• Luigi

The Misunderstanding of “Sutras”

The “sutras” are the written records of Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime teachings. There are more than 7,000 volumes of sutras in total, and all together they are called the “Complete Sutras.” In general, many people believe that sutras are very difficult to understand, because they are written in ancient languages. When Japanese people find it difficult to understand what someone is saying, they sometimes say, “Whoa, it sounds as if you're reciting a sutra!”

Furthermore, in some countries sutras are read during funerals and memorial services. Quite a few people think that sutras are read to pray for the repose of the deceased. But if you learn how the sutras came to be, you will know clearly that this image of them is wrong.

Buddhist Councils

After Shakyamuni Buddha passed away, 500 great disciples assembled and compiled his sermons. These gatherings are called the “Buddhist Councils.” In the first council, Ananda, a disciple of Shakyamuni, played an important role. Ananda had accompanied Shakyamuni Buddha longer than any other disciple and listened to more of his lectures than anybody else. He was therefore called “foremost in listening to Buddhism.” He had an excellent memory and clearly remembered what he had heard from Shakyamuni. According to historical records, first of all Ananda recited what he had heard from Shakyamuni Buddha and then many other disciples verified the correctness. Only the content on which they reached unanimous agreement was recorded by a transcriber. This is why every sutra begins with the phrase, “Thus have I heard.”

For Living People

This means that all of the more than 7,000 volumes of sutras were written not for dead people, but for living people. Master Shinran read through each of these sutras many times and proclaimed the following at the beginning of the Teaching” section of Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment:

“If I were to point to the sutra of truth, it would be the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life.”

(Only the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life is the true sutra.)

What is taught in the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life is “Amida Buddha’s Vow,” which is for living people to attain true happiness while they are alive.


If I were to point to the sutra of truth, it would be the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life. (Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment)


The Complete Sutras are the records of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. Buddhism spread when the sutras were carried from India to China. Seven horses were not enough to carry all the sutras, and so the Complete Sutras are also called “seven and a half horses.”


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