Introducing Flower Adornment Book Two

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A Dharma talk by Tenshin Roshi for a gathering of the No Abode community

AI Summary: 

The talk revolves around the exploration of the second book of the "Flower Adornment Sutra" where the narrative dives into queries about the Buddha's features and qualities, highlighted during an extensive offering session. The conversation touches on significant narrative activities and introduces the light metaphor, a crucial element in both Zen Buddhism and the sutra itself, hinting at its implications in Zen practices. Mentioned texts and authors play integral roles in contextualizing the dialogue:

- **Flower Adornment Sutra (Cleary's translation)** - Crucial for understanding discussed narrative wherein the innumerable assembly questions about the Buddha manifest in a spiritual context.

- **Dogen's writings on light and Zen practice** - Enables a reemphasis on the importance of light within Zen, correlating to the sutra’s description.

- **Eijo’s "Absorption in the Treasury of Light"** - Builds upon Dogen’s exploration, delving deeper into understanding and embodying the light within Zen practice.

These references collectively elaborate on how integral and omnipresent the concept of light is in understanding and practicing Zen, advancing a connection to divine through comprehensive existential and spiritual inquiry. The recurring motifs of questioning and clarity through 'light' symbolize cognitive and spiritual enlightenment that the sutra and subsequent Zen teachings strive to impart.

AI Suggested Title: "Light and Inquiry in the Flower Adornment Sutra"


May I say something? You know how they say, the royal we? This isn't the royal we, this is the actual we. We are filled with gratitude. We are filled with gratitude. We are. It's wonderful. This is quite similar to, it seems to me, to the Buddha body extending throughout all the great assemblies. The Buddha body extends through all the great assemblies of beings who are suffering in many different ways.


And it completely fills them with gratitude. The Buddha doesn't take away our suffering. The Buddha fills us with light and compassion and gratitude and those practices which extend throughout all of our lives. Those practices are the Buddha and those practices liberate beings. But not by trying to get anything to go away, just by being filled with gratitude. For what? I don't know, just filled with gratitude. I also wanted to mention briefly that on the second page of the sutra,


when there's pages, in the early sutras, some of the sutras didn't have pages, they were in scrolls. But anyway, in the second page of the English translation, which in Cleary's translation is page 56, it mentions that the Buddha extends an awesome light and, you know, and that illuminates all the worlds. And I brought us briefly through the first book to the conclusion of all the offerings arising from the ocean of beings


as great clouds, huge boundless clouds of offerings to the Buddhas and raining down on all beings. In the next chapter, in the midst of all these offerings, there's some major narrative activity. And part of the narrative activity is that in the midst of all these offerings, this innumerable, this innumerable assembly of beings, they all have these thoughts, which are 21 questions. You've heard of 20 questions? It's a game that was popular in the last century in the United States. Was it a TV show? Anyway, it's a parlor game called 21 questions. We can go into that in more detail later.


But one of the main parts of the game of 20 questions was the person would have something that you're supposed to question about and then you would say animal, vegetable or mineral and then they would tell you. And then you would often find out what the secret that they had was. So this chapter, the second book starts with 21 questions. Actually, clear his translation a little less because he summarizes some of the questions. Do you want to hear some of the questions? Do you? Yes. Okay. Here's some questions. Here's the questions he summarizes. What are the Buddha's eyes like? What is the Buddha's nose like? What is the Buddha's tongue like? What is the Buddha's ears like?


What is the Buddha's body like? And clearly summarize that. What are the Buddha's senses? The Chinese original goes to detail. So that's why I would say 21 rather than he has about 15. What are the Buddha's knowledges? What are the Buddha's worlds? What are the Buddha's teachings? What are the Buddha's fearlessnesses? What are the Buddha's immobilities? 21 questions. The whole assembly asks these questions in the midst of all these offerings. In this weather system, all these questions arise in the minds of the assembly. And after they finish all their questions in their minds, they don't say it out loud. It just says, and they have this thought. After the thoughts are completed, then they have the thought, we only wish that the Buddha will elucidate, will expound in response to our questions.


