The bridge between science and Buddhism, atoms and no atoms, theism and athiesm; Yidam deity meditation and the Cognitive Science of Tantra
“Every one has Buddha Nature.” A teaching video: Venerable Zasep Rinpoche with mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Cankama Sutta: Walking Meditation Sutra: put some mileage on your Buddhist practice with formal mindful walking
Milam Sleep Yoga: lucid dreaming can bring us closer to experiencing non-dualistic “reality” than waking meditation
2017 Tsog Dates: Happy Dakini Day — Introducing the Wisdom of the Female Enlightened Dakinis
Guan Yin and the ten great protections of the Goddess of Mercy: Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion
The Maha Samaya Sutta: The Great Meeting Sutra: refuge from fear in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Soma Sutta: Sister Soma gets the better of Mara — what difference does being a woman make in Buddhism? None
Healing video: full Medicine Buddha guided meditation with Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche; with Medicine Buddha Mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Phurba or Kila: the most potent of wrathful ritual implements in Vajrayana Buddhism, symbolizes the Karma activity of the Buddhas
Happy Birthday Venerable Zasep Rinpoche: May the pure white light of your peerless wisdom shine undiminished until the end of existence
Buddha: How to protect wealth, associate with virtuous friends and relate to your spouse, employer, children: guidance for lay practitioners in Sigalovada Sutta
“Mind is the creator of our own happiness or suffering”—Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche teaches Lojong  Seven-Point Mind Training
The Path of Purification? No, my friend. Ratha-vinita Sutta (Chariot Relay Sutra) teaches us not to confuse the seven purifications, with the destination, Nirvana
Atisha’s Great Praise: 11th century wisdom.
Why Buddha Nature is one of the most important understandings in Mahayana Buddhism and why Tathagatagarbha Buddha Nature is not the soul
Why do Buddhas and Enlightened Beings need offerings? The simple answer: they don’t. The better answer is…
Book Review: Tara in the Palm of Your Hand: a guide to the practice of the twenty-one Taras in the Surya Gupta lineage
Amitabha Sutra: cutting delusions with one-pointed blissful contemplation of Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land
Reviving the genuine Dharma ritual art traditions: an interview with Vajra artisan and craftsman Rigdzin Pema Tuthob
Great Compassion Mantra: Purification, healing and protection, the Maha Karuna Dharani Sutra — benefiting all beings
Video: Why is Mantra important to daily practice? For protection: “We are human beings. We have many problems.”
A Sutra for Troubled Times: Usnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra and Mantra— Purify Karma, Eliminate Illness and Prevent calamities
Naked wisdom for degenerate times: Vajrayogini, enlightened wisdom queen, leads us to bliss, clear light and emptiness, despite modern obstacles
Headed for darkness or light? Of world’s 7.5 billion people, Tamonata Sutta says there are four types of people, two headed to darkness
Interview Lama Dr. Shannon Young: Dzogchen teacher focuses on bringing Dharma practice into daily life and bridging heritage with modern life
H.H. 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje in Canada for one month, arrived in Toronto for teachings
What’s so special about Hayagriva? This wrathful Heruka emanation of Amitabha, with horse head erupting from fiery hair, literally neighs with the Hrih scream of Wisdom
Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness; mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, mental qualities
Difficult lesson of karma: even “mass murderer” turned Arhat, Angulimala, had to bear the consequences of 999 murders
Video: Why a teacher-coach is important and how to practice Guru Yoga;  the “inconvenient” subject many teachers avoid
“Mahamudra is ultimately about trying to experience absolute truth” — and Helping Your Mind Get to Know Your Mind: Teaching Retreat Notes, Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
A Better Way to Catch a Snake Sutra: Buddha explains the danger of misinterpreting the Dharma
Happy Wesak Day! On this most sacred day, celebrating the birth, Enlightenment and Paranirvana of Gautama Buddha, we wish all sentient beings health, happiness, and ultimate Enlightenment.
Finding the Good in Any Situation and “Turn the other cheek”? The Sutra with Advice to Venerable Punna from the Buddha
Healing and Foundation Practices Video: Learning from the Teachers Video Series with Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
Why Reciting Buddhist Sutras Out Loud is Important; Sutras Help Us Remain Mindful of the Teachings and Disengage the “Clinging” Conscious Mind

Why Reciting Buddhist Sutras Out Loud is Important; Sutras Help Us Remain Mindful of the Teachings and Disengage the “Clinging” Conscious Mind

In many Buddhist disciplines we are taught to value the meritorious practice of reciting sutras. Often this is done from memory, in a mantra-like chant, which begs the question why do we recite sutras?


