I was reading the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic

and here the Buddha attempts to demonstrate that not in any of the five aggregates is the self to be found. He says this about form for example:

"Form, O monks, is not-self; if form were self, then form would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding form: 'May my form be thus, may my form not be thus'; and indeed, O monks, since form is not-self, therefore form leads to affliction and it does not obtain regarding form: 'May my form be thus, may my form not be thus.'

Now with other aggregates he follows the same paragraph structure and just substitutes in for the word "form".

What I've noticed though, is that many other suttas employ this style of exposition and I wanted to know what the motivation was for this?

I've heard that repetition made memorization easier, which makes sense; but is there another reason for this?

Should I read through each paragraph even though its an almost exact replica of some other paragraphs? It can be tedious to read something that uses this style and I have simply just skipped such paragraphs.

What do you think? What is recommended?

edit: Some other translations of this sutta don't explicitly rewrite the paragraph and just place elipses to avoid repetition.

1 Answer 1


Mr David V.,

There are many aspect but one of the central is to be and stay concentrated. Its also the case, if you try to translate a Sutta for example, that if you go a head, you would suddenly see "Oh, that part did I miss before" since mind loves to interpret things into certain attention gaps. One would even swear that one read this or heard this or that.

Listener, or reader, if not very concentrated would either get bored and lose patient or start to be aware of that matter and put an effort into it.

Upasaka John Bullitt (founder and generous giver of accesstoinsight.org) wrote some useful and guiding words, worthy for everybody new to the texts:

Befriending the Suttas - Tips on Reading the Pali Discourses

If Atma remembers right, Upasaka mentioned this question as well.

Oh yes (from a sound engineer and musician):

Don't ignore the repetitions.

Many suttas contain repetitive passages. Read the sutta as you would a piece of music: when you sing or listen to a song, you don't skip over each chorus; likewise, when you read a sutta, you shouldn't skip over the refrains. As in music, the refrains in the suttas often contain unexpected — and important — variations that you don't want to miss.

and also good, even if very unusual in modern or western world:

Read the sutta aloud, from beginning to end.

This helps in several ways: it encourages you to read every single word of the sutta, it trains your mouth to use right speech, and it teaches your ears how to listen to Dhamma.

You could even record it and share it (if your like): Dhammaoke! Giving others the possibility to listen to the Dhamma

(Note: this answer has not been given with the agreement to be means of trade or the purpose of/for trade and/or keep people trapped and bound. How you handle it lies in your sphere, but does not excuse the deed here either.)

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