Template of the Mahayana sutras?

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Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby Rakshasa » Tue Dec 25, 2012 8:14 pm

I have read quite a few Mahayana Sutra and if I were to generalize the template in which the Sutras are composed (although any generalization is bad), it would be something like:

"This is the best Sutra...
If you copy and recite this Sutra, such and such are the benefits...
...Such and such Bodhisattva attained enlightenment through this Sutra...
..finally a chapter here and there talking about morality (or in some cases doctrinal points)..."

In most cases, more than 70% of the Sutra's content is about the value of that Sutra and its benefits. Could it be that it was composed this way because early Buddhist teachings (Sutras) were supposed to be preserved in memory through recitation and the inclusion of this part makes it easier to memorize?

Or, could it be that the Sutra is teaching "emptiness"? Something like

Q. What is the best Sutra?
A. "This is the best Sutra. Preserve it and propagate it. Here ends the Sutra."
:P

So is it really the "emptiness" of any doctrine that is the doctrine being conveyed in the Sutra?

No offense, but since I do not have any real Buddhist teacher around, I study (and often practice) on my own. And because of this confusion of the Sutras, I find it much more reliable to refer to the commentaries of Buddhist masters instead of relying on the Sutras themselves.
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby Rakshasa » Wed Dec 26, 2012 6:50 am

Okay I finally found a good article explaining how to approach the Mahayana Sutras in Nan Huai Chin's site (article is by him?)
http://www.lapislazulitexts.com/article ... ing_sutras

I like this part especially:

For example, if a reader seems to find only instructions on how to increase their merit, and he or she is uncertain about the rest of the contents, then the text is telling this person something very directly: “You lack the merit required for further teachings, and so you should carry out such-and-such practices. In addition, you should definitely continue to read and uphold this text, because it is very profound, and can help you along the way.”


It seems I lack merits and that is why the only thing I find in Mahayana Sutras is the teaching on how to gain merit!
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:40 am

My favorite Sutra line so far:

"It is true because it is not false".

Thanks for clearing that up Heart Sutra.

I think you are probably onto something with the memorization bit. Even many of the Pali Suttas have this ridiculous amount of repetition and reiteration, I assume for the same reasons.

I actually enjoying read Sutra for myself, but I go very slow..read a paragraph, then digest it a bit, another, and that's that. Can't read something like Lankavatara in one sitting and get anything out of it. I think it took me ten readings of so of the Diamond Sutra to start getting it...there is something in the format that sort makes me zone out and I have to constantly wake myself up.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby Ayu » Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:00 am

Rakshasa wrote:
For example, if a reader seems to find only instructions on how to increase their merit, and he or she is uncertain about the rest of the contents, then the text is telling this person something very directly: “You lack the merit required for further teachings, and so you should carry out such-and-such practices. In addition, you should definitely continue to read and uphold this text, because it is very profound, and can help you along the way.”


It seems I lack merits and that is why the only thing I find in Mahayana Sutras is the teaching on how to gain merit!

This happens to me also: when i force myself to read something sometimes i don't understand even one word. Then a year later when i went through various changes in my mind the same text will be read easily and the contents is crystal clear. :smile:

Johnny Dangerous wrote:... Even many of the Pali Suttas have this ridiculous amount of repetition and reiteration, I assume for the same reasons.

I actually enjoying read Sutra for myself, but I go very slow..read a paragraph, then digest it a bit, another, and that's that. Can't read something like Lankavatara in one sitting and get anything out of it. I think it took me ten readings of so of the Diamond Sutra to start getting it...there is something in the format that sort makes me zone out and I have to constantly wake myself up.


Tsongkapa advices in the Lamrim Chenmo that a text should be not only read but be meditated for some time.
So in my opinion you have the best way to read, like you do. The skriptures can not be read quickly like any other book, they have to be contemplated thoroughly.
Also the amount of repetition in the pali sutras isn't really ridiculous when watched in this light. The repetions have a calming effect and they bring the topic to the bottom of the mind.
But for us in this fast times with our quick and jumping minds it is sometimes like a torture to read such texts in a patient manner. :smile:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby Astus » Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:19 pm

Mahayana Sutras were written texts from the beginning, unlike the agamas as we can see in the Pali Canon. The statement about the importance of a given sutra is like a self-advertisement in order to have the sutra be spread and preserved.

There are sutras describing meditation techniques and wisdom teachings besides moral subjects. Here are some popular ones: Vimalakirti Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Surangamasamadhi Sutra, Amitabha Sutra, Prajnaparamita in 8000 Verses Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Samdhinirmocana Sutra.

See some collections of Mahayana scriptures here:

http://fodian.net/world/
http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra0.html
http://www4.bayarea.net/~mtlee/
http://lirs.ru/lib/
http://www2.hf.uio.no/polyglotta/index. ... rary&bid=2
http://www.bdkamerica.org/default.aspx?MPID=81
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:06 am

We find the same sort of statements in the tantras as well.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby randomseb » Thu Feb 07, 2013 8:23 am

I am of the opinion that this is not actually self-aggrandizement, but rather something along the lines of "if you put this teaching into practice yourself, it's value/your merit/etc is infinitely better than x,y,z"

The Lotus sutra is chalk-full of that kind of talk about the lotus sutra heh
Disclaimer: If I have posted about something, then I obviously have no idea what I am talking about!
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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby kirtu » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:44 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:My favorite Sutra line so far:

"It is true because it is not false".

Thanks for clearing that up Heart Sutra.


Well, it's the truth, not a lie.

I think it took me ten readings of so of the Diamond Sutra to start getting it...


Only ten readings?!?!? Next stop - the buhmis! :tongue:

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Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:00 pm

When I was a Christian, I learned to 'mystically' interpret various passages from the Bible. IMO, the same or similar can be done with the Sutras. As one progresses deeper in their practice, more and more of the meaning of the Sutra is brought out, which may seem quite mystical at times. There's something about the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings that makes me think this, not something in the sutra itself, but just the very title of it.

As far as the repetition in some/many of the Sutras goes, I don't have a ready answer. I know from reading the Lotus Sutra, however, that it can be quite annoying, but I'm hoping I'm just not deep enough in my practice yet to understand it. (As far as "this is the best sutra" thing goes)
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
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