Fischers points are as follows:
- Find the time (don’t “make” it).
- Don’t read the sutras. (I’m kidding!!)
- Read the sutras… slowly.
- Be aware of your expectations, and be ready to recalibrate.
- Take time to identify with each person in the story, however large or small their role.
- Stop While You’re Still Having Fun.
Their first point, “Find the time, don’t make it,” is interesting because they are encouraging people to look for some time that isn’t being used well. I’m not sure I would give this advice since it seems like trying to pack something in to an already busy day. I’m more inclined to suggest giving up something to make time (i.e. renunciation).
The second point, “Don’t read the sutras,” is of course, more problematic. Not because of their main point, but because of what they suggest as an alternative. Now, they are coming from a Mahayana/Tibetan perspective. The general advice is to read a paraphrase or modern adaptation. But are alarm bells going off in your head like they are in mine? One of the books they recommend to get started is Old Path, White Cloud by hich Nhat Hanh. I’ll confess this was the first serious book I read on the life of the Buddha and I really enjoyed it. I don’t recommend it now because of how far it strays from the actual life of the Buddha. But it’s not bad at all compared to their other recommendation, the manga comic Buddha, by Osamu Tezuka. That one is horrible. If I recall correctly, the Buddha becomes enlightened when Maha Brahma comes and taps him on the head.
However, I do think that reading things like the stories of the Dhammapada commentary early on is a really good idea. It does add a richness to the teachings that can infuse the suttas themselves with more realness. Another one of their alternates is The Hundred Deeds. From what I know if it, it’s kind of similar to the DhpA. She was actually one of the translators.
Their last point, “Stop while you’re having fun,” is not a bad idea. By “stop” here they are saying to start with just a little bit at a time, not that one should give up the reading practice.
I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on the article.