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Beginner to Sutras- Which should one should I read first?

TheEccentricTheEccentric South east, UK Veteran
Before now I have never read any Sutras, just eBooks written about Buddhism and have decided to study Buddhist texts as well as they would be the purest form of the Dharma and a Buddhist who does not read Sutras would be like a Christian who does not read the Bible. I have found a website http://buddhasutra.com/ which has a complete collection of translations of Buddhist sutras, which one should a begginner start off with?

Comments

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Try this one: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html

    ( I've given an alternative site because the version on the buddhasutra site has lots of commentary and is difficult to follow )
    BhikkhuJayasara
  • BhanteLuckyBhanteLucky Monk since 2014 A Forest Monastery Veteran
    I would do it by topic, whatever topic I was interested in at the time. Nothing worse than reading a dull sutra that has no relevance to me.
    Have a look here, you can browse by sutra topics.

    That site you gave is great too. By the way, there are no complete collections of translated Buddhist sutras. There are possibly thousands of untranslated ones remaining in the Tibetan and Chinese traditions.
    Todd0248
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited December 2012
    Pedanic beat me too it.. there is no other place on the internet that has the Suttas like access to insight.... you can even select " random sutta" up top and one will pop up for you to read. Be warned some are very very long, some are short, some are middle length etc.

    and also that is a great first sutta :)
  • The first sutra I read was the "Heart Sutra" with a commentary by Thich Nhat Hanh. After that, I read the "Visualization of the Pure Land Sutra" and "Lotus Sutra", which were quite the ordeal for the newbie sutra reader. I'd suggest reading from the link provided from access to insight. I would also suggest picking a sutra, reading a good commentary on it, then listening to a few dharma talks about it, or the variety of literature it comes from. This has been an great help to me for an academic understanding of certain sutras.
  • edited December 2012
    Just an honest question. Aren't sutras repetitive and boring? Would it be better to read more interesting buddhist literature?
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    music said:

    Aren't sutras repetitive and boring?

    Repetitive, yes, boring no. And it's definitely worth looking at the source material, rather than just somebody opinions about the source material.

  • robotrobot Veteran
    edited December 2012
    music said:

    Just an honest question. Aren't sutras repetitive and boring? Would it be better to read more interesting buddhist literature?

    Maybe so, but what has that to do with the OP question?
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    music said:

    Just an honest question. Aren't sutras repetitive and boring? Would it be better to read more interesting buddhist literature?

    since the suttas come from an oral tradition.. yes they are very repetitive, this is true.. are they boring? some of them, yes, some no. I've found that it is not fruitful to FORCE myself to read the suttas " because I have to because I'm a buddhist". When there is desire and effort in me I will do so. For instance just this morning I finished 40 page parinibbana sutta in the Digha Nikaya, the account of the last days of the Buddha. I had started it about two months ago, read a few pages, came back about a week ago , read some more, but last night and tonight I had the desire and effort to finish.

    many of the suttas may not connect with you or may seem confusing, you can always shelve these suttas for another time.
  • music said:

    Just an honest question. Aren't sutras repetitive and boring? Would it be better to read more interesting buddhist literature?

    The sutras are repetitive for a reason. If an idea is repeated over and over again, then it will become engrained in the readers psyche, helps them remember the meaning. The larger pranjaparamita sutras are extremely repetitive, but that's not without some purpose.

    Beginners should read the sutras because it will give them a grasp of the dharma, in some cases more so then any dharma book. I didn't truly start to understand mindfulness of the breath until i read the sutta on it.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    Some are more interesting than others, but when you only read other people's interpretations of them in more "interesting" texts then you are reading more personality of the author.
    A lot of them are repetitive because monks memorize them. For example, we chant the Heart Sutra at retreats, and just the few times I've done it I probably have it about half memorized without trying. It's not my goal to memorize them, but just because of how the words flow, it's easy to have them stuck in your head, and they were constructed with that purpose.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    karasti said:

    Some are more interesting than others, but when you only read other people's interpretations of them in more "interesting" texts then you are reading more personality of the author.
    A lot of them are repetitive because monks memorize them. For example, we chant the Heart Sutra at retreats, and just the few times I've done it I probably have it about half memorized without trying. It's not my goal to memorize them, but just because of how the words flow, it's easy to have them stuck in your head, and they were constructed with that purpose.

