Fall Study Intensive
Sundays, 1:30 - 3:00 pm -- 9/25, 10/2, 10/30, 11/6
Registration is required. Class fees are $5-$15 per class, sliding scale with scholarships available. Payment can be made online or in person in the zendo foyer.
"Dualism is a trick of the mind, not a description of the way the world actually is."
-- Joan Sutherland in Vimalakirti and the Awakened Heart
This fall we will focus on the Vimalakirti Sutra, an entertaining and accessible teaching whose central character is the layman Vimalakirti. Through the unfolding tale of Vimalakirti’s fantastical creations, brilliant dialogues, and skillful means, we are presented with an exposition of the main Mahayana teachings: the Bodhisattva ideal, emptiness teachings, skillful means, and non-duality. This series invites you to take up these foundational texts, and take a deep dive into developing a peaceful and generous heart right in the midst of the challenges of our lives.
Vimalakirti and the Awakened Heart: A Commentary on the Sutra that Vimalakirti Speaks, Joan Sutherland, 2016, Following Wind Press. ONLINE E-BOOK
The Vimalakirti Sutra, translated by Burton Watson, 1997, Columbia University Press ONLINE E-BOOK
NOTE: Printable pdf of Class #1 and #2 assignments and study questions below
Before Class #1, September 25
Read the entire Joan Sutherland book:
Question: Joan Sutherland writes: "When the buddha literally comes down to earth and digs his toes in, he doesn't instantly transform the world into the pure land. Instead, Shariputra says he now sees the world as the Pure Land. The nature of the world hasn't changed, but Shariputra's ability to experience it has. This complicated, nuanced, gorgeous, difficult, confusing world as it is is already the Pure Land, and now Shariputra sees that that was always true."
What does it mean that this world as it is is the Pure Land? And what is the shift in perception that enables Shariputra to know that? How can we be with this teaching, take it to heart, enact it?
Read Chapter 1 of the Watson translation of the sutra:
Question: The Buddha gives a teaching in response to Jeweled Accumulation's question about how bodhisattvas purify the Buddha Lands (how they lead various beings to enlightenment.)
What do you recognize in the Buddha's answer as basic Mahayana teachings about the bodhisattva path?
Before Class #2, October 2
Read Chapters 3, 4 and 5 of the Watson translation of the sutra
Regarding Chapters 3 and 4, The Disciples and The Bodhisattvas
Question: The Buddha's disciples in Chapter 3, and the Bodhisattva's in Chapter 4 say "I am not competent to visit him and inquire about his illness."
Name a couple of ways in which Vimalakirti offers a subtle correction/adjustment to the disciple or Bodhisattva. What is the core teaching of the adjustment?
Regarding Chapter 2 of the Sutherland book:
Question: In the chapter 'Not Two' Joan Sutherland writes: "Philosophically Vimalakirti is subverting anything that reinforces our tendency to make two, to divide things up into this pile and that pile, us and them, black and white, right and wrong. Dualism is a trick of the mind, not a description of the way the world actually is. If we can subvert the habits of mind that make dualities, we can take the next step, which is to begin to connect those things that have been separated by that trick."
When is a time in your life when you have crossed barriers or broken conventions that were divisive? What is an example in your life of a situation that was perplexing when you were younger that you now see clearly? What assumptions were you making then? In what ways have you adjusted your own incomplete assumptions?
Related to Chapter 5 of the Sutherland book and the Oct 2 Dharma talk - The Illness and the Vow
Question: In what ways do we recognize the conditions of our lives, without necessarily being limited by them? Re-read Dogen's Jijuyu Zanmai; how is this expressing the necessary co-arising of expedient means and wisdom?