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ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

Example 1
Example 2

The repetition is killing me. I don't know how anyone can read it. I find myself skimming every repeated section. I can listen to them being spoken though, as long as the person speaking is animated and engaging. I understand the repetition helps memorization, but this understanding doesn't make it any more digestable.

Any thoughts or advice?


  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    These sermons are very old. Some of the oldest in the Buddhist canon.

    Literature that has been transcribed from a largely oral context often has these strange repetitive features. The older parts of the Bible are similarly marked by strange, seemingly-redundant, repetitive sections, because they are also transcriptions of sung recitations.

    My advice is to just try to plunge right into it. Whatever works. Imagine a fascinating and engaging narration voice for it, read it out loud to yourself (I often find this works), whatever keeps the mind from drifting.

    You also don't have to read this literature. Yes, it is foundational, but your can find exegeses on the eightfold path and the nobles truths from more modern sources as well, which need not be significantly divergent from presentations in earlier Buddhist literature.

    I find the dryness of it an excersize in focus.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    The way I read these sutras is by looking for patterns. I read a bit, then I go back, then I skip forward a ways looking for the structure of the writing, and then once I understand the way it is laid out I go and read the whole thing beginning to end, and I hear the voice of it in my head.

    It takes a bit of practice, I remember when I first started reading the translated sutras on Access to Insight it was not easy, and even now when I approach a new Sutra it takes a little study before I get to grips with it.

    So I’d suggest perseverance and taking things slower, and taking each new Sutra as if it was a study text that you had to dissect.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Vimalajāti, thanks for your advice. Reading aloud seems like a good idea. I know I don't have to read them, but the teachers that I enjoy listening to are mostly American and are part of modern western tradition... so I feel the need to test the veracity of their lessons by doing my own reading.

    @Kerome, I appreciate your input. I have a short attention span so the repetition starts my brain wandering. Maybe I'm not missing anything by skimming the repetitions and patterns. Thanks!

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    I agree. It's difficult to read the Sutta's by yourself.

    The Monastery I stay at has a Sutta class each Saturday night - we take it in turns to read part of the Sutta then discuss it as a group afterwards (Monks, Nuns, Laypeople...) - much better way to do it.

    Failing that, you could try something like the link below to read and review them.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I don't know how anyone can read it

    Me neither.

    Time could be better spent on reading those who interpret and reference the texts. Engage in the way you can ... not a way that is off putting ... too obvious ... ah well ...

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    You might also want to check out the YouTube channel of BSWA (Buddhist Society of Western Australia).

    If you go on their page, click on Playlists and find Sutta Class.

    There are 94 videos in there for your entertainment. I believe they do a class a week.

    There’s some good stuff on their channel. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last year or so with a few monks from BSWA and they appear to be practicing well.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    Thanks @Bunks. I'm applying my focus to an MBSR course starting tomorrow, but if/when I get back to the suttas I will take a look.

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    My favourite selection of suttas, even if pretty dated by now, are F.L. Woodward's "Some Sayings of the Buddha" (1925) and Nyanatiloka Thero's "The Word of the Buddha" (1914), both of which I have mentioned at least a thousand times since I belong on this Sangha.

    They do the great service of bracketing off and rephrasing the suttas in such a way as to avoid unnecessary repetition.

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