Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Teachings of the Buddha

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
September 17, 2013
Tue, 09/17/2013 - 10:45 -- bbodhi

We are proud to announce that over the next ten weeks, we will be sharing selected suttas from our Teachings of the Buddha series. These renowned translations from the Pali Discourses feature contributions of the American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi and are highly regarded by both scholars and general readers alike for their clarity and precision. Beginning next week, we will share a selection from In the Buddha’s Words which will lay out the theme for the week. Over the subsequent six days, we will post suttas selected by Ven. Bodhi.  We start our project with an introduction from Ven. Bodhi himself.—Editor's Note

During the first rainy season after the Buddha’s passing, his foremost disciples held a council to compile his teachings for future generations. After careful deliberation, they assembled the Buddha’s discourses into four major collections called Āgamas or Nikāyas. One version of these collections, preserved in the ancient Indian language known as Pāli, serves as the primary scriptural authority for Theravāda Buddhism, the form of Buddhism that prevails in the countries of southern Asia. For the Theravāda Buddhist tradition, the Nikāyas are the heart of the Pāli Canon, the closest we can come to the Master’s own teachings.

Wisdom’s Teachings of the Buddha series features English translations of the four Nikāyas: the Dīgha Nikāya or Long Discourses by Maurice Walshe; the Majjhima Nikāya or Middle Length Discourses by Ven. Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, revised and edited by myself; and my own translations of the Saṃyutta Nikāya and the Anguttara Nikāya, respectively the Connected Discourses and the Numerical Discourses. These collections expose us to the vast range of the Buddha’s teachings, timeless in meaning and value, described in the texts themselves as “good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.” They also offer us fascinating glimpses into the life of the Buddha as a real human being living in a specific historical and cultural context.

If you are keen on learning what the Buddha himself taught during his active ministry of forty-five years, it is to the Nikāyas that you will eventually have to turn. What did the Buddha actually say about the workings of karma? What did he say about self and non-self, about the duties of a householder, about precepts and meditation, about the four foundations of mindfulness? With these texts on hand, you won’t have to settle for second-hand answers to these questions, whether from traditional expositors or modern commentators. In the words of these discourses you will be able to find the answers for yourself.

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