issue 17 winter 01
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Being Dharma

The Essence of the Buddha's Teachings

Ajahn Chah; trans. Paul Breiter

Shambhala 2001, $16.95/£14.99 p/b

Ajahn Chah (1919-1992) knew what he was talking about. His words are fresh, alive and earthy and have the unmistakable flavour of being based on experience. Chah was one of the most famous and revered monks of the modern Thai Forest tradition, and his disciples include a number of well-known modern teachers and writers. Being Dharma presents a collection of his translated Dharma talks, given on a variety of occasions to a range of audiences - monks, nuns and lay disciples.

The translator, Paul Breiter, a westerner who trained under Chah in the 1970s, has arranged the talks under six thought-provoking headings - 'Hearing Dharma', 'Understanding Dharma', 'Practising Dharma', 'Seeing Dharma', 'Being Dharma', and 'Teaching Dharma'. The talks were extemporised, however, and they often escape from these neat boundaries and range freely across experience.

Through them you gain the impression of a man of deep experience who was very human, extremely sensible and often funny. His purpose is always to bring us back to our experience, and to inspire us to practise. If his words sometimes seem simple to western ears, this may be because he is addressing a part of ourselves that is deeper and moves more slowly than do our swift but shallow minds.