Why we read: tell us why you read suttas


I first started reading the Suttas because I’d heard they were the source of Buddhism and I wanted to get closer to the Buddha. I didn’t find happiness in the Suttas straightaway. I read them out of faith. Out of faith in my contemporary teachers and because I think I had some “natural faith” in the Buddha conditioned into me somewhere along the line. I read them even though I didn’t get them - at all. I just had this faith that one day, it would make a difference that I perservered.

Sutta classes helped so much. To have amazing teachers teach directly from Suttas, and encourage discussion and questioning, to go on the odd Sutta Retreat when I could and to read what well practising scholars have written; all these things made the most enormous difference to my experiences with the Suttas. I would have floundered for a very long time without all of these.

As time went on, I wanted to understand the Buddha’s Dhamma better and became increasingly interested in where this Teaching corresponded to what contemporary teachers said, and where it didn’t.

But then I began to find delight in the Suttas. When you begin to find delight in the Suttas, you begin to suspect that you’ve stumbled upon a deeply delightful Path, one that leads to greater understanding and peace.

At some point during the last 20 odd years, I sort of, respectfully and rather seriously, “fell in love” with the Buddha. So, really, I am still reading the suttas to get close to my Teacher. Reading the Suttas is like practising Buddhannusati and of course, like practising Dhammannusati and sometimes, you can’t help but be utterly inspired by the Sangha in the Suttas - even just by the fact that I can read them today, because this is due to the Sangha of the past and present - so I even get to practise Sanghannusati.

The Suttas are an ever increasing source of joy, inspiration and guidance. They make me want to Practise and the more I practise, the more I see in them and then I want to Practise even more; it’s like a delicious circle, one which has created the most beautiful thing in my life.


Several years ago I stumbled onto audio recordings of dhamma talks by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Most of the material went right over my head, but I found the talks comforting in a way I don’t know how to properly describe. The next step was to go to the suttas. Now, listening and reading mutually inform each other.

Nadine, United States


I read the Buddhist scriptures because they help provide meaning to my life and help to teach me the right way to live, all without requiring belief in a theistic god.


I just want to add:

The Suttas inspire love, faith, patience, forgiveness, devotion - all those soft wholesome qualities that open the mind and make it softer, more receptive for meditation. Who’d have thought something I once thought was so dry, could be so full of such nourishment.


The most substantial benefit from the texts, in my experience, has come from interpretations given by monastic teachers. As in other major Eastern traditions (e.g. classical Chinese medicine), the texts evolved as mnemonic support for an oral tradition – person-to-person transmission of text, and example of embodying the message.

Started at a nearby Vipassana Meditation (VM) group (Shaila Catherine’s), ca. 10 years ago. Shaila, holds one-year long sutta-study groups, two years of which I attended, covering the last 3rd of the Majjhima Nikaya and the whole of the Sutta-Nipata. The protocol, however, was reading group discussions voicing personal interpretations and preferences rather than systematic dhamma instruction.

Over the same period attending yearly visits nearby with day-long talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, each with a hefty hand-out of relevant sutta quotations, which offered a bit more organized and in-depth insight. And a couple of talks by U. Jagara Sayadaw where he would use a couple of Suttanta passages to illustrate a rather profound understanding of some point of dhamma practice.

In occasional attempts to read-through substantial sections of the Suttanta, often triggered by this or that online discussion, especially in the Anguttara and Samyutta Nikaya-s, text-critical issues arise that complicate arriving at any definitive understanding – what’s with this voluminous repetition with diverse minor variations? The formidable task of assimilating and sorting it all out, in lieu of expert guidance, seems potentially delusional, if not futile.

Two readings that are helping point a way through these dilemmas:
1: V. Sujato’s “A History of Mindfulness”, and
2: Alexander Wynne’s A: “The Origins of Buddhist Meditation” and B: “Buddhism: An Introduction”.

From the first (Sujato), outlining the issues of historical evolution and stratification of the textual traditions. From the second: (A) a close study of what “early” means, and an informative discussion and illustration of the problem of having only “indirect evidence”,
and tactics for using (or misusing) it.

Perhaps most significantly, in the second (2:B: Chapter IV “Embellishing the Dhamma-Vinaya’)), and also touched upon in (1), a perspective on the varieties of interpretation seen in the early generations of sutta composition (by succeeding generations lacking personal contact with the Buddha) as representing different, perhaps diverging viewpoints. This provided insight into the phenomenon so amply and vividly witnessed in these online discussions of “EBT” interpretation where participants argue “conflicting” interpretations, effectively taking sides and, often dogmatically, asserting the truth of this or that perspective gleaned from the texts, without recognizing it as such, as a relative, conditioned personal viewpoint.

Sorry about being unable to come up with a brief, testimonial rendition of “why I read the sutta-s”. I could say “to find and follow the Path,” but that is more inspired, in my experience, by the example and teaching (rooted in transmitted and time-tested interpretations of the texts) of individual teachers whose lives are dedicated to embodying it.


