What is your Desert Island Sutta?

Hey friends,

I just had a thought to ask the Ajahns what their favourite or most meaningful Sutta is for them, but why not ask all of you.

If you were to pick one Sutta that keeps you on track or you just love more than any other or one that inspires the most faith and practice for you, what would it be? What if we all list 1 or 2 Suttas. 1 is kind of hard, but let’s try to keep it to 2 max so that we can all look at everyone’s suggestions if this is fun for you. :slight_smile:
I hope you like this idea. Maybe it’s been done before.


For me, I think I would have to say Tears and the Bahia Sutta.

Tears has helped me stay here, on track and it has helped me to not give up when I’ve gotten depressed or in a panic attack. It helps me remember that if I check out then I will be setting myself up for another ocean of tears and I could suffer a lot more than I am at that moment.


The Bahiya Sutta is so key for me because it informs me how to practice, just the seen, just the scent and so on.

“In that case, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In what is seen there must be only what is seen, in what is heard there must be only what is heard, in what is sensed there must be only what is sensed, in what is cognized there must be only what is cognized. This is the way, Bāhiya, you should train yourself."

This makes the practice doable, right here and now for me. I don’t have to reach Jhana in this moment, even though it is incredibly valuable and I should and will practice this, but I can just step back from the sense doors at any moment and experience instant relief and joy.

The Bahiya Sutta


The Attadanda Sutta Snp 4.15.


What a great idea.
I have other favourite suttas but the ones that I’d pick to take on a desert island would be;
Gaṇakamoggallāna Sutta MN107 or any of the gradual training suttas. It’s the step by step guide to practice.

Means of Escape Nis­sāraṇī­ya sutta AN6.13 the importance of the brahmavihara in countering the hinderances and keeping you safe on the path is sometimes overlooked. I was talking today with a monk about this and he said it’s like mental hygiene. We wouldn’t skip taking a shower too long or we’d stink. Ditto for the boundless qualities. And this sutta shows how they can also be a means to an end.

I look forward to everyone else’s lists, and discovering more juicy suttas.


My favorite is MN.140 Dhatuvibhanga Sutta.
With Metta


My most favourite sutta is Sunna Sutta SN 35.85.
It tells me how I can’t find self or anything that belongs to self anywhere since things are dependently originated.

Another sutta that I read together with the sutta that is mentioned above is SN 22.59.
It explains what self would be like if there were one and how nothing matches the characteristics of self.

I believe that since nothing can be said to be me or mine, then letting go of unwholesome things will be easier for me to do. It will also motivate me to practise the Dhamma as well since I can’t will “me” to realise Nibbana.


Two of my favourite suttas are MN 131 Bhaddekaratta Sutta, and AN 6.47 Visible Here & Now.


Probably the Karaniya Metta Sutta, to transcend the limitations of the situation (unboundedness); and which also encodes all three phases of practice – Sīlaṃ samādhi paññā ca.


MN 77. I think this is a very strange Sutta.



That’s one of my favourites because I work regularly with the sense bases, aiming to notice transience and conditionality.

On the same theme, I also like the Phena Sutta :

"Form is like a lump of foam,
Feeling like a water bubble;
Perception is like a mirage,
Volitions like a plantain trunk,
And consciousness like an illusion,
So explained the Kinsman of the Sun.

However one may ponder it
And carefully investigate it,
It appears but hollow and void
When one views it carefully."


Two Moggallāna-related suttas, AN7.61 and MN37, one taught to him and the other taught (in part) by him.


I suppose its cheating to say “one carved into the surface of a boat?”

I think it would be only appropriate to carve MN 22 into such a surface.


I’ve often seen AN 7.61 referenced, but always in the context of the initial instructions on overcoming drowsiness. But the rest of the sutta deserves more attention, especially the brief instruction at the end, which always goes to the very depths of my heart.

Here, Moggallana, a bhikkhu has heard: ‘Nothing is worth holding to.’ When a bhikkhu has heard: ‘Nothing is worth holding to,’ he directly knows all things. Having directly known all things, he fully understands all things. Having fully understood all things, whatever feeling he feels – whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant – he dwells contemplating impermanence in those feelings, contemplating fading away in those feelings, contemplating cessation in those feelings, contemplating relinquishment in those feelings. As he dwells contemplating impermanence…fading away…cessation…relinquishment in those feelings, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains nibbana. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to b done has been done, there is not more coming back to any state of being.’


I would say Mahasatipatthana sutta DN22 the ekayana magga- even though bits may have been extended later- nevertheless it allows me to sneak in a couple of suttas at least- as one!

I like Iti 80 for its succinct nature. Like a bullet targeted at enlightenment. It should be practiced with other elements of the Gradual path or N8FP.

SN12.15. Every word matters; for developing Right view leading to penetration.

SN55.5 is the basic formula for Stream entry; without which enlightenment is not possible.

‘Association with people of integrity is a factor for stream-entry.
Listening to the true Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Appropriate attention is a factor for stream-entry.
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry’.
— SN 55.5

With metta,


Dhp Vlll…

You can beat a thousand men in a thousand battles, but the true conqueror is the person who conquers himself.


“And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

“And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, lovingkindness, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

“‘I will protect myself,’ bhikkhus: thus should the establishments of mindfulness be practised. ‘I will protect others,’ bhikkhus: thus should the establishments of mindfulness be practised. Protecting oneself, bhikkhus, one protects others; protecting others, one protects oneself.”

SN 47.19 - Sedaka


AN 6.29, and SN 54.3

Instead of satipatthana or DN 22, people should memorize those two instead.

Basically, all the inner workings of Ajahn Lee’s “keeping the breath in mind” is in those 2 suttas.


Two that inspires me the most…

I carry Dhp 290 constantly in my mind.

If by renouncing a lesser happiness one may realize a greater happiness, let the wise man renounce the lesser, having regard for the greater.

But Tears (SN 15.3) is the most inspiring for me, most definitely (and the title is highly appropriate). This is the most dramatic summary of existence I’ve ever encountered, it’s appeal burns with urgency to stop fooling around and engage in the greatest and last search one can embark regarding his own existence. It puts the whole chess board into “check” and, when doing so, viscerally shows how all possible moves are familiar, insufficient and feeble. All but one, the only square that has not being fully tried on yet: the Path.

Every time things get difficult, every time something inside tries to sneak out, the words of this sutta are the ones that puts all to rest.

enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released.


I am a little embarassed to admit that for a while there the atanatiya sutta (protective verses) was one of my favs, along w/the Mangala sutta - I memorized these for recitation purposes so that’s probably why. Now I should probably focus more attn on suttas that offer solid instruction on elements of practice…thanks to everyone for the many good suggestions here!


Some great suttas here! How many are we allowed to take? :yum:


Mangala sutta is great guide for lay life, but perhaps not for a desert island. :desert_island:

With metta