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Thread: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

  1. #1

    My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    I had sent a few questions to Jundo. He asked me to post them along with his answers here. This is one of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin

    I've been reading some Mahayana history lately, and wanted to get your opinion on some things. One topic brought up repeatedly in the Mahayana sutras seems to be the self-aggrandisement of sutras. For instance, the Lotus Sutra touting itself as the ultimate sutra, the premier teaching of the Buddha, etc. And that all defamers of the Sutra are destined for the hell realms and so forth
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The short answer is that these Mahayana Sutras were written by men (religiously inspired authors, perhaps, but not by the Buddha himself) in philosophical competition with other men who had written other sutras ... and they were trying to say "my Sutra is better than your Sutra"! That is why almost every Sutra purports to be the "highest teaching", and describes all the other Sutras as (putting words in Buddha's mouth) merely "a dumbed down version" for folks who could not handle the "highest teaching".

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Matt;
    You've been reading and that is commendable. I gave it up years ago :lol: don't let all the rabbit holes get you down.

  3. #3

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    Matt;
    You've been reading and that is commendable. I gave it up years ago :lol: don't let all the rabbit holes get you down.
    Heh, I figured I need to read the books before I burn them

  4. #4

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    I like reading Sutras too ... and so did about every Zen teacher in history. For example, Dogen's Jazz in Shobogenzo is filled with passages (often very obscure, as the man was a walking encyclopedia) from Sutras that he plays on/in/through-and-through. So many of the Koans and other talks and writings of Zen Ancestors are based on Sutra passages much cherished in the Zen world ... like the Diamond, Lotus, Lankavatara to name but a few.

    The expression "A Way Beyond Words & Letters" was usually about seeing through the Sutras, or putting them aside, after one already had some familiarity with the words and letters.

    But Suttas (the South Asian Pali word) and Sutras (the Mahayana Sanskrit word) are not all that different from the Judeo-Christian Bibles, although (of course) the themes and subjects are Buddhist! There were a thousand authors (sometimes in the very same Sutra!), some passages are nice, some are silly, some contradictory (because different authors had different philosophical views and ways of expressing the same view), some are wildly fantastically imaginary, some make no sense at all Zen sense or otherwise, some passages are timeless and always relevant, some seem dated or even bigoted to modern ears, some helpful, some not helpful, some are poetically lovely ... some passages will knock one's socks off! AMEN!

    Yet, in Zazen we sit ... as the View of No View and All Views ... seeing the light that shines on/in/through-and-through both the words and the spaces on the page.

    And if you want to put the Sutras down some or all of the time, that is fine too.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Hello,

    just my two Unsui cents here (read with caution )

    We should keep in mind that a lot of the Sutras are written in "mythic language", meaning that they express impressions and experiences that originate not just in analytical and common intellectual understanding, but that they often find their ground of origin in deep ecstatic states. May I suggest that it is a little bit like the difference between prose texts and poetry. If you use cold intellectual reasoning to scrutinize a poem, you will get something out of it, but you might be missing the point entirely.

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

    We could clearly come to the conclusion that comparing a homo sapiens sapiens to a temporal climate phenomenon is a load of BS, but then I do think we might be missing a bit of the possbile impact Shakespeare's piece might have had.

    Just let the Sutra wash all over you and see which direction it is pointing to. Often it is a fertile ground of non-space and dropping-it-all awe which is perfelty aligned with our zazen practise.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  6. #6

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Hi Hans - I have only read the heart suttra so far.

    Appreciate what you say but to be honest - without Red Pine's commentary (and Thich Nhat Hanh's)
    I would be lost. Perhaps it's because it's the suttra with the line 'form is emptiness, emptiness is form' but trying to let that wash
    over me didn't work. I simply couldn't grasp (what I now feel is an essential understanding ). The commentry opened
    a window onto a suttra that I now love - it washes over fine.

    Some poetry doesn't require any intellectual work at all - but if you think of say T.S. Eliots 'The Waste Land' - it's full of references/allusions
    that a reader wouldn't automatically pick up on. Same with some works of art - it can add to one's appreciation to know a little about the background.

    Anyway - I have little experience of reading the suttras - what would you recommend?

    Gassho

    Willow

  7. #7

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Dear Willow,

    you are absolutely right.

    Since a lot of people experiencing getting stuck in the intellectual arena however, I wanted to highlight the experiential approach. In my humble still-in-training opinion, you can never "get" a sutra intellectually. You can understand what it talks about, but what sutras are pointing to is beyond mere intellectual understanding - and at the same time more intimate and close than your own skin.

