The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion –
When reading the Diamond Sutra , one needs to read it with a serene mind, a mind free from views. It’s the basic sutra for the practice of meditation. The Sutra is so deep and wonderful. It has its own language. The first Western scholar who obtained the text thought it was talking nonsense. Its language seems mysterious, but when you look deeply, you can understand. You can read as if you were chanting, using your clear mind to be in touch with the words. Try to understand the Sutra from your own experiences and your own suffering. Studying and practicing this Sutra can help us cut through ignorance, delusion, illusion and wrong views and transcend them, transporting ourselves to the shore of liberation.
The Diamond Sutra is the most ancient text on deep ecology. It is the basic Buddhist teaching on the art of protecting ourselves and protecting the environment. When the Venerable Subhuti asks the Buddha: “If good women and good men want to give rise to the highest awakened mind, what should they rely on, and what should they do to master their thinking?” He is asking, “If I want to use my whole being to protect life, what methods and principles should I use?” This is a very practical question that we are all struggling with today. How do we protect our health, the health of our loved ones, and the health of our planet?
The Buddha’s answer to Subhuti’s question is very direct: “We have to do our best to help every living being cross the ocean of suffering.” Then he continues, “But if a bodhisattva holds onto the idea that a self, a person, a living being, a life span exists, that person is not an authentic bodhisattva.” The essence of the Diamond Sutra is in this sentence. If we can understand this sentence about nondiscrimination then we can understand how to use the Diamond Sutra in our daily lives. It’s like splitting bamboo; only the first part is difficult. Once we have made a crack, then the whole length of bamboo can be split easily. If we can understand this key sentence, understanding everything else in the sutra will come easily.
An authentic bodhisattva is someone who embodies two elements: the great aspiration to bring all beings to the shore of liberation, and the wisdom of nondiscrimination. The Diamond Sutra teaches us that there is no distinction between the one who saves, and the living beings who are saved. This is a wonderful lesson for many who care about the environment. The wisdom of nondiscrimination is the wisdom that breaks the barrier of individualism. We have to learn to look at the world in this way.
The Buddha advises us to meditate on the nonself nature of things. Whenever we look at a leaf, a cloud, a river, a baby, a society, or a human being, we look deeply into it to see its nonself nature. The meditation on nonself needs to be practiced every day. Whether we’re eating, walking, sitting, working in the garden, whenever we look at other people, the clouds, the grass, we see that we are in those elements and those elements are is us; we are not separate.
We often forget that the human being is a creature that evolved from animals, plants, and minerals, and that humans appeared only recently in the evolution of life on Earth. We haven’t understood that humans are made of non-human elements; that is the true nature of the human being. We need to remove the barrier between human beings and the non-human elements; animals, plants, and minerals. We know that human beings cannot survive without animals, plants, and minerals, yet we continue to discriminate and to destroy them, the elements of our environment.
In our daily life, we can practice mindfulness in order to understand the relationship between the human and non-human. If we can protect the non-human elements, including the non-living beings, then we protect ourselves. We need to live our daily life in a way that nourishes our understanding of the relationship between living and non-living beings.
We think of our life span is seventy, eighty, or one hundred years. We think that we exist from the time we’re born to the time we die, and that this is our life span. We think that before we’re born we don’t exist, and that after we die we’re nothing. We have a great fear of being cut off from life, we have a fear of nothingness. If we look deeply into life span, we discover that this is a manifestation of one’s karma; that is, one’s thoughts and deeds.. We need to see reality as it is: free from birth and death, coming and going, same and different. Our life span is not limited by time.
When we walk in autumn and see the dead leaves, we might have a feeling of sadness. The true nature of a leaf also goes beyond notions of birth and death, being and non-being, coming and going, permanence and annihilation. The leaf becomes the soil to later on become another leaf or a flower. We are like the leaf. We have to look deeply at being young, being old, being born, dying, coming, going, being, non-being, so we can see that all of these are just notions.
There are many of us who disagree with ourselves, cannot accept ourselves. The Buddha said that we will learn to accept ourselves by looking deeply at ourselves. We are made of elements that are not us. When we look deeply, we see the many elements that brought us into being. There are the many genetic elements we received from our parents, grandparents, and ancestors. There’s our society, our traditions, the nation we live in, the people around us, our economic situation, and our educational background. When we see all these things, we see the many non-us elements in us. So, we feel less judgmental and won’t tend to criticize ourselves so much. When we can accept ourselves, then we can accept others, then we can help change the world around us.
We have to look deeply and ask: are we growing every day? Are we happier every day? Are we more in harmony with ourselves and with the others around us? We need to take care of ourselves and try our best to really help people. Becoming a bodhisattva, we make the vow to give rise to a lot of energy in order to transform our shortcomings and those of the people around us. When we look deeply, we can see that the shortcomings of others are no different than the shortcomings in ourselves and we can respond in a skillful and compassionate way. When our true mind can see there is no difference between self and other, then we’re a bodhisattva, a fully awakened person.
In the Diamond Sutra , the Buddha doesn’t call anyone a bad person even though they’ve behaved badly. So there is love, there is deep understanding, there is no discrimination, and no blaming. The practice of the Diamond Sutra is to try to take away the shell that separates us from others in order to live happily with ourselves, happily with people around us, and happily with our planet.
We know that the problems with our environment cannot be fixed by ourselves alone, but they also cannot be fixed without us. One drop of water will not arrive at the ocean. But if the drop of water joins the river, then the whole river will go to the ocean. Alone, we cannot go anywhere. But if we have a community on the same path, then we can go anywhere.