Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More on Death:

Death is pretty popular right now in the media. Even roshis are getting in on the act. As for me, I can't help but think it's a bit of cheating to use the deep sufferings of others in their sickness and death to deepen practice, but at the same time, I can't find any other way to arouse the compassion that helps me get from point A to point B without losing it entirely.

Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter 1

It's here.

From what I've quoted below (I realize I have to change the format here) it can be surmised:

  • The "going beyond discrminiation" for which practitioners use koans goes way back in Buddhism - at least as far back as this sutra. True, koans as koans were developed later, but their aim is precisely what is described in this part of the Lankavatara sutra.

  • When all is said to be Mind, it's not to say all is unreal.

  • "It is to be known by oneself.” There's a lot more here than I'm even scribbling towards.

Here's the quoted text:

1. "The truth-treasure whose principle is the self-nature of Mind, has no selfhood (nairātmyam), stands above all reasoning, and is free from impurities; it points to the knowledge attained in one's inmost self; Lord, show me here the way leading to the Truth...

Come, Blessed One, who art our Teacher, come to Laṅkā on Mount Malaya.

31. "Free from the faults of the philosophers and Pratyekabuddhas and Śrāvakas is (8) the Truth of the inmost consciousness, immaculate and culminating in the stage of Buddhahood.”

38. [After this] the teacher and the sons of the Buddha vanished away in the air, leaving Rāvaṇa the Yaksha himself standing [above] in his mansion.

39. Thought he, "How is this? What means this? and by whom was it heard? What was it that was seen? and by whom was it seen? Where is the city? and where is the Buddha?

40. "Where are those countries, those jewel-shining Buddhas, those Sugatas? (9) Is it a dream then? or a vision? or is it a castle conjured up by the Gandharvas?

41. "Or is it dust in the eye, or a fata morgana, or the dream-child of a barren woman, or the smoke of a fire-wheel, that which I saw here?”

42. Then [Rāvaṇa reflected], "This is the nature as it is (dharmatā) of all things, which belongs to the realm of Mind, and it is not comprehended by the ignorant as they are confused by every form of imagination.

43. "There is neither the seer nor the seen, neither the speaker nor the spoken; the form and usage of the Buddha and his Dharma—they are nothing but discrimination.

44. "Those who see things such as were seen before, do not see the Buddha; [even] when discrimination is not aroused, one does not see1 the Buddha; the Buddha being fully-enlightened is seen where the world itself is not evolved.

The Lord of Laṅkā was then immediately awakened [from his reflection], feeling a revulsion (parāvṛiti) in his mind and realising that the world was nothing but his own mind: he was settled in the realm of non-discrimination, was urged by the stock of his past good deeds, acquired the cleverness of understanding all the texts, obtained the faculty of seeing things as they are, was no more dependent upon others, observed things excellently with his own wisdom (buddhi), gained the insight that was not of discursive reasoning, was no more dependent upon others,2 became a great Yogin of the discipline, was able to manifest himself in all excellent forms, got thoroughly acquainted with all skilful means, had the knowledge of the characteristic aspects of every stage, by which he would surmount it skilfully, was delighted to look into3 the self-nature of Citta, Manas, Manovijñāna, got a view whereby he could cut himself loose from the triple continuation, had the knowledge of disposing of every argument of (10) the philosophers on causation, thoroughly understood the Tathāgata-garbha, the stage of Buddhahood, the inmost self, found himself abiding in the Buddha-knowledge; [when suddenly] a voice was heard from the sky, saying, "It is to be known by oneself.”

"Well done, well done, Lord of Laṅkā! Well done, indeed, Lord of Laṅkā, for once more! The Yogin is to discipline himself as thou doest. The Tathagatas and all things are to be viewed as they are viewed by thee; otherwise viewed, it is nihilism. All things are to be comprehended by transcending the Citta, Manas, and Vijñāna as is done by thee. Thou shouldst look inwardly and not become attached to the letter and a superficial view of things; thou shouldst not fall into the attainments, conceptions, experiences, views, and Samādhis of the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers; thou shouldst not have any liking for small talk and witticism; thou shouldst not cherish the notion of self-substance,1 nor have any thought for the vainglory of rulership, nor dwell on such Dhyānas as belong to the six Dhyānas, etc.

"Lord of Laṅkā, this is the realisation of the great Yogins: to destroy the discourses advanced by others, to crush mischievous views in pieces, to keep themselves properly away from ego-centered notions, to cause a revulsion in the depths of the mind fittingly by means of an exquisite knowledge. Such are sons of the Buddha who walk in the way of the Mahāyāna. In order to enter upon the stage of self-realisation as attained by the Tathagatas, the discipline is to be pursued by thee.

Life is difficult. You will die.

That's comes with the territory of being born.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lankavatara Sutra: Preface & Introduction

I recommend reading this; it's a self-explanatory tutorial of the "structure" of Mahayana Buddhism, as opposed to the list of precepts, which then is followed by an introduction to the Lankavatara sutra itself.

The Turning back (parāvṛitti)

To this philosophy, a special paragraph is devoted below. I wish here to say a few words concerning the important psychological event known as Parāvṛitti in the Laṅkā and other Mahayana literature. Parāvṛitti literally means "turning up" or "turning back" or "change"; technically, it is a spiritual change or transformation which takes place in the mind, especially suddenly, and I have called it "revulsion" in my Studies in the Laṅkāvatāra, which, it will be seen, somewhat corresponds to what is known as "conversion" among the psychological students of religion.

It is significant that the Mahayana has been insistent to urge its followers to experience this psychological transformation in their practical life. A mere intellectual understanding of the truth is not enough in the life of a Buddhist; the truth must be directly grasped, personally experienced, intuitively penetrated into; for then it will be distilled into life and determine its course.

This Parāvṛitti, according to the Laṅkā, takes place in the Ālaya-vijñāna or All-conserving Mind, which is assumed to exist behind our individual empirical consciousnesses. The Ālaya is a metaphysical entity, and no psychological analysis can reach it. What we ordinarily know as the Ālaya is its working through a relative mind The Mahayana calls this phase of the Ālaya tainted or defiled (klishṭa) and tells us to be cleansed of it in order to experience a Parāvṛitti for the attainment of ultimate reality.

Parāvṛitti in another sense, therefore, is purification (viśuddhi). In Buddhism terms of colouring are much used, and becoming pure, free from all pigment, means that the Ālaya is thoroughly washed off its dualistic accretion or outflow (āsrava), that is, that the Tathagata has effected his work of purification in the mind of a sentient being, which has so far failed to perceive its own oneness and allness. Being pure is to remain in its own selfhood or self-nature (svabhāva). While Parāvṛitti is psychological, it still retains its intellectual flavour as most Buddhist terms do.
Self-discipline and the Buddha's Power

As long as Parāvṛitti is an experience and not mere understanding, it is evident that self-discipline plays an important role in the Buddhist life. This is insisted upon in the Laṅkā as is illustrated in the use of such phrases as "Do not rely on others" (aparapraṇeya); "Strive yourselves" (śikshitavyam), etc. But at the same time we must not forget the fact that the Laṅkā also emphasises the necessity of the Buddha's power being added to the Bodhisattvas, in their upward course of spiritual development and in the accomplishment of their great task of world-salvation. If they were not thus so constantly sustained by the miraculous power of the Buddha, they would speedily fall into the group of the philosophers and Śrāvakas, and they would never be able to attain supreme enlightenment and preach the doctrine of universal emancipation. Indeed, when the Buddha so wishes, even such inanimate objects as mountains, woods, palaces, etc. will resound with the voice of the Buddha; how much more the Bodhisattvas who are his spiritual inheritors!

The doctrine of Adhishṭhāna gains all the more significance when we consider the development of Mahayana Buddhism into the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. The power of a Bodhisattva's original vows may also be judged as being derived from the Buddha. If the possibility of enlightenment is due to the Adhishṭhāna or Prabhāva of the Buddha, all the wonders that are to take place by the strength of the enlightenment must be inferred ultimately to issue from the fountain-head of Buddhahood itself.

At any rate the Mahayana idea of the Buddha being able to impart his power to others marks one of those epoch-making deviations which set off the Mahayana from so-called primitive or original Buddhism. When the Buddha comes to be considered capable of Adhishṭhāna, the next step his devotees are logically led to take would be the idea of vicarious suffering or atonement. Giving power to another is a positive idea while suffering for another may be said to be a negative one. Though this latter is strangely absent in the Laṅkā, the Gaṇḍavyūha as well as the Prajñāpāramitā are quite eloquent in elucidating the doctrine of vicarious suffering. According to this doctrine, whatever suffering one is enduring may be transferred on to another if the latter sincerely desires out of his unselfish and all-embracing love for others, to take these sufferings upon himself so that the real sufferers may not only be relieved of them but escape their evil consequences, thus enabling him to advance more easily and successfully towards the attainment of the blissful life. This goes quite against the idea of individual responsibility. But really religious minds require this vicarious suffering for their spiritual life.

To suffer or atone vicariously is still negative and fails to entirely satisfy our spiritual needs. The latter demand that more good must be done in order to suppress the evils which are found claiming this world for their own glorification. So the Mahayanists accumulate stocks of merit not only for the material of their own enlightenment but for the general cultivation of merit which can be shared equally by their fellow-beings, animate and inanimate. This is the true meaning of Pariṇāmana, that is, turning one's merit over to others for their spiritual interest.

