Sutta Reading Practice Life List

A sutta reading practice life list is a record of all the complete sutta collections you have read, either canonical collections or anthologies, including the dates of each cycle.

Sutta Practice Life List

There are several benefits of doing this.

  • It acts as an incentive to read a book completely. It only goes on the list if you read every single sutta.
  • It adds an incentive to read it again. You note each time, and preferably the dates, you read each book.
  • You can see at a glance what books you have not yet read. This is especially valuable for the main books in the Khuddaka Nikaya as they can be easily overlooked.
  • If you fall away from a text, the unfinished entry on the list reminds you to go back and give it another shot. Often the hindrances will be less acute on our second reading of a text.

Of course, simply reading lots of suttas in and of itself is not enough. It must be done with faith and wisdom, always trying to bring the teachings deeply into our lives. Even so, it is beneficial to be able to look back on a tangible record of all the effort you have made to connect with the teaching. As long as you don’t go around bragging about all the complete sutta collections you have read (either out loud or in your mind) you won’t have problems.

Getting started

There are two methods for recording. Either filling in a pre-made list of all the possible collections(as in this Sutta Practice Life List form PDF above), or a chronological list that you add to each time you start a book. Using the form has the advantage of reminding you of collections you have not yet worked with. In this way it becomes like a to-do list, although of course, you will want to do them again and again.

To begin, go ahead and record complete reads that you have done in the past. Just take a guess at the year. Then write in any sutta books you are currently reading from beginning to end. Estimate the month and year that you began. Put a dash so you can see that it is not complete. So it would start out something like “March2011 – ” You might even want to pencil in an empty box in the space for the completion date. When you finish the book, write the month and year. For a book like the Dhammapada that you may read hundreds of times using the chapter a day practice, you can just use tick marks to note each complete read. Consider including the initials of the translator for the different versions you read.

You may also want to note when you read a canonical anthology completely, such as all the Majjhima Nikaya suttas included in the Handful of Leaves series. In that case, either note the anthology name or just mark it with an “A” so you know it was not an entire nikaya.

In the same way, many anthologies of suttas based on a particular topic are worth recording on your life list. Some of the more popular anthologies are included on page two of the form below with space to include others. Remember this reminds us of the value in reading the book completely and then re-reading it again and again. With anthologies especially, the suttas near the end may be dealing with some of the highest and noble qualities of the Dhamma, so we want to be sure to read about them even if we are not able to manifest them in our lives right away.

There are a growing number of complete suttas collections available in audio format. Currently there is a complete Dhammapada by Gil Fronsdal, a complete Udana by Bhante Anandajoti, and a complete Itivuttaka available for download from this site. If you listen to the complete book, mark it with an “L” so you know you listened to it.

Sutta Practice Life List

Have you used a life list for the sutta collections you have read? Share your experience in the comments below. If you would like your comment to remain unpublished, simply write “Private” at the end.

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2 thoughts on “Sutta Reading Practice Life List”

  1. I found this article of interest as it led me to thinking how I as a newcomer to the practice of the dhama and without the recourse of the sangha, could prepare for and at least enter into the spirit of observing the full moon poya day. Of course the answer would be for me to draw up a list of appropriate suttas to read leading up to and on the uposatha day itself. This will instil further the reading of the suttas as a life practice.
    So, il full moon poya day falls on Tues 27 November this year 2012 (Sri Lanka – approved by the Poya Committee). The passing away of the general of the Dhamma, Sariputta, is one event commemorated this uposatha. I am reading the Mijjhima Nikaya as part of my practice of which 9 suttas are spoken by venerable Sariputta, M9, 28, and 141 are what I might call the giants. The chapter on venerable Sariputta in ‘Great Disciples of the Buddha’ (Wisdom), contains extract of Cunda Sutta and a moving account of his passing away. SN 163 gives an eulogy of him pronounced by the Buddha after his death.
    I wonder if anyone else has any suggested texts they would choose to read this coming uposatha or any comments on observing the poya days in general.


  2. this article gave me the idea of preparing a reading list of appropriate Suttas to coincided with the poya days of the Buddhist calendar. I started with Binara the full month poya in September. Its been fun selecting appropriate reading material to match each commemorative event and it has enriched my prictice of reading faithfully.
    Thank you RF


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