I often give answers to questions about suttas which advise not to read them indiscriminately but to work from what one already has confidence in, and establish clusters of suttas connected by meaning. This is the method recommended by the Buddha in MN 95. There are several traps for those unfamiliar with the suttas, the most common being the confusing of those meant for arahant level being applied to a beginner practice on the conditioned path, the key word identifying the latter being ‘skillfulness’.
“Many people have misunderstood this point, believing that the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment require that one relinquish one’s attachment to the path of practice as quickly as possible. Actually, to make a show of abandoning the path before it is fully developed is to abort the entire practice. As one teacher has put it, a person climbing up to a roof by means of a ladder can let go of the ladder only when safely on the roof. In terms of the famous raft simile [§§113-114], one abandons the raft only after crossing the flood. If one were to abandon it in mid-flood, to make a show of going spontaneously with the flow of the flood’s many currents, one could drown.”—Thanissaro, “Wings to Awakening,” ‘Skillfulness.’
The suttas a learner should be studying are those delivered by or addressed to the pre-awakening stage of the Buddha, Ananda, Rahula, nuns, or lay people. The leaders of these are MN 19 and 44. A raw beginner should model their practice on AN 11.12 and 11.13. There is an order in the suttas where the Buddha’s instruction is mostly confined to topics at the arahant level, while others speak about subjects applicable to the practice of a western layperson. The western beginner misjudges their own level of practice relevant to that on which the Buddha is speaking, the awakened perspective.
Great, it is a good point.
“Target audience” is the first thing to know before we start studying.Because words are just conventional truths and the Buddha had to use them to relay His deepest/ungraspable wisdom, they (words) vary depending on the audience as well as their wisdom level;
thus there is certainly a learning curve to realize that “Essence of Dhamma” is the same. Before that, one should first focus on the introduction of each sutta where location, audience etc are described.
These suttas are addressed to Mahanama the layperson and provide the basics for obtaining direct experience at the margin of lay life, attaining concentration. A western Buddhist would not be expected to remain at that level, but would go on to study MN 19 to investigate the second and third noble truths. All the links of the noble eightfold path can be found in that sutta as the Buddha-to-be was developing them, and the second and sixth should be able to be immediately recognized.