The Importance of Study
In the past several decades, Buddhism has captured the popular imagination in the West with the image of a serene Buddha sitting imperturbably in meditation—motionless, silent, free from thought. How popular would the image be if the Buddha were wearing glasses that slid down his nose as he pored over a text to discern its intricate meaning?
All Buddhist traditions agree that the Buddha’s realization is beyond words and books, and yet the Buddha tells us in the Diamond Sutra that untold merit will accrue from memorizing even one stanza from the sutra and sharing it with others. In fact, all Buddhist traditions regard texts as sacred. They all draw on a rich library of sutras, commentaries, biographies, songs, chants, lists and diagrams. The intricate psychological analyses contained in the Abhidharma alone fill many volumes. What is the purpose of these teachings? Is it necessary to study them in order to inform and deepen meditation practice? Can one achieve realization through study alone or, conversely, is it possible to achieve realization without any study at all? Do some people “study Buddhism” while others practice it?