Here is a simple handout that explains the four stages of enlightenment. As you read the suttas, the Buddha will refer to these stages so it is good to have this chart on hand when reading.
You can use these sutta checklists to keep track of the suttas that you have read. If you like to skip around, this will help to make sure that you eventually read them all.
You may also like to keep track of the whole nikayas you have read. For that you can use a Sutta Practice Life List.
This is the detailed table of contents of In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Bodhi, published by Wisdom Publications, but linked to the free translations available on SuttaCentral.net. Most of the translations are by Bhikkhu Sujato. Translations from the Udana are by Ven. Anandajoti and those from the Itivuttaka are by John D. Ireland.
You can also download a printable checklist of these suttas:
The introductions below are linked to the Internet Archive saved pages of the publisher’s website.
I. The Human Condition
1. Old Age, Illness, and Death
(1) Aging and Death (SN 3.3)
(2) The Simile of the Mountain (SN 3.25)
(3) The Divine Messengers (from AN 3.35)
2. The Tribulations of Unreflective Living
(1) The Dart of Painful Feeling (SN 36.6)
(2) The Vicissitudes of Life (AN 8.6)
(3) Anxiety Due to Change (SN 22.7)
3. A World in Turmoil
(1) The Origin of Conflict (AN2. iv, 6, abridged) [AN 2.37]
(2) Why Do Beings Live in Hate? (from DN 21)
(3) The Dark Chain of Causation (from DN 15)
(4) The Roots of Violence and Oppression (from AN 3.69)
4. Without Discoverable Beginning
(1) Grass and Sticks (SN 15.1)
(2) Balls of Clay (SN 15.2)
(3) The Mountain (SN 15.5)
(4) The River Ganges (SN 15.8)
(5) Dog on a Leash (SN 22.99)
II. The Bringer of Light
1. One Person (AN 1. xiii, 1, 5, 6) [AN1.170-186]
2. The Buddha’s Conception and Birth (MN 123, abridged)
3. The Quest for Enlightenment
(1) Seeking the Supreme State of Sublime Peace (from MN 26)
(2) The Realization of the Three True Knowledges (from MN 36)
(3) The Ancient City (SN 12.65)
4. The Decision to Teach (from MN 26)
5. The First Discourse (SN 56.11)
III. Approaching the Dhamma
1. Not a Secret Doctrine (AN 3.129)
2. No Dogmas or Blind Belief (AN 3.65)
3. The Visible Origin and Passing Away of Suffering (SN 42.11)
4. Investigate the Teacher Himself (MN 47)
5. Steps toward the Realization of Truth (from MN 95)
IV. The Happiness Visible in This Present Life
1. Upholding the Dhamma in Society
2. The Family
(1) Parents and Children
(2) Husbands and Wives
3. Present Welfare, Future Welfare (AN 8.54)
4. Right Livelihood
(1) Avoiding Wrong Livelihood (AN 5.177)
(2) The Proper Use of Wealth (AN 4.61)
(3) A Family Man’s Happiness (AN 4.62)
5. The Woman of the Home (AN 8.49)
6. The Community
(1) Six Roots of Dispute (from MN 104)
(2) Six Principles of Cordiality (from MN 104)
(3) Purification Is for All Four Castes (MN 93, abridged)
(4) Seven Principles of Social Stability (from DN 16)
(5) The Wheel-Turning Monarch (from DN 26)
(6) Bringing Tranquillity to the Land (from DN 5)
V. The Way to a Fortunate Rebirth
1. The Law of Kamma
(1) Four Kinds of Kamma (AN 4.232)
(2) Why Beings Fare as They Do after Death (MN 41)
(3) Kamma and Its Fruits (MN 135)
2. Merit. The Key to Good Fortune
(1) Meritorious Deeds (It 22)
(2) Three Bases of Merit (AN 8.36)
(3) The Best Kinds of Confidence (AN 4.34)
(1) If People Knew the Result of Giving (It 26)
(2) Reasons for Giving (AN 8.33)
(3) The Gift of Food (AN 4.57)
(4) A Superior Person’s Gifts (AN 5.148)
(5) Mutual Support (It 107)
(6) Rebirth on Account of Giving (AN 8.35)
(1) The Development of Loving-Kindness (It 27)
(2) The Four Divine Abodes (from MN 99)
(3) Insight Surpasses All (AN 9.20, abridged)
VI. Deepening One’s Perspective on the World
1. Four Wonderful Things (AN 4.128)
2. Gratification, Danger, and Escape
(1) Before My Enlightenment (AN 3.101 §§1–2) [3.103]
(2) I Set Out Seeking (AN 3.101 §3) [3.104]
(3) If There Were No Gratification (AN 3.105)
3. Properly Appraising Objects of Attachment (MN 13)
4. The Pitfalls in Sensual Pleasures
5. Life Is Short and Fleeting (AN 7.70) [AN 7.74]
6. Four Summaries of the Dhamma (from MN 82)
7.The Danger in Views
(1) A Miscellany on Wrong View (AN 1. xvii, 1, 3, 7, 9) [AN1.306-308]
(2) The Blind Men and the Elephant (Ud 6.4)
(3) Held by Two Kinds of Views (It 49)
