I mentioned Thich Nhat Hanh’s Cultivating the Mind of Love in a previous post. I finished the book, which is now one of my favorites by Thay. The chapters are drawn from a retreat at which Thay interspersed his own story of falling in love with a nun when he was a young monk with discussions of the Diamond, Lotus, Avatamsaka, Ugradatta, Vimalakirti, and other sutras. The love story was very poignant but it was the sutra discussions that really excited me. Thay delves into the historical background as well as the meaning of these wonderful source Buddhist texts.
In particular, the commentary on the Avatamsaka or Flower Ornament Sutra stirred long-forgotten memories. It all sounded so familiar and beloved, though remote. I searched through the shelf on which I keep the books from the various Asian philosophy and religion courses I took in college. Sure enough, way back in Chinese Buddhist Philosophy I read Hua-Yen Buddhism: the Jewel Net of Indra, by Francis H. Cook, which is basically a commentary on a commentary on the Avatamsaka Sutra. This past two weeks I’ve reread that book. It’s marvelous!
I’m not sure how much I got out of the book fifteen years ago and I’m sure I’m only glimpsing its treasures now. Nevertheless, I am also certain that reading it then and rereading it now plants and waters seeds in me that ripen under favorable conditions and will eventually sprout into understanding. It’s a slender volume printed in a small typeface and the middle in particular is thick with ontology and epistemology (two terms I barely remembered and had to look up, along with many other words used throughout). It’s undeniably dense and yet so lovingly written. I have to believe there is something particularly wonderful about the Avatamsaka Sutra if those who comment on it are so joyful about their subject matter. Continue reading