What is your Desert Island Sutta?


I’d want to have with me on Gilligan’s Island a copy of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. It’s such a long Sutta, suitable for a lengthy stay on an island, but it also has for me, and millions of others I’m sure, such detail and such beautiful pathos, especially surrounding Ven. Ananda and his deep relationship with the Buddha. Not to be irreverant, but in a silly way I can see Ananda depicted, at times, as the “Gilligan” to the Buddha’s “Skipper.” Deeply connected, sometimes Ananda shows such deep aspects of love and humanity toward his Teacher, contrasted to the unwavering strength and imperturbable wisdom of the Buddha, even in his last days. This is as far as I will go with the “Gilligan’s Island” analogy. By the way, Mary Ann and Olivia Newton John were my first loves as a boy. Not that that is relevant to this posting…

If I couldn’t get ahold of the DN 16, then I’d have memorized the Cankama Sutta, as I’d surely be doing a lot of walking on the island, daily, in search of food, water, or a volleyball named Wilson to make as a kalyana mitre .

kalyana mitre


SN 23.2 is a good sutta for a desert island:

Suppose, Radha, some little boys or girls are playing with sand castles. So long as they are not devoid of lust, desire, affection, thirst, passion, and craving for those sand castles, they cherish them, play with them, treasure them, and treat them possessively. But when those little boys or girls lose their lust, desire, affection, thirst, passion, and craving for those sand castles, then they scatter them with their hands and feet, demolish them, shatter them, and put them out of play.
So too, Radha, scatter form, demolish it, shatter it, put it out of play; practice for the destruction of craving. Scatter feeling … Scatter perception … Scatter constructions … Scatter consciousness, demolish it, shatter it, put it out of play; practice for the destruction of craving. For the destruction of craving, Radha, is Nibbana.


Hi Christopher,
The sutta you are referencing is the Satta Sutta (SN 23.2), not SN 23.3.


Thanks, Nicolas!


Oh gosh, I have several favorite suttas, and which one(s) at any given time kind of depends on what’s going on in my practice. But perhaps for a desert island I’d choose MN 121. And for sure I’d take the last chapter of the Sutta Nipata, and if I could ony choose one from that, I think Snp 5.7. Oh actually I think Snp 5.11 would be most appropriate :slight_smile:

“For those standing in the middle of a lake,” said venerable Kappa,
“when a fearful flood has arisen,
for those overcome by old age and death, speak about an island, dear Sir,
you must explain an island to me, so there will be no more after this.”

“For those standing in the middle of a lake, Kappa,” said the Gracious One,
“when a fearful flood has arisen,
for those overcome by old age and death, I speak about an island, Kappa:

“Having nothing, no attachment, this is the island with nothing beyond,
this is called Nibbāna, I say, the end of old age and death.

“Knowing this, those who are mindful, who are emancipated in this very life,
come not under Māra’s control, they are not servants to Māra.”

(Can someone please tell me how to do a ‘block quote’.? It doesn’t seem to be working for me)


Some nice choices, Linda. I’m afraid I can’t decide on one sutta; it’s like a parent picking which child is their favorite (“I love you all the same, my dear, sweet suttas!”)

Regarding the block quote, the way I do it is to first type in all the text for the block quote, then use the mouse cursor to highlight all the text to be quoted, and, lastly, click the quotation mark icon on the menu bar.


Put the ‘>’ symbol in front of the whole text; maybe you’ll need to do it in front of each paragraph, and in the line break between, but it’s that little symbol to use.


thanks @Christopher & @daverupa forthe info re: block quotes. I did try it the way you suggested Chris but for some reason it didn’t work (thoughthe blocks work for quotes in posts)

:rofl: I agree.


It occurs to me to mention that using the [quote] tag requires putting the [quote] aspect on its own line, above the text in question, and then [/quote] on its own line underneath the whole text.

On other forae, I’ve noticed that this isn’t always necessary; having the [quote] business on the same line(s) as the text wouldn’t be an issue.


thanks so much @daverupa. I think I understand, though not sure :thinking: I will try to experiment next time I need to do a block quote


Here’s how to see what I mean:

.This will look quoted

.[quote]This won’t look quoted

.This won’t look quoted either[/quote]


Hi again @daverupa, trying to quote a passage from MN 121

“Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: ‘We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.’”

So, first I tried to put the sign > on a separate line above the text of the quote and then on a separate line below the text . It didn’t work putting it above, so I put the first one on the same line as the text and that worked. The symbol > at the end didn’t seem to make a difference (only seemed to need the first one).

Here’s what it looks like when I put the symbols on separate lines:

“Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: ‘We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.’”

Glad I know how to do it now, thanks. We’ll see if I manage another time with more than one paragraph :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


.>this will look quoted

.>this is a first paragraph that’ll look quoted
.>and this is a second, which will be in the same grey quote box, and
when the line wraps you don’t need a new symbol
.>but you do when you start a new paragraph (or, whenever there’s a ‘carriage return’ command, usually -enter- in most text editors).

That’s how those little things are used.


Only one?

Well, the solution that solves that conundrum is to memorize the lot.
There are 11 “Tipitaka Sayadaws” here in Burma, who have committed the entire Tipitaka to memory. Being a skeptical Westerner, I used to question the value of doing this when the texts are so easily accessible now. Then I got to actually meet one of these monks. He was humble, connecting, compassionate, wise, and full of humor.

Not that this inspired me to try to memorize the tipitaka; I can’t even imagine trying to do that! Even the Dhammapada is a challenge.

But before being shipwrecked I would hope to have some favorite texts committed to memory. With some Dhp verses (1-5, for starters), the verse in the Bhaddekaratta suttas, and the Parittas tucked away in the mind, that would leave room for a longer text - like the Brahmajāla Sutta - to study at leisure. All that said, one of my favorite suttas is MN 29, the Mahasaropama Sutta. I guess that needs to be added to the ‘to be memorized in-box’…:wink:


No contest, it has to be the Dhammacakkapavatana Sutta SN 56.11

Then, if I were lucky enough to have a second one handy, the Anattalakkhana SN 22.59

And my all time, emotional, heart string pulling, tear spilling favourite: The Ratana Sutta Snp 2.1


Lovely topic, much thanks amimettalove and all! :anjal:

When this question first came up, I formulated a number of responses in my head coming at it from different angles. The fact of the matter is that it’s just not a fixed thing. I and my circumstances move, how I read moves and what moves, moves.

There are assuredly ones I return to that reliable inspire and/or cool, but today I came across the one I think does as much of what I can hope any one sutta to do in that respect as possible, and that seems the contextually ideal choice for an extended island stay:


An inspiring one I recently came across:

“Not without understanding and austerity,
not without restraining the sense faculties,
not without letting go of everything,
do I see safety for living creatures.”



Maha-parinibbana Sutta


Probably one I don’t understand… :yum:
It could be a long list, but MN1 springs to mind.