Chapter IV – Part 2 – Treasury of the Buddha Law

Treasury of the Buddha Law-a Treasury of the Buddha LawThe translucent layers in both of the art pieces are representative of the multiple layers, the various ways of being in our lives.  In each case nothing is completely covered over, nothing is eliminated and especially in the last piece every layer is required in order to form the whole.  So too in our lives all of our outward self, our actions and behaviors are integral to who we are, even if they may at times seem out of alignment with our intellectual understanding of enlightenment. Enlightenment does not exist in any place other than our very lives, which will change to manifest this more and more as we continue our faith and practice.

The Pratyekabuddhas complain they are too old, that initially they thought Buddhist practice was too difficult for them. Since they had focused on the extinction of desire as the sole way to enlightenment they had missed the joy of enlightenment.  Again, this speaks to the true nature of enlightenment, that being experiencing joy a very unintellectual experience.  It is not possible to think joy, joy is felt not thought.  We can name joy without any joy.  Joy is connected to the heart and core self, but not to the mind.

The elders thought it was enough to teach, to be intellectual, to be factual, to be without passion.  They thought that it was better left to Bodhisattvas to be energetic, and excited about practice. And the Buddha allowed the Pratyekabuddhas to continue in this way knowing that the time was not right for them to do differently.  It is as we see, only when they witness the joy the Sravakas experienced when they were given the prediction of future enlightenment that they awakened to the awareness that there was something more than merely extinguishing desires or nirvana.

To me it sort of sounds like prior to the prediction of the enlightenment of the Sravakas the Pratyekabuddhas may have thought why bother since the Sravakas are no better off than we.  In fact there may have been some little cliquish riff going with the Pratyekabuddhas insisting they were superior to the Sravakas.  Of course I say this without any hard proof.  Yet as I have read and reread this I do sense that much of this first part dealing with the Sravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas is about unifying a growing and perhaps fracturing Sangha.  As the community grew it would only be natural for groups of like minded individuals to collect together.  It would be strange if it didn’t happen, since it is the most natural thing we as humans do.  We tend to gravitate to those who are most like ourselves.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when you are trying to establish a universal teaching which truly carries a message that everyone can attain enlightenment.

It is almost as if the Buddha is saying, it isn’t about any one group of you all. One approach isn’t better than the other, and one approach can not exclude the others.  So in the Lotus Sutra he says, listen guys, stop your rivalry and understand that it really takes all of your different approaches combined together if you want to become enlightened.  It isn’t one way it is all the ways you each think is right.  See what you think, when you read this?

In each of the pieces of art I have tried to represent the idea that Buddhism and enlightenment will look like we do.  We do not need to be anyone else in order to become enlightened.  We simply need to be whole in a way that allows our Buddha nature to manifest even while we posses all the other natures.  We do not become perfect beings we become more Buddha like in ourselves.  Your drive to work becomes the Buddha driving a car to work.  Your standing in line at the coffee shop becomes the Buddha standing in line to get his coffee.  I hear there is a thing of giving Starbucks a fake name to call out when your coffee is ready.  Have you ever said your name was Buddha?  I wonder what that would be like if you in every moment of your daily coming and going identified yourself as Buddha?  Do you think things would change in how you lived?  That’s what you need to do though, realize you are Buddha and then live as the Buddha would live. 

(The first image is from a scan and the second is from photograph)

The last piece of art the one titled “Treasury of the Buddha Law” is so far the most complicated piece I have made.  For this I used page 121 of the Threefold Lotus Sutra.  On gampi rice paper I printed a photo I took a couple of years ago of the main floor in the Pantheon in Paris.  This is a large marble floor with a huge medallion in marble.  I then tore the paper and put one part on the portion of the page without any text.  The other torn piece I leached out much of the ink from the printed image as possible leaving only a ghost image.  This I then placed over the text and applied a gel medium so the text would show through better.  Then I punched holes in my paper and gathered up different colors of thread and proceeded to ‘sew’ the two images together.  Over all of this I then put some gold embossing paste.  At the bottom I got a little too much paste on the image and had to then reprint the photo onto more rice paper and cover up some of my excess gold.  Finally over all of this I put about 5 or so coats of a self leveling gel medium with a high gloss.  I did this because I wanted to recreate the high sheen of the marble floor of the Pantheon. 

Then I wanted the text that I connected to as I was creating this to rise above the whole thing.  So I then copied those portions onto a rub on type material and applied it over the top.  Then more coats of the gel medium.

Now it looks almost as if the whole thing is encased in glass.  It is quite stunning, however because of the depth of the shine and layers of gel it doesn’t photograph too well.  I scanned the image as well and between the two you can get an idea.

In the end I wonder how Buddhism has fit into your life?  Has it become fully integrated?  Or does it remain something foreign?  How do you think your life will be different, if at all, the more you practice?  What are your goals for practice, be more specific than enlightenment?  What do you think enlightenment will look like in your life?

 

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About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to http://www.myoshoji.org. I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.