In May of this year, members of Le Refuge, a Buddhist group located in Auriol, near Marseilles, invited me to lead an eight-day retreat on the topics of kamma (karma) and mindfulness (sati). The retreat provided me with the opportunity to discuss the relationships between these two central Buddhist concepts, to show how the Buddha’s teachings on kamma—far from being irrelevant to the practice of mindfulness—actually provide the essential grounding for understanding how mindfulness best functions in developing the mind for the purpose of putting an end to suffering and stress.

The talks of the retreat were presented in three series: a series of morning talks on mindfulness, a series of evening talks on kamma, and a series of afternoon talks on issues arising in meditation that are best understood in light of the Buddha’s teachings on both kamma and mindfulness. As the retreat progressed, the three series of talks converged.

The present book is based on all three series of talks, presented chronologically, along with some of the questions submitted by people attending the retreat, which have been reordered and placed after the talks to which they seem most clearly related. The talks, the questions, and the answers to the questions have been edited and expanded so as to make their coverage of both main topics of the retreat more complete than I was able to manage on the spot.

The talks draw on suttas, or discourses, from the Pāli Canon and on the writings and talks of the ajaans, or teachers, of the Thai forest tradition, in which I was trained. For people unfamiliar with the Canon, I have added passages from the discourses at the back of the book to flesh out some of the points made in the talks. These are followed by a glossary of Pāli terms.

For people unfamiliar with the Thai forest tradition, you should know that it is a meditation tradition founded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by Ajaan Mun Bhūridatto. The ajaans mentioned in the talks trained under him. Of these, Ajaan Fuang Jotiko and Ajaan Suwat Suvaco were my teachers. Ajaan Fuang, although he spent some time training directly under Ajaan Mun, spent more time training under one of Ajaan Mun’s students, Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo.

Many people have helped with the preparation of this book. In particular, I would like to thank the people of Le Refuge who made the retreat possible, and Claude LeNinan, my excellent and meticulous interpreter throughout my stay in southern France. Here at Metta, the monks at the monastery helped in preparing the manuscript, as did Michael Barber, Linda Harter, Addie Onsanit, and Isabella Trauttmansdorff. Any mistakes in the book, of course, are my own responsibility.

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

(Geoffrey DeGraff)

Metta Forest Monastery

October, 2015