Ven. Bhikkhu BodhiThese recordings are of lessons that I gave at Bodhi Monastery between January and October 2003 (with a few added at a later date). They are all based on the book, James Gair and W.S. Karunatilleke, A New Course in Reading Pali (publisher: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi). They contain all the imperfections of extemporaneous classes, including discussion between teacher and students, the students’ delayed answers, a teacher’s poor jokes, a teacher’s occasional stumbling to find the best method of explanation to students whose mother tongue, in most cases, is not English. I gave this course as an introduction to Pali on the assumption that the students (mainly of Chinese origins) would be able to learn Pali grammar from this reader. My assumption turned out to be premature, and by October it became clear that we would have to backtrack to a Pali primer that teaches the basic elements of Pali grammar.

I therefore now recommend that students who wish to learn Pali on their own first work through a Pali primer. My personal recommendation is Lily de Silva, A Pali Primer, which is available as a printed book from Pariyatti and on the Internet from the Vipassana Research Institute. I suggest that you do the exercises of translating Pali into English, but pass over the exercises of translating English into Pali (unless, of course, you wish to acquire proficiency in Pali composition). Once you have gained familiarity with the building blocks of Pali grammar, learned from the primer, you can then move on to the Pali reader, which is explained in the lessons recorded here. By the time you finish these lessons, you should be ready to move directly into the reading of texts from any of the Nikāyas, aided by reliable translations and a good dictionary (the PTS’s Pali English Dictionary and the first part of its intended replacement, A Dictionary of Pali). If, however, you find the idiom of the Digha and Majjhima Nikāyas too difficult, you can take up A.K Warder’s Introduction to Pali. Despite the title, Warder’s book is not an introduction to the language, but an introduction to reading suttas from the Digha Nikāya. You can work quickly through the first half of the book, which mostly repeats principles you already know; you can then concentrate on the second half, which focuses on long, sometimes complex and difficult, passages from the suttas of the Digha Nikāya.

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi