We all know that the Buddhist canons (specially Mahayana ones) are extensive. A lot of sutras, completely untranslated. There are a lot of doctrines, some sutras threat women as devil, others as essentially the same as men. Others sutras teaches about not to eat garlic's, onions, etc. Some sutras contradicts them self (maybe apparently). Others precepts not even mention it. And a lot more stories like this.
I mean, I'm a lay practitioner, maybe I will never read the complete canon nor study it.
I'm coming from Theravada, basically I thought that only the 5 precepts were necessary, but then, reading, I found Brahma Net Sutra precepts, next to it, Shurangama Sutra, threatening the garlic, onion, etc as evil food, etc. This confuses me a lot, how should I take all of these doctrines? Should I accept whatever sutra I read? Should we take all the sutras literally? Historically correct? Or sometimes the meaning than the history are more important?
I mean I don't want to be a dump Buddhist, but a good one, but sometimes, I feel that all of this is overwhelming.
I've read the Scripture of Brahma's Net several times.
It's kindof a good reminder of the purpose of the precepts.
In Soto we take the 16 great precepts:
The Three Refuges:
I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma,
I take refuge in the Sangha.
The three Pure Precepts:
Cease from evil (or do as little harm as possible)
Do only good
Do good for others
And the Ten Great Precepts, in the spirit of how they were originally taken in that "I vow to undergo the rule of training so that I may teach myself to refrain from...:
Do not Kill
Do not Steal
Do not Covet (for monks taken as Do not indulge sexuality)
Do not say that which is not true (for monks taken as Do not lie)
Do not sell the wine of delusion (for monks taken as Do not drink the wine of delusion)
Do not speak against others (for monks taken as Do not talk about others)
Do not be proud of yourself and devalue others (for monks taken as Do not be proud of yourself and blame others)
Do not be mean in giving either Dharma or wealth. (for monks taken as Do not be mean in giving the wealth of the Dharma)
Do not be angry
Do not defame the Three Treasures (for monks: Do not blame the Three Treasures)
The stuff about the Five pungent roots (garlic, onions, scallions, leeks and ginger) and things of that nature are usually meant for monastics.
They were practical rules back in the day and currently, because not only do say such roots act as a stimulant and mild aphrodisiac (which monks would wish to avoid) but also because in the days before piped hot water (and even today with it) the smell of such things like garlic or strong wild onions coming out of somebody's breath when you've got a meditation hall full of smelly boys sitting around in the tropical heat...
Well you get the idea. Those sortof things cause problems when lots of people are living in close quarters and sitting next to each other.
At Shasta, the monastery I am familiar with, they don't eat garlic and ginger and leeks and scalions, unless it's for a medicinal reason like cold or something, but they will eat well cooked onions, because it's such a part of our western diet, and modern large commercial onions are a lot less potent than wild onions that would have been used back in the day.
They usually boil them down into french onion soup.
But a lot of those rules, again are more of a practical purpose to issues that came up in monastic life.
Although the Scripture of Brahma's Net contains a wonderful amount of good advice for laypeople.
Especially regarding business dealings, etc.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil Singer
" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy