Great Faith, Great Wisdom Retreat, 2017 - day 3On Tue, 12 September, 2017 - 09:04
Another beautiful day in the pure land! On my way home, I sighed - “oh it’s all so lovely!”.
Today our sutra reading was sections of the text describing the land of Sukhavati, which is the Dharma aspect of the text. (Yesterday focused more on the Buddha - including beautiful descriptions of bodhisattva activity)
I found the description of the river particularly beguiling - the sound of the river is both soothing, and conveys the Dharma. It conveys the Dharma by murmuring the only, very concise, direct teaching of the whole text: ‘impermanence, peace, no self’. It also conveys the Dharma in the very nature of its musical sound. “It is profound, ungraspable, unfathomable, and pure. It is a delight to the ear, and it touches the heart. It is enchanting, delightful, and it soothes the mind.” These words dropped me into concentration, also bringing to mind my recent solitary retreat when I spent many happy hours watching a tumbling stream and listening to its ungraspable sound. There are always opportunities to know the Dharma in life.
The sound of Sukhavati’s river can communicate any Dharmic phrase you wish to hear - the sutra lists many, and hearing it, beings are inspired to practise. I found that reassuring and inspiring as it affirms the validity of the path of beauty.
And beautiful this text is. Ratnaguna led us in a guided visualistion based on the description of the land in the Longer Sukhavativyuha Sutra and the sense of a vast, scented river, carrying flowers and reflecting the jewelled trees on its banks, made of totally clear water, and lined with sand of gold took me out of myself with overwhelming wonder.
If you’d like to listen to the sutras, you can find a link at the bottom of this page.
Ratnaguna’s talk this evening, ‘The Mystery of the Pure Land’ corrected some common misunderstandings about the texts. The sutras are not to be read as philosophy, but appreciated as works of art. They are imaginative evocations, and books of the dead. We can find in them a sense of the great mystery at the heart of the deep Dharma, unfathomable, subtle, hard to see, only to be understood by the wise.