The Diamond Sutra (1)
1. The Formal Dharma Assembly
THUS, I HAVE HEARD: (The Opening Statement of the Sutra)
Upon a time, Shakyamuni Buddha was preaching in the Kingdom of Shravasti (in India), while staying in the Jetavana Grove. In his company, there were twelve hundred and fifty great Bhiksus (who were the Buddha’s immediate disciples).
One day, at the meal time, the Buddha and his disciples put on their robes, carried their bowls, and entered the great city of Shravasti to beg for their food. They begged from door to door without discrimination according to rule. After finishing, they returned to the Jetavana Grove, and ate their food. Then, they put away their robes and bowls, washed their feet. The Buddha arranged his seat and sat down. His disciples sat around the Buddha for the teaching.
“THUS, I HAVE HEARD.” was not part of the original Sutra. The Buddha did not say it. “THUS, I HAVE HEARD” was added afterwards by the Venerable Ananda when the sutra division was compiled. It is the opening statement of the sutra to prove that the sutra was spoken by the Buddha. The Buddha left no written teachings. All Buddhist scriptures were made by memories by his disciples after his passing.
People who cultivate the wisdom seldom talk. Real Dharma was expressed in the Buddha’s performance of the daily routine, i.e.every moment, every gesture, and avoid obstructing others.
2. Venerable Subhuti Made a Request
In the midst of the assembly, the elder Venerable Subhutiarose, arranged the robe to uncover his right shoulder, and knelt down on his right knee. Respectfully raising his hands with palms joined, bowed down to the Buddha and said: “The Most Precious, World-Honored One! The Tathagata is well mindful of all Bodhisattvas and has always taken good care of them.” “World-Honored One! If good men and good women wish to seek the Supreme Enlightenment, by what standards should they rely on and how should they practice to subdue their wandering thoughts and calm their minds?”
The Buddha said: “Indeed, a very good question! Just as you say, the Tathagata is well mindful of all Bodhisattvas and has always taken good care of them. Now, listen carefully, I will tell you by what standards good men and good women who wish to seek the Supreme Enlightenment should rely on.”
Subhuti said: “Yes, certainly! World-Honored One! We feel honored and we are delighted to listen to your blessed teaching.” Subhuti reaffirmed his sincere wish to listen to Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching.
Since Venerable Subhuti was requesting the teaching on behalf of all sentient beings, he respectfully called the Buddha as “World-Honored One.”
3. The Traditional Doctrine of the Mahayana (or the Great Vehicle) Buddhism
The Buddha said to Subhuti: ” All Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas should have already followed the practices to calm their minds as follows:
All sentient beings, whether they are born from eggs, from wombs, spawned, or produced by transformation; whether they have or have no forms; whether they have or have no consciousness; whether they are or are not consciousless; I will lead them toward the Nirvana. Although countless, immeasurable numbers of sentient beings had thus been liberated; there is, in fact, no sentient beings had been liberated. Why? Subhuti! If a Bodhisattva is attached to the forms of oneslf, other self, sentient beings, and longevity, he or she is not a Bodhisattva.”
Nirvana is the Buddha Nature that all sentient beings possess. All sentient beings everywhere possess the wisdom and virtues of the Buddhas.
Since suffering is caused by delusion; Nirvana is the cessation of delusion. Since suffering is caused by the belief of duality, Nirvana is the cessation of duality and cessation of the belief in a substantial self.
A Bodhisattva is a being who has attained enlightenment, but remains in the human world to help others.
The form of oneself is the root of all forms. If one can separate himself or herself from all forms, subdue his or her heart and calm his or her mind, then he or she becomes a true Bodhisattva.
The Buddha said that no sentient beings had been liberated because they had, in fact, possessed a tranquil mind; they liberated themselves.
The word “longevity” refers to “time – the past, the present and the future.”
“What we see inside and outside together as one” — that’s what the Buddha awakens to.
4. Cultivating Virtues Without Dwelling (or Attachments)
“Furthermore, Subhuti! In another word, a Bodhisattva should not dwell anywhere while preaching Dharmas. A Bodhisattva should not attach to any charitable acts while giving; nor should he or she attach to the sound, smell, taste, touch, or any subsance. Thus, bodhisattvas should practice charitable acts without any attachments. Why? In such a case, their blessings and merits are immeasurable.”
“Subhuti! What do you think? Is all the space extending eastward measurable?”
“No! World-Honored One! I cannot measure it.”
“Subhuti! Then, can you measure all the spaces extending southward, westward, northward and the four corners of the universe, including nadir and zenith?”
“No! World-Honored One! I cannot measure it.”
“Subhuti! When a Bodhisattva practices charitable acts without any attachments, his or her blessings and merits are also immeasurable. All Bodhisattvas should be mindful of this teaching.”
The Buddha’s teaching emphasizes development of compassion and the altruistic acts without any attachments, including without a view to attaining spiritual benefit.
“No self” is not attached to any kind of values, knowing nothing. When you don’t see this, suffering is waiting for you. When you see it, there is Nirvana, or peace.
