Chapter 4 - On Reciting The Sutras

1. We Buddhists should make use of all available time to read and recite the sutras, perform prostration, recite the name of the Buddha, or practice sitting meditation. Do not let the time pass in vain and waste our lives.

2. The sutras are paths and antidotes we may take for our vexations. If you know how to apply the teachings in the sutras to help switching your perception, vexations may be transformed into bodhi. This is the essence of sutra-recitation. Otherwise, vexations will only lead to delusion.

3. Instead of seeking liberation, sticking to your vexations is like taking the wrong medication when you are sick. It will entrench your ailment and make it even more difficult to cure. Prescribe the proper remedy to transform your vexations, then you would have found the direct path to the Pure Land.

4. Where can we find the sutras? They are in our minds. But this "heart sutra" immanent in everyone's mind cannot be revealed without the unfolding of wisdom. All sutras expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha recorded buddha-wisdom; but since our own wisdom is yet to unfold, we tend to feel confused when reading the sutras. That is why we all have great difficulty either to comprehend the essence of "emptiness" or to immerse ourselves deeply in Buddhadharma.

5. All sutras are immanent within our minds, so are sila, samadhi, and prajna (precepts, perfect absorption, and wisdom). Verbal recitation of sila, samadhi, and prajna is of no use, though; you have to put them into practice, begin with disciplining our body of the five skandhas (form, sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness).

6. When practice sutra-recitation, merely chanting with your tongue is not enough. You have to comprehend the teachings and put them into practice to the extent that, without deliberation, your mind naturally is in accord with what you recite verbally. Otherwise, your practice will become just an exercise of the tongue. If you keep on clinging to the notion that "I am reciting the sutra" without comprehending what you are reciting, your mind will never correspond with the teachings of the sutra.

7. If you read the sutras and preach the Dharma without putting the teachings into practice, you are merely reciting others' ideas. It would be like counting treasures owned by others - however valuable they may be, they are not yours and won't help you escape the eternal prison of birth and death.

8. We should read the sermons, analects, and treatises of great Masters in the past as if they had not passed away and are still preaching and guiding us.

9. When people ask us to expound a certain sutra, we should do it sincerely and to the best of our abilities. It will benefit them as well as us. Do not be arrogant and pretend that you don't understand the sutra; otherwise, you will be at fault.

10. Try to comprehend the meaning of the sutra you are reading. Only through faith, comprehension, practice, and verification can the sutra help to unfold your immanent wisdom.

11. We ought to handle the sutras with great respect and utmost sincerity. In the old days, people used to pay a great deal of attention to such ideas as propriety, justice, honesty, and honor, and they also observed certain rules in their conduct, hence the existence of saints. Nowadays, people tend to ignore such ideas and rules, hence the world in chaos.