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Contemporary Buddhism is a house of many mansions. The myriad traditions, practices, and rituals can be bewildering to a seasoned practitioner of Buddhism, let alone to a newcomer. One good way to evaluate any tradition is to look at its prominent teachers and writers. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Ajahn Geoff), the abbot of Wat Metta in Valley Center California (near San Diego), has solid credentials. I had the good fortune to meet him and speak with him about 15 years ago. (Now that I've moved back to California, I hope to visit him again.) By that time, he had already studied for 15 years in Thailand under very prominent masters in the Thai forest tradition. So, he's been at it for 30+ years. Since taking the position at Wat Metta, he has written and translated prolifically, making available books, pamphlets, and sermons on just about every facet of Theravada Buddhism. Although he is an American, he is fluent in both the Thai and Pali languages. He has a gift for making what can be somewhat esoteric teachings accessible to a Western audience. And I know that he walks the talk. He and his monks at Wat Metta abide strictly by the Vinaya rules. You can learn more by seaching his name, or "Wat Metta." Check out the Wat Metta Dhamma Talk Archive. There you'll find a catalogue of sermons on many topics, which you can listen to. I usually listen to one or two before I begin a meditation session.
Thailand, where the forest tradition is alive and well, also has many women who are celebrated meditation teachers. The subject of this book is one of them. Another short book he translated (even though his name doesn't appear on it) is "Reading the Mind: Advice for Meditators." It's a translation of the woman teacher Tan Ajahn Kor Khao-Suan Luang. Although short (only 41 pages), it has been the single most helpful book on meditation I've ever come across, and it's my constant companion. The author emphasizes the importance of understanding that meditation is a process of RECOGNIZING AND ROOTING OUT MENTAL DEFILEMENTS. There are many forms of "meditation" being packaged and marketed in the contemporary spiritual marketplace which never even mention mental defilements. I can categorically assert that, from a spiritual point of view, they are useless. It is the mental defilements, to which we tenaciously cling, that are the source of our suffering. The Buddha categorically stated that "It's suffering I teach, and the end of suffering."
Meditation is not easy, because the defiled mind has myriad defenses against it. It requires determination and consistent practice over a period of time. A good teacher isn't going to tell you what you want to hear. He or she isn't going to try to sell you the notion of "instant enlightenment." He or she isn't trying to sell you anything. You alone must decide whether the goal is worth the effort. If it is, you really have no alternative to it. In the end, you're liberated from suffering by your own efforts, and faith in the Dharma. Such faith is, however, not "blind faith." The results are such that you can experience them for yourself. Be assured, however, that no "guru" is going to save you. One of the most attractive characteristics of the Theravada Buddhist tradition ("the Way of the Elders") is that, while it has its esteemed teachers, the very idea of a holy-man "guru" is alien to it. You'll find no teacher, monk or otherwise, who boasts of his or her spiritual achievements, or sets himself or herself up as an idol to be worshipped. In fact, boasting of one's spiritual achievements, especially if such boasts are untrue, is a serious infraction of the Vinaya rules, the code of conduct for Buddhist monastics.
If you've come to the conclusion that your life amounts to little more than a chasing after wind, or running toward the horizon (the faster you run toward it, the faster it recedes), Buddhism is a good place to start getting your house in order. And you can do no better than to begin with the teachings and writings of the translator of this book.