Urban Dharma Newsletter - July
This Issue: Buddhism & The Diamond
The Hungry Monk
2. A Short History of Diamonds
3. Johannes Gutenberg and The Printed Book
4. The Historical Background of Woodblock Printing in Tibet
5. The Translator of the Chinese version of the Diamond Sutra
6. The Diamond Cutter/The Diamond Sutra
4. Temple/Center/Website: None
Book/CD/Movie: The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom
- by Red Pine
Starting in August, 2004 the Urban Dharma Newsletter will be
sent the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month... The format will
stay the same... Be Well and Happy... Thank You, Kusala
The Hungry Monk
there was a monk who was an expert on the Diamond Sutra, and
as books were very valuable in his day, he carried the only
copy in his part of the world on his back. He was widely sought
after for his readings and insight into the Diamond Sutra, and
very successful at propounding its profundities to not only
monks and masters but to the lay people as well. Thus the people
of that region came to know of the Diamond Sutra, and as the
monk was traveling on a mountain road, he came upon an old woman
selling tea and cakes.
hungry monk would have loved to refresh himself, but alas, he
had no money. He told the old woman, "I have upon my back
a treasure beyond knowing -- the Diamond Sutra. If you will
give me some tea and cakes, I will tell you of this great treasure
old woman knew something of the Diamond Sutra herself, and proposed
her own bargain. She said, "Oh learned monk, if you will
answer a simple question, I will give you tea and cakes."
To this the monk readily agreed. The woman then said, "When
you eat these cakes, are you eating with the mind of the past,
the mind of the present or the mind of the future?"
answer occurred to the monk, so he took the pack from his back
and got out the text of the Diamond Sutra, hoping he could find
the answer. As he studied and pondered, the day grew late and
the old woman packed up her things to go home for the day.
are a foolish monk indeed," said the old woman as she left
the hungry monk in his quandary. "You eat the tea and cakes
with your mouth."
A Short History of Diamonds
the very beginning, diamonds have been associated with romance
were discovered in India around 600 BC. Although these deposits
did not produce large amounts they were the world's only major
source of diamonds for more than 2 thousand years, yielding
some of histories most famous gems. Understandably, the oldest
and richest imagery comes from India, where diamonds figure
prominently in Hindu traditions. Diamond was also an important
symbol in Buddhism, the other great religion of India. Besides
meaning "diamond" and "thunderbolt" the
sanskrit word 'vajra' denotes perfect peace of mind, spiritual
balance, clarity of thought, and unlimited insight. The world's
oldest printed book, containing what it says are the hardest
teachings to penetrate, is called the Diamond Sutra.
ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were splinters of stars
fallen to the earth. It was even said by some that they were
the tears of the Gods. Until the 15th century only kings wore
diamonds as a symbol of strength, courage and invincibility.
Over the centuries, however, the diamond acquired its unique
status as the ultimate gift of love. The very word 'diamond'
comes from the Greek 'adamas' meaning unconquerable, suggesting
the eternity of love.
Johannes Gutenberg and The Printed Book
earliest dated printed book, known as the Diamond Sutra,
was produced in China in 868 CE, but it is believed that the
practice dates back well before this date. The Japanese and
the Chinese regularly used wood blocks carved in relief to produce
Buddhist charms as early as the fifth century CE. Nearly six
centuries later Europeans began block printing--whether or not
this was influenced by examples from the orient or an independent
development is not certain--for religious illustrations and
playing cards. By the mid-fifteenth century the practice had
expanded to include works such as Emblem Books. Block-printed
publications were largely made up of illustrations with short
captions and thus amenable to the wood block process which tended
to favour the pictorial. The literate classes depended largely
on hand-copied manuscripts.
literary world was changed with the invention of movable type
and its application to a series of known practices which were
integrated into a method of mass production. The printing press
had developed from the wine press in the Rhine Valley. It was
there in 1440 that Johannes Gutenberg (c.1397-1468) began using
the printing press in conjunction with a series of blocks each
bearing a single letter on its face. The press used by Gutenberg
was a hand press, in which ink was rolled over the raised surfaces
of hand-set letters held within