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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
buddhadharma| 79 |spring 2008 prince siddhartha left the comfortable surroundings of his palace at the age of twenty-nine to venture forth unchaper- oned into the streets of his city for the first time, he came across a sick person, a decrepit old man, and a corpse. he also saw a shramana, a renunciate with a radi- ant face. the tradition tells us that these four appearances were devaduta in dis- guise who had been sent to awaken the young prince to his preordained mission in life. this mission was of becoming a Buddha, the perfectly awakened one. Both the Devadutta Sutta in the Majj- hima Nikaya and its extrapolated ver- sion in the Anguttara Nikaya are set in the “hell realms” presided over by Yama, the gatekeeper and ruler of those realms. these passages contain some rather grue- some descriptions of beings being tortured in those realms. the Devaduta Sutta ends with the Buddha uttering these words: “Bhikkhus, i tell you this not as something i heard from another recluse or brahmin. i tell you this as something that i have actually known, seen, and discovered by myself” (Majjhima Nikaya, 130:29). our challenge today is how to negoti- ate our way through the claims made in the Devaduta Sutta, and the resonance of devaduta metaphor in our own life and practice. do we need to accept the hell realms and their torture schemes as liter- ally true and create a theological or cos- mological framework on that basis? or can we see this and similar passages in the Pali suttas as metaphors and similes, and thereby create a more practice-oriented investigative framework for ourselves? if we choose the latter approach, it may be possible for us to retranslate devaduta in a slightly different manner and get a more nuanced understanding of the inevitable processes of life it evokes: deva meaning higher or evolved or inspi- rational; duta meaning call, reminder, reaching out. We might thus read devaduta as “inspirational reminder” or “higher calling” or “wise reaching out.” the grey hairs of king Makkhadeva come to us all, as do all other signatories to old age, sickness, and death. All of these conditions are beyond our control and their times of arrival unpredictable. the only choice we have is to put ourselves on notice about the eventual and inevitable arrival of these messengers. We also have the choice of not being resentful or dread- ing their arrival. bRentyoung ZEN CENTER OF NEW YORK CITY John Daido Loori, Abbot Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Resident Teacher To find out more about ZCNYC call (718) 875-8229 or visit our Award winning website www.mro.org/firelotus firstname.lastname@example.org dddd oooout tZC ZC ZC ZC 111 9 vvv ssss rrrrr or or or 8888 )))) nnnngggg we we we we we mr mr mr mroooo wwww wwwwwww wwww ttttsssiiiibbb zc zcc zcny nyy nyc@ c@ @c@@ rrrro.ooo or or or o ggggg 22222 wwww m m m m 5555-8 -8 -8 8 rrreee aaaa 88882222222 m m m moooo 8888757575 ab ab ab aou ou o rrreeee or or or orb • Lay-Tr aining Center in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn • Residential Program • Zen Te acher and Monastic Staff in Residence • Daily Meditation Schedule • Saturday retreats Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism AN APPEAL FOR THE PRECIOUS SEEDS OF TIBET Tibetan children, nuns and monks continue to escape persecution by making a perilous journey across the Himalayas to seek freedom in Nepal and India. Many arrive traumatized and destitute. you can help save a life and preser ve a culture. To learn more please call or visit our website. www.Tibet Aid.org 877-T ibet-Aid With a sponsorship of $3.50 to $33 a month,