Book Review: Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo's Food for Thought
by G. J.
In the 1970's, a school of Buddhism (later to be known in the West as the Thai forest tradition) came into national prominence in Thailand. The origin of this school can be traced back to the great Ajahn Mun (1870-1949) who rediscovered the path of liberation through his singular determination to realize the teaching of the Buddha by training the heart and mind with a firm practice of Buddhist meditation. In fact, such luminary figures had appeared in the history of world Buddhism many times. They revived and revitalized the practice from pedantic decadence through their heroic efforts to undergo all sorts of challenges in following the footsteps of the sages who came before them. Regardless of their ethnic origins, these great masters had one thing in common: their relentless honesty in putting themselves to the test and in giving themselves wholeheartedly to the Dharma
(Dhamma) -- making whatever sacrifices needed to discover and practice the Dharma on its own terms. Ajahn Lee
Dhammadharo, who was a renowned disciple of Ajahn Mun, makes this very clear in Food for Thought, "If a person isn't true to the Buddha's teachings, the Buddha's teachings won't be true to that person -- and that person won't be able to know what the Buddha's true teachings are."
Food for Thought is a collection of short articles edited from Dharma (Dhamma) talks given by Ajahn Lee
Dhammadharo. It is an introduction to the meaning and worth of Buddhist practice in training the heart. The articles, imbued with a great sense of humor, do not deal much with the techniques of meditation; and instead of a purely analytical approach, the author makes free use of simple but vivid imageries and metaphors to convey his teaching. As other great teachers in the Buddhist tradition, Ajahn Lee used these imageries in a very skillful manner, making the teachings tangible without diluting their profundity. They are tangible in that one can easily contemplate and relate them to one's own life; they are profound in that they cut right to the bone of our greed, anger, and ignorance. For instance, in the article "Bodily Debts," he has this to say about worldly pleasure, "Worldly pleasure is good only when it's hot and fresh, like fresh-cooked rice piled on a plate when it's still hot and steaming. If you leave it until it's cold, there's no taste to it. If you let it go until it hardens, you can't swallow it; and if you let it sit overnight, it spoils and you have to throw it away."
In "Nightsoil for the Heart," he says, "This is why we say that when people have developed mindfulness and concentration, they're even better off when the ways of the world turn ugly and bad. If the world shows you only its good side, you're sure to get infatuated and stuck, like a seed that stays buried in its shell and will never grow. But once the seed comes out with its shoot, then the more sun, wind, rain, and fertilizer it gets, the more it will grow and develop -- i.e., the more your discernment will branch out into knowledge and wisdom, leading you to intuitive insight and on into the transcendent, like the old Chinese vegetable farmer who becomes a millionaire by building a fortune out of plain old excrement."
Both humorous and inspirational, Food for Thought will help you reduce the stress of the days and give you the motivation to push yourself forward in the practice of the Dharma.
The book is available online at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/foodthought.html