8. From the Divine Realms to the Infernal (AN 4.125)
9. The Perils of Saṃsāra
VII. The Path to Liberation
1. Why Does One Enter the Path?
(1) The Arrow of Birth, Aging, and Death (MN 63)
(2) The Heartwood of the Spiritual Life (MN 29)
2. Analysis of the Eightfold Path (SN 45.8)
3. Good Friendship (SN 45.2)
4. The Graduated Training (MN 27)
5. The Higher Stages of Training with Similes (from MN 39)
VIII. Mastering the Mind
1. The Mind Is the Key (AN 1. iii, 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10) [AN1.21-30]
2. Developing a Pair of Skills
(1) Serenity and Insight (AN2. iii, 10) [AN2.31]
(2) Four Ways to Arahantship (AN 4.170)
(3) Four Kinds of Persons (AN 4.94)
3. The Hindrances to Mental Development (SN 46.55, abridged)
4. The Refinement of the Mind (AN 3.100 §§1–10) [AN 3.101]
5. The Removal of Distracting Thoughts (MN 20)
6. The Mind of Loving-Kindness (from MN 21)
7. The Six Recollections (AN 6.10) [Related: AN11.12 ]
8. The Four Establishments of Mindfulness (MN 10)
9. Mindfulness of Breathing (SN 54.13)
10. The Achievement of Mastery (SN 28.1–9,combined)
IX. Shining the Light of Wisdom
1.Images of Wisdom
2. The Conditions for Wisdom (AN 8.2, abridged)
3. A Discourse on Right View (MN 9)
4. The Domain of Wisdom
(1) By Way of the Five Aggregates
(a) Phases of the Aggregates (SN 22.56)
(c) The Characteristic of Nonself (SN 22.59)
(d) Impermanent, Suffering, Nonself (SN 22.45)
(e) A Lump of Foam (SN 22.95)
(2) By Way of the Six Sense Bases
(a) Full Understanding (SN 35.26)
(b) Burning (SN 35.28)
(d) Empty Is the World (SN 35.85)
(e) Conscious Too Is Nonself (SN 35.234)
(3) By Way of the Elements
(a) The Eighteen Elements (SN 14.1)
(c) The Six Elements (from MN 140)
(4) By Way of Dependent Origination
(a) What Is Dependent Origination? (SN 12.1)
(b) The Stableness of the Dhamma (SN 12.20)
(c) Forty-Four Cases of Knowledge (SN 12.33)
(d) A Teaching by the Middle (SN 12.15)
(e) The Continuance of Consciousness (SN 12.38)
(f) The Origin and Passing of the World (SN 12.44)
(5) By Way of the Four Noble Truths
5. The Goal of Wisdom
(a) What is Nibbāna? (SN 38.1)
(b) Thirty-Three Synonyms for Nibbāna (SN 43.1– 44, combined)
(c) There Is That Base (Ud 8.1)
(d) The Unborn (Ud 8.3)
(e) The Two Nibbāna Elements (It 44)
(f) The Fire and the Ocean (from MN 72)
X. The Planes of Realization
1. The Field of Merit for the World
(1) Eight Persons Worthy of Gifts (AN 8.59)
(3) In the Dhamma Well Expounded (from MN 22)
(4) The Completeness of the Teaching (from MN 73)
(5) Seven Kinds of Noble Persons (from MN 70)
(1) The Four Factors Leading to Stream-Entry (SN 55.5)
(2) Entering the Fixed Course of Rightness (SN 25.1)
(3) The Breakthrough to the Dhamma (SN 13.1)
(5) Better than Sovereignty over the Earth (SN 55.1)
(1) Abandoning the Five Lower Fetters (from MN 64)
(2) Four Kinds of Persons (AN 4.169)
(3) Six Things that Partake of True Knowledge (SN 55.3)
(4) Five Kinds of Nonreturners (SN 46.3)
4. The Arahant
(1) Removing the Residual Conceit “I Am” (SN 22.89)
(2) The Trainee and the Arahant (SN 48.53)
(3) A Monk Whose Crossbar Has Been Lifted (from MN 22)
(4) Nine Things an Arahant Cannot Do (from AN 9.7)
(5) A Mind Unshaken (from AN 9.26)
(6) The Ten Powers of an Arahant Monk (AN 10.90)
(7) The Sage at Peace (from MN 140)
(8) Happy Indeed Are the Arahants (from SN 22.76)
5. The Tathāgata
(1) The Buddha and the Arahant (SN 22.58)
(2) For the Welfare of Many (It 84)
(3) Sāriputta’s Lofty Utterance (SN 47.12)
(4) The Powers and Grounds of Self-Confidence (from MN 12)
(5) The Manifestation of Great Light (SN 56.38)
(6) The Man Desiring Our Good (from MN 19)
(7) The Lion (SN 22.78)
If you find this information useful, we highly recomment that you purchase the print copy of the original book from the publisher, Wisdom Publications.
