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Sutras - recitation or meditation?


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#1 draftsman

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Posted 18 March 2006 - 10:41 PM

Tashi Delek,

I have a question regarding the sutras - is it better to recite them (alone or in a group) or read short excerpts from them and meditate on their content?

And another sub-question: I read three sutras until now (Heart sutra, Sanghata sutra and Vajra Cutter sutra). All of them seem quite difficult to understand. This I find strange, since they come from the Buddha and are surely made to benefit as much (and as many beings) as possible. If one reads/listens to the teachings of the contemporary Masters, they seem coherent and easy to understand (yet difficult to implement :wink:), so I guess that my inability is not the only reason preventing me from grasping :roll: the message of the sutras.

Almost half of the Sanghata sutra e.g. consists of the listing of the merits that are acquired by reciting it. So when reading one wonders, when will the actual sutra begin. Vajra cutter sutra is e.g. quite philosophical (not in a bad sense), ful of unexplained terminology (stream-enterer, once-returner etc.), "inside talk" between the Buddha and Subhuti. Last time we recited it and I am not sure if I understood 5% of it, ok, with a slow contemplative reading this might improve, but still. Yet, it felt really good after we finished, so it must have had some effect.

So, are the sutras so "non-pedagogical" on purpose or is this just my misunderstanding?

Thank You :D.

Best regards,
Draftsman
In the vastness of the sky, without center or edges, the sun shines, illuminating all things without choosing. This is the way you should help beings. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdröl (1781-1851)

#2 Khyenrab

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Posted 19 March 2006 - 12:52 PM

Tashi Delek,

I have a question regarding the sutras - is it better to recite them (alone or in a group) or read short excerpts from them and meditate on their content?

I think it depends on the Sutra, and the purpose you are reciting/reading it for. There is the merit accumulation of mere reading, and there is also studying it in order to understand its main topic (of course, the later should bring even more merit).

And another sub-question: I read three sutras until now (Heart sutra, Sanghata sutra and Vajra Cutter sutra). All of them seem quite difficult to understand.

Yes, they are. My understanding is that Dharma is not easy to understand :D and therefore can't be truly understood without putting some hard work into the study of it. Emptiness, dependent arising, non-duality, inherent existence, non-inherent existence, equanimity and so forth are terms that clearly need study and continuous contemplation to be well understood.
As you might have noticed, each Sutra is different. The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra (Vajra Cutter) belong to the Prajnaparamita (Wisdom Gone Beyond); they explain the non-inherent existence of all phenomena. By reading the Heart Sutra we can see how deep the Teaching of Emptiness goes - it goes all the way - there is absolutely nothing that has any intrinsic existence - no phenomena, not even the mind, not even emptiness itself. The Sutra clearly, one by one, lists the different phenomena we (through our senses) perceive as inherently existent and simultaneously disproves these erroneous perceptions.

The Vajra Cutter Sutra goes further (from explaining the non-inherent existence of individual's aggregates) and explains that even (other) sentient beings (that appear so undoubtedly real to us) have also no inherent existence. There is absolutely no sense of selfhood that a Bodhisattva can hold (in his mind), in order to be a true Bodhisattva (engaged completely on the Bodhisattva Path). Many times the Sutra says that the merit of reading, reciting, understanding it correctly and explaining it to others is enormous.

And as you might have read, the Arya Sanghata Sutra is a dharmma-paryaya, which means a transformative Sutra. It changes, purifies and inspires the reader greatly. The merit here is not so much in understanding, but in the recitation itself. "It is a direct blessing from Lord Buddha to you", Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche explained. :)

Any correction of, or any addition to my short understanding of these three priceless Sutras is most welcome, in fact needed.

Best regards,
Khyenrab

P.S. Actually, i am surprised i even dared to comment on this :)

#3 mavrica

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Posted 19 March 2006 - 03:24 PM

Tashi Delek,

would anybody know ... is there perhaps a slovene translator who is about to create extensive merit by translating Sanghatasutra to Slovene language?? ... that would be so wonderful ... :% {..}

#4 draftsman

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 03:12 PM

Tashi Delek,

I read three sutras until now (Heart sutra, Sanghata sutra and Vajra Cutter sutra). All of them seem quite difficult to understand.

