Saturday, May 11, 2019

Step 5 and the Avatamsaka Sutra



Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

From our Sutra entitled Purification:    

Koan: All the ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.
Basically, sutras are Buddhist scripture.  This one felt like a perfect fit for Step 5 (and 4, too). I began to wonder when this sutra was written.  First I asked Rocks and Clouds Roshi, Daniel.  He quickly wrote back that this sutra is found in the Avatamsaka Sutra, also called the Flower Ornament or Flower Garland Sutra that had its beginning in the 2nd century CE.

According to Wikipedia, the first complete Chinese version of the Avatamsaka Sutra was completed around 420 in 60 scrolls with 34 chapters, the second version around 699 with 80 scrolls with 40 chapters.

My next question was where in this grand sutra do we find Purification? Gregory Wonderwheel came to the rescue.  He loves delving into Buddhist history and scripture and said it’s near the end of Chapter 39. This would indicate that “our” Purification Sutra came about in the second version around 699.

Repentance Verse

All my past harmful actions,
from beginningless greed, hatred, and delusion,
born through body, speech, and mind,
I now fully avow and repent.

Turns out that the Avatamsaka Sutra is one of the longest of Buddhist sutras. It “describes a cosmos of infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another.” D.T. Suzuki said it’s “the consummation of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment and Buddhist experience.”

Thomas Cleary’s English translation was a phenomenal undertaking, exceeding 1600 pages. He calls this sutra “the most grandiose, the most comprehensive, and the most beautifully arrayed of the Buddhist scriptures.”

I interpret the Flower Ornament Sutra as containing every aspect of the human condition. Here, coming back to my cushion, we are meditating with the 5th Step; still, I’m wondering if we could find all of the Steps contained in this grand sutra.  Wouldn’t that be a delicious addition to the buffet of our 12 Step program? Maybe I'll take a look at Chapter or Book 39...in the future...


All the ancient twisted karma…

How about all our past twisted behavior? We come into AA with baggage of our “character defects”. Elsie commented, “I was not the person I wished to be when I came into AA.” When she came up to the words, the exact nature of our wrongs, she wasn’t sure what that meant.  And today, with more than three decades of recovery, “I’m still not sure about exact nature. What does she do? She continues to work the Steps; she has changed sponsors and “I review, review, review my situations and know that I am getting closer to the ‘exactness’.”


The Five Remembrances Sutra comes to mind regarding “all my past harmful actions”.

Ino:      My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
All:      My actions are the ground upon which I stand.


From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance (also translated as delusion)…

Doesn’t this describe three important conditions of an alcoholic?

 ·      “Selfishness-self-centeredness! [Certainly tied to greed] That, we think, is the root of our troubles. P. 62

·      “Resentment [A form of hate] is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” P.64

·      “The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed. We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking.” P. 30


These are the driving forces that take us to the bottom, a bottom where we are suffering from the consequences of our unhealthy actions. So, what do we do to go beyond this suffering?

 

“Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.”


Step 5 is where we, with the guidance of a sponsor, acknowledge our behavior and the harm we have done to others. Those who helped write the Big Book knew we had to admit this as deeply as our willingness takes us, to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another person. This Step is a BIG ego smasher, in having to share this with others. This is what we do if we want to recover and turn our lives around. The writer who wrote this sutra 1,320 years ago, in effect, came to the same conclusion.  The human condition hasn’t changed.

John remembered an AA convention he attended early on in his recovery entitled “Language of the Heart.” It was at this convention where he grasped the concept of living amends. It’s the openly and fully that expands Step 5 to include living amends.

Yes! Confession includes our entire body, mind and spirit.






Bill K.













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