The Meditative Path - Preface


MY AIM IN WRITING THIS BOOK IS TO PROVIDE a comprehensive introduction to the practice of meditation for the serious beginner. However, I am sure that meditators who have been practicing for some time will also find its contents relevant and rewarding.

Although my own background is primarily within the Buddhist tradition, I have found that meditation is a beneficial form of mental development appropriate for everybody. Therefore, I have intentionally avoided using religious termi­nology that might restrict accessibility to these teachings.

In this respect, I am certain that I am being true to the example of my teacher, Venerable Ajahn Chah, who was a high­ly revered Buddhist monk and an exceptionally gifted medita­tion master. Once, a group of European travelers wishing to learn about meditation asked him three questions:

· Why do you practice?
· How do you practice?
· What is the result of your practice?

Seeing that they were sincere and intelligent seekers, my teacher replied with three other questions:

· Why do you eat?
· How do you eat?
· How do you feel after having eaten well?

These answers may seem rather enigmatic, but they were Ajahn Chah’s way of stripping away any unnecessary mystery or complexity from meditation practice. Eating is an ordinary process that provides the body with nutrients for physical well-being. Meditation, he was saying, is an equally ordinary mental process that fulfills our inner need for peace and harmony.

This book was written on paper over a very short period of time, but it has been taking shape in my mind for many years. I have been studying, practicing, and teaching meditation for almost thirty years. Within these pages, I have tried to share with you what I have learned on my journey.

When I first encountered Buddhism, I was a restless twen­ty-three-year-old, eager to see the world, explore different cultures, and experience the rich diversity of life. However, it became clear to me that regardless of where I went or what fas­cinating new adventure I embarked on, I always took myself along with me and carried as well my personal baggage of unre­solved emotions and feelings. I realized that I was, in fact, trav­eling with a stranger who was neither happy nor at peace. It was then that I started to meditate. I wanted to get to know that unhappy stranger who was me, explore his inner world, and cul­tivate the well-being that can only come from a mind that is at peace.

I did not find the practice of meditation easy, nor did I see quick results. It is said in Buddhism that there are four types of practitioners. The first is the exceptionally gifted meditator who finds practice easy and achieves results quickly. Next is the practitioner who has a pleasant journey but takes a long time to reach the goal. The third type has a lot of difficulty with the practice but makes quick progress nevertheless. Unfortunately, most of us fall into the fourth category, for whom practice is fraught with hindrances and who progress slowly and only with much patience and commitment.

Of course, we would all like to be in the first group, and maybe you will be one of the fortunate ones. But the slow and difficult journey can be extremely rewarding and enriching. Some of the best meditation teachers I know are ones who had to work through many problems in their own practice. While I may not be a teacher of that caliber, I do feel that my experi­ence with meditation during my many years of contemplative, monastic living has given me a unique understanding of the Meditative Path. Finding myself now as a lay person in the posi­tion of teaching this path to other lay people living normal, busy lives, I also appreciate the need to make meditation useful, practical, and relevant for ordinary people.

On my journey I have been blessed with the support, guid­ance, and inspiring example of wonderful teachers and spiritual friends. For me, Venerable Ajahn Chah was a living embodi­ment of the fruits of practice-a truly beautiful human being. Ajahn Chah was my spiritual father, and his first Western disci­ple, Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, has been an older brother who has pulled me up and helped me along on numerous occasions. That this book has been written is mainly due to the compas­sion and wisdom showered on me by them.

This is not a scholastic work, nor is it a recipe book on meditation techniques. It is a sharing of experience in the belief that it can make your path easier to travel. It presents a gradual unfolding of the meditative process that gently takes you to deeper levels of understanding and experience of meditation. Having read the text in each chapter, I greatly encourage you to practice the recommended meditation exercises, as they will give you a better appreciation of the teachings.

The questions at the end of the chapters reflect actual ques­tions that I have been asked on different occasions over the years. I include them because they help clarify some important points and hopefully provide interesting reading.

In conclusion, this is the type of book I wish I had been given to read when I started to practice meditation. That is why I am offering it to you.

John Cianciosi

To purchase a copy of this book, click here .

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