraññika, the intermediate practitioner of the āraññika dhutaṅga
  3. mudu āraññika, the ordinary practitioner of the āraññika dhutaṅga

1. the noble practitioner

The bhikkhu who is a noble practitioner of the āraññika dhutaṅga is resolved to dwell and dwell into a forest monastery (remote from inhabited areas) a all the time, during the three seasons of the year that are summer (from March to June), the monsoon (approximately from July to October) and winter (approximately from November to February).

2. the intermediate practitioner

The bhikkhu who is an intermediate practitioner of the āraññika dhutaṅga can dwell in a monastery situated inside or close to a village, even though he dwells all over the winter or summer inside a forest monastery (remote from inhabited areas).

3. the ordinary practitioner

The bhikkhu who is an ordinary practitioner of the āraññika dhutaṅga can dwell in a monastery situated inside or outside of a village during the four months of the monsoon or the winter, even though he dwells in a forest monastery during all the summer (remote from inhabited areas).

The advantages of the āraññika dhutaṅga

By practising the āraññika dhutaṅga, we can benefit with the following advantages...

  1. Development of mental concentration.
  2. Sustenance of mental concentration.
  3. Buddha held in great esteem bhikkhus who dwells in a forest monastery.
  4. Absence of sources of distraction likely to distract the mind.
  5. We are spared by frights.
  6. We get rid of the risk to get attached to someone.
  7. We have a mind free from sensuous desires.
  8. Considering this dhutaṅga, the twelve other dhutaṅgas are easy to adopt.

Remark: the practice of a dhutaṅga alone enables one to understand its advantages.

The way to break the āraññika dhutaṅga 

As soon as, with no legitimate ground, an individual who practises the āraññika dhutaṅga doesn't remain "in forest" at the time of dawn, he breaks his dhutaṅga.

If a bhikkhu proceeds to a village in order to listen to a teaching and, even though going back to his abode immediately after the end of this teaching, he is not to be found yet "in forest" at the time of dawn, he doesn't however breaks his dhutaṅga. On the other hand, if after the teaching, he takes a bit of rest before returning to the forest, and he is not to be found yet "in forest" at the time of dawn, he breaks his dhutaṅga.

The way to consider a spot "in forest"

The one who wishes to practise the āraññika dhutaṅga should prior to it study the spot where he wishes to remain. Only under this perspective he will be sure about the completeness of the conditions of his practice. The scriptures are filled with numerous explanations about the way to consider such a spot.

In the pārājika 2, we find the following definition:

«A forest monastery is a monastery situated on any kind of spot other than in a village or close to a village.»

In the abhidhamma, it is expressed:

«A spot " in forest& " corresponds with any spot situated apart the entrance gate of a house situated on the remotest spot of a village.»

In the vinaya, we still find:

«A " forest monastery " is a monastery situated at least 500 (curved) bows lengths from the doorstep of a house situated on the remotest spot of a village.»

In the "visuddhi magga", it is specified that we consider the least remoteness of a "forest monastery" from a village from the doorstep of a house situated on the remotest spot of this village, if it is about a village having no ramparts (wall, fence, etc.); and from the rampart in the case of a village that is provided with it.

The four factors required to the āraññika dhutaṅga

Should a bhikkhu wish to practise the āraññika dhutaṅga, he must, before all, train into the development of the four factors required for the dwelling in a forest monastery. Here are these four factors:

  1. Complete adoption of a sīla (virtue) worthy of the one of an ariyā (ariyasīla).
  2. Complete adoption of a conduct (behaviour) worthy of the one of an ariyā (ariyaindriyasaṃvara).
  3. Complete adoption of a sati and a sampajañña (contemplation of all physical and mental phenomena so as to clearly know them) worthy of the of an ariyā (ariyasatisampajañña).
  4. Complete adoption of a faculty to be contented among all situations, worthy of the one of an ariyā (ariyasantuṭṭhi).

Only when these four factors are wholly fulfilled can we envisage to dwell within a "forest monastery" without being subject to numerous impediments. To the bhikkhu who doesn't fulfil these four factors, the fact to reside in a forest would be largely more detrimental than beneficial. Such a bhikkhu would not be different from a vulgar animal or hunter living in the forest.

It already happened that some devas, seeing some bhikkhus who didn't fulfil the above named four factors, tell within themselves: «What is the benefit, for this bhikkhu, to adopt such a bad practice in the forest?» Then, so as to discourage such bhikkhus to remain within the forest, these devas will make them escape by means of scaring perceptions (visions, noises, smells, etc.).

By dwelling within the forest (in a area devoid of inhabitants), the bhikkhu who fulfils the four above named factors enjoys ideal conditions for progressing towards realisations that he hasn't obtained yet. He should keep enjoying them until reaching such realisations.

Should a bhikkhu not find any defilement or imperfection in his sīla, he will be very satisfied and will easily know pīti (a profound joy, not caused by sensory pleasures). He will be likely to rapidly develop the direct knowledge of reality. Having a huge admiration for such beings, devas living in the forest will congratulate him and will make his glory known in the four directions of space and will protect him. It is impossible to know such benefits to bhikkhus living inside or close to a village. Indeed, in an inhabited area, we hear the screaming of young persons, we hear numerous noises, we see various attractive things. Owing to these visions and noises, we can easily be tempted to turn ourselves aside from the sāsana, monastic life, the way leading to Knowledge.

The bhikkhu who lives in the forest can only hear sounds produced by lions, leopards, tigers, monkeys, birds, etc. He cannot therefore be annoyed by inconvenient noises, likely to undermine his concentration or to cause him some attachments. As this type of noises is absent from the forest, the one who remains in it enjoys a real tranquillity, very beneficial to the development of concentration and attention.

The duties of the bhikkhu who dwells in a forest

The bhikkhu who practises the āraññika dhutaṅga must fulfil several daily duties, such as the fact to go performing his food collection by means of his bowl. Only through this his duty can be considered to be complete. Only bhikkhus who are complete in their duty are worthy to receive the veneration of humans and devas.

Morning time, before the waking time of crows, the bhikkhu who lives in a forest monastery wakes up and as soon as he wakes up, he practises his training into the development of kammaṭṭhāna (vipassanā or samatha).

When the time has come to go collecting his food, the bhikkhu conveniently closes his robe, take his bowl and proceeds to a neighbouring village in order to receive his daily meal. Before proceeding to the village, he puts into order all that which remains outside of his lodging and properly shuts down the door. If the path leading to the village is rough, he can tread it with his feet dressed in sandals. However, he must remove them and set them aside just before crossing the entrance of the villag,. he must minutely observe all sekhiyas. He enters in houses with attention and manages remembering his own location (in order to trace back the house of a dāyaka who invites him to come collecting his food at his home), he avoids entering while not collecting food or in case of emergency. He avoids being too slow or too fast while entering and going out of houses. When he waits standing with his bowl, he stands still neither too near, nor to far from the house. He never waits too long in front of a house. When his collection is completed, he doesn't go to people's house, without good reason. He doesn't waste his time into idle talk. He enters his forest monastery without delaying.

When he enters back his forest monastery, he conveniently performs all allotted domestic duties, such as the storage of drinking water for various uses, or sweeping. When darkness already came down, he lights up some oil lamps. So as to avoid any danger caused by animals, he catches up a stick for protecting himself. He tries to trace back the location of the stars and the four directions (South, East, North, and West) so as not lose himself. He pays attention to the calendar (regarding uposatha days, etc.)

If a bhikkhu who lives in a forest monastery has an unhealthy instructor or preceptor and the monastery doesn't receive any medicines (or medical materials likely to heal the later), he must take him to a village monastery, where he will easily receive all necessary cares. By doing so, the bhikkhu who practises the āraññika dhutaṅga should leave the village monastery before dawn so that he will have reached the forest at dawn time. If the state of health of his instructor or preceptor has worsened, he must remain in the village monastery for the sole task of looking after him. In this case, no worries for his dhutaṅga. The state of mind being the main element, the dhutaṅga is not broken.

Encouragement to the practise of the āraññika dhutaṅga

Buddha particularly approves that bhikkhus dwell in the forest with a calm mind. When we dwell alone in a forest monastery, the body enjoys calm and serenity. The mind has no opportunity to hear bad sounds or things. We can easily realise the dhamma. We enjoy such a peace that even the king of devas or the one of brahmās is not entitled to experience.

During a war, protected by the armours of his soldiers, and owing to the completeness of the four warfare characteristics, an army can easily vanquish an army of enemies. In the same manner, protected by the armour of the āraññika dhutaṅga, the bhikkhu who practises the āraññika dhutaṅga can, owing to the completeness of the four factors required to the practice of this dhutaṅga, easily vanquishes kilesās.

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Origin: Book in Burmese language

Author: Monk Devinda

Date: 2001

Translator: Monk Dhamma Sāmi

Date of translation: 2004, January

Update: 2005, June the 18th