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Essential Dharma

Life of the Buddha
The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
Brief Explanation

The Ten Bulls

Buddhist Glossary

The Navayana Sutra

Japanese Gardens and Aesthetics

Portraying a Japanese Buddhist Monk in the SCA

Japanese Films


The Clan of Matsuyama

SCA Resources
(The Chatelaine's Box)





The Navayana Sutra

(also known as The Navamala Hinaprajna Sutra)

It happened that there was a certain man who existed at one time as a warrior, at another as a stallholder in the marketplace, at another as a healer, and at yet another time as a teacher, a carrier of the lamp the Buddha lit.

Whilst in his most recent samsara (incarnation) as a Ch'an painter and scholar in the teachings of the Mahayana, he arrived at a city far distant from his home, to give a discourse on the compassionate teachings of the Buddha. According to an oracle he had consulted, his own suffering was due to come to an end during his stay in that city, or soon after.

This prediction, and the invitation to address the gathering, had given him a renewed good heart, for he had been much abused in this incarnation, and of late had become very weary. Therefore, on his arrival at the home of the healer who had invited him, the teacher was in good spirit. But he was quickly saddened to see the sorrow upon the faces of many of those who had come to hear him speak.

He spoke with them first to ask the cause of their suffering. Each replied in kind, that their sorrow was caused by others who had lied to them, been deceitful, or otherwise acted towards them dishonestly.

Discarding the text he had prepared, the teacher sat down and spoke to them from his heart, drawing upon his own experiences, and upon the teachings he had received a quarter of a century before, from his first teacher. These teachings were that if we believe that others lie to us, or abuse us, it is because we have listened only with our ears, and not with our intellect or intuition, and that if we use these faculties, rather than the mere sense organs of hearing, our suffering is alleviated.

As he spoke to the gathering, he realised that the people he addressed had presented him with reflections of what had happened to him, and as he found words to comfort them, so he heard the words he spoke, and was himself comforted.

Remaining in the city for a few more days, he found himself being warmly and openly greeted by people he had never previously met. He knew that his manner of dress made his easily distinguishable from the inhabitants of that city, but thought it strange that they should recognise him, and greet him with such affection. Many of the people who thus greeted him had heard his speak at the home of the healer, but he was greeted in this way by three and four times their number, for word of what he had said had spread around the city, and had given consolation to many more than had attended the meeting he had addressed.

He became aware that he was in a state of grace, and this was made clear to him when two mercenary warriors who ridiculed and threatened him, retreated in embarrassment when Kashin, the Spirit of Blossoming, told them who he was. Two other auspicious omens were then presented to him, which told him that by the time he left the city, he would have outgrown his suffering. He was pleased, for he believed the omens might mean he was preparing to leave his earthly existence, and perhaps enter Nirvana, most often described as the state of perfect bliss, which is beyond rebirth and beyond death. As he journeyed home, he began to make such arrangements as were required for him to depart from his earthly life with the minimum of inconvience to others.

Upon his arrival home, a further three omens awaited him. The first was a message from a Tibetan Buddhist nun, telling him she would call next day to ask him to let her have a statue which was in his possession, so that she might give it to the abbot of her monastery. The statue was of Tara, the protector of those who travel spiritually on the path to enlightenment.

That night the second omen appeared, for he was visited by the 'protector of wolves', known as a devourer of men. To his surprise, he was unafraid, and he was right not to have feared her, for although he did not know it, she is also the protector of children. She asked him what had happened in the distant city, and he told her of how he had addressed the people, and received the two omens there. She then asked him if he thought this meant that he would soon enter Nirvana, and he told her that he hoped this might be so. She then told him he was wrong, and that he would not depart.

He asked did she mean he was not yet ready. When she replied that she did not mean this, he shook his head and told he she must be wrong, since those who are ready to enter Nirvana and do not do so are the Bodhisattvas (those who postpone their entry to the state of perfect bliss in order to save others from their suffering). He pointed out to the protector of wolves and children that he had been unable to save himself. She replied by telling him that he had done so, and without realising it, was now ready to become a Bodhisattva if only he would accept the responsibility. He told her that he did not wish to do so, and was looking forward to the perfect bliss of Nirvana.

The next day he awaited the arrival of the nun, but she did not appear. However, a beautiful but frail girl came to visit him, and when he asked her name, to her amazement she told him it was Tara. He spoke with her, and realized that in the form she now appeared to him, there was no way by which she could know of the Buddhist legend. He asked her the reason why she had come. Huge tears welled up in her eyes as she replied that she had come to him because she was suffering and needed his help.

The teacher knew the the protector of wolves and children had been right in what she had said. But even more than this, he recalled one of the omens he had received when in the distant city where he had taught only a few days previously, and how, with an 'unspoken truth' he had then been asked for help, and had given it without his even knowing it at the time. The person he had helped, of noble class, had remarked upon his spirituality, but he had denied being of spiritual kind.

Memories of what he had been taught many years before about the legend of Tara began to return to him. Then he recalled the legend in detail. It was that when the great bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was preparing to enter Nirvana, having attained his own enlightenment, he had heard a cry. Turning to investigate its origin, he recognised it as an awesome cry for help. Retracing his footsteps he realised that it issued forth from the whole of suffering humankind. He was unable to leave until he could take them, all those who suffered, with him, safely to that other shore, the shore of enlightenment, where pain and suffering are no more. A miracle had then occured, in which a tear of compassion fell from his eye. Where it landed, it formed a lake, and from out of the water of the lake there appeared a lotus, which upon its opening, revealed the immortal Tara, whose compassion is without end. Together, the two bodhisattvas work to relieve human suffering.

Full of shame at his lack of compassion, and lack of regard for the suffering of others, the teacher vowed to stay with her, and to help her until her suffering was gone, so that she had no further need of him. She came to him each day, and by helping her, the teacher realised he had no right to deny the strength of the spirituality within him. With this acceptance, his spirituality increased, as did the skills which are needed in helping others.

He remembered the words of the Buddha, who had said that by acceptance of the true teaching, enlightenment could come, and our lives begin again in days, rather than in months or years. Thus, when the nun returned a few weeks later to ask would he part with the statue of Tara, he knew that his work with the manifestation of that bodhisattva had come to an end. And so it was that the next day when she arrived at his home, she was able to say that she had been able to resolve her problem the previous night, and would not be returning to ask for his help.

By this time the teacher had accepted his responsibilty, and in order that others might benefit from what he had learnt, and thus be saved from their suffering, he had already began to write of what what he had learned through his study and through his experience, calling his text the Navamala Hinaprajna Sutra.