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Wednesday, April 3rd 2013

23:18

Still South and the Lotus Sutra (New Version)

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Doing pretty well.

So, we went down south for the climate. And sure enough, we got to experience some rare and unusual weather. In case you didn't take the trouble to look up the coordinates I gave you yesterday, I will reveal to you now that we are in Gulf Breeze, Florida, on a peninsula just south of Pensacola, which--as I'm sure you know--is just a stone's throw (so to speak) from Mobile, Alabama. I'm bringing up that city because you may have seen on the news that some strong gusts of wind tore the plagued cruise ship, Triumph, off its moorings while under repair in Mobile's harbor. The cables snapped one by one and Triumph, not having caused any problems for about a month, went on a little unexpected drifting voyage--a three hour tour, a three hour tour. (No reference needed I trust.) There was some material damage, and one worker, who fell into the water, is missing. Please pray for him if he is still alive and his family if any.

Being in the neighborhood, we experienced the same bizarre weather phenomenon. According to the well-informed man on TV it's called a wake low, and it manifests itself with a small and relatively short (less than an hour) period of furious winds, close to hurricane strength. So, today was not a day to frolic on the beach. We only ventured out prior to the event (not that we knew it was coming) to get some edibles and potables since we're not eating out every meal (e.g. none today), and then, when it was just about over and had slackened, to look at nature in our cove. There was a pelican in the water, who expressed no opinion concerning the matter. Another one was trying to fly right into the wind and remained stationary despite his efforts.

Here are two sets of pictures that June took yesterday. The first is of your architecturally occupied bloggist with his almost-completed sand castle. Touch the picture with your mouse cursor for a close-up of the central building.

The second one is also of your bloggist. This is a self-changing slide show of his venture into the waters of the gulf.

Gulf Swim

Some of you, no doubt, want to know whether I'm totally out of touch at this point with my other life, that of a religion scholar. I blush to admit that I haven't been able to make the break entirely. My recent work on the multi-year Buddhism project has stuck with me. It involved my making reference to various passages of the Lotus Sutra. This Buddhist scripture is unusual in a number of respects, including the fact that virtually every passage is presented twice, first in prose, then in poetry. So, over the last twenty-four hours, I put my mind (or is that my "no-mind") to creating another poetic version in a slightly different style for some key passages. The first part, following right along with the Lotus Sutra, focuses on the idea of upaya, usually translated as "skilful means" or "skilful device." The word refers to the idea that the Buddha may deliberately utter an untruth in order to reach those who would not respond to the genuine truth.

Those who are regular readers know that my humor begins with my own deprecations, that it is always (well, almost always) meant utterly benignly, and that there's no intent to offend. I get most pointed when it comes to my own heritage and traditions. So, please don't read anything into this little piece that's not there. For that matter, I invite anyone who might be quick to holler to check the accuracy of this composition by reading a translation of the Lotus Sutra at the Sacred Texts Archive. Well, actually, as you know, I always invite anyone to read source literature. Herewith the new poetic version:

      When the Buddha was in Gidhrakuta,
      He taught us the great Lotus Sutra.
      A beam from his head
      Was all he first said,
      Which puzzled our friend Sariputra.

      The arhats thought they had perfection,
      But suffered the Buddha's rejection.
      He said that he taught
      The doctrine they bought,
      But that it was only deception.

      The Lord said. 'I know you've been musing
      Why I have the truth been abusing.
      It's a skilfull device.
      And it's meant as advice
      To draw those who would be refusing.'

      A wealthy man's accommodation
      Was going up in conflagration.
      He promised his boys
      Their favorite toys,
      So they could find their salvation.

      He offered them three types of wagon,
      Which goat, deer, or bullock be draggin'.
      When they came for their picks.
      All but bullocks were nixed.
      'It's only the best!' he was braggin'.

          ***

      A wretched son came to his father
      To beg for some vittles and water.
      The father said, 'Sure,
      Go shovel manure,
      You'll become the man that you oughta.'

      For twenty long years he was able.
      To clean out his rich father's stable.
      Then the dad told his son,
      'You're my heir from now on,
      And you'll get to eat at my table.'

          ***

      There once was a dragon king's daughter
      Who came up right out of the water.
      A bodhisattva was she
      As all folks could see
      When she took up a true Buddha's quarter.

          ***

      There once was a man Devadatta
      Who everyone thought was a rotter.
      To the Buddha he showed
      The true dharma road.
      He, too, will become Tathagata.

Until next time!

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