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Thread: Fundamental sutras to be studied?

  1. #1

    Fundamental sutras to be studied?

    Hi all. I have a quick question. What are the fundamental sutras that everyone should be reading for Zen? I do know the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra, but what are some of the other important ones that I should digest in the quest (non-quest) of Zen knowledge? Thanks in advance for any advice. Gassho, Scott

  2. #2
    Hi Scott,

    This might be a good place to start:
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  3. #3
    Hi Kaishin, Thanks for the link. Answered my question to the Tee :-). I think I might to try to tackle the Surangama Sutra next. Gassho, Scott

  4. #4
    Thank you Kaishin! Saved me a hunt! That is the link.

    Actually, in our way "Beyond Words and Letters", I would call Sutra study as not really necessary for Zen Practice, but certainly helpful as one delves deeper in the Teachings, Buddhist history, Dogen and the like.

    It is a bit like saying that one does not need to read the biography of Beethoven, or know how to read music, in order to appreciate his Symphonies.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Thank you, Jundo sensei. I know I shouldn't have attachment to sutras nor their interpretations, but I have always enjoyed the Diamond Sutra :-). Gassho, Scott

  6. #6

    Fundamental sutras to be studied?

    Hi ScottH
    I've always liked diving into history, through sutras or other means like the feature film about Dogen, of which I've forgotten the name.

    Edit: the film is called "Zen".
    No wonder I forgot it... Anyway it's fully available on youtube if you like!

    Thanks for the link Kaishin



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  7. #7

    just my hair splitting comment as an ex TV guy ....please let me add that if you REALLY like the film, you might consider buying it on DVD, because not just the producer, but everyone down to the make up people and studio drivers rely on the audience to actually pay for content, so that they can keep their jobs.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  8. #8
    I would say that the best way to approach most of the Mahayana Sutras, with their fantastic imagery, exaggerated language and parables, is much as one would approach old Greek Myths. Amid all the wild descriptions and magic are Timeless Truths. The folks who wrote them (centuries after the historical Buddha lived, even though all claim to be his words) were trying to capture fantastic and wonderful Teachings by depicting them in fantastic and wondrous ways. And they are.

    However, the Sutras themselves are so filled with incredible stories, inconsistencies, wild happenings, magic creatures and miracles that, well, they can make the Judeo-Christians Old Testament look consistent and down to earth by comparison! However, like all good fiction and story telling, the point is the message which is being conveyed by all that. Also, so many of the parables and poems are of incredible power and beauty.

    Also, realize that they were written by different authors (sometimes even the same sutra had many authors) sometimes each trying to convey very different, often contradictory, philosophical positions (putting words in the Buddha's mouth naturally supporting the position advocated by the author). Probably the authors did not consider that they were doing this, but believed that they were somehow "channeling" the Buddha as they wrote. What is more, some of those positions are treasures no matter the source.

    The religious biopic, "ZEN", about Dogen is also pretty sweet and idealizes its subject ... much as one would expect in a religious movie. However, it is an entertaining and worthwhile film nonetheless which tells the basic story (with quite a bit of drama added) of Dogen's life. Here is my review ...

    Gassho, J

    Here is another example of Lotus Sutra wonder, outdoing even the best Hollywood special effects in the story telling ...

    At that time in the Buddha's presence there was a tower adorned with the seven treasures, five hundred yojanas in height and two hundred and fifty yojanas in width and depth, that rose up out of the earth and stood suspended in the air. Various kinds of precious objects adorned it. It had five thousand railings, a thousand, ten thousand rooms, and numberless streamers and banners decorated it. Festoons of jewels hung down and ten thousand million jeweled bells were suspended from it. All four sides emitted a fragrance of tamalapatra and sandalwood that pervaded the whole world. Its banners and canopies were made of the seven treasures, namely, gold, silver, lapis Lazuli, seashell, agate, pearl, and carnelian, and it as so high it reached to the heavenly places of the Four Heavenly Kings. The gods of the Trayastrimsha heaven rained down heavenly mandarava flowers as an offering to the treasure tower, and the other heavenly beings and the dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings, an assembly of thousands, ten thousands, millions, offered all kinds of flowers, incense, necklaces, streamers, canopies and music as alms to the treasure tower, paying it reverence, honor and praise.

    At that time a loud voice issued from the treasure tower, speaking words of praise: "Excellent, excellent! Shakyamuni, World-Honored One, that you can take a great wisdom of equality, a Law to instruct the bodhisattvas, guarded and kept in mind by the Buddhas, the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful law, and preach it for the sake of the great assembly! It is as you say, as you say. Shakyamuni, World-Honored One, all that you have expounded is the truth!"

    At that time the four kinds of believers saw the great treasure tower suspended in the air, and they heard the voice that issued from the tower. All experienced the joy of the Law, marveling at this thing they had never known before. They rose from their seats, pressed their palms together in reverence, and then retired to one side.

    At that time there was a bodhisattva and mahasattva named Great Joy of Preaching, who understood the doubts that were in the minds of the heavenly and human beings, asuras and other beings of all the world. He said to the Buddha: "World-Honored One, for what reason has this treasure tower risen up out of the earth? And why does this voice issue from its midst?"

    At that time the Buddha said: "Bodhisattva Great Joy of Preaching, in the treasure tower is the complete body of a Thus Come One. Long ago, an immeasurable thousand, ten thousand million of asamkhyas of worlds to the east, in a land called Treasure Purity, there was a Buddha named Many Treasures. When this Buddha was originally carrying out the bodhisattva way, he made a great vow, saying, "If after I have become a Buddha and entered extinction, in the lands in the ten directions there is any place where the Lotus Sutra is preached, then my funerary tower, in order that I may listen to the sutra, will come forth and appear in that spot to testify to the sutra and praise its excellence.'

    "When that Buddha had finished carrying out the Buddha way and was on the point of passing into extinction, in the midst of the great assembly of heavenly and human beings he said to the monks, 'After I have passed into extinction, if there are those who wish to offer alms to my complete body, then they should erect a great tower.' That Buddha, through his transcendental powers and the power of his vow, insures that, throughout the worlds in the ten directions, no matter in what place, if there are those who preach the Lotus Sutra, this treasure tower will in all cases come forth and appear in their presence, and his complete body will be in the tower, speaking words of praise and saying, Excellent, excellent!

    "Great Joy of Preaching, now this tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, because it heard the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, has come forth out of the ground and speaks words of praise, saying, Excellent, Excellent!"

    At this time Bodhisattva Great Joy of Preaching, knowing the supernatural powers of the Thus Come One, spoke to the Buddha, saying, "World-Honored One, we wish to see the body of this Buddha."

    The Buddha said to the bodhisattva and mahasattva Great Joy of Preaching, "This Many Treasures Buddha has taken a profound vow, saying, 'When my treasure tower, in order to listen to the Lotus Sutra comes forth into the presence of one of the Buddhas, if there should be those who wish me to show my body to the four kinds of believers, then let the various Buddhas who are emanations of that Buddha and who are preaching the Law in the worlds in the ten directions all return and gather around that Buddha in a single spot. Only when that has been done will my body become visible.' Great Joy Preaching, I will now gather together the various Buddhas that are emanations of my body and that are preaching the Law in the worlds in the ten directions."

    Great Joy of Preaching said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, I and the others also wish to see these Buddhas that are emanations of the World-Honored One, and to make obeisance to them and offer alms."

    At that time the Buddha emitted a ray of light from the tuft of white hair [between his eyebrows], immediately making visible the Buddhas in the eastern region in lands as numerous as five hundred ten thousand million nayutas of Ganges sands. The earth in all these lands was made of crystal, and the lands were adorned with jeweled trees and jeweled robes. Countless thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas filled them, and everywhere were hung jeweled curtains, with jeweled nets covering them over. The Buddhas in these lands preached the various doctrines of the Law with great and wonderful voices, and one could see immeasurable thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas filling all these lands and preaching the Law for the assembly. In the southern, western and northern regions as well, and in the four intermediate quarters and up and down, wherever the beam from the tuft of white hair, a characteristic feature of the Buddha, shone, the same was true.
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-01-2014 at 12:17 PM.

  9. #9
    My apologies, I was under the impression that creators of films allowed on youtube are payed for views of their band gets some money for views on youtube. But perhaps that works differently for film. In any case by all means buy the film, I don't mean to support unlawful viewing

    As Jundo says it is of course heavily dramatised, but still I think it does give an impression of history. I really liked it and it's in my digital library anyway


    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by vanMeerdervoort View Post
    My apologies, I was under the impression that creators of films allowed on youtube are payed for views of their band gets some money for views on youtube. But perhaps that works differently for film. In any case by all means buy the film, I don't mean to support unlawful viewing

    As Jundo says it is of course heavily dramatised, but still I think it does give an impression of history. I really liked it and it's in my digital library anyway


    Hi Vincent,

    I believe I heard somewhere (don't know where) that this film is allowed on Youtube in some way by the Soto School in Japan, who see it as a Teaching activity.

    So, if it is available in this case, please watch it online.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11
    Hi Jundo,

    I wouldn't be surprised!


    Last edited by Ongen; 07-04-2014 at 08:39 AM.
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  12. #12
    Hello guys,

    I won't push the issue any further after this posting...and it's not the end of the world...but the guy whose youtube channel this is on has only one listed video and otherwise comments on motorcycle related stuff. So the channel it is on is definitely
    not a Soto-Shu channel.