5. The Ultimate Principle of Genuine Seeing
“Subhuti! What do you think? Can the Tathagata be seen and identified by his physical appearances?”
“No! World-Honored One! The Tathagata cannot be seen and identified by any physical appearances. Why? It is because the Tathagata has said that the physical forms are, in fact, not physical forms.”
The Buddha said to Subhuti: “All forms and physical appearances are illusive and empty. If you can understand that all forms are, in fact, non-forms; then you can realize the essentials of the Tathagata.”
What appears as form is really emptiness; yet that emptiness also has form. Everything that has form and appearance is impermanent, because all forms and appearances decay and become extinct. When there are forms, perceive them as empty. Then you perceive the Tathagata‘s Dharma Body, which is without physical form. If you rely on forms to see the Tathagata, you will never find it.
Later in the text, the Tathagata says: “If one sees me in form; if one seeks me in sound; then he practices a deviant path; he will never see the Tathagata.”
The Buddha tells us to put down everything that lacks a real abiding substance. If you put everything down, you will see the truth. If you don’t, you won’t. It is the way it is and it’s the same for everyone in the world. So, don’t worry and don’t grasp at anything.
6. Truth Faith Is treasure
Subhuti said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One! Would there always be men and women who, upon hearing these teachings, truly believe in them?”
The Buddha answered: “You should have no doubt about it. At the end of the last five-hundred-year period following the final passing (Nirvana) of the Tathagata, there would still be these sentient beings who follow the precepts and cultivating virtues. Upon hearing these teachings, they would be inspired and awakened with a true faith.”
“But, you should also know that these sentient beings have practiced the cultivation not just under one Buddha, or two Buddhas, or three, or four, or five Buddhas, but under countless Buddhas; and their blessings and merits are of every kind. So, upon hearing these teachings, they would immediately awaken and develop pure mind and true faith.”
“Subhuti! The Tathagata knows and sees all. He clearly perceives these sentient beings of pure mind and their immeasurable merits. Why? It is because these sentient beings do not attach to the forms of oneself, other self, sentient beings and longevity. They also do not attach to the forms of Dharma teaching, nor the form of non-Dharma teaching.”
The Buddha said: “And why? If they allowed their minds to grasp and hold on to the form of Dharma teaching, they would be attached to the forms of oneself, other self, sentient beings, and longevity. In the same way, if they grasped and held on to the form of non-Dharma teaching, they would be attached to the forms of oneself, other self, sentient beings and longevity. Therefore, you should not attach to the form of Dharma teaching, nor the form of non-Dharma teaching. This is the reason why the Tathagata often says that all you Bhiksus should know that my teaching is like using a raft.”
The raft is used to cross the sea of suffering – the cycle of “birth and death.” Once one has ended the cycle of “birth and death,” one should put the raft aside. Using the Dharma which teaches “emptiness and impermanence” to heal the suffering. When one had ended the cycle of “birth and death,” one should put the Dharma teaching aside; one should also put aside the non-Dharma teaching. The Dharma are emptiness, one should let go of all one’s attachments.
When you perceive with full clarity the emptiness of absolutely everything there is, will you be able to understand that even the Dharma teachings are ultimately empty, since there is no entity, no concept whatsoever that is not empty in its own nature. When understanding dawns, you will know that all Dharma teachings must be laid aside, for how Nirvana be accessible to those who cling to forms and concepts?
How do we see our own nature and attain the Buddhahood? To cross to the other shore, we need to have a raft. Thus, the practices of generosity, patience, effort, morality and so on, are the means in ferrying us across to the other shore of enlightenment.
Cultivate an abiding faith in the teachings of the Buddha. “No self” is a dharma treasure. Understand the plain fact of life, which is constantly changing, which has no fixed things — no self.
Listen to the dharmas, think about it, practice it and realize it. Realize your life as peace itself. Realize your life as you are, as it is now, not as what you think or project. We don’t need to expect anything. The important thing is to be peace, or Nirvana. The reason is simple: It is already here as your life.
7. Nothing Attained, Nothing Spoken
The Buddha asked: “Subhuti! What do you think? Has the Tathagata attained the Supreme Enlightenment? Or, has he ever given you any of the Dharma teaching?”
Subhuti answered: “As I understand what the Buddha has said, there is no such fixed Dharma known as the Supreme Enlightenment. And, there is no fixed teaching for the Tathagata to speak. And, why? It is because what the Tathagata has taught are the truths, which is uncontainable and inexpressible. It cannot be grasped. It is neither the Dharma teaching nor the non-‘Dharma teaching.’ Therefore, what distinguishes the worthy sages is the unconditioned or non-fixed teaching of Dharmas.”
The unconditioned or non-fixed Dharmas is the foundation of the different systems of all the sages. To say that “it is attained” is just a name that we think; “emptiness” is what actually is. There is absolutely nothing attained because nothing was ever lost. The truths have never been lost in the first place.
What can we expect by practicing the dharmas? “Don’t expect anything.” “No gain and no expectation about enlightenment.” The quality of our practice is very important. What kind of awareness do we have? What kind of mindfulness do we have?