Access to Insight is an Internet website dedicated to providing accurate, reliable, and useful information concerning the practice and study of Theravada Buddhism, as it has been handed down to us through both the written word of the Pali Canon and the living example of the Sangha.
Access to Insight is not an organization, nor is it affiliated with any institution. It is simply one person's personal website. The materials that I've assembled here are those that I've personally found to be useful over the years in deepening an understanding of the Buddha's teachings. I have no academic degrees in either the Pali language or in Buddhist Studies. In these pages I have therefore relied almost exclusively on the translations and interpretations of other respected scholars, teachers, and practitioners who have far more experience and wisdom than do I.
Although the readings offered here are by no means comprehensive, I have tried to organize and present enough of the Buddha's essential teachings in ways that make them easy to explore, so that you may perhaps discover for yourself some new and useful connections between them.
Everything available at Access to Insight is offered in full cooperation with the authors, translators, and publishers concerned, with the clear understanding that none of it is to be sold. Please help yourself to whatever you find useful. (For an explanation of the copyright status of materials on the website, please see the Frequently-asked Questions.)
One overarching principle has guided my choice of what to include in these pages, and what to leave out: a conviction that the teachings found in the Pali Canon are just as relevant today as when they were first put into practice 2,600 years ago. Despite all the obvious material advances in the human world since the Buddha's time, the Four Noble Truths appear to be as vital today as ever: suffering and stress still pervade our lives; the cause still appears to be craving in all its insidious manifestations; and there is no reason to suspect that the Noble Eightfold Path is any less effective today at bringing an end to all that suffering and stress. I find little in the Canon that cries out for "modernization" or reform to suit the unique demands of modern times. The Buddha's teachings of Awakening are concerned with fundamental principles of human nature that transcend any popular (or unpopular) social, cultural, or political agenda. One teacher has summed it up well: "The West has far more to learn from Theravada, than does Theravada from the West."
The emphasis here is on practice. For the most part I've selected books, articles, and sutta translations that I've found helpful to develop a personal understanding of the Buddha's teachings, rather than texts that tend to fuel speculative debates on abstruse philosophical concepts.
I've tried to avoid injecting my own views and opinions into these web pages, preferring instead to let the passages from the suttas speak for themselves. Some biases, however, inevitably remain, due to the editorial choices I've made and the short introductory essays and blurbs I've written here and there to give some context to the material being presented. I sincerely hope that my biases do not in any way obscure the real meaning of the texts themselves.
In early 1993, with the help of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, I started a Buddhist computer bulletin board service (BBS) in my basement as an experiment: can networked computers be genuinely useful as a support for students and practitioners of Buddhism? That summer, the BBS joined DharmaNet's international network of dialup Buddhist BBS's. Shortly thereafter the DharmaNet Transcription Project began, under whose auspices about a hundred high-quality books on Buddhism were transcribed to computer, thanks to the dedicated efforts of an international team of volunteer transcribers and proofreaders. These books were distributed via DharmaNet to scores of BBS's around the world. In 1994 I installed a dialup Internet e-mail connection that allowed anyone on the Internet to retrieve these books via an e-mail file server. This proved to be a popular service. By late 1994 the BBS -- now independent of the Study Center -- spent far more of its time serving file requests from around the world via the Internet than in handling the requests of local callers. Internet users from around the world were coming to depend on Access to Insight's now rickety and overworked '386 computer as their link to information -- both the timely and the timeless -- about Buddhism. Thus, in March 1995 this website was born; six months later I closed down the BBS for good.
Today Access to Insight continues to grow: what began in 1993 as a modest collection of two or three suttas and a handful of articles has blossomed into a library of over 700 suttas and several hundred articles and books. With the release of the Handful of Leaves CD-ROM in November 1998, these texts are now reaching an even wider audience and being further redistributed around the world in print and electronic media.
My role in assembling Access to Insight has primarily been that of facilitator and librarian, helping to bring together under one virtual roof the fruits of the hard work of many people: authors, translators, publishers, transcribers, and proofreaders. The extraordinary generosity and commitment to the Dhamma demonstrated by these many contributors continues to amaze and inspire me. If you have found anything of value at Access to Insight please join me in thanking those who have made it possible:
First and foremost, thanks go to both Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Bhikkhu Bodhi, President of the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy, Sri Lanka, has generously allowed many of the BPS's publications (including its Wheel and Bodhi Leaves titles, among others) to be transcribed to computer and distributed on the Internet. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Ajaan Geoff) has kindly made available all his own books and articles, as well as his translations of teachings by many of the great Thai forest masters. Ajaan Geoff has also provided most of Access to Insight's sutta translations (over six hundred of them are his).
I owe a great deal to Barry Kapke, founder and director of DharmaNet International, for his exemplary commitment to bringing the Dhamma to the online world. Many of the books you'll find on this website are here thanks to the diligent efforts of many volunteers who offered their time and energy under the auspices of DharmaNet's Dharma Book Transcription Project: Mark Blackstad, Robert Bussewitz, Joe Crea, Tom Fitton, George Fowler, Myra I. Fox, Bradford Griffith, Philip L. Jones, Barry Kapke, Pat Lapensee, Gaston Losier, Jim McLaughlin, Steven McPeak, Raj Mendis, Sabine Miller, Bill Petrow, Maureen Riordan, Malcolm Rothman, Heath Row, Eileen Santer, Christopher Sessums, David Savage, Mahendra Siriwardene, Greg Smith, Chitra Weirich, and Jane Yudelman.
Since Access to Insight moved to the World Wide Web in 1995, I have received hundreds of helpful comments and corrections from many visitors. A few of these friends have gone far beyond the call of duty, making many important suggestions that have greatly improved the quality of what you see at Access to Insight: Binh Anson, Jamie Avera, Jakub Bartovsky, Emily Bullitt, Chun Hoe Chow, Liew Chin Leag, Trevor Rhodes, Steve Russell, Andy Shaw, and Chandra Yenco.
I am especially indebted to Jane Yudelman for her encouragement in 1992 that got the Access to Insight BBS off the ground in the first place, and for her continued advice and support that help this project continue to mature.
Thank you all.
-- John Bullitt