How do you study the Samyutta Nikaya?

Some excellent advice. Thanks everyone.
I will be reading electronically. I’m too nomadic to own print copies of anything! I have the Bhikkhu Bodhi translations of the suttas (without intros, with footnotes) as HTML files.

I think @Aminah makes a good point about learning styles. I’m a slow reader too but if I just set my task as to ‘speed’ read through as a first pass taking overview notes as @frankk suggested then I might have some hope. @anon35250929 I agree with teaching as a method of retaining information. Right now I have some stuff from SN in my data-bank but being able to locate it is rough. I just have ‘it’s somewhere in the Samyutta Nikaya’ :smiley:

I wonder whether there is already a spreadsheet overview of the SN, like Leigh Brasington’s chart of Gradual Training. I will try and collate one along the way.

Why is everyone skipping the Devata samyutta?

Thanks again everyone


In case of interest, Wisdom Publications do at least freely offer Bhikkhu Bodhi’s introductions to the whole collection and to the separate parts of the Saṃyutta.

Much less scary than a massive book! :wink:


I found it obscure and unhelpful. Just now, I randomly dove into the thing and got this:

SN 1.72


“What is the token of a chariot?
What, the token of a fire?
What is the token of a country?
What, the token of a woman?”

“A standard is the token of a chariot;
Smoke, the token of a fire;
The king is a country’s token;
A husband, the token of a woman.”

So, yeah… not really my style of Dhamma instruction, you know?


I know the problem.
I tried to read SN few times. Half way I just lost interest.
This is my plan of attack.

First round : Start from the beginning and try to read to the end.
Second round: Start from the end and try reading towards the beginning.
Third round: Start from the middle and read towards the beginning.
Fourth round : Start from the middle and read towards the end.
Fifth round: Random reading
and so on …

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That’s an interesting chart, thanks! Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could log into suttacentral and it would know all our personal notes, and tags and so on, even show it like this chart? We could even share them with each other :sunny:

I read they had plans for bookmarks, but not sure about storing your own highlights, notes, and tags.

I guess I was too excited to go to the “bulk” and the verses seemed less appealing. So I left it for a later time.


I suggested this as a feature a while ago. I think the idea is rattling around. One day! In the meantime we just tag things up in here and find the tags in the sidebar/draw (except that isn’t working right now).

They seem to carry the typical characteristics of very condensed questions and replies that conversations with devas generally seem to posses.

I don’t think a student would miss out a lot if they were skipped- with the sole exception of the Mahamangala sutta, in the DN.

They are poetic almost playful exchange of question and answer, clearly to delight much in the dhamma. Devas are meant to know the meaning directly from the mind of bhikkhus immersed in the dhamma- so there’s no need for real verbal exchange, except for delighting in the dhamma -maybe a form of playfulness at clever answers or well known themes, like a ‘greatest hits’ being replayed!

Compare with the Abhidhamma, which is meant to be recited to devas, which is dry as bone in the Sahara.

with metta

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Actually, Bhikkhu Bodhi’s collection, “In the Buddha’s Words” makese extensive use of the SN, presumably because the suttas are quite short. See:


I can see how this will be a problem. Only 135 sutta on the 5 khandas to go!


Don’t give up.


I guess folk will have their reasons. All the same, I currently have cause to run through the Samyutta. I’m performing a task so I’m not, by any stretch, doing a read through, but occasionally do stop off to enjoy the scenery and I have to say, thus far, I’m growing very fond of the Devata samyutta.


Very interesting discussion. Thanks for starting it @Pasanna. I’ve appreciated everyone’s comments.

With all the collections, I just open the book and read, unless I’m trying to find something in particular. And if I read or hear a sutta quote, say here in Discourse, and it seems relevant to me at the moment, I look up the entire sutta and reread it. I don’t tend to ever read books front to back, sigh, guess it’s just not my learning style, which could maybe be called ‘super organic’ :wink:. Although having just said that, when I received my copy of the Snp, after looking up a few individual suttas, I did read the Parayana Vagga from start to finish because it happens to be one of my very favorites.

The problem with my method is it makes it difficult to find things afterwards. Sometimes I mark the books with post-it notes, like @anon35250929 suggested, but I inevitably end up with so many that I need to remove them and start over (also because differnt suttas are more meaningful to me at differnt times, depending on what’s going on in my practice).

I much prefer the actual printed texts to any digital files, probably because of my ‘organic’ approach. I like being able to flip through a book and go back and forth, and find it so much more ‘user-friendly’ (but then I’m not all that technically literate, and in general find it stressful). Of course I use SC too, and especially to check the Pali (though I don’t know it nearly well enough to just read in Pali alone).

