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THE DIAMOND SUTRA1Diamond SutraThe full Sanskrit title of this text is the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (TheVajra Prajna Paramita Sutra). The Buddha said this Sutra may be known as “TheDiamond that Cuts through Illusion.”Like many Buddhist sūtras, The Diamond Sūtra begins with the famous phrase,"Thus have I heard." The Buddha finished his daily walk with the monks to gatherofferings of food and sits down torest. The monk Subhūti comes forthand asks the Buddha a question.What follows is a dialogue regardingthe nature of perception. TheBuddha often uses paradoxicalphrases such as, "What is called thehighest teaching is not the highestteaching". The Buddha is generallythought to be helping Subhūtiunlearn his preconceived, limitednotions of the nature of realityand enlightenment.The Diamond Sūtra is a short andwell-known Mahāyāna sūtra fromthe Prajñāpāramitā, or "Perfection of Wisdom" genre, and it emphasizes thepractice of non-abiding and non-attachment.A list of vivid metaphors for impermanence appears in a popular four-line verseat the end of the sūtra:All conditioned phenomenaAre like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;Like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning;Thusly should they be contemplated.A copy of the Chinese version of The Diamond Sūtra, found amongthe Dunhuang manuscripts in the early 20th century and dating back to May 11,

THE DIAMOND SUTRA868 C.E. is considered the earliest complete survival of a woodblock printingfolio. This discovered text was made over 500 years before the Gutenbergprinting press in 1450 C.E. (The first known movable type system was inventedin China around 1040 C.E. by Bi Sheng (990-1051).)For background history on this Sutra, refer to page 25.The following translation is by Alex Johnson.The Diamond SutraConvocationof the AssemblyChapter 1.This is what I heard.At one time the Buddha wasstaying in the Jeta Grove, nearthe city of Sravasti.With him there was acommunity of 1,250 venerablemonks and devoted disciples.One day before dawn, theBuddha clothed himself, andalong with his disciples took up his alms bowl and entered the city to beg forfood door to door, as was his custom.After he had returned and eaten, he put away his bowl and cloak, bathed hisfeet, and then sat with his legs crossed and body upright upon the seatarranged for him.He began mindfully fixing his attention in front of himself, while many monksapproached the Buddha, and showing great reverence, seated themselvesaround him.2

THE DIAMOND SUTRA3Chapter 2. Subhuti Requests the TeachingAfter a time a most venerable monk named Subhuti, who was sitting in thecongregation, rose from his seat. He uncovered his right shoulder, placed hisright knee on the ground, and as he joined his palms together he respectfullybowed and then addressed the Buddha:"Most Honored One, It is truly majestic how much knowledge and wisdom yourmonks and disciples have been given through your most inspired teachings! It isremarkable that you look after our welfare so selflessly and so completely."Most Honored One, I have a question to ask you. If sons and daughters of goodfamilies want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if theywish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom, what should they do to help quiettheir drifting minds and help subdue their craving thoughts?"The Buddha then replied:"So it is as you say, Subhuti. Monks and disciples have been favored with thehighest favor by the Buddha, the monks and disciples have been instructed withthe highest instruction by the Buddha. The Buddha is constantly mindful of thewelfare of his followers. Listen carefully with your full attention, and I will speak toyour question."If sons and daughters of good families want to develop the highest, mostfulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdomand quiet their drifting minds while subduing their craving thoughts, then theyshould follow what I am about to say to you. Those who follow what I am aboutto say here will be able to subdue their discriminative thoughts and cravingdesires. It is possible to attain perfect tranquility and clarity of mind by absorbingand dwelling on the teachings I am about to give."Then the Buddha addressed the assembly.Chapter 3. The Awareness of All Living Beings

