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How to study sutras

KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSUAch-To Veteran

Some sutras are easy to read. Others require more work. I recently purchased the 3 pure land sutras and am having difficulty studying. Does anyone have tips for a beginner to sutra studying? Thank you. Namu Amida Butsu


  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Have you tried book burning? o:)

  • yagryagr Veteran
    edited August 30

    This is a real question: Does studying the sutra's work? I rather think it is like 'not trying to think of a pink elephant'. The relaxed mind absorbs differently. Thank you for the question @Kannon.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    It is a good question. I find sutra roasting is easy to concentrate on. So developing concentration on the teachings we find easy/straightforward and looking for added depth is sufficient.

    Also the texts of some mahayana texts are obscure to the point of obfuscation. If they are not clarified by sangha/teachers/group study, find something worth your effort. Use the rest as offering to the Purelanders ...

    What do you mean by difficulty? What is the usual solution?

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    For the first eight or nine years of my practice, I almost never heard anyone mention the precepts (don't lie, steal, cheat, etc.) I tried to 'study' them on my own. It didn't seem to work very well, but I never was a very good student.

    After eight or nine years, I realized that the practice itself had been instructing me all along. The precepts make the best sense -- as I imagine the sutras do -- when they simply grow out of the practice. The precepts are just common sense when they grow out of practice. Upshot for me: Practice is the best mouse trap in town. :)

  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    @lobster that image was at first genuinely upsetting. but it is just paper and words. maybe i should do some burning.

    honen said even if we study everything guatama buddha taught, to practice as if we only know the nembutsu... back to know-ing versus be-ing. knowledge is important. it is also distracting.

    re: your second comment, I guess I am just missing the point so to speak. i have read much about how important the sutras were and I was excited to read them.... there are good chunks as I said above, but for the most part I am left wondering what the big deal is and assumed I was doing something wrong

    @yagr a good consideration. part of me thinks about the bible studies i attended a literal handful of times in my youth and the emphasis on scripture; the "holy" bible... the dharma is one of 3 jewels...but where do we draw the line between core teachings and obfuscation? especially in my case as a Mahayana Mystic. it would be almost impossible to read all of the canon. it is good that buddhism does not place so much importance on words and paper, but it is a bit frustrating. i guess i am looking for escape in material things, when these words only round back to be-ing. again, this is square one

    @genkaku yes, this is the root of it, isn't it? i am just impatient, wanting to expedite the process; in the end i just prolongate it with my yearnings...whenever i realize a fetter, i am never able to totally let go of them completely. they have been very good protection from the truth of the world. it is scary to be vulnerable.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I think it is a very good question.

    For me, the sutra's and the dharma talks of modern teachers serve the same purpose, they are there to help unfold the mind, give light to practice, and increase our understanding of our place in the world.

    I'm quite a good student, and I tend to be a bit of an autodidact when I find a subject that engages me. Bodhidharma once said "once you understand the mind, all else is included". And in a way this is part of my study of Buddhism, it is a study of the mind. In each Sutra you may find a jewel, a new prism for understanding some facet of our being.

    The trick of choosing what to study is the hardest part. I try to stay with proven sources, the words of the Buddha or teachers who resonate with me strongly. It matters who has written what, and I tend to go slowly, because insight takes time for me.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Kannon said:
    @lobster that image was at first genuinely upsetting. but it is just paper and words. maybe i should do some burning.

    Indeed. Sorry. :3

    If you are genuinely interested in empty sardine cans, as I am (wer lobster tendencies emerging) you can study them all day long without effort.
    Otherwise it is a virtuous chore. Try and follow @Kerome example ...
    Or you could write your own sutra ... that might be interesting ... o:)

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Kannon said:
    Some sutras are easy to read. Others require more work. I recently purchased the 3 pure land sutras and am having difficulty studying. Does anyone have tips for a beginner to sutra studying? Thank you. Namu Amida Butsu

    Do you have access to sutra commentaries? Are there other people you can study with, online or offline?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I am not a big fan of a lot of sutra stuff (for myself and my practice, not others). I enjoy it sometimes, as I have been enjoying our group study on the Book of Eights here on NB. I prefer to do it in a group, definitely. Sutras to me are like reading poetry, which I also very much do not enjoy, lol. My brain is overly logical so abstract things do not maintain my attention very well. It is something I do try to practice to get better at, but sitting and reading and delving into sutras just does nothing for me for my practice or understanding.

    I find what @genkaku said to be very true. The right sutra at the right time, enhances my understanding and practice. But the foundation has to be there already otherwise it is like reading a foreign language without every having learned that alphabet. The Heart Sutra is one my "real life" Sangha focuses on pretty often. Over the years, the layers of it have peeled away (and i suspect there is quite a lot more of that to come) as my understanding and practice have deepened. But simply reading it over and over again hasn't done anything for me. It reminds me of being in college lit and having to memorize and recite Shakespeare and being able to do so but having no understand of what the words were I was saying actually were supposed to mean :lol:

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