Your Sutta Practice Begins

Every one of us can develop a deep and personal relationship with the teachings of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha as found in the suttas of the Pali Canon taught in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. On this site you will find a method for developing a daily practice with the suttas themselves. This is strengthened by  various techniques of deep engagement such as creating a personal anthology.

The instructions here will be more like basic meditation instructions, not telling you what you are going to discover, but instead give you the nuts and bolts of setting up a daily practice. Then you do your own work.

Selecting a text

First you will need to select a book of sutta to read. This can be one of the traditional collections of suttas or an anthology of suttas around a particular topic. You can decide on a book based on how much you already know about the teachings of the Buddha as well as how much time you have to read each day. Then you select a time to do your reading practice.

Our time with the suttas each day is personal and reflective. We focus our attention on whatever we understand and try to put that into practice, illuminating our lives with the Blessed One’s teaching. In this way it is more engaged than traditional, academic oriented sutta study. The idea is to study our own defilements in the light of the Dhamma. We take each sutta alone as it is receiving it as a personal gift from our fully enlightened teacher.

Starting again

When we complete our first book of suttas, we can repeat the process with the very same book. In this way we will deepen our understanding and memory of the teachings and check to see how well we have applied them to our lives. After reading our first book a second time, we can choose a different book to work through day by day. In this slow but deliberate way we become intimately aware of the teachings of the Buddha as they have been so well preserved in the Pali suttas.

Think of this as developing a habit, not starting a project. We need to perpetually nurture our direct relationship with the teachings of the Buddha on a daily basis.

The home page has links to all of the major articles. Reading them one by one is a good way to get familiar with the method. You may want to start with Sutta Practice Basics.

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4 thoughts on “Your Sutta Practice Begins”

  1. Thank you for asking this questions. There a few different things to keep in mind.

    The first is that in the time of the Buddha all the way up to today, there have been people trained in memorizing texts verbatim, syllable perfect. So while memorizing texts like this is not common in most cultures, it was very much a thing in India.

    Also, in oral cultures like this, there was a greater respect for preservation. People’s opinions and ideas about a text would be held in a distinct “document”. This is why we have such a large ancient commentarial tradition.

    As far as languages changing, this is more a feature in so called “living languages.” Because the language of the texts eventually differed from that of the people preserving it, the natural changing didn’t really happen.
    Of course translation presents a challenge for preserving meaning. However, unlike other Buddhist texts that may have been passed through several different ancient languages, no one believes this to have happened with our Pali texts. So since we have the originals, as modern languages change it is possible to go back to the Pali and re-translate. We can see big differences between the translations done into English over a century ago and those being published today as English translators have gained a better understanding of the language.

    But the most important question you ask is “How to read ancient texts in that context?” We have to read the texts with humility and respect. We have to read the texts with an eye towards what we can test and practice for ourselves while not rejecting those things that go beyond our personal experience. We have to make an honest attempt to understand what we read without building up personal theories about those things that we don’t. We have to read looking for that which is consistent across the text, while seeking guidance from others on the parts that seem to be inconsistent. And most importantly we need to evaluate the results of practicing what we read. If practicing what we read leads to benefit and good, then we accept that. If practicing what we read leads to harm, then first and foremost we need to seek out guidance from wise friends to make sure that the fault doesn’t lie with our method of implementation before we ever consider rejecting the teachings.

    When we focus on these things, then thoughts about how the texts we have relate back to the Buddha are not such a heavy issue.

  2. hi goodmorning,

    i am a student named indaka studying Buddhist studies in Thailand. firstly, i would like to say thank you very much for making all of these precious knowledge available to us at hand. could i know the copyrights that concerned with all of these eBooks. Are they used here with the concerns of the original writers?

    may you all be happy and healthy

    thank you.

    1. Check out this page for details: readingfaithfully.org/disclaimer/
      Basically the translations ebooks available for download from this site are either in the public domain or have a “free distribution” copyright. Checkout individual download pages for details.
      Glad you like the site!

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