These essays were written for a course given at the Buddhist Library, Sydney, and Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre, Canberra, in 2005. They examine the Buddha’s teaching through the interpretative framework provided by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), a contemporary Theravāda bhikkhu who is an important translator and interpreter of the Buddha. His books include The wings to awakening, which provides the basic text for our course, and Mind like fire unbound, a study of nibbāna through the Buddha’s use of the metaphor of fire. Both have been published by Dhamma Dana publications, and are available on the internet at Access to Insight, www.accesstoinsight.org.

Ṭhānissaro’s interpretation of the Buddha’s teaching integrates theory (his broad sense of what the Buddha was saying) with practice (what one must do to understand and finally embody this teaching). He also provides his own translations of the texts to convey what he feels is the core meaning of key terms. The result is an integrated vision of the Buddha’s teaching which provides a consistent and compelling view of Buddhist theory and practice.
We begin by looking at the "wings of awakening" (bodhipakkhiyā dhammā), and see how Ṭhānissaro reads the Buddha through what he calls "the principle of skilful kamma."
Here we look at Ṭhānissaro’s approach to the cultivation of “insight” through practice of the “frames of reference” (satipaṭṭhāna). In this way “the principle of skilful action” is learned and applied by means of a “radical phenomenology.” The mind is brought to an “attentive non-intention” which projects nothing onto present experience. This is the “entry into emptiness” (suññatā avakam) or “nonfashioning” (atammayatā), allowing the mind to balance on the edge of “Unbinding” (nibbāna).
We extend the principle of skilful action to the four great exertions (sammappdhānas). We begin by returning to the very idea of “skill,” and what underlies it; and from there to how the exertions weave together discernment (paññā), concentration (samādhi), the four noble truths, and the noble eightfold and tenfold paths.
In this essay we look at concentration (samādhi) and discernment (paññā; vipassanā), and the relationships between them. What does the Buddha means by “concentration”? What is the connection between concentration and the discernment that leads to nibbāna? This connection entails right concentration (sammā samādhi), the eighth factor of the noble eight-fold path.
This essay examines a few issues implicit in the eightfold path. First we look at the relationship between faith (saddhā) and view (diṭṭhi) as it appears in the path. We examine the two levels of the path, mundane and ariya, and the relationship between desire and renunciation as it appears in the path factor of right resolve (sammā saṃkappa). And finally we investigate the use of the image of “path” (magga) or “way” (paṭipāda) to describe the nature of Buddhist practice, focusing especially on the structure of the path, its linear and holographic aspects, and its right and wrong factors.