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Lions Roar : January 2003
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 95 FOOD FOR THE HEART: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah by Ajahn Chah; forward by Jack Kornfield Wisdom Publications, 2002; 420 pp., $18.95 (paper) Ajahn Chah was a prominent teacher in the Thai forest- dwelling tradition. Beginning in the mid-six- ties, many Western students, including Jack Kornfield, studied with him at Wat Pa Pong. This anthology arrives on the tenth anniver- sary of Ajahn Chah’s death. The talks in it cover a wide range of dharma topics, and have been skillfully translated and edited to preserve the vibrancy, directness and humor that he was known for. Though Ajahn Chah taught for over thirty years, his talks, unfortu- nately, were not systematically recorded and transcribed, which makes this collection all the more precious. SURVIVAL OR PROPHECY: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Jean LeClercq Edited by Brother Patrick Hart Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002; 196 pp., $22.00 (cloth) Clearly there’s continu- ing interest in the writ- ings of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, gone now almost thirty-five years. Survival or Prophecy will interest “Mertonographers” because it further illuminates his core spiritu- al concerns. And for readers with an appreci- ation for the declining art of letter-writing, there’s pleasure found in the correspondence between these two intelligent, questing peers. While Merton is the better known in the U.S ., his friend, the French Benedictine Jean LeClercq, had the higher profile internation- ally. These letters cover a period of nearly twenty years and begin with a discussion of the friends’ common study of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a twelfth-century monastic reformer. Later, the correspondence turns to their mutual interest in Asian monasticism and monastic renewal in the West. Perhaps the most interesting exchanges are those that concern the resistance Merton encountered as he pressed to adopt a hermit life within his Cistercian order. (He was eventually granted permission to live in a hermitage on the Gethsemani property in 1965.) Poignantly, LeClercq was instrumental in helping Merton to receive permission to attend the ecumenical Buddhist-Catholic meeting in Bangkok in 1968, where Merton accidentally electrocuted himself. ZEN MASTER RAVEN by Robert Aitken Tuttle Publishing, 2002; 192 pp., $14.95 (paper) In the Zen tradition, pro- found truths are often conveyed through para- bles and amusing short sto- ries which are passed down through the ages. Robert Aitken Roshi, authorized in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition, contributes to this tradition with his own vol- ume of some 200 original tales that describe quirky Zen exchanges between master and student. But Zen Master Raven adds this twist: the community here is populated by animals who meet to discuss matters related to Zen and practice. It’s fun once you get start- ed—see if you don’t see your own practice questions formulated by a badger or a wood- pecker or an owl. For example: “Porcupine then asked, ‘Is trust in the teacher important for the practice?’ Raven said, ‘Indispensable.’ Porcupine asked, ‘Can’t that create prob- lems?’ Raven said, ‘Interminable.’” SAKE AND SATORI: Asian Journals, Japan by Joseph Campbell New World Library, 2002; 400 pp., $22.95 (cloth) Here’s a new posthu- mous publication from another writer of endur- ing interest. In 1954, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell took a one-year sabbatical from Sarah Lawrence College and headed off to India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Thailand, in Brief BY ANDREA MCQUILLAN