Friday, January 11, 2013

The Dragon King's Daughter; A 9-minute SGI Buddhist comedy for 6 - 7 actors

By Lynette Yetter
Inspired by The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, translated by Burton Watson, Soka Gakkai, Japan, 2009, pp 224-228.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Shakyamuni Buddha 
Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated
Fabric waver 1
Fabric waver 2 / Lotus bearer
Bodhisattva Manjushri (aka M Dude) 
Dragon King’s Daughter

PROPS: 
-- shimmery blue fabric, approximately 1.5 yards x 3 yards
-- 2 plastic headbands with a topknot of fake hair fastened to the top of each
-- cardboard cutout of giant lotus flower with LOTS of petals, big enough to appear to be a vehicle for a person to ride on
-- a large paper (approx. 5- to 10-foot long white butcher paper, covered with images of lotus flowers)

FADE IN:

SHAKYAMUNI
In the future ages if there are good men or good women . . .

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Excuse me, Shakyamuni, what is that thing on top of your head?

SHAKYAMUNI
This protuberant knob of flesh on the crown of my head is like a topknot of hair, is it not? It is one of my 32 characteristics as the buddha.            
                            
BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Cool!

Shakyamuni CLEARS her throat and prepares to once again begin her speech.

SHAKYAMUNI
In the future ages if there are good men or good women who, on hearing the Devadatta Chapter of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law . . . 

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
What is the Devadatta Chapter?

SHAKYAMUNI
It’s what we are in right now. We floated up off of Eagle Peak into outer space in the Ceremony in the Air that transcends the framework of time and space. You and I and everyone here are characters in the Devadatta Chapter. Does that answer your question, Boddhisattva Wisdom Accumulated?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Thanks! 
(Beat)
I just accumulated some more wisdom! Or was that knowledge? Never mind. Please continue, Shakyamuni.

SHAKYAMUNI
As I was saying, 
(Beat)
In the future ages if there are good men or good women who, on hearing the Devadatta Chapter of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, believe and revere it with pure hearts and harbor no doubts or perplexities . . .

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Believe with a pure heart. That’s like faith, right? 

SHAKYAMUNI
Of course.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
And we can substitute faith for wisdom, right?

SHAKYAMUNI
Of course.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Then I AM accumulating wisdom, and not just knowledge, because I DO believe with a pure heart!

SHAKYAMUNI
That’s why you are Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated. Now listen-up so you can accumulate some more wisdom.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Okay.

SHAKYAMUNI
. . . will never fall into the realm of hell, hungry spirits or beasts . . .

BWA puts his hand in the air and waves it to signal that he has a question.

SHAKYAMUNI (CONT’D)
You have a question?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Is the realm of hell, hungry spirits or beasts the lowest three of the 10 Worlds?

SHAKYAMUNI
Yes.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
But, I thought that with the Mutual Possession of the 10 Worlds and Three Thousand Realms that all of the worlds are mutually inclusive. So, even the world of Buddhahood contains Hell, Hungry Spirits and Beasts. If that is true, how can those good men and good women not experience those worlds? I’m confused.

SHAKYAMUNI
Good point. We’ll leave that to Tien Tai to sort out. For now, just bear with me, okay, so we can continue with this play?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
A play? I thought we were in the Ceremony in the Air?

SHAKYAMUNI
It’s both. We are in a play ABOUT the Ceremony in the Air. And the playwright is being creative with the tale. Now, don’t you want to know what happens next?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Sure!

SHAKYAMUNI
Okay then, there’s just a little bit more to my speech. Can you wait that long?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
I’m all ears. Go ahead!

SHAKYAMUNI
Now where was I . . . Will never fall into the realm of hell, hungry spirits or of beasts, but will be born in the presence of the buddhas of the ten directions, and in this place where they are born they will constantly hear this sutra.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Don’t those good men and good women get to do anything else beside constantly hear this sutra?

SHAKYAMUNI
This is a parable, a metaphor for the mysterious workings of life. Of course they get to do other things. 
(Beat)
Remember, you promised to wait until I finished the speech.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Oh yeah. Sorry. Go on.

