Lotus Sutra Class

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SF-03560
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Dining Room Class

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She already had it, which I think is an interesting point to remember. And she didn't have to do the sex change. She did it because, as Rita Gross says, because she could, you know. She already had become a Bodhisattva and had already made the resolution to attain Buddhahood, and she did it to demonstrate her understanding and that she could do this. And she wasn't attached to being... She let it go. Who was it who said... I wonder how she felt about, you know, turning into a male, but it seems like she did it with kind of ease. It's like, okay. So she let go of her identity, you know, and demonstrated it. All these notes on this. Rita Gross says, the motif solved a problem meant to emphasize women's possibilities not to glorify the male sex further. The person...

[01:03]

And this is in different Mahayana Sutras who does this genre when it comes up. The person who does it is highly advanced. They're already a Bodhisattva. They already completely take on the other teachers one-on-one, you know, eye-to-eye. So it's an expression of their advanced wisdom. Not that they have to do this in order to be... What? How is it an expression of their advanced wisdom? That they're able to transform their bodies? Yeah, why is that? So why is... Well, I think these creation bodies or transformational bodies as that we regular folks can't do that, you know. But these are sometimes talked about as powers, you know. I mean, you can read where, I think when certain, they're called Riddhi Balas, when certain

[02:04]

yogis and advanced practitioners went to different countries, they did powerful things sometimes to convert, to show people their spiritual power by doing things like this. You can read about that. So I think it's understood as with spiritual power comes these kinds of... Yeah. She could have transformed into a human woman, you know, instead of a human male. You know, if there's a particular way she transformed... Yeah. Why that particular way in this particular sutra? That's what they needed to see. What? The transformation body. That wasn't what they needed. If it was a skill and means, what they wanted to see was what they understood as Buddha. And she did that, 32 marks in the whole thing.

[03:07]

This proves it, you know, that my attainment was such, want to see, here it is. So that's what met those people. If we were to continue writing the Lotus Sutra, we'd write another chapter, you know, maybe. Right? Is the canon closed? No, I don't think so. Do you want to add to it? I think we could. You can imagine another chapter being written, can't you? At least one. At least one. Let me just look through these notes a little bit. Oh, this is something interesting about Zhuri, who started the Tiantai school in China, which is the Lotus school, right? So in his line-by-line, word-by-word commentary, he says the story is not best read as support for the idea that you can't attain Buddhahood in female body. This is Zhuri. He chooses to read it as a demonstration of equality of all dharmas on the ultimate level.

[04:14]

This kind of emptiness thing. Not as an occasion for female to leave femaleness behind. And then there's further commentary, and they concur with him. Go ahead. If he's the founder of the Tiantai school, isn't that Mount Hiei, and isn't that the mountain where women aren't allowed? Yeah, but that's... Hiei is in Japan, that's, you know... It was Chinese. This is the Chinese school, then it went... Yeah, yeah. It wasn't allowed on Mount Tiantai? On Mount Tiantai? Yeah. I actually don't know about what happened there. But, you know, there's... The teaching goes through various transformations as different people teach and emphasize. And that's why Dogen just blasts it, you know? Like, is this what's happening on Mount Hiei now? What's happening here?

[05:15]

And this is Zhuri in the commentary. The women in the realms of Mara, Chakra, and Brahma all neither abandon their old bodies nor receive new bodies. They all realize Buddhahood with their current bodies. So that's another... That it's a creation body or a transformational body. That it is her own body and it's just... It looks like that, so... It seems... Like the stupa coming up out of the earth, not coming down from the heavens. It's like from this actuality. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Here's another point. The Naga Princess is not a story about abandoning old body and taking a new. Her realization occurs within her current body. Dharma, nature, fundamental reality of all beings is equal.

[06:24]

Like the ocean. And Sagara, King Sagara, Sagara means ocean. Without distinction or one flavor. So I think, at least in the commentaries... I think the problem with the story now is it can... If you pull it out out of context, oh, she had to be a man, you know? It can be used by both conservative or feminists as a problem. You know, that this is a big problem. And I think the effort of the commentary is to see it in context over and over and not kind of remove it as a problematic thing. But it's easily... It's easy to do that, right? I think when it comes down to it, I think that's Miriam Levering's last... ...comment is that it doesn't challenge the notion that advanced Buddhahood and Bodhisattvahood is in male, you know? It's characterized by the male form.

