This book has been several years in the making. In the course of assembling it I have used some of the material it contains to lead study courses at the Barre Center of Buddhist Studies, Barre, Massachusetts; at Awareness Grove, Laguna Beach, California; with the Insight Meditation Society of Orange County, the San Diego Vipassana Community, and the Open Door Sangha of Santa Barbara. The feedback coming from the participants in these courses has helped force me to clarify the presentation and to make explicit the connections between the words of the teachings and their application in practice. It has been encouraging to see that people in America—contrary to their reputation in other parts of the world—are interested in learning authentic Buddhist teachings and integrating them into their lives. This encouragement is what has given me the impetus to turn this material into a book.

In addition to the participants at the above courses, Dorothea Bowen, John Bullitt, Jim Colfax, Charles Hallisey, Karen King, Mu Soeng, Andrew Olendzki, Gregory M. Smith, and Jane Yudelman have read and offered valuable comments on earlier incarnations of the manuscript. John Bullitt also helped with the Index. The finished book owes a great deal to all of these people. Any mistakes that remain, of course, are my own responsibility.

I dedicate this book to all of my teachers, and in particular to Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, the teacher of my primary teacher, Phra Ajaan Fuang Jotiko. The example of Ajaan Lee’s life has had a large influence on my own, in more ways than I can ever really repay. His teaching of the Buddhist path as a skill—as expressed in the Wings to Awakening and embodied in the practice of breath meditation—provided the original and on-going inspiration for writing this book. I offer it to his memory with the highest respect.

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

Metta Forest Monastery
PO Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082