THE DIAMOND SUTRA"All living beings, whether born from eggs, from the womb, from moisture, orspontaneously; whether they have form or do not have form; whether they areaware or unaware, whether they are not aware or not unaware, all living beingswill eventually be led by me to the final Nirvana, the final ending of the cycle ofbirth and death. And when this unfathomable, infinite number of living beingshave all been liberated, in truth not even a single being has actually beenliberated."Why Subhuti? Because if a disciple still clings to the arbitrary illusions of form orphenomena such as an ego, a personality, a self, a separate person, or auniversal self existing eternally, then that person is not an authentic disciple."Chapter 4. Unattached Practice of Charity"Furthermore, Subhuti, in the practice of compassion and charity a discipleshould be detached. That is to say, he should practice compassion and charitywithout regard to appearances, without regard to form, without regard tosound, smell, taste, touch, or any quality of any kind. Subhuti, this is how thedisciple should practice compassion and charity. Why? Because practicingcompassion and charity without attachment is the way to reaching the HighestPerfect Wisdom, it is the way to becoming a living Buddha."Subhuti, do you think that you can measure all of the space in the EasternHeavens?""No, Most Honored One. One cannot possibly measure all of the space in theEastern Heavens.""Subhuti, can space in all the Western, Southern, and Northern Heavens, bothabove and below, be measured?""No, Most Honored One. One cannot possibly measure all the space in theWestern, Southern, and Northern Heavens.""Well, Subhuti, the same is true of the merit of the disciple who practicescompassion and charity without any attachment to appearances, withoutcherishing any idea of form. It is impossible to measure the merit they willaccrue. Subhuti, my disciples should let their minds absorb and dwell in theteachings I have just given."4

THE DIAMOND SUTRA5Chapter 5. Physical Attributes of Buddhahood is Illusive and Unreal"Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be recognized by means of hisbodily form?""No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of hisbodily form. Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not areal form, but only an illusion."The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: "All that has a form is illusive and unreal.When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin toperceive your true Buddha nature."Chapter 6. Awaken FaithSubhuti respectfully asked the Buddha, "Most Honored One! In the future, if aperson hears this teaching, even if it is only a phrase or sentence, is it possible forthat person to have a true faith and knowledge of Enlightenment awaken intheir mind?""Without a doubt, Subhuti. Even 500 years after the Enlightenment of thisBuddha there will be some who are virtuous and wise; and while practicingcompassion and charity, they will believe in the words and phrases of this Sutraand will awaken their minds purely. After they come to hear these teachings,they will be inspired with belief. This is because, when some people hear thesewords, they will have understood intuitively that these words are the truth."But you must also remember, Subhuti, that such persons have long ago plantedthe seeds of goodness and merit that lead to this realization. They have plantedthe seeds of good deeds and charity not simply before one Buddhist temple, ortwo temples, or five, but before hundreds of thousands of Buddhas and temples.So when a person who hears the words and phrases of this Sutra is ready for it tohappen, a pure faith and clarity can awaken within their minds.

THE DIAMOND SUTRA"Subhuti, any person who awakens faith upon hearing the words or phrases ofthis Sutra will accumulate countless blessings and merit."How do I know this? Because this person must have discarded all arbitrarynotions of the existence of a personal self, of other people, or of a universal self.Otherwise their minds would still grasp after such relative conceptions.Furthermore, these people must have already discarded all arbitrary notions ofthe non-existence of a personal self, other people, or a universal self. Otherwise,their minds would still be grasping at such notions. Therefore anyone who seekstotal Enlightenment should discard not only all conceptions of their ownselfhood, of other selves, or of a universal self, but they should also discard allnotions of the non-existence of such concepts.“When the Buddha explains these things using such concepts and ideas,people should remember the unreality of all such concepts and ideas. Theyshould recall that in teaching spiritual truths the Buddha always uses theseconcepts and ideas in the way that a raft is used to cross a river. Once the riverhas been crossed over, the raft is of no more use, and should be discarded.These arbitrary concepts and ideas about spiritual things need to be explainedto us as we seek to attain Enlightenment. However, ultimately these arbitraryconceptions can be discarded. Think Subhuti, isn't it even more obvious that weshould also give up our conceptions of non-existent things?"Chapter 7. No Attainment, No TeachingThen Buddha asked Subhuti, "What do you think, Subhuti, has the Buddhaarrived at the highest, most fulfilled, most awakened and enlightened mind?Does the Buddha teach any teaching?"Subhuti replied, "As far as I have understood the Buddha's teachings, there is noindependently existing object of mind called the highest, most fulfilled,awakened or enlightened mind. Nor is there any independently existingteaching that the Buddha teaches. Why? Because the teachings that theBuddha has realized and spoken of cannot be conceived of as separate,independent things and therefore cannot be described. The truth in them isuncontainable and inexpressible. It neither is, nor is it not. What does this mean?What this means is that Buddhas and disciples are not enlightened by a set6