[07:27]

There is that still there. It doesn't totally challenge that notion. Even when you see it in context and understand and can find it positive and affirming, still it doesn't challenge that thing about the 32 marks and the Buddha. Yes? Can you say anything about the 32 marks? Surely it's not literal. You're probably right. Well, I think this is the Sambhogakaya body, you know, the bliss body or the body seen by the faithful or that Bodhisattva see, the long earlobes and it's golden and the bulge on the head and all those different things. So I've always understood it as... You know, if you were to depict the Buddha,

[08:38]

the teacher of the saviour, let's say, the one who brings others across, you know, as a kind of, you know, regular guy or gal with... It may not be as inspiring, you know, as a vision of extraordinariness, you know? Yeah, and Shakyamuni Buddha is also pictured as... There's both. There's the regular Shakyamuni Buddha who walked on the earth and then there's this eternal Buddha, you might say, that has these other characteristics that are used in art and so forth. So I think both are inspiring. I think both are inspiring. But what's your feeling about the 32 marks or seeing... Because in art, often that's what you're seeing, the long earlobes and the rounded shoulders and the sloping, you know...

[09:42]

Kind of weird. I don't know, it doesn't sound human. I mean, you're talking about the question, are you human? I guess Buddha, you know, has gone beyond human agency, but would the Buddha not still be the human body? I don't know. 32 marks, for me, is kind of... How about lunch? I think Dario's going to say what I was about to say. OK, say it together. No, go ahead. Me go ahead? Whoever. From the historical point of view, the web finger is a problem of carving because at the beginning when they were representing Buddha they were not able to carve a separate finger in the rest of the hand and so they used to put another stone in between the two fingers. It was a triangle or a stone and then it became a precious stone and then from that came the legend that the Buddhas had web fingers, web hands.

[11:06]

But from the historical point of view, that's how it's happened. And anyway, on the anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha is connected with the sign, how do you call it? Things that represented Buddha. At the beginning the Buddha was not represented as a human being but by symbols and then after the contact with the Greeks they started to represent it as a human. But still... So the first human representation of Buddha was Dionysus. How do you call it? Dionysus. It was a Greek god brought into Greece. So what we know as Buddha is not... We don't know how Buddha was happening but what we know as Buddha is coming from Greece. But still they wanted, Indians wanted to represent Buddha by some symbols

[12:09]

and not as a human being. And so what we see as a man is not a man but is an addiction of symbols. So he's got the chest of a lion or things like this. So it's an addiction. It's a way to represent that. At the end the result is a man. What you look, what you see quickly is a man. But if you look in detail, it's not a man. It is an addiction of elements and it goes together with the idea of... Name and form. Name and form. Name and forms and the elements. We are made by elements. There is no ego. There is not a person. But we are an addiction of... One point just about this is our Buddha that we have in the Zen Do

[13:12]

is a Gandharan Buddha which is the earliest representations from Gandhara which was in Central Asia, was conquered by Alexander the Great and they taught them how to do Greek sculpture. And if you look, this Buddha that we have, we have two at Zen Center, this one and City Center are Gandharan Buddhas and it's got drapery and a Western, Greekish face, right? Yeah. Was this one smashed and burned and put back together? This one was smashed and put back together by the Avery Brundage, by the Asian art, yeah. Yeah, they did it, you know, splinter by splinter. Wow. Gandharan Buddhas? 1700 years ago. Someone who was an art historian was here this summer and she said 500 rounds, starting around 500 BCE. 500 BCE? No. I mean, no, CE. CE. Yeah. So I don't know how we got it. I mean, how it got taken.

[14:12]

It looks like it was, you know, a relief, a high relief and it was taken from something and I don't know its provenance but those were the ones that Zen Tatsu Baker found for Zen Center through friends and all. And, yeah, so we're very lucky to be practicing with those. Yes? I just wanted to say that the 32 marks are described on page 78 and anyway, some of these seem like it's an idealized view of what's beautiful or handsome. A couple of these lines, thigh bones are slim like those of a deer. I mean, it's kind of what Dario was saying. A lot of animal references and kind of majestic and I think that's what they were trying to convey.

[15:12]

I feel the urge to say this may not be necessary. I feel like in this discussion today we've been in the realm of different culture, different color, skin and I just want to say if there's been anything said that was difficult for anyone in that realm that I hope they'll share it with Dr. Sitter or Dr. Dunn. I don't know if there was and I hope there wasn't. That would be wonderful. Thank you. Maybe with that we'll close. Do you feel satisfied? Are we ready? What time is it? 5 to 11. So break and then service? No. Yes? Just because it feels like it's been a big point

[16:21]

about this issue of transforming into a male body and all of that and I wanted to say that I felt like the way we were talking this morning about it that I notice with myself I'm less interested in critiquing the sutra and more interested in its implications for my life and what this means is there seems to be some fluidity which is wide open and possibility of male and female in particular I guess that for me is really wonderful. And then the question about in this practice of skillful means this question of what am I willing to give up? How far am I willing to go in dropping some strong identification of who I think I am? Yes. Thank you.

[17:26]

Okay, thank you very much.

[17:27]

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