…but wait…there’s more…

I read the suttas when I am sad or cross; they acknowledge my experience and offer me support in being how I am and moving on from sadness or crossness.

When I read the suttas before I sleep at night, I always sleep peacefully.


Due to family obligations, I’m unable to make it to the temple every Sunday morning. If I take time during the week to read Buddhist scriptures on my own, however, I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything. In traditionally Buddhist countries, it’s common to just attend services on special occasions anyway.


Reading the word of the Buddha gives me the inspiration, guidance, & solace needed to face an ever-changing chaotic world. The wisdom of the Suttas leads me on a joyful path to take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha, and provides me the strength to be my own refuge.

Jose, Stay at home dad, USA


When it comes to the Pali suttas specifically, which are equivalent to the Mahayana’s Agamas, I read them in order to get a better assessment of the Buddha as a historical person.

While Amitabha Buddha forms the center of my personal practice, I regard him as an archetypal or meditational Buddha, as symbolic of the luminous mind, rather than as a historical person.

“Luminous, monks, is the mind.[1] And it is defiled by incoming defilements.” {I,v,9}
“Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements.” {I,v,10}

The name Amitabha means “boundless light.”


There are so many different interpretations of the profound teachings the Buddha left behind thousands of years ago, but if you’re like me and you really only trust your own judgment, then the original text from which all else sprang is by far the best option. This is definitely the closest you can get to the mind of this great teacher, and there’s certainly enough here to always keep you reverent and learning.

Jimi, Los Angeles California


I read the Suttas because I spent, like, $250 US on the four Nikayas, and don’t want the money to go to waste! :grin:


The first four Nikayas of the Pali canon, the traditional scriptures of Theravada, are equivalent to the Chinese Agamas, the oldest scriptures of the Mahayana canon.

While I am not a Pali purist, I tend not to believe any Mahayana doctrine unless I can trace it to the Nikayas/Agamas, at least in seed form. I encourage all my fellow Mahayana Buddhists to take the same approach.

A Mahayana Buddhist saying he doesn’t need to read any of the Nikayas/Agamas, because he has the Mahayana sutras, is like a Catholic saying he doesn’t need to read the Bible because he has the papal encyclicals instead.



I agree to keep the ‹testimonials› anonymous.

My motivation to read the suttas:
Suttas are the [free of charge] User Manual of the Mind without the need of a money-back guarantee.


I read the suttas because they represent the closest historical picture of what the Buddha taught. More importantly though, they represent a complete vision for the practice of Dhamma; the Buddha’s path to liberation.


I read the suttas to guide my practice because as others have said, they provide the map for awakening (and are as close to the word of the historical Buddha as we can get). Practice and study mutually suport each other and provide a basis upon which full liberation can become a reality.

P.S. I’ll add that I first started reading them because when I began practicing (in the ‘western vipassana’ tradition) I was hearing so many different views (in Dhamma talks and instructions in retreats) about “what the Buddha said/taught”, much of it contradictory and much of it not lining up with what was happenning in my own practice.

I decided I needed to try and sort things out for myself by reading the suttas. And it was then (along with reading a bit of Buddhist history) that I began to see that much of ‘western vipassana’, at least as taught in the US, is viewed through the commentarial system (and often sprinkled with things from other traditions as well as ‘new age’ thinking, often jumbled together). That explained many of the various views and why often they didn’t line up with each other or with what was happening in my own practice. And then, wow, reading the suttas, it was like ‘coming home’.


Oh, nice P.S Linda :relaxed:


Absolutely agree! I had the same reaction: there are a lot of parts where I found myself LOL on reading the Buddha’s comments e.g. his remark about the Jains in the Culadukkhakhandha sutta.


I remember going into a small Eastern/mystic shop in my hometown, where they sold everything from Tarot cards to copies of the Bhagavad Gita, and finding a copy of the Dhammapada. It was the the first Dhamma that I had read, and I was immediately intrigued by its simplicity and power, by the way the metaphors and similes brought to life the cycles of seasons and the spinning of the wheel of samsara. I am a poetry lover by nature, and it was not until I read the Therigatha that I began to feel the Dhamma in my being. I read about women who had endured so much pain and suffering, who had lost everything, and who had endured through their profound faith in the Triple Gem. But what shook me to my core was that these women (through the help of the Buddha) attained nibbana through their own volition, they lifted themselves up off of the ground in spite of all those who sought to deter them (“That state so hard to achieve / Which is to be attained by the seers, / Can’t be attained by a woman / With her two-fingered wisdom.”). There is something profoundly resonant about the suttas’ ability to show one’s own suffering through the eyes of another. For me, the suttas are not just stories, they are reflections of my own journey, retold countless times in order to affirm that ‘yes,’ the dustless-stainless vision of nibbana is available to all.

Brenna, Monastery-hopper, United States.


Oh that’s just beautiful :slight_smile: I hope the monastery-hopping is going well. oxoxo


It is, indeed! Thank you, Kay. :blush: I hope you’re doing well.