THE DIAMOND SUTRAmethod of teachings, but by an internally intuitive process which is spontaneousand is part of their own inner nature."Chapter 8. Real Merit Has No Merit"Let me ask you Subhuti? If a person filled over ten thousand galaxies with theseven treasures for the purpose of compassion, charity, and giving alms, wouldthis person not gain great merit and spread much happiness?""Yes, Most Honored One. This person would gain great merit and spread muchhappiness, even though, in truth, this person does not have a separate existenceto which merit could accrue. Why? Because this person's merit is characterizedwith the quality of not being merit."The Buddha continued, "Then suppose another person understood only four linesof this Sutra, but nevertheless took it upon themselves to explain these lines tosomeone else. This person's merit would be even greater than the other person's.Why? Because all Buddhas and all the teachings and values of the highest, mostfulfilled, most awakened minds arise from the teachings in this Sutra. And yet,even as I speak, Subhuti, I must take back my words as soon as they are uttered,for there are no Buddhas and there are no teachings."Chapter 9. No Returning and Not ReturningBuddha then asked, "What do you think, Subhuti, does one who has entered thestream which flows to Enlightenment, say 'I have entered the stream'?""No, Buddha", Subhuti replied. "A true disciple entering the stream would notthink of themselves as a separate person that could be entering anything. Onlythat disciple who does not differentiate themselves from others, who has noregard for name, shape, sound, odor, taste, touch or for any quality can trulybe called a disciple who has entered the stream."Buddha continued, "Does a disciple who is subject to only one more rebirth sayto himself, 'I am entitled to the honors and rewards of a Once-to-be-reborn.'?"7

THE DIAMOND SUTRA"No, Blessed One. 'Once-to-be-reborn' is only a name. There is no passing away,or coming into, existence. Only one who realizes this can really be called adisciple.""Subhuti, does a venerable One who will never more be reborn as a mortal sayto himself, 'I am entitled to the honor and rewards of a Non-returner.'?""No, Perfectly Enlightened One. A 'Non-returner' is merely a name. There isactually no one returning and no one not-returning.""Tell me, Subhuti. Does a Buddha say to himself, 'I have obtained PerfectEnlightenment.'?""No, Blessed One. There is no such thing as Perfect Enlightenment to obtain. If aPerfectly Enlightened Buddha were to say to himself, 'I am enlightened' hewould be admitting there is an individual person, a separate self andpersonality, and would therefore not be a Perfectly Enlightened Buddha."Subhuti then said, "Most Honored One! You have said that I, Subhuti, excelamongst thy disciples in knowing the bliss of Enlightenment, in being perfectlycontent in seclusion, and in being free from all passions. Yet I do not say tomyself that I am so, for if I ever thought of myself as such then it would not betrue that I escaped ego delusion. I know that in truth there is no Subhuti andtherefore Subhuti abides nowhere, that he neither knows nor does he not knowbliss, and that he is neither free from nor enslaved by his passions."Chapter 10. Purify Thoughts from All the SensesThe Buddha then continued, "What do you think, Subhuti? When I was in aprevious life, with Dipankara Buddha, did I receive any definite teaching orattain any degree of self-control, whereby I later became a Buddha?""No, honorable one. When you were a disciple of Dipankara Buddha, in truth,you received no definite teaching, nor did you attain any definite degree ofself-control."8

THE DIAMOND SUTRA"Subhuti, know also that, if any Buddha would say 'I will create a paradise,' hewould speak falsely. Why? Because a paradise cannot be created nor can itnot be uncreated."A disciple should develop a mind which is in no way dependent upon sights,sounds, smells, tastes, sensory sensations or any mental conceptions. A discipleshould develop a mind which does not rely on anything."Therefore, Subhuti, the minds of all disciples should be purified of all thoughtsthat relate to seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and discriminating.They should use their minds spontaneously and naturally, without beingconstrained by preconceived notions arising from the senses."Suppose, Subhuti, a man had an enormous body. Would the sense of personalexistence he had also be enormous?""Yes, indeed, Buddha," Subhuti answered. "His sense of personal existence wouldbe enormous. But the Buddha has taught that personal existence is just a name,for it is in fact neither existence nor non-existence. So it only has the name'personal existence'."Chapter 11. Merits of this Sutra"Subhuti, if there were as many Ganges rivers as the number of grains of sand inthe Ganges, would you say that the number of grains of sand in all thoseGanges rivers would be very many?"Subhuti answered, "Very many indeed, Most Honored One. If the number ofGanges rivers were that large, how much more so would be the number ofgrains of sand in all those Ganges rivers.""Subhuti, I will declare a truth to you. If a good man or a good woman filled overten thousand galaxies of worlds with the seven treasures for each grain of sandin all those Ganges rivers, and gave it all away for the purpose of compassion,charity and giving alms, would this man or woman not gain great merit andspread much happiness?"9

