30/21 Kankin



Reading Sutras

Kan means “to read” and kin means “sutras.” Many Buddhist sects revere reading sutras, because they think that the Buddhist truth is theory which can be understood through abstract explanation. They think that we can understand Buddhism only by reading sutras. At the same time, there are other sects who deny the value of reading sutras; they say that because Buddhist truth is not a theoretical system, we cannot attain the truth by reading sutras. Master Dogen took the middle way on the problem: rather than deny the value of reading sutras, he said that reading sutras is one way of finding out what Buddhist practice is. He did not believe, however, that we can get the truth by reading sutras; he did not think that reciting sutras might exercise some mystical influence over religious life. In this way Master Dogen’s view on reading sutras was very realistic. However, his understanding of “reading sutras” was not limited to written sutras; he believed that the Universe is a sutra. He thought that observing the world around us is like reading a sutra. So for him, grass, trees, mountains, the moon, the sun, and so forth were all Buddhist sutras. He even extended his view of reading sutras to include walking around the master’s chair in the middle of the Zazen Hall. This viewpoint is not only Master Dogen’s; it is the viewpoint of Buddhism itself. So in this chapter, Master Dogen explains the wider meaning of reading sutras.