As for the Devata samyutta, I actually really like it. But again, it depends on what is ‘calling me’ at the moment. In general I tend to love the Dhamma taught in verse form. The teachings presented in such a succinct pithy form always touch me deeply in how they point right to the core of the Dhamma.


Can you expalin this–what exactly it is, how to use, etc.

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Originally I read the whole thing over a period of time, but skimming a lot of the repetitions. I found this useful to get a sense of the big picture.


If you write a comment about the Honeyball sutta you’d tag it MN18. Then when you are reading that sutta on SC you can click the draw (the lines on the green square) and find all the suttas marked with mn18. At the moment it says no discussions found. But the tech devas have it on their list to fix

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Where would I have to write my comment and tag it MN 18?

And when I click on the green square with the 3 lines—where would I find suttas marked MN 18, or marked anything at all? When I click on this square I only see 3 sections, “controls”, “navigation”, and “metadata”. Nowhere do I see anything like “no discussions found”… :thinking:

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There used to be a discuss and discover link in the navigation tab. It appears to have been removed for reworking.
Your actual in post tagging looks good to me though.

Apparently the SC dev team are pulling out all stops to meet there goals for the new site so I won’t bother them with this now


Ah… do I get it right that you mean I write my comment here on D&D… ???

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In my first attempt to read the SN, I started right from the beginning and eventually got stuck somewhere. Then I jumped to the Nidānavagga and kept jumping to the suttas that were of immediate interest to me. The organisation principle of SN is very convenient I think.

Furthermore, I tend to come back to certain suttas and read them again and again - it is fascinating how my views and “understanding” changes over time.

I have several notebooks, paper and digital, to keep track. And I love flags to put in my books, and often I directly put my notes right on the page (e.g. cross-referencing to other suttas).

Thanks for this :slight_smile:


I remember the repetitions were not too bad in the German translation I read. Even so, I often am able to approach them generally as reminders (as already intimated in another post here) and so find them beneficial. Is the English version not rendering all the repetitions in full? In that case one would be able to trace the individual sutta more conveniently, if that’s what you meant …

Nice and helpful to have such indexed references. I personally prefer to go through all the material to see what is most relevant, especially regarding my personal path and understanding. That is what I did with the SN. I noted all the for me personally most important passages, which I find very helpful when thinking about a certain reference which I know is in the SN but not exactly where, in that way I often just have to go through the comparatively short notes again.

I see no problem with going through all the material in sequential order, from beginning to end. Regarding the Devatāsaṃyutta (the first Saṃyutta) I cannot share in the disinclination in respect to it’s overall content, some of my favorites are found in it. Here some examples, if that is ok with you:

“Life is swept along, short is the life span;
No shelters exist for one who has reached old age.
Seeing clearly this danger in death,
A seeker of peace should drop the world’s bait.” (SN 1, 3)

“Time flies by, the nights swiftly pass;
The stages of life successively desert us.
Seeing clearly this danger in death,
A seeker of peace should drop the world’s bait.” (SN 1, 4)

“Having abandoned conceit, well concentrated,
With lofty mind, everywhere released:
While dwelling alone in the forest, diligent,
One can cross beyond the realm of Death.” (SN 1, 9)

And I think of one of my all-time favorites, a leading sutta, just after the onset of the 2. Saṃyutta:

So hard it is to do, Lord,
It’s so very hard to do!

But still they do what’s hard to do,
Who steady themselves with virtue.
For one pursuing homelessness,
Content arrives, and with it joy.

So hard it is to get, Lord,
This content of which you speak!

But still they get what’s hard to get,
Who delight in a tranquil mind.
The mind of those, both day and night,
Delights in its development.

So hard it is to tame, Lord,
This mind of which you speak!

But still they tame what’s hard to tame,
Who delight in senses at peace.
Cutting through mortality’s net,
The nobles, Kamada, proceed.

So hard it is to go, Lord,
On this path that gets so rough!

Still nobles, Kamada, proceed
On paths both rough and hard to take.
Those who are less than noble fall
On their heads when the path gets rough.
But for nobles the path is smooth
— For nobles smooth out what is rough! (SN 2, 6. Kāmada)

Generally speaking SN is perhaps my favorite nikāya of the four main ones, but that is hard to settle for me personally by and large, given the excellence of them all. I heard that the ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw especially recommends it (learning by heart or reading I am not sure).


Two interesting works of G.A. Somaratne (University of Hong Kong) regarding SN or parts of it which are perhaps of interest regarding your intended study:


Much mettā and a fruitful and enjoyable time studying.