By writing down our intentions to engage daily with the words of the Buddha, we increase our chances of success. And when we anticipate what obstacles we might face and strategize ways to overcome them, we can move forward with confidence.
Here are some things to consider when completing your form. Some of them may seem rather mundane and even against the spirit of sutta reading. Remember, If you are able to consistently engage with the teachings on a long-term basis without using any of these tips and tricks, wonderful! But most of us have difficulties along the way. Only apply the techniques that seem helpful after you try them out.
What Suttas to Read
1. & 2. Book, amount to read: There are various factors to consider when choosing a text—
- Texts for practice based on your current knowledge level
- Sutta Practice Text Suggestions Based on Available Time
- Canonical Collections For Practice
- Anthologies for Practice
- How long to practice each day
- Dhammapada As a Daily Practice
- Majjhima Nikaya as a Daily Practice
Expected End date: Knowing that there is a specific date that we will be finished with the plan if we stay on track can keep us motivated to continue. If you are choosing to read a chapter a day or a certain number of pages per day or a chapter a day, then figuring out when you might finish is easy.
If your plan is to read a certain number of pages per day, simply use the table below and divide the total number of pages by how many you will read each day. Then you can use the calculator on TimeAndDate.com to figure out when you will finish. For example, if you are going to read 10 pages of the Samyutta Nikaya each day, take 1512/10=151.2. Then use the calculator to figure out that if you start on June 25th you will finish around November 23rd. If you want to make a more complex calculation, say skipping weekends, use their business day calculator. If you are planning on reading for a fixed amount of time, keep track of how many pages you read for the first 10 days to figure out an approximate reading rate. Then work through the calculations.
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Remember, these are just estimates. But here’s how it helps… A book like the Samyutta Nikaya can seem overwhelming. But the fact is, if you just read 10 pages per day, you will finish it in 151 days.
In the chart, numbers that are bold with stars indicates the better method to use. For example, it is preferable to read the Udana and the Itivuttaka sutta by sutta because they are so short. And the Saṁyutta Nikāya and Aṅguttara Nikāya have so many suttas of varied length that they are better approached on a page per day basis. Where a number is missing, it really doesn’t make sense to plan that way.
When to do your sutta reading
3. & 4. When to read and what to connect it to. If you can’t be 100% sure when you will do your reading, write down when you hope to read and when you will read if you miss that time. It’s also good if you can connect your reading to something else you are sure to do every day.
5. Choose a backup text. Deciding in advance what book to read if you are not able to work with your main text will ensure you always read at least some words of the Buddha. For example, if you are going to read a sutta each day from the Majjhima Nikaya, you may want to have the Itivuttaka as a backup text to read when you can’t do a whole sutta.
6. Expected problems. Think about all the things that may stand in the way of your reading. They could be practical things like an erratic schedule or purely internal things like doubt. You can also add to this list as you work with your text.
7. Ideas to overcome problems. Think up at least one way to deal with each problem. Some of these solutions may directly influence your plan. For example if you have a very erratic schedule, you may decide to do your reading before you get dressed each day to make sure that it always happens. Or you may decide to use the Don’t Break the Chain method, posting your calendar in a very visible place. If doubt is an issue, you could make a list of all the ways the Buddha’s teachings have helped you in the past and read through that list each day before reading. You should add to this section as problems occur. Write in the format “If X happens I will do Y.”
8. When you finish the text. It may seem like putting the horse before the cart, but knowing what you will do when you finish your book can improve your reading attitude and make sure that when you are done you don’t stop practicing.
After you complete the form, you will want to keep it visible. Post it on your wall or sit it next to where you plan on doing your reading each day. And don’t be afraid to re-evaluate it if things go off track. it is important to actually print out the form and complete it by hand in pencil so you can make adjustments. For example, if you aren’t able to read as many pages a day as you thought, then definitely recalculate! You may want to read the articles about the five P’s of sutta reading practice. Remember, Perfection is not one of them.
So, get started by downloading the worksheet PDF.
- Overview of Translators of Pali Buddhist Scriptures
- Anthologies for Practice
- Canonical Collections For Sutta Reading Practice
- The Five P’s of Sutta Practice