The Inconceivable Liberation Ocean: Exploring The Flower Ornament Sutra

An Online Exploration of Thomas Cleary's Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra

with Robert Thurman | Saturdays | 73 Part Online Course

Bob Thurman invites all aboard to continue an epic exploration of "The Buddha-Garland (Avatamsaka) Sutra, or The Flower Ornament Scripture," as the master translator Thomas Cleary called his English version from the Chinese Huayen Ching. 

Described by Cleary as "the most comprehensive and the most beautifully arrayed of the Buddhist scriptures," the Avatamsaka Sutra describes in exquisite detail a cosmic multi-verse of infinite inter-penetrating realms. Illuminating the majesty and holographic coherence of the Buddha's non-dual vision of reality, the sutra illuminates numerous key Mahayana topics, including the detailed stages of the Bodhisattva career, the many visionary powers of meditation, and the ultimate inconceivable equality of all beings and things in emptiness.

Written in stages beginning at least 500 years after the Buddha’s parinirvana, the Avatamsaka Sutra is among the longest of the Buddha’s sutras, a compilation of texts often organized in 40 chapters. Using Cleary’s three volume translation, Thurman will teach this text in its entirety for the first time ever, sharing with us his characteristic brilliance and wit in unpacking the wisdom and symbolism of this seemingly fantastical sutra with an emphasis on its relevance to our “ordinary” daily lives in the 21st century.

In this class series we will explore: 

  • Who Shakyamuni Buddha was, how the culture and conditions gave rise to the events and insights of his teachings. 
  • What Ch’an Buddhism is, is not, and how it relates to other streams of the Buddha's teachings. 
  • Who were the Chinese Flower Ornament school philosophers & what lessons can we learn from them. 
  • How the imaginative descriptions found in Buddhist texts are powerful tools for creatives in any situation.
  • What inconceivable liberation is and how to begin developing it through study, practice, and performance.
  • What Tantra is, is not, and how it was revealed, developed, and is found in all Buddhist traditions. 
  • Who Vairochana is and how the Radiant Buddha's cosmic-bliss energy of an enlightened heart can be accessed. 
  • What a Pure Land is, how Buddhas and visionaries across all traditions use them to inspire and inform.
  • How super-human, super-normal and paranormal events can provide valuable lessons to modern materialists. 
  • The history of Chinese, Japanese, English, Tibetan and Sanskrit translation of Buddhist stories, texts and sutras.
  • What the differences are between Buddhist Sutras, Tantra, and mantra practice.
  • How Buddhas transcend time and space.

This 73-part course is by Robert Thurman exploring Thomas Cleary's landmark translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, chapter by chapter.

Robert A.F. Thurman

Robert Thurman Co-Founder and President of Tibet House US Menla in service of HH Dalai Lama & the people of Tibet. A close friend of the Dalai Lama’s for over 50 years, he is a leading world-wide lecturer on Tibetan Buddhism, passionate activist for the plight of the Tibetan people, skilled translator of Buddhist texts, and inspiring writer of popular Buddhist books.

In partnership with Nena Thurman and dedicated contributors, he now focuses on making Tibet House US and its Menla Retreat & Dewa Spa a global center for the promotion, study and practice of Tibetan Buddhist healing arts & sciences of body, mind, and spirit.

Flower Ornament Sutra Class Schedule

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