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Sutta Reading for Poets and Engineers
Dates: Jul 18, 2021 - Aug 08, 2021
Online Course

Instructor(s): Bhikkhu Sujato

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Let’s read a few small and quirky Suttas together. Best not to start reading Suttas by grappling with massive ideological tomes. How about a witty exchange of verses—a rap battle if you will—or an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger? By training on small things, we learn the skills for bigger ones.

There is a scheme of four modes of interpretation which I learned years ago from a rabbi explaining Torah study. Over the years I have evolved it into an approach for understanding and studying the Suttas.

Every passage of scripture can be seen from four angles:

  •   Literal—what do the words actually say? This is the hard part!
  •   Moral—what is the message? What values does it impart?
  •   Metaphorical—how might the text be applied in creative ways?
  •   Transcendental—how does it point to what lies beyond texts?

In this course we will read together a lesser-known Sutta each session, exploring the four approaches. Exercising our reading skills in this way trains us to recognize the value of different approaches to the Suttas, without being trapped in any one of them.

This course is cosponsored by SuttaCentral. Dāna will be shared with Suttacentral and BCBS.


As we work to become a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming; please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.

Online Course: This course will be hosted on the Zoom video conferencing platform and closed captions are available. Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and with teachers in our online courses. When registering for an online course, please plan to attend as many sessions as possible. 

The schedule of Zoom meetings for this course (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:

Meeting Times: Sundays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, between July 18 and August 8

Meeting Dates: July 18, 25, August 1, 8

Please check the time of the group meetings in your timezone here, and please note that sessions will not be recorded.

Registration fees for online courses are nonrefundable after the course start date. Cancellations prior to the start date of the course will incur a $25 admin fee. Thank you for your understanding.

  • Bhikkhu Sujato was ordained in 1994 as a Theravāda monk in the Thai forest lineage of Ajahn Chah.  He lived as a monk in Thailand for some years and then returned to his native Australia, serving as abbot of Santi Forest Monastery, which he founded in 2003.  Bhikkhu Sujato is also the co-founder of SuttaCentral, which offers freely available translations of the four Nikāyas, as well as the author of numerous books on early Buddhism.  He has worked to revive the full ordination of nuns in Theravāda traditions and is particularly interested in exploring the path of the Buddha in a time of climate change, globalized consumerism, and political turmoil.