Friday, August 18, 2006

Dragon Princess Skit

I've had a busy summer, so was not able to post summaries of our final Dharma School classes. We had our annual Wesak ceremony, and another Sunday, several of the classes walked in meditation to the Nichiren Buddhist Temple for a tour and talk by the temple's minister, Rev. Ryuoh Faulconer. The Lotus Sutra is the foundation of the Nichiren-Shu's teachings. We also had a girls day trip: 2 moms and 6 girls from the grade school and middle school groups went to the Lilac Festival in Woodburn, Washington, then to Horseshoe Lake park nearby. Finally, I reviewed the year with my class and we decided on a skit for the last Dharma School Sunday. Quite naturally, the grade school girls chose the story of the Dragon Princess.

Since we had a year packed full of lessons, we had very little time to rehearse a skit, so I wrote one designed to be easy for the girls to remember or to read their lines, while I narrated. I was inspired by Sallie Jiko Tisdale's recently published book, Women of the Way. Her version gave me new insight into the story (one of the girls commented, "I don't remember the story being like this!") and I also made it my own, our own, as Jiko encouraged her readers to do at one of her book talks.

Interestingly, none of the girls wished to be a boy, the somewhat dimwitted boy in this case, Shariputra. I decided I would recruit one of the adults from the audience, I figured they'd like that. While waiting for our turn, I realized I was seated next to the perfect ham for the part, our newly ordained lay disciple Thomas Koshin Bruner. He readily agreed. When I introduced the skit, I explained that I'd invited a special guest to fill the part of Shariputra, who was a 'doubting Thomas'. (How is it that I manage to create laughs that seem planned when I so totally did not plan them? For those not in the know, Koshin has spoken at times of his doubting Thomas aspects of himself.) He turned out to be perfect for the part, and almost upstaged the girls.

I had a few cloth pieces for costumes. We used them simply as capes to give the suggestion of flowing dragons with tails. I also brought some large "jewels" from a past Halloween costume to suggest the princess and dragons in waiting.

Here is the skit:

It is said that once upon a time, a long time ago, the Buddha taught the Lotus of the Wondrous Law. It was a time when mythical creatures came to hear him speak, as well as Bodhisattvas and human beings. One time the Bodhisattva Manjushri went deep below the ocean to visit the kingdom of the Nagas, the dragons. While there he found many willing students of the Buddha Way, and was particularly impressed with Naga Deva, the Dragon Princess.

After he came back, a bunch of the bodhisattvas and disciples of the Buddha were gathered around, chatting about their travels. Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated asked Manjushri, "Have you ever encountered someone who got it right away?"

Manjushri replied, "Yes, the Dragon Princess understands the Buddha Way." Neither Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated nor Shariputra believed him.

Shariputra said, "But she's a girl! Women can't be Buddhas, much less girls."

Manjushri said, "Well this girl understands and can teach the Buddha Way."

Just then the Dragon Princess appeared and bowed deeply to the gathering. She said, "It is my wish to meet the World Honored One."

Manjushri bowed back. Shariputra and some of the others were hesitant in their bows.

Shariputra said, "You cannot understand the Buddha's teachings. You're a girl!"

The Dragon Princess looked at him quietly and said, "Oh, really?" She could see Shariputra was trying to impress the others.

The Buddha arrived, and invited the daughter of the dragon king to sit beside him. He said, "Naga Deva, you are destined to be a Buddha in an instant."

Shariputra scoffed, "It takes years of practice and determination to understand the Law and reach enlightenment. This girl cannot do that."

Naga Deva looked at the Buddha, then at Shariputra. She could see he did not believe she could be a Buddha because he was afraid that he could not be a Buddha. And if he could not be a Buddha, how could this girl, not even a human, be a Buddha, when all he'd learned in the world told him girls and dragons were inferior beings to human men? The dragon princess could see that as long as he believed these conditions, he could still not realize the Buddha Way, and she felt sad for him. How could she show him that not only she, but he, could be a Buddha?

Now, the beautiful dragon girl had a beautiful priceless gem on her forehead. This gem helped define her as a dragon and a girl. Naga Deva reached up and plucked the gem from her forehead and handed it to the Buddha, bowing deeply.

"Is that quick enough for you?" she asked Shariputra. The Buddha smiled, but said nothing. He knew this girl could teach Shariputra something.

Shariputra said, "Any dragon could do that. You may be wise, but you're not a Buddha. You have none of the marks."

The Dragon Princess could see that this advanced disciple still had a blind spot. He could not see her clearly because he could not see himself clearly. Holding his gaze with love and kindness, she transformed into a Buddha. [the Dragon Princess wraps her cape-tail around herself with narrator's help, so the cloth is now a robe.] Suddenly Shariputra could see she held all the marks of a Buddha, and he could see in her eyes that she was teaching him the Buddha way.

In another instant, Naga Deva became a dragon girl again, and she and Shariputra bowed to each other with a deepened respect. Shariputra now knew that transformation was possible, for girls, for dragons, and even for him.