Template of the Mahayana sutras?

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
User avatar
Posts: 148
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:29 am

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."

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.

User avatar
Posts: 148
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:29 am

Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

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

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 7106
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

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.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

User avatar
Global Moderator
Posts: 6557
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:25 am
Location: Europe

Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

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

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. -

User avatar
Former staff member
Posts: 6615
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

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://www2.hf.uio.no/polyglotta/index. ... rary&bid=2
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.

Posts: 2327
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am

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.

User avatar
Posts: 255
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:12 am

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

User avatar
Former staff member
Posts: 5594
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Template of the Mahayana sutras?

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

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

Posts: 108
Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:26 pm
Location: Midwest US

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

Return to “Mahāyāna Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests