Food for the Heart - Foreword

The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah

Foreword

It’s hard to know how to best introduce the wisest man I have ever met. In his presence, there was immediacy and aliveness, simplicity and truth- telling, dignity and intimacy; humor and serious discipline, heart-breaking compassion and spontaneous freedom. Ajahn Amaro’s beautiful introduction to this book describes him well.

Most of Ajahn Chah’s teaching was done in the reality of the moment, by example, by metaphor, by the aliveness of dialogue. His teaching was direct and honest, with no holds barred. “Look at the cause of suffering in this human realm, it’s like this,” he would say, pointing our hearts toward the truth. Because he was a consummate performer who taught with a hundred skillful means, because he met each new visitor so directly, adapting his humor and penetrating eye to the circumstances before him, it is hard to wholly capture the vitality of his teaching in words. Fortunately, his legacy also includes nearly two hundred monasteries, many wonderful living and teaching disciples, hundreds of tapes recorded in Thai and some millions of people who have been touched by his wisdom.

On these pages you will find another aspect of Ajahn Chah, the disciplined and somewhat serious side primarily recorded on occasions where he offered longer systematic teachings to groups of monks, nuns, and visitors. In them he invites us all to reflect on the essence of the teachings, to consider them, to take them to heart. In this book he leaps off the page to remind us that, whoever we are, the conditions of life are uncertain: “If death is within you, then where are you going to run to escape it? Whether you are afraid or not, you die just the same. There is nowhere to escape death.”

From this ground of truth, he points the way that leads endlessly beyond the changing conditions of birth and death to true freedom. “This is the important thing: you must contemplate until you reach the point where you let go, where there isn’t anything left, beyond good and bad, coming and going, birth and death. Train the heart, rest in the unconditioned,” he urges. “Liberation is possible.”

Those who would follow the teachings of this beloved master must be willing to look into their own heart and mind, to loosen the knots, release the grasping, the fears, the whole false sense of self. “If you really understand, no matter what life you live, you can practice the Dhamma every minute of the day. Why not give it a try?” Ajahn Chah suggests. “It will transform your life!”

May the blessings of the compassionate Buddha be carried by Ajahn Chah’s words to feed your heart and benefit all beings everywhere.

With great respect,

Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Woodacre, California, 2002

 

How to cite this document:
© Abhayagiri Monastic Foundation, Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah (Wisdom Publications, 2002)

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