Are sutra's to be taken literally?

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Are sutra's to be taken literally?

Postby Ervin » Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:46 am

Peace. I have read in the past sutra ot Avalokitesvara bodhisatva mahasatva. I got it from the temple in Melbourne city.

And it preaty much talks about miracles that would happen if you had faith and called upon this bodhisatva. Now are those miracles to be taken literally or metaforicaly?

Thanks
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby kirtu » Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:57 am

Ervin wrote:Now are those miracles to be taken literally or metaforicaly?


It depends. The short answer is metaphorically however miracles do happen - people can become compassionate.

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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Vipassualty » Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:14 am

I can only speak for Theravada suttas, but the Lord Buddha always makes it very clear whenever he is using an analogy to be interpreted as an analogy. Otherwise suttas are intended to be taken literally.
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Vipassualty » Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:41 am

You will see that, aside from being the perfect self-enlightened one, the Buddha also employed a marvellous literary mind.

Index of Similes from the Pali Canon: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-similes.html
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Konchog1 » Mon Dec 26, 2011 5:05 am

Ervin wrote:Peace. I have read in the past sutra ot Avalokitesvara bodhisatva mahasatva. I got it from the temple in Melbourne city.

And it preaty much talks about miracles that would happen if you had faith and called upon this bodhisatva. Now are those miracles to be taken literally or metaforicaly?

Thanks
Well, there are various theories across schools about how this works and the nature of deities, but yes. They are meant to be taken literally.

However, by calling upon a Bodhisattva it doesn't mean to only say his name. As Thrangu Rinpoche put it in his teachings on the Medicine Buddha, one has to also reflect and be awed by his qualities and on that basis gain faith.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:37 am

Ervin wrote:Peace. I have read in the past sutra ot Avalokitesvara bodhisatva mahasatva. I got it from the temple in Melbourne city.

And it preaty much talks about miracles that would happen if you had faith and called upon this bodhisatva. Now are those miracles to be taken literally or metaforicaly?

Thanks


Since very early times, commentators described texts as being "nitartha" or "neyartha".
The former are "fully drawn out", and require no further exegesis.
The latter are "to be drawn out", and require further exegesis or explanation.
This shows that they realized that some teachings are pretty much literal, and others are not.
The only question then, is which sutras are which - and that's where most disagree.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 26, 2011 5:09 pm

Huifeng wrote:The only question then, is which sutras are which - and that's where most disagree.




Well, duh, it is the ones I like.

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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Huifeng » Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:51 am

Namdrol wrote:
Huifeng wrote:The only question then, is which sutras are which - and that's where most disagree.




Well, duh, it is the ones I like.

N


Evil heretic! It's the one's I like!

:tongue:

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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:50 pm

So, like, in the good ol' days there was a fiction and non-fiction section in the Dharma library for readers to choose from then? :tongue:
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:56 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:So, like, in the good ol' days there was a fiction and non-fiction section in the Dharma library for readers to choose from then? :tongue:
:namaste:



Well, there was a my sutra/not my sutra section.

You see this all the time in Indian scholastic debates where one person says in such and such as sutra it says x and the reponse is "we don't read that sutra so your point is irrelevant"

Sutras and tantras are secondary to personal experience. This is why a Buddhism fundamentalism is impossible. We can certainly use sutras to illustrate our points, but there is no settled 'canon". Gzhan stong pas have their scriptures, Gelugs have theirs, Zen has another canon; Theravada theirs, etc.
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Ervin » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:11 am

Peace. And how do you diferentiate between fiction and non fiction? And why is there fiction at all? Why confuse people?

And the last question is how many of you believe that the mention with sinciere faith in Avalokitesvara would see you saved literally in all those situations mentioned in the surta?

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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Will » Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:13 am

Is not putting personal experience primary and written Dharma secondary, a fundamentalist view? What could be more basic than "I the Ego" know better than Buddha's recorded teachings?

No - that swamp is not good for we newbies to the Dharma. Accept the sutras & shastras as literally true and one's path will be much smoother.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Mr. G » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:17 am

Ervin wrote:how many of you believe that the mention with sinciere faith in Avalokitesvara would see you saved literally in all those situations mentioned in the surta?


Yes, I do, but it won't override karma unless you're a Buddha.

This last episode of Moggallana's life, however, showed that the law of moral causality (Kamma) has even greater power than the supernormal feats of this master of magic. Only a Buddha can control the karmic consequences acting upon his body to such an extent that nothing might cause his premature death.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .html#ch10
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby kirtu » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:21 am

Ervin wrote:And the last question is how many of you believe that the mention with sinciere faith in Avalokitesvara would see you saved literally in all those situations mentioned in the surta?

Thanks


Which miracles are these? It sounds like a sutra popular in Chinese Buddhism - so is one of the stories about a person about to be executed and he recites Kwan Yin's name all night and isn't executed in the morning. Well, that definitely happened. And it also definitely happened that some people did the same and were executed.

