Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith combine clear explanations of the Buddha's teachings on freedom and happiness with their personal stories highlighting some of the challenges and insights of practice. The Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation offers advice about going on retreat and help in choosing a teacher and a sangha (practice community), as well as suggestions for further reading and information on various Insight Meditation or Vipassana centers and resources. Here is an enormously practical book that covers every aspect of the teachings a beginner needs to get started.
It's hard to imagine that Buddha envisioned different schools to disseminate his teachings, but two great traditions have emerged: Mahayana (encompassing Tibetan and Zen Buddhism), growing north out of India, and Theravada or Vipassana, known in the West as Insight Meditation, which developed south and east of India. This good-hearted primer is a true beginner's guide to what it claims is "the fastest growing school of Buddhism in this country." The authors are well-qualified: Weisman taught at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. (the first and largest U.S. Vipassana retreat center), and Smith authored The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism. The tone of the book matches the spirit of Insight Meditation in that it is less formal than Zen or Tibetan Buddhism and also more autocratic ("individual practice is founded on each person's self-inquiry into what works for them"). The first-person stories nicely support the more instructional, but not doctrinaire, how-to bulk of the text. Complete with a biography of the Buddha, a list of U.S. Insight Meditation centers, some core sacred texts and a glossary, this volume is the perfect starter kit for people curious about Buddhism, who may or may not adhere to another faith. For those who may not even know how to put their hands together in a pose of dedication to take the Three Refuges vows, this gentle manual provides loose soil where tender roots might take hold.