15 May
2019
Posted in: Books
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Raining Inexhaustible Quantities

At the beginning the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP) in November of 2012, I started a practice of reading one sutta from the Pali canon each day. I began with the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha), then went on to the Samyutta Nikaya (Connected Discourses), then to the Anguttara Nikaya (Numerical Discourses), then finally to the Digha Nikaya (Long Discourses). This practice took me way past the end of the DPP program, and even way past the whole of the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) program — six years in all. (I finished in December of 2018. There are a LOT of suttas!)

After that, I took a break.

But now that the Advanced Practitioner Program (APP) has begun, once again I feel the desire to take something like that on.

During one of his talks at the first APP retreat on the Nature of Awareness (which is the retreat I just attended), Guy Armstrong mentioned the Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Ornament Scripture), which he said is the foundational text for later schools of Buddhism (Hua-yen, Chan, Dzogen, and Mahamudra) and which has greatly influenced many others’ way of thinking about the nature of awareness and of consciousness.

When he said that, I immediately recalled listening to Jack Kornfield read from that very text at one of the early DPP retreats and being totally blown away it — by the imagery and the scope and the sheer wow-ness of it.

So I’ve decided that THAT’s what I’m going to read next. This is no small undertaking. The book is actually a series of 39 books, with introduction and summary, plus an amplification of and commentary on Book 39. And: It’s 1,643 pages long. (So this may take me another six years!)

But I’m up for it.

Because…well, here’s how it starts:

“Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was in the land of Magadha, in a state of purity, at the site of enlightenment, having just realized true awareness. The ground was solid and firm, made of diamond, adorned with exquisite jewel discs and myriad precious flowers, with pure clear crystals. The ocean of characteristics of the various colors appeared over an infinite extent.

“There were banners of precious stones, constantly emitting shining light and producing beautiful sounds. Nets of myriad gems and garlands of exquisitely scented flowers hung all around. The finest jewels appeared spontaneously, raining inexhaustible quantities of gems and beautiful flowers all over the earth. There were rows of jewel trees, their branches and foliage lustrous and luxuriant. By the Buddha’s spiritual power, he caused all the adornments of this enlightenment site to be reflected therein.

“The tree of enlightenment was tall and outstanding. Its trunk was diamond, its main boughs were lapis lazuli, its branches and twigs were of various precious elements. The leaves, spreading in all directions, provided shade, like clouds. The precious blossoms were of various colors, the branching twigs spread out their shadows.

“Also the fruits were jewels containing blazing radiance. They were together with the flowers in great arrays. The entire circumference of the tree emanated light; within the light there rained precious stones, and within each gem were enlightening beings, in great hosts like clouds, simultaneously appearing.

“Also, by virtue of the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha, the tree of enlightenment constantly gave forth sublime sounds speaking various truths without end.”

***

Let me just say: the Pali canon reads nothing like that! Stay tuned.

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