As I said elsewhere, this notion of Pariṇāmana is not at all traceable in the Laṅkā, which is strange. The Laṅkā cannot be imagined to have been compiled prior to the Prajñāpāramitā, nor to the Gaṇḍavyūha or Avataṁsaka; if so, why this absence? How can this be explained?
Buddha the Enlightened and Sarvasattva the Ignorant

To conclude this section, Buddhism is the story of relationship between the two groups of beings: the one is called Buddha who is the enlightened, the Tathagata, the Arhat, and the other is generally designated as Sarvasattva, literally "all beings", who are ignorant, greedy for worldly things, and therefore in perpetual torment. In spite of their hankering for worldly enjoyments, they are conscious of their condition and not at all satisfied with it; when they reflect they find themselves quite forlorn inwardly, they long for real happiness, for ultimate reality, and blissful enlightenment. They look upwards, where the Buddha sits rapt in his meditation serenely regarding them with his transcendental wisdom. As he looks down at his fellow-beings inexplicably tormented with their greed and ignorance and egotism, he is disturbed, for he feels an inextinguishable feeling of love stirring within himself—the feeling now perfectly purified of all the defilements of selfishness, which embraces the whole world in pity though not attached to it. The Buddha leaves his transcendental abode. He is seen among sentient beings, each one of whom recognises him according to his own light.

Transcendental wisdom (prajñā) and a heart of all-embracing love (mahākaruṇā) constitute the very reason of Buddhahood, while the desire or thirst for life (tṛishṇa), and ignorance as to the meaning of life (avidyā), and deeds (karma) following from the blind assertion of life-impulse— these are the factors that enter into the nature of Sarvasattva, all ignorant and infatuated ones. The one who is above, looking downward, extends his arms to help; the other unable to extricate himself from entanglements looks up in despair, and finding the helping arms stretches his own to take hold of them. And from this scene the following narratives psychological, logical, and ontological, unfold themselves to the Buddhist soul.

As for the Lankavatara sutra itself:

All these and other sutras of Mahayana Buddhism may seem to exhaust the many-sided aspects of this school, but another is needed to tell us that mere understanding is not enough in the Buddhist life, that without self-realisation all intellection amounts to nothing. To tell us this is the office of the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra, and Bodhidharma, father of Zen Buddhism, made use of the text quite effectively; for it was through him that a special school of Buddhism under the title of Zen or Ch'an has come to develop in China and in Japan. While Zen as we have it now is not the same in many respects as Bodhidharma first proclaimed it about fifteen centuries ago, the spirit itself flows quite unchanged in the East. And this is eloquently embodied in the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra. It is not, however, necessary here for us to enter into details, for the point has been fully dwelt upon in my recent work, Studies in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. Suffice it to touch lightly upon the characteristic features of the Sutra, which constitute its special message as distinguished from the other sutras already referred to.

There is no doubt that the Laṅkā is closely connected in time as well as in doctrine with The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna generally ascribed to Aśvaghosha. While he may not have been the author of this most important treatise of Mahayana philosophy, there was surely a great Buddhist mind, who, inspired by the same spirit which pervades the Laṅkā, the Avataṁsaka, the Parinirvāṇa, etc., poured out his thoughts in The Awakening. Some scholars contend that The Awakening is a Chinese work, but this is not well grounded.

In a way The Awakening is an attempt to systematise the Laṅkā, for all the principal teachings of the latter are found there developed in due order. As far as the theoretical side is concerned, both teach the existence of the Garbha as ultimate reality. While this lies in ordinary people defiled by the evil passions and does not shine out in its native purity, we cannot deny its existence in them. When the external wrappage of impurities is peeled off we all become Buddhas and Tathagatas. In fact, the birth of a Tathagata is nowhere else than in this Garbha.

The Garbha is from the psychological point of view the Ālayavijñāna, all-conserving mind, in which good and bad are mingled, and the work of the Yogin, that is, one who seeks the truth by means of self-discipline, is to separate the one from the other. Why is the Ālaya found contaminated by evil thoughts and desires? What is the evil? How does it come out in this world? How is the truth to be realised? These questions are answered by postulating a system of Vijñānas and by the doctrine of Discrimination (vikalpa), as has already been expounded above.

This is the point where the Laṅkā comes in contact with the Yogācāra school. The Yogācāra is essentially psychological standing in contrast in this respect to the Madhyamaka school which is epistemological. But the Ālayavijñāna of the Yogācāra is not the same as that of Laṅkā and the Awakening of Faith. The former conceives the Ālaya to be purity itself with nothing defiled in it whereas the Laṅkā and the Awakening make it the cause of purity and defilement. Further, the Yogācāra upholds the theory of Vijñaptimātra and not that of Cittamātra, which belongs to the Laṅkā, Avataṁsaka, and Awakening of Faith. The difference is this: According to the Vijñaptimātra, the world is nothing but ideas, there are no realities behind them; but the Cittamātra states that there is nothing but Citta, Mind, in the world and that the world is the objectification of Mind. The one is pure idealism and the other idealistic realism.

To realise the Cittamātra is the object of the Laṅkā, and this is done when Discrimination is discarded, that is, when a state of non-discrimination is attained in one's spiritual life. Discrimination is a logical term and belongs to the intellect. Thus we see that the end of the religious discipline is to go beyond intellectualism, for to discriminate, to divide, is the function of the intellect. Logic does not lead one to self-realisation. Hence Nāgārjuna's hair-splitting dialectics. His idea is to prove the ineffectiveness of logic in the domain of our spiritual life. This is where the Laṅkā joins hands with the Madhyamaka. The doctrine of the Void is indeed the foundation of Mahayana philosophy. But this is not to be understood in the manner of analytical reasoning. The Laṅkā is quite explicit and not to be mistaken in this respect.

So far, the Laṅkā may seem to be only a philosophical treatise with nothing religious in it, but the fact is that the Sutra is deeply tinged with religious sentiments. For instance, the Bodhisattva would not enter into Nirvana because of his vows to save all sentient beings, and his vows are not limited in time and space, and for this reason they are called "inexhaustible". Not only are his vows inexhaustible but the "skilful means" he uses for the emancipation of all beings know no limits. He knows how to make the best use of his inexhaustible resources intellectual and practical for this single purpose. Here we may say that the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra of the Avataṁsaka or the Gaṇḍavyūha is reflected.

In the Laṅkā all the most fundamental conceptions of the Mahayana are thrown in without any attempt on the part of the compiler or compilers to give them a system. This is left to the thoughtful reader himself who will pick them up from the medley and string them into a garland of pearls out of his own religious experience.

The one significant Mahayana thought, however, which is not expressly touched upon in the Sutra is that of Pariṇāmana. Pariṇāmana means to turn one's merit over to somebody else so as to expedite the latter's attainment of Nirvana. If anybody does anything good, its merit is sure to come back to the doer himself—this is the doctrine of Karma; but according to the Mahayana the recipient need not always be the doer himself, he may be anybody, he may be the whole world; merit being of universal character can be transferred upon anything the doer wishes. This transferability is known as the doctrine of Pariṇāmana, the turning over of one's good work to somebody else. This idea comes from the philosophical teaching of Interpenetration as upheld in the Avataṁsaka.

It is interesting that in most Zen temples in most services there is a "dedication of merit" that is chanted, and yet the foundational sutra of the Zen school (to the extent that there is such a sutra is in a school of "no words or letters") lacks this concept.

Of course, there is no reliance on words or letters ultimately; the experience of realization is self-validating. But then again it's easy to confuse one's self and others that one has had such an experience anyway. Zenmar, if I recall correctly has mentioned that this sutra is a good way to "test" one's realization. Hakuin gives another in the Orategama (and I won't go into the relation between the two).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Lankavatara Sutra

I'll be using Suzuki's translation.

It's got quite a lot of background on the subject and other sutras, etc.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find on the 'net a copy of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in 8000 Lines, but I'll check some more. If not there's always the Diamond Cutter & Heart Sutra versions.

Lotus Sutra Chapter 27: The Period of the Law (of the Dharmaparyâya )

Yes, it's the Great Commission, Mahayana style:

Into your hands, young men of good family, I transfer and transmit, entrust and deposit this supreme and perfect enlightenment arrived at by me after hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of incalculable Æons. Receive it, young men of good family, keep, read, fathom, teach, promulgate, and preach it to all beings. I am not avaricious, young men of good family, nor narrow-minded; I am confident and willing to impart Buddha-knowledge, to impart the knowledge of the Tathâgata, the knowledge of the Self-born. I am a bountiful giver, young men of good family, and ye, young men of good family, follow my example; imitate me in liberally showing this knowledge of the Tathâgata, and in skilfulness, and preach this Dharmaparyâya to the young men and young ladies of good family who successively shall gather round you. And as to unbelieving persons, rouse them to accept this law. By so doing, young men of good family, you will acquit your debt to the Tathâgatas.

So addressed by the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, the Bodhisattvas filled with delight and joy, and with a feeling of great respect they lowered, bent, and bowed their body towards the Lord, and, the head inclined and the joined hands stretched out, they spoke in one voice to the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, the following words: We shall do, O Lord, what the Tathâgata commands; we shall fulfil the command of all Tathâgatas. Let the Lord be at ease as to this, and perfectly quiet. A second time, a third time the entire host of Bodhisattvas spoke in, one voice the same words: Let the Lord be at ease as to this, and perfectly quiet. We shall do, O Lord, what the Tathâgata commands us; we shall fulfil the command of all Tathâgatas.

Thereupon the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, dismissed all those Tathâgatas, who had come to the gathering from other worlds, and wished them a happy existence, with the words: May the Tathâgatas, live happy. Then he restored the Stûpa of precious substances of the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, to its place, and wished him also a happy existence.

The difference with the Christian Great Commission is that the Dharmaparyâya is quite open as long as you avoid what is easily avoidable: a literal interpretation.

All major sects of which I'm aware but the Nichiren sect read the sutra this way (and I'm sure there are those in that sect who don't read it literally either).

When the Dharmaparyâya is understood as pointing beyond the text of the Wondrous Law (as Hakuin said, the Law cannot exist apart from mind!) and when the doctrine of skillful means are considered, and when these bodhisattvas are understood as present within the interstices of everyday existnce, it is clear that to Buddhists the Lotus Sutra is of great value, and to Zen Buddhists, those of us who pursue the special transmission outside words and letters, these "words and letters" that point outside themselves are quite important.

That concludes the Lotus Sutra series.

I will probably take up the Lankavatara Sutra next, as a) the translation by Suzuki is readily available, and b) it more specifically relates to Zen practice.

Lotus Sutra Chapter 25: Ancient Devotion, and Chapter 26: Deeds of Samantabhadra

This appears in the version I've been mainly using. The version the Nichiren folks use is Chapter 27; in-between is a section on dharanis and "spells."

It's about those who are able to convert others to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law, which, again, Hakuin reads as resolution of the Great Matter, not the literal text of the Lotus Sutra. It appears anti-climactic after the "Kwan Yin" sub-sutra mentioned below.

Chapter 27
Chapter 26 is sufficient, I think, to get the flavor of both chapters:

Thereupon the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Samantabhadra, in the east, surrounded and followed by Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas surpassing all calculation, amid the stirring of fields, a rain of lotuses, the playing of hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of musical instruments, proceeded with the great pomp of a Bodhisattva, the great display of transformations proper to a Bodhisattva, the great magnificence of a Bodhisattva, the great power of a Bodhisattva, the great lustre of a glorious Bodhisattva, the great stately march of a Bodhisattva, the great miraculous display of a Bodhisattva, a great phantasmagorical sight of gods, Nâgas, goblins, Gandharvas, demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men, and beings not human, who, produced by his magic, surrounded and followed him; Samantabhadra, then, the Bodhisattva, amid such inconceivable miracles worked by magic, arrived at this Saha-world. He went up to the place of the Lord on the Gridhrakûta, the king of mountains, and on approaching he humbly saluted the Lord's feet, made seven circumambulations from left to right, and said to the Lord: I have come hither, O Lord, from the field of the Lord Ratnategobhyudgata, the Tathâgata, &c., as I am aware, Lord, that here in the Saha-world is taught the Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, to hear which from the mouth of the Lord Sâkyamuni I have come accompanied by these hundred thousands of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas. May the Lord deign to expound, in extension, this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law to these Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas. So addressed, the Lord said to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Samantabhadra: These Bodhisattvas, young man of good family, are, indeed, quick of understanding, but this is the Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, that is to say, an unmixed truth. The Bodhisattvas exclaimed: Indeed Lord; indeed, Sugata. Then in order to confirm, in the Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, the females among the monks, nuns, and lay devotees assembled at the gathering, the Lord again spoke to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Samantabhadra: This Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, young man of good family, shall be entrusted to a female if she be possessed of four requisites, to wit: she shall stand under the superintendence of the Lords Buddhas; she shall have planted good roots; she shall keep steadily to the mass of disciplinary regulations; she shall, in order to save creatures, have the thoughts fixed on supreme and perfect enlightenment. These are the four requisites, young man of good family, a female must be possessed of, to whom this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law is to be entrusted.

Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Samantabhadra said to the Lord: At the end of time, at the end of the period, in the second half of the millennium, I will protect the monks who keep this Satrânta; I will take care of their safety, avert blows [or punishment], and destroy poison, so that no one laying snares for those preachers may surprise them, neither Mâra the Evil One, nor the sons of Mâra, the angels called Mârakâyikas, the daughters of Mâra, the followers of Mâra, and all other servitors to Mâra; that no gods, goblins, ghosts, imps, wizards, spectres laying snares for those preachers may surprise them. Incessantly and constantly, O Lord, will I protect such a preacher. And when a preacher who applies himself to this Dharmaparyâya shall take a walk, then, O Lord, will I mount a white elephant with six tusks, and with a train of Bodhisattvas betake myself to the place where that preacher is walking, in order to protect this Dharmaparyâya. And when that preacher, applying himself to this Dharmaparyâya, forgets, be it but a single word or syllable, then will I mount the white elephant with six tusks, show my face to that preacher, and repeat this entire Dharmaparyâya. And when the preacher has seen my proper body and heard from me this entire Dharmaparyâya, he, content, in high spirits, ravished, rejoiced, joyful, and delighted, will the more do his utmost to study this Dharmaparyâya, and immediately after beholding me he will acquire meditation and obtain spells, termed the talisman of preservation, the talisman of hundred thousand kotis, and the talisman of skill in all sounds.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lotus Sutra Chapter 24: [Re: The Transformations of Avalokitesvara]

For me at least, the preceding chapter and this one give this sutra its rightful prestigious place amongst the worlds's truly great religious literature. If you've just skipped over my blog posts on this subject, if there's just one thing you need to know about the Lotus Sutra, it's probably contained in this chapter. But then people such as Hakuin have experienced great enlightenment reading the whole thing, so don't take my word for what to read and what not to read.

Even the unwieldy translation I've been using allows the beauty of this chapter of this sutra to come through:

Thereafter the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati rose from his seat, put his upper robe upon one shoulder, stretched his joined hands towards the Lord, and said: For what reason, O Lord, is the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara called Avalokitesvara?

This dialog looks out of place, given all the discussion just spent on the Wonderful Sound...but...

The Buddha answers:

All the hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of creatures, young man of good family, who in this world are suffering troubles will, if they hear the name of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara, be released from that mass of troubles.

The Buddha then describes a mass of troubles for which Avalokitesvara (Kwan Yin, Kannon, etc.) is effective.

If a man given up to capital punishment implores Avalokitesvara, young man of good family, the swords of the executioners shall snap asunder. Further, young man of good family, if the whole triple chiliocosm were teeming with goblins and giants, they would by virtue of the name of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara being pronounced lose the faculty of sight in their wicked designs. If some creature, young man of good family, shall be bound in wooden or iron manacles, chains or fetters, be he guilty or innocent, then those manacles, chains or fetters shall give way as soon as the name of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara is pronounced. Such, young man of good family, is the power of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara. If this whole triple chiliocosm, young man of good family, were teeming with knaves, enemies, and robbers armed with swords, and if a merchant leader of a caravan marched with a caravan rich in jewels; if then they perceived those robbers, knaves, and enemies armed with swords, and in their anxiety and fright thought themselves helpless; if, further, that leading merchant spoke to the caravan in this strain: Be not afraid, young gentlemen, be not frightened; invoke, all of you, with one voice the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara, the giver of safety; then you shall be delivered from this danger by which you are threatened at the hands of robbers and enemies; if then the whole caravan with one voice invoked Avalokitesvara with the words: Adoration, adoration be to the giver of safety, to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Mahâsattva!then, by the mere act of pronouncing that name, the caravan would be released from all danger.

The other point of this chapter, perhaps even this sutra, is given by the following:

Again the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati said to the Lord: How, O Lord, is it that the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara frequents this Saha-world? And how does he preach the law? And which is the range of the skilfulness of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara?

The Buddha answers:

In some worlds, young man of good family, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara preaches the law to creatures in the shape of a Buddha; in others he does so in the shape of a Bodhisattva. To some beings he shows the law in the shape of a Pratyekabuddha; to others he does so in the shape of a disciple; to others again under that of Brahma, Indra, or a Gandharva. To those who are to be converted by a goblin, he preaches the law assuming the shape of a goblin; to those who are to be converted by Isvara, he preaches the law in the shape of isvara; to those who are to be converted by Mahesvara, he preaches assuming the shape of Mahesvara. To those who are to be converted by a Kakravartin [This term is ambiguous; it means both 'the mover of the wheel', i.e. Vishnu, and 'an emperor'], he shows the law after assuming the shape of a Kakravartin; to those who are to be converted by an imp, he shows the law under the shape of an imp; to those who are to be converted by Kubera, he shows the law by appearing in the shape of Kubera; to those who are to be converted by Senâpati [Ambiguous; the word denotes both 'the commander-in-chief of the army of the gods, Skanda,' and 'a commander-in-chief in general'], he preaches in the shape of Senapati ; to those who are to be converted by assuming a Brâhman [the Brâhman may be Brihaspati] , he preaches in the shape of a Brâhman; to those who are to be converted by Vagrapâni [Vagrapâni is the name of one of the Dhyânibuddhas, and of certain geniuses, and an ephitet of Indra] , he preaches in the shape of Vagrapâni [The function of Avalokitesvara, as it appears from these passages, agree with those of Gadgadasvara mentioned in the foregoing chapter]. With such inconceivable qualities, young man of good family, is the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara endowed. Therefore then, young man of good family, honour the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara. The Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara, young man of good family, affords safety to those who are in anxiety. On that account one calls him in this Saha-world Abhayandada (i. e. Giver of Safety).

And compassion is the motive:

Further, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati said to the Lord: Shall we give a gift of piety, a decoration of piety, O Lord, to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara? The Lord replied: Do so, if thou thinkest it opportune. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati took from his neck a pearl necklace, worth a hundred thousand (gold pieces), and presented it to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara as a decoration of piety, with the words: Receive from me this decoration of piety, good man. But he would not accept it. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati said to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara: Out of compassion to us, young man of good family, accept this pearl necklace. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara accepted the pearl necklace from the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati, out of compassion to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Akshayamati and the four classes, and out of compassion to the gods, Nâgas, goblins, Gandharvas demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men: and beings not human. Thereafter he divided (the necklace) into two parts, and offered one part to the Lord Sakyamuni, and the other to the jewel Stûpa of the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathagata, &c., who had become completely extinct.

With such a faculty of transformation, young man of good family, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Avalokitesvara is moving in this Saha-world.

So the Bodhisattva of Compassion appears in any form needed to get the job done. This is not a "My way or the highway" being or doctrine and is at least the Mahayana explanation of why compassion is universal: in distress Kwan Yin may be male or female, high or low, etc.

Avalokitesvara/Kwan Yin/Kannon is the "Hearer of the Cries of the World," and Gadgadasvara is "Wonderful Sound." Implicit here is also the ability of compassion to transmute anguish, suffering and misfortune into something to the point of wonderful, if only as an expression of our own existence amidst those aspects of dukkha that, in the face of impermanence are experienced as hellish nothingness.

Imagining that each person in your life is an embodiment of Avalokitesvara can be a profound practice.

Like I've said over and over, I'm not a teacher and so on...but if you want to see Avalokitesvara face to face, imagining that each person in your life is an embodiment of Avalokitesvara couldn't hurt in your endeavors.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I haven't even gotten to "Eckart Tolle"

From Dochong, JDPSN at Zen Mirror:

LIke your family?

One of the reasons I was not a fan of Michael Jackson was that I could not, in any way, relate emotionally to the high pitched voice, the disco-flavored dance moves, etc. coordinated with the weird dress. Aesthetically, music should resonate with one, and Jackson's music did not with me. But the foregoing doesn't even begin to explain my reaction to scenes like this:

In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans — some chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, some doing the “Thriller” dance — descended on the hospital and on the hillside house where he was staying.

Jeremy Vargas, 38, hoisted his wife, Erica Renaud, 38, on his shoulders and they danced and bopped to “Man in the Mirror” playing from an onlooker’s iPod connected to external speakers — the boom boxes of Mr. Jackson’s heyday long past their day.

“I am in shock and awe,” said Ms. Renaud, who was visiting from Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her family. “He was like a family member to me.”

What are your family members like? Do you relate to them as you would a pop icon? To see them do you have to go through Ticketmaster?

Yeah, it's a phenomenon we saw with Elvis and the Beatles (and decades before with Rudolf Valentino), and there was some kind of vicarious expression of sexuality associated with them, or at least I thought there was.

But the scenes that I saw on TV reacting to Jackson's death had to do with lots of folks in their 30s. Michael Jackson in death is a sex symbol? - the guy with the nose famously lampooned in a South Park episode?

And he's like a family member?

May all beings attain wisdom.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm 52 years old today...

And, oddly enough, I've outlived Michael Jackson.

And Farah Fawcett.

And George Armstrong Custer, who died 133 years ago today.

Life's weird, ain't it?

Full disclosure: I never liked Michael Jackson's music, but I will grant that he knew how to perform and I did not.

But...what will the comics do? The plastic surgeons?

A man who brought humor to many with his profound weirdness (brought about, to be sure, by the oddly tortured existence he was mired in and to whatever extent he led) has died.

"Jacko" (one of the few things the NY Daily News and the NY Post could agree on was Jackson's tabloid moniker) is dead.

There's a huge subplot here, no doubt, tell-all books, movie biopics, whole new areas of merchandise.

We'll all be dead soon enough - too soon. My genetic legacy does not lend itself to the lives of those Georgians or Armenians in Dannon yogurt commericals...

Suzuki Shosan was right: you will die. Live as if that were an immutable fact.

Because it is, at least for the foreseeable few decades for most people.

Lotus Sutra, Chapter 23: Gadgadasvara (Wonderful Sound)

It's not easy to summarize this, but this appears to do it more or less...

Beyond those Buddha-fields, equal, &c., is the world called Vairokanarasmipratimandita (i.e. embellished by the rays of the sun). There dwells, lives, exists the Tathâgata named Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, who, surrounded and attended by a large and immense assembly of Bodhisattvas, preached the law. Immediately the ray of light flashing from the circle of hair between the eyebrows of the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., filled the world Vairokanarasmipratimandita with a great lustre. In that world Vairokanarasmipratimandita there was a Bodhisattva Mahâsattva called Gadgadasvara, who had planted roots of goodness, who had before seen similar luminous flashes emitted by many Tathâgatas, &c., and who had acquired many Samâdhis, such as the Samâdhi Dhvagâgrakeyûra (i. e. bracelet at the upper end of the banner staff), Saddharma-pundarîka (i. e. the Lotus of the True Law), Vimaladatta (i.e. given by Vimala), Nakshatraragâvikrîdita (i.e. sport of the king of asterisms, the moon god), Anilambha [Of uncertain meaning], Gñânamudrâ (i.e. the seal of science), Kandrapradîpa (i.e. moon-light), Sarvarutakausalya (i.e. skill in all sounds), Sarvapunyasamukkaya (i.e. compendium or collection of all piety), Prasâdavatî (i.e. the favourably-disposed lady), Riddhivikrîdita (i.e. sport of magic), Gñanolkâ (i.e. torch of knowledge), Vyûharâga (i.e. king of expansions or speculations), Vimalaprabhâ (i.e. spotless lustre), Vimalagarbha (i.e. of spotless interior part), Apkritsna [I.e. belonging to the mystic rite, called Âpokasina in Pali], Sûryâvarta (i.e. sun-turn); in short, he had acquired many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Samâdhis equal to the sands of the river Ganges. Now, the flash of light came down upon that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara rose from his seat, put his upper robe upon one shoulder, fixed his right knee on the ground, stretched his joined hands towards the Lord Buddha, and said to the Tathâgata Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña: O Lord, I would resort to the Saha-world to see, salute, wait upon the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c.; to see and salute Mañgusrî, the prince royal; to see the Bodhisattvas Bhaishagyarâga, Pradânasûra, Nakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña,Visishtakâritra,Vyûharâga, Bhaishagyarâgasamudgata.

Then the Lord Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Tathâgata, &c., said to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara: On coming to the Saha-world, young man of good family, thou must not conceive a low opinion of it. That world, young man of good family, has ups and downs, consists of earth, is replete with mountains of Kâla, filled with gutters. The Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., is short of stature, and so are the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, whereas thou, young man of good family, hast got a body forty-two hundred thousand yoganas high, and myself have got a body sixty-eight hundred thousand yoganas high. And, young man of good family, thou art lovely, handsome, of pleasant appearance, endowed with a full bloom of extremely fine colour, and abundantly blest with hundred thousands of holy signs. Therefore then, young man of good family, when you have come to the Saha-world, do not conceive a low opinion of the Tathâgata, nor of the Bodhisattvas, nor of that Buddha-field.

Thus addressed, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara said to the Lord Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Tathâgata, &c.: I shall do, Lord, as the Lord commands; I shall go to that Saha-world by virtue of the Lord's resolution, of the Lord's power, of the Lord's might, of the Lord's disposal, of the Lord's foresight. Whereon the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara, without leaving that Buddha-field and without leaving his seat, plunged into so deep a meditation that immediately after, on a sudden, there appeared before the Tathâgata on the Gridhrakûta-mountains in the Saha-world eighty-four hundred thousand myriads of kotis of lotuses on gold stalks with silver leaves and with cups of the hue of rosy lotuses and Butea Frondosa.

On seeing the appearance of this mass of lotuses the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Mañgusrî, the prince royal, asked the Lord Sakyamunî, the Tathâgata, &c.: By what cause and by whom, O Lord, have been produced these eighty-four hundred thousand myriads of kotis of lotuses on gold stalks with silver leaves and with cups of the hue of rosy lotuses and Butea Frondosa; Whereon the Lord replied to Mañgusrî, the prince royal: It is, Mañgusrî, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara, who accompanied and attended by eighty-four hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas arrives from the east, from the world Vairokanarasmipratimandita, the Buddha-field of the Lord Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Tathâgata, &c., at this Saha-world to see, salute, wait upon me, and to hear this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. Then Mañgusrî, the prince royal, said to the Lord: What mass of roots of goodness, O Lord, has that young man of good family collected, that he has deserved to obtain such a distinction? And what meditation is it, O Lord, that the Bodhisattva practises; Let us also learn that meditation, O Lord, and practise that meditation. And let us see that Bodhisattva, Lord; see how the colour, outward shape, character, figure, and behaviour of that Bodhisattva is. May the Lord deign to produce such a token that the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva be admonished by it to come to this Saha-world.

Then the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., said to the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., who was completely extinct: Produce such a token, Lord, that the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara be admonished by it to come to this Saha-world. And the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., who was completely extinct, instantly produced a token in order to admonish the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara (and said): Come, young man of good family, to this Saha-world; Mañgusrî, the prince royal, will hail thy coming. And the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara, after humbly saluting the feet of the Lord Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Tathâgata, &c., and after three times circumambulating him from left to right, vanished from the world Vairokanarasmipratimandita, along with eighty-four hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas who surrounded and followed him, and arrived at this Saha-world, among a stir of Buddhafields, a rain of lotuses, a noise of hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of musical instruments. His face showed eyes resembling blue lotuses, his body was gold-coloured, his person marked by a hundred thousand of holy signs; he sparkled with lustre, glowed with radiance, had limbs marked by the characteristic signs, and a body compact as Nârâyana's. Mounted on a tower made of seven precious substances, he moved through the sky to a height of seven Tâlas [Or spans]. There are seven regions of winds. Vâyu, the god of wind or air, is nearly akin to Indra and Vishnu], surrounded by a host of Bodhisattvas, in the direction of this Saha-world, and approached the Gridhrakûta, the king of mountains. At his arrival, he alighted from the tower, and went, with a necklace of pearls worth a hundred thousands, to the place where the Lord was sitting. After humbly saluting the feet of the Lord, and circumambulating him seven times from left to right, he offered him the necklace of pearls in token of homage, whereafter he said to the Lord: The Lord Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Tathâgata, &c., inquires after the Lord's health, welfare, and sprightliness; whether he feels free from affliction and at ease. That Lord has also charged me to ask: Is there something thou hast to suffer or allow? the humours of the body are not in an unfavourable state; thy creatures are decent in manners, tractable, and easy to be healed; their bodies are clean; They are not too passionate, I hope, not too irascible, not too unwise in their doings? They are not jealous, Lord, not envious, not ungrateful to their father and mother, not impious, not heterodox, not unsubdued in mind, not unrestrained in sexual desires; Are the creatures able to resist the Evil One; Has the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., who is completely extinct, come to the Saha-world in order to hear the law, sitting in the centre of a Stûpa made of seven precious substances; And as to that, Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., the Lord Kamaladalavimalanakshatrarâgasankusumitâbhigña, inquires: Is there something that the Lord Prabhûtaratna, &c., has to suffer or allow; Is the Lord Prabhûtaratna, &c., to stay long; We also, O Lord, are desirous of seeing the rudimentary frame [Dhâtuvigraha, the frame of the elementary parts, or the bone relics.] of that Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c. May the Lord therefore please to show us the rudimentary frame of the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c.

Then the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., said to the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., who was completely extinct: Lord, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara here wishes to see the Lord Prabûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., who is completely extinct. Whereon the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., spoke to the Bodhisattva Maliasattva Gadgadasvara in this strain: Well done, well done, young gentleman, that thou hast come hither in the desire to see the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c.; to hear this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, and see Mañgusrî, the prince royal...

The Lord said: Now, Padmasrî, this Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara preaches this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law under many shapes he assumes; sometimes [or somewhere] under the shape of Brahma, sometimes under that of Indra, sometimes under that of Shiva, sometimes under that of Kubera, sometimes under that of a sovereign, sometimes under that of a duke, sometimes under that of a chief merchant, sometimes under that of a citizen, sometimes under that of a villager, sometimes under that of a Brâhman. Sometimes again the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara preaches this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law under a monk's shape, sometimes under a nun's, sometimes under a male lay devotee's, sometimes under a female lay devotee's, sometimes under that of a chief merchant's wife, sometimes under that of a citizen's wife, sometimes under a boy's, sometimes under a girl's shape. With so many variations in the manner to show himself, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara preaches this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law to creatures. He has even assumed the shape of a goblin to preach this Dharmaparyâya to such as were to be converted by a goblin. To some he has preached this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law under the shape of a demon, to some under a Garuda's, to some under a Kinnara's, to some under a great serpent's shape. Even to the beings in any of the wretched states, in the hells, the brute creation, Yama's realm, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Gadgadasvara is a supporter.

Again the implicit self-referentiality of this is nothing short of fascinating: the Boddhisattva Wonderful Sound preaches the Lotus of the True Law in any expedient form, and this Lotus of the True Law contains the Boddhisattva Wonderful Sound preaching the Lotus of the True Law in any expedient form, which contains...

One more sentence from this translation at the Nichiren site is worth a remark:

At that time the bodhisattva Flower Virtue said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, this bodhisattva Wonderful Sound as planted the roots of goodness very deeply. World-Honored One, [in what] samadhi does this bodhisattva dwell ... that he is able to carry out all these transformations and manifestations to save living beings?"

The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Flower Virtue, "Good man, this samadhi is called Manifesting All Kinds of bodies. The bodhisattva Wonderful Sound, dwelling in this samadhi, is able in this manner to enrich and benefit immeasurable living beings."

It is in fact an active result, application of what is done in meditation that this Wonderful Sound bodhisattva is able to skilfully help living beings.

This is something one can find empirically with effort.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lotus Sutra, Chapter 22, The Ancient Devotion of Bhaishagyarâga

Using the translation I usually use...

Of yore, young man of good family, at a past epoch, at a time (as many) Æons ago as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges, there appeared in the world a Tathâgata, &c., by the name of Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, endowed with science and conduct, a Sugata, &c. &c. Now that Tathâgata, &c., Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî had a great assembly of eighty kotis of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas and an assembly of disciples equal to the sands of seventy-two Ganges rivers. His spiritual rule was exempt from the female sex, and his Buddha-field had no hell, no brute creation, no ghosts, no demons; it was level, neat, smooth as the palm of the hand. Its floor consisted of heavenly lapis lazuli, and it was adorned with trees of jewel and sandal-wood; inlaid with a multitude of jewels, and hung with long bands of silk, and scented by censors made of jewels. Under each jewel tree, at a distance not farther than a bowshot, was made a small jewel-house, and on the top of those small jewel-houses stood a hundred kotis of angels performing a concert of musical instruments and castanets, in order to honour the Lord Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, the Tathâgata, &c., while that Lord was extensively expounding this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law to the great disciples and Bodhisattvas, directing himself to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana. Now, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the lifetime of that Lord Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, the Tathâgata, &c., lasted forty-two thousand Æons, and likewise that of the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas and great disciples. It was under the spiritual rule of that Lord that the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana applied himself to his difficult course. He wandered twelve thousand years strenuously engaged in contemplation. After the expiration of those twelve thousand years he acquired the Samâdhi termed Sarvarûpasandarsana (i. e. the sight or display of all forms). No sooner had he acquired that Samâdhi than satisfied, glad, joyful, rejoicing, and delighted he made the following reflection: It is owing to this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law that I have acquired the Samâdhi of Sarvarûpasandarsana. Then he made another reflection: Let me do homage to the Lord Kandravimalasuryaprabhâsasrî and this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. No sooner had he entered upon such a meditation than a great rain of Mandârava and great Mandârava flowers fell from the upper sky. A cloud of Kâlânusârin sandal was formed, and a rain of Uragasâra sandal poured down. And the nature of those essences was so noble that one karsha of it was worth the whole Saha-world.

After a while, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana rose from that meditation with memory and full consciousness, and reflected thus: This display of magic power is not likely to honour the Lord and Tathâgata so much as the sacrifice of my own body will do. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana instantly began to eat Agallochum, Olibanum, and the resin of Boswellia Thurifera, and to drink oil of Kampaka. So, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana passed twelve years in always and constantly eating those fragrant substances and drinking oil of Kampaka. After the expiration of those twelve years the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana wrapped his body in divine garments, bathed it in oil, made his (last) vow, and thereafter burnt his own body with the object to pay worship to the Tathâgata and this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. Then, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, eighty worlds equal to the sands of the river Ganges were brightened by the glare of the flames from the blazing body of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana, and the eight Lords Buddhas equal to the sands of the Ganges in those worlds all shouted their applause, (and exclaimed): Well done, well done, young man of good family, that is the real heroism which the Boddhisattvas Mahasattvas should develop; that is the real worship of the Tathâgata, the real worship of the law. No worshipping with flowers, incense, fragrant wreaths, ointment, powder, cloth, umbrellas, flags, banners; no worshipping with material gifts or with Uragasâra sandal equals it. This, young man of good family, is the sublimest gift, higher than the abandoning of royalty, the abandoning of beloved children and wife. Sacrificing one's own body, young man of good family, is the most distinguished, the chiefest, the best, the very best, the most sublime worship of the law. After pronouncing this speech, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, those Lords Buddhas were silent.

The body of Sarvasattvapriyadarsana continued blazing for twelve thousand years without ceasing to burn. After the expiration of those twelve thousand years the fire was extinguished. Then, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana, having paid such worship to the Tathâgata, disappeared from that place, and (re)appeared under the (spiritual) reign of that very Lord Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, the Tathâgata, &c., in the house of king Vimaladatta, by apparitional birth, and sitting crosslegged.

The Nichiren translation avoids the tongue-twisting Pali/Sanskrit names (though you might prefer them).

From the Nichiren version the point of the above text is:

Great king, you should now understand this.
Having walked about in a certain place,
I immediately gained the samadhi
that allows me to manifest all physical forms.
I have carried out my endeavors with great diligence
and cast aside the body that I loved.

This theme of sacrifice out of devotion (taken intentionally perhaps to an extreme for we mortals) runs in this chapter, and it evidently is the reason why, as we'll see, compassion takes any expedient form. This would also explain why Hakuin could interpret the Lotus Sutra as being one in the world who operates in this world informed by a satori that addresses the Great Matter itself. And it also explains the far more "obvious" interpretation of the Nichiren/Soka Gakkai folks that think all references to the Lotus Sutra refer to the sutra itself.

All physical forms are all physical forms. From a Nomic point of view, you have to admire this sutra, for its implicit self-referentiality.

There's one more bit I'd like to look at as well:

So, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law delivers from all evils, extirpates all diseases, releases from the narrow bonds of the mundane whirl. And he who shall hear this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, who shall write it and cause it to be written, will produce an accumulation of pious merit the term of which is not to be arrived at even by Buddha-knowledge; so great is the accumulation of pious merit that will be produced by a young man of good family or a young lady who after teaching or learning it, writing it or having it collected into a volume, shall honour, respect, venerate, worship it with flowers, incense, fragrant garlands, ointment, powder, umbrellas, flags, banners, triumphal streamers, with music, with joining of hands, with lamps burning with ghee, scented oil, Kampaka oil, jasmine oil, trumpet-flower oil, Vârshika oil or double jasmine oil.

IOW, because there is great merit transferred by a bodhisattva long ago, you can obtain rescue from dukkha as suffering.

Your mileage may vary, but if you ever wondered why the SG folks kept on chanting "Namu Myo Renge Kyo" it's found here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Speaking of the Lotus Sutra

It's evidently not for nothing that I'm not quite a Nichiren Buddhist. From a commentary in their translation of the Lotus Sutra...

Some Buddhist sects prohibit their priests and followers from practicing supernatural powers, but the Lotus Sutra encourages the showing of the powers in order to cause all living beings to rejoice. Therefore, Nichiren Shu issues amulets and ofuda and we perform kito. However, we must know that supernatural powers are only expedients to cause people to rejoice. The final aim is to attain Buddhahood, the salvation from all sufferings.

I suppose it's an expedient means to have these things in temples, but I'm not quite a guy who hobnobs with folks with supernatural powers.

Not like in the comic books.

Lotus Sutra, Chapter 21: Spells

Let's see what this says...

Thereupon the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Bhaishagyarâga rose from his seat, and having put his upper robe upon one shoulder and fixed the right knee upon the ground lifted his joined hands up to the Lord and said: How great, O Lord, is the pious merit which will be produced by a young man of good family or a young lady who keeps this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, either in memory or in a book? Whereupon the Lord said to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Bhaishagyarâga: Suppose, Bhaishagyarâga, that some man of good family or a young lady honours, respects, reveres, worships hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas equal to the sands of eighty Ganges rivers; dost thou think, Bhaishagyarâga, that such a young man or young lady of good family will on that account produce much pious merit? The Bodhisattva Bhaishagyarâga replied: Yes, Lord; yes, Sugata. The Lord said: I announce to thee, Bhaishagyarâga, I declare to thee: any young man or young lady of good family, Bhaishagyarâga, who shall keep, read, comprehend, and in practice follow, were it but a single stanza from this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, that young man or young lady of good family, Bhaishagyarag-a, will on that account produce far more pious merit.

Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Bhaishagyarâga immediately said to the Lord: To those young men or young ladies of good family, O Lord, who keep this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law in their memory or in a book, we will give talismanic words for guard, defence, and protection; such as, anye manye mane mamane kitte karite same, samitâvi, sânte, mukte, muktatame, same avishame, samasame, gaye, kshaye, akshine, sânte sanî, dhârani âlokabhâshe, pratyavekshani, nidhini, abhyantaravisishte, utkule mutkule, asade, parade, sukânkshî, asamasame, buddhavilokite, dharmaparikshite, sanghanirghoshani, nirghoshanî bhayâbhayasodhanî, mantre mantrâkshayate, rutakausalye, akshaye, akshavanatâya, vakule valoda, amanyatâya. These words of charms and spells, O Lord, have been pronounced by reverend Buddhas (in number) equal to the sands of sixty-two Ganges rivers. All these Buddhas would be offended by any one who would attack such preachers, such keepers of the Sûtrânta.

The Lord expressed his approval to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Bhaishagyarâga by saying: Very well, Bhaishagyarâga, by those talismanic words being pronounced out of compassion for creatures, the common weal of creatures is promoted; their guard, defence, and protection is secured.

Thereupon the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Pradânasûra said unto the Lord: I also, O Lord, will, for the benefit of such preachers, give them talismanic words, that no one seeking for an occasion to surprise such preachers may find the occasion, be it a demon, giant, goblin, sorcerer, imp or ghost; that none of these when seeking and spying for an occasion to surprise may find the occasion. And then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Pradânasûra instantly pronounced the following words of a spell: gvale mahâgvale, ukke mukke, ade adâvati, tritye trityâvati, itini vitini kitini, tritti trityâvati svâhâ. These talismanic words, O Lord, have been pronounced and approved by Tathâgatas, &c. (in number) equal to the sands of the river Ganges. All those Tathâgatas would be offended by any one who would attack such preachers.

It goes on like that.

I am thinking more and more Hakuin's right.

It is noteworthy that the other translation I was using (see also here for another example) does not (as far as I could tell) have a counterpart to this chapter.

To a modern mind this chapter is bizarre, to say the least. But if the sutra's "true meaning" points beyond and outside of itself, well, it might as well get scatological here if it's going to help beings recognize their nature to help others get through this life.

Something to think about when stuck in traffic on a freeway...

I had a horrendous time getting around yesterday because of this...

Portland police officers took a man into custody on the Interstate 5 Bridge Sunday evening, ending a standoff that blocked southbound traffic on I-5 for almost four hours.

The man was considered suicidal and had not been charged with a crime Sunday evening, but he was being held for a mental-health evaluation, said Portland police spokesman Sgt. Mike Marshman.

The man had been armed with a knife and a hunting bow. While nobody was injured, the big issue was what Marshman called "a mushrooming cloud of a traffic problem."

Southbound traffic was stopped "for everybody’s safety," he said. "The northbound side was open, but people were stopping to watch. So even though it was open, (northbound) traffic essentially was stopped."

Somebody was trying to save someone's life.

I do wish when they issued traffic reports they'd make that plain as day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lotus Sutra Chapter 20

"Conception of the Transcendent Power of the Tathâgatas" is the chapter title...

Thereupon those hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas equal to the dust-atoms of a macrocosm, who had issued from the gaps of the earth, all stretched their joined hands towards the Lord, and said unto him: We, O Lord, will, after the complete extinction of the Tathâgata, promulgate this Dharmaparyâya everywhere (or on every occasion) in all Buddha-fields of the Lord, wherever (or whenever) the Lord shall be completely extinct [Hence follows that Nirvâna is repeatedly entered into by the Lord]. We are anxious to obtain this sublime Dharmaparyâya, O Lord, in order to keep, read, publish, and write it.

It is difficult not to read "conflict of interest" into this text, from this paragraph, but on the other hand, there is a need that burns throughout existence.

And if you read it Hakuin's way, this passage has a meaning beyond the text itself (which is implicit as I think I've mentioned, in the "skillful means" expounded here):

Thereupon the Lord addressed the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas headed by Visishtakâritra: Inconceivable, young men of good family, is the power of the Tathâgatas, &c. In order to transmit this Dharmaparyâya, young men of good family, I might go on for hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Æons explaining the manifold virtues of this Dharmaparyâya through the different principles of the law, without reaching the end of those virtues. In this Dharmaparyâya I have succinctly taught all Buddha-laws (or Buddha-qualities), all the superiority, all the mystery, all the profound conditions of the Buddhas. Therefore, young men of good family, you should, after the complete extinction of the Tathâgata, with reverence keep, read, promulgate, cherish, worship it. And wherever on earth, young men of good family, this Dharmaparyâya shall be made known, read, written, meditated, expounded, studied or collected into a volume, be it in a monastery or at home, in the wilderness or in a town, at the foot of a tree or in a palace, in a building or in a cavern, on that spot one should erect a shrine in dedication to the Tathâgata. For such a spot must be regarded as a terrace of enlightenment; such a spot must be regarded as one where all Tathâgatas &c. have arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment; on that spot have all Tathâgatas moved forward the wheel of the law; on that spot one may hold that all Tathâgatas have reached complete extinction.

This Dharmaparyâya, as I said in the last post, is your Dharmaparyâya. That is, the Lotus Law is none other than that which is you awake. Where you are is "where all Tathâgatas &c. have arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment; on that spot have all Tathâgatas moved forward the wheel of the law; on that spot one may hold that all Tathâgatas have reached complete extinction."

So any benefit the writer of this sutra may have had might be achieved, amplified, and offered for others.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This Tathagata's True Meaning

Hakuin,in the Orategama, reads the Lotus Sutra differently than I've been reading it. He defines the "message" the thing that is propagated, as not the literal Lotus Sutra text itself, but rather the Awakened One's Meaning behind the Lotus Sutra. That's what will give the Multiverse ecstatic joy.

But Hakuin warns that "this meaning" is our meaning, as in Case 39 of the Mumonkan, as in what caused ancestors to lose limbs, to be threatened by wolves, and to be otherwise consensually posited on the knife's edge between life and death, as a "middle way" that might be middling enough for many people, but when it's your life it's YOUR life you're leading and with which you are resolving the Great Matter.

As they say in one of the standards bodies I've attended: "Document noted."

Which means: pay deep attention.

Which also means: the "conflict of interest" I wrote of earlier doesn't really enter.

It's not about the writer(s) of the Lotus Sutra.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Groundhog Day"

I never saw the movie, but I suppose this is a good day, because the things I'm getting better at the things I am doing.

If that's the point of the movie, all well and good. I never was much of a fan of Bill Murray.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Now I know why I don't twitter...

OK, I gotta quote some of these...In response to this

Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.

twitterers replied:

ceedub7 @petehoekstra I got a splinter in my hand today. Felt just like Jesus getting nailed to the cross.

MattOrtega Walked out onto Constitution Ave in D.C. and was almost hit by a taxi. Reminded me of Tienanmen Square.

Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19

Still using this translation, still my own lay interpretation, etc....

The Lord then addressed the Bodhisattva Mahisattva Mahâsthâmaprâpta. In a similar way, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, one may infer from what has been said that he who rejects such a Dharmaparyâya as this, who abuses monks, nuns, lay devotees male or female, keeping this Sûtra, insults them, treats them with false and harsh words, shall experience dire results, to such an extent as is impossible to express in words. But those that keep, read, comprehend, teach, amply expound it to others, shall experience happy results, such as I have already mentioned: they shall attain such a perfection of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind as just described...

...Bodhisattva Mahâsattva [Sadâparibhûta] was in the habit of exclaiming to every monk or nun, male or female lay devotee, while approaching them: I do not contemn you, worthies. You deserve no contempt, for you all observe the course of duty of Bodhisattvas and are to become Tathâgatas, &c. In this way, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva, when a monk, did not teach nor study; the only thing he did was, whenever he descried from afar a monk or nun, a male or female lay devotee, to approach them and exclaim: I do not contemn you, sisters. You deserve no contempt, for you all observe the course of duty of Bodhisattvas and are to become Tathâgatas, &c. So, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva at that time used to address every monk or nun, male or female devotee. But all were extremely irritated and angry at it, showed him their displeasure, abused and insulted him: Why does he, unasked, declare that he feels no contempt for us? just by so doing he shows a contempt for us. He renders himself contemptible by predicting our future destiny to supreme, perfect enlightenment; we do not care for what is not true. Many years, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, went on during which that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva was being abused, but he was not angry at anybody, nor felt malignity, and to those who, when he addressed them in the said manner, cast a clod or stick at him, he loudly exclaimed from afar: I do not contemn you. Those monks and nuns, male and female lay devotees, being always and ever addressed by him in that phrase gave him the (nick)name of Sadâparibhûta.

BTW, "contemn" and "descry" are real words. "Contemn" means "to show contempt," and "descry" means to see from a distance.

It continues...

It was the Lord Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, the Tathâgata, &c., who expounded this Dharmaparyâya in twenty times twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of stanzas, which the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sadâparibhûta heard from a voice in the sky, when the time of his death was near at hand. On hearing that voice from the sky, without there appearing a person speaking, he grasped this Dharmaparyâya and obtained the perfections already mentioned: the perfection of sight, hearing, smell, taste, body, and mind. With the attainment of these perfections he at the same time made a vow to prolong his life for twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of years, and promulgated this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. And all those proud beings, monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees to whom he had said: I do not contemn you, and who had given him the name of Sadâparibhûta, became all his followers to hear the law, after they had seen the power and strength of his sublime magic faculties, of his vow, of his readiness of wit, of his wisdom. All those and many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of other beings were by him roused to supreme, perfect enlightenment.

Afterwards, Mahâsthamaprâpta, that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva disappeared from that place and propitiated twenty hundred kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., all bearing the same name of Kandraprabhâsvararâga, under all of whom he promulgated this Dharmaparyâya. By virtue of his previous root of goodness he, in course of time, propitiated twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., all bearing the name of Dundubhisvararâga, and under all he obtained this very Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law and promulgated it to the four classes. By virtue of his previous root of goodness he again, in course of time, propitiated twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., all bearing the name of Meghasvararâga, and under all he obtained this very Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law and promulgated it to the four classes. And under all of them he was possessed of the afore-mentioned perfectness of sight, hearing, smell, taste, body, and mind.

Self serving? Yes, in the sense that the authors of the sutra don't address the conflict of interest issue (saying "this text is IT" serves the purpose of the writers of the text to benefit materially - yes materially - from the dissemination of this text). Literally true? It'd be difficult to justify that in this universe, from what we know today, so I'd say the evidence is against more Tathâgatas than say, the number of planets on which life might be inhabited, at least in this universe.


I'd say yes. You know not when someone might be struck to embody boundless compassion, wisdom and generosity.

Nota bene: I'll be somewhat glad when this sutra'd done. But I will be going on to the Lankavatara Sutra, and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, if I can find a good version on the Net.

We're all familiar with the Heart Sutra (heh...my 42 readers per day might be familiar, so "we're all" isn't meant to be exhaustive of humanity here), I'd like to get to that too.

It's shorter though.

It's the same at the US Open in Tennis, too...

I don't play golf. OK, I tried to hit balls a couple of times at it, but I profoundly suck at it. On the other hand, I'm not bad at tennis if I practice. So whether it's golf or tennis, my cultural ancestry mind takes a small bit of pride at these people in the Bethpage NY region who are essentially my home-town folks, even though I'm not a golfer at all. Bethpage State Park is within cycling distance of where I grew up.

Seven years after what many golfers still consider the loudest, rowdiest tournament they have played, the second United States Open at Bethpage Black is expected to be a notable sequel.

The party, which is likely to reach full crescendo Sunday afternoon, is just getting started. Phil Mickelson was the people’s choice in 2002, when he had not yet won a major championship and finished as runner-up to Tiger Woods. He figures to be lifted by full-throated good will again, given the recent news that his wife, Amy, has breast cancer. He did not appear Tuesday, but is expected to play an early-morning practice round Wednesday...

Bethpage was the first municipal course to stage a United States Open, and the 2002 event turned golf inside-out. Instead of a private club opening its gates for a few days, temporarily allowing the masses into golf’s cozy kingdom, the commoners own this place. The players are the guests, playing by the fans’ rules of engagement.

“If you take a New Yorker and a few beers and you get him on a golf course that he’s played 100 times, that’s a bad combination,” Stuart Appleby said in 2002.

Some golfers loved it. Some detested it, saying the rules of etiquette were trampled by the masses. Fans, turning the consummate spectator sport into a participatory one, offered opinions of all kinds — about which way the next putt would break, the nattiness of a golfer’s attire or anything else that might draw a laugh.

Sergio García was teased mercilessly for his habit (since broken) of waggling his club a dozen or more times before each swing, and some jokes centered on his relationship (since broken up) with Martina Hingis.

“I love New York,” García said Tuesday, knowing that a sound strategy at Bethpage, beyond hitting the ball long and straight, includes getting fans on your side. “I love the people around here.”

Seven years ago, though, the sense was that the United States Open at Bethpage Black was a turning point in the way golf would be cheered: vociferously, and with a personal edge.

“You’re going to have to have some thick skin to play this game from now on because New York just opened a nice big can of worms,” Jerry Kelly said after winning the Western Open that summer.

Though it should be pointed out, as you might suspect, people from my home area are as easily offensive as offended.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A bit of wisdom from James Ford

by way of Danny Fisher, who rightly calls Ford's post on faulty Zen teachers a must read.

I am fond of that little pseudo psychological model based in the observation we're created out of three demons: greed, hatred and ignorance. I see these as the constellation of grasping, the constellation of aversion, and after much reflection, the constellation of certanties.

So, I am aware of who I am, at least in all the big strokes and many of the smaller ones. And I can tell you, I am a greed type. I want. I have always wanted. And I have to report I know I shall always want. My chances of becoming one of the scandals is always there. I am aware of it...

I think Zen masters are useful. They have walked the way a long time and someone who has also walked the way a long time has endorsed them. They have no magical powers. Their shit stinks. And, if they don't bind themselves to rule and direction they are liable to moral drift, as is true of anyone. And even if they do bind themselves, they're liable to various abuses of themselves and others. Like all of us. I would be wary of teachers who do not have some form of continuing checking of themselves, either with teachers or peers.

I am far from perfect; and some ask why I "still" have the faults that I do, and why my behavior is not of perfection. I get pissed off from time to time. Not as much or as bad as I used to, but I do indeed get pissed off. I mistake what's going on in my head as reality.

I could list all my faults and character flaws here, but it's not necessary. Those that know, know. They know I'm not perfect.

But perfection is itself dukkha.

If we get there we're stuck.

That we can give rise to compassion, even for those who hurt us in acting on their own fear and hatred is improvement. That we can even understand there is a home to leave, a way to do things that might be better, is itself progress, it is hope.

So I continue to practice, because there simply is no other way, based on where I've been in life and what works and what does not.

No birth no death nothing is defiled nothing is pure...

Well, John Tierney's quotable today.

At the World Science Festival Thursday night, four physicists spent nearly two hours under the jocular and irreverent grilling radio broadcaster John Hockenberry, cohost of “The Takeaway,” and barely scratched the surface of the void that is the background or perhaps the platform of all our experience. They did in the end offer an answer to the question that has plagued philosophers and scientists: Why is there something rather than nothing at all?

“Nothing is unstable,” Frank Wilczek, a physicist and Nobel laureate from MIT, finally said to a general murmur of agreement of his colleagues on stage, John Barrow of Cambridge University in England, Paul Davies of Arizona State and George Ellis of the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Given a chance, nature will make nothingness boil with activity...

But that insight, which is unlikely to put theologians out of business, is getting ahead of a story that starts with the Greeks, who were so uncomfortable with the Big Zero that they didn’t have it in their number system. Along the way, as Dr. Barrow told us in a breezy history review, Nothing got replaced by something called the Vacuum, which the physicist James Clerk Maxwell defined as what was left when you took everything else away.

And that proved to be quite a bit ­– the laws of physics, for example. Where do they come from? For them to guide the universe into existence out of pure old-fashioned nothingness, Dr. Davies pointed out, would require them to have “a transcendent existence.” Nobody claimed to know what that would mean.

But quantum weirdness has made the Nothing known as the vacuum even more substantial. According to the uncertainty principle, empty space is boiling with so-called virtual particles zipping in and out of existence on borrowed energy, and measurements of a small quantum suction called the Casimir effect, have validated the idea.

The problem for modern physics and cosmology is that there is both too much and too little of this vacuum energy. Sometimes it is all cosmologists talk about. Today it is known as dark energy and seems to be gently boosting the expansion of the universe, even though otherwise unassailable theoretical calculations suggest that the dark energy should be overwhelmingly greater.

Well, let's cue up the theologians and such, or at least go into details of the Dharmakaya...but first...

Dr. Wilczek compared modern physicists to a fish, who has suddenly realized that he is surrounded by water and that if he could understand what the water is, what it is made of, he could make better sense of the world.

