Extract from Preface (2005): "I started this book in May of 2004, as a six-page letter to my mother, who currently lives in Armidale, Australia. Earlier that same month, she had received a copy of Knowing and Seeing from our Sayadaw, and I was concerned that, without a background in Theravāda Buddhism, she would have difficulty understanding his book.
As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. My mother read the book twice and found it extremely helpful. On the other hand, I was not totally satisfied with my letter. In retrospect, I felt it glossed over too many important topics; in addition, it did not address the very real need for clear and practical introductory information for foreigners. As a Westerner, I had become aware of this need during my first visit to Pa-Auk Forest Monastery some four years earlier.
I began to revise the letter heavily, detailing the Four Noble Truths in the Introduction and using the threefold training as an outline. I supplemented the text with more than a hundred footnotes, included several appendices dealing specifically with conditions at this monastery and finally added a sixteenpage index."