Why Read the Suttas?

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

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mikenz66
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Why Read the Suttas?

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:11 pm

Befriending the Suttas
Tips on Reading the Pali Discourses

The Pali canon contains many thousands of suttas (discourses), of which more than one thousand are now available in English translation here at Access to Insight. When faced with such a vast store of riches, three questions naturally spring to mind: Why should I read the suttas? Which ones should I read? How should I read them?

There are no simple cookie-cutter answers to these questions; the best answers will be the ones you discover on your own. Nevertheless, I offer here a few ideas, suggestions, and tips that I've found to be helpful over the years in my own exploration of the suttas. Perhaps you'll find some of them helpful, too.
...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/befriending.html
:anjali:
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:03 am

Here's another guide:
Reading Faithfully

:anjali:
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daverupa
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by daverupa » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:46 am

In lieu of reading the whole set of Nikayas, I think the MN is suitable as a 'Buddhist Bible'. Given the underlying Xian culture in the West, I expect this would be a readily-embraced emplacement of Buddhavacana in daily life.

There are gems that make the SN & AN absolutely worthwhile, though, and in fact it's those two I preferentially recommend.

In each case, I think Bhante Bodhi's translations offer sufficient additional material for an initial grasp of the material; but for a simpler guide to how this can be applied in one's life, In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon may be a better bet for a single resource, at first.

I think the DN feels overwrought & ungainly; there are a few nuggets in there (in the first third of it, especially), but it's quite a slog.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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TonyConrad
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by TonyConrad » Thu May 26, 2016 2:38 am

I would recommend reading all of accesstoinsight.org
It's free and you never know which teaching contains what you need until you read it :group:
They .. will not listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata ..are being recited. They will not lend ear, will not set their hearts on knowing them, will not regard these teachings as worth grasping or mastering. But they will listen when discourses that are literary works — the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples — are recited. ..Thus from corrupt Dhamma comes corrupt discipline; from corrupt discipline, corrupt Dhamma.

This, monks, is the fourth future danger .. work to get rid of it.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by SarathW » Thu May 26, 2016 2:57 am

I suggest you read all Suttas if you have time.
I have read all Suttas in Access to Insight except Vinaya pitaka and Abhidhamma.
Then recently, I discovered Kathavatthu in Abhidhamma Pitaka.
I just surprised about the wealth of information in KV.
I just started reading Sutta central. I believe Sutta Central provide many Suttas not available in Access to insight.
The most important thing is start reading Sutta somewhere.
If you are a beginner to Buddhism it is Better to start reading a book written by a learned monk.
My first book was Buddha and his teaching by Narada.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Rks1157 » Fri May 27, 2016 4:14 am

This is a good question and, in my opinion, an important question. I can only speak to my own experience as someone who devotes several hours or more per day studying the Pāli canon. You raised an important point in that sites like Access to Insight and Sutta Central contain only small collection of the materal from the canon. The former hosts almost nothing from the Vinaya and Abhidhamma Pitakas. I don't know if this is true about the latter. I find that the three baskets together form a cohesive whole that isn't apparant from any one basket alone. The Dhammasangani (the first book of the Abhidhamma pitaka) gave me an understanding of kamma (and vipaka) that I would not have found in the sutta pitaka alone. Likewise, the Abhidhamma texts analyze concepts like rebirth in microscopic detail in a way that makes perfect sense to me. This analysis is barely hinted at in the sutta pitaka.

One of the reasons that I am compelled to spend the time I do (and investment in acquiring the texts) is that these texts are my connection to the early Buddhist sangha. They contain the closest thing we have to the Buddha's actual words. While there is some disagreement between academics as to the providence of these texts, I lean toward the belief that the vast majority of these teachings can be directly attributed to the Buddha himself</a>. I also accept that there has been some accretion over the centuries, some of which preserves the narrative context and some may be otherwise. On the whole I believe that the teachings themselves have been preserved with some later ornamentation, none of which detracts from the original message. As I read them I get to take on the role of the lay follower who was present at the time the discourse was delivered.


