- What is Access to Insight?
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 and is not affiliated with any institution. It is simply one person's website. Although I have studied the Buddha's teachings for many years as a dedicated lay follower, I have no academic degrees in either the Pali language or Buddhist Studies. In these pages I have therefore relied on the translations and interpretations of other respected scholars, teachers, and practitioners who have far more experience and wisdom than do I.
The readings assembled here represent just a selection of the Buddha's teachings. These are the ones that, over the years, I've personally found to be helpful in deepening an understanding of Dhamma practice. This collection is not meant to be an exhaustive archive of Theravada Buddhist texts.
I've tried to avoid injecting my own views and opinions into these web pages. Some biases, however, inevitably intrude, owing 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.
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 a detailed explanation of the copyright status of materials on the website, please read "Copyright and Related Issues.")
- How did Access to Insight start?
In early 1993, with the help of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, I set up in my basement a computer bulletin board service (BBS) to see if networked computers might be genuinely useful as a support for students and practitioners of Buddhism. Originally dubbed "BCBS OnLine," the BBS soon joined DharmaNet's international network of dialup Buddhist BBS's and adopted the name "Access to Insight." Shortly thereafter, Barry Kapke launched DharmaNet's Dharma Book Transcription Project, of which I served as librarian, and under whose auspices about a hundred high-quality books on Buddhism were transcribed to computer through the dedicated efforts of an international team of volunteer transcribers and proofreaders. These books were soon 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 BCBS — 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 far and wide 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. In March 1995 this website was born; eight 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 more than nine hundred suttas and several hundred articles and books. With the release of the Handful of Leaves CD-ROM in 1998 and 1999, these texts are now reaching an even wider audience and being further redistributed around the world in print and electronic media.
- How can I contact you?
I'm always happy to receive your corrections, suggestions, comments, and queries, but please remember that Access to Insight isn't an organization and there are no staff here — it's just me — so it may take some time for me to respond. When sending me e-mail, please use one of the following addresses, depending on the nature of your message:
- — to report bugs, typos, misstatements, faux pas, or other errors.
- — to offer suggestions, make requests for new features, etc.
- — for all other correspondence.
Visually impaired users: please use "john at access to insight dot org" for all correspondence.
If you're asking me a question, please first check to see if it is already answered in the Frequently Asked Questions About Access to Insight, the Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhism, the Help file,
or the Indexes.
You can also reach me by post:
P.O. Box 441681
Somerville, MA 02144
- If Access to Insight isn't run by an organization, why does its URL ends in ".org"?
A .com top-level domain isn't quite right since I'm not selling anything. .net isn't quite right either, since the website isn't part of a network. The relative newcomer .info is problematic, too, since it's heavily populated with "adult" websites. This leaves .org, which, to my mind at least, suggests a non-commercial entity. Maybe someday we'll have more top-level domains to choose from (.disorg or .notcom would be nice). Until that day comes, Access to Insight will happily muddle along, a square peg in a web of round holes.
I should add that, in the interest of protecting Access to Insight's good name from possible web-spoofing mischief, in 2004 I also secured the .info, .us, and .net domains. I had hoped to secure the .com domain as well, but Netster, a notorious Internet cybersquatter, beat me to it, and they have shown no interest in relinquishing accesstoinsight.com. For more information, see "Cybersquatter eviction" in "How you can help Access to Insight."
- Is Access to Insight affiliated in some way with the Insight Meditation Society?
- How do you decide which texts to include on the website?
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. Unlike many popular writers on Buddhism today, I find little in the Canon that cries out for "modernization" or reform to suit the unique demands of modern times. I believe that the Buddha's teachings of Awakening are concerned with fundamental principles of human nature that transcend any social, cultural, or political agendas. 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 intellectual debates on abstract philosophical concepts.
Beyond these basic principles, it all comes down to a matter of personal taste. For example, I have found the teachings from the Thai forest traditions invaluable, so they are heavily represented here. Likewise, you won't find any texts from the Abhidhamma here, simply because I haven't found the Abhidhamma — as fascinating as it certainly is — to be particularly helpful to meditation practice.
See also: Why don't you have translations of ALL the suttas from the Pali Canon?
- Why don't you have translations of ALL the suttas from the Pali Canon?
This website aims to be selective rather than comprehensive. My goal has never been to publish translations of every single one of the Tipitaka's 10,000-plus suttas. What you see here is a selection of suttas that meet three criteria: (1) they are, in my opinion, good translations; (2) I have personally found them useful; and (3) their copyright holders have provided them for free distribution.