SHAKYAMUNI
If they are born among humans or heavenly beings, they will enjoy exceedingly wonderful delights.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Like ice cream?

SHAKYAMUNI
Even better. Now please wait until I finish.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Okay.

SHAKYAMUNI
And if they are born in the presence of the buddhas, they will be born by transformation from Lotus Flowers.

Silence. A long pause. BWA is content and mellow, enjoying listening attentively, waiting for the speech to continue.

SHAKYAMUNI (CONT’D)
That’s it. I’m done. That’s the speech.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
(Applauds) Great speech! 
(Beat)
Well, I’ve got some other things to be doing. Can I go now?

SHAKYAMUNI
Good man, wait a little while. There is a bodhisattva named Manjushri whom you should see. Debate and discuss the wonderful Law with him, and then you may return to your homeland.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Okay.

Two Fabric Wavers run out carrying the blue fabrind onto the stage from right to left, with Bodhisattva Manjushri hidden behind, ducking down and running along at the same speed as the Fabric Wavers. The Fabric Wavers are rippling the blue fabric as if it is the ocean. Their bodies are hidden behind the fabric.  They stop. Manjushri (still hidden behind the fabric) has a giant lotus flower made from cardboard fastened to him, as if it was his chair or magic carpet or his space ship that he can zoom around on. As the Fabric Wavers continue to ripple the fabric to look like ocean swells, Bodhisattva Manjushri stands up. The Fabric Wavers slowly kneel, lowering the fabric to reveal Bodhisattva Manjushri on his Lotus vehicle.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED (CONT’D)
Wow! Bodhisattva Manjushri is rising out of the sea and floating in the air on a giant lotus flower with a 1,000 petals! Where did you come from, Dude?

The Fabric wavers drag the fabric and exit Stage Right. Off stage they set down the fabric and pick up cardboard cutouts of many Lotus flowers.

M DUDE
My real name is Bodhisattva Manjushri but you can call me M Dude. I have just come from the Palace under the sea of Dragon King Sagara.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Cool!

M Dude steps out of his Lotus vehicle. Bows to Shakymuni, then goes to side of Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulating.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED (CONT’D)
When you went to the palace of the Dragon King, how many living beings did you convert?

M DUDE
The number is immeasurable, incapable of calculation. The mouth cannot express it, the mind cannot fathom it. There will be proof. Wait a moment.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
(speaking to the audience directly in a dramatic whisper) Everyone wants me to wait a moment!

Lotus Bearer enters carrying a large paper covered with images of Lotus flowers, as if the Lotus flowers are more flying carpets carrying more people. Lotus Bearer walks around moving the Lotus flowers in a way that looks like they are flying.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED (CONT’D)
Wow! Look at those countless bodhisattvas seated on jeweled lotus blossoms emerging from the ocean and coming here suspended in the air above Eagle Peak.

M DUDE
All of these beings have been converted and saved by me. They carried out all the bodhisattva practices, which are too numerous to mention here in this short play.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
You are of great wisdom and virtue, brave and stalwart, you have converted and saved immeasurable beings. Now those in this great assembly, as well as I myself, have all seen them. You expound the principle of the true aspect, open up the Law of the single vehicle, broadly guiding the many beings, causing them quickly to attain enlightenment.

Lotus bearer EXITS Stage Right.

M DUDE
When I was in the ocean I constantly expounded the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law alone.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
This sutra is very profound, subtle, and wonderful, a treasure among sutras, a rarity in the world. Are there perhaps any living beings who, by earnestly and diligently practicing this sutra, have been able to attain buddhahood quickly?

M DUDE
There is the daughter of the dragon king Sagara.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
What is her name?

M DUDE
What?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
What is her name?

M DUDE
Her name is “the Dragon King’s Daughter”.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
But, the Dragon King has a name. You told me so yourself. His name is Sagara. What is his daughter’s name?

