TRANSLATED BY THANNISARO BHIKKHU
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo was one of the foremost teachers in the Thai forest ascetic tradition of meditation founded at the turn of the twentieth century by Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo and Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto. His life was short but eventful. Known for his skill as a teacher and his mastery of supranatural powers, he was the first to bring the ascetic tradition out of the forests of the Mekhong basin and into the mainstream of Thai society in central Thailand.
The year before his death, he was hospitalized for two months with a heart ailment and so took the opportunity to dictate his autobiography. He chose to aim the story at his followers—people who were already acquainted with him but didn’t know him well enough—and he selected his material with a double purpose, choosing incidents that made both for good stories and for good lessons. Some of the lessons are aimed at monks, other at meditators in general, but by and large they deal with issues he had not been able to include in his written guides to meditation and Buddhist practice in general.
As a result, the book contains very little on the substantive events in his own meditation. If you have come to this book in hopes of gauging the level of Ajaan Lee’s meditative attainments, you have come to the wrong place, for on this topic his lips are sealed. Most of what he wanted to say on the subject he had already included in his other books. As for his own personal attainments, he never mentioned them even to his closest students.
What he talks about here are the events that surrounded his life as a meditator, and how he dealt with them: the challenges, the strange characters, and the unusual incidents he encountered both in the forest and in the centers of human society. He presents the life of meditation as one of adventure—where truth is a quality of heart, rather than of ideas, and the development of the mind is a matter of life and death—and it is in this that a large part
of the book’s educational and entertainment value lies.
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