We referenced Peaceful Action, Open Heart: Lessons from the Lotus Sutra, in our last post, quoting Thich Nhat Hanh. The Lotus Sutra is considered a very difficult text to read, yet it is also considered the “king of the sutras,” and in this book Thich Nhat Hanh’s eloquent commentary makes the Lotus Sutra and the Buddha’s teachings come alive, at least from a Mahayana perspective. We liked his definition of sutra where he writes, “The word “sutra” means “thread” in Sanskrit, so a sutra is a thread of prose that links and expands upon the verse forms of a teaching.” We like to think of our retelling of Sinxay as a form of “sutra.” Our motivation for retelling Sinxay, rather than providing a straight translation, has not been to produce an authoritative text (though we hope others may be motivated to pursue this path after reading Sinxay) but to have Sinxay come alive by telling the story in such a way that it lives authentically for readers today, yet remains faithful to the original Sang Sinxay as written over 350 years ago.
In Peaceful Action, Open Heart, Thich Nhat Hanh writes under the subheading Understanding the Sutra that “The language of the Lotus Sutra is like a very skillful painting that appears to be quite real. In the Mahayana literature, vivid language and intense images are used to point to very deep and wonderful ideas. The creators of the sutras were very great poets, but such language is only a skillful means to express the profound ideas of the teachings. The dramatic language and images are the literary equivalent of a stature of a Buddha seated on a lotus throne, a reminder to us of the Buddha’s capacity to sit mindfully and peacefully. So when we read the Lotus Sutra, we should remember not to get caught up in the words. If we do, we will only see descriptions of miraculous events and supernatural powers and we will not be able to receive the true meaning of the Sutra.”
This paragraph is so rich with the key idea being that “we should remember not to get caught up in the words.” The world of Sinxay is similar, supremely fantastical and difficult to comprehend through ordinary reality. Nonetheless, if one can let go and loose oneself in these magical worlds, the reward is a clarity of mind where these “very deep and wonderful ideas” can become known and felt