My understanding is that Dharma is not easy to understand :D

Thank you Khyenrab for the answer and useful information :D . One thing still bothers me though. Surely some effort is needed to understand Dharma. But contemporary Teachers seem to present it in a "user-friendly" :lol: way, while sutras seem to speak in the language of insiders (hence the feeling of "overhearing" the conversation in the sutra by accident, catching the word here and there, but not really sure, what it is all about - at least my experience is such). This makes the intellectual understanding more difficult, and intellectual understanding is the basis for any deeper contemplation or eventual realization {..} right? Or am I mistaken?

To be more specific and concrete: in Sanghata sutra Buddha (The Blessed One) speaks to Bhaishajya-sena about some sentient beings, which arose from the mindless trees, calling them mindless people (previous - draft of - translation spoke about insensate trees and insensate people). These mindless people are later divided into "young" and "old sentient beings". What is this all about :crunch:?

On a more "humoursome" note: Bhaishajya-sena is continually asking Buddha whether he should leave for another world using Buddha's supernatural powers or his own. Buddha answers on one occasion that he should leave using his own supernatural powers and return by using Buddha's supernatural powers. Why is that (I know the question might sound a bit "stupid" :oops:, but everything is in a sutra for a reason, right)?

Best regards,
Draftsman
In the vastness of the sky, without center or edges, the sun shines, illuminating all things without choosing. This is the way you should help beings. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdröl (1781-1851)

#5 Khyenrab

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 06:12 PM

I'll try to give another bold answer. I hope it's helpful. Others please join.

Surely some effort is needed to understand Dharma. But contemporary Teachers seem to present it in a "user-friendly" :lol:  way, while sutras seem to speak in the language of insiders (hence the feeling of "overhearing" the conversation in the sutra by accident, catching the word here and there, but not really sure, what it is all about - at least my experience is such).

Mine too.

This makes the intellectual understanding more difficult, and intellectual understanding is the basis for any deeper contemplation or eventual realization {..}  right? Or am I mistaken?

I think you're right. I try to get the essence of what is being said ("this is good, this is bad"; the consequences of this are horrible, even if i don't know every word describing those consequences" and so on). I myself don't really try to know everything about what is being said in detail, in Vajra Cutter and Sanghata Sutra for example. As far as i know, recitation of Sutras can be a very good accumulation of merits, and you don't have to know everything about what is being said. The Heart Sutra, on the other hand, can be studied in detail. It's short, and contains the essence of the Wisdom Gone Beyond. ;-F
And there are absolutely wonderful, and relatively easy to understand, Dharma books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, explaining the more difficult topics in simplest possible terms, not neglecting any aspect of the original Teaching. We can study those :)

And i just rememberd that Goodie posted this some time ago:

Diamond Cutter Sutra right now. do you know any commentary?

There are several commentaries, but I don't know how many of them are translated. One commentary was written by Master Asanga (~350 A.D.) and one by Master Kamalashila (~750 A.D.). These two were written in Sanskrit.
Another commentary (written in Tibetan) is "Sunlight for the Path to Freedom, a Commentary on the Diamond Cutter Sutra", written by Choney Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748). There exist translation in English, but only "more important" parts are translated. Link:
http://www.world-vie...6/C6Reading.pdf

These mindless people are later divided into "young" and "old sentient beings". What is this all about :crunch:?

"The discourse presented in the ?rya Sangh?ta S?tra is offered by the Buddha in response to a bodhisattva's request for a teaching that can speak to both young and old at the same time, inspiring the young and setting them irrevocably in motion toward enlightenment, while lifting the heavy burden of negative karma carried by the old. What follows, then, is a teaching tailored to meet the very different requirements that persons will have at different points in their lives.

