Author Topic: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties  (Read 2812 times)

thornbush

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The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« on: November 29, 2009, 09:06:33 am »
The Late Venerable Master Sheng-yen: Reading Sutras as a Spiritual Practice
The Venerable Master Cheng-yen: The Difficulty in Reading Buddhist Sutras

Offline humanitas

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2009, 01:18:46 pm »
Since developing a sudden interest in the sutras, I can say before it felt difficult to read them, but now, I enjoy reading them more than any other reading.  When I don't understand something I actually want to reflect on it, I want to read them over and over till I understand the essence...

I can see that until someone reaches a stage of receptivity, reading the sutras is very difficult.  I've been practicing almost a year and I've just started reading them in the last month.  I tried before but it seemed "boring" and "too hard."  I just wasn't in the right mental space for it. 

Thank you for sharing this, I think most people, like me find the sutra part of practice a chore till they don't.  And then the Sutras become just interesting.  Now I don't know how I ever thought they were boring.   :meditating:
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thornbush

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 07:59:50 pm »

2 other perspectives from the Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an, Hui Neng:
"As I do not quite understand the meaning of the Sutra I recite, I am doubtful as to its proper interpretation.
With your profound knowledge and high wisdom, will you kindly give me a short explanation?"

The Patriarch replied,
"Fa Da, the Law is quite clear; it is only your mind that is not clear.
The Sutra is free from doubtful passages; it is only your mind that makes them doubtful.
In reciting the Sutra, do you know its principal object?"

"How can I know, Sir," replied Fa Da, "since I am so dull and stupid? All I know is how to recite it word by word."

The Patriarch then said, "Will you please recite the Sutra, as I cannot read it myself. I will then explain its meaning to you."

Fa Da recited the Sutra, but when he came to the chapter entitled 'Parables' the Patriarch stopped him, saying, "The key-note of this Sutra is to set forth the aim and object of a Buddha's incarnation in this world. Though parables and illustrations are numerous in this book, none of them goes beyond this pivotal point. Now, what is that object? What is that aim? The Sutra says, 'It is for a sole object, a sole aim, verily a lofty object and a lofty aim that the Buddha appears in this world.' Now that sole object, that sole aim, that lofty object, that lofty aim referred to is the 'sight' of Buddha-Knowledge.

"Common people attach themselves to objects without; and within, they fall into the wrong idea of 'Vacuity'. When they are able to free themselves from attachment to objects when in contact with objects, and to free themselves from the fallacious view of annihilation on the doctrine of 'Void' they will be free from delusions within and from illusions without. He who understands this and whose mind is thus enlightened in an instant is said to have opened his eyes for the sight of Buddha-Knowledge.

"The word 'Buddha' is equivalent to 'Enlightenment', which may be dealt with (as in the Sutra) under four heads:
    To open the eyes for the sight of Enlightenment-knowledge.
    To show the sight of Enlightenment-knowledge.
    To awake to the sight of Enlightenment-knowledge.
    To be firmly established in the Enlightenment-knowledge.
"Should we be able, upon being taught, to grasp and understand thoroughly the teaching of Enlightenment-knowledge, then our inherent quality or true nature, i.e., the Enlightenment-knowledge, would have an opportunity to manifest itself. You should not misinterpret the text, and come to the conclusion that Buddha-knowledge is something special to Buddha and not common to us all because you happen to find in the Sutra this passage, 'To open the eyes for the sight of Buddha-knowledge, to show the sight of Buddha-knowledge, etc.' Such a misinterpretation would amount to slandering Buddha and blaspheming the Sutra. Since he is a Buddha, he is already in possession of this Enlightenment-knowledge and there is no occasion for himself to open his eyes for it. You should therefore accept the interpretation that Buddha-knowledge is the Buddha-knowledge of your own mind and not that of any other Buddha.

"Being infatuated by sense-objects, and thereby shutting themselves from their own light, all sentient beings, tormented by outer circumstances and inner vexations, act voluntarily as slaves to their own desires. Seeing this, our Lord Buddha had to rise from his Samadhi in order to exhort them with earnest preaching of various kinds to suppress their desires and to refrain from seeking happiness from without, so that they might become the equals of Buddha. For this reason the Sutra says, 'To open the eyes for the sight of Buddha-knowledge, etc.'

