How many suttas to learn the gist of the dhamma

Suppose you have to teach the dhamma from scratch to someone who wants, like the buddha-to-be, to be free from Dukkha, what is the minimum list of suttas that will be good enough?
There are some 11800 suttas; that’s much too many, a source of confusion and of no-end discussions; can you propose say 10 suttas for the above goal?


It depends on the good Kamma of each person.
What you need is an understanding of what Sila, Samadhi, and Panna mean.
Perhaps a good grasp of Noble Eight Fold Path and Four Noble Truths.
You need the theory, practice, and realisation.
Sutta helps you only with the theory.

Thanks Sarah. I was interrested in getting a list of suttas from the various Nikayas that will be enough for a beginner to read to get a good understanding of the dhamma. Of course the most important is to put the dhamma into practice.

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Your question is important and valid.
I like to see the input from others.
The way I understand what beginners need is an overall understanding first.
So I use the following standard recommendation to beginners to Buddhism.

This is my standard recommendation for beginners:
a)Read BuddhismCourse. (Take about 12 hours to read and give you a good idea about the teaching)

b)Print a copy of this Dhamma Chart and refer to it while studding Buddhism.

c) Read Buddha’s Teaching by Narada. Start from chapter 15. … gsurw6.pdf

d) While you reading above texts please listen to the following Dhamma Talk by Joseph Goldstein.
e) Start reading Sutta.
Good starting point would be to read Bikkhu Bodhi’s “In the Buddha’s Word”
Then read Sutta Central. Start from Majjhima Nikaya.

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Thks Sarah.
I’m still looking for a list of suttas instead of other people views of the dhamma.

After the Buddha taught two suttas there were five arahant disciples. Therefore, only two suttas.

SN 56.11 and SN 22.59. :deciduous_tree: and a 3rd for detailed explanation SN 45.8 or MN 117.

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This selection by Bhikkhu Bodhi covers most of the key concepts:


Thank you so much mikenz66. This is what I was looking for. With Metta.

  1. SN 45.8 magga vibhanga sutta: standard definitions of noble eightfold path. All 10,0000 suttas can be mapped under the 8 factors, starting with the 37 bodhi pakkhiya. If it can’t, then it’s probably not genuine word of the buddha.
  2. SN 54.3 suddhika sutta: 16 APS (ana pana sati), the basic steps
  3. SN 54.2 bojjhanga sutta: 7 awakening factor standard formula combined with 16 APS
  4. AN 6.29 udayi sutta: contains the important parts of the satipatthana sutta, leaves out the big problems from MN 10, and has an explanation of why each meditation exercise is done and how they’re typically done in a sequence of gradual stages that works.
  5. SN 22.59 An-atta-lakkhaṇa-sutta, Not-self-discourse
  6. SN 35.28 Āditta Sutta , Burning-discourse, 1000 disciples become arahants after listening to this fundamental important discourse on the 6 sense bases
  7. SN 56.11 Dhamma cakka pavattana, the first sermon, on 4 noble truths
  8. SN 54.8 dipa sutta: the lamp. How to use 16 APS to get all 9 meditative attainments and arrahantship
  9. AN 3.65 Kesaputti [Kālāma] , besides the famous part, it also contains the standard formula for the 4 brahma vihara meditation
  10. MN 61 Ambalaṭṭhikā­rāhulovāda : For a beginner, this is the first sutta I would read. This sets the table for everything.
  11. SN 51.12 mahap phala: (because my counting scale goes to 11, when you need that extra oomph and you thought you maxed out at 10) This can be used as a sequel to udayi sutta AN 6.29, how to use 4 iddhipada to take the perception of light and 4th jhana to open up the full arsenal of meditative potential leading to nirvana.

You really can’t pick out 10 suttas and expect a beginner to get a coherent understanding, a gist of what’s going on. The path really takes a long time for the main ideas to sink in to at least a basic theoretical understanding, since many ideas are so counter intuitive as they go directly opposite deluded urges of beings. The suttas I listed though you’ll get an idea of the full set of core meditative practice that leads to nirvana.

B.Bodhi’s book “in the buddha’s words”, as others have mentioned, is I think the best bet for that, but that draws from passages from probably hundreds of suttas.


Beautiful. Thank you so much Frankk.

Question: shall we introduce to a beginner the 10FP instead of the 8FP?

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I like the input from the monks in this forum.
How monks are introduced (taught) to Sutta?

That’s a personal preference I guess. I don’t think 10FP is mentioned too often, there are many ways the equivalent ideas are expressed in the EBT. IMO 7sb (awakening factors) and 6ab (abhiñña) are probably the most frequent and standard way to express how 8aam + 4 noble truths are practiced and lead to awakening.

Excellent choices. I would also use the SN as the first source of suttas to get the gist of the Dhamma.
I would add a sutta describing the gradual training, eg. AN4.198 (or one in the MN or DN).

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What about anthologies, as another suggestion, like “The Path of Deliverance” by Nyanatiloka. It represent a variety of essential material from which to choose conveniantly.


Then Ven. Assaji gave this Dhamma exposition to Sāriputta the Wanderer:
Whatever phenomena arise from cause:
their cause
& their cessation.
Such is the teaching of the Tathāgata,
the Great Contemplative.
Then to Sāriputta the wanderer, as he heard this Dhamma exposition, there arose the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: "Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."
Vinaya Pitaka, Khandhaka, Pañcavaggiyakathā Mv 1.23.1-10