The primary message of The Lotus Sutra, one of the most beloved sutras in the Mahayana collection of Buddhist teachings, is that each of us can become a Buddha. This was a revolutionary message for practitioners back in the first and second centuries C.E., and it remains a powerful message today. As a Buddha we continue to be a human being. Thay taught that The Lotus Sutra has given us a very great gift, and we can best use it by becoming the arms of the Buddha through our practice in daily life, in Sangha building, and in our work in the world. The Sutra connects us with many bodhisattvas, including Avalokiteshvara, who can help us realize the Sutra’s deepest teachings. For this winter retreat period we will focus our attention on five great powers of Avalokiteshvara (understanding the true nature of reality, purity, great wisdom, compassion, and good will) shared in the Gateway to Everywhere (Universal Door) chapter of The Lotus Sutra. As we cultivate these powers through study, practice and action, we manifest as both a Buddha and a human being— we experience the ultimate and historical dimensions alive together right here and now.
The retreat will begin the week of December 31, 2017, with six dharma posts sent out every two weeks over a twelve-week period. The posts will have two sections, so they may be used for weekly dharma study, practice and sharing.
You are welcome to use the materials as suits your situation: as a sangha study and practice period (as many have done in past years), as a personal study and practice period, or even as an opportunity to gather one or more friends together to study and practice at your own pace.
I will send out emails every other week (beginning the week prior to December 31) to those on my winter retreat email list, the MROIS list serve and the Portland Community of Mindful Living website. You are welcome to share the posts with others, and please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if someone wants to be included or not included in the emails.
This year, in gratitude for the opportunity to study and practice together, we are asking you or your sangha to consider offering dana to either the MROIS scholarship fund for dharma teachers and dharma teachers in training, the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, or a local dharma teacher of your choice. More details to come.
The primary resources for the retreat can be found online at the Mindfulness Bell archives:
Dharma Talk: The Different Faces of Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindfulness Bell: #32 Winter/Spring 2002
Discourse on the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma: Universal Door Chapter, https://plumvillage.org/sutra/discourse-on- the-lotus- of-the- wonderful-dharma-universal-door-chapter/ (on the Plum Village Website, not the Mindfulness Bell archives)
Silence: A Dharma talk given by Sister Jina on September 1, 2002, Mindfulness Bell: Fall/Winter 2003
Ten Breaths for Happiness, by Glenn Schneider, Mindfulness Bell: #59 Winter/Spring 2012
For those who want to go deeper into the Lotus Sutra, I suggest:
Peaceful Action, Open Heart: Lessons from the Lotus Sutra (formerly titled Opening the Heart of the Cosmos), by Thich Nhat Hanh
Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma (The Lotus Sutra), by Leon Hurvitz (Thay based his book on this translation, there are other translations as well)
These posts are humbly offered as a jumping off place for you to explore the teachings and your own aspirations and practice. They include personal insights and reflections from practicing with The Lotus Sutra. May they further encourage you in understanding your own Buddhahood and unique manifestation in the world. Following is a general outline of the dharma posts:
What is the True Nature of Purity?
What is the True Nature of Great Wisdom?
Reciting and Chanting Words/Phrases with Great Powers (dharanis)
What is the True Nature of Compassion?
Taking Refuge and Resting
What is the True Nature of Good Will?
Within the posts we will explore familiar and possibly new ways of practicing, so that we may discover together skillful means to cultivate Great Compassion and bring our practice alive as the arms of the Buddha.
Nisi Ségor, True Recollection of Virtues
Supported by Jerry Braza, True Great Response