"I advise people constantly to open their eyes for the Buddha-knowledge within their mind. But in their perversity they commit sins under delusion and ignorance; they are kind in words, but wicked in mind; they are greedy, malignant, jealous, crooked, flattering, egotistic, offensive to men and
destructive to inanimate objects. Thus, they open their eyes for the 'Common-people-knowledge'. Should they rectify their heart, so that wisdom arises perpetually, the mind would be under introspection, and evil doing replaced by the practice of good; then they would initiate themselves into the Buddha-knowledge.

"You should therefore from Ksana to Ksana open your eyes, not for 'Common-people-knowledge' but for Buddha-knowledge, which is super-mundane, while the former is worldly. On the other hand, if you stick to the arbitrary concept that mere recitation (of the Sutra) as a daily exercise is good enough, then you are infatuated like the yak by its own tail." (Yaks are known to have a very high opinion of their own tails.)

Fa Da then said,
"If that is so, we have only to know the meaning of the Sutra and there would be no necessity for us to recite it. Is that right, Sir?"

"There is nothing wrong in the Sutra," replied the Patriarch, "so that you should refrain from reciting it. Whether sutra-reciting will enlighten you or not, or benefit you or not, all depends on yourself. He who recites the Sutra with the tongue and puts its teaching into actual practice with his mind 'turns round' the Sutra. He who recites it without putting it into practice is 'turned round' by the Sutra. Listen to my stanza:--
    When our mind is under delusion, the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra 'turns us round'.
    With an enlightened mind we 'turn round' the Sutra instead.
    To recite the Sutra for a considerable time without knowing its principal object
    Indicates that you are a stranger to its meaning.
    The correct way to recite the Sutra is without holding any arbitrary belief;
    Otherwise, it is wrong.
    He who is above 'Affirmative' and 'Negative'
    Rides permanently in the White Bullock Cart (the Vehicle of Buddha)."
Having heard this stanza, Fa Da was enlightened and moved to tears. "It is quite true," he exclaimed, "that heretofore I was unable to 'turn round' the Sutra. It was rather the Sutra that 'turned' me round."


"A bigoted believer in Nihilism blasphemes against the Sutras on the ground that literature (i.e., the Buddhist Scriptures) is unnecessary (for the study of Buddhism).
If that were so, then neither would it be right for us to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature.
He would also argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) literature is discarded.
But does he appreciate that the two words 'is discarded' are also literature? Upon hearing others speak of Sutras, such a man would criticize the speakers as 'addicted to scriptural authority'.
It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures.
You men should know that it is a serious offence to speak ill of the Sutras, for the consequence is grave indeed!
"He who believes in the reality of outward objects tries to seek the form (from without) by practicing a certain system of doctrine.
He may furnish spacious lecture-halls for the discussion of Realism or Nihilism, but such a man will not for numerous Kalpas realize the Essence of Mind.

thornbush

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2009, 08:39:16 pm »
Another perspective from "The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra":

"Good men, the Scriptures expounded by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and emancipating living beings.
Sometimes I speak of myself, sometimes of others: sometimes I present myself, sometimes others; sometimes I show my own actions, sometimes those of others. All that I preach is true and not false.



TMingyur

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 11:40:17 pm »
Interesting. Thanks.
I feel that in tibetan buddhism not so much emphasis is put on studying the scriptures, commentaries seem to be preferred.
However quotes from sutras are usually abundant in the commentaries.

Kind regards

Offline Arya-Shraman

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2009, 05:16:34 am »
Thank you for sharing. I enjoy reading scriptures and try to make sense out of it.

TMingyur

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2009, 11:59:12 pm »
I could not make any sense of scriptures without teachers.
I would be completely helpless without them.

Homage to all teachers
 :worthy:



Offline Ngawang Drolma

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2009, 09:58:51 am »
I could not make any sense of scriptures without teachers.
I would be completely helpless without them.

Homage to all teachers
 :worthy:

 :worthy: :worthy:

Offline Cafael Dust

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2009, 05:12:51 am »
I don't find the Pali Canon difficult.