But just what it means to be old is not made entirely clear. At a certain point, Buddha explains that the young do not know about birth, death or other sufferings that await them, and thus do not take steps to change their future. Even after Buddha introduces them to the concept of suffering, the young beings do not identify with others they see suffering, and do not recognize themselves as the people whose future experiences of suffering the Buddha is describing. At another point, a group of listeners asks the Buddha: Which of us is old? And which of us is young? Buddha's reply is illuminating: He tells them that since they do know about birth and death in samsara, but are still not fed up with it, they are old. The old are also described as having heard much Dharma, believing they already know it all, and so not listening attentively."
From here (where you can find more): http://www.sanghatas....net/young.html

Why is that (I know the question might sound a bit "stupid" :oops:, but everything is in a sutra for a reason, right)?

Whatever the reason, it's fun! :))

#6 Wangmo

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 12:55 AM

Tashi Delek,

One thing still bothers me though. Surely some effort is needed to understand Dharma. But contemporary Teachers seem to present it in a "user-friendly" :lol:  way, while sutras seem to speak in the language of insiders (hence the feeling of "overhearing" the conversation in the sutra by accident, catching the word here and there, but not really sure, what it is all about - at least my experience is such). This makes the intellectual understanding more difficult, and intellectual understanding is the basis for any deeper contemplation or eventual realization {..}  right? Or am I mistaken?

I think if we understand something in a simple intellectual manner, we often consider it finished, we put it aside and don't think about it anymore. Now, if we can't grasp the meaning right away, but we can sense it "just behind the corner", and we know somehow that we'll be able to get it if we just spend a little time contemplating this - then this is what we do. We contemplate the meaning. :wink:

All the best. :)
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. (Bruce Lee)

#7 Khyenrab

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 05:58 AM

Tashi delek,

I completely agree with Wangmo. I would even think that continuous contemplation/meditation on one short part of a Sutra such as the Vajra Cutter can "reveal" the essential meaning of the whole sutra (and thereby Wisdom) much better; that mere intellectual understanding of the whole Sutra never would.

If the topic is Wisdom, we should think and contemplate on what emptiness (and dependent arising) really means and try to really grasp it as well as we can. Then we can focus on an excerpt from the Vajra Cutter like this one. This might be much more beneficial. :) But, for me, it's much easier with the Heart Sutra.

“Why is that? Subhuti, because if a bodhisattva engages in discriminating a sentient being, he is not to be called a ‘bodhisattva.’ Why is that? Subhuti, if anyone engages in discriminating a sentient being, or engages in discriminating a living being, or engages in discriminating a person, they are not to be called a ‘bodhisattva.’

“Further, Subhuti, a bodhisattva gives a gift without abiding in a thing; gives a gift without abiding in any phenomenon whatsoever. A gift should be given not abiding in visual form, nor should a gift be given abiding in sound, smell, taste, tactility, or a phenomenon. Subhuti, without abiding in discriminating anything whatsoever as any sign, thus does a bodhisattva give a gift. Why is that? Subhuti, because the heap of merit of that bodhisattva who gives a gift without abiding, Subhuti, is not easy to take the measure of."

Best regards,
Khyenrab

#8 draftsman

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 01:00 PM

Tashi Delek,

I completely agree with Wangmo. I would even think that continuous contemplation/meditation on one short part of a Sutra such as the Vajra Cutter can "reveal" the essential meaning of the whole sutra (and thereby Wisdom) much better; that mere intellectual understanding of the whole Sutra never would.

I understand Wangmo's point - up to a point :lol: . Yet, e.g. intellectually I understand the often repeated Emptiness explanation with the cup (at least I hope I do) :wink: , but I don't think this mere fact stops the interest to learn about Emptiness, since intellectual knowledge by itself is no source of happiness.

Can you imagine going to school and having a teacher, who would on purpose complicate the school material? Reading the sutras sometimes feels as if someone would on purpose tell us a "cup story" in a way that we wouldn't understand).