And then they go on to say that it has been spoken that Buddhas have all these oceans. That Buddhas have spoken of all these oceans. Oceans of beings. Ocean of Bodhisattvas. Oceans of Buddhas. Ocean of transcendences. Oceans of on and on. All these oceans that the Buddhas have spoken about. They're all thinking of that in the midst of this swirling torrential offering system. And then they again, they wish wholeheartedly, they wish wholeheartedly that the Buddha will respond to their wonderings. And Buddha will tell us about what all Buddhas have spoken of. And then all these offerings, which you're familiar with now, the offerings start talking. And the offerings, now,


the offerings vocalize or speak the sound of all the questions and all the requests. So lots of questions are asked and then lots of requests are made of the Buddha. And then the Buddha can hear this sound coming from the offerings. At the beginning of the second book, the offerings are made, but they aren't talking yet. But when the Bodhisattvas have this thought, the offerings start talking. They speak. And the Buddha, not being so stupid, could understand what people are thinking. And then the Buddha does the light thing again. But different than the earlier light, it just says the Buddha emitted this clear, awesome light which illuminated all the worlds. Now, that's at the beginning of the first book. At the beginning of the second book, there's quite a bit of detail about these lights.


And light is a big deal in this teaching. And I would say that maybe some of you have not thought in the past that light is a big part of Zen practice. But I'm here to encourage you to discover that it is a big part. And so here's the Buddha emitting this light, and not just one light, but more or less inconceivably numerous lights. And each one of these lights has a great range. And it illuminates not just this world where the Buddha, not just this, what is it called, flower, treasury, adornment, ocean of worlds. Not just this one, but including all the beings in this one. Also, this light goes to all world systems in ten directions and illuminates all the beings there.


The Buddhas can already see this world where the Buddha is teaching. But now all the other beings by this light can see this world where the Buddha is sending this light. A lot of lights. And then with each light, with each innumerable light, they each have an innumerable entourage of lights which surround it. So all these lights are doing this thing throughout the universe, and then the lights start talking. And they speak to some of the questions that have been raised, but the lights also say, Hey, you see the Buddha there in that world? The Buddha is available for, you know, Come eat, please come, hurry, come. The Buddha is there, you can come. So this is the light, which is an invitation,


which talks and encourages people to come to hear their response to all their questions and all their wishes, and also just to mention to them that it would be good to do it soon. That's the beginning of the second book. Pardon? Did you say good to do it soon? Yeah, it says hurry up, come to the Buddha's spot. And look at the Buddha and listen to the Buddha. Because you want to hear answers to your questions. Well, come and you will receive response. That's at the beginning of book two. And there's a long section of showing that in ten directions, all these beings who have been invited, come. That's a long section. But I just want to stop there before that and just tell you that I'd like, in our next meeting and between now and our next meeting, I'd like you to maybe think about this light that Buddha is emitting from the teeth


that's going all over the universe and showing people the Buddha and awakening people. That's in this sutra, which we have not heard so much about in Zen, but it is actually a lot in Zen, all over the Zen literature. But when the Zen was transmitted to the West, people kind of downplayed the light. Now it's time to like celebrate the light. Now that we're more mature, maybe we can deal with this light. And so I just want, if you want to, you can just contemplate the light that's mentioned on the second page and it's also mentioned on the third page of the second book, this light. And if you want to see some Zen places where there's the light, we have a text written by Dogen called Light.


And it's two Chinese characters, and same two characters that are in the sutra. So there Dogen is bringing out this light and encouraging us to realize this light in our practice. And then his main successor, also wrote a text called Absorption in the Treasury of Light. In Dogen's case, he doesn't quote, he doesn't tell us that he's quoting the Avatamsaka Sutra, but Eijo tells us that he's getting this from the sutra. And at the beginning of his text, he said, the teacher has already written a book about light, so why do I write one? And he said, the reason I'm writing one,


even though the teacher has already written it, is I just want to make clear that the face of the Buddha way is being absorbed in the treasury of light. So he's saying, I don't know if the teacher made that clear, but I want to really make clear being in the samadhi of light is really where it's at in Buddhism. Now, he also says towards the beginning that this teaching is for people who have been practicing Zen a long time. And I'm sorry if you haven't been practicing long enough, but I only have a limited amount of time left, so I'm not going to wait until I'm sure everybody's practiced a long time. I hope you've been practicing long enough to open to this light, which these two Zen ancestors, our first two Japanese ancestors,