Some of the others I classify in one of two ways; there are Buddhists texts, I won't name names, that are very metaphysical and difficult to understand, sometimes that's because the writers were being precise about something very specific and useful but difficult to define, and sometimes it's because their ideas are balanced in an ontological framework that no longer exists in the collective consciousness (I don't use that term in any psychic way) or was created to be obscure because the writer wanted recognition but didn't possess insight or depth of understanding. That's a polite way of putting it. Sorry, but I've been a critical reader all my life, and that's my interpretation of why some texts 'don't work' for me and many others.

Now some texts I do understand only too well, but not on their own terms. Some texts use various devices known to advertisers, other religions, propaganda machines etc etc. They employ loaded questions, poisonings of the well and other ad-hominem logical fallacies to attack their opponents - confusing since often their opponents have vanished into history, leaving us with unbalanced writing. They employ tautologies, what I will call 'appeals to grandiosity of imagery', Emperor's New Clothes arguments (only wise/brave/high quality people can understand this...), chain letter type threats e.g. 'spread this sutra and you will be enlightened very soon, disparage it and you will die!'... (...idiots. I hate chain letters), and, oddly for Buddhism, homunculus arguments, to support their own poorly defined ideas, or actually, usually not their ideas but their desire to increase support for their sectarian missions.

As I say, I'm not naming names; some of these texts are modern, some are archaic. The Pali Canon, on the other hand, while not perfect and containing occasionally dubious passages that seem off message (some of the comments on women, for instance), is clearly based on a highly intelligent and focussed person's attempt to create a foolproof and methodically explained guide to enlightenment, the text using techniques of repetition both as an oral tradition's mnemonic device and also a learning aid for the reader, who I think Buddha realised would find many ideas counter-intuitive and would require said ideas to be effectively reinforced.

Buddha tried to exhaustively detail the possibilities and questions arising from his ideas, while humbly recognising that he wasn't able to do this completely and asking us to investigate for ourselves, at the same advising us not to get too attached to the myriad spurious trains of thought that may arise from them. He uses imagery as analogy, not for shock and awe effect, he dismantles the logical fallacies of others, of the mind, rather than introducing those of his own in support of his assertions. When reading the Pali Canon, I, who have never been particularly star struck or respectful of 'world honoured ones', find myself seeing Buddha as a person; not someone 'special' in any magical sense, but someone I both like and respect and am prepared to listen to.

That's what I read between the lines here.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2009, 05:30:26 am by Cafael Dust »

Offline Cafael Dust

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2009, 12:35:31 pm »
Can I just add, hours later, that I didn't check which forum this was, I just clicked on the title because I thought I could contribute something useful, and I find it's the Mahayana one. So it sounds a bit like I'm praising the Pali Canon as an attack on The Mahayana - I'm not, and just to clarify, there are plenty of Mahayana writings that are extremely helpful and don't fit into the problem categories I define above.

Offline humanitas

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2009, 01:13:58 pm »
When reading the Pali Canon, I, who have never been particularly star struck or respectful of 'world honoured ones', find myself seeing Buddha as a person; not someone 'special' in any magical sense, but someone I both like and respect and am prepared to listen to.

That's what I read between the lines here.

I don't know why, this reminded me so much of Martin Luther.  ;))
« Last Edit: December 24, 2009, 01:16:02 pm by 0gyen Chodzom »
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Offline Cafael Dust

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2009, 02:11:30 pm »
Hmmm. Apart from the anti-semitism, not an unflattering comparison... I think Luther would definitely have regarded Jesus as 'magic' though. Just to clarify, it's not that magic doesn't exist, more that a sunrise or peal of laughter is just as magical as levitation or what-have-you.

I suppose what I mean is that Siddhartha comes through as a person, a very approachable one at that, warm and witty and quite beautiful in his affection for others, certainly not some horrible idealised razor's edge of perfection.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2009, 02:14:12 pm by Cafael Dust »

Offline humanitas

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2009, 03:59:40 pm »
certainly not some horrible idealised razor's edge of perfection.
:bigrofl:
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Offline Cafael Dust

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Re: The Scriptures: Reading, Practice and Difficulties
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2009, 04:43:50 pm »
 :wink1: :namaste:

 


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