"Top Hits" List of Suttas?

Hi dhamma friends!

I’ve so enjoyed this forum and am deeply grateful for the collective wisdom alive and holding the dhamma today.

As a relative newbie to the Suttas, I was thinking it would be awesome to collect a “top hits” of the most important Suttas. I have had the great fortune of this website and also my local bhikkunis and dhamma friends to study with, but without them I feel it would be difficult to navigate the Suttas. Many I know rely on a lay teacher to interpret the Suttas for them.

Everyone will have a different set of Suttas they find the most important. To narrow it down, I’m thinking if someone was brand new and they needed a study guide to focus their energy so that they knew the core principles of the Buddha’s teachings. BTW I have read Bhikkhu Bodhi’s “In the Buddha’s Words” book and feel it doesn’t quite cover it in the same way I’m thinking.

There seem to be common themes that may be represented across many, many Suttas, so the goal would be to boil it down to just a key 1 or 2 Suttas per topic.

As starters the topics that I think of are:

  • 4 noble truths (i.e. first dhamma talk)
  • 8-fold path
  • 3 fetters
  • 4 divine abodes
  • 7 Awakening factors
  • 5 spiritual factors
  • 6 sense fields
  • 5 khandas
  • renunciation
  • kamma
  • rebirth
  • dependent origination
  • meditation techniques (i.e. Satipatthana and Anipanasati)
  • how to discern truth of a teacher (i.e. kalayamas)
  • ?? I’m sure there are others



For a while now I have been going through the Majjhima Nikaya with @Khemarato.bhikkhu’s ~The Majjhima Nikāya Syllabus~ - Google Docs.

And I have been noticing that a slow and thorough reading of the whole Nikaya is more beneficial than just a random suttas here and there. It takes quite a long time, but in the end, I guess, that is the way to go. Your understanding will be more complete and you will discover how the discourses connect.

I can also recommend browsing through this website: https://readingfaithfully.org/


@Danny thank you for the excellent links!

I agree with you that it is more beneficial to read more and directly. That is my personal approach.

At the same time I’ve found that talking to lay Buddhists the “all or nothing” feeling of reading the Suttas can be a turn-off. Hence trying to curate a small list of the common topics that they may only experience second-hand :slightly_smiling_face:


I found the Access to Insight website quite useful when starting off reading the suttas.

There’s quite a good overview of the main teachings there, organized at the top level in terms of the triple gem: A Self-guided Tour of the Buddha’s Teachings and within that for the Dhamma in terms of the components of the “gradual training” scheme: Dhamma - A Gradual Training (all very sutta-oriented).

The subject index of the website is quite good too. I’d say it would contain most items in your topic list and list some relevant sutta references for each.


Just to add, Sutta Central also has an index directly pointing to the suttas: SuttaCentral


Thanks! I do recall seeing that at one point, but had actually forgotten about it! :sweat_smile:


@suaimhneas that index is awesome I didn’t know about it.

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There’s also this post I found very interesting:


I am currently doing a weekly sutta study with some friends using Bhikku Bodhi’s “In the Buddha’s Words.” It’s an anthology that serves as sutta-based introduction to the Buddha’s teaching in a global sense. I would not be surprised if the book were highly recommended across the board on SuttaCentral, since this is an EBT sort of place and Bhikku Bodhi is extremely respected. His translations are often included alongside Bhante Sujato’s.

The book is easily available on Amazon etc., and if you look around long enough you can find a PDF of it online. I have seen that before but couldn’t easily find it again.

There is a handy dandy open-source version on dhammawheel that uses Bhikku Bodhi’s ordering for the suttas and links directly here, to SC!

I like the lists you put up there as topics of interest… memorizing lists is a great way to commit the most important bits of Buddhism to memory for contemplation. When I started getting into the suttas, I start to see how the Buddha’s teachings are holistic and not just a bunch of lists (which, tbh, is how it seemed to me for years!).

Happy learning!


@sinjin I really enjoyed that book, too, have seen it pop up here many times. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s intros to AN and MN are awesome. I also watched his youtube series on intro to Buddhism on 2x just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything crucial. On top of being an amazing translator, he is a fantastic teacher :pray::pray::pray:

@sabbamitta that’s a great list! I want to read them all :grin:

I think I’m realizing that what I want to curate may take some more digging to really make sure I’m being comprehensive and not overly simplistic. The goal is to be able to share some Suttas with curious friends and family…Suttas rather than a teacher’s interpretation. I read like 20 (more?) lay Buddhists books before actually reading the Suttas. I feel some of that was lost time or even misinformation.