are telling us. This light is, this is what the Buddha's teaching is. It's light. Buddha's teaching, Buddha Dharma is light. Thusness is light. And then also, Eijo says at the end of the essay, he says, this teaching about this samadhi, this concentration on the light, should not be shown lightly. So I don't mean to show it lightly. I mean to show it with respect and care, because it's a big deal. And I hope that if you're ready, you can enter into this treasury of light. And one of the things that Eijo said in his essay on the treasury of light, and by the way, I just learned, what I learned, I don't know if this is true,


but I learned that the word essay was kind of coined by the French, whatever you want to call it, French genius, Michel Montaigne. He refers to his writing as essays. And this is a new, it was a new word in French. And essay means give it a try or an attempt. He was trying, he was making an attempt at expressing what he thought was really important. So these are essays which are an attempt to convey to us, in this particular case, the Buddha Dharma, the true Dharma, the light of the Dharma. And I also spoke about maybe memorizing some of these verses. And another word for it is learn by heart. Learn by heart. Get some of this stuff into your body and mind


so you're like walking, like you're walking sutras. You're sitting sutras. You're standing sutras. You're reclining sutras. If you memorize, it will be like that for you. When you're lying down, the sutra will be there. But you have to kind of like learn it by heart. Otherwise, you might have to get up in the middle of the night and open the sutra. But if it's by heart, when you're waking up and going to sleep, you can remember this teaching about the light. This sutra is a sutra of light. And are you a person of light? I wouldn't say that. Okay. I hear you. Would you like to recite it for the Great Assembly? Would you speak loudly?


Hear it. Delightful knowledge is one of the beings in the assembly. Do you remember what type of a being that delightful knowledge was? I don't. Okay. Would you find out? Not right now, later. Any other recitations of verses that you'd like to offer? Yes and yes. You have one? Okay. The Buddha, king of the teaching, appears in the world, able to light the lamp of sublime truth, which illumines the world. His state is boundless and inexhaustible.


This is what name of freedom has written. And that's the second verse of the sutra. And? I heard a gatha quite some time ago, not directly from this sutra, but I think it's connected with it. Probably. People are storytelling machines. When we see through our stories, they turn into light. Thank you. Any other verses you care to offer? Well, it's good for me. Yes? I wasn't here, I didn't take the assignment. But I wanted to comment on this idea of embodying the sutra. A number of years ago you encouraged me when I was having a very hard time having many thoughts that were not helpful. And you said, the mind can't have two things at one time.


And so if you read the sutra, and learn it by heart, and when these thoughts come, you can do that. That was, I think, 16 years ago. And it works like a charm. It's just ridiculous how embodied you become when your mind doesn't even have to think that. It just is it. So, I appreciate it. And this sutra, like many sutras, one of the main verse forms, or maybe the main verse form in this sutra, is called a gatha. And gatha are four-line verses from Sanskrit. But the Chinese sutras follow that four-line version. And like at the beginning when we said, an answer passed penetrating a perfect Dharma, that's also a four-line verse.


So a lot of our verses are four lines. And there's some kind of virtue in those four lines. It's like we can get into it that way by these nice four lines. Yes? So it's not to say that when we're in the light, which we always are but we don't realize, that our resistance is with us. Yeah, actually, again, that teaching is in the harmony of difference and equality. It says, right in the light, there's darkness. Right in darkness, there is light. But it also says, right in the light, there's darkness, but don't try to see it as darkness. And right in light, can I say light first? Right in the light, there's darkness, but don't try to see the light as darkness. But know that right in the light,


there is darkness, and just let it be there without trying to find it. And then right in darkness, there's light, but don't confront the light as dark. Just know that. So there's a perfect interpenetration of light and dark, which is also the light. So you might want to look at those two essays about light. And one more thing about Ejo's essay, which is quite long, is another kind of gatha. Trust everything to inhalation and exhalation. Could you hear that? So Ejo says, trust everything to inhalation and exhalation. Could you hear that? Yes. And leap into the treasury of light and don't look back. So that's another thing


which is probably not too difficult to memorize. And you can hear that instruction from Ejo about how to practice zazen. Could you say that one? Trust everything to inhaling and exhaling. And leap into the treasury of light and don't look back. This is hard to follow. Thanks for helping me keep track of her. That was a wonderful quote. Well, this is a question that may be too long for now, but when you're talking about or reading about the radiation, radiating of light from the Buddha


and all oceans of others, I'm wondering, how does that affect this planet and the humans on it? When there's a more intensification, say this ... There we are. I don't think there's really an answer, but it's a question that comes up. It's a question. How do people experience that? Yeah. How does that work? How does this work? Well, I can tell you that it works inconceivably. That's how it works. But that doesn't mean you don't ask questions like you just asked. And it also ... I don't know how it works that when you ask questions, you get a response at the same time. I don't know how that works. I just hear this from the sutra that when you ask questions like that, you are getting a response right now.


