Verse 40-4: Learning

Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).

  • Learning in order to know how to meditate
  • Studying correctly, thinking and meditating on the teachings
  • Bringing the Dharma into our hearts

41 Prayers to cultivate bodhicitta: Verse 40-4 (download)

“May all beings attain the seven jewels of an exalted being (faith, ethics, learning, generosity, integrity, consideration for others and discriminating wisdom).”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when seeing someone engaged in business.

We talked about faith and ethics, the first two jewels previously. The third one is learning.

Often in the Dharma, learning is expressed as hearing, because initially in the ancient times it was purely an oral tradition. Sutras weren’t written down until five hundred years after the Buddha. Everybody learned by hearing. After the sutras were written then people could learn by reading and other methods, video and all sorts of other things. Also we know now that some people learn better by hearing, some people learn better by seeing, or reading, and some people learn better by doing. Kinesthetic. I think we all have to look inside and see in what way we learn the best and then apply that to how we also learn the Dharma. That doesn’t mean only learn in the way we learn the best. We also have to practice the other ways too.

Learning is very important because if we don’t learn then we won’t know how to meditate. This is something that many people fail to understand, because meditation is so popular now. Many think if you just sit down and close your eyes, then whatever comes into your mind, like your boyfriend, is meditation. Sorry. That’s daydreaming. People really need to learn what meditation is. They need to learn the Buddha’s teachings and learn how to study correctly, how to think about the teachings correctly, how to meditate on them correctly, how to apply them in our daily lives correctly. The origin of all of that is study. For that reason learning is very important. That doesn’t mean we just learn and ignore thinking and meditating. We should do all three but especially at the beginning we should focus on learning so we have something to think and meditate about. If we don’t think and meditate then the learning is just up here [head] and it never goes down here [heart].

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.