There are many other fine translations of important suttas available in print today, and I encourage you to support their continued publication by purchasing copies. Someday, perhaps, these publishers will choose to make those translations available free of charge in print or on websites such as this one. Until that day comes, however, we must learn to make do with what we have.
See also: How do you decide which texts to include on the website? and Is there anything wrong with selling Dhamma books?
- Whom can we thank for making all these texts available?
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 unstinting 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 this website possible:
Thank you all.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi, former President of the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy, Sri Lanka, for allowing 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), for kindly making 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 (more than seven hundred of them are his), and he continues to provide invaluable advice that keeps Access to Insight on-track and in line with the Buddha's teachings.
- The many volunteer transcribers and proofreaders who have given their time and energy to make available so many fine Dhamma books: Mark Blackstad, Robert Bussewitz, Johanne Couture, Joe Crea, Oliver First, Tom Fitton, George Fowler, Myra I. Fox, Bradford Griffith, Philip L. Jones, Barry Kapke, Matt Klopfstein, Pat Lapensee, Gaston Losier, Jim McLaughlin, Steven McPeak, Raj Mendis, Sabine Miller, Bill Petrow, Maureen Riordan, Malcolm Rothman, Heath Row, Eileen Santer, David Savage, Christopher Sessums, Mahendra Siriwardene, Greg Smith, Michael Sproul, Chitra Weirich, Jane Yudelman, and several others who prefer to remain anonymous.
- The hundreds of people who have offered helpful criticisms and suggestions over the years. A few of these people deserve special note for their outstanding contributions: Binh Anson, Jamie Avera, Jakub Bartovsky, Gabriel Bittar, Emily Bullitt, Chan Kian Koon, Chun Hoe Chow, Alexander Genaud, Hugo, John Kelly, Bhikkhu Kumara (Liew Chin Leag), Michael Olds, Trevor Rhodes, Steve Russell, Andy Shaw, Michael Sproul, Antony Woods, and Chandra Yenco.
- The many people who have offered their help in the form of technical assistance and financial support over the years. Thanks to the ongoing spontaneous gestures of generosity from scores of visitors, Access to Insight's operating expenses are now almost entirely met by donations alone.
- Jane Yudelman, for her encouragement in 1992 that got Access to Insight off the ground in the first place, and for her continued advice and support that help this project continue to mature. Jane also took the photo that currently graces ATI's home page.
- Who translated the suttas on this website?
The sutta translations were made by many esteemed translators, including: Venerables Bhikkhu Bodhi, Acharya Buddharakkhita, Bhikkhu Khantipalo, Ñanamoli Thera, Ñanavara Thera, Narada Thera, Nyanaponika Thera, Soma Thera, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Phra Ajaan Geoff), and Sister Vajira; I.B. Horner, John D. Ireland, K.R. Norman, and F.L. Woodward.
- May I make a donation to support this project?
everything on this website as a free gift, with absolutely no strings attached. I neither solicit nor expect donations of any kind. If, however, you feel moved to make a donation to support this work, you are welcome to do so. You may write a check in US dollars payable to me and mail it to me at the Access to Insight address. Please note that I cannot accept checks payable to "Access to Insight" and you may not legally claim your gift as a tax-deductible charitable contribution. All donations are applied towards the operating expenses of the website.
Whenever annual donations exceed my expenses, at year's end I pass along the surplus to Metta Forest Monastery in California, USA (where Thanissaro Bhikkhu, one of Access to Insight's most prolific contributors, lives).
If you prefer, you might consider making a donation directly to:
Metta Forest Monastery
The monastery is a registered charity in the USA.
PO Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082
Alternatively, you may simply make a donation to the charity of your choice. In the Buddha's words, "Give wherever the mind feels confidence" [SN III.24].
- Are Access to Insight's texts in the public domain?
No. They are protected by copyright. See Are these texts protected by copyright?
- Are these texts protected by copyright?
Yes. You may copy and redistribute any texts from this website, provided that you abide by these two basic principles:
- You may not sell any texts copied or derived from this website.
- You may not alter the content of any texts copied or derived from this website. (You may, however, reformat them — see below).
