My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

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  • Kaishin
    Member
    • Dec 2010
    • 2322

    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.

    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
    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".
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.
  • Shokai
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Mar 2009
    • 6391

    #2
    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.
    合掌,生開
    gassho, Shokai

    仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

    "Open to life in a benevolent way"

    https://sarushinzendo.wordpress.com/

    Comment

    • Kaishin
      Member
      • Dec 2010
      • 2322

      #3
      Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

      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
      Thanks,
      Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
      Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39450

        #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
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • Hans
          Member
          • Mar 2007
          • 1853

          #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

          Comment

          • Jinyo
            Member
            • Jan 2012
            • 1957

            #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

            Comment

            • Hans
              Member
              • Mar 2007
              • 1853

              #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

              Comment

              • Shokai
                Treeleaf Priest
                • Mar 2009
                • 6391

                #8
                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
                合掌,生開
                gassho, Shokai

                仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

                "Open to life in a benevolent way"

                https://sarushinzendo.wordpress.com/

                Comment

                • Jinyu
                  Member
                  • May 2009
                  • 768

                  #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
                  Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels

                  Comment

                  • Jundo
                    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                    • Apr 2006
                    • 39450

                    #10
                    Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

                    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
                    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39450

                      #11
                      Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

                      Originally posted by Jundo
                      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.
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Daijo
                        Member
                        • Feb 2012
                        • 530

                        #12
                        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?

                        Comment

                        • Jundo
                          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                          • Apr 2006
                          • 39450

                          #13
                          Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

                          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.
                          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                          Comment

                          • Jinyo
                            Member
                            • Jan 2012
                            • 1957

                            #14
                            Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

                            thanks for the links Shokai

                            Willow

                            Comment

                            • Daijo
                              Member
                              • Feb 2012
                              • 530

                              #15
                              Re: My Sutra is Better than Your Sutra!!!

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

                              Comment

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