He was being asked to speak so often while residing in California and at the Washington (DC) Buddhist Vihara.
The popular 10-lecture series serves as a remarkably-detailed "Introduction to Buddhism" distributed on cassette. The home study course contains detailed lectures on the core original teachings of the Buddha.
In 1981 while residing in DC, Bhante G (then president of the Buddhist Vihara Society) suggested the young Bhikkhu Bodhi record lectures so the Vihara could distribute them as a set. A Wisdom Quarterly editor once traveled to faraway Kandy, Sri Lanka -- where Bhikkhu Bodhi was living as editor of the Buddhist Publication Society -- to get permission to widely publish these teachings.
He gladly gave it with the injunction that it be not-for-profit but a gift of Dharma (dhamma-dana). The lectures are now considered "public domain," which means anyone may copy and freely distribute.
They are best listened to in the sequence Bhikkhu Bodhi lists them because they build on one another. Here they are as MP3 files for free download (thanks to the great work of Ven. Kusala at urbandharma.com) taken.
Our exemplary meditation teacher Kalyani recommends they be placed on an MP3 player and listened to throughout the day. It is a wonderful form of merit-making to immerse oneself in these modern-English words, stories, and sutras to benefit from Bhikkhu Bodhi's decades of remarkable scholarship bringing the Buddha's teachings to life for Americans.
AS IT IS (audio files)
- The Buddha - MP3 - 1:23 min - 19 MB
- The Four Noble Truths - MP3 - 1:21 min - 18.6 MB
- The True Nature of Existence - MP3 - 1:18 min - 18 MB
- Dependent Origination - MP3 - 1:15 min - 17.2 MB
- Rebirth and Kamma - MP3 - 1:23 min - 19.1 MB
- Nibbana - MP3 - 1:16 min - 17.5 MB
- The Noble Eightfold Path - MP3 - 1:19 min - 18.1 MB
- Meditation - MP3 - 1:23 min - 19 MB
- Social Teachings of the Buddha - MP3 - 1:17 min - 17.7 MB
- The Sangha - MP3 - 1:18 min - 17.9 MB
(Wisdom Quarterly review) The series begins by introducing who the Buddha was (and what a buddha is). Then it goes to the core teachings, Buddhism encapsulated in the four truths. Reality is explained in Lecture 3. Then the means of gaining liberating-insight by mindful contemplation of the 12 links of causality called Dependent Origination. This leads to a discussion of rebirth and karma because they are essential links that reveal the true nature of disappointment (dukkha, suffering) central to the Buddha's teaching on the end of suffering. Nirvana (Pali, nibbana) is the complete cessation of suffering. It is brought about by cultivating the Noble Eightfold Path. This path is one of meditation more than intellectual study. But self-cultivation in Buddhism always includes a social dimension that critics of the ancient Theravada (Teaching of the Buddhist Elders) school often cite as self-absorbed assuming the Buddha had neglected society when in fact so much of his teachings are concerned with the betterment of the world that does not meditate. Those who dedicate their lives to meditating, preserving the Dharma, and teaching are the Sangha, the monastic order, which we as Americans and socially engaged Buddhists tend to dismiss as an anachronism when the Order of Nuns and Order of Monks (and countless temporary ordainees) continue to be a vibrant part of Buddhism.
Bhikkhu Bodhi has continued promoting the systematic study of Buddhism in English at BAUS (Buddhist Association of the US, Chaung Yen Monastery) in Upstate New York and at Bodhi Temple in New Jersey. Those teachings from the BAUS library include commentaries on his translation of the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya).