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​What are the Effects and Benefits of Reading Sutras?

Reading sutras is one of the methods to acquaint oneself with Buddha's teachings. What is the effect of reading sutras, and how would it benefit us? According to Master Sheng Yen, the benefits of reading sutras include: illuminating the mind, comprehending the teachings, cultivating concentration, propagating the Dharma, protecting the Dharma,  delivering the deceased, and praying for blessings. Reading sutras is not only a way to improve oneself, but also a means for Buddhist education and propagating the Dharma. It is, indeed, a method that benefits both the self and others. 

More explanation on six benefits of Reading Sutras:

1. Illuminating the mind
Constantly reading sutras is analogous to continuously illuminating your mind with a bright mirror; your vexations and ignorance will gradually diminish.
2. Comprehending the meaning
Each time you read the sutra, you would comprehend a little bit more about the profound meaning behind the archaic words.
3. Cultivating concentration
To read the sutra, it is recommended that one first collect thesix sense organs. Recite mindfully with the mouth and listen intently with the ears. While reciting, one doesn't have to pay attention to the meaning of the sutra. When practicing alone, one listens one's own voice, since there's no other choice. However, when practicing in group, it's suggested to listen to others' voices; either the voice of the whole group, or a specific voice that is more stable. Although it is rather difficult to cultivate concentration by listening to one's own voice, more often than not, most people are still attached to their own. Therefore, it is best to recite sutras with a group of people.
4. Propagating the Dharma
Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chinese Chan School, became enlightened upon hearing someone reciting the words from the Diamond Sutra: "give rise to the mind of wisdom without abiding anywhere". It is just fine that the person reciting sutras did not attain enlightenment, for it is also wonderful if someone else becomes enlightened as a consequence of your recitation. Indeed, when you recite sutras, there may just be someone listening and becoming inspired as a result
5. Protecting the Dharma
It is repeatedly mentioned in Mahayana sutras that, after the  Buddha's parinirvana, whenever someone recites a Buddhist sutra, it is just as though the Buddha is still present there. Furthermore,  this person's dwelling instantly receives the protection from all Buddhas and Dharma protecting deities in the ten directions. To uphold and protect the Dharma, it is not enough just having sutras laying around; one should take a step forward to recite and practice in accordance with the sutra itself.
6. Delivering the Deceased and Praying for Blessings
Buddhists believe that merits accumulated when family and friends conduct Buddhist services for the dying will help to deliver the person from suffering to a better place of rebirth.
Usually, the deliverance service is in the form of sutra recitation. This is because at such juncture of great change, reciting sutras is more direct and powerful than meditation.
Reciting sutras can bring merit to the living, as well as the deceased, benefitting both the present world and the world thereafter. All beings within the three realms need to practice hearing sutras, be it a deity, human, ghost, or animal.


50 Questions About Reading Sutras (讀經50問), Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation

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