I was watching a video about the oral tradition in relation to how the suttas was first communicated and conveyed to monastics and lay people.

I was wondering what techniques buddhist monastics and lay people used/are using to memorize suttas. I know of chanting as an effective method.

Are there other methods used within Buddhism?

Thank you for your time.


Upasaka Lanka,

usually the teacher would give a stanza of a sutta be reciting it. The student would then try to rebeat it and the teacher would correct him. When it has been grasped, the disciple would seek for a proper place for him, but not to far from his teacher, or elders, so that they would correct him in cases of wrong, and rebeat the stanza. Once gotten, he would go out for the next and after a while he would be able to cite the whole sutta.

Today books and writting down as support or mostly even replacement, would be normal.

My self not really eager and interested in memorizing words and also because the usual way of transfere is very seldom (a proper given) and also not very gifted in that, coul master a "Blessing-Sutta" in two days. (Its quite disturbing when used to meditation, since it appears disturbing like if still carring music lyrics if not abound already)

How ever, the training it self is a really good concentration training and young monks would not do and train it on silent remute places, but in the middle of the "noice" of even hundred other chanting monks. An enviroment which would cause western or modern really problems but their concentration and mindfulness is very good trained to be able to turn off evertthing else.

It's also not seldom that jhanic states are reached and some also become somehow addicted, whould chante the whole night loadly, if their teacher would not restrikt it for a good.

Generally the learn method is total different to modern ways in still traditional countries. Children would learn also in school in a citing way first. Mastered words and remembering, then would be the time rippe to learn the language and other that the meaning while train in precepts.

The benefit is that concentration is trained by an certain object and the mind does not become so full of ideas and speculations, tousands of thoughts.

Modern learning does not really put much into basic mind training good for an easy life but more in making people effective in thinking how to still there desires and be productive outwardly.

Of course in just reciting memorizing texts, mostly without understanding even the language, does not bear much in regard of the path at first glimbs but given that most will not gain fruits or paths, one might leave this world with more ease and not so disturbed and confused like others having developed much ideas. Saññā (Rememberance) is gone anyway with the break up of the body but habits, such as being skilled in remembering, mindfulness and concentration will follow in some ways.

So if one searches for a good practice and finds some tendency to it, it's recommented if lighter objects of concentrations are not so graspable for now.

The more the five hindrences are dominant and people are used to contact and following them, the more difficult will bethis training. Especially when coming in contact with modern live and emense sensuallity.

Used to speak load, one trains also speech, in form of sound, metrics and words, which is also very benefical. Reading loud is also very recommended in regard of reading learning Dhamma and just in modern, wewtern wirld unusual. That is also the reason why most people (since many had ordained as kids) are very skilled in speech that is charming and pleasant.

So it's out of urgency in any case good (if avaliable) to get and understand the meaning, which Upasaka Saptha Visuddhi explained well in his answer.

We should not forget that in folk-buddhism, eg generally, monks are training chanting to have a means for their livelihood and "income", so its at lage, even traditional, a "acter"-traing without which most would not survive, like today modern learning much Dhamma, study it, and then teach people and "entertain" the layity with a other service for livelyhood. Both, how ever, is actually not really good and wrong livelyhood for monks but counts also for lay people, chanter or scholars: this Dhamma is not given to make a livelihood out of it and good right from the beginning, never to speculate to gain material thing, honore... or a punch of reputations on Bu-SE in citing the same, again and again.

Here a gift blessing "Mangala Sutta" (pali with khmer translation after each stanza) of some young former fellow monks as a amr-file attached. (Note that the Khmer Mahanikaya, or long time folk pronanciation is different to all other countries and in Cambodia it was till short a "pure" oral tradition, maybe even the longest "unbroken" lineage till Khmer-rouge time) The Ven. left, , "youngest and smallest, leading the chant, for example, is one, even young, one does good to pay respect like to rare Elders.

  1. "Vast learning, skill in handicrafts*, well grounded in discipline, and pleasant speech — this is the highest blessing.

Maha-mangala Sutta: Blessings

  • of layman and or monks

(Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purposes or other wordily gains.)


The best way to "memorize" suttas is to get the key idea or sanna of the given sutta. It is the “learning” of true dhamma and not “memorization” that will help in the retention of key phrases. For that one needs to get the key idea or sanna of a given concept. When one gets the sanna of a concept, one will never lose it.

So, the best way to memorize is to grasp the concepts of dhamma. Then it becomes easier to analyze a given concept as one progresses. The more one grasps about a concept and the meanings and how to use them in other situations, things start to come flowing through. This is unlike memorizing the wording, but another will think that you’ve memorized a given thing.

The basic difference between “real learning” and memorization is that in the first case you have acquired the ability to grasp concepts, whereas the latter makes you just blindly follow rules/instructions.

This is a concept that is hard to grasp for many these days, because we are so much used to “book learning”. There are many people who can repeat certain tasks mechanically without even bothering to think through. And then when the situation changes somewhat they do not know how to handle the “new situation”.

  • My person thinks that he remembers right that Nyom is actually skilled in chanting & has also certain "love" in practicing it. So in this1 frame my person "ask" better "likes to encourage" not only to expand his answer also on a very technical level here (as profi, so to speak), but also likes to invite Upasaka to try to teach and give encouragement to practice it in the online vihara to be sangham.net since many westerns have no easy access and possibility to receive it from a teacher and Nyom might know that it is not proper for monks to teach chanting to lay-people. It would be good to try. – Samana Johann Jun 13 '17 at 13:26

I would try the memorization technique that is recommended for bodypart memorization in Vsm. Mental and verbal recitation.


Actually as i believe those theros had better memory and very good concentration. That is the main thing to use the brain power in efficient manner. Calm mind which has practised meditation can do lot more things than typical human

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