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Why Read the Sutta Nipata?

by Suriyavamsa (2010)

Why Read the Sutta Nipata?

The talk starts by looking at why we read the suttas. Suriyavamsa evokes how sutta were traditionally passed on through the ages, attending to the spirit of the text. He makes the point, quoting Ch'an master Shen Yen that Ch'an and Zen hold their sutras in high regard, contrary to the modern western view that Zen is 'beyond words and letters'. For us, studying texts is a matter of retraining our minds.

He makes the distinction between sutras and their commentaries - primary and secondary texts. Commentaries move from being new and fashionable to old and outdated but the suttas and sutras themselves remain fresh.

He then uses Kukai's description of the Mahavairocana Sutra to describe how a sutra works on different levels, including a rational level, an imaginative and a cosmic mythological level.

Suriyavamsa then goes on to talk about the Sutta Nipata itself, locating it's place within the Pali Canon as one of the earliest body of text. The sutta is a record of lives lived in the spirit of renunciation, practising meditation and insight.

He runs through the structure of the text, outling the five chapters and then reads some selected verses on the following themes: skillful speech, grief and fearing death, humility, pleasure, avoiding arguments, worldly desire.

The tone of the sutta is of non-clinging. It leads to an atmosphere of quietness and simplicity.

Suriyavamsa tells the story in the last chapter of Bavari the Brahmin who seeks the Buddha's advice after he has been threatened with death. The text ends with 'Pingiya's Praises of the Way to the Beyond.'

In this talk he draws on two translations; one by Saddhatissa and one by KR Norman.