LonesomeYogurt wrote:I honestly don't know why the Majjhima Nikaya is recommended as a starting point - I think the Samyutta Nikaya is far, far better for beginners.
The MN highlights the gradual training, which is one reason why I think it's better for beginners.
The SN doesn't have this structure; it begins with rather obtuse poetry, in the Pali recension, and then proceeds into the most difficult aspect of the Dhamma - paticcasamuppada - leaving Path aspects for the very end. Quite unsuitable for the beginner.
Readers of the MN also benefit from a wide range of translations, much discussion online, and a swath of historical-critical studies, including Analayo's comparative analysis of the MN with Chinese parallels. It's also a nice cross-section of themes which can be found throughout the Nikayas, and it offers a wealth of similes.
The SN, by contrast, provides little narrative, and therefore human, context alongside a concomitant fixation on providing all possible iterations of certain themes, which is a monolithic entity for someone just starting out. There are gems in them thar hills, but it's more suitable for an intermediate exploration of detailed issues which have arisen in practice, imo.
Finally, as Analayo discusses, the MN's division into sections with 50/50/52 chapters is such that the first 50 chapters can be taken as a single unit, which a reciter would have mastered before moving on to the next 50. In this way, the text has been organized into a much more manageable size than with the SN.