Traditionally, the Buddha’s teachings were transmitted orally. Today, thanks to the preservation efforts of the early Buddhist Councils, and the tireless work of translators, the majority of the teachings are available in modern languages for us to freely read and reflect on. With so much knowledge just a click or book purchase away, it begs the question—how do we navigate it? Should we even try?
Each text, typically, reflects an interaction in which a teacher gives a student a lesson that’s personalized for their temperament and situation. Considering this, perhaps it would be helpful to find the disciple or attendee(s) who comes closest to matching our temperament and situation (e.g. Mahānāma the Sakyan), and focus primarily on the texts featuring them—without totally excluding the other texts. Maybe such an approach could bring more continuity to study, and mitigate the need to parse the overlap between lessons.
A nice feature—that I only recently discovered—in the three nikāyas that I own from Wisdom is an index of proper names. Sutta Central also has an index of names here.
What are your thoughts?
What approach do you take to navigating the texts?