For more than 25 years, Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) taught and trained Thai Buddhist monks and nuns, along with many lay practitioners. His intention was to present the Dharma in such a way that even an uneducated rice farmer could understand it. In his preface to this collection of teachings, translator Paul Breiter includes anecdotes from Ajahn Chah's life that reveal his impact on his students. He notes that impermanence was one of the cornerstones of his wisdom teachings: "It is the key that opens the door and gives entrance to the Dharma, and it leads the mind to see the other facets of experience."
This paperback is divided into sections on right view, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, not-self, points in meditation, and completing the path. Another major theme is letting go of wanting things to go our way or becoming attached to our ideas about good or bad. For instance, our feelings of like or dislike do not matter to a vase, which is indifferent. Yet it is these feelings of good and bad that cause so much discontent in our lives.
There are many fine stories from Ajahn Chah here, including this one:
"One day a hog farmer came to see me. He was complaining about business. 'Oh man, this year it's really too much! The price of feed is up. The price of pork is down. I'm losing my shirt!'
"I listened to his laments, then I said, 'Don't feel too sorry for yourself, sir. If you were a pig, then you'd have good reason to feel sorry for yourself. When the price of pork is high, the pigs are slaughtered. When the price of pork is low, the pigs are still slaughtered. The pigs really have something to complain about. The people shouldn't be complaining. Think about this seriously, please.'
"He was only worried about the prices he was getting. The pigs have a lot more to worry about, but we don't consider that. We're not being killed, so we can still try to find a way to get by."
This story illustrates the simplicity and directness of Ajahn Chah's teachings. We are fortunate to have this collection in addition to Being Dharma: The Essence of the Buddha's Teachings and Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah.