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How should western practitioners approach the sutras? What are the most important sutras from the main Buddhist traditions for westerners to study? When studying the sutras should that be considered a form of meditation?

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    Hinayana is not a main Buddhist tradition. But Theravada is. – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 28 '14 at 19:39
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    Question so broad, so I'm curious how it could be answered. I can add to SankhaKulathantille's comment, that Vajrayana does not have sutras, their texts are called tantras. – catpnosis Jun 28 '14 at 19:43
  • We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world. – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 28 '14 at 20:06
  • Voting to close. It's really broad and it is difficult to tell exactly what is being asked here. – Hrafn Jun 28 '14 at 20:35
  • I think this can be answered depemding on context you are practicing. I've put in an answer that is meaningful for me. I would also imagine that those more in the Secular Buddhism fold might have their own interesting take on this. I would leave this open – Crab Bucket Jun 28 '14 at 21:00
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I practice with the Triratna Buddhists which is an explicit attempt to bring Buddhism into the Western context. It is ecumenical so brings in all traditions so for me this question is very interesting. For us the sutras that are particularly studied are

Pali Canon Middle Length Discourses generally but more specifically from the pali canon

  1. Satipatthana sutta
  2. Anapanasati sutta
  3. Karaniya Metta Sutta
  4. Dhammapada
  5. Udana

Mahayana

  1. Heart Sutra
  2. Diamond Sutra
  3. White Lotus Sutra
  4. Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra
  5. Golden Light Sutra

Also

  1. Bodhicaryāvatāra
  2. Life of Milarepa

This list isn't exhaustive by any means but I think represents the ones that are referenced most frequently. However a lot of others come up particularly from the Pali Canon such as the Gotami Sutta and even outside of Buddhism altogether such as the poetry of Rumi.

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Since the question is broad my answer is opinionated towards the Theravada tradition.

Main aspect of Buddhism is that your practice should cover the 8 fold path (which is part of Bodhipakkhiyādhammā). Out of which a major part is meditation but ethics / morality is important.

Your choice of study ideally should cover the Bodhipakkhiyādhammā, Dependent Origination, and 4 Noble Truths. You should pick a set of Suttas covering these areas which suits your temperament.

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