The Sutra Parrots

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Recently I attended the engagement ceremony of a cousin. It was a Buddhist ritual. The monk recited the sutras & both the prospective bride & groom repeated those sutras.

All Buddhist sutras are recited in the Pali language. And in the repetition, the meaning is usually lost.

Wouldn’t it be better to say what the sutras mean rather than repeating them like a parrot?

Firstly it seems as if you are signing a document written in Chinese i.e. without understanding the content.

Going beyond the specific instance, this is a common problem while reciting sutras. If you understand the Pali language naturally then it makes sense but Pali is not anyone’s mother tongue.

​The Buddha chose to spread his message in the Pali language only because it was the common dialect & lay people did not understand the prevalent language of sutras – Sanskrit. So why can’t we speak the sutras in English or Hindi?

Wouldn’t it be better, instead of saying – Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami; to say – “I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.”?

I remember once I had been to a house warming ceremony. Again it was a Buddhist ritual & everyone recited the five precepts including this one – Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. It means “I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.”

To my utter disgust I saw the people, after the Puja got over, get into a party mode with alcohol & meat.

So what the people said a while back in Pali language had no effect on them. If they had spoken the sutra in English or Hindi, it would have caused a contradiction in their minds.

You can repeat a sutra in an unknown language for a hundred thousand times without any benefit. but if you repeat it in a language you understand, it may sink in.

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