Only in the last year of his life did Ajaan Lee’s students make recordings of his talks. We have transcripts of nine recordings altogether. The four translated in this collection are the only ones for which copies of the original tapes are still available.

I have been told that Ajaan Lee had strong premonitions of his impending death, and in listening to the tapes of these talks it’s easy to sense that he was giving them not only as instructions for the people present, but also as gifts for posterity. Hence the title of the collection.

The first talk was a farewell—the closing talk at the dedication of the new ordination hall at Ajaan Lee’s monastery, Wat Asokaram. As events would have it, this was the last talk he gave to a large-scale gathering of his students, supporters, and friends. The second talk takes up the concept of practice as a battle with internal enemies, and shows how the wisest strategy is to win one’s enemies over to one’s side. The third covers the eight classical forms of knowledge and skill (vijjā) that come from the practice of concentration, discussing how they relate to the methods of science and other forms of worldly knowledge. Three of the knowledges toward the end of the list are barely touched on, and the end of the talk is fairly abrupt. This may have been due to the tape’s running out, for Ajaan Lee had quite a lot to say on these knowledges in his other talks and writings. Still, the heart of the talk—the role of thinking and not-thinking in developing concentration and liberating insight—is discussed in considerable detail, making this a helpful guide to the “how” of meditation practice. The fourth talk closes the collection with a lively discussion of the ways in which the concepts of “self” and “not-self” relate to the phenomena of consciousness—one of Ajaan Lee’s most remarkable teachings.

All four talks contain extended metaphors, and a large measure of their appeal lies in the wit and imagination with which Ajaan Lee explores his imagery. The wit here is not simply a stylistic device. Instead, it’s a form of intelligence essential to the path: the ability to perceive unexpected parallels and to use them as tools in the practice. Ajaan Lee’s example in this regard is not the least of his many gifts to those who pursue the path to liberation in his wake.

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu