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Starting Out Small

A Collection of Talks for Beginning Meditators
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
(Phra Suddhidhammaransi Gambhiramedhacariya)

Translated from the Thai by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu



This is a work in progress. Eventually, I hope to make available in English a much larger collection of Ajaan Lee's talks to add to the collections already available: Lessons in Samadhi, Food for Thought, Inner Strength, and The Skill of Release. But for the moment, in keeping with the title of the collection, I'd like to start out small.

The passages translated here had their beginnings in talks that Ajaan Lee gave to groups of people while they were meditating. In some cases, the people were his followers; in others, total strangers. In every case, Ajaan Lee found it necessary to cover the sorts of questions that occur to people new to meditation -- Why meditate? How should I meditate? And why in that particular way? -- and in his own style he provided not only straightforward answers to these questions but also vivid analogies, to help his listeners relate their meditation to familiar activities so that they would feel less intimidated by the uncharted areas of the minds they were trying to tame.

One aspect of Ajaan Lee's teachings that might strike you as foreign is his analysis of the body into four properties: earth, fire, water, and wind. This mode of analysis dates back to the time of the Buddha, although Ajaan Lee develops it in a distinctive way. Think of this analysis, not as an attempt at biology or chemistry -- the sciences we use to analyze the body from the outside -- but as a way of analyzing how the body feels from the inside. This is an aspect of awareness that we often overlook and that, in English at least, we have a poor vocabulary for describing. As you gain through meditation a greater familiarity with this aspect of your awareness, you'll come to see how useful Ajaan Lee's method of analysis is.

The passages included here have taken a fairly circuitous route from Ajaan Lee's mouth to your eyes. One of his followers -- a nun, Mae Chii Arun Abhivanna -- took notes during the talks, from which she later worked up reconstructed versions of what Ajaan Lee had said. Ajaan Lee had a chance to review and revise the reconstructions of the talks dated prior to 1957. As for the talks made after that year, Mae Chii Arun didn't get around to making reconstructions until after Ajaan Lee's death in 1961, and so these were printed without his input.

Although the talks make for great reading, they make for even better listening. If you meditate with a group of friends, try arranging for one member of the group to read a passage while the others are meditating. In that way, you can best recreate the context for which the talks were originally intended.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu
October, 1999



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Source: Access to Insight, https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/startsmall.html

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