It is not easy for people visiting Thailand to make sense of the Buddhist traditions that they encounter here. Few tour guides seem able to explain the principles of Buddhism with any great clarity, and Thai Buddhist friends tend to be similarly vague. This book is intended to provide an introduction to the teachings of the Buddha which will shed some light on a subject that, to non-Buddhists, can appear both unexpectedly rational and exotically strange.
This is not a text book. It is intended to be as concise as possible, and deals in one paragraph with certain topics that are dealt with elsewhere in books hundreds of pages long. Obviously, a great deal has been omitted. Readers interested in finding out more on particular points are referred to the list of resources found at the end of the book.
Many forms of Buddhism have evolved over the past 2,600 years. This book deals only with the teachings of the Theravada tradition, and specifically the form of Theravada found in Thailand (which differs in certain minor details from its expression in other ‘Theravadan’ countries such as Sri Lanka or Burma). The book is also written from the perspective of one particular monk living within the Thai Theravāda tradition. I was born in England but have been living in the forest monasteries and hermitages of north- east Thailand since 1978. Inevitably, my background and training have influenced the interpretations found here. I have been fortunate enough to study with some truly wise masters and this presentation of the Dhamma owes much to them, in particular to two of the greatest monks of the modern era, Venerable Ajahn Chah and Phra Brahma- gunabhorn (P. A. Payutto). I would like to express my deep gratitude to both of them.