Question: I have written notes in the margins of a sutra book to help me understand its Dharma terms. However, someone told me that I should not write anything on the book as it is disrespectful. Is this true?
Answer: Not writing on sutra books is more in terms of the publicly shared ones used in temples for chanting and in libraries, because if everyone writes on them, the books will become messy and unusable.
As long as you write notes on your personal sutra book mindfully and respectfully, for your personal understanding, even the Buddha will surely rejoice! Writing neatly will also not give rise to onlookers’ aversion. You can think of your notes not as desecrating the sutra but adorning it with devotion and diligence.
An alternative is to use a separate notebook with reference to the sutra book’s page numbers, or to use post-it note paper stuck to the sutra book, so that they can be removed later if needed, for sharing the book unmarked with others.