Reading Faithfully Together: Group Practice

Many meditation groups do not have a trained teacher. Fortunately, we have the Blessed One’s Dhamma as our teacher. There are several ways that you can bring the suttas into your group’s life.

Responsive Readings:

Take a short sutta, or section from a sutta. Divide it up between one or more single voices and unison reading. Work with the patterns that are naturally in the text. Try to arrange so any tricky words are done by a single voice. If there is an unusual word, you may want to explain it briefly first.

Here are some examples of responsive readings from the Itivutta as a PDF.

Sutta Sharing

Invite people to bring and read aloud a short sutta or passage. Take turns reading. That’s all, nothing else. Do not discuss the suttas during the Sutta Sharing. The importance of doing it this way may not be apparent at first. Once confidence is established in the inherent power of the texts, it will make more sense. It is not a book club or therapy session. It is simply faithful disciples sitting at the feet of the Blessed One receiving the blissful Dhamma. Try to establish the mindset of offering Dhamma Dāna, the highest gift. Without doing any discussion there is more time for listening to the Dhamma.

Even if this method seems awkward or unnecessary at first, please try it this way for several sessions before experimenting with the format. It’s easier to start this way than to eliminate discussion periods later.

Depending on time, you may want to have a short period of silence between each reading. Participants may request to have a sutta or passage re-read as needed. As the group gains more knowledge of the suttas, it may be appropriate afterward to answer questions about unfamiliar terms or concepts.

Under no circumstances should you argue or debate about a text. When we argue about a text it is because we do not understand it. Simply find happiness in the part of the sutta you understand together. The result of sutta sharing should be a calm, peaceful mind and increased saddhā and paññā.

Reading a longer sutta out loud over a series of sessions

The complete Mahāparinibbāna Sutta(DN 16), the story of the last year of the Buddha’s life, is excellent for this. It takes about four hours when you put in all the repetitions. The version available on is well suited for this.

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