BTW - I'm not denying that miracles happen. They definitely do.

Kirt
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:33 am

Will wrote:Is not putting personal experience primary and written Dharma secondary, a fundamentalist view?


Nope. The Sakya school, for example, teaches four authorities: text, oral instruction, guru, and experience.

Of those four, it is only the last that confirms the first three as authoritative. This is why the buddha instructs us that he cannot remove our suffering, or hand us liberation, but only show us the path.

And for that reason, I instruct my students to rely on their experience rather than some words in a book. Why, because I am a practitioner who has confirmed the truth of the essence of the dharma in my own experience, and that was not based on some words in a book.

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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Will » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:45 am

Namdrol wrote:
Will wrote:Is not putting personal experience primary and written Dharma secondary, a fundamentalist view?


Nope. The Sakya school, for example, teaches four authorities: text, oral instruction, guru, and experience.

Of those four, it is only the last that confirms the first three as authoritative. This is why the buddha instructs us that he cannot remove our suffering, or hand us liberation, but only show us the path.

And for that reason, I instruct my students to rely on their experience rather than some words in a book. Why, because I am a practitioner who has confirmed the truth of the essence of the dharma in my own experience, and that was not based on some words in a book.

N


But if one does not accept as authoritative (as do many) the benchmarks of text, oral teachings & guru, then personal experience is not just primary, but the exclusive source of "truth". And if the Dharma is not understood fully & correctly, from whatever source, then "experience" can confirm nonsense that leads to more sorrow and/or reject devas, rebirth and other so-called cultural trappings.

I am not advocating "reliance" only on scripture, but just in the four-fold sense, where the first step is literal acceptance, with deeper views coming later.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:52 am

Will wrote:
I am not advocating "reliance" only on scripture, but just in the four-fold sense, where the first step is literal acceptance, with deeper views coming later.


No, this leads to far too many contradictions because there are far too many contradictory sutras. For this reasons, in terms of sutra hermeneutics we are given the famous formula:

Follow the dharma, not the person;
the meaning, not the words;
the definitive meaning, not the provisional meaning;
wisdom, not conceptuality.

Again, the ultimate authority is personal experience.

In terms of what I offered you, since it is hard to understand the sutras and tantras, you need to rely on oral instruction. In order to rely on oral instruction, you need a teacher. But in order to confirm the teacher's instruction is correct, you need your experience of the path. So again, in the end, experience is the final authority in dharma.

And Buddha wanted it that way.

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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby Will » Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:57 am

Focusing on step one; it says put your personal experience of the literal Dharma first - not the person who explains it for you. But in order to do that, one must have enough confidence or faith in the plain sutra text as authoritative as is. The fact that we (most of us) deal with translations and much innate ignorance is no excuse for fobbing off responsibility for our initial understanding to another.

Step One: Follow the [scriptural buddha] dharma, not the person [who dazzles with his spin].
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby LastLegend » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:23 am

Ervin wrote:Peace. And how do you diferentiate between fiction and non fiction? And why is there fiction at all? Why confuse people?

And the last question is how many of you believe that the mention with sinciere faith in Avalokitesvara would see you saved literally in all those situations mentioned in the surta?

Thanks


True, you will be saved because you decided to believe in Avalokitesvara-this means that you will change for the good. But if you say you believe in Avalokitesvara, but you continue to do evil, no Bodhisattva can save you.

As for teachings and practice, they are one. Personal experience has to reflect the teachings.

Peace.
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NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Are sutra's to be taken literaly?

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:17 am

On the other hand, there are those of us who do not think believing in any deity will save anything. If there is anything to be saved in the first place. As a matter of fact I find it odd that any Buddhist thinks in terms of salvation, which strikes me as a very Christian idea. But, there are many paths, for all I know the salvationists are right.

My experience of Buddhism has been that is more like building a city than finding a great treasure somewhere that will solve all problems. Slowly I have accumulated something of a meditation practice, some mental techniques for fighting off self destructive thinking, and a habit of mindfulness that actually functions once in a while. These things in turn have led to a recognition that bodhicitta is a worthwhile aspiration, the adoption of that aspiration, and even occasional implementation of that aspiration. It's all very ragged and spotty at the moment, but it is slowly shaping up as many elements of practice mutually reinforce each other. It has taken years just to get this far, and if by the end of my days I can function as a bodhisattva even a few percent of the time each day, this life will have been well spent.

On this path, the sutras serve as a field of ideas and purposes. I will take literally anything I can apply or understand, I will take metaphorically anything that seems beneficial as a metaphor, but always the goal is to find things I can practice effectively. So I don't think literalness or metaphor-ness resides in the actual scriptures, they are alternate paths and the choice of which path to take depends greatly on the strengths and weaknesses of one's current practice.
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