I don't know about anyone else but find that I can read the same text on different days and come away with different understandings. As such I appreciate the repetition we find throughout the discourses. I am not always the sharpest tool in the shed. Sometimes I need to hear the same thing spoken in a different way. And, some days I am more receptive to a given concept than others. Early disciples did not have the luxury of the printed word. They had to commit these teachings to memory. I suspect that I would not have fared as well under those conditions.


My final reason is much simpler, studying the canon is pleasureable to me. I enjoy it just as I enjoy meditation practice. Neither of which are always easy but for the most part they are rewarding.
"......Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri May 27, 2016 5:56 am

Since the Buddha is no longer alive, and Arahants are extremely rare and impossible to verify, it is more important now to read the texts than it ever was.

There are many cults and heretical sects that teach and practice what was never taught or practised by the Buddha and his disciples. There are corrupt monks who are only interested in collecting donations from devotees, and devotees who are only interested in "merit-making" to offset their immoral behaviour and addiction to sensual pleasures. The latter fall easy prey to the former.

If both monks and lay devotees spent more time reading and studying the texts, and less time performing rituals and ceremonies, the true Dhamma would be preserved, and everyone would be willing to do some serious meditation practice.

There are some who say to discard the books, and that only the meditation practice is important, but they may be practising wrongly, and they may hold wrong views that obstruct their progress and lead them down blind alleys.

:reading:
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Dan74 » Fri May 27, 2016 6:09 am

Are there materials out there that suggest the mental attitudes and approaches to reading and processing the Suttas? I've looked through the above links but didn't find any details in this regard. I think it's very easy to take the Suttas the wrong way, develop a rigid doctrinaire attitude or reinforce some existing biases. It would be good to have a guide that suggests how to avoid that. Also a reading guide that organises the Sutta reading into themes, beginner to intermediate to advanced, etc, some suggested order.
_/|\_

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Mkoll » Fri May 27, 2016 6:23 am

Dan74 wrote:Are there materials out there that suggest the mental attitudes and approaches to reading and processing the Suttas? I've looked through the above links but didn't find any details in this regard. I think it's very easy to take the Suttas the wrong way, develop a rigid doctrinaire attitude or reinforce some existing biases. It would be good to have a guide that suggests how to avoid that. Also a reading guide that organises the Sutta reading into themes, beginner to intermediate to advanced, etc, some suggested order.
Although there is no such guide for all the suttas (that would be a lot of work!), Ven. Bodhi's In The Buddha's Words is the next best thing. I agree that it is easy to take the suttas the wrong way, especially when new to Buddhism and/or first starting to read them. I think Ven. Bodhi's work does an excellent job in helping to steer people in the right direction, and that's why I always recommend it to people who aren't sure where to start.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Dan74 » Fri May 27, 2016 6:34 am

Thank you, James. I will definitely check it out. I just saw a free copy online - does anyone know if it's OK with Bhikkhu Bodhi? Some authors are happy if their writings are disseminated in this way and others are not. I don't want to read it if Bhikkhu Bodhi is not happy with it.
_/|\_

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri May 27, 2016 7:17 am

See the material here:
In the Buddha's Words - Open Source Version
This collects the introductory material from each chapter with the available on-line suttas.

This follows the themes of Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the MN:
http://bodhimonastery.org/a-systematic- ... ikaya.html

And his new translation of the AN contains a Thematic Guide in the PDF preview here:
http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/numerica ... ses-buddha

Bhikkhu Bodhi's analysis of the structure of the SN is here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 345#p88300

:anjali:
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Dan74 » Fri May 27, 2016 10:28 am

Thank you very much, Mike!!! :bow: :bow: :bow:
_/|\_

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Kare » Fri May 27, 2016 11:50 am

Why read the Suttas? Bhikkhu Pesala gave an excellent answer to this question:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Since the Buddha is no longer alive, and Arahants are extremely rare and impossible to verify, it is more important now to read the texts than it ever was.

