dmattwads

Reading/Study as a practice

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    In the past in my evangelical Christian days the notion of reading the bible as a practice in and of itself was a pretty big thing as having spiritual efficacy. 

    Later when I left Christianity I didn't think very highly of most things Christian so just sort of dropped this notion. But as after all break ups eventually one gets back on speaking terms with their ex and so I have been re-exploring this type of practice, by reading various sacred texts and scriptures slowly and mindfully and paying attention to any effects they might have energetically.  To my surprise they do seem to have an effect on an energetic level. I especially notice things going on in my upper chakras (not really that surprising). 

    The reason I am writing this post is because I wanted to know if other traditions teach that reading and studying the sacred texts and scriptures IS a practice, and if so what the effects are?

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My Daoist teacher was openly and explicitly opposed to reading and study. He actively discouraged it and considered it a waste of time that would be better spent in meditation or other non-academic pursuits. Along those lines, I've never seen or heard of any English translations of any writings in our system. That lack of access to scriptural resources may be a part of his position. The primary reason, however,  seems to be a recognition that most Westerners are far too much in their heads and concepts whereas the majority of personal growth in the Daoist arts he valued (primarily internal martial arts, qigong, and neigong) occurs through direct experiential training methods.

 

My Bön teachers have a very different mindset. In Tibetan culture education is highly respected and valued as are teachings, both written and verbal. Books are treated with reverence, as are teachers. Reading and studying, especially Dharma, are considered among the most blessed activities one can engage in. The effects are, of course, intellectual growth primarily. Practical benefits are also possible. All practitioners are encourage to engage in both intellectual and non-conceptual practices and the combination seems to be considered superior to either alone. The general instruction is that we need to hear the teachings from a qualified master, then put the teachings into practice in our day to day lives until we have some type of realization, then we need to check our own understanding and realization against what is present in the tantras and scriptures and make sure they agree. 

 

A third perspective comes from my, admittedly limited, exposure to Judaism. Much of the esoteric content and practices have been lost or abandoned in mainstream Judaism. One factor was the diaspora. Jews largely eschewed the mystical traditions in an effort to integrate into largely Chrisitan societies. Another factor is the long and obscene history of pogroms leading up to the holocaust which took many of the greatest teachers and their esoteric and practical knowledge from us prematurely. Consequently, Judaism tends to emphasize the intellectual. Reading and study are highly valued and have been elevated to a high art and science. Scriptures and texts are revered and studied on multiple levels using a variety of specialized techniques, such as gematria. On the other hand, while prayer and practical activity as a manifestation of the divine are important, many Jews feel that there is somewhat of a vacuum in Judaism when it comes to experiential practices. This was beautifully captured in the book The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz.

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28 minutes ago, steve said:

My Daoist teacher was openly and explicitly opposed to reading and study. He actively discouraged it and considered it a waste of time that would be better spent in meditation or other non-academic pursuits. Along those lines, I've never seen or heard of any English translations of any writings in our system. That lack of access to scriptural resources may be a part of his position. The primary reason, however,  seems to be a recognition that most Westerners are far too much in their heads and concepts whereas the majority of personal growth in the Daoist arts he valued (primarily internal martial arts, qigong, and neigong) occurs through direct experiential training methods.

 

My Bön teachers have a very different mindset. In Tibetan culture education is highly respected and valued as are teachings, both written and verbal. Books are treated with reverence, as are teachers. Reading and studying, especially Dharma, are considered among the most blessed activities one can engage in. The effects are, of course, intellectual growth primarily. Practical benefits are also possible. All practitioners are encourage to engage in both intellectual and non-conceptual practices and the combination seems to be considered superior to either alone. The general instruction is that we need to hear the teachings from a qualified master, then put the teachings into practice in our day to day lives until we have some type of realization, then we need to check our own understanding and realization against what is present in the tantras and scriptures and make sure they agree. 