I don't quote Dogen often on this blog, but this seems more than apt:

Now when dragons and fish see water as a palace, it is just like human beings seeing a palace. They do not think it flows. If an outsider tells them, "What you see as a palace is running water," the dragons and fish will be astonished, just as we are when we hear the words, "Mountains flow." Nevertheless, there maybe some dragons and fish who understand that the columns and pillars of palaces and pavilions are flowing water. You should reflect and consider the meaning of this. If you do not learn to be free from your superficial views, you will not be free from the body and mind of an ordinary person. Then you will not understand the land of Buddha ancestors, or even the land or the palace of ordinary people. Now human beings well know as water what is in the ocean and what is in the river, but they do not know what dragons and fish see as water and use as water. Do not foolishly suppose that what we see as water is used as water by all other beings. Do not foolishly suppose that what we see as water is used as water by all other beings. You who study with Buddhas should not be limited to human views when you are studying water. You should study how you view the water used by Buddha ancestors. You should study whether there is water or no water in the house of Buddha ancestors.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lotus Sutra Chapter 18

(in this translation).

Any one, young man of good family, who shall keep, read, teach, write this Dharmaparyâya or have it written, let that person be a young man of good family or a young lady, shall obtain eight hundred good qualities of the eye, twelve hundred of the ean, eight hundred of the nose, twelve hundred of the tongue, eight hundred of the body, twelve hundred of the mind. By these many hundred good qualities the whole of the six organs shall be perfect, thoroughly perfect.By means of the natural, carnal eye derived from his parents being perfect, he shall see the whole triple universe, outwardly and inwardly, with its mountains and woody thickets, down to the great hell Avîki and up to the extremity of existence. All that he shall see with his natural eye, as well as the creatures to be found in it, and he shall know the fruit of their works...

[T]he young man of good family or the young lady who proclaims this Dharmaparyâya and preaches it to others, is possessed of the twelve hundred good qualities of the ear. The various sounds that are uttered in the triple universe, downward to the great hell Avîki and upward to the extremity of existence, within and without, such as the sounds of horses, elephants, cows, peasants, goats. cars; the sounds of weeping and wailing; of horror, of conch-trumpets, bells, tymbals; of playing and singing; of camels, of tigers; of women, men, boys, girls; of righteousness (piety) and unrighteousness (impiety); of pleasure and pain; of ignorant men and âryas; pleasant and unpleasant sounds; sounds of gods, Nâgas, goblins, Gandharvas, demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men, and beings not human; of monks, disciples, Pratyekabuddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Tathâgatas; as many sounds as are uttered in the triple world, within and without, all those he hears with his natural organ of hearing when perfect. Still he does not enjoy the divine ear, although he apprehends the sounds of those different creatures, understands, discerns the sounds of those different creatures, and when with his natural organ of hearing he hears the sounds of those creatures, his ear is not overpowered by any of those sounds...

[T]he Bodhisattva Mahâsattva who keeps, proclaims, studies, writes this Dharmaparyâya becomes possessed of a perfect organ of smell with eight hundred good qualities...

This is not quite a benefit, and not quite a curse. It is the origin, eventually, of compassion.

Moreover, one will perceive one's self.


Only if it's constantly made the focus, but as I've often said, the famine workers must eat first or no one eats.

Good reporting on the Iran situation

in the New Yorker.

When it comes to the instruments of democracy in Iran, there is understandable confusion abroad. Iran has elections, and in 1997 Mohammad Khatami won them by a landslide and initiated an eight-year period of internal reform. But this is only half the story of the reform years. The other half involves the relentless occlusion of the reform agenda by clerics who outrank the president, and the systematic elimination of every loophole through which another Khatami might creep into the state apparatus. By 2005 the country’s hard-line Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, had made it abundantly clear that he did not intend to tolerate a divided government. The mood of the electorate, in 2005 and at the two mid-term elections since, has been cynical and despondent. It was logical to conclude that no candidate who ran in the 2009 race could be expected to put up real resistance to the Leader, and that no reforms would be successful. And so it was particularly stunning to watch Iranians resurrect their hopes and place them in Mir Hossein Mousavi—even if they did so for the main purpose of ejecting Ahmadinejad from power.

When the Leader approved Mousavi and Karroubi as presidential candidates earlier this year, Karroubi lacked a constituency, and Mousavi was no liberal. Perhaps Khamenei did not count on Mousavi’s emergence as the vehicle for a groundswell of youthful democratic sentiment—meaning whatever his personal views or background, if Mousavi became president, he would carry with him the same social forces and the same expectations as Khatami, who was fatefully paralyzed between the demands of his supporters and the constraints of his superiors. Where Khatami was conciliatory by nature, Mousavi had a reputation for a steelier resolve. And there is the small matter of Obama, the outreach from the United States, and the unavoidable sense that most of the Iranian public and its political establishment, including all three presidential challengers, support dialogue with America. The major exceptions have been the Leader himself, his hard-line inner circle, and Ahmadinejad. Did Khamenei fear the presence of unreliable forces in government during such a sensitive moment in Iran’s foreign policy? Or did he want to shut down the possibility of dialogue altogether?

That the reformists, who urged participation in the system in order to change it, have been so thoroughly shown up this June is depressing on many levels. For all its failings, the reform movement has been the most constructive and effective channel for Iranian frustrations and desires under the Islamic Republic. While Iranian opposition activists have fiercely debated the efficacy of voting—whether it provided a fig leaf for dictatorship or a necessary choice among evils—hardly anyone in Iran’s opposition wants a bloody uprising. That road has been too well traveled in Iran, and so the contemporary debate has been among nonviolent tactics, some with longer timelines than others. But now the regime has forced the issue, leaving Iranians who oppose strong-arm tactics and hard-line policies with just two cards in their hands. One is passivity, and the other is revolt. The outcome depends in part on how high a price the regime is willing to extract from its people.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Casey Luskin: Not a scientist

The Lotus Sutra, Chapter 17

I'm using this text...its basic point is good things will happen for accepting or believing in this sutra...

So immense, incalculable, Agita, is the merit which a person, ranking the fiftieth in the series of the tradition of the law, produces by joyfully accepting, were it but a single stanza, a single word, from this Dharmaparyâya; how much more then (will) he (produce), Agita, who hears this Dharmaparyâya in my presence and then joyfully accepts it? I declare, Agita, that his accumulation of merit shall be even more immense, more incalculable.

And further, Agita, if a young man of good family or a young lady, with the design to hear this discourse on the law, goes from home to a monastery, and there hears this Dharmaparyâya for a single moment, either standing or sitting, then that person, merely by the mass of merit resulting from that action, will after the termination of his (present) life, and at the time of his second existence when he receives (another) body, become a possessor of carriages yoked with bullocks, horses, or elephants, of litters, vehicles yoked with bulls, and of celestial aerial cars. If further that same person at that preaching sits down, were it but a single moment, to hear this Dharmaparyâya, or persuades another to sit down or shares with him his seat, he will by the store of merit resulting from that action gain seats of Indra, seats of Brahma, thrones of a Kakravartin.

I'd said before that these devices might have been included to make the sutra more widely accepted.

The interesting thing to me is that this sutra obliquely implies a literal reincarnation, as though there were soul transmigration, which is not exactly what Buddhism is about.

Although all of this may not be tabloid fodder, it presents some interesting questions about religious tolerance, about self-referential laws, and about how to interpret a religious text.

One more thing about this chapter, which probably is a fine enough reason for embracing the message of the Lotus sutra:

And, Agita, if some one, a young man of good family or a young lady, says to another person: Come, friend, and hear the Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, and if that other person owing to that exhortation is persuaded to listen, were it but a single moment, then the former will by virtue of that root of goodness, consisting in that exhortation, obtain the advantage of a connection with Bodhisattvas who have acquired Dhâranî. He will become the reverse of dull, will get keen faculties, and have wisdom; in the course of a hundred thousand existences he will never have a fetid mouth, nor an offensive one; he will have no diseases of the tongue, nor of the mouth; he will have no black teeth, no unequal, no yellow, no ill-ranged, no broken teeth, no teeth fallen out; his lips will not be pendulous, not turned inward, not gaping, not mutilated, not loathsome; his nose will not be flat, nor wry; his face will not be long, nor wry, nor unpleasant. On the contrary, Agita, his tongue, teeth, and lips will be delicate and wellshaped; his nose long; his face perfectly round; the eyebrows well-shaped; the forehead well-formed. He will receive a very complete organ of manhood.

Not just complete. Very complete.

Seriously, this is but a restatement of the father saying to his children in the burning house, "There's good stuff out here."

Except it's more like a Buddhist Enzyte commercial.

Of course, the other translation renders this text as:

"Ajita! If, further, a person says to another, ‘There is a Sutra by the name of Dharma Flcwer. Let’s go together and listen to it,’ and taking that person’s advice, the second person goes and hears it but for a moment,, the former person’s merit and virtue will be such that in his next life he will be born in the same place as the Dharani Bodhisattva. He will have keen faculties and wisdom.

"For one hundred thousand myriad lifetimes he will never be mute, his breath will not stink, his tongue will always be free from disease, and his mouth will also be free from disease. His teeth will not be dirty, black, yellow, or wide-spaced, not missing or falling out, not uneven or crooked. His lips will not be pendulous, twisted or pursed, rough, chapped, or covered with sores, or split. They will not be askew, thick or large, or black, and there will be nothing repulsive about them. His nose will not be flat, thin, crooked, or out of joint. His face will not be dark, thin, concave, or crooked, or in any way unpleasant.

"His lips, tongue, and teeth will all be beautiful; his nose long, high, and straight. His face will be handsome, his eyebrows high and long, his forehead broad and even. Thus his human features will be perfect.

"In life after life, wherever he is born he will see the Buddhas, hear the Dharma, and believe and accept the teachings.

For whatever reason, somebody airbrushed out the penis, evidently.

Well, presumably someone thought that was skillful means as well.