What it is: Our friends at Wikipedia have this to say, “Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk … [He was] born December 7, 1927 in Sri Lanka. He was ordained as a monk at the age of twelve, and … came to the United States at the invitation of the Sasana Sevaka Society in 1968 … He is the author of the considerably influential work Mindfulness in Plain English.”
The book is a staple of the American “Vipassana”, or mindfulness meditation, scene. As an act of “dana” (Buddhist generosity) by its author, It is available for free at a number of places on the web – use your Google-fu to find it.
Description: A straight up masterpiece. This book is filled with deep, true, authentic Buddhist wisdom, and yet is written in an easy, extraordinarily clear Americanized vernacular. It is a comprehensive introduction for mindfulness meditation practice, filled with clear instructions for the path. The book challenges the reader to go deep and to practice properly, but it also has a simple, patient, humorous, kind, smiling vibe to it. It covers a wide ground, and yet touches on each subject in depth.
Anecdote: It is my experience that Bhante Gee (as he is known)’s other books are not quite as piercingly clear and smooth as this book is, and his live lectures can get sludgy and esoteric. Relevant here are the rumors that MiPE was ghost-co-written with an American professional writer.
Potential Turn-Offs: Don’t read this book if … ummmm …. if you don’t like being happy? Honestly, I can’t really think of any negatives to it. This book rökkz harder than John Bonham flying a nitro-fueled Joint Strike Fighter that’s really Optimus Prime.
What You Got Out Of It: I’ve been sitting meditation for twenty years and teaching it for five, and much of my grounding in the practice has come out of this book. Any meditation practitioner I know who is looking to deepen their understanding of the practice has gotten value from their engagement with this book. It’s everything you wish your mom had taught you about meditation practice. Anytime I pick up and re-read a little bit of it, I feel soothed, clarified, and a feeling of the worthwhileness (real word?) of being aware, intentional, and alive.