In the first part of this book I will discuss virtue, before going on to discuss the practice of mental training in the second. I put together this first section as a cure for my own sense of dismay. In other words, there have been times when I’ve asked lay Buddhists to tell me what exactly is forbidden by the five precepts, the eight precepts, and the ten guidelines (kammapatha) that people observe, and their answers have been a jumble of right and wrong. When I ask them how long they’ve been observing the precepts, some say they’ve never observed them, others say “two years,” “five years,” etc. The ignorance of those who’ve never observed the precepts is understandable; as for those who have taken the precepts, there are all kinds. Some people who’ve observed the precepts for three years understand them better than others who’ve observed them for five. Some people have repeated the precepts against taking life for three years now, and yet keep on taking life, with no idea of what the precept is for. Of course, there are many people who are better informed than this, but even so I can’t help feeling dismayed because their behavior isn’t really in keeping with their knowledge.

Now, I say this is not to be critical, but simply to be truthful. For this reason, I have put together this book as a way of relieving my sense of dismay, and have arranged to have it printed for distribution to lay Buddhist adherents, as a guideline for honoring our Teacher through the practice of his teachings, and for fostering the prosperity of those teachings for a long time to come.

In conclusion, I ask the reader to read reflectively. Some things here may be to your liking, others may not. But at any rate, I feel certain that you could find it meritorious and skillful to bring your conduct into line with the various teachings mentioned here.

If anything I have written in this book is incorrect in terms of the Dhamma, please forgive me.

Whatever skillfulness there has been in the physical and mental energy used in writing this book I dedicate to those who have felt inspired to provide the financial energy for its printing. As long as they are not yet totally released from all suffering and stress, may they be perceptive and discerning with regard to everything of every sort that pertains to their genuine welfare in whatever realm they may be reborn.

Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

The Forest Temple

Shrimp Canal