Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: The Flower Ornament Scripture, or the Avatamsaka Sutra

  1. #1

    The Flower Ornament Scripture, or the Avatamsaka Sutra

    I had never heard of this before, but I've been reading a book about John Cage and his experiences with zen, and it's mentioned in a section about D. T. Suzuki, who lectured about it in New York in the late 1950s. This seems like quite a complex sutra; the only English translation is over 1,600 pages long, and it seems very florid in style, from what I've seen (looking at Amazon previews).

    Here's a quote from Suzuki:

    "As to the Avatamsaka-Sutra, it is really the consummation of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment, and Buddhist experience. To my mind, no religious literature in the world can ever approach the grandeur of conception, the depth of feeling, and the gigantic scale of composition, as attained by the sutra. Here not only deeply speculative minds find satisfaction, but humble spirits and heavily oppressed hearts, too, will have their burdens lightened. Abstract truths are so concretely, so symbolically represented here that one will finally come to a realization of the truth that even in a particle of dust the whole universe is seen reflected—not this visible universe only, but a vast system of universes, conceivable by the highest minds only."—D. T. Suzuki

    How does this sutra fit in with the Zen of Dogen?

    1,600 gasshos,


  2. #2

    I am not a Avatamsaka Sutra specialist, but just would like to add that even if one doesn't want to read all 1600 pages (I haven't read them all yet), one should check out the last chapter, which can be read as a standalone sutra.
    It is called the Gaṇḍavyūha Sutra and contains such priceless imagery as for example Indra's Net. In fact it is pretty psychedelic!

    The Avatamsaka is/was one of the most important Mahayana Sutras to ever grace Samsara.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  3. #3

    Thanks. I'm surprised I've never heard of this. But its length might be why. Since there's only one complete English translation, it's not something one will encounter often.

    Reading a bit about it on Wikipedia, it seems interesting, in that it has several layers of writing from different periods.



  4. #4
    Yes, another wild ride ... perhaps wilder even than the Lotus. The "Flower Garland" ("Hua-Yen" in Chinese or "Kegon" in Japanese) Sutra and school has had an important, although indirect, influence on Zen perspectives via the Hua-yen/Kegon and Tendai traditions (Dogen was a Tendai monk and Tendai incorporated some of Hue-yen, and Dogen was always heavily influenced by his studies there during his career and, I feel, his writings overflow with beautiful Hua-yen ... or might as well be Hua-yen ... imagery).

    Countless Buddhas in every blade of grass, every blade of grass holding the whole universe and all universes ... etc.

    Heinrich Dumoulin has a bit on this from page 45 to 49 here (although his romantic depiction of Japanese nature and art at the end is a bit "over the top").

    A traditional image of such is from the Avatamsaka (Flower Garland/Huayan) Sutra. Taigen Leighton recounts this story about Fazang, a great teacher of Huayan Buddhism ...

    Another time, Fazang illustrated the Huayan teachings for Empress Wu by constructing a hall of mirrors, placing mirrors on the ceiling, floor, four walls, and four corners of a room. In the center he placed a Buddha image with a lamp next to it. Standing in this room, the empress could see that the reflection in any one mirror clearly reflected the reflections from all of the other mirrors, including the specific reflection of the Buddha image in each one. This fully demonstrated the unobstructed interpenetration of the particular and the totality, with each one contained in all, and with all contained in each one. Moreover, it showed the nonobstructed interpenetration of each particular mirror with each of the others.


    A frequently cited expression of this vision of reality is the simile of Indra’s Net from the Avatamsaka Sutra, which was further elaborated by the Huayan teachers. The whole universe is seen as a multidimensional net. At every point where the strands of the net meet, jewels are set. Each jewel reflects the light reflected in the jewels around it, and each of those jewels in turn reflects the light from all the jewels around them, and so on, forever. In this way, each jewel, or each particular entity or event, including each person, ultimately reflects and expresses the radiance of the entire universe. All of totality can be seen in each of its parts.
    A very partial translation is available online ... the last Chapter is also known as the "Gandavyuha Sutra", Chapter 39 here "Entering the Dharma Realm"

    Gassho, J

  5. #5
    I came across this book, Introduction to the Lotus Sutra, which is due out in a few months. Should interest Jundo, if not others:



  6. #6

    Thank you for the lesson.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  7. #7
    Hi Kirk,

    Last year I heard a nice talk by TNH about this sutra (clicky) - quite accessible and available as an audiobook.
    Perhaps this is an easy introduction, before delving into it - at least I enjoyed it a lot...



    PS: Thanks for recommending the last chapter, Hans!
    no thing needs to be added

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts