The BUZZ: Written almost twenty-five years ago, this classic introduction to meditation is enjoying renewed attention with the popular culture’s interest in mindfulness.
The GIST: Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a revered Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk and teacher. In this slim volume, he invites us to define mindfulness as a transformational way of being. A primer for the practice of seated meditation, it answers any and all questions the reader might have about the value and structure of a daily meditation practice. Guidance and support are provided for all the challenges that might arise in learning something so contrary to the busy, materialistic lives that call to us. The table of contents reads like a discussion Gunaratana might have with a doubtful person investigating meditation: Why bother? What’s In It For Me? What Meditation Is. What Meditation Isn’t… As a long-time student of meditation, I found this simple book beautiful in its completeness.
The WRITING: Humble and gentle. Of course. Exactly what you might expect from someone who spends hours each day focusing on lovingkindness for all beings. Bhante G, as he is affectionately known, is also an accomplished scholar. The structure and content of this book are uncomplicated, which is no small feat with such philosophical topics. Although it’s loaded with instructions, the tone is far from didactic. It’s more like a relaxed, often humorous, conversation over tea. He does an astonishing job giving a light-hearted presentation of a path that could liberate us from suffering.
BUY or BORROW? Buy. This is a definitive work on the spiritual life. If you have any interest in the benefits of meditation, you won’t find, or need, a better guide.
“Somewhere in this process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and helpless. No problem.”