Thank you all for your input :slight_smile:


We just released the new version of Voice with a search type ahead function. This offers support for individual Sutta study, not so much in a systematic way, but rather guided by intuition and personal interest.

Try it out, the Voice team would warmly appreciate any feedback!


I should perhaps have explained a little closer what the idea behind the new search type ahead function is: It is supposed to allow Sutta study by topic. The search box is drawing from a list of terms we found useful for Sutta study, which usually return a relatively small number of search results—not dozens. So you can explore the Suttas shown in a results list. They usually look at the relevant topic from somewhat different angles each.

For example, search for “root of suffering” returns 7 results.

We are constantly adding new search terms to our lists (we have English and German). If you think of useful terms that might guide your and other people’s study, please let us know so we can add them. :pray:


So true! I have sat several retreats with him and would do again any time I could.

In addition to my peer-led sutta study, I try to tune into his Saturday-morning sutta study on zoom. It’s at 9:30 a.m. EST, I believe. It’s brilliant, and being present while it’s live is, for me, a richer experience. I’ve had the opportunity to ask questions and the answers are, of course, great. Here’s a link with info:


Thanks for mentioning this, Anagarika. :pray:

The hope here is that we can all share a common sutta study list via the Voice examples. We need help with examples!

If you have any suggestions for new examples, please let us know. My own favorite phrase is “root of suffering”. What’s yours? Let us know! :sun_with_face:



Who knows, for example, in how many Suttas the Buddha talks about situational awareness for the various body postures and movements? Try “when going out and coming back” in the Voice search, find 25 Suttas. In how many Suttas is he talking about breath meditation? Try “breathing in heavily they know”.

Look up the different contexts for these teachings and discover new stuff! :open_mouth:

This kind of search is only possible because of the very consistent translation by Bhante Sujato who uses the same terminology across the entire canon; unlike Bhikkhu Bodhi, for example, who, although making awesome translations, has changed some of his renderings over the years, and so you find different terminology in the different Nikayas he has translated. That’s not easy for a search function to deal with.

Voice search only includes the consistent translation by Bhante Sujato, not other translations, which is what makes it so powerful for this kind or search approach. (This does by no means imply a judgement about other translations; it’s merely for technical reasons, and in order to avoid flooding, especially for assisted users who use screen readers.)


Thanks for that straightforward explanation. While Bhikkhu Bodhi’s explanations of why he changed his translation preferences are fascinating, I now see that setting up a search function based on his texts would be heaps more work. However when I see,

I have a fearsome image of scores of meditators labouring under heavy burdens. :rofl:


Why should they labor under heavy burdens? (I am sometimes slow at understanding jokes … :snail:)

There are sometimes good reasons to change translation preferences. Bhante Sujato also does this, all the time, actually. The difference is that Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations are published in books, while Bhante Sujato’s are, in the first place, online. It’s easy to change something on a website. But once a book has been printed it is printed.

Once we notice changes in Bhante’s translations we do adapt the Voice examples terms, if they are affected.


and BB has things published in books about which he says in lectures, “I would now prefer that I had translated that word differently” … ah anicca!

Heavy breathing is often associated with strenuous physical activity or hard labour. In context, Bhante S’s use of light vs heavy breathes works well (better than long and short breaths cos in English no one breathes ‘shortly’, but taking just the heavy breath on its own, feels strange because there are lots of not-very-funny jokes in English about heavy breathing that I won’t go into.

The translator’s perpetual difficulty pops up again. :zipper_mouth_face:


My quest for an epitomic sutta covering, or at least succinctly enumerating the seven enlightenment / awakening* factors led me here. Could someone please suggest one?

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The factor of awakening that is mindfulness,
the factor of awakening that is investigation of the (nature of) things,
the factor of awakening that is energy,
the factor of awakening that is joy,
the factor of awakening that is tranquillity,
the factor of awakening that is concentration,
the factor of awakening that is equanimity.

You might also check out the Satipatthana teachings by Venerable Anālayo… Others likely have more specific recommendations, that’s how I’ve most recently learned them as an overview.

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