 

A third perspective comes from my, admittedly limited, exposure to Judaism. Much of the esoteric content and practices have been lost or abandoned in mainstream Judaism. One factor was the diaspora. Jews largely eschewed the mystical traditions in an effort to integrate into largely Chrisitan societies. Another factor is the long and obscene history of pogroms leading up to the holocaust which took many of the greatest teachers and their esoteric and practical knowledge from us prematurely. Consequently, Judaism tends to emphasize the intellectual. Reading and study are highly valued and have been elevated to a high art and science. Scriptures and texts are revered and studied on multiple levels using a variety of specialized techniques, such as gematria. On the other hand, while prayer and practical activity as a manifestation of the divine are important, many Jews feel that there is somewhat of a vacuum in Judaism when it comes to experiential practices. This was beautifully captured in the book The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz.

 

This makes me think of the divide in Theravada between the village/scholar monks and the forest/meditation monks. 

The village monks tend to look down on the forest monks for having a shallow understanding of the dharma, while the forest monks tend to look down on the village monks for having a weak meditation practice. I tend to think of it as both are important and its not an either/or issue. 

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25 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

 

This makes me think of the divide in Theravada between the village/scholar monks and the forest/meditation monks. 

The village monks tend to look down on the forest monks for having a shallow understanding of the dharma, while the forest monks tend to look down on the village monks for having a weak meditation practice. I tend to think of it as both are important and its not an either/or issue. 

 

I agree and I also feel it is important for each of us to try and identify what we need to help us progress.

The right balance between the two for any given individual may not be an equal balance.

I know that I tend to be too much in my head, very much an intellectual, and I have progressed far more through experiential practice than through reading and study. I was very fortunate to encounter teachers in both Daoism and Bön who emphasized the experiential, allowing me to come to this realization. I'm told by both of them that over-intellectualization is a very common defect among Westerners, whereas the opposite tends to be the case in the East. I can't verify this but it makes sense and has been my personal experience.

PS - I suspect this is likely the case for anyone who is a frequent participant in online discussion groups!

:D

 

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I'm not really capable of uncritical reading-this was what did the Bible in for me, so many inconsistencies even as a kid. 

 

I do read a lot of Taoist literature and related things with a sense of "keeping myself on track", in the same sense as reading a favorite poem for inspiration or listening to a rousing song to get psyched for the day. 

 

But liturgy as such may be just beyond my grasp.

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I found that "reading" (i.e. studying formal texts and commentaries) was very important and necessary to take me to the next step vis-a-vis internal practices.

 

In the process of learning taijiquan and the temple style daogong/neigong paradigm, we are strongly advised to study the Dao De Jing and contemplate its meaning. We're also advised to study the Taijiquan Classics. 

 

Yoga practice recommends study and contemplation on the Sutras of Patanjali as a primary text. Vedanta is most heavily focused on the study, contemplation of Upanishads, and what they point towards.

 

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47 minutes ago, C T said:

....

 

 

The human psyche is essentially an ongoing locus of resistance

requiring continuous maintenance & monitoring. ~ R. S. 

 

 

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I think just based on my own personal experience is that to a lot of Westerners they are taught that Buddhism or what ever other method they are learning is "meditation" and there is not a lot of study or theory. What I came to realize as the problem with this is that the Buddha didn't just say "go and meditate" (he had already mastered meditation before he became enlightened). The Buddha taught the "Dharma" which involves a lot of things that need to be studied and realized and not just meditation. 

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One way to make reading a more embodied activity is to read aloud.  Bonus points if you take turns reading aloud with another person and discuss.

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On 17/02/2021 at 3:10 PM, dmattwads said:

  The reason I am writing this post is because I wanted to know if other traditions teach that reading and studying the sacred texts and scriptures IS a practice, and if so what the effects are?

 

 

Sometimes attendees at Quaker Meetings will read aloud passages of text from various sources.

 

The effect of the Silence of the meeting being filled with such sharing can be profound.

 

 

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I've noticed lately that reading various religious texts affects my qi in different ways. Just the act of reading it, regardless if I understand it or not. The qi starts moving. Has anyone else noticed anything like this?

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On 2/17/2021 at 11:09 AM, dmattwads said:

(he had already mastered meditation before he became enlightened). 

 

 

 

I don't think he would have done a true meditation, where he sits with still mind.  I think his mind was very active.  I think he was going into himself with the question 'Who am I?'  The realization of who he was is the moment of enlightenment.

