how much is enough

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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jcsuperstar
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how much is enough

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:11 am

when i read these forums (and the other too) the thing is see a lot from Theravada buddhists is there is never any end to quotes. it's like one must know a million suttas.

yet when i was a Zen buddhist this was never the case, now i read way more than i had to, but it seems like in zen, all you need to know is a few key sutras, some old stories and a few books by a few masters and you were set. the rest was just zazen. and you could get rather far with this. direct experience was the key not quotes and study.

is this even possible in theravada? is there an equivilent? or must we all become scholars?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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mikenz66
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Re: how much is enough

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:57 am

I guess the non-scholars don't bother to post and just practise...

Actually I seem to have read more Suttas than my (monastic) teachers, though my Bangladeshi teachers has quite a few memorised...

I'm trying to give up listening to Dhamma talks on MP3 on my walks too and from work. I think it's probably more beneficial to just treat it as a continuation of my morning meditation (get up, walk, sit, mindfully eat, walk to work...).

Metta
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Cittasanto
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Re: how much is enough

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 19, 2009 8:47 am

Hi Jc

jcsuperstar wrote:when i read these forums (and the other too) the thing is see a lot from Theravada buddhists is there is never any end to quotes. it's like one must know a million suttas.

yet when i was a Zen buddhist this was never the case, now i read way more than i had to, but it seems like in zen, all you need to know is a few key sutras, some old stories and a few books by a few masters and you were set. the rest was just zazen. and you could get rather far with this. direct experience was the key not quotes and study.

is this even possible in theravada? is there an equivilent? or must we all become scholars?


I guess the only sutta I "Know" at any level is the Satipatthana Sutta (not the Maha-Satipatthana I find the end to much for my purposes) the rest I may know a section or have to look them up? although I do on occasion flick through the Nikayas.

I suppose it is finding a balance between the two, both are useful to a certain extent to each other so it is a cans of experiment and find the way the suttas are only a guide!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: how much is enough

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:21 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:when i read these forums (and the other too) the thing is see a lot from Theravada buddhists is there is never any end to quotes. it's like one must know a million suttas.

yet when i was a Zen buddhist this was never the case, now i read way more than i had to, but it seems like in zen, all you need to know is a few key sutras, some old stories and a few books by a few masters and you were set. the rest was just zazen. and you could get rather far with this. direct experience was the key not quotes and study.

is this even possible in theravada? is there an equivilent? or must we all become scholars?

I think it depends on what you're doing with it.

Dhammapada 1

Though much he recites the Sacred Texts, but acts not accordingly, that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts others' kine. He has no share in the fruits of the Holy life.

Though little he recites the Sacred Texts, but acts in accordance with the teaching, forsaking lust, hatred and ignorance, truly knowing, with mind well freed, clinging to naught here and hereafter, he shares the fruits of the Holy life.

Regarding Zen, as I pointed out before with Bodhidharma's Bloodstream Sermon:

If, though, by the conjunction of conditions, someone understands what the Buddha meant, that person doesn't need a teacher. Such a person has a natural awareness superior to anything taught. But unless you're so blessed, study hard, and by means of instruction you'll understand. People who don't understand and think they can do so without study are no different from those deluded souls who can't tell white from black.

Whereas a lot of lay followers of Zen Buddhism doesn't read suttas, as Ven. Huifeng on e-Sangha pointed out, most Zen monks do, at some point. Here is a list of stuff they might read.

It's not that the scholarly study of suttas is done for its own sake, but it's done as part of one's Dhamma. You might instead benefit more from hearing Dhamma talks by various Bhikkhus, or from focusing more heavily on meditation. However, regardless, even merely reading the suttas is said to bring great benefit.

With metta :heart:,
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bodom
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Re: how much is enough

Postby bodom » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:36 pm

When i can answer a question from personal experience i will. When a question is asked that i have not personally verified for myself i will point that person to the scripture. In my experience there is not a question on the Dhamma that cannot be answered by looking in the scripture. And that is from personal experience.

:namaste:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: how much is enough

Postby genkaku » Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:10 pm

Dear jc -- I don't think it's an either-or situation. Sometimes sutras are helpful; sometimes they just gum up the works. Sometimes seated meditation is helpful. Sometimes it can lead people astray.

So which is which and what is preferable depends ... as it always has ... on you. Or me. Or whatever serious student should take up the path.

Damn! Wouldn't it be nice to put the responsibility on someone or something else? :jumping:

PS. Or as the Zen teacher Rinzai once put it: "Grasp and use, but never name." Just use what is useful when it is useful.
Last edited by genkaku on Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: how much is enough

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:13 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:when i read these forums (and the other too) the thing is see a lot from Theravada buddhists is there is never any end to quotes. it's like one must know a million suttas.

I think one must know a million suttas in order to answer questions knowledgeably. Also, being able to provide a quote along with one's answer helps instill confidence in the questioner that the answerer is more likely representing the Buddha's teaching. In other words, when I quote it shows you I'm not giving you my answer but rather the Buddha's answer. (If I gave you my answer your practice might end up being coffee and tv. :lol:)

now i read way more than i had to, but it seems like in zen, all you need to know is a few key sutras, some old stories and a few books by a few masters and you were set. the rest was just zazen. and you could get rather far with this. direct experience was the key not quotes and study.

I think that in any tradition if you have steady access to a teacher then you can get away with not reading much - any questions or uncertainties that may arise can be worked out between you and your teacher. And since your teacher is likely well versed in the texts it is very close to as if you read those texts yourself. But even if you do not have steady access to a teacher then you can find a good book about the scriptures and that too would be close enough.

So I think it's really just a difference in style. A Zen teacher might be more inclined to not quote texts and a Theravada teacher might be more inclined to quote but both teachings are grounded in the scriptures.

is this even possible in theravada? is there an equivilent? or must we all become scholars?

You only need to know as much as you need to keep your practice moving forward. :)


I will add that many people ask more questions than they need; they are often just indulging intellectual curiosity rather than focusing on what they need for their personal practice. Also there are people who have no confidence in teachers at all and try to go directly to the scriptures and figure it all out for themselves.


Oh, there might be another difference. In my sparse experience, a Zen teacher might be more inclined to answer a question with "Don't ask that question; just focus on your practice" whereas a Theravada teacher might be more inclined to answer whatever question is asked.


In the end, only you can know how much scripture you need. I hope this is helpful. :)

(Actually, genkaku said it well in much less space. :lol:)
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.


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