    This is not meant directly at you Karasti but as an expounding of the comment I made above about the repetitiveness.

    let us not forget that the suttas were not written down until 500 years after the buddha's parinibbana. During the time of the Buddha and for that period after it was handed down in the form of oral tradition. as Karasti stated repetition helps memorization, hence why the suttas are this way, as they were written down exactly as recited for 500 years.

    and if you may have doubts of the accuracy of an oral tradition. Anthropologists who study the few cultures with oral tradition today have found that the people who's job it is to remember stories and morality tales and pass them on, do so with extreme accuracy, to the point where they have as much or more information as found in the bible in their head and they can repeat it word for word.
  • I come from a Lotus Sutra (LS) school, and before I started with that I had little to no experiance with Sutras or more than the most basic knowlage of Buddhism. This past April I was a total beginer too and these are what I have read. I started with the Lotus Stura, and I've also read the Heart Sutra, a few things here and there from the Pali Cannon, and most recently the Sutra of Infinite Meanings(SoIM).

    I'm not trying to say one is better than the other, or that people don't have some great sugestions here. I am personally glad that I read the Lotus Sutra first, and later came to see how inclusive it is of other Buddhist concepts as I go along and learn the "basics" after first reading such a complicated sutra. I like the context inclusiveness that the LS and SoIM gives to later sutra studies. I'm also new and have no clue what I'm talking about. lol
  • cazcaz Veteran

    Before now I have never read any Sutras, just eBooks written about Buddhism and have decided to study Buddhist texts as well as they would be the purest form of the Dharma and a Buddhist who does not read Sutras would be like a Christian who does not read the Bible. I have found a website http://buddhasutra.com/ which has a complete collection of translations of Buddhist sutras, which one should a begginner start off with?

    Making sure you have an authentic commentary to a Sutra is highly important, Some Sutra's are simple and straight forward and others are extremly deep and profound in their meaning.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    caz said:

    Making sure you have an authentic commentary to a Sutra is highly important, Some Sutra's are simple and straight forward and others are extremly deep and profound in their meaning.


    But a lot or suttas and sutras have more than one commentary ( often with conflicting interpretations ), and defining "authentic" isn't straightforward.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran

    caz said:

    Making sure you have an authentic commentary to a Sutra is highly important, Some Sutra's are simple and straight forward and others are extremly deep and profound in their meaning.


    But a lot or suttas and sutras have more than one commentary ( often with conflicting interpretations ), and defining "authentic" isn't straightforward.
    well it's a commentary... so it's one persons beliefs on the meaning.. of course there will be conflicting interpretations.. I've yet to ever read a commentary and I'm not sure it's worth the time.. my teacher Bhante G basically says he teaches only the word of the Buddha in the 4 Nikayas and I've always pretty much stuck to that anyways even before meeting Bhante G.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Jayantha said:

    But a lot or suttas and sutras have more than one commentary ( often with conflicting interpretations ), and defining "authentic" isn't straightforward.

    well it's a commentary... so it's one persons beliefs on the meaning.. of course there will be conflicting interpretations.. I've yet to ever read a commentary and I'm not sure it's worth the time..
    I've found commentaries quite useful on occasion.
  • Todd0248Todd0248 Australia New

    Some of these belief systems are cults and can have dangerous results on people

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    @Todd248, I hardly think so. If @BhikkhuJayasara is commenting, I don't think we need worry.

    Incidentally, this thread is

    5 years old!

    At the time it was first published, our beloved Bhikkhu had only just put his foot on the road to ordination. He was not a monk then. The name & avatar were a much later addition (Admin kindly updated his title to match his ordination) but I doubt very much this thread needs reviving.

    In any case, perhaps, if you have a mind, rather than introducing an arguably inflammatory remark, you should actually expand and explain what you mean....

This discussion has been closed.