The recent interest in Buddhism, both in the East and in the
West, has been marked by a vigorous practical orientation and
a drive to discover through meditation the peace and freedom
to which the practice of Dhamma leads.
While opportunities for meditation instruction and practice
continue to grow, the study of the Buddha's teachings is often
neglected by practitioners. This course provides an opportunity
for you to balance your practice with a study of the Buddhadharma.
Not only is
the study of the Dhamma neglected today, it is
often a belittled. This thinking demands examination.
It is often said that study is concerned with
words and concepts that can lead to learning
but not to wisdom; that while study can change
our ideas it fails to touch the deeper realities
of our lives.
To clinch the case the testimony of the Buddha
himself is enlisted, with his famous remarks
that to learn much without practicing is like
counting the cows of others or like carrying
a raft on one's head instead of using it to cross
It is certainly true that learning without practice
is fruitless, but the other side of the issue
also should be considered. Should a person gather
cows if he knows nothing about how to take care
of them? Should he try to cross a rough and dangerous
river without knowing how to operate a raft?
You will explore this question — why study Buddhism
— in the first lesson.
This course offers a
comprehensive presentation the fundamental concepts of the
teachings of the Buddha from the perspective of Theravadan
Buddhism. Among the contemporary forms of Buddhism, the Theravada
is thought to be the form that has most closely adhered to
the teachings and practices established by the historical Buddha.
Buddhism has prevailed in Southeast Asia (Sri Lanka,
Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos) for over two millenia
and is now gaining a foothold in the West, primarily through
"Inight Meditation" and Vipassana meditation centers.
While other schools of Buddhist thought present the Dharma
from their own philosophical standpoint and in many cases elaborate
on the Theravadan teacings, most Buddhist tradtions are founded
upon the Buddha's teachings you will learn in this course.
The principle source of the teachings in this course is the
Tipiteka – the Pali Canon — which consists
of three collections of scripture preserved in the ancient
Pali language. The three collections are
- The Vinayana tipeca — the collection of disciplines,
the rules and regulations for the orders of Buddhist monks
- The sutta viteca — the collection of suttas, the
discourses of the Buddha and some of his great disciples.
- The abidharma tipeka — the collection of philosophical
treatises which present the dhamma from the standpoint of
a very precise philosophical and psychological analysis
Of these three collections, this course focuses on the sutta
viteca, the teachings found in the Buddha’s discourses.
note on the audio: This course is based
on a series of talks given over twenty years
ago by Bhikkhu Bodhi and recorded with rather
basic recordering equipment. The quality of
the audio varies and leaves much to be desired.
We trust you will agree that the quality of the
teachings more than makes up for any deficiencies
in sound quality.