“There are four rules to be observed when reading the Tripitaka.
The first rule is to comprehend that the original purpose of speaking the Dharma of the Tathagata is to help all sentient being to escape from the Wheel of Birth and Death, that it is not meant just to give pleasure to the ears and eyes, and that and every word must be fully comprehended by one’s own Mind. Correct practice should not be likened to talking about food or counting other’s gems.
The second rule is that on the path of learning one should not, in the beginning, be ashamed to learn from those who appear to be one’s inferiors. Thus, there is an orderly progress in studying the Teaching of the Tathagata. However, some people have little talent but are very ambitious and anxious to have sudden Enlightenment. Apropos of such people we can ask the following: If one does not the ability to suck up a river, ho, then, can he reasonably expect to swallow the whole ocean?! He must first read the “Vinaya” of the Tripitaka to understand the monastic rules of the Buddha’s time as well as the importance of the order of the Sangha. Also, he must read the Four Agamas and come to understand very clearly the right causes and conditions that will to the goal. Then, if one wishes to know the fundamentals of the three wonderful meditations, he should focus accurately and deeply on methods and techniques of the T’ien T’ai School to understand the Tathagata’s purpose in speaking the wonderful Dharma and in skillfully teaching people by means of the four siddhanta. These four methods of teaching are the following: 1- mundane or ordinary modes of expression; 2- individual treatment, adapting the Teaching to the capacity of each hearer; 3- diagnostic treatment of their moral diseases; 4- the perfect and highest Truth. Thus after using the key of the Dharmadhatu to open all kinds of locks to the inconceivable treasures of the Sutras and the Sastras, one can then advance with irresistible force.
The third rule is to read first the Four-Division Vinaya with its verses, which is used by bhiksus; then one should read the Sanghika-Vinaya, in ten divisions, reciting its rules of fundamental discipline; next one should read the Mahisasaka-Vinaya, which details the five divisions of the Law according to that school. Also, one should read the Sarvastivada-Vinaya, which lists the disciplinary rules for moral training, and he should read other codes of behavior regulation and monastic discipline. Each of these codes of discipline and practice has been transmitted differently, and each has its full particulars, requiring careful thinking and consideration. One should not hold to just one side or view, denying the others, nor should one doubt both sides; but he should understand all sides for the deepest comprehension. Really, one should never say to himself, “It is not neccessary to care about Hinayana Dharma any longer, so abandon it and study only the Supreme Vehicle.” Such a view is foolish, heterdox, arrogant and evil, leading anyone holding it to stumble and fall into the deep pit of error and ignorance. Thus, on should not believe in it!
The fourth rule is to read, understand and respect the Sutras, Sastras and Vinayas of both the Mahayana and Hinayana Schools because each word is important and each sentence expresses the Truth. What kind of Dharma each person is to receive depends on his habits, whether heavy or light, which also determines his method of salvation. Choosing words and thoughts to benefit oneself and others can be compared to the great variety of herbs found on the snowy slopes of an ordinary mountain, where just gathering some medicine to cure one’s disease is enough. However, on the Treasure Mountain, where everything is valuable, one should focus on and take the Precious Mani first. This is the perfect panacea and method to cure all ills and can be examined by your hands and recognized by your eyes.”