from Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma
for Voices & River Sounds
Music by Norman Lowrey
Text Translated from the Chinese of Kum raj va by Leon Hurvitz
(Dedicated to the Drew University Chorale, Garyth Nair, Director)


A. Tape:
Begin in silence. Start playback of the pre-recorded River sounds. (Composite of original recordings made at 7 sites along, on, and in the Delaware River, from Frost Valley, New York to Cape May, New Jersey). After about 1 minute, recording of sampled tibeten singing bowl sounds will join the river sounds.

B. Voices:
Listen to the River sounds. Imagine that you are part of the River. When the singing bowl sounds begin, chose a pitch, either heard or imagined, and intone your designated text on this pitch. (The text is divided into 7 overlapping segments. Either by prearranged assignment or individual choice, one of these segments is your designated text). Vary loudness from a moderate whisper to a moderately loud tone. Maintain the same pitch at least for the duration of a single breath. You may then chose a new pitch for each breath or continue on the same pitch. When whispering, continue to imagine the pitch you intend to intone. Always visualize and hear yourself as part of the River. Your voice is one of the River's voices. Allow also for silence. (Each text segment, if read at a moderate pace, is about 5 minutes long). Continue in this manner through the length of your designated text or until the singing bowl sounds end.

C. Tape:
The River sounds will diminish over about the last 1 minute after voices are quiet and the singing bowl stops. Let there then be silence as at the beginning.

from Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma is essentially a brief meditational strategy for listening deeply to the sounds of a river and the voiced sounds of the Lotus Sutra mingling with those river sounds. The pre-recorded tape used to accompany the voices consists of overdubbed recordings made by the composer at seven sites along the 350-mile length of the Delaware River during the summer and fall of 1994 as part of a project known as River Sounding. Specific pitch material was then added by sampling a Tibetan singing bowl, whose sonic quality is remarkably human. Live voices intone the text of the Lotus Sutra in an improvisatory manner based upon individual response to and interaction with the river sounds and the pitches of the singing bowl. The sounds of the live voices may be heard as further bubblings, gurglings and whisperings of the river. As the Buddha in the scripture vows to "listen to Dharma," so we may imagine in listening to this rich tapestry of sounds that we are hearkening to the great mysterious voice of nature which might, if we could only hear it, bring us revelation.

Play performance by Drew Univesity Chorale (7.95 mb mp3. file)

1. The Sainted Lord, the World-Honored One,
Though long since passed into extinction,
Yet into the jeweled stupa's midst
Has come for Dharma's sake.
O people! How may one
Not strive for Dharma's sake?
This Buddha, though passed into extinction
Unnumbered kalpas ago,
Yet in place after place LISTENS TO DHARMA,
For it is hard to encounter.

2. That Buddha's former vow was,
"After my passage into extinction,
wherever I am, wherever I go,
there may my purpose be to LISTEN TO DHARMA."
Also, the emanations of my body,
Incalculable Buddhas,
Equal in number to Ganges' sands,
Have come, wishing to listen to Dharma
And to see him who has passed into extinction,
The Thus Come One Many Jewels.
Each abondoning his fine land,
As well as the multitude of his disciples,
Gods, people, dragons, and demons
And their several offerings,
To cause Dharma long to endure
Have they all come hither.

3. In order to seat the Buddhas,
By the powers of my supernatural penetration
I have moved incalculable multitudes,
Causing the realms to be purified.
The Buddhas, each severally,
Proceed to the foot of their respective jeweled trees.

4. As in a cool, clear pond,
Lotus blossoms decorate
At the foot of those jeweled trees
The several lion thrones.
The Buddhas, sitting atop them,
Are radiant in their splendour,
As if, in the midst of a dark night,
Kindling a great torch.
Their bodies emit a fine scent
That pervades the realms in all ten directions.
The living beings favored with the scent

Experience unbearable joy,
As if from a great wind
Blowing on the branches of small trees.
For by this expedient device
They enable Dharma long to endure.

5. Each Buddha declares to the great multitudes:
"After my passage into extinction,
Who can guard and keep,
Read and recite this scripture?
Now, in the Buddha's presence,
Let him speak his own vow!"
The Buddha Many Jewels,
Though long since passed into extinction,
Through his great vow
Utters a lion's roar.
The Thus Come One Many Jewels,
As well as I myself
And the magically conjured Buddhas here asembled,
Will know this meaning.

