Why we stop reading

I’m interested in hearing why folks stop reading suttas.

For example, there was a time when I stopped reading suttas because I felt obligated to make detailed notes and summaries. I didn’t even realize at the time this was why I had stopped.

I’m hoping people don’t mind if we ask follow up questions.


For me, a couple of reasons. Most of the time I feel I dont understand it and many times cant because I am not familiar with the language and culture of the suttas. Reading SC discussions alone confirms that. I cant even pronounce any of the sanskrit words used in I bet nice conversations I cant partake in.

Another reason is reading versus practice. While I come from a reading-is-truth country from our non forgotten history to our dependence on philosophers influencing our sciences, the past written documents has always been important.

Not so with Dhrama. Its Practice first. You cant understand what you read unless you practice it. I went to a temple about a year ago, Kadampa, and the resident was saying instead of reading a sutra and then using it to apply to ones daily routine, go do your think during the day, then come back to read the sutras to see what you did aligns with The Buddha’s Words. The advice was sound excluding the practice and ethics of the lineage and school.

I think a lot of us dont read because there is a consensus monks and nuns (and scholars) know more and we need experienced practitioners to translate Dhamma. I see Dhama as sacred text in that it is The Buddha’s Words but I try not to see it as a necessity to follow them as written rather than as practice. They should compliment each other.

I do think SCers can take advantage of our Sunday evening talks if one is more of a listner. Also, when busy, audio tapes help.

It could be lack of convinence.


Time is definitely a considerable factor. But then there was also something else that was much more difficult (by which I guess I mean mostly painful) to negotiate: for the first few years of reading the suttas I had such a powerful (and pretty much instantaneous) love for them. I honestly was utterly bamboozled by just how much happiness arose reading them. They were just so grounded, and elegant, and far from being alien (as by rights they should have been), I found them immediately relatable. Most importantly, to the best of my limited senses, they appeared pin point accurate and had explanatory might that just made me beam with delight.

Then somewhere in it I had cause to be very busy and my exploration got squeezed down until it eventually just somehow slipped away, as did other more diligent practice activities. And then somehow, sometime later, I noticed I had some apprehension about re-engaging with them. I haven’t fully identified what that’s about, but my leading suspects are (a) still (at an extremely subtle level) expecting to have something along the lines of that glee that I first had reading even though, most obviously, it too is subject to impermanence, and (b) some vague sense of not doing enough to live up to the beautiful teaching set out within them.

One of the reasons I’m so stoked about Karl’s incredible work with the SCVoice is that I’ve found it a really useful tool for reconnecting and re-developing my relationship with them—having a layer of friction (reading) cut out is a real help. At some point I’d like to find a block of time to dedicated more or less exclusively to sutta study.


I am stopping reading suttas because…I can’t. I’m going blind. :rofl:

But seriously, I have found that what we may have all missed from long long ago is recitation. The experience of listening and chanting has for me has been startlingly more tangible, immediate, immersive and amazing than reading.

Reading is based on sight, which is a very very very grasping sense. Reading, we see what we want whenever we want and avoid what we dislike whenever we want. Listening is not so generous with us. Although we can listen to this sound or that sound, we can’t choose when. Listening happens now. Speaking happens now. Reading happens whenever.

I can read a sutta and gain a superficial understanding. I gain a superficial understanding because whatever I read snaps into my existing cognitive framework (i.e., my internal forms) quickly with a few surprises here and there that tickle my internal forms into new configurations. If I don’t get it, I can go away and sleep on it (grow neurons! grow!) and read some more. At some point I think I “know the sutta”. But I won’t be able to recite it. I just know the gist, the blurb, the cover, the skin. I do not know or live the sutta. It is not in my heart.

But listening and reciting are different. Listening and reciting demand much more of us. Listening requires present awareness. Listening requires mindfulness. Reciting requires present awareness. Reciting requires mindfulness of breath (yes, THAT mindfulness of breath). Reciting in concert requires present shared awareness. Reciting in concert requires mindfulness of Sangha.

And now I can’t get Evaṃ me sutaṃ out of my head. It is part of me. I can see it. I can hear it. I can say it. I can hear you say it. And we can say it together.


I still read suttas, although not as much as I once did. I suppose the reason for not reading them as much as before is just that I have read them so much already, and learned so much about what they have to offer, that continued reading has diminished utility.

But I also have to say that I increasingly find the world of the suttas - that is, life seen from the perspective of the Buddha and his circle, set in the conditions of 5th century BCE India - to have less relevance to my own life and its problems than seemed to be the case before. That world is a world of world-renouncing monks, and most of the important lessons are lessons given by monks, to other monks, for the benefit of monks, living a kind of life only a monk can live. All of the other characters are portrayed as sad, inferior, second-rate folks looking in from the outside on a life of peace and detached renunciation they can’t have. And any notion of sacrifice or service to others that doesn’t consist in teaching the techniques of renunciation, separation and absorption is absent.

