The Importance of Buddhist Texts

While cleaning out the bookshelf at home, I was thumbing through the writings of the famous Korean monk, Jinul (지눌, 知訥, 1158–1210), in Tracing Back the Radiance.  I found some great quotes in his greatest work, the Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Special Practice Record with Personal Notes (법집별항록절요병입사기, 法集別行錄節要幷入私記, beopjip pyeolhaeng nok cheolyo byeongip sagi).

In his preface, Jinul writes:

I have observed that people of the present time who are cultivating their minds do not depend on the guidance of the written teachings, but straightaway assume that the successive transmission of the esoteric idea [of Seon Buddhism] is the path.  They then sit around dozing with their minds in a haze, their labors all in vain, or else they lose their presence of mind in agitation and confusion during their practice of meditation.  For these reasons, I feel you should follow words and teachings which were expounded in accordance with reality in order to determine the proper procedure in regard to awakening and cultivation.  Once you mirror your own minds, you may contemplate with insight at all times, without wasting any of your efforts. (pg. 151-152, trans. by Professor Robert Buswell)

This reminds me of the words of Dogen, where Dogen states that the sutras and texts are there to orient the student of Buddhism toward the correct path.  Sometimes, you hear some Buddhists today disregarding Buddhist sutras and texts as crusty, ancient, while insisting that they need meditation or faith alone.  But the words of Jinul and Dogen are a reminder that such self-confidence is a surefire way to go off the rails.

The Buddhist path is not a trivial path, but it’s systematic, well-organized and reproducible for those willing to invest the time, and willing to set aside ego.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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