One night during the retreat, there occurred an incident that Luang Por found so inspiring that, years later, he would often relate it to his disciples. Ajahn Khe had kindly offered to help Luang Por with his study of the Vinaya. Following a long and fruitful session one late afternoon, Luang Por, having taken his daily bath at the well, climbed up the hill to practise meditation on its cool, breezy ridge. Sometime after ten o’clock, Luang Por was practising walking meditation when he heard the sound of cracking twigs and someone or something moving towards him in the darkness. At first, he assumed it was a creature out hunting for its dinner, but as the sound got closer he made out the form of Ajahn Khe emerging from the forest.
Luang Por: Ajahn, what brings you up here so late at night?
Ajahn Khe: I explained a point of Vinaya to you incorrectly today.
Luang Por: You shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble just for that, sir. You don’t have a light to show the way; it could have waited until tomorrow.
Ajahn Khe: No, it could not. Suppose for some reason or other I was to die tonight and in future, you were to teach other people what I explained to you. It would be bad kamma for me and for many others.
Ajahn Khe carefully explained the point again and once he was certain that it had been clearly understood, returned into the night. Luang Por had often noted the phrase in the texts describing the sincere monk as one who ‘sees the danger in the smallest fault’. Here, at last, was someone who paid more than lip service to that ideal, who genuinely felt the closeness of death and who possessed such scrupulousness that it made him willing to risk climbing a treacherous mountain path in the middle of the night. It was a powerful and memorable lesson.
This reflection by Ajahn Chah, as described by Ajahn Jayasaro, is from the book, Stillness Flowing, pp. 48-49.