The Buddhavatamsaka Sutra (or Avatamsaka Sutra for short) is a massive text which illustrates the myriad ways that a varied reality might appear to an observer, when, in fact, all things are illusory emanations from a universal principle. If this universal principle is the star concept of the sutra, the lead character is Vairochana, the primordial Buddha and the personification of the concept of Shunyata, or emptiness.  The historical Buddha Shakyamuni is viewed as an emanation of Vairochana. As a primordial Buddha, Vairochana is not delimited by time or space. Thus, Shakyamuni is seen as one of countless Buddhas who have come into being as emanations of the Vairochana’s dharma body. To adherents of the Flower Ornament Scripture, the Sutra was Buddha’s first sermon after his Enlightenment. The sermon was delivered only to enlightened heavenly beings who could understand it. His first earthly sermon, sometime thereafter, was delivered to his former colleagues and was on the familiar topics of the cessation of suffering and the escape from rebirth.

The wide-ranging sutra is composed of disparate texts covering a variety of topics. Topics include the all-pervasive nature of Buddhahood, the virtues of the Bodhisattva path, the interpenetration of all phenomena, the illustrious adornments of the Buddha-worlds, and the equalizing power of emptiness.

Two passages within the Flower Ornament Scripture have taken on particularly vibrant and enduring lives of their own. The Dasabhumika section describes the stages of a bodhisattva on the way to full Buddha-hood. Also, the Gandavyuha is a narratively engaging section of the sutra in which Sudhana, a seeker of truth, works his way through dozens of teachers on the way to Manjushri and his palace.

Sanskrit:  Mahāvaipulya Buddhāvataṃsaka Sūtra