The files on this website are made available to you thanks to the generosity of dozens of authors, translators, publishers, and transcribers, who contributed their efforts with the explicit understanding that their work would only be given away free of charge, as an expression of dana. You may download these files to your computer, print them out, read them, share them with your friends, copy them to your own website, translate them into other languages, and redistribute them electronically — provided that you do not charge any money for them. They are not in the public domain. You may reformat the files as you please (see below), but you may not change their content without first obtaining permission from the author, translator, or publisher.
Some texts contain additional copyright notices with specific additional rights and restrictions spelled out by the authors and publishers; please read and abide by these notices. If you reprint or republish any of these materials, please acknowledge the original author, translator, or publisher, as appropriate.
Please ask me if you have any additional questions about the copyright status of anything offered here.
- Are Access to Insight's texts governed by an "Open Source" or "GNU" copyright?
No. Access to Insight's texts do not conform with two key principles of most "open source" software licenses:
- You may not sell anything that comes from this website. (Open source licenses allow you to sell software.)
- You may not modify the content of any of the texts that come from this website. (Open source licenses allow you to modify software.) You may, however, reformat the texts in any way you like — see below.
- May I copy your pages onto my website?
Yes, provided that you make them available free of charge. I also ask that you please post a simple notice somewhere on your website acknowledging that the materials came from here. Although I don't require it, as a service to your visitors you might also consider including a link to http://www.accesstoinsight.org, so that your visitors can easily get hold of the most up-to-date editions of these texts (I steadily receive corrections and revisions from translators, authors, and publishers). Finally, please make it clear to your visitors what material on your site comes from here and what comes from other sources.
- May I reformat the texts from your website?
Yes. As long as you don't alter the content, you may reformat pages to your heart's content. You may convert the files to Microsoft Word, PDF, or any other proprietary format. You may extract excerpts from any text, provided that you somehow indicate that they are excerpts. You may alter the "look" of the pages to match the style of your own website.
- May I sell copies of materials from your website in order to raise money for a non-profit cause?
May I sell copies of materials from your website if I charge just enough to recover the costs of printing, etc.?
No. The amount you charge is irrelevant: if you charge one penny or one thousand dollars, you're still selling. It doesn't matter if you're hoping to make a profit or not. What you do with the money you receive is irrelevant. These teachings are to be given away, not sold.
See also: Is there anything wrong with selling Dhamma books?
- May I require people to pay for reproduction costs or postage?
No. Requiring someone to pay for the cost of reproducing these texts (photocopying costs, cost of a floppy disk, etc.) or for shipping costs (packaging, postage, etc.) is equivalent to selling. If you were sending a birthday gift to a beloved family member, would you enclose a bill for the wrapping paper, ribbon, and postage? Of course not. A gift is a gift.
- May I ask people to make a "suggested donation" in exchange for copies of these texts?
Be very careful here. As long as you make it crystal clear that anyone may receive a copy free for the asking — regardless of whether he or she makes a donation — then that's fine. You should put no pressure — subtle or otherwise — on anyone to pay. These teachings are to be given away, not sold.
See also: What's the relationship between "dana" and "fundraising"?
- May I include a short excerpt of a text from your website in a publication that I plan to sell?
You must first obtain permission from the author of that text. Please contact the author directly, or contact me for more info.
- How should I cite references to Access to Insight?
If you're writing a paper for a school or university, you should check with your instructor to see what citation standards you are expected to follow. Otherwise, you might consider this common format:
URL: title, author or translator, document's revision date
You'll find the URL and revision date at the bottom of each page on the website. Some examples:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/refuge/: "Refuge: An Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha," Thanissaro Bhikkhu, 7 May 1999.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/majjhima/mn007-nt2.html: "Vatthupama Sutta (MN 7)," Nyanaponika Thera, trans., 7 May 1999.
To cite the entire website, you might use something like this:
"Access to Insight" (http://www.accesstoinsight.org), John Bullitt, ed., DATE.
where DATE is the revision date that appears at the bottom of the home page.
- Can I get print copies of the books on your website?
Many of the books, articles, and translations appearing on this website are also available in print form from various publishers. Here is a partial list of sources for some of these printed books:
- Can you recommend any on-line Buddhist discussion groups?
There are many such on-line discussions groups, but since I no longer subscribe to any, I honestly can't recommend one over another. You'll have to do the research on your own.