M DUDE
She doesn’t have a name. After all, she is female and only 8 years old and a reptile to boot. Who cares if she has a name? We’ll just call her the Dragon King’s Daughter.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Hmmm . . . I still want to know her name. If she doesn’t have a name, we should give her one - like how Nichiren Daishonin gave names to his formerly-nameless female followers. He called them nuns and gave them beautiful names. I think we should name her "Momo!"

M DUDE
Can I get on with the story?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Sure. Go ahead.

M DUDE
Anyways, the Dragon King’s Daughter has just turned eight years old. Her wisdom has keen roots and she is good at understanding the activities and deeds of the sense organs of living beings.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
What does that mean?

M DUDE
The translation is kind of complicated, what with different cultures and all. Let’s just say that she is really wise and understands everything and everybody. She is capable of achieving enlightenment.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
And she is only 8 years old? Wow! That’s hard for me to believe.

M DUDE
Why?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
When I observe Shakyamuni, I see that for a really really long time - like forever and ever, he carried out harsh and difficult practices, accumulating merit, piling up virtue, seeing the way of the bodhisattva without ever resting. There is not a speck of the universe where he has not sacrificed his body and life for the sake of living beings. Only after he had done that was he able to complete the way of enlightenment.

Before his words come to an end, the Dragon King’s Daughter (who has the prop -- a headband with topknot of hair -- hidden somewhere on her person) ENTERS Stage Right as the Fabric waver runs around her with the fabric in such a way as to make it seem that the Dragon King’s Daughter is appearing magically in the assembly. When she is in front of Shakyamuni, she bows to him, and so does the fabric bearer (as if the fabric bearer is her shadow). The fabric bearer from this point on stays near the Dragon Kings Daughter like a shadow, holding the fabric bundled in her arms.

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER
Having heard his teachings, I have attained enlightenment -- the Buddha alone can bear witness to this. I unfold the doctrines of the great vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
You know what Shariputra would say, if we had enough actors to have Shariputra present? 

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER
What would he say?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
He would say to you, and I quote, (clears throat), “You suppose that in this short time you have been able to attain the unsurpassed way. But this is difficult to believe. Why? Because a woman’s body is soiled and defiled, not a vessel for the Law. How could you attain unsurpassed enlightenment? The road to buddhahood is long and far-stretching. Only after one has spent immeasurable kalpas (that’s a really really long time like forever) pursuing austerities, etc etc etc can one finally achieve success. Moreover, a woman is subject to the five obstacles. 1. She cannot become a Brahma heavenly king. 2. She cannot become a king Shakra. 3 She cannot become a devil king. 4. She cannot become a wheel turning sage king. And 5. She cannot become a buddha. 
(Beat) 
How then could a woman like you be able to attain buddhahood so quickly?

The Dragon Girl cups her hands, miming holding a precious object.

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER
Do you see this precious jewel that is worth a major world system?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Yes.

The Dragon Girl mimes handing the jewel to Shakyamuni. He immediately accepts it.

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER
I presented the precious jewel, and the world-honored one accepted it. Was that not quickly done?

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Very quickly!

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER
Employ your supernatural powers and watch me attain buddhahood. It will be even quicker than that!

The Fabric waver swirls the fabric around and around the Dragon King’s Daughter. Hidden by the fabric, the Dragon King’s Daughter fastens a topknot to her head, just like the topknot of Shakyamuni.
The Fabric waver drops the fabric. The Dragon King’s Daughter has her hands folded in prayer position and chants to the audience with a confidence of the entire universe in her heart.

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER (CONT’D)
Nam myoho renge kyo. Nam myoho renge kyo. Nam myoho renge kyo.

BODHISATTVA WISDOM ACCUMULATED
Wow! If you, a child, a female and a reptile can become a Buddha instantly by chanting Nam myoho renge kyo, anyone can do it! 

Dragon King’s Daughter looks out to the audience and says -

DRAGON KING’S DAUGHTER
We all can become buddhas! Let’s do it, right now! Will you chant with us? 

All the actors turn towards the gohonzon and chant in unison with the audience -

ALL
Nam myoho renge kyo. Nam myoho renge kyo. Nam myoho renge kyo.

THE END

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