    But hey, your are all grown ups, so please by all means decide yourselves how to use cultural property created by other people.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  13. #13
    Hi Hans,

    It's a valuable discussion, although not on topic It might very well be that the production company is payed for every view of their film, through every YouTube user. It might also be illegal publication...

    Just to be sure, I have contacted the production company and asked them what is the case. I will post their answer here.

    Thank you for pointing this out, the truth will reveal itself


    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  14. #14
    Hi Guys,

    I received word from the producer (below) which is not very conclusive but suggests they're not happy with the situation. I've also contacted the distributor which is the (non-profit) buddhist film foundation. Nice to find these things out on the go Meanwhile take a look here:http://www.buddhistfilmfoundation.or...val-media/zen/ and support all kinds of buddhist goals and artists if you want, through buying the film. It's worth it for sure!

    Dear Mr.Vincent Pompe van Meerdervoort

    Thank you for information.

    But, We can not do anything.

    Because do not have "Zen"`s right.

    Thank you for cooperation.


    株式会社 KADOKAWA
    角川書店 ブランドカンパニー
    角川映画 Webお問い合わせ係

    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  15. #15
    Hey Scott,

    The Surangama Sutra was a bit too much for me on the first read, even if you see through all the mystical and miraculous elements to the message trying to be conveyed. Might recommend the Platform Autra too, and (it's not a sutra but still worth a read) the Compass of Zen. Like Jundo said, they aren't quite necessary but they can be decent pointing fingers. The old saying is, "Burn the sutras!" but the people who said that had already read them hundreds of times haha. If you're a recovering intellect addict like myself, I'd recommend not getting too wrapped up in the words themselves and look to the Silent Dharma they imply.

    Gassho, Bookish John

  16. #16
    Hi Hans, Jundo,

    The final conclusion about the Zen movie -and Hans was right:

    Dear Vincent,

    we are very appreciative of your question and the ethical consideration it represents. the answer is that ZEN should not be on YouTube of course, and constant efforts are required to keep it (and our other films) from being illegally posted, though there are always well-meaning folks who will want to share their enthusiasms for free, the rights of the filmmakers notwithstanding. that said, we only control the distribution for North America, so we can only do our best on behalf of the producers in Japan.

    thanks again for your respectful interest in ZEN.

    with best wishes,

    Gaetano Kazuo Maida
    Executive Director
    Festival Media

    Zaentz Media Center2600 Tenth St., Suite 409

    Berkeley, CA 94710 USA
    I will conclude with the link to their website again and then return to the original topic. Apologies for hijacking it temporarily!



    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  17. #17
    A sutra that we used to chant in the zen group I started off in was the Kanzeon. I just discovered that even after 23 years not chanting it, I can still do so from memory. It's a very short one but I love how it hits the core.

    Kan ze on
    na mu butsu
    yo butsu u in
    yo butsu u en
    bup po so en
    jo raku ga jo
    cho nen Kan ze on
    bo nen Kan ze on
    nen nen ju shin ki
    nen nen fu ri shin

    and the translation (picked right of the internet, unverified)

    Kanzeon, one with Buddha
    Directly Buddha, indirectly Buddha
    One with Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
    Pure Joyful True Self Eternal
    Morning mind, Kanzeon


    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  18. #18
    I invite everyone who knows to chant this (and at least one not-one can really well...),
    please to do a recording of this...

    I've looked on Youtube, and the sound is awful, so I can't practice for Thursdays.


  19. #19
    The LANKAVATARA is an eye-opener for me. I'm reading Red Pine's version with the D. T. Suzuki COMMENTARIES ON THE LANKAVATARA SUTRA. This is wonderful stuff. Theteaching on Repository Mind vs daily mind is explained so clerly....or maybe I am at apoint where I can see it. No mater, all is good there.
    Also just read the SUTRA OF COMPLETE ENLIGHTENMENT with commentaries by Master Sheng-yen is a grabber. He is such a wonderful compasionate teacher, so gear to western parctitioners.
    "Know that the practice of zazen is the complete path of buddha-dharma and nothing can be compared to is not the practice of one or two buddhas but all the buddha ancestors practice this way."
    Dogen zenji in Bendowa

  20. #20
    Hello all,

    My current favorite is the Diamond Sutra. Let it read you, over and over again.



  21. #21
    Hi all,

    I agree, Chet. The Diamond Sutra is my favorite, though I do have a healthy respect for the Lotus Sutra as well.

    Scott (Currently listening to The Who, "Who Are You")
    Forever is so very temporary...

  22. #22
    I would just say about how one should read these Sutras ... Find the Clarity of Illumination that shines right through all, all is Empty and all is Whole. This Silent Light that shines in/behind/right through/as the ideas as well as the silent spaces between the words is Thinking-Non-Thinking.

    Gassho, J

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