    It is only this constant pointing-to that makes sutras so important, otherwise they'd just be texts among texts among texts.

    Using and studying city maps is not about memorising different lanes, roads and alleys, or understanding a grid structure...unless you are into trainspotting as well - it is about applying it directly to where you are driving/walking, and only through the active and dynamic applying of the tire to the road are these maps useful. Otherwise we could all just become academics.

    Just my two cents however.


    All the best,


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Willow;

    Forget about the sutras for now (work with the Hannya Shin Kyo); Just yesterday, Shinkai recommended Dogen http://bit.ly/yLf4oL; specifically, Shobogenzo-zuimonki http://bit.ly/xMk0n1 (her choice of type face is hard to read but, if you mouse over it to select it becomes quite clear) It's all available on line and worth the read. As well, have a look at his seminal work, the Shobogenzo itself; of which one of many translations is available here http://bit.ly/b66ovx

  9. #9

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Hi!

    thank you Keishin and Jundo for this thread... It is always so funny to read in a sutra that it is the most valuable, the highest teaching, or things like "if one can repeat a single line of this sutra he will get more merits than building as many temples as sand in the ganges"... It is funny indeed...

    But at the same time, I speak for Chan School I know here, some lineage are kind of specialized in the comments of the diamond and heart, the platform sutra, the Shurangama sutra or even the Amitabha sutras. Chan/Zen school is beyond scriptures, that doesn't mean we don't read and comment the sutras with this "eye" coming from the daily practice of letting-go, jundo and taigu emphasized on it way better than me...
    But what I want to express is the fact that for these lineages, the sutras are" the spine of the transmission of the teachings", they are a way to transmit the core teachings and practices by the way of commentaries. And that way, very "zenny" teachings can be shared and transmitted on the base of the Suttas, the Agamas or the Mahayana sutras... I know that for the Shurangama sutra who is used in a lot of lineages (including mine) as the key text to study and practice.

    On the other hand, the tientai school division of the sutra in some "teachings eras", dividing the sutras in function of the time Shakyamuni shared them implies a notion of some mahayana sutras being "highest" than others... vast subject!

    Anyway, I'm sorry I can't explain myself better (still at work, I've to be quick) but thank you for the opportunity to share,

    Have a very nice day everyone!

    Gassho,
    Jinyu

  10. #10

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Since a lot of people experiencing getting stuck in the intellectual arena however, I wanted to highlight the experiential approach. In my humble still-in-training opinion, you can never "get" a sutra intellectually. You can understand what it talks about, but what sutras are pointing to is beyond mere intellectual understanding - and at the same time more intimate and close than your own skin.
    I think you speak well for some Sutras ... but other Sutras (or parts of otherwise wondrous Sutras) are just silly crap expressing not much worth getting.

    Also, some Sutras wash through us and us them (and maybe all just washes washing) beyond the intellectual, and others can be understood intellectually, and some all at once. And some ... the many many silly crap parts ... are none of that and a waste of time and the timeless. Some express "ecstatic meditative states" and timeless Truths, and some are just hysterical or simply ridiculous.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Since a lot of people experiencing getting stuck in the intellectual arena however, I wanted to highlight the experiential approach. In my humble still-in-training opinion, you can never "get" a sutra intellectually. You can understand what it talks about, but what sutras are pointing to is beyond mere intellectual understanding - and at the same time more intimate and close than your own skin.
    I think you speak well for some Sutras ... but other Sutras (or parts of otherwise wondrous Sutras) are just silly crap expressing not much worth getting.

    Also, some Sutras wash through us and us them (and maybe all just washes washing) beyond the intellectual, and others can be understood intellectually, and some all at once. And some ... the many many silly crap parts ... are none of that.

    Gassho, J
    PS - I take the Shurangama Sutra as a case in point. Many passages worth the price of admission ... many parts that are just crap perhaps. Not even Holy Crap.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    One of the nuns at Bodhi Monastery gave my daughter a sutra to recite daily to cure her lymes disease.

    She means well, and we love her to death, but it makes me wonder. How many people are there that would actually depend on such a thing?

  13. #13

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    Willow;

    Forget about the sutras for now (work with the Hannya Shin Kyo); Just yesterday, Shinkai recommended Dogen http://bit.ly/yLf4oL; specifically, Shobogenzo-zuimonki
    And now that we are on the subject, the Shobogenzo^Zuimonki is filled with many many varied sections, by some of which Dogen shows why he is *the Man*, and which are worth the whole price of admission ... and in some of which Dogen seems to show himself as an anal retentive ass, cold hearted and small minded on some topics. I don't find Dogen always particularly wise or admirable on every page of that book. (The section I most handily call to mind is the one where he advises a young monk to leave his aged mother to starve. I wrote about that a bit here):

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4584

    No book or person is perfect!

    Gassho, J

    One of the nuns at Bodhi Monastery gave my daughter a sutra to recite daily to cure her lymes disease.

    She means well, and we love her to death, but it makes me wonder. How many people are there that would actually depend on such a thing?
    Welll, though I tend to doubt the physical efficacy too ... who knows!? Anyway, couldn't hurt (so long as one seeks other treatment too) and may have some psychological effect. Don't discount the reality of the Placebo effect which can have real, measurable effects on body and mind.

    But it reminds me of an old Jewish joke (suddenly this thread took a scatological turn for some reason) ... Has to be read with a Jewish accent ...

    An actor clutches his chest and collapses on the stage. A fellow actor looks at him, turns to the audience and says, “Is there a doctor in house?”

    No one answers.

    The actor again asks, “Is there a doctor in the house?”

    From the back of the auditorium a little old Jewish lady calls out, “Give him an enema!

    Stunned, the actor cries, “But Madam! This man has had a heart attack. What possible good will an enema do?”

    “It couldn't hurt,” came the calm reply.

  14. #14

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    thanks for the links Shokai

    Willow

  15. #15
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    And there my fellow tree leafers is your Koan for the week.

  16. #16

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    ....and for the joke Jundo ! :lol:

  17. #17

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    My sutra

    Get out of your head
    Into your body mind
    Then drop everything
    A great one said
    'Vast emptiness, nothing holy'

  18. #18

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    My sutra

    Get out of your head
    Into your body mind
    Then drop everything
    A great one said
    'Vast emptiness, nothing holy'
    deep deep bow

    gassho
    greg

  19. #19

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Torei Enji (Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen Lineage)
    In particular, they do not know that in a special transmission outside the teachings, the teachings are never an impediment. Unless the special transmission outside the teachings can embrace the teachings, it is not the genuine special transmission outside the teachings.

    Indeed, the Sutras have a profound meaning and purport. They point out the manifold obstacles to your seeing. Just because the seeing is not clear, one may end up disregarding the golden words of the Tathagata and fail to probe into the depth of those profound principles of the Sutras which are difficult to understand.

    Though our lineage is not based on Sutras and Treatises, these do present a clear mirror. The teachings illuminate one's own nature, and the reflection of one's own nature illuminates the teachings. It is important for 'that' and 'this' to be clear.
    I find this quote interesting!

    There's no truth in Sutras in my opinion. Nothing holy in the Buddha's words.
    Sometimes we find crap in Sutras. Sometimes the Sutras find crap in us! :shock:
    When we find something in a Sutra that disturbs us, that we judge as wrong, maybe the Sutra, functioning as a mirror, is pointing out that we are disturbed, clinging to a view, stuck, that there is something obscuring the mirror. When our mind is in the state of being a clear mirror only, those passages may not be so disturbing. They are just what they are and there is not so much need to categorize them as crap?

    Then again, in Samsara, a lot of what is holy is indeed holy crap! 8)

    /Pontus

  20. #20

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    When our mind is in the state of being a clear mirror only, those passages may not be so disturbing. They are just what they are and there is not so much need to categorize them as crap?

    Then again, in Samsara, a lot of what is holy is indeed holy crap! 8)
    There is nothing wrong with crap. Did I say that there is anything wrong with it? The Buddha is an old shit stick, as the Koan goes. When the mind is clear as a mirror, crap is perfectly beautiful crap.

    The crappy passages in question are not disturbing, so much as not very profound ... even narrow, superstitious or silly.

    To assert that every passage of every Sutra must be sacred, holy and profound is very much like saying that every verse of every chapter of every book of the New and Old Testaments much be sacred, holy and profound. While there is much in the Judeo-Christian books that is amazing and transforming (even if one is not part of those religions) ... and all can be seen as just wonderful myth making ... there is much in there that is superstitious, seemingly violent and bigoted, just plain silly or factually wrong (except, of course, to those who would argue that every single line is God's word, true and meaningful). The Buddhist Sutras, as literature, are not particularly better (though all based on the wonderful premises of Buddhist teachings). One just cannot say that their silly beliefs and legends are silly, but our parallel silly beliefs and legends are not ... because they are ours!

    I think that one cannot discount any story in the Christian Bible as "hard to swallow" if one is then going to turn around and swallow everything in the Buddhist Bibles hook, line and sinker!

    Gassho, J

  21. #21

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    There is nothing wrong with crap. Did I say that there is anything wrong with it? The Buddha is an old shit stick, as the Koan goes. When the mind is clear as a mirror, crap is perfectly beautiful crap.

