What were the first suttas you read?

This discussion is inspired by the thread “Can we learn from just the suttas?”

I suspect I might be in the minority, but the first suttas I read were Mahayana: the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, working up to the Lotus Sutra and Larger Prajnaparamita Sutra (still working on that one).

My first Pali Buddhist literature was making my way through Walshe’s translation of the Dighanikaya.

How about you? How did you/are you familiarizing yourself with the literature? In what order?


I’m really not sure. Whatever I read first, I would have encountered it in one of various popular English language pocket anthologies or surveys of Buddhism. Early on, I had a copy of Burtt’s The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha, which contains both Theravada and Mahayana selections. And I know I also read Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught, which contains a very short anthology of suttas at the end. So, I’m guessing that, in no particular order, these were the first original texts I read:

Adittapariyaya Sutta (The Fire Sermon)
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Turning the Wheel of Dhamma)
Sabbasava Sutta
Mahaparinibbana Sutta
Dighavu-kumara Vatthu (from the Mahavagga)
Metta Sutta

But, as with you, I’m sure I probably ran into some of Mahayana texts first, since American Buddhism was dominated by the Zen and Tibetan traditions. Although I came to understand fairly early on that there were two main traditions called “Mahayana” and “Theravada”, it was a very long time before I understood that these traditions were associated with very different bodies of canonical literature. I know I read the Heart Sutra decades ago, and that I at least grazed through the Surangama Sutra and Lankavatara Sutra.


Yes my first Sutta I read was Dimond Sutta. One day (about six years ago) I heard about the Dimond Sutra while I was listening to TV. The world oldest surviving printed book which is now available in British library.
Then I read the English translation with tears in my eyes. I read that about ten times. I did not know it was a Mahayana Sutra.
Then I joined Dhamma Wheel and learned about Access to insight and started reading the entire Sutta. Latter I learned about Sutta central and start reading Sutta again.

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Anguttara Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Dhammapada, Sutta Nipata, some of the Visuddhimagga, Mahayana sutras (Heart, Vimalakirti, Lotus), and currently the Bodhicharyavatara of Shantideva.

My very first suttas were in the majjhima Nikaya. Specifically, the translation by Ven Ñāṇamoḷi, in the old edition Treasury of the Buddha’s Words as edited by Khantipalo. I borrowed these from Wat Ram Poeng, and read them when I was staying there, and when in Chieng Mai. I’d usually read one sutta per day.

This was not only my introduction to the suttas, but also to the odd phenomenon where people in Buddhism try to discourage you from reading them, and dismiss questions based on them.

From the very first, the suttas had an aura of potency to them, like a strange elixir of unfathomable truth. Little did I imagine that, all these years later, I’d be doing my own translations!


I started with soto Zen. What got me interested in Buddhism was zen mind beginners mind. The soto monastery is up in the mountains. I switched to Nichiren and read most of The Lotus. Will reread it later. I left Nichiren because of politics and bought In The Buddha’s Words. I fell in love with it. I’m almost finished with reading it. I use it as a reference as well as listen by audio. Audio is nice because you’re involved with the dialogue. I haven’t read any other sutra other than the Lotus. I found access to insight and been hooked ever since.


My first sutta reading was the Fire Sermon. And I dont have an order of what to read, other than the “orderly way” one experience that practice in itself picks up what ever is needed for moving forward on the path.

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My first sutta was in the Dhammapada, and then Itivuttaka, and then thera/therigata- just because I happened to have those books at home. This was probably after doing my A’lvels and having free time to explore my more spiritual needs.

I’ve always been interested in Buddhism though.

with metta

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