Saturday, July 12, 2014

34th Lotus Festival, Los Angeles (sutra)

Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; Andrew Olendzki (Thag 15.2); Black Flag
Devas like Radha Devi are rejoicing as the scent of spring wafts through the summer air.
Lotus blossoms, birds, and bees in view of L.A.s skyscrapers and blight (
Lotuses of Echo Park, L.A. (
Everything is coming up lotuses because the Los Angeles "Lotus Festival" is back at the newly restored Echo Park Lake near downtown. It is Echo Park's 34th festival and runs all weekend honoring the culture and traditions of L.A. Asian communities, particularly the influence of the Philippines.
Festivities kicked off Friday night with music and a movie premiere of a 24-minute film on the history of Echo Park, which lies just west of downtown [one of the west coast's main financial districts in the megalopolis known to the world as] Los Angeles. The celebration continues Saturday and Sunday, beginning at noon and runs until 9:00 pm and 8:00 pm respectively. The event is sponsored by the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks and includes food, music, and boat races. But the real star of the festivities are the lotus flower beds, which are in full bloom. More

What's so great about the lotus?
Waterlilies are wonderful, too (WeGoTwo/flickr).
In India the lotus is revered as the favorite flower, rich in spiritual significance. It is to the East what the rose is to the West. The most remarkable thing about it is that for all its delicate beauty and sublime fragrance, it grows up out of muck.

As Thich Nhat Hanh is fond of saying, It is composed of all "non-lotus elements" -- mud, mire, water, clouds, air, and stinky swamp silt. Yet, behold its beauty!

Later Mahayana Buddhism developed a "Lotus Sutra," but earlier discussions come from the historical Buddha and the enlightened elders (theras and theris), his direct disciples, like Udayin:

The Blooming Lotus
Andrew Olendzki (trans.) Udayin Thera's lotus verses (Theragatha 15.2 excerpt)
Sukhothai (Golan Jesus Roncero/flickr)
As the flower of a lotus,
Arisen in water, blossoms,
Pure-scented and pleasing the mind,
Yet is not drenched by the water,

In the same way, born in the world,
The Buddha abides in the world;
And like the lotus by water,
He does not get drenched by the world.

This translation is by Andrew Olendzki of a poem by the enlightened Elder Udayin [an "elder" being a thera in the "Teaching of the Theras" or Thera-vada Buddhism]. It evokes one of the most famous of Buddhist images and is laced with meaning on many levels.

In one sense -- from early Buddhist teachings -- it can be taken to describe the ability of the enlightened person to rise above the world of sensory experience instead of remaining mired, clinging or attached to it. Although the human condition is rooted in the desires (cravings, graspings) that give rise to life and the illusion of a separate, independently-existing "self," which is actually dependently-arisen, one can awaken and live in this world without being bound by the impulse to hungrily crave pleasure and angrily reject pain.

One is "drenched by the world" when one succumbs to grasping, clutching, and clinging -- behaviors that inevitably bring about suffering, disappointment, and a disillusionment. The heart/mind clings to an attractive object like water permeating something and drenching it.

The Buddha did not immediately transcend the world, but lived in it for 45 years with a heart/mind free of all attachments, defilements, and bonds.

The question of just what sort of being the Buddha was grew in importance. The image of the lotus emerging from the mud and blooming above the world became a popular way of expressing the Buddha's transcendence. In the canonical passage upon which Ven. Udayin builds his verse (SN 22:94) the phrase "having passed beyond the world" (lokam abhi-bhuyya) is added, and this becomes the basis for the Vetulyaka assertion that the Buddha was essentially a transcendent being.

This interpretation had profound implications for later Buddhism: It set the stage for the "Three Bodies of the Buddha" Doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism. In this way of looking at things, awakening (represented by the blossoming of a lotus) is something that can happen for all beings.

Tantric Buddhists (Vajrayana school) were drawn to the contrast in this image between the ordinary, defiling mud in which the plant is rooted and the uplifted loveliness of the blossom it can produce.

Relentless in their non-attachment to dichotomies demolishing opposites, the tantric approach is to be capable of embracing both extremes without clinging to either. The emphasis changes, but we can see that the essential teaching of non-attachment or non-clinging (nopalippati) to the objects of sense-perception, to a particular way of teaching, or to conventional dualities. It carries through the ages by this simple image of a bright lotus growing out of murky water.

SUTRA: Flowers
John D. Ireland (trans., SN 22:94), BPS (Wheel #107), edited by Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha under a blossom or vimana (WQ)
[The Buddha once said:] “I do not dispute with the world, meditators. The world disputes with me. A proclaimer of Dharma does not dispute with anyone in the world. What is not believed by the wise in the world, of that I say 'It is not so.' What is believed by the wise in the world, of that I say 'It is so.'
“And what is it, meditators, that is not believed by the wise in the world and of which I say 'It is not so'? That the body [any form]… feeling… perception… formation [mental activities]… [or] consciousness is permanent, stable, eternal, not liable to change, is not believed by the wise in the world, and I also say it is not so.
“And what is it, meditators, that is believed by the wise in the world and of which I say 'It is so'? That the body… feeling… perception… mental formation… consciousness is impermanent, unsatisfactory, liable to change, is believed by the wise in the world, and I also say it is so.

“There is, meditators, in the world a world-condition which the Tathagata [the Buddha] has fully awakened to, has fully realized. Having fully awakened to it and fully realized it, he declares it, teaches it, makes it known, establishes it, discloses it, analyzes it, makes it clear.

“And what, meditators, in the world is the world-condition which the Tathagata has fully awakened to, has fully realized? Meditators, the body… feeling… perception… formations… consciousness, meditators, in the world is that world-condition the Tathagata has fully awakened to, has fully realized…

"Grouped Discourses" (Wheel 107)
“And whosoever, meditators, when it is being declared, taught, made known, established, disclosed, analyzed, made clear by the Tathagata thus, does not understand, does not see, that person, an uninstructed worldly person, blind, without vision, not understanding, not seeing, I can do nothing for.
“Just as a water-lily or a blue lotus or a white lotus, born in water, growing in water, having arisen above the water stands unwetted by the water, similarly, meditators, the Tathagata, brought up in the world and conquering the world [i.e., conquers the Five Aggregates by penetrating the Truth with wisdom their true nature as impermanent, disappointing, and impersonal], lives unsullied by the world [i.e., unsullied by craving and attachment to the world].”

“Rise Above
Black Flag with  Henry Rollins

There is even a grungy old punk rock song that runs: Jealous cowards try to control/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ They distort what we say / Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ Try and stop what we do/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ When they can't do it themselves/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ We are tired of your abuse/ Try to stop us, it's no use.
Rougher original version of Black Flag's singalong "Rise Above"
Society's arms of control/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ Think they're smart, can't think for themselves/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ Laugh at us behind our backs/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ I find satisfaction in what they lack/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!

We are tired of your abuse. Try to stop us but it's no use! (repeat)/ We are born with a chance/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ I am gonna have my chance/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ We are born with a chance/ Rise above! We're gonna rise above!/ And I am gonna have my chance...

No comments: