HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: REFLECTIONS

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg


Part XXXIII
The Buddha Land

If we can realize our own True Heart at all times and behave in a straightforward manner on all occasions, in the twinkling of an eye we may reach the Pure Land and there see Amitabha.


The Platform Sutra
Translated by Wong Mou-Lam (slightly paraphrased)

Two Halves of One Flow

While the narrative of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom describes a continuous flow of experience, it can be helpful to view it as dividing into two sections of roughly equal length. The first half of the narrative describes Rev. Master's journey through the first two of the Buddha' Four Noble Truths: "Existence is permeated with suffering" and "The cause of suffering is craving rooted in ignorance." The second half of the narrative shows how the journey continues through the third and fourth of the Four Noble Truths: "With the cessation of craving and ignorance, suffering ceases" and "There is a Path [the Eightfold Path] that leads to the cessation of suffering."

The point of transition between these two halves of the narrative is very clear: it is described in Plates XXV-XXVI (first edition, Plate XIV), entitled "Appearance in the Hall of Shadows." (I have discussed this critically important part of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom in Part XXVIII of these Reflections.)

As I have observed elsewhere in these Reflections, the second half of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom is very bright. It is bright with the light of ecstasy and beauty; and it is bright with the light of a great flood of Teaching. It is as the beautiful blossom of the lotus plant that rises above dark water and opens to the sun, though most of its long stem is still submerged and its roots remain fixed in the mud. The "flower" of enlightenment grows on the "stem" of training, and both training and enlightenment develop from, and are nourished by means of, the "roots" of faith and pure intention, which can never be pulled out of the mud of our karmic inheritance. In fact, the mud provides the nutrients that are essential to the survival and well-being of the lotus plant.

Recognition

In the text accompanying Plates XXXV-XXXVI (first edition, Plates XXI-XXII) of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, entitled "Recognition in the Waveless Sea," Rev. Master describes the experience of being approached, touched, and then embraced by "a magnificent golden being." This embrace culminates in a flood of the Water of the Spirit. Rev. Master says, "It is as if I am bathed in warm, golden light."

 

 

The golden being is an emanation of the Cosmic Buddha (the Eternal). What is an "emanation?"--It is a form in which the Eternal manifests aspects of Itself in order to help beings. There are an infinite number of possible emanations. An emanation is Love adapting to the particular need and dispositions of that which is of Itself. To a Buddhist, Love might manifest Itself in forms cherished by Buddhists; to a Christian, It might manifest in forms cherished by Christians; and so on for people in all religions. Or it might manifest as a dearly loved family member or friend, or as pure light, or in any other way that will cause a particular being the least worry and fear, while providing the greatest assurance of that Infinite Compassion that lies at the heart of all existence.

The waters of a "waveless" sea are very still, and the waveless sea represents the deep stillness of the Eternal--the stillness of meditation. In Soto Zen Buddhism, "Recognition" refers to both the seeing, or intuiting, of the Buddha Nature in another being, or in any situation, and to choosing to acknowledge the Buddha Nature in another being, or in any situation.

We can bow in recognition of the Buddha Nature in others; and we can experience others' recognition of the Buddha Nature in ourselves.--Yet we may ask, "What is it within us that recognizes Buddha in another? And what is it in another that recognizes Buddha in us?"--In truth, That which recognizes Buddha in any being and in any situation is Buddha; and That which Buddha recognizes as Buddha is Buddha.

This Recognition is all-acceptance: it is "Buddha bowing to Buddha." In the experience of Recognition described by Rev. Master in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, the all-accepting Love of the Eternal embraces her and flows through every cell of her body, every aspect of her mind. The illusion of separation from our wonderful True Nature has dissolved, and this Infinite Love is the Reality that is revealed.

The Love of the Eternal does not turn off and on. Whether we see It or not, It is always there. Rev. Master looks out at a sea of lotuses and sees millions of lotus flowers. When we believe ourselves to be separate from the Love of the Eternal, the clouds of confusion and pain are obscuring the truth from our spiritual sight. It is only our own judgment of ourselves, our own looking down, that causes us to believe that the Eternal does not extend Its boundless Generosity to us, that It does not Recognize us as part of Itself. When these "clouds in a clear sky" of self-doubt and self-judgment dissolve into Immaculacy, then we see That which was always with us, and to which we belong for all eternity. And then we see that this very realm of impermanence is the Buddha's Pure Land in which all beings sit within their beautiful lotus flowers.

The Beautiful and the True

The experiences that Rev. Master describes in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom have a sensory aspect--colour and form, physical sensations, sometimes even sound. Rev. Master's words, and drawings and paintings as well, only go so far in conveying the beauty of the spiritual visions that are described in the second half of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: inevitably, there is a gap between the vivid experience that Rev. Master is describing and even the most sympathetic reader's capacity to imagine what it was like.

Rev. Master experienced these latter visions in beautiful colours and forms. Yet without the spiritual meaning of the experience, even the most beautiful colours and forms are like an empty envelope that conveys no message. Indeed, the deeper beauty is found in the unity of form and meaning--form conveying meaning; meaning giving depth to form. "Recognition in the Waveless Sea" stimulates the reader's imagination to rise above distinctions of self and other, enlightenment and ignorance, greater and lesser--to rise above all opposites and all pettiness of mind and heart in contemplation of a Love that is infinite.

 

Click here to proceed to Part XXXIV, "Leaf and Wind"

 

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