THE DIAMOND SUTRASubhuti replied, "Very much so, Most Honored One.""Subhuti, if after studying and observing even a single stanza of this Sutra,another person were to explain it to others, the happiness and merit that wouldresult from this virtuous act would be far greater."Chapter 12. The Most Extraordinary Merit"Furthermore, Subhuti, if any person in any place were to teach even four lines ofthis Sutra, the place where they taught it would become sacred ground andwould be revered by all kinds of beings. How much more sacred would theplace become if that person then studied and observed the whole Sutra!Subhuti, you should know that any person who does that would surely attainsomething rare and profound. Wherever this Sutra is honored and revered thereis a sacred site enshrining the presence of the Buddha or one of the Buddha'smost venerable disciples."Chapter 13. ADiamond that will Cut Away all Arbitrary ConceptionsSubhuti said to the Buddha, "By what name shall we know this Sutra so that itcan be honored and studied?"The Buddha replied, "This Sutra shall be known as The Diamond that cuts throughIllusion.“By this name it shall be revered and studied and observed. What does thisname mean? It means that when the Buddha named it, he did not have inmind any definite or arbitrary conception, and so named it. This Sutra is hardand sharp, like a diamond that will cut away all arbitrary conceptions and bringone to the other shore of Enlightenment.""What do you think, Subhuti? Has the Buddha taught any definite teaching inthis Sutra?""No, the Buddha has not taught any definite teaching in this Sutra."10

THE DIAMOND SUTRA"What do you think, Subhuti? Are there many particles of dust in this vastuniverse?"Subhuti replied: "Yes, many, Most Honored One!""Subhuti, when the Buddha speaks of particles of dust, it does not mean I amthinking of any definite or arbitrary thought, I am merely using these words as afigure of speech. They are not real, only illusion. It is just the same with the worduniverse; these words do not assert any definite or arbitrary idea, I am only usingthe words as words."Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by means of histhirty-two physical characteristics?""No, Most Honored One. The Buddha cannot be perceived by his thirty-twophysical characteristics. Why? Because the Buddha teaches that they are notreal but are merely called the thirty-two physical characteristics.""Subhuti, if a good and faithful person, whether male or female, has, for the sakeof compassion and charity, been sacrificing their life for generation upongeneration, for as many generations as the grains of sands in 3,000 universes;and another follower has been studying and observing even a single section ofthis Sutra and explains it to others, that person's blessings and merit would be fargreater."Chapter 14. A Mind without AttachmentsAt that time, after listening to this Sutra, Subhuti had understood its profoundmeaning and was moved to tears.He said, "What a rare and precious thing it is that you should deliver such adeeply profound teaching. Since the day I attained the eyes of understanding,thanks to the guidance of the Buddha, I have never before heard teachings sodeep and wonderful as these. Most Honored One, if someone hears this Sutra,and has pure and clear confidence in it they will have a profound insight intothe truth. Having perceived that profound insight, that person will realize the11

THE DIAMOND SUTRArarest kind of virtue. Most Honored One, that insight into the truth is essentiallynot insight into the truth, but is what the Buddha calls insight into the truth.""Most Honored One, having listened to this Sutra, I am able to receive and retainit with faith and understanding. This is not difficult for me, but in ages to come - inthe last five hundred years, if there is a person who hears this Sutra, who receivesand retains it with faith and understanding, then that person will be a rare one, aperson of most remarkable achievement. Such a person will be able to awakenpure faith because they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of theirow

THE DIAMOND SUTRA 1 Diamond Sutra The full Sanskrit title of this text is the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (The Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra). The Buddha said this Sutra may be known as “The Diamond that Cuts through Illusion.” Like many Buddhist sūtras, The Diamond Sūtra begins with the famous phrase, "Thus have I heard."File Size: 909KB