From here (where you can find more): http://www.sanghatas....net/young.html

Thank you :D . This young and old beings story I see as a "typical" sutra puzzle that could be told in an easier manner. Interestingly, when I read the sutra, I first thought about young and old beings as if relating to the usual "from the beginningless time" phrase - implying that some beings are actually older than the others. But it seems this one is not among the possible explanations on the linked site.

Then we can focus on an excerpt from the Vajra Cutter like this one. This might be much more beneficial.  But, for me, it's much easier with the Heart Sutra.

To me Heart sutra is also quite difficult to understand, ok maybe it will be easier once I read the commentary :lol: .

Best regards,
Draftsman
In the vastness of the sky, without center or edges, the sun shines, illuminating all things without choosing. This is the way you should help beings. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdröl (1781-1851)

#9 Wangmo

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 10:14 PM

Tashi Delek!

I understand Wangmo's point - up to a point :lol: . Yet, e.g. intellectually I understand the often repeated Emptiness explanation with the cup (at least I hope I do) :wink: , but I don't think this mere fact stops the interest to learn about Emptiness, since intellectual knowledge by itself is no source of happiness.

Nice try. ;) But I wasn't speaking about "learning" about something - I was speaking about "contemplating the meaning".
In the sense that after you have an intellectual understanding of the famous "cup-example", you can say "I think I understand the example with the cup", and search for other things to learn about Emptiness. Or you can go on to contemplate the cup.

Best wishes. :D
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. (Bruce Lee)

#10 draftsman

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 10:46 AM

Tashi Delek,

I was speaking about "contemplating the meaning".  
In the sense that after you have an intellectual understanding of the famous "cup-example", you can say "I think I understand the example with the cup", and search for other things to learn about Emptiness. Or you can go on to contemplate the cup.

Ok, I understand :D . Yet, it is still not completely clear to me why there is such a discrepancy between the language/style used in the sutras compared to the teachings of the contemporary Buddhas. Maybe, because we live in degenerated times and it was much easier to understand the sutras in the past than it is now?

It would still be interesting to find out what "the young ones" and "the old ones" stand for in the Sanghata sutra, if possible without contemplation :lol: .

I also wonder if recitation of the books, teachings etc. written by the contemporary teachers qualifes as recitation of the sutras - if the author is a Buddha?

Best regards,
Draftsman
In the vastness of the sky, without center or edges, the sun shines, illuminating all things without choosing. This is the way you should help beings. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdröl (1781-1851)

#11 Simona

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 06:03 AM

Tashi Delek draftsman :D

Maybe, because we live in degenerated times and it was much easier to understand the sutras in the past than it is now?

I read in several books that one should take the Buddha`s teachings in the consideration from the aspect of one`s own life experiences. Everything that one cannot look from that aspect remains unfit. So, maybe the people had much different life experiences in the past in comparison with the people experiences of current times?

Best regards,
Simona

#12 draftsman

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 02:20 PM

Tashi Delek,

So, maybe the people had much different life experiences in the past in comparison with the people experiences of current times?

It is said that we are living in degenerate times - so maybe here the difference can be found ? Sutras sure are difficult to understand (for me at least :).

Best regards,
Draftsman
In the vastness of the sky, without center or edges, the sun shines, illuminating all things without choosing. This is the way you should help beings. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdröl (1781-1851)

#13 morrisionn

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 02:18 PM

Hello,
I collect some information about meditation with mantra.Mantra is one of the simplest, yet a very powerful method to achieve meditation. From this moment until the heart of enlightenment is reached,
I and all sentient beings as limitless as the sky,
Go for refuge to all the splendid accomplished supreme Gurus.
We go for refuge to all the yidams, the deities gathered in the mandala.
We go for refuge to all Buddhas, the transcendent accomplished conquerors.
We go for refuge to all the supreme Dharma.
We go for refuge to the noble Sangha.
We go for refuge to all the dakas, dakinis, protectors and defenders of the Dharma
Who each have the eye of transcending awareness.

thanks!!
_________________

#14 Michael John Smith

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 04:42 AM

This is the link to the first of four recent teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Diamond Sutra:






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