    The crappy passages in question are not disturbing, so much as not very profound ... even narrow, superstitious or silly.
    Thank you Jundo, I agree.

    When there is nothing wrong with crap, nothing in the crappy passages that is disturbing, if crap is just crap, Buddha's crap, then I'm fine with crap! Nothing wrong with it! Perfect, beautiful crap! :mrgreen:

    I haven't read many Sutras, but I sometimes find a certain passage in a Sutra quite disturbing. I appreciate these moments, because they point out that I'm stuck in a view of how things should be, or that I'm unconsciously wishing Sutras were more perfect sources of wisdom than they may be, not letting things be just as they are. The Sutras in this way reflect my own mind, showing me some of its obscurations. With the clear mirror mind instead reflecting the Sutra, the superstitious parts are in a sense as real as the realistic ones, the silly parts in a sense as profound as the profound ones. Or rather, there is not so much need for the text to make sense. With the discursive, analytical mind, some passages are just narrow, supersticious, silly. And there's nothing wrong with discursive, analytical mind in my opinion, as long as we don't mistake its conclusions for the truth or let it run the whole show.

    And I have never understood why so many people read the Bible so literally. Maybe more Christians would benefit from sitting Zazen.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  22. #22

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Studying the Lotus... I think there just may be more verses of self-praise and descriptions of benefits arising from its study, than there are of actual content! Although the parables are rather substantive.

  23. #23

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin
    Studying the Lotus... I think there just may be more verses of self-praise and descriptions of benefits arising from its study, than there are of actual content! Although the parables are rather substantive.
    Hi Kaishin,

    If reading the Lotus Sutra, you may be interested in looking through this small book too ...

    Visions of Awakening Space and Time (Dogen and the Lotus Sutra) by Taigen Dan Leighton

    This very thoughtful, informative, and highly original study makes a significant contribution to both Dogen and Lotus Sutra studies by showing how Dogen's Zen is rooted in Mahayana worldview, and also how the Lotus Sutra was a key resource for Japanese Zen. Leighton does an outstanding job of juxtaposing the seminal Lotus Sutra with the main writings of Dogen, along with other prominent thinkers in Zen and Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. He also sheds important light on contemporary applications and interpretations of Buddhist theory. ...

    ... This book is an exploration of Dogen's writings on space and time, especially as they relate to the central message of the Lotus Sutra . It demonstrates unity of practice and book learning in Japanese Zen and the unity of the Zen tradition and Buddhist teaching traditions such as Tendai and Kegon. Anyone interested in philosophical or literary aspects of Dogen's teachings and their relationship to Buddhist scriptures will find much to savor. Buddhist practitioners who wish to know how traditional scriptures can speak to contemporary concerns will find much to digest.
    A couple of online essays on the same theme by the author, Soto Priest and Historian Taigen Leighton ...

    The Lotus Sutra as a Source for Dogen's Discourse Style
    http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/...utra_and_dogen

    Dogen's Appropriation of Lotus Sutra Ground and Space
    http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/...ound_and_space

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-15-2012 at 01:20 AM.

  24. #24

    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

    Ah, great--thanks, Jundo!

  25. #25
    Senior Member Seizan's Avatar
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    "Shall I compare thee to a summer day?" Indeed! Well chosen quote!

    Lots to think about with almost every reply posted here, so that bears much reflection. I didn't see anything mentioned about the Middle Way here though. Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way really helped me think through some of these issues. I believe a lot of the sutras really do contain the Shakyamuni Buddha's words and meanings. However, one of his biggest points was not to get caught in the trappings, the words, the exercises etc. I think this is what is drawing me to Zen. The words and stories were tools, a means to an end, and the Middle Way (his true way to enlightenment) was like a highway that surpasses everything. It's not a middle ground between extremes, though extremes are recommended to be avoided, by a way to surpass the extremes in entirety. In the end, according to Buddha, there isn't even dharma! It's like the roadmap, but if you get too caught up in memorizing the map and travelling all willy-nilly to the places listed, you will miss the point entirely.

    I think the sutras make great study and can teach us a lot about active living and guide Buddhists of every denomination on their path, but they are not the end-all-be-all, and Buddha says neither is himself! So is any sutra better than another sutra? Is any sutra the highest? This is an extreme view, and the middle way is the road past extreme views, as laid out by Buddha, but that has to be realized and practiced by your own higher conscience. Shall I compare thee to a summer day? Buddha says no!! Hehe..

    At least, that's my current understanding, which evolves depending on the day!!!!

    Gassho,
    Dani

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