Creating a Personal Anthology is extremely simple, but there are still some places we can go wrong. If this happens our Anthology may be less effective. Below are some common problems and suggestions for solving them.
As a reminder, this is the basic method:
- Read the suttas on a regular basis taking them to heart as personal advice.
- When you find a passage that speaks directly to your defilements or is personally very inspiring, copy it into your Personal Anthology.
- In daily life, when the defilements are strong, read the suttas in your Personal Anthology as an antidote.
If you haven’t read the full article in a while, you might want to start there.
Problem: Feeling obligated to fill the book
No where in the instructions is there anything about needing to add a certain number of passages per week or fill all the pages. One passage of Dhamma can be enough to wake us up. Of course it’s unlikely that you will only have one passage, but keeping this in mind will prevent the Personal Anthology from becoming a chore or an obligation. It only matters that we capture passage when we find them.
Problem: Putting passages in that you consider important in a general sense
Truly, all the suttas are important. If the goal was to collect important suttas, then we could simply buy a complete canon and be done. You may very well want to keep a Dhamma notebook where you copy passages of doctrinal importance. No question, that is beneficial. But the principle behind the personal anthology is that there are some passages that take our breath away, touching us deeply. Passages that describe our defilements very intimately. Those are the ones we collect in the Personal Anthology. Then when our defilements are strong, we can read teachings that describes them perfectly and tells us how to remove them—this is the way we can not only overcome them but at the same time develop confidence in the Blessed One’s teachings.
Problem: Not keeping these passages in their own small book
Related to the above issue, if you are collecting these personal passages along with other Dhamma notes, it will be that much harder to find them when the need arises. And if you are traveling or on a retreat, it is less likely that you will take them with you if they are integrated into your main study notebook.
If you are resistant to putting them in their own book, or you haven’t started a book at all yet, you might want to give the quick start method a try.
Problem: Too many less powerful suttas
If you are falling into the attitude of feeling obligated to fill your Anthology, there is a chance that you may start to include too many suttas that you may simply like or find somewhat interesting. It’s good to capture them somewhere, but the idea behind the Personal Anthology is to have a ready collection of suttas that you connect with most deeply.
Problem: Thinking of your Personal Anthology as a project instead of a resource
Some people think of the Personal Anthology as a journal or a project that is going to take up time on a regular basis. This is not the case. It’s possible that you will only add a passage every few months, if that. Remember, it’s not the number of passages that matters, but that we choose them wisely and read them when the need arises.
Problem: Not reading the suttas with an eye for passages to include
If we are not habitually reading the suttas as personal advice from our fully enlightened teacher, it is unlikely that we will find the correct kinds of passages to include in our Anthology. By doing self-examination practices, such as those in the Sallekha Sutta (MN 8) we can gain a greater awareness of our main defilements. Then when the Buddha talks about those particular issues as we read the suttas we are more likely to take them to heart and want to contact them again and again.
Problem: Not using it
The last and most important step of maintaining a Personal Anthology is actually reading it when the need arises. This requires that we actually have the awareness of the arising of defilements and remember that we have the Buddha’s instructions available to overcome them.
Have you had problems creating your personal anthology? Have you overcome any of those listed here? Share your experience in the comments below. Feel free to do so anonymously.