The Knack of Memorizing Sutras

In the Buddhadharma, there are eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors, and the Shurangama Sutra contains them all, no more and no less. 

An inch of time is worth an ounce of gold;
Yet gold can’t buy an inch of time.
It’s easy to recover lost gold,
But time gone by can’t be recovered.

Worldly people struggle and fight just for food, clothing, wealth, shelter and fame. They are deluded by these five things. From morning to night there is no time to really rest. Some people don’t go to work, but at home they still “work” with the television, the computer, stocks, movies, or travelling, busy with all kinds of things.

People at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are also busy, but for different reasons. Here we aren’t busy for food and clothing, since we don’t particularly care for them; as long as they’re passable, that’s enough. And we care even less for fame. So we are also busy, but what are we busy for? We are busy studying about the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and cultivating precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. The nature of the things that we busy ourselves with is totally different from worldly people’s business. 

Here we study Sutras every day, and we should be especially focused, and not have our bodies sitting while our minds are wandering somewhere else. Don’t be mindful only when people are speaking the Dharma well, and absent-minded when they don’t speak well. If we constantly analyze other people’s shortcomings, it means we have not subdued our strong inclination to discriminate between what we like and dislike, between right and wrong, good and bad.

We should listen to the Sutra lectures with a sincere and focused mind. We learn from people who speak well, and when people don’t speak well, we listen even more intently. We use our wonderful observing wisdom to contemplate if what they say is correct and in accord with Dharma; we don’t use our conscious minds to discriminate and speculate. We should carefully consider other people’s words and behavior in every moment. Only in this way can we gain some benefit and develop our wisdom. Our wisdom cannot be developed overnight; it takes incessant, mindful study day and night for us to accomplish something.

All of you are now studying the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra. You should know that the Shurangama Sutra is the Buddha’s true body. It is the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and it’s also precepts, samadhi and wisdom. If you want to respect the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, you first have to respect the Shurangama Sutra. If you want to learn precepts, cultivate samadhi and develop wisdom, you must study the Shurangama Sutra first. In the Buddhadharma, there are eight-four thousand Dharma-doors and the Shurangama Sutra contains them all, no more and no less.

We should study this Sutra and memorize it. The method of study is to daily review the Sutra text that you have memorized. Don’t be greedy for quantity and speed. Review on a daily basis. After you are familiar with the Sutra text you’ll become proficient in it. After you are proficient in it, you’ll be able to do efficacious things with it. Don’t abandon what is near to seek for something distant and don’t seek outside. Otherwise you’ll only be skimming on the surface of things, unable to deeply enter the Sutra treasury and develop wisdom.

What time of day should you use to memorize the Sutra? You can recite the Sutra in your mind when you’re dressing or washing up in the morning; and in the evening, when you’re in bed with your head on the pillow; and also during the day, when you’re walking or working. If you can study like this incessantly, you’ll be able to memorize the Sutra very soon.

The method of studying involves three faculties: the eyes, the mouth and the mind. Your eyes, mouth and mind should all be focused on the book. There are also three good places for studying: on the road, on the pillow and on the toilet. The time when you are in these three places is the time to memorize the Sutra. Anyone who wants to use this method will be able to memorize the Sutra well. Try it!

                                                                                                     A talk given on the evening of May 26,1983
                                                                                                        at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas