Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? - Preface

Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life’s Difficulties

Preface

Life is a series of interwoven stories, not a set of concepts. Ideas are generalizations, always some distance from the truth. A story, with its array of meanings and richness of detail, is recognizably much closer to real life. That is why we relate more easily to stories than to abstract theories. We love a good yarn.

The stories in this book have been collected over the thirty years that I have lived as a monk in the forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism. For many centuries, Theravada has been the main vehicle of spirituality for the peoples of Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos. Now this form of Buddhism is growing in the West—and in the South (I live in Australia!).

I am often asked what the difference is between the major strands of Buddhism—Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Zen. The answer is that they are like identical cakes with four different icings: on the outside the traditions may look and taste different, but when you go deeply into them, you find the same taste—the taste of freedom. There was only one Buddhism in the beginning. The Buddha taught in northeast India around 2,600 years ago—that’s a century before Socrates. He taught not only monks and nuns, but also many thousands of ordinary people: from rice farmers to street sweepers and even prostitutes. The wisdom of the Buddha did not come as a revelation from a supernatural being. It arose from the deepest of insights into the true nature of life.

The Buddha’s teachings came from his heart, opened by deep meditation. As the Buddha famously said, “It is in this fathom long body endowed with mind that the beginning and the end of this world are made known.”

The Buddha’s central teaching was the four noble truths. Rearranged from their usual order, these are

1. Happiness
2. The cause of happiness
3. The absence of happiness
4. The cause for such an absence

The stories in this book revolve around the second of these noble truths, the cause of happiness.

The Buddha would often teach using stories. My own teacher, the late Ajahn Chah of northeast Thailand, also taught using stories. After hearing one of Ajahn Chah’s discourses, it was the stories I would remember most, especially the funny ones. Moreover, it was these stories that conveyed the deepest instructions about the path to inner happiness. The stories were the messengers carrying his teachings.

I have also used stories when teaching Buddhism and meditation in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia for more than twenty years, and in this book I present some of what I feel are the best of these stories. Each story is intended to speak for itself, so I have added minimal commentary. Each one carries many levels of meaning, so the more you read them, the more truths are revealed.

May you enjoy reading these stories of true happiness as much as those who have heard them told. And may they help change your life for the better, just as they have for so many others.

Ajahn Brahm
Perth, May 2004

 

How to cite this document:
© Ajahn Brahm, Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? (Wisdom Publications, 2005)

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