There are many cults and heretical sects that teach and practice what was never taught or practised by the Buddha and his disciples. There are corrupt monks who are only interested in collecting donations from devotees, and devotees who are only interested in "merit-making" to offset their immoral behaviour and addiction to sensual pleasures. The latter fall easy prey to the former.

If both monks and lay devotees spent more time reading and studying the texts, and less time performing rituals and ceremonies, the true Dhamma would be preserved, and everyone would be willing to do some serious meditation practice.

There are some who say to discard the books, and that only the meditation practice is important, but they may be practising wrongly, and they may hold wrong views that obstruct their progress and lead them down blind alleys.

:reading:
If I may add an advice: Study Pali, so that you can read the real Suttas, and not be dependent on different translators' interpretations and opinions. Speaking as a translator I know that many nuances necessarily get lost (and are added!) during translation.
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri May 27, 2016 3:25 pm

Kare wrote:If I may add an advice: Study Pali, so that you can read the real Suttas, and not be dependent on different translators' interpretations and opinions. Speaking as a translator I know that many nuances necessarily get lost (and are added!) during translation.
Yes, or at least read various different translations to see different points of view.

Download the Tipitaka Software and start reading. There is an inline Pali/English dictionary, and a Pali/Hindi dictionary to get you started.
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:26 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Download the Tipitaka Software and start reading. There is an inline Pali/English dictionary, and a Pali/Hindi dictionary to get you started.
Do you know of any other programs like this, Bhante? I am looking for a program similar to this with mac functionality and having difficulty finding one.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Sep 17, 2016 9:03 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:Do you know of any other programs like this, Bhante? I am looking for a program similar to this with mac functionality and having difficulty finding one.
No. If there is one, Phra Yuttadhammo might know. You could, of course, bookmark the Tipitaka.org Pali texts and save any texts that you wish to study to your hard drive.
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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Sep 17, 2016 9:14 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:Do you know of any other programs like this, Bhante? I am looking for a program similar to this with mac functionality and having difficulty finding one.
No. If there is one, Phra Yuttadhammo might know. You could, of course, bookmark the Tipitaka.org Pali texts and save any texts that you wish to study to your hard drive.
It was more the dictionary capabilities that are inbuilt to the software that I was looking to obtain a version of, since I still have some difficulty looking up Pali words when they appear in unusual inflected forms. But I will be sure to reach out to Ven Yuttadhammo, thanks.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by Kamran » Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:29 am

In the Buddha's Words is now available on Audible, so you can also listen to the Sutta's :)

http://www.audible.com/pd/Religion-Spir ... 312&sr=1-1

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves."
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by cjmacie » Sun Sep 18, 2016 12:06 pm

(Please pardon -- parenthetical to TOPIC)
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:Do you know of any other programs like this, Bhante? I am looking for a program similar to this with mac functionality and having difficulty finding one.
No. If there is one, Phra Yuttadhammo might know. You could, of course, bookmark the Tipitaka.org Pali texts and save any texts that you wish to study to your hard drive.
True -- CST 4.0 doesn't run on Apple computers (short of running in some WIndows emulation mode).

However... I've found that the complete Pali texts from any opened window in CST 4.0 can be copied-out and pasted into MSWord documents -- it works, with all the formatting, diacriticals, etc. Someone could do that easily -- might take a couple of hours -- for the entire Canon. Then using a nested hierarchy of directorys, named after the catagories and subcategories, etc. to emulate the structure of CST 4.0.

In terms of text access, that would be just as good. It has, too, the advantage that MSWord text can be easily searched for any string. The "Search" function in CST 4.0 seems a totally different animal, going across whole collections of volumes of the Canon.

Downside -- one wouldn't have those menu-buttons that, given mouse-pointer somewhere in the text, instantly bring-up commentary on the passage, and/or sub-commentary.

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Re: Why Read the Suttas?

Post by dhammarelax » Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:05 pm

Dear Friends

I would add that not only reading the suttas is highly recommended, but memorizing them, reciting them, analyzing and understanding.

smile
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

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