An Image, a Visage-as I’m wont to scrawl (pencil, watercolor, red wine and gold ink).
This is Devadatta of the Lotus Sutra. There are various views on Devadatta but he is often understood as a Villian, the Doer of Evil who, according to the Saddarma Pundarika, is promised Salvation and Buddhahood. Holding the heritage of a “right bastard,” this Promise presents a “Hope in Hell” for those who feel fully FUBAR. It’s one of several amazing proclamations in the Lotus Sutra. If Devadatta will make it, so can anyone else. But there is another proclamation. It is revealed that Devadatta was the One who originally taught the Human Entity who would become Buddha, the Enlightened One.
From the Stars, from SPACE, comes the Word. Despite the corruption of Time, Space is, at the End, what it was at the Beginning. “Divided,” as the Goddess Nuit says in the Book of the Law, “For Love’s Sake, for the Chance of Union.”
We might then view Devadatta as both Cause and Effect. The Connective Interlude is evident in our individual lives. From Hubris and Hatred to Shame and Despair, we are Devadatta. Shakyamuni, in his Final Revelation, offers the Lotus as the Grand Symbol of the Simultaneity of Cause and Effect. Application of this revelation is a form of Magic.
I recall reading a list of Magical Powers in Tibetan Buddhism. Each Power had a corresponding Stage of Enlightenent.
Which comes first, the Chicken or the Egg?
In my own experience, I’ve found the Quest for Strange Powers as an alluring achievement to be a Dead End Road. It’s only been when a certain Understanding-or Gnosis-has been entered that the Powers download. They arrive and we are amazed. We can teleport, shift through time, read another’s mind. But all of our previous ambitions have gone up in flames.
The New Ability flows along the Lines of Understanding.
With this image I endeavored to capture a Moment in Time wherein Devadatta Soulshifts, Space flowing into Time. The Sinister shimmers into the Sacred. The Damned becomes Daemonic.
Devadatta makes me reflect on Yeats’ classic line:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”
With Shakyamuni’s Revelation, the “Best” is restored, given a place on the Stage of Time wherein its long locked “passionate intensity” might be reclaimed.
We find this possibility in the Japanese doctrine of Ichinen Sanzen or “3000 Realms in a Single Moment of Life.”
In essence, this Teaching shows how our Life shifts from place to place on a “Map” of Being. One minute we are in a Realm filled with Contentment and Bliss, the next we are catapulted straight into Hell. We are granted reprieve in some diversion and the Wheel turns again.
Despite all of these transitions, each Realm, as mapped out in Buddhist Teaching, contains the others. This includes the Adamantine Core of the Buddha World. Because of this fact, any circumstance may serve as a Vehicle of the Great Way.
What is required is Consciousness and Attunement. How does one begin to cultivate these qualities? If you’re reading these words, your Path has already brought you to such a state. In the vast, sprawling Spaces of this Universe (and many others), the Awakening Mind within yourself is not unlike Nichiren’s metaphor of the one-eyed turtle who rises from the floor of the ocean once every thousand years. The chances of this turtle finding a floating sandalwood log on the surface of the sea and emerging with his head through its hollow is almost impossible. Nichiren likens this improbability to our incarnation as a human being and, through this human life, encountering the Liberation of the Lotus Sutra.
Were this a lottery, one would be a fool to bet in it. And yet it is the winning hand of one’s life. I’m reminded of an experience where I was in a bar, throwing darts. I had been recruited to play on a team, despite a total lack of skill or basic understanding of the game. Our team was down one person and so someone’s boyfriend was called in (fresh out of prison, as I recall).
He stepped up, threw a Hat Trick and when the machine went wild, he asked, with genuine shock:
“What did I do?”
He had to be TOLD that he kicked ass.
This is the Message of the Lotus Sutra. You are already kicking ass. But (to again reference that pugnacious monk, Nichiren), we fail to see our own eyebrows…and we fail to see the Buddha whose Dwelling is within us.
It’s not “Turtles All The Way Down.”
It’s “Turtles All The Way UP.”
And the Turtle is Gamera.
The Goal of Alchemy was purported to be the Transmutation of Lead into Gold. This might also be translated as Transforming the Shit of our Lives into the Diamond Mind of Bodhicitta, a glorious reminder that our present level of consciousness is, itself, such a rare and magnificent thing in this Multiverse. From this, we may jaunt, jump, volt or simply stumble from one Realm to Another in the twinkling of an eye.
So-! Devadatta. Cause and Effect. Waking up.
It’s happening right now. Nor is there any other place for this to BE.