I practice the Theravada tradition. There are a lot of suttas, and I don't know how to go about studying them. Can I please get some pointers or guidelines on how I can study them? For example, which suttas to start with, or maybe some kind of overall introduction on the suttas, or perhaps a technique in studying the suttas.


7 Answers 7


I recommend the book In The Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi. It is an anthology or selection of translated suttas from the Pali canon. It is also thematically and systematically arranged. You can look at the Table of Contents on the Amazon page I linked. It is 512 pages long, which is quite alright. PDF version here.

I quote from the Preface:

In an ongoing series of lectures I began giving at Bodhi Monastery in New Jersey in January 2003,1 devised a scheme of my own to organize the contents of the Majjhima Nikaya. This scheme unfolds the Buddha's message progressively, from the simple to the difficult, from the elementary to the profound. Upon reflection, I saw that this scheme could be applied not only to the Majjhima Nikaya, but to the four Nikayas as a whole. The present book organizes suttas selected from all four Nikayas within this thematic and progressive framework.

This book is intended for two types of readers. The first are those not yet acquainted with the Buddha's discourses who feel the need for a systematic introduction. For such readers, any of the Nikayas is bound to appear opaque. All four of them, viewed at once, may seem like a jungle—entangling and bewildering, full of unknown beasts—or like the great ocean—vast, tumultuous, and forbidding. I hope that this book will serve as a map to help them wend their way through the jungle of the suttas or as a sturdy ship to carry them across the ocean of the Dhamma.

  • 2
    Thank you so much!this is amazing Ruben.I may try to find it in print.
    – Orion
    Mar 29, 2015 at 4:33
  • 1
    @Orion I suggest marking ruben's as the answer here. It is really most excellent.
    – user13375
    Jun 18, 2018 at 15:02

As Reuben2020 says, In the Buddha's Words is a really great place to start. Could I also recommend Rupert Gethin's book Sayings of the Buddha. It's a collection of sutra's from the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon. There is a couple of page introduction before each sutta which puts the text into context which I found extremely useful.

Good luck with your reading.


I also suggest starting with an anthology if one is not much familiar with suttas or the dhamma.

Then, I suggest read the Majjhima. I think it is the best option for the first nikaya. The suttas are not as long as digha (that contains much more context narrative), but long enough to not be raw and provide a nice reading. Also they are so mixed that it is kind of anthology of buddhism on its own, containing just so many important suttas.

After it, i think it's more of a personal drive, and its easier to read other nikayas in parallel. Since samyutta is somewhat organized by content, it can also be used to study a specific content more in depth (and anguttara to a certain extant, since its numerically organized). But i suggest first doing a complete read of each nikaya, to know what is there (and what isn't).

These would be the main 4 nikayas. I'm not very familiar with the Khuddaka nikaya, so i can't really comment on it for now.


There are three study types in alagaddūpama sutta.

The pali and it's sequence, of that sutta, same to kīṭāgirisutta, that I re-translated in this answer.

By kīṭāgirisutta, you must choose a right teacher, that I answered in this answer.

Also, there is a layman-beginner course, in this answer, too. But that course is what the skillful teacher, in this answer, will teach you, so you shouldn't do it yourself alone. Why? Because I have doing it for 10 years, but I still not even achieve appanā-jhānā. In comparison, my current teacher from pa-auk, who just started to study buddhism since 6 years ago. However, he is one of pa-auk teacher now, because he study buddhism from a professional teachers who have all qualities in this answer, from pa-auk.

Right way will give you a shortcut way.



There is a nice explaining by Upasaka John Bullitt, generous giver of ATI:

Befriending the Suttas - Tips on Reading the Pali Discourses

which does not require much to add at all in the questions regard.

Maybe a random Sutta as restarter today?

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other wordily gains]


The website ReadingFaithfully.org is a great place to start. It promotes the idea of daily, ongoing engagement with the Suttas.

Getting started: https://readingfaithfully.org/about/

Core concepts: https://readingfaithfully.org/2011/09/25/the-five-ps-of-sutta-practice/

Canonical Collections: https://readingfaithfully.org/canonical-collections-for-practice/

Anthologies: https://readingfaithfully.org/anthologies/

Choosing a text: https://readingfaithfully.org/texts-for-practice-based-on-your-current-knowledge-level/

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