images of the crossing over

Playing the Goddess

Nikon D300
Summer, 2010

Our lecturer for a year and a half, from the first season second year to the end of the summer our third year, was a huge proponent of dramatizing the texts in order to get their point. As first years, we had listened, confused, to the second years who shared our hall reading what sounded like the scripts to hokey Buddhist cartoons during evening study hall: the characters were all figures from the second year texts, Dahui and the Sixth Patriarch and various emperors and a few Zen Masters plus witless students of said masters. Then we inherited that lecturer and began our own odyssey into creative approaches to the sutras.

The highlight, though, in terms of preparation, props, script, and execution, was a dramatization of the chapter on “Perceiver of the Cries of the World” (aka Kwan Seum Bosal) from the Surangama Sutra our third year. The cast was chosen from those students who paid insufficient attention during class. (Our lecturer figured if you were already paying attention, you probably didn’t need additional study aids; whereas if you attention was the wandering type, she’d give you something new to focus on.)

Bo Seong Sunim played the Goddess of Mercy herself, even digging up that lovely bit of silver scarf from the props box in the Children’s Outreach Program office. The rest of our classmates played various groups of earthly and celestial beings: gandharvas and kinnaras, nagas and rakshas, Wheel-Turning Monarchs, spiritual adepts, etc. Most of the crew laughed too hard during the performance to be taken seriously, but Bo Seong Sunim? …never broke character once.

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