Years ago I started an Internet mailing list group ("INSIGHT") as an experiment. But over the year or so that I moderated the list, I began to grow skeptical of the effectiveness of this particular mode of communication at promoting meaningful dialogue between Buddhist practitioners. Most subscribers were very thoughtful in their postings, and were wonderfully sensitive to others in the group. A few, however, were not. And on more than one occasion, the maturity of dialogue would sink to the lowest common denominator. Also, because there are so many different schools of Buddhism, each of which has its own doctrine, style of practice, end goal, etc., I found that it was tricky to keep a conversation on-track without fully grasping the background either of the person with whom I was corresponding or of the untold numbers of "lurkers" who might unexpectedly — and stridently — leap into the fray. It seems to me that faceless conversations in a large on-line group can easily breed misunderstanding and confusion.
But that's just my experience. Others may find certain on-line forums immensely rewarding. If you're curious, I encourage you to find out for yourself. » Google is jut a click away.
- How can I get a copy of the Handful of Leaves CD-ROM?
The Handful of Leaves CD-ROM is currently out of print and I have no remaining copies to give out. This website, however, contains all the texts that appeared on the CD-ROM — plus many more. You may download the entire website onto your personal computer at any time (see "Downloading the Entire Website" for details). If I should ever print another edition of the CD-ROM I will announce that fact on the
» What's New at Access to Insight
- Do you have any tips for website developers?
Like every other webmaster, I have opinions about what makes for a useful website. For the most part, the web seems to be bloated with all kinds of superficial fluff, as websites clamor to make themselves stand out from the others in a kind of global multimedia shouting match. To keep the noise level down on this website I've found it helpful to follow a few basic principles, which I summarize below. Perhaps you'll find some of them helpful, too.
If you'd like to learn more about the technical details involved in running the website (including software, shell scripts, etc.), see my Technical Notes. For notes about my style choices for the website, see "The Elements of ATI Style."
For some refreshing opinions:
- Content first. Do you really need that fancy Java applet? Do you really need six different fonts, in four different colors, with animated GIFs, crawling marquees, background music, etc.? Just because something is technically possible or just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you should do it, too. Do you want to distract and befuddle your visitors, or help them focus? All too often, hi-tech glitz and gizmos are used to mask an underlying absence of real content.
- No shrinkwrap. Don't use "splash screens" — pages devoid of real content that simply say "Click here to enter my website" or the like.
- No vanity stickers. ("This site rated Best of Web by TotallyWayCool.com," "This site has been visited 1,000,000 times," etc.). The fact that TotallyWayCool.com gives a site its seal of approval, or that a site receives 1,000,000 hits doesn't necessarily mean that that site is any good. Popularity is no measure of quality. "Best of" awards serve primarily as commercial advertisements for the issuing companies. It's just like wearing a "Coca-Cola" T-shirt. Do you really want to buy into that? If you absolutely must show off your awards and counters, tuck them away in a separate page where people can go admire your trophy collection if they really want to.
- Minimize graphics. Avoid heavy use of graphics. Keep in mind that most web-surfers do not have a high-speed Internet connection and many are visually impaired. Unnecessary graphics equals bloat.
- No imagemaps. Text-based navigational tools load faster and are usually easier to use. Think of imagemaps as just another kind of unnecessary graphic (see Minimize graphics).
- No frames. The use of frames often makes it impossible to print or bookmark a given page. Frames add an unnecessary level of complexity and annoyance that many users find about as helpful as COLORED TEXT THAT BLINKS .
- Avoid colored backgrounds and colored text. Purple text on a yellow background may look nifty to you, but to others it may be hideous or completely illegible. Not all computer monitors render colors the same way. Not everyone shares your visual aesthetic. One in twenty males has some form of color blindness. Design in black and white!
- Check your links frequently for freshness. Avoid subjecting your visitors to the annoying "404 Not Found" message by making sure that all your links — whether to other pages within your site or to other websites — work. Webmasters will forever rearrange their webpages. Websites will forever come and go. It's your responsibility to make sure that your links to other sites are up to date. (And just to be safe, if you have access to your server's configuration files, change your site's default "404 Not Found" error message to steer the visitor back to somewhere useful.)
- Rearrange your site with care. Don't just delete obsolete pages from your site. Instead, replace them with redirects that will send the user to another useful (and perhaps more stable) page on your site. Someone may have long ago bookmarked a page that you now consider obsolete, and you don't want to disappoint her with that annoying "404 Not Found" message.
- Keep it simple. Make life easy for your visitors. Be clear. Be friendly. Be simple. Fight web bloat.
- Be skeptical of slogans like these.