Due out in May, this eagerly awaited book is the synthesis of a lifetime walking the Buddha’s Way. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana became a monk at age eleven, and Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness displays the depth of his more than sixty years of practice. Written in the same straightforward style as his classic work Mindfulness in Plain English, the book is the answer to the request of many of Bhante Gunaratana’s students and colleagues to set down in clear prose his experience in living the “eight mindful steps” of the Noble Eightfold Path.
The result is this astoundingly clear and joyful guide to living life at the deepest level. Bhante G., as he is aﬀectionately known, encourages the reader in his gentle and yet delightfully enthusiastic way to use the book as a vehicle for self-investigation. “Don’t get lost in beliefs and suppositions about the world,” he tells us in the introduction. Rather, he invites us, as did the Buddha, to “look at ourselves, to come home, to come close to our own bodies and minds and examine them.”
Eight Mindful Steps contains eight chapters, each one dedicated to a “Skillful Step” on the Eightfold Path. Because of his familiarity with the Western mind, he has retranslated the commonly used word “right,” replacing it with the word “skillful” when referring to each element of the path. This change serves to continually recalibrate the reader’s awareness. We learn to tune in to the deeply present aliveness that moves us skillfully through life’s complications and difficulties without falling prey to our deeply conditioned tendency to judge ourselves harshly. In this gentle and heartful way, he teaches us to take responsibility for our lives, turning our mistakes into grist for the mill of our own awakening.
Bhante uses a wonderful and richly varied storytelling style to illustrate his teachings. Some are his own retellings of the Buddha’s teaching stories, and others come from his own life. He describes being on an airplane ﬂight from Hawaii when an engine caught on ﬁre and recounts the thoughts he had during the panic following the ﬂight attendant’s emergency instructions: “If this is my time to die, well, I will die anyway, whether I am afraid or not. Let me keep my mind clear.” The plane limped back to Honolulu and made a successful emergency landing. Having remained present in what he calls “childlike mind,” he was able to say about sliding down the emergency chute, “I enjoyed it all very much.”
Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness will surely prove to be a trusted resource, reﬂecting the gentleness and compassion of one whose life has been dedicated to coming home to freedom.