Reading or listening?

Some people like to read and some like to listen to sermons. When we listening to a sermon we mostly get teachers understanding not the original texts and when it comes to reading understanding the content without a proper guidance is difficult having some complexities with available translations.
To my knowledge EBT does not mention about reading, perhaps due to lack of literature (written) at the time.

Which is better, listening or reading to understand dhamma?

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Imo, what is best is what works; I think there are differences among individuals as to what formats work best. Here is some material on this topic; there is some variety in the POVs offered:

Comment: this is a synopsis of an academic publication which is Teacher-centric.

Comment: this is a popular science aricle which contrasts brain and body ways of learning.

Comment: this essay is a personal approach which categorizes learning styles theories into Construction, Cognition, and Community; author advocates using all 3 daily.
Comment: This one considers 7 Learning Styles
"* Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study."
    Comment: Perhaps it’s an arbitrary framework; it seems to me some people prefer to learn by narratives; that might fit into several of those 7 categories.

I walk meditation listening to the EBTs repeatedly. Repeated listening and sub-vocalization are crucially important for deepening understanding. I can gather about 60% of a sutta’s meaning by reading, but I can only dig deeper with repeated listening.

Listening to the EBTs while walking meditation fulfills most of the five opportunities for freedom. For example, since the EBTs actually are transmitting the Dhamma, listening or reading the EBTs fulfills the first opportunity (i.e., the teacher is the Buddha himself via the Pali EBTs):

DN33:2.1.127: Five opportunities for freedom.
DN33:2.1.128: Firstly, the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches Dhamma to a mendicant…
DN33:2.1.132: Furthermore, it may be that neither the Teacher nor a respected spiritual companion teaches Dhamma to a mendicant. But the mendicant teaches Dhamma in detail to others as they learned and memorized it. …
DN33:2.1.133: Or the mendicant recites the teaching in detail as they learned and memorized it. …
DN33:2.1.134: Or the mendicant thinks about and considers the teaching in their heart, examining it with the mind as they learned and memorized it. …
DN33:2.1.135: Or a meditation subject as a foundation of immersion is properly grasped, attended, borne in mind, and comprehended with wisdom. provides online listening as well as offline MP3 downloads of sutta playlists. And by working on Voice or SuttaCentral, we are all actually doing the second opportunity for freedom.


I primarily rely on reading. Sometimes several translations. Then I listen to sermons on the discourse by more than one preacher. Without undue attachment to any preacher, I try to understand the discourse in the overall context using what I have read and heard.

That is how I try to understand Dhamma. I have found that some teachers are dogmatic in what they preach and the only way IMO to understand the Buddha’s message is to try to see the teaching in the overall context.

With Metta


Thank you for your responses.

I am afraid you cannot call it walking meditation. :thinking:

Perpose of walking meditation is to practice mindfulness (?). When you practice meditation you have the intention to improve your samādhi (?). So when you practice mindfulness, you only focus on one process. Then it should be walking or listening, not both together.


Venerable, at the beginning it was indeed as you say. There was running into trees while listening or not listening while walking. Quite chaotic and unproductive! :scream_cat:

Yet gradually, with patient repetition and after much practice, the familiarity of the path as well as the familiarity with the sutta causes both to recede into the background. The foreground attends to the rise and fall of aggregates.

Over time it has actually become walking meditation. Indeed, I now count my breaths while walking listening to the suttas. In this way one knows that at that corner one hears …four immersions… at one hundred breaths while stepping around a car whose door is opening as the foot avoids a pebble. One simply attends without grasping. I understand this to be a meditation subject as a foundation of immersion is properly grasped, attended, borne in mind, and comprehended with wisdom. This is the heart of my practice and has lessened my suffering. It may or may not work for others. :pray:

However the critical point I wished to make was this. We should all recite the suttas together:

DN33:1.9.1: There are teachings … that have been rightly explained by the Buddha. You should all recite these in concert.

It is not in the reading or the listening. It is in the recitation.


Reading and listening is the same. When I read I listen to my mind, and when I Hear, I listen with my mind.


I’ve noticed that reading is much more grasping that listening. Reading, one can skip over the page at random, reading as slow or fast as one wishes. With reading, I find myself reading what appeals to interest. Because of this, I have become wary of reading during study. The drawback of reading is that there’s too much grasping in the flitting of the eyes. The escape from that drawback is listening.

Listening is harder because one hears what is presented as it is presented and in the order it is presented. To listen and understand, one must be mindful and present. The drawback from listening is that one might cease listening through inner distraction. The escape from that drawback is recitation.

Recitation requires that we overcome one more powerfully difficult hurdle. Recitation requires memory. We can only recite what we have mindfully read or heard. The drawback from listening is that one might have understood incorrectly and succumbed to delusion. The escape from that drawback is the insight and wisdom gained through meditation.


Hearing and seeing are two different consciousnesses, and maybe that’s why we most often consider them to be more or less difficult, caused by one’s individual will/grasping for my meaning. But both of those senses causes activity in the brain, forming waves of electricity, and when there are too many hindrances in one’s mind during listening or reading, the impact of the heard or read becomes distorted
But if the mind is stilled, there will be less of one’s vibrations that cause hindrances, and there will be immediate mirroring of waves, and direct knowing without thoughts of right or wrong.