And that interaction is the Buddha way. And that interaction is how beings are liberated. Liberated from what? I don't know. From trying to get something from their questions. And even though you're not trying to get anything from your questions, which you might not do. You might be a very vociferous question maker without trying to get anything. That's the Bodhisattva way. They ask a lot of questions without trying to get anything. And they hope that their questioning is very beneficial to the world and brings great benefit to all beings. They ask questions as clouds of offerings which rain down on the world. But they don't know how that all works, but they go right ahead and do it. They want to be Bodhisattvas, but they don't know how to be Bodhisattvas. So they ask how to be Bodhisattvas. And they ask and they ask and they ask without trying to get anything.


That's the last book of this sutra. This wonderful young person wants to follow the Bodhisattva way but doesn't know how. So this person asks basically 52 times how to practice the Bodhisattva way. And this person asks that question without trying to get an answer. And the people that he asks, they say, how could I answer that question? That's the last book. And we can be like that sweet young person to just keep asking without trying to get anything. Or another way to put it is see if you can ask without trying to get something. See if you can ask wishing that it would help people without trying to get any verification. And when you ask that way, that way of asking is verified, but you don't get it.


We don't get verification, we become it. I think the questions sometimes they just come, too. It does. It does. Questioning is a way of life. It doesn't get you another life. It gets you the life you've got. Yes? When you started talking about we and gratitude and light and then you took it bigger and so much light and clouds and all that, something I learned this week came to mind. It's like taking that biggest to the tiniest example. And then when Linda asked this question, it made me think of it again. And this is what I learned this week. That there's something called maternal gaze. And I don't think it has to be maternal, but it's a gaze that when,


say, an adult looks at a child that way, it's kind of, it's like that. In their childhood, even if there's a ton of unworkability and cruelty in their life, if there's one place, and where I'm hearing it today is where there's this light going to and coming back, that that can provide a path for this child out of that darkness. Well, we can talk about this more later, but another way to talk about this is that actually, in order for our neurological system to mature, we need somebody to look at us like that, because when they look at us like that, it creates the most intense emotional situation that there is. And we need that intensity in order to kind of initiate neural maturity. And also, we need to be able to look away from it, because we get to a certain point


where it's so intense and so joyful that we don't want to, it will blow out if we have it go any higher. So the child needs to learn how to look away from this gaze. And it's very important that the one who's gazing at them lets them look away, and not sort of follow their face, because they're learning how to, they're learning where this energy comes from, and they're also learning how to modulate it so they don't have a short circuit. It's essential to our body maturing. And another way that this is sometimes put, it's put as, it's the light in the caregiver's eye is so intensely joyful. And, yeah. It's a very powerful song by Peter Gabriel,


In Your Eyes. Peter Gabriel, In Your Eyes. In Your Eyes. Yeah. So, and another thing that someone might say is when you look into somebody's eyes, you can actually see their brain. In that dark part of the eye, what you're looking at is their brain. Now, of course, their brain is kind of in the dark back there. But you're looking at their, at, you know, what do you call it, the optic nerve. You're looking through the optic nerve at the rest of their brain. Yeah, right. It's a part of the brain, right. And you're looking at it. In a sense, the other parts of the eye aren't really the brain. They're like, you know, helping that part of the brain work. Yeah, so anyway, here we are


on the verge of the ocean of Dharma. And I feel very happy that whatever we do, wherever we enter it, we're going to have just a lot of joy in entering this ocean. Excuse me, this ocean of worlds, of Dharma, that this citra is inviting us to enter together. I'm not exactly leading you. I'm more like, hey, let's go. Let's go. Thank you, sir. Sorry I interrupted you. You didn't. With your eyes. Yeah. Those eyes. Those eyes. Those eyes, so warm, so real. How we love the world. Your eyes for you. Wow. Diana Croft. May our intention extend to everything.