FOREWORD This book, Ajaan Lee's first, is like a catalog: In it, he gives the full range o
This book, Ajaan Lee's first, is like a catalog: In it, he gives
the full range of his teachings on the practice of the Buddha's craft,
from the observance of the five precepts to the attainment of total
liberation. Thus the different parts are written for different people
at different stages in the practice, and the reader is advised to
read, not judgmentally, but judiciously -- taking whatever is useful
for his or her own practice, and leaving the rest for others.
The structure of the book, with its two over-lapping parts, is
explained by the fact that the two parts were originally written and
published separately, Part II appearing in 1936 as //The Training of
the Heart//, and Part I the following year as //Precepts for
Laypeople//. In 1939 Ajaan Lee revised and expanded both parts,
putting them into their present form as self-sufficient but
complementary halves of a single volume. Later, in the early 1950's,
he revised the book once more, this final revised version being the
one translated here.
Although Ajaan Lee's teachings continued to develop over the
course of later years, the basic outlines remained constant. Most of
his later teachings are simply elaborations on themes already given in
this book. One of these later developments, though, deserves special
mention here: It concerns the question of how a beginner should get
started in practicing meditation. Ajaan Lee's eventual solution to
this question, given in his book, Keeping the Breath in Mind: Method
II, can briefly be stated as follows: Start right in developing the
factors of Jhana by (1) being clearly aware of each breath, (2)
evaluating and adjusting the breath so that it is as comfortable and
satisfying as possible, and (3) letting this comfortable sensation
spread, along with a sense of present awareness, throughout the entire
body. If an individual meditator had trouble sticking with step (1),
Ajaan Lee might recommend some of the methods given in this book --
the repetition of the word "buddho" in conjunction with the breath,
the contemplation of the basic properties of the body, etc. -- but
these methods were regarded as ancillary to the central practice of
keeping the breath in mind.
Yet even though Ajaan Lee's later teachings developed new
perspectives on some of the individual themes contained in this book,
none of his later writings have its scope or completeness. For this
reason it remains to this day one of his most popular and esteemed
But for all its scope, it is only a preliminary guide -- a map or
a mirror -- for the true craft of the heart lies, not within its
covers, but within the reader.
To quote from one of Ajaan Lee's later sermons: "What does
discernment come from? You might compare it with learning to become a
potter, a tailor, or a basket weaver. The teacher will start out by
telling you how to make a pot, sew a shirt or a pair of pants, or
weave different patterns, but the proportions and beauty of the object
you make will have to depend on your own powers of observation.
Suppose you weave a basket and then take a good look at its
proportions, to see if it's too short or too tall. If it's too short,
weave another one, a little taller, and then take a good look at it to
see if there's anything that still needs improving, to see if it's too
thin or too fat. Then weave another one, better-looking than the last.
Keep this up until you have one that's as beautiful and
well-proportioned as possible, one with nothing to criticize from any
angle. This last basket you can take as your standard. You can now set
yourself up in business. What you've done is learn from your own
actions. As for your earlier efforts, you needn't concern yourself
with them any longer. Throw them out. This is a sense of discernment
that arises of its own accord, an ingenuity and a sense of judgment
that come not from anything your teachers have taught you, but from
observing and evaluating on your own what you yourself have done."
Hopefully this book will be of help to all those who hope to
master the craft of the heart.
Metta Forest Monastery
PO Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082 U.S.A.
* * * * * * * *
In the first part of this book I will discuss virtue, before
going on to discuss the practice of meditation in the second. I put
together this first section as a cure for my own sense of dismay.
I.e., there have been times when I've asked lay Buddhists to tell me
what exactly is forbidden by the five precepts, the eight precepts,
and the ten guidelines (//kammapatha//) that people observe, and their
answers have been a jumble of right and wrong. When I ask them how
long they've been observing the precepts, some say they've never
observed them, others say "two years," "five years," etc. The
ignorance of those who've never observed the precepts is
understandable; as for those who have taken the precepts, there are
all kinds: Some people who've taken them for three years understand
them better than others who have taken them for five. Some people have
repeated the precepts against taking life for three years now, and yet
keep on taking life, with no idea of what the precept is for. Of
course, there are many people who are better informed than this, but
even so I can't help feeling dismayed because their behavior isn't
really in keeping with their knowledge. Now, I say this is not to be
critical, but simply to be truthful. For this reason, I have put
together this book as a way of relieving my sense of dismay, and have
arranged to have it printed for distribution to practicing Buddhists,
as a guideline for honoring our Teacher through the practice of his
teachings, and for fostering the prosperity of those teachings for a
long time to come.
In conclusion, I ask the reader to read reflectively. Some things
here may be to your liking, others may not. But at any rate, I feel
certain that you could find it well worth your while to bring your
conduct into line with the various teachings mentioned here.
If anything I have written in this book is incorrect in terms of
the Dhamma, please forgive me.
The physical and mental energy used in writing this book I
dedicate to those who have felt inspired to provide the financial
energy for its printing. As long as they are not yet totally liberated
from all suffering and stress, may they be perceptive and discerning
with regard to everything of every sort that pertains to their genuine
welfare in whatever realm they may be reborn.
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
The Forest Temple
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