§3. The root inheritance, the starting capital for self-training.
Why is it that wise people — before chanting, receiving the precepts, or performing any other act of merit — always take up namo as their starting point? Why is it that namo is never omitted or discarded? This suggests that namo must be significant. If we take it up for consideration, we find that na stands for the water element, and mo for the earth element — and with this, a line from the scriptures comes to mind:
'When the generative elements of the mother and father are combined, the body comes into being. When it is born from the mother's womb, it is nourished with rice and bread, and so is able to develop and grow.' Na is the mother's element; mo, the father's element. When these two elements are combined, the mother's fire element then heats the combination until it becomes what is called a kalala, a droplet of oil. This is the point where the connecting cognizance (patisandhi-viññana) can make its connection, so that the mind becomes joined to the namo element. Once the mind has taken up residence, the droplet of oil develops until it is an ambuja, a glob of blood. From a glob of blood it becomes a ghana, a rod, and then a pesi, a piece of flesh. Then it expands itself into a lizard-like shape, with five extensions: two arms, two legs, and a head.
(As for the elements ba, breath, and dha, fire, these take up residence later, because they are not what the mind holds onto. If the mind lets the droplet of oil drop, the droplet of oil vanishes or is discarded as useless. It has no breath or fire, just as when a person dies and the breath and fire vanish from the body. This is why we say they are secondary elements. The important factors are the two original elements, namo.)
After the child is born, it has to depend on na, its mother, and mo, its father, to care for it, nurturing it and nourishing it with such foods as rice and bread, at the same time teaching and training it in every form of goodness. The mother and father are thus called the child's first and foremost teachers. The love and benevolence the mother and father feel for their children cannot be measured or calculated. The legacy they give us — this body — is our primal inheritance. External wealth, silver or gold, come from this body. If we didn't have this body, we wouldn't be able to do anything, which means that we wouldn't have anything at all. For this reason, our body is the root of our entire inheritance from our mother and father, which is why we say that the good they have done us cannot be measured or calculated. Wise people thus never neglect or forget them.
We first have to take up this body, this namo, and only then do we perform the act of bowing it down in homage. To translate namo as homage is to translate only the act, not the source of the act.
This same root inheritance is the starting capital we use in training ourselves, so we needn't feel lacking or poor when it comes to the resources needed for the practice.
§4. The root foundation for the practice.
The two elements, namo, when mentioned by themselves, aren't adequate or complete. We have to rearrange the vowels and consonants as follows: Take the a from the n, and give it to the m; take the o from the m and give it to the n, and then put the ma in front of the no. This gives us mano, the heart. Now we have the body together with the heart, and this is enough to be used as the root foundation for the practice. Mano, the heart, is primal, the great foundation. Everything we do or say comes from the heart, as stated in the Buddha's words:
'All dhammas are preceded by the heart, dominated by the heart, made from the heart.' The Buddha formulated the entire Dhamma and Vinaya from out of this great foundation, the heart. So when his disciples contemplate in accordance with the Dhamma and Vinaya until namo is perfectly clear, then mano lies at the end point of formulation. In other words, it lies beyond all formulations.
All supposings come from the heart. Each of us has his or her own load, which we carry as supposings and formulations in line with the currents of the flood (ogha), to the point where they give rise to unawareness (avijja), the factor that creates states of becoming and birth, all from our not being wise to these things, from our deludedly holding them all to be 'me' or 'mine'.
§12. The Mulatika Discourse.
Tika means three. Mula means root. Together they mean 'things that are roots in sets of three.' Passion, aversion, and delusion are three, termed the roots of what is unwise. Craving comes in threes: sensual craving, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming. The floods and effluents (asava) of the mind each come in threes: sensuality, states of becoming, and unawareness. If a person falls in with these sorts of threes, then,
He or she will have to keep spinning around in threes, and so the three realms — the realms of sensuality, form, and formlessness — will have to continue as they are, for these threes are the roots of the three realms.
The remedy also comes in threes: virtue, concentration, and discernment. When people practice in line with the virtue, concentration, and discernment forming the cure, then,
They won't have to keep spinning in threes. The three realms won't exist. In other words, they will gain utter release from the three realms.
§15. The nine abodes of living beings.
The realms of the heavenly beings, the human realm, and the realms of destitution (apaya) are classed as the sensual realm, the abode of living beings who indulge in sensuality. Taken together, they count as one. The realms of form, the abodes of living beings who have attained rupa jhana, are four. The realms of formlessness, the abodes of living beings who have attained arupa jhana, are also four. So altogether there are nine abodes for living beings. Those — the arahants — who are wise to the nine abodes leave them and don't have to live in any of them. This appears in the last of the Novice's Questions (samanera-panha), 'dasa nama kim' — What is ten? — which is answered. 'dasahangehi samaññagato arahati vuccati ti' — The arahant, one who is endowed with ten qualities, gains release from the nine abodes of living beings. This can be compared to writing the numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. 1 to 9 are numbers that can be counted, named, added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. As for ten — 1 and 0 (zero) — when we erase the 1, because it's a repetition, we are left with 0 (zero). If we use 0 to add, subtract, multiply, or divide with any other number, it won't increase the value of that number; and 0 by itself has no value at all — but you can't say that it doesn't exist, because there it is. The same is true with the heart: It's a nature whose attributes are like 0. When 0 is connected to any other number, it greatly increases the value of that number. For instance, 1 connected with 0 becomes 10. So it is with the heart. When connected with anything, it instantly proliferates into things elaborate and fantastic. But when trained until it is wise and discerning with regard to all knowable phenomena, it returns to its state as 0 (zero) — empty, open, and clear, beyond all counting and naming. It doesn't stay in the nine places that are abodes for living beings. Instead, it stays in a place devoid of supposing and formulation: its inherent nature as 0 (zero), or activityless-ness, as mentioned in § 14.
Ven. Thanissaro in his introduction offers this explanation, but it would seem more obvious to look into the pre-existing yogavacara tradition that Ajahn Mun would have been familiar with:
The unusual style of Phra Ajaan Mun's sermons may be explained in part by the fact that in the days before his ordination he was skilled in a popular form of informal village entertainment called maw lam. Maw lam is a contest in extemporaneous rhyming, usually reproducing the war between the sexes, in which the battle of wits can become quite fierce. Much use is made of word play: riddles, puns, innuendoes, metaphors, and simple playing with the sounds of words. The sense of language that Ajaan Mun developed in maw lam he carried over into his teachings after becoming a monk. Often he would teach his students in extemporaneous puns and rhymes. This sort of word play he even applied to the Pali language, and a number of instances can be cited in Muttodaya: in § 3, the pun on the word dhatu, which can mean both physical element and speech element (phoneme); the use of the phonemes na mo ba dha (the basic elements in the phrase namo buddhaya, homage to the Buddha) to stand for the four physical elements; the play on namo and mano in § 4; the use of the Patthana as an image for the mind in § 5; the extraction of the word santo (peaceful) from pavessanto in § 13 and § 16; the grammatical pun on loke in § 14 and santo in § 13; the threes in § 12; the eights in § 16; and so on.
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