This book draws upon transcriptions of recordings at a retreat conducted by Venerable Mahathera Madawela Punnaji at the Providence Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (June 16-25, 2006). The book contains daily sutta-based discussions, guided meditation practices, Q & A sessions, participant sharing, and feedback over a nine-day residential retreat for seasoned and beginner meditators to serve as a user’s guide to Samatha practice. Since this meditation practice aims to enter the four levels of deep tranquility and also called Tranquility Meditation. Those who have become adept at tranquility meditation can proceed to the Seven Steps to Awakening which according to the author, is the real “Insight Meditation”.
The Editor, Dr Mahendra Wijayasinghe, Ph.D. was a close friend and student of Bhante Punnaji. For over three decades, Venerable Punnaji was an annual visitor to his home in Edmonton, Alberta. With the support and generosity of the Sri Lankan community and Canadian Buddhist organizations, the Editor and his family helped Bhante Punnaji write several books and organize retreats, seminars, media interviews, and stress management workshops. He saved many of his writings, recorded presentations, conference proceedings, etc., with the editor, anticipating their publication before his life ended. Since then, the editor has taken the responsibility to preserve the legacy of Bhante Punnaji’s discoveries in the Buddha Dhamma by publishing them in a series of books and through a proposed website, currently in progress. The books are a meticulous word-for-word transcription of Bhante Punnaji’s words as they were penned or spoken and unaltered by the editor. All books are distributed at cost, in the spirit of sharing the Dhamma free of charge.
Readers will find many of Bhante Punnaji’s ideas refreshingly different from other sources on Buddhism. The book explains in exquisite detail the dynamics of sathipathana meditation. Anyone seeking a meaningful meditative experience will find these stepwise instructions invaluable. An expanded Index, a Glossary, and a special Q & A section are included in the book. The Q & A’s on Buddhism and meditation were recorded during thirty years of the editor’s association with the author. Two posthumously published books under the author’s name, Letting Go of ‘Self’: Lessons in Buddhist Psychology (2021) and Life Examined: Lessons in Buddhist Philosophy (2022), would be significant supplementary resources. Just as Bhante Punnaji’s study took a lifetime, the study of his work is not easy to absorb through casual one-time reading. The new generation of seekers, especially those who are scientifically oriented, should find Bhante Punnaji’s approach to teaching Buddhism and Buddhist meditation both appealing and of practical value.
Inner Calm is the third book in the “Buddhism Demystified” series. These books capture the lifelong research into original Buddhism by one of the foremost Buddhist intellectuals of this century. He is the late Venerable Mahathera Madawela Punnaji, who made the Sarathchandra Buddhist Center in North Hollywood, California, his temporary residence as a traveling monk. Bhante Punnaji, as his students respectfully addressed him, was a humble monk who was ordained at the age of 32 by the most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka Thera, Chief Prelate of the Sri Amarapura Dhammarakshita Nikaya. Serving the Washington Buddhist Vihara as a missionary monk in the early 70s, Bhante Punnaji later spearheaded the development of the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. In the final phase of his life, he became a traveling monk, trotting the globe, teaching, conducting meditation retreats, and continuing his unceasing thirst to discover the true meaning of the Buddha’s words as preserved in the Pali Canon. In the final decade of his life, he settled at the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Remarkably, he was conducting a meditation retreat even on the last day of his life at 89 years, which happened to be the full-moon day of July 2018.