6. O sons and daughters of the Buddhas!
Who can keep the Dharma?
Let that person utter a great vow
And thus enable it long to endure.
If there is one who can keep
This Scripture-Dharma,
Then thereby shall offerings have been made
To me and to Many Jewels.
This Buddha Many Jewels,
Dwelling within the jeweled stupa,
Ever travels in the ten directions
For this scripture's sake.
Moreover, those who, as an offering
To the magically conjured Buddhas who have come hither,
Decorate with splendor
The various world-spheres.
If they only preach this scripture,
Shall then, on that account, see me,
The Buddha Many Jewels,
And the magically conjured Buddhas.

7. O good people!
Think carefully, each of you!
This is a difficult matter,
And for it a great vow should be taken.
The other scriptural canons
Are in number like to Ganges' sands,
But if one were to preach these,
Still this should not be thought difficult.
If one were to take hold of Sumeru
And fling it into another quarter
Over untold Buddha-lands,
That also would not be difficult.
If with a toe
One were to move the thousand-milionfold world,
Flinging it far off to another realm,
That also would not be difficult.
If one were to stand on the Pinnacle of Existence
And for the multitude set forth
Other incalculable scriptures,
That also would not be difficult.
But if after the Buddha's extinction,
In the midst of an evil age
One can preach this scripture,
That is difficult.
If there should be a person
Who, holding open space in her or his hand,
Were to walk about with it,
Even that would not be difficult.
After my extinction,
If one can write and keep it oneself,
Or cause another to write it,
That is difficult.
If one should take the Great Earth
And, placing it on one's toenail,
Mount with it to the Brahma gods,
That, too, would not be difficult.
After the Buddha's passage into extinction,
In the midst of an evil age,
To read this scripture for but a moment -
That is difficult.
Even if in the kalpa's holocaust
One should carry dry grass on one's back
And enter the flame, yet not be burnt,
That, too, would not be difficult.
After my extinction,
If one can hold this scripture
And preach it to even one person,
That is difficult.
If one were to carry eighty-
Four thousand treasure houses
Of the twelvefold scriptural canon
And preach them to humankind,
Causing the listeners
To gain the six supernatural penetrations -
Even if one could do this,
It would still not be difficult.
If after my extinction
One can accept this scripture by LISTENING TO IT,
Inquiring into its purport,
This is difficult.
If a person, preaching Dharma,
Causes the equal of a thousand myriads of millions
Of incalculable, innumerable
Ganges rivers' sands of living beings
To attain the rank of arhant
And to perfect the six supernatural penetrations,
Though this benefit were to be conferred,
Still it would not be difficult.
After my extinction,
If one can reverently hold aloft
Scriptural canons like this one,
That will be difficult.
For the sake of the Buddha Path, I,
In incalculable lands,
From the beginning until now,
Have broadly preached the scriptures,
But among them
This scripture is first.
If there is anyone who can hold it,
Then he or she holds the Buddha-body.
O good people!
After my extinction,
Who can receive and keep,
Read and recite this scripture?
Now, in the Buddha's presence,
Let the vow be spoken!
This scripture is hard to hold.
If anyone can hold it for but a moment,
Then I will be delighted,
As shall the other Buddhas also.
A person like this
Shall be praised by the Buddhas:
"This person, you know, is doughty.
This person, you know, moves forward with sincereity.
She is called a keeper of the precepts,
A performer of ascetic practices.
Thus he shall quickly attain
To the unexcelled Buddha Path."
If in future ages she and he can
Read and keep this scripture,
Then they are true children of Buddha,
Dwelling in a pure, good land.
After the Buddha's passage into extinction,
If they can understand its meaning,
Then such gods and persons
Shall be the eyes of the world.
If in a terrifying age
They can preach for but a moment,
Then all gods and people
Must make offerings to them.

arhant n saint.

Dharma (där -ma) n Hinduism & Buddhism. 1. The ultimate law of all things.
2. Individual right conduct in conformity to this law. [Sanskrit, law, custom <IE. base *dher-, to hold, support, whence L. firmus, OttG. tarnen, to conceal.]

kalpa n. a fabulous period of time (a day of Brahm or one thousand Yugas, a period of four thousand, three hundred and twenty millions of years of mortals, measuring the duration of the world).

stupa (stoo -pa) n A shrine [Sanskrit, "tuft of hair," "crown of head."]

Sumeru originally, "of a mountain, of a river," evidently the name of a mountain and a river.