I don’t think this is an especially helpful perspective for a person like me, and it can only lead to a sense of inferiority, alienation and hopeless dejection, perhaps accompanied by some kind of abject, pathetic monk worship to provide a sense of purpose.

So I’m more and more inclined to look beyond the early tradition, to try to find people with outlooks that have absorbed some of what is best and most universal in the teachings, but combined it with a more integrated, wholesome affirmation of life in the world, struggling with our brothers and sisters to make the best we can of it.


Reading is hard work, it tire out the eyes. Listening is easy.
Thank you @karl_lew :anjal:


Having come to the suttas just this year after decades of getting lost in the wilderness, I was startled to read your comment. The suttas have brought me deep clarity to many puzzling life experiences.

Our obligations as householders bind us to the lay life. And I have found peace in the suttas. Now please excuse, for I have just been asked to make breakfast. They wanted pancakes. And so that shall be.


I had a similar issue. Most of my Dhamma time was spent analyzing the texts rather than practicing them. Today, I try to keep things simple, and focus on a narrow selection of discourses to avoid being overwhelmed again.


Virtue and consideration. If we wanted to do something else there would be defilements to work with which erode samadhi. Not getting burnt means using mindfulness. Schedule in a retreat after breakfast and you can enjoy the best of both being lay and ordained!

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It’s the same with me though its partly due to lack of time and I have enough to facilitate practice. I also seem to refer to a set of suttas frequently.


I’ve stopped for periods of time because I’m so busy and had to choose at best one of: meditation, exercise, or study/reading suttas. Now I’m an anagarikā, and guess what? Same choice! Actually, not - exercise has pretty much been abandoned.

AN 10:48 (Ten Reflections for One who has Gone Forth) is very poignant for me right now - esp. reflections 8 and 9:

  1. "‘How well am I spending my nights and days?’ This must be reflected upon again and again by one who has gone forth.

  2. "‘Do I delight in solitude?’ This must be reflected upon again and again by one who has gone forth.


Would listening to suttas while walking meditation be a way to give yourself one choice instead of three? If so, we can work towards making that possible.


It might be great while walking - not sure about walking meditation. But definitely a good option to have. :smiley: :anjal:

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I’ve read 75% of the 4 agamas, 40% of the 4 nikayas, & many other suttas.
I stoped reading because I found that I forgot so many suttas & gathas which I’ve already read.
In China, we call it “just like a bear picking up a new stick but lost the old one”.
I already got enough sense from reading suttas, but now it just makes no sense.

So I moved to do research on the gathas, and read the suttas when I need to.
And I found that listening to audio books is a much easier and time-saving way.
Last week, I’ve listened the ‘The Selfish Gene’ in 6 days while watching babies & playing mobile games. And now I am listening “The Gene: An Intimate History”, and hopes that I can finish it this week.


I’ve stopped reading because I feel I’ve read enough to have a decent grasp of them. I’ve read the entirety of the 4 main Nikayas and all the major English translated KN works, though I admit speed reading through suttas that are only slight variations on one another or through stock passages I’d read dozens of times already. But that was a few years ago and my connection is not as strong as it once was. I feel like because of that, it is harder to motivate myself to practice. I plan to read them again via Ven @sujato translations for a different flavor…I really hope there are plans to make them available in ebook format, that would be wonderful.

I agree that listening to the suttas is an awesome way of going about it and I appreciate all the work folks do on that front.


“2 out of 3 ain’t bad”

Here is AN10.48 for you. I just downloaded it from SuttaCentral Voice.

Here are instructions for offline listening. Let us know how they do or don’t help. We plan on adding Pali/English download in January.



They are already here. Not sure when they will be posted to the download page, but for now you can get them here:


Right on, thank you!


In my case I am quite new to Buddhist practice and find it useful to follow the lead of my teachers who have advised me that at this stage it is better for me to practice meditation than to read Buddhist texts. My teachers include monastics and laypeople who themselves have been inspired by a leading Thai monk living in the United States who commands great respects for a lifetime dedicated to Buddhist practice. I receive regular lessons and have been directed to a small number of primary and secondary texts. Otherwise, I have been advised to “put down the books and just practice.” When I am farther along, I am told, I will be advised to do further reading.

I should add that in many ways it is easier to read than to practice, and thus for a beginner such as me practice is worth the effort. For example, I came home from campus today somewhat questioning my effectiveness as an educator. I could read some Buddhist texts to look for wisdom, or I could go to my meditation space at home and put in the hard work of practicing. As one of my teachers has said to me, “Know your mind. That is your wisdom.”