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Reading the Pure Land Sutras


When reading any of the Buddhist Sutras it is best that one's mind be calm and concentrated.  A short period of meditative concentration prior to reading a Sutra will help one to understand and appreciate its meaning.  Reciting the Buddha's name is an excellent practice prior to reading one of the Pure Land Sutras.  One should also try to generate a sense of gratitude prior to reading a Sutra, for the words of a Sutra are a path to Liberation.  One may simply extend the gratitude of one's heart to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and sentient beings as well as to the Sutra itself.  A gesture of gratitude such as lighting a stick of incense, making a bow or ringing a bell is also reasonable, and produces a peaceful, mindful atmosphere in which the Sutra may be deeply appreciated.

Reading a Sutra

When engaged in the reading of a Sutra, try to go neither too quickly nor too slowly.  Simply read at a comfortable pace.  If one is unfamiliar with some of the terminology encountered in the Sutras, it is helpful to have some kind of a reference book nearby so that one may find definitions quickly.

There will be times when a particular passage in a Sutra will not be understood by the reader.  If this is the case, try reading that passage again.  If the passage is still not understood, try reading it a third time.  If, after three tries, the meaning of the passage is still unclear, simply continue reading the Sutra.  Since the information in the hard-to-understand passage has been read three times, a karmic seed has been planted which will blossom at a future time.  At that time, one's understanding of the meaning of the particular passage will become clear.  Try not to become frustrated if the meaning of a passage or passages is unclear.  All things become evident eventually if one's intent is sincere.

Ending the Reading

When you have finished reading the Sutra either in whole or in part, simply put it down and allow the meaning of what you have just read to "settle in."  If you wish to silently contemplate what you have just read, that is also reasonable.  Don't try too hard to understand everything you've read, just go over it gently in your mind with a heart of appreciation for the teachings encountered in the Sutra.

After contemplation, one may once again extend one's thanks to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, sentient beings and the Sutra itself.

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