Avatamsaka Sutra

‘When great enlightening beings practice dedication in this way, they do not become attached to actions, to consequences, to the body, to objects, to lands, to places, to sentient beings, to the nonexistence of sentient beings, to all things, or to the nonexistence of all things. When great enlightening beings make dedication in this way, they distribute these roots of goodness throughout the world, that all sentient beings may fully develop buddha-knowledge, attain pure minds with clear, comprehensive wisdom, their inner minds silent and serene, unmoved by external objects, as they extend and develop the family of Buddhas of past present and future.’

I am very glad that I live in a house where I can come home and find a copy of the Avatamsaka Sutra on the dining table*. I confess I have not done more than dip a toe into it occasionally; I would  make it my commute read, but it is a heavy tome (the above quote is from page 634 of approximately 1500 pages). At Zen Center over the years, a number of dedicated people have led reading and chanting sessions – Jerome, Greg and Kodo come to mind right away. It is one of the more esoteric teachings in the way it presents a multi-dimensional interconnected universe, but a paragraph like this one stand easily next to Hongzhi, Ta Hui or Dogen.

 

*It subsequently turned out that it was not the roommate whose book it was that had taken it out, but the other one, who on this occasion had been more interested in the bulk of the book than the content, and had used it to prop up a mirror to get better lighting at the south-facing back of the house. Self-illumination takes many forms, I suppose.

Sharon Salzberg

‘Desire – grasping, clinging, greed, attachment – is a state of mind that defines what we think we need in order to be happy. We project all of our hopes and dreams of fulfillment onto some object of our attention. This may be a certain activity or outcome, a particular thing or person. Deluded by our temporary enchantment, we view the world with tunnel vision. That object, and that alone, will make us happy. Who has not been greatly infatuated with some idea or some person, only to look again two months later, six months later, a year later, and think, “What was that all about?” (Lovingkindness)

I would only add that not only do we all do it, but we all do it all the time.

Lama Rod Owens

‘The Heart Sutra tells us that form is emptiness and emptiness is form; if that’s true, then our practice is to try to recognize the integration of form and emptiness, and to let ourselves sit in the utter discomfort of that. From this discomfort emerges a greater capacity to hold space for contradictions. Ultimately, we are not these identities, which is awesome. But relatively, we are, and that’s awesome too! Privileging one over the other is not the practice here. The practice is to bridge the relative truth of I am with the ultimate truth of I am not, to hold them together while exploring the tendency to want to bury ourselves in one extreme. This practice can be deeply unsettling, but if we can hold the ultimate truth together with our relative truth, then space opens up within our identity locations, and we can recognize them without being firmly planted. For example, for me to identify as Black is to first recognize what it has meant to be conditioned as a Black body; at the same time, I see that ultimately I am not Black but still conditioned to perform and to relate to the Black cultural conditioning.’ (Taken from Lion’s Roar website)

In my teaching and studying, I spend a lot of time grappling with the co-existence of form and emptiness, or the harmony of difference and equality. With so much current talk about identity politics, it is great to read a cogent teaching piece on how this looks from a dharma perspective.

I have also been wanting to post a link to this since I read it; I go to the Establishment regularly to learn views that are different to my own, and found this a helpful exercise. I said yes to several questions.

Dzogchen Ponlop

‘Renunciation does not necessarily mean simply running away from something. It means that we will go into the depths of any such reality to find freedom within it. That is very important here. The desire to free ourselves and others must be balanced with the sense of complete trust in our ability to achieve liberation. We do not see samsara as something that consists solely of unfavorable situations; we also see the possibilities for freeing ourselves from suffering right on the spot. We see that freedom, liberation and enlightenment are possible within this very moment. Once we recognize this, samsara is no longer seen as something to escape. Freedom is not seen as something that exists outside samsara. Therefore, there is nowhere to run. For example, if you are in Manhattan and you run to a Himalayan cave, you will carry Manhattan with you. It may be even worse for you because the cave is much smaller than Manhattan. In the cave, you will probably appreciate and long for all the good qualities of Manhattan: there are nice subways and it is easy to get around.’ (Wild Awakening)

Sharon Salzberg

‘Our freedom to love arises from discovering that we can live without the concept of self and other. The joy of this discovery is incomparably greater than many of us have previously known, or even imagined – so much that our entire view of life changes.’ (Lovingkindness)

Dzogchen Ponlop

‘Renunciation does not necessarily mean simply running away from something. It means that we will go into the depths of any such reality to find freedom within it. That is very important here. The desire to free ourselves and others must be balanced with the sense of complete trust in our ability to achieve liberation. We do not see samsara as something that consists solely of unfavorable situations; we also see the possibilities for freeing ourselves from suffering right on the spot. We see that freedom, liberation, and enlightenment are possible within this very moment. Once we recognize this, samsara is no longer seen as something to escape. Freedom is not seen as something that exists outside samsara. Therefore, there is nowhere to run. For example, if you are in Manhattan and you run to a Himalayan cave, you will carry Manhattan with you. It may be even worse for you because the case is much smaller than Manhattan. In the cave, you will probably appreciate and long for all the good qualities of Manhattan: there are nice subways and it is easy to get around.’ Wild Awakening)