Monday, June 16, 2008

The Tower of Maitreya

A "friend" told me a dream he had after coming back from a Maitreya retreat in Bodhgaya a few years ago. In the dream he was at the foot of a jewelled tower, said to belong to Maitreya. There were others there too. It was so huge, the top goes way beyond his sight. It was a beautiful sight to behold. After reading the below extract from Wikipedia, now he only realised that the huge tower he had dreamt of is something actually mentioned in the Avatamsaka Sutra. He had not read it before until now. So, now he thanked,and his humble prostrations to Buddha Maitreya!

Extracted from Wikipedia:
History of Avatamsaka Sutra (often translated as “Flower Adornment Sutra”)
Two full Chinese translations of the Avatamsaka Sutra were made. Fragmentary translation probably began in the second century CE, and the famous Ten Stages Sutra (十地經), often treated as an individual scripture, was first translated in the third century. The first complete Chinese version was completed by Buddhabhadra around 420, and the second by Śiksānanda around 699. There is also a translation of the Gandavyuha by Prajñā around 798. The second translation includes more sutras than the first, and the Tibetan translation, which is still later, includes even more. Scholars conclude that sutras were being added to the collection.

The Final Chapter
The last chapter of the Avatamsaka also circulates as a separate text known as the Gandavyuha Sutra. The Gandavyuha Sutra details the journey of the youth Sudhana, who undertakes a pilgrimage at the behest of the bodhisattva Manjushri. Sudhana will converse with 52 masters in his quest for enlightenment. The ante-penultimate master of Sudhana's pilgrimage is Maitreya. It is here that Sudhana encounters "The Tower of Maitreya," which along with "Indra's net" is one of the most startling metaphors of the infinite to emerge in the history of literature across cultures.

"In the middle of the great tower... he saw the billion-world universe... and everywhere there was Sudhana at his feet... Thus Sudhana saw Maitreya's practices of... transcendence over countless eons, from each of the squares of the check board wall... In the same way Sudhana... saw the whole supernal manifestation, was perfectly aware it, understood it, contemplated it, used it as a means, beheld it, and saw himself there."

The penultimate master that Sudhana visits is the bodhisattva Manjushri. Thus, one of the grandest, and most fully loaded with perennial symbolism, of pilgrimages comes to its conclusion by first revisiting where it began. The Gandavyhua suggests that with a subtle shift of perspective we may come to see that the enlightenment that the pilgrim so fervently sought was not only with him at every stage of his journey, but as well before it kick off; that enlightenment is not 'something to be gained' since, to begin with, the pilgrim (aka all of us) never departed from 'it'.The final master that Sudhana visits is the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who teaches him that wisdom is only for the sake of putting it into practice, that is, in benefiting all living beings all over the universe according to conditions..

"When this done, the world of the Gandavyuha (ceases) to be a mystery, a realm devoid of form and corporeality, for now it overlaps this earthly world; no, it becomes that 'Thou art it' and there is a perfect fusion of the two... Samantabhadra' s arms raised to save sentient beings become our own, which are now engaged in passing salt to a friend at the table and Maitreya's opening the Vairocana Tower for Sudhana is our ushering a caller into the parlor for a friendly chat."

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