Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

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Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Dharmaswede » Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:48 am

There are so many books to read... I would like to hear whether you think it is more beneficial to read widely (i.e. many books) or deeply (study intently very few books). It is perhaps an impossible question, but I would appreciate some food for thought...

Thank you!
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Madeliaette » Sun Jul 31, 2011 2:32 pm

Well, from my own personal experience, I try to do both!

I will read all sorts of Buddhist literature - mostly Tibetan - but there are a few books I am 'studying' rather than just reading.... Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life and the Tibetan book of the Dead at the moment. (The first I am email-studying with a Rinpoche and the latter I am doing DIY by reading multiple versions.)

:reading: :twothumbsup:
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sun Jul 31, 2011 2:53 pm

Dharmaswede wrote:There are so many books to read... I would like to hear whether you think it is more beneficial to read widely (i.e. many books) or deeply (study intently very few books). It is perhaps an impossible question, but I would appreciate some food for thought...

Thank you!

I think it's a bit like how Madeliaette said above. There are books that you can read without studying and there are those you can study. If you have a more general book, directed to a wider audience, then probably you can read it once and it suffices. This sort of books helps you getting an overall picture about Buddhism and its community. You get a sense of where you are, where you're headed, what others do and that sort of stuff. They help discovering the overall "environment".

Then you have literature about the teachings. Here deepness is the most important factor. Read and contemplate, clarify your doubts and reread doing the whole process again until you feel you are completely at ease with that particular teaching. Put it in practice if that's the case. :smile: It's good to be following a certain direction when choosing these books. Generally it's wise to ask advice to one's teacher about what would be more beneficial to study.
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Dharmaswede » Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:52 pm

Thank you for your replies, they make sense and I appreciate them. It is indeed good to have a mix of light and heavier readings, and for me helpful to distinguish between these two (albeit arbitrary) categories. I have also learnt not to be too random and spontaneous in my reading – you can read a lot about Tibetan Buddhism that is not related to your practice - "direction" is indeed a key word here! That's still beneficial of course, but not so effective given the scarcity of time and the shortness of a human life. (Madeliaette: Sounds like we are in the same Shedra studying Shantideva.)

Thanks again,

Jens
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 31, 2011 6:04 pm

Study widely and deeply.

Dharma learning is like making a deposit in the bank for this and future lives.

Panditas attain buddhahood faster than kusulis.

N
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby username » Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:30 pm

In heuristics Intelligence this dilemma is called depth-first vs. breadth-first search. As far as practice is concerned there is an old saying Indian masters who brought dharmato Tibet used to say regarding why there were so many great numbers of old Indian siddhas. They used to say you Tibetans seek and initiate into many tantric systems but in India we choose one and accomplish that and one accompplishes all. This is what DN was rightly saying on focusing on a direction. Some tantric systems are not complete paths but some are, from soup to nuts. Also different people have different karmic connections with different complete systems.

On studying nothing is wasted for future lifetimes as Namdrol said and it all collects somewhere even if we don't notice it and same with practice so a general interest is healthy but also specializing as DN said on our chosen complete path is apt. Training even continues between lifetimes for people on the path or bhumis by various means in various kayas too. Finally it is not just dharma books, teachers and practices but the whole world is the ultimate non-stop glorious classroom in every way and moment.
Dzogchen masters I know say: 1)Buddhist religion essence is Dzogchen 2)Religions are positive by intent/fruit 3)Any method's OK unless: breaking Dzogchen vows, mixed as syncretic (Milanese Soup) 4)Don't join mandalas of opponents of Dalai Lama/Padmasambhava: False Deity inventors by encouraging victims 5)Don't debate Ati with others 6)Don't discuss Ati practices online 7) A master told his old disciple: no one's to discuss his teaching with some others on a former forum nor mention him. Publicity's OK, questions are asked from masters/set teachers in person/email/non-public forums~Best wishes
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Sonam Wangchug » Sun Jul 31, 2011 8:29 pm

Panditas attain enlightenment quicker than kusuli's?

How is this so? could you post something in support of this

thanks
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 31, 2011 8:36 pm

Sonam Wangchug wrote:Panditas attain enlightenment quicker than kusuli's?

How is this so? could you post something in support of this

thanks


Sakya Pandita addresses this question extensively in his reply to Nyemo Gomchen:


There are two kinds of Buddhist panditas and Buddhist kusalis i.e. the panditas and kusalis of the perfection vehicle will become Buddhas, but it takes a long time, three incalculable eons and so on. The pair of panditas and kusalis of the secret mantra vehicle quickly attain Buddhahood because of the arrangement of inner interconnections. In addition, a so called “pandita” is described as “A scholar in the foundation of outer and inner objects of knowledge.” A so called “kusali” is described as “One who inwardly has the most dedication inwardly after severing all outer distractions.”

In terms of actual perfect Buddhahood: first, having become knowledgeable about all objects of knowledge the pandita has severed doubt through hearing, reflection and meditation. Then, because of severing doubt through meditating which makes samadhi essential, gradually attains Buddhahood after actualizing the Dharma of realization is a pandita. A kusali necessarily has the same basis, but when considered alone, a pandita is closer to Buddhahood.

Now then, if it is wondered whether there is a conflict with the statement in The Ratnakuta sūtra:

    Compared with someone who listens for ten eons
    and then gives explanations to others,
    when someone who meditates for just a moment,
    the merit of the latter is greater than the former.

The intent of that: the intention is that mediation is when a scholar understands the meaning of the object of meditation, but without understanding what sort of beneficial qualities can there be? Also Vinaya states:

    Don’t meditate in mountain retreats without being a master of the canon.

The Abhidharmakośa states:

    Possessing basis of discipline, hearing and reflection,
    is best applied in meditation.

And as the Āryācharya Nāgārjuna states:

    Without relying on convention,
    the ultimate will not be realized,
    without realizing the ultimate,
    nirvana will not be attained.

Therefore, since it is said many times “…liberation is attained in this life by listening the categories from all the sutras”, it is said that “…if one is not liberated by hearing, later on one should meditate.”
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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: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Luke » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:05 pm

My lama, who emphasizes the Longchen Nyingthig, has said, "Reading 'The Words of My Perfect Teacher' one hundred times is more valuable than reading one hundred different books." So he seems to think that studying a key text for your tradition deeply is more important than studying widely, but he never said that also studying widely is bad. It just seems to be a matter of taking care of the important stuff first and then analyzing how much time you have left over to read other stuff.
***********

I think there's nothing wrong with reading a lot of Buddhist books, but I think that it can sometimes be an obstacle if a person reads too much about advanced meditation techniques before he or she is at the level of practicing them. Having too many fantasies about certain techniques can become an obstacle when one encounters a real lama and has to go through instruction from the beginning on the lama's terms. What good is reading a pile of Dzogchen books to someone who hasn't yet learned about the teachings contained in Ngondro? What good is reading a pile of books about the Six Yogas of Naropa to someone who doesn't even have a lama yet? One the one hand, there's nothing wrong with being inspired and curious, but on the other hand, it often just sets one up for disappointment because it takes a long time to get to the point where one is ready to receive such advanced teachings.

So I think just as important an issue is which sequence you should read books in and reading the right books for your current level of practice.
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Re: Reading strategy: study widely or deeply?

Postby Will » Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:07 pm

No one has deigned to translate panditas or kusulis for we, the unlettered. I will guess, based on context, that a pandita is a scholarly type with some meditation and a kusuli meditates mainly, with little study?
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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