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On 3/29/2021 at 3:48 AM, dmattwads said:

I've noticed lately that reading various religious texts affects my qi in different ways. Just the act of reading it, regardless if I understand it or not. The qi starts moving. Has anyone else noticed anything like this?

I did experiences something similar to what you said, I guess religious texts and scripture have effect that's deeper and more profound than what I know but I don't honestly know what it is or how it works myself, maybe the why of it is enlightened master, sages, and saints are trying to help people with these texts.

 

The lotus sutra is very mysterious in it's function and wonder, that's anecdotally atleast for me :P.

 

I remember a dharma talk/excerpt from a Taiwan Buddhist Internet Forum,  edited by Dharma Teacher Ruying, written in November 27, 2003 The Ordinary Man, Translated by JC cleary(Clear View of Fundamental Mind_ - Yao-tsung, Wu )

Quote

Buddha Abides in the World Forever, the Teaching Assembly on Spirit Peak Is Still in Session and Has Not Dispersed

 

“Thus I have heard” [the phrase that begins each sūtra] shows that [the teachings that follow] are the special instructions Buddha gave to Ānanda in the teachings which he bequeathed.
Putting “Thus I have heard” at the beginning of a Buddhist sūtra shows the importance of the message. [...] In fact, [the phrase “Thus I have heard”] has a more important, more profound implication.


When practitioners recite a text or immerse themselves in a text, they rely on this “Thus I have heard” to enter into the teaching assembly. In [the phrase] “Thus I have heard,” the word “I” refers to the one reading the text, and you must think “Thus do I myself personally participate in the teaching assembly, which is heard personally by me.” “At that time” [the phrase that regularly follows “Thus I have heard” at the beginning of many sūtras] means at this precise moment, the Buddha is there (wherever that is), and the Buddha is manifesting the supernatural powers of the light of wisdom, enabling those participating in the teaching assembly and those “immersed in the sūtra” to suddenly cut off all defiled thoughts and afflictions and instantly enter the state where they may truly listen.
(The Buddha can only manifest supernatural powers when he is setting forth the teaching, using them to adorn the site where the teaching is being presented.)

After that, those who immerse themselves in the sūtras must rely on the meaning of the sūtras to visualize the teaching assembly going on, and reestablish the teaching assembly!
Many of the Buddhist sūtras proceed in a Question-and-answer format. They are like a play, so it is easy to reestablish the teaching assembly by visualizing it.
Only in this way can we find the true meaning of the Buddha’s teaching and experience the realms the Buddha explains.
Only in this way can it be called “visualizing the sūtras” – otherwise it is called “reading the sūtras.”

“To read the sūtras” means you are just a student reading stories from history. Then it is hard to enter into the teaching assembly, and hard to awaken to the realm which the Buddha is speaking of!

It is like a concert. If you read about it in the newspaper, or see it on television, this is nowhere near as real as when you personally go to the concert hall and experience the concert in person.

This experience [of a concert] is almost impossible to communicate in words – and all the more so when it comes to experiencing the realm the Buddha speaks of: this is even more impossible.
As for the spiritual powers displayed by the Buddha before he explains the teachings, only those who immerse themselves in visualizing the sūtras can experience them. Only then can you suddenly cut off afflictions and defiling thoughts, and then reach the state where you suddenly cut off the form “self” and the form “others” and the form “living beings” and the form “life.” You immediately enter the state where you are truly hearing and experiencing the Truth which has no teachings, where you
can leave behind all the dusts of [intellectual and emotional attachments to] the teachings, and awaken to Prajñā, to transcendent wisdom.
This is why the teaching assembly can be reestablished by “true visualization.”

Once we discover and acclaim the fact that the Buddha abides forever in the world, and that the three hundred and more teaching assemblies on Spirit Peak are now, after twenty-five hundred years, still in session and have not dispersed – this is truly a blessing for sentient beings who have completed the Truth to Truth.

Thus the Diamond Sūtra says: “Where the sūtras are, the Buddha must be present.” Wherever people are immersed in visualizing the sūtras, they must be adorning the mind of enlightenment.

 

 

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