The consumer reader who becomes interested in Zen Buddhism is far different than the religious reader. He or she doesn’t want to spend a great deal of time pondering the religious text if at all. The text the consumer reader wants is more like an interesting magazine article. The depth of interest here is much like being on a tourist bus in Washington D.C. or London; the content should be easy to engage with. One should come away from consumer reading with new information.
With religious reading, which is more connected with “study” in the sense of applying one’s mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge, religious reading is always vertical in terms of depth. It requires of us that we submit ourselves to introspection seeing where the religious ideas lie within us. Here Paul J. Griffiths gives us a peek into Buddhist reading which is quite different from consumer reading.
"Shâstragrahana, learning a work, was a matter of ears, memory, and mouth. Also, the kind of attention paid to works during this period evident in the anthologizing of Nagarjuna and Sântideva, and in the commenting of Sthiramati and Ratnâkarasânti—is clearly akin to that characteristic of religious reading. The works are read (heard), reread, memorized, pondered upon, excerpted, commented upon, chewed over, smelled, and incorporated. This is what religious readers do; it is not what consumerist readers do" (Paul J. Griffiths, Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 147).
Reading texts as we moderns understand the idea is not the same as tackling a Buddhist Sutra. We have to ponder—not just read—a sutra like the Lankavatara Sutra—and it only makes perfect sense when we have awakened to the cardinal essence of the Buddha’s teaching. Until that time, our own ideas are more like barriers or jungle vines which impede our forward progress.
Buddhist texts are not trying to give the reader Buddhism in a nutshell or Buddhism made easy. It is the same with Zen texts which are drawn, primarily, from various discourses of the Buddha. This, I hasten to inject, is where study comes into the picture. But this is a special kind of study. It is about our true nature, or the same, the One Mind. The special and profound intuition of this nature grants the adept special access into the Buddha’s discourses.