The varieties of religious reading experience

Interesting to see the various reactions to reading the suttas (here a negative one). I sort of assumed that most people would enjoy them once they managed to get to reading them and have their first experience with them… and then fall down the rabbit hole of studying them to solve this awesome jigsaw - so it’s a good reminder that it’s not the case.

It’s also interesting and puzzling that Wisdompubs has published such a review… usually publishers only post good reader experiences!

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Discouraged, I started flipping through the pages, reading suttas, or starting to, but getting irritated by the formality of the phrases, the long lists of adjectives, and (even with the liberal use of ellipses) the endless endless endless repetition.

This used to bother me, too. Now, I actually get bothered by the ellipses, especially in the Samyutta Nikaya. I feel that they diminish the meditative nature of reading the texts.

I gave up—not meditation, not Buddhism, but trying to be an A+ Buddhist student. I went back to reading Dharma books by modern authors. For many of the Buddha’s teachings, I need an intermediary.

That’s understandable. It’s probably best to read the suttas when you’re relaxed, maybe after a meditation session, and to only read one sutta a day. Further, heed Bhikkhi Bodhi’s advice and don’t start with MN1: The Root of All Things! Clearly this reviewer skimmed the introduction. :grin:


Very true! MN1 is definitely not the best first text to read in the MN… :slight_smile:

I feel it is the same with the SN, the first vagga (poetry) has no resemblance with the rest of the book (which is very didactic)!


If there was a reading list for American Buddhism 101, I’d exhausted it.

In my opinion, this was one of her many mistakes. You could argue that the books she listed do make up American Buddhism 101. Trouble is, She had signed up for Theravada Buddhism 201 and I would say that AB101 left her not only unprepared but extremely overconfident. Possibly even ill prepared. After such a long time being told Buddhism is one thing, it’s hard to encounter a different tradition and not be doubtful about what you are reading.

It was my intention to read the thousand-page book from cover to cover.

This can be done. But only under certain conditions. If one does not have the proper preparation or guide, then a strong faith can keep things moving along. But without preparation, guide, and faith, it’s going to be a bit overwhelming.

Too bad she didn’t read this article first…

But really, she would have been 10 times better off starting with In the Buddha’s Words.

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When you see her conclusion…

I went back to reading Dharma books by modern authors. For many of the Buddha’s teachings, I need an intermediary.

Probably 80% of Wisdom’s catalogue is books by modern authors.

It’s unfortunate that she didn’t come to the conclusion, “Maybe I need a guide to this.” Considering her stated background, Pressing Out Pure Honey would have been a great companion.

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Maybe the Pali cannon needs a set of notes, for the readers to fully understand its nuances. Hence the reason for the existence of the old commentaries. However a newer set may be required for modern readers. I don’t mean technical notes, but rather clarifications or simplifications.

with metta