The next book on my reading list, both for the Buddha’s life and my general Dharma student studies, is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s edited volume In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon. The Buddha’s discourses are collected throughout the Sutta Pitaka without paying explicit attention to thematic content. For instance, two collections in the Sutta Pitaka are known as the Long Discourses and the Middle Length Discourses. Bhikkhu Bodhi has taken abridged selections from throughout the Sutta Pitaka and arranged them according to thematic content and placement in the broader system of the Buddha’s teachings. Furthermore, his introductions to each section and the anthology as a whole are real gems: carefully thought out, well written, and critical in very inspiring ways.
Any rearrangement of the Buddha’s discourses into a thematic whole should awaken a slight distrust. The discourses were not collected thematically, the Buddha did not seem to teach thematically (but, rather, according to the needs and occasion he found himself in), and the Dharma (here thought of as the Buddha’s teachings) might seem to resist any such treatment. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s work is both aware and critical of this distrust. He responds to it by carefully explaining his organizing principles in the general introduction and, in my mind, by successfully executing his overall project.
For those interested in the Buddha’s teachings, this anthology is a wonderful introduction. It will shine a light on your path back to the Pāli Canon.
(Note: To check out Bhikkhu Bodhi’s anthology, click on the following link – In the Buddha’s Words.)