Although the Buddha never used charts as visual aids when preaching, we can sometimes benefit from seeing the teachings laid out in a table. These three charts give a perspective on the Buddha’s teachings on the realms of rebirth.
- Basic Realms of Rebirth
- Causes of Rebirth in the different realms
- Lifespan in different realms of rebirth
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There are several benefits of doing this.
- It acts as an incentive to read a book completely. It only goes on the list if you read every single sutta.
- It adds an incentive to read it again. You note each time, and preferably the dates, you read each book.
- You can see at a glance what books you have not yet read. This is especially valuable for the main books in the Khuddaka Nikaya as they can be easily overlooked.
- If you fall away from a text, the unfinished entry on the list reminds you to go back and give it another shot. Often the hindrances will be less acute on our second reading of a text.
Of course, simply reading lots of suttas in and of itself is not enough. It must be done with faith and wisdom, always trying to bring the teachings deeply into our lives. Even so, it is beneficial to be able to look back on a tangible record of all the effort you have made to connect with the teaching. As long as you don’t go around bragging about all the complete sutta collections you have read (either out loud or in your mind) you won’t have problems.
There are two methods for recording. Either filling in a pre-made list of all the possible collections(as in this Sutta Practice Life List form PDF above), or a chronological list that you add to each time you start a book. Using the form has the advantage of reminding you of collections you have not yet worked with. In this way it becomes like a to-do list, although of course, you will want to do them again and again.
To begin, go ahead and record complete reads that you have done in the past. Just take a guess at the year. Then write in any sutta books you are currently reading from beginning to end. Estimate the month and year that you began. Put a dash so you can see that it is not complete. So it would start out something like “March2011 – ” You might even want to pencil in an empty box in the space for the completion date. When you finish the book, write the month and year. For a book like the Dhammapada that you may read hundreds of times using the chapter a day practice, you can just use tick marks to note each complete read. Consider including the initials of the translator for the different versions you read.
You may also want to note when you read a canonical anthology completely, such as all the Majjhima Nikaya suttas included in the Handful of Leaves series. In that case, either note the anthology name or just mark it with an “A” so you know it was not an entire nikaya.
In the same way, many anthologies of suttas based on a particular topic are worth recording on your life list. Some of the more popular anthologies are included on page two of the form below with space to include others. Remember this reminds us of the value in reading the book completely and then re-reading it again and again. With anthologies especially, the suttas near the end may be dealing with some of the highest and noble qualities of the Dhamma, so we want to be sure to read about them even if we are not able to manifest them in our lives right away.
There are a growing number of complete suttas collections available in audio format. Currently there is a complete Dhammapada by Gil Fronsdal, a complete Udana by Bhante Anandajoti, and a complete Itivuttaka available for download from this site. If you listen to the complete book, mark it with an “L” so you know you listened to it.
Have you used a life list for the sutta collections you have read? Share your experience in the comments below. If you would like your comment to remain unpublished, simply write “Private” at the end.
There is a very simple motivational technique that has become popular on the internet called “Don’t Break the Chain,” and it is perfectly suited for a daily sutta reading practice.
You take a one year calendar, either poster size or a single sheet (see below for sources) and you mark an X each day you do your sutta reading practice, however much you have committed to do. You can also write the number of the sutta you read. In this way you start to make a chain of days that you have done your practice. Then you Don’t Break the Chain.
That’s it. Could not be any simpler. It doesn’t add more than 10 seconds to your practice time. But here’s what it does. It gives you a tangible indicator of what you are doing. Every day you are bringing the Blessed One’s teachings into your life. On days when the hindrances are strong and the joy of reading the suttas is not enough to motivate you, the satisfaction of knowing that you have this unbroken practice might be enough to help you pull out your main text or your backup text and practice for a few minutes. Then before you know it, you haven’t broken the chain. Hindrances overcome for one more day, and you make your X.
Any time we spend with the teachings of the Blessed One is beneficial. And this unbroken connection, day after day, is especially beneficial. We may need the teachings the most on those very days that we don’t think we have enough time to read. And making daily contact keeps things familiar and in the front of our mind.
Post the calendar in a prominent place in your home. That way if you haven’t been able to link your practice to a regular daily activity, or if your schedule gets disrupted, you will have a reminder. When you travel, take your text and your calendar with you. And Don’t Break the Chain.
Year Calender resources
- Year calendar 2018
- Year calendar 2019
- Year calendar 2020
- PDFcalendar.com has a very simple year calendar generator. Use the 12 Week calendar option and change the 12 to 53 to ensure you get a full year.
- www.timeanddate.com has more options for different formats.
- Make a Sutta Reading Practice Plan
- Sutta Checklists for Tracking Reading Suttas
- How much to read each day
- Sutta Reading Practice Basics
- When is the best time to read
- When you complete a collection
To find out more about the Don’t Break the Chain technique in general, just do a web search for “Don’t Break the Chain” and you’ll find lots of articles and even some computer tools to do tracking.
Have you tried this technique with your sutta reading practice? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.