If you were thinking of memorizing a pali sutta for daily recitation... this is the one

This is the first pali sutta I committed to memory, maybe around 6 years ago. I chose this because this is an important sutta, and easy to memorize because of so many repetitions. It brings great joy (piti-sam-bojjhanga) while reciting it, develops samadhi, develops panna. As I was learning it, I would recite it repeatedly for hours at a time (not always vocally, sometimes mentally to rest of the voice). It’s one of those suttas you can’t get tired of because it’s so important, and we forget (the opposite of sati, “remembering”) to follow the instructions all the time, even right after we recite it.

I did a translation of it in pali word order, to make it easy to understand each pali word as I recite it. Even with some line by line translations of the sutta, I found it hard to unscramble the line in real time between english definition matching with pali order.

My rule of chanting suttas in pali is that I have to understand every word in real time as I’m saying it. Line by line fluent translations were making that hard to do, it makes you understand what a dyslexic person goes through, so I made word for word pali order translations in clumsy english.

I wish I started doing this when I was a kid. If you want to improve your memory, improve your cognitive skills, ward off alzheimers and other degenerative brain diseases, improve your samadhi (which acts as a quality amplifier for everything you do), you really want to start practicing the ways of the oral tradition. What they need to teach kids in school is how to identify important things that need to be memorized (sati), and the effective ways of memorization in an oral tradition. These skills amplify all other life skills, including learning how to learn.

I see so many people of different religions chanting things devotedly in various dead languages, not knowing what they mean. It’s really a huge shame. If you understand each word as you recite it, it gives samadhi and samapajano something meaningful to work with, and improves those skills as well. There’s a common misunderstanding that you have to shut your mind off in pure samatha for samadhi to improve. That’s just a small part of samadhi. The main part of samadhi is undistractable lucidity. The ability to consolidate all of your energy and direct it to one place, on theme, not being distracted by other stimuli.

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The two suttas I’ve tried to look at regularly are AN 5.57 PTS: A iii 71 ( The Five Daily Recollections ) or
the Donapaka Sutta (SN 3.13) as eating properly has such a massive impact on me and my practice.


That’s a good sutta. I find AN 3.16 to be even more helpful, as it gives a detailed explanation on moderation, so each time we chant it before eating and at other times, it helps to reprogram our mind in how it is motivated and relates to food and eating.

AN 3.16 STED eating

Kathañ-ca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
"And-how, monks, {does a} monk
bhojane mattaññū hoti?
eat (in) moderation ****?
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
Here, monks, a-monk
paṭisaṅkhā yoniso āhāraṃ āhāreti:
reflecting carefully (on) food (he) consumes:
‘neva davāya
'not (for) amusement,
na madāya
not (for) intoxication,
na maṇḍanāya
not (for) beautification,
na vibhūsanāya,
not (for) attractiveness,
yāva-deva imassa kāyassa ṭhitiyā yāpanāya
only-for this body's maintenance (and) nourishment,
injury-avoidance [from under eating],
[for] assisting (the) holy-life,
iti purāṇañca vedanaṃ paṭihaṅkhāmi,
[thinking:] thus old feelings [of hunger] I-will-terminate,
navañca vedanaṃ na uppādessāmi,
new feelings [of overeating] I-will-not-arouse,
yātrā ca me bhavissati anavajjatā ca
{and} healthy I will-become, blamless and
Phāsu-vihāro cā’ti.
(in) comfort (I) dwell ****.
Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
Thus indeed, monks, a-monk
bhojane mattaññū hoti.
eat (in) moderation ****.

SN 35.239, EA 21.6: adds 2 similes to the STED formula from AN 3.16

SN 35.239
EA 21.6, || to SN 35.239
(AN 3.16 STED eating formula)
“How is a monk moderate in eating? In this regard he takes his food, thinking where it has come from, and not in order to become plump and beautiful. He eats only with a view to supporting the body and keeping the four physical elements in shape, reflecting: Now I should check former pangs of hunger and prevent new ones from arising, letting the body have enough strength to practise the Noble Path and lest the holy life be impeded;
Just as a person anoints a wound only for the purpose of enabling it to heal,
take for example a bad abscess that has developed on a man or woman’s body to which a salve is applied for the sole purpose of occasioning a cure. Similarly, O monks, a monk is moderate in eating, thinking where the food that he is taking has come from; he does not take it in order to become stout … and he eats only with a view to supporting the body … lest the holy life be impeded.
or just as one greases an axle only for the sake of transporting a load, so a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, takes food … for assisting the holy life. It is in this way, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu is moderate in eating.
Take again for example, a cart carrying heavy loads. Its wheels are greased for the sole purpose of delivering heavy loads at their destinations. Similarly, a monk is moderate in eating, thinking … he does not take food in order to become stout … Thus a monk is moderate in eating.

in SN 3.13, the verse on moderation,

from SuttaCentral
5.1“When a man is always mindful, “Manujassa sadā satīmato,
5.2knowing moderation in eating, Mattaṃ jānato laddhabhojane;
5.3his discomfort diminishes, Tanukassa bhavanti vedanā,
5.4and he ages slowly, taking care of his life.” Saṇikaṃ jīrati āyupālayan”ti.

We can see the two important functions of sati.

  1. Sati is “a remembering”, “memory”, “remembrance”. Sati remembers important Dhamma-teachings, like the proper way to eat.
  2. Sati is short hand for “sati + sampajano”, so the clear-comprehension of sampajano, applied every moment, to the instructions we’re executing, the Dhamma we remembered and put into practice.

This is why I think we need to abandon ship on the term, “mindfulness”, because it’s been corrupted in modern times into the ideal of a choiceless awareness zombie who \has no awareness of past and future consequences, and the Dhamma is “phenomena” being investigated.

Dhamma-anupassana is first and foremost remembering the critical Dhamma teachings that lead to liberation that we have to remember (sati) execute every moment.

Try plugging the choiceless awareness mindful zombie back into the verse in SN 3.13. He wouldn’t know when to stop eating, what to eat, why he’s eating, or maybe he’d just “mindfully enjoy the taste of delicious food without attachment” and not notice when he’s overfilled his belly.

Sati is “remembering”. We remember what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, monitoring each moment to gauge results and adjust.