A Buddha Weekly Special Feature

Sutras are the teachings of the Buddha. To speak them is to put us in touch with Buddha’s enlightened understanding and to connect our consciousness with the seeds for our own ultimate enlightenment. Of course, some practitioners drop the practice because they believe it has become too robotic, without meaning, chanted so fast that we’re not really absorbing the “message”; but that isn’t the point of recitation. Even if the conscious mind is not directly connecting with the “repetitive chant” the subconscious certainly is. And, many believe the subconscious is where the seeds of enlightenment flourish first.

 

Buddha-Weekly-tibetan-sutra-Buddhism

 

Hakuun Yasuntani Roshi explains: “There are three reasons why we recite sutras. First, we recite them to make an offering to Buddhist patriarchs; second, to create a noble relationship with all beings; third, to unite these first two actions with our Buddhist training.” [1]

Sutras Help Disengage the “Bogged Down” Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is often bogged down with daily stress, the struggle to survive, the latest gossip at work, the need to pay the mortgage, and a thousand other anchors that create barriers to our need for spiritual fulfillment. We seek to still the mind with meditation, sutra recitation, prayer, communing with the Sangha and many other methods. Meditation, if done correctly, can still the mind, allowing the daily battle to survive to fall away sufficiently to allow us to contemplate the teachings of Buddha.

Reciting sutras daily, like mantra practice, can help us relieve daily stress, focus on the teachings, and plant the seeds of Enlightenment in our subconscious.

hakuun-yasuntani-roshiHakuun Yasuntani Roshi explains: We recite sutras before others as an education of their subconscious minds. On the surface, it may seem that effectiveness of teaching is limited by the extent of understanding. So, it may be thought, if we read difficult sutras, they will have no effect. However, only people who do not understand the power and subtlety of the subconscious hold such an opinion. If you have studied only a little about the subconscious, you will know that even though you do not grasp meaning with your conscious mind, you may understand very clearly with your subconscious. Or, if you do not get any conscious impression, you may already have a subconscious impression. Moreover, you will know, if you have studied the matter, that our conscious mind is influenced by our subconscious; indeed, that our subconscious operates absolute control over our character.”

 

The Heart Sutra in Chinese calligraphy.
The Heart Sutra in Chinese calligraphy.

 

Sutras Help Us Understand

The teachings of the Buddha are vast and limitless. All sutras are profound. Some, such as the most popular sutra of all time[4], the Mahayana Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamitahdaya, or Heart of the Perfection of Understanding) teach us the very nature of true reality. The mantra gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā is often recommended as a daily recitation, as it contains some of the most profound lessons of the Buddha.

gate gate pāragate pārasamgate bodhi svāhā

The 14th Dalai Lama explains the mantra as: “go, go, go beyond, go thoroughly beyond, and establish yourself in enlightenment.” [3]

The shortest version of the Heart Sutra, only 16 lines, contains profound, thought-provoking concepts, perhaps the clearest explaination of “emptiness. Reciting the entire short sutra over and over is considered to be a method that, ultimatley, helps plant the seeds of understanding. The most famous passage (here the version translated by the great Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, is;

“Listen Sariputra, this Body itself is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is this Body. This Body is not other than Emptiness and Emptiness is not other than this Body. The same is true of Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations,and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra, all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness; their true nature is the nature of no Birth no Death, no Being no Non-being, no Defilement no Purity, no Increasing no Decreasing.”

The most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.
The most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

Sutras Help Us Remain Mindful of the Teachings

In a more direct way, actively contemplating sutras helps us remain mindful of the teachings. Even if we’ve recited them so many thousands of times that they become robotic, the practice of actively repeating the teachings is, in some ways, the ultimate “mindfulness practice” — where we stay mindful of the teachings. The sutra teachings can be likened to planting seeds, while watering those seeds is analogous to the daily recitation of the sutra.

But what to do if it becomes too robotic, almost to the point where the conscious mind grumbles and complains. The rational conscious mind tends to complain about little things like daily offerings, prayers and sutra recitations. It’s easy to dismiss these practices after a time if they appear to be less meaningful, or too “robotic.”

Recitation of sutras is an important daily practice for Buddhist monks. Lay practitioners also benefit from recitation of Buddha’s words.


Recite the Sutra, Rather Than Read Them

Some of the keys to retaining the conscious mind’s engagement with sutras is to recite them, rather than read them. To recite them in your native language rather than the original language will also keep the mind engaged. Some teachers, however, would argue that allowing the mind to become disengaged is the point. As with mantra practice, repeated sutra recitation in Tibetan, Sanskrit or Pali, ultimately from memory, can allow the conscious mind to detach, one of the goals of mindfulness.

There is also comfort in the sutras. In times of stress, when the conscious mind can’t cope, reciting a sutra, mentally or aloud, can bring instant comfort and strength.

The words are then linked to daily practice—and don’t kid yourself, daily recitation of a sutra will cause the teachings to become part of your daily life over time. Repeated sutra recitation does tend to encourage daily practices of generosity and merit.

Effectiveness and Progress Towards Enlightenment

Sutra recitation is considered the equal of zazen meditation by many Zen Buddhists. It is considered a “must” for Mahayana practitioners, especially monks. It is considered a remedy by many teachers, who “prescribe” the recitation of sutras for various situations. (For example, Lama Zopa regularly recommends sutra recitations to his student in his online “Advice Book,” such as the recitation of Golden Light Sutra (Suvarṇaprabhāsa Sūtra) to create the merit for world peace. [2])

Hakuun Yasuntani Roshi explains why sutra recitation is the equal of zazen: “At the same time, there is also a great difference in effectiveness in the third aspect of sutra recitation. This third element is this: if you recite sutras with great energy and single-mindedness frequently, then your own samadhi power will be strengthened and you will have a good chance for satori. Or, if you have already awakened, your satori will shine more brilliantly in your character and act more effectively in your everyday life. The most important attitude in reciting sutras is to recite with your whole spirit.” [1]

 

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, of the Gaden Tibetan tradition, regularly advises students to recite sutra as a remedy for life issues such as health.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, of the Gaden Tibetan tradition, regularly advises students to recite sutra as a remedy for life issues such as health.

 

Sutra as a Prescription

Reciting sutras creates merit in the mindstream of the student, helping us overcome the negative karmas which directly contribute to our negative situation. For example, a person with cancer might be experiencing the ripening of karma. Lama Zopa, a well known Tibetan teacher, recommends sutra recitation as remedy in his online advice book.

One student, with breast cancer, was advised by Lama Zopa: “Read the Vajra Cutter Sutra three times, however, your motivation should be not only for yourself, but for numberless sentient beings, to purify all their defilements and negative karma. There are numberless sentient beings who especially need to recite the Vajra Cutter Sutra precisely, so read it for them. There are many people with cancer who need the recitation of the Vajra Cutter Sutra, therefore, when you read it, think you are purifying and healing all those people who need it. Read it specifically for those with cancer, in order to heal their cancer.”

NOTES

[1] “Why do we recite Sutras”, thezensite.com by Hakuun Yasuntani Roshi, translated by Eido Tai Shamano Roshi and Robert Chotan Atken Roshi. http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Teishos/Why_Do_We_Recite_Sutras.html

[2] Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Online Advice Book http://www.lamayeshe.com/advice/lama-zopa-rinpoches-online-advice-book

[3] Discourse on the Heart Sutra, H.H. Dalai Lama

[4] Pine, 2004, see WIkipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_Sutra#cite_ref-Pine_16_1-0

2 Responses to Why Reciting Buddhist Sutras Out Loud is Important; Sutras Help Us Remain Mindful of the Teachings and Disengage the “Clinging” Conscious Mind

  1. Guided by the translator of The Flower Ornament Scripture (Avatamsaka Sutra) I recite on a daily basis. The benefits are constant and immediate, consciously and subconsciously. One reliable source has stated that after reciting the Avatamsaka Sutra three times each of the qualities described begin to manifest in the practitioner.

Leave a reply

Are you a Sentient Being? *

Copyright Buddha Weekly 2007-2017. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to excerpt stories with full credit and a link to Budddha Weekly. Please do not use more than an excerpt. Subject to terms of use and privacy statement. All information on this site, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote  understanding and knowledge. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, including medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Buddha Weekly does not recommend or endorse any information that may be mentioned on this website. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is solely at your own risk.

Send this to a friend