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Sr. John M. Soderberg, Ph.D. "The Flower Sutra" Bronze on wooden lazy Susan base
22.5"H X 12"W X 12"D
“The Flower Sutra,” was the longest creative gestation of my life- over 50 years. I sculpted it over 6 years, off and on, and finished last year.
I first heard the story of the Flower Sutra when I was 12 years old, carving teakwood with the leading master in Thailand- a Buddhist monk. We would set up in old-town Bangkok near the giant reclining Buddha, and carve for hours, and he would tell stories. The one that most moved me was the Sutra, and I wanted, back then, to tell that story though art. Now I have.
The Buddha was walking on the edge of a lake. Up ahead was a group of his followers, sitting by the water, waiting to hear him speak. He approached them, sat in front of them by the water, but did not speak- verbally. Instead, he reached out and plucked a lotus from the lake, then offered it to each person. They did not know how to respond, were embarrassed, tried to analyze his action. Finally, he offered it to a man named Mahakasyapa, who hesitated, then laughed and accepted the lotus. This made him the Buddha’s successor.
That moment, the teaching of “Wordless Insight,” was the birth of the movement called Zen.
I sculpted his robe transitioning into wings to show how his teachings took flight over the centuries. Under the lotus is an ancient symbol of the Tibetan Aum floating over the Lotus Throne. I do believe our world could use more Wordless Insight these days and hope this piece might help carry that message. I intend someday to sculpt this as a monument maybe 9 ft. high.
A note for those not familiar: Buddhism was never intended to be a “Religion,” and the Buddha was never intended to be a deity. It is a way of moving through life gently. There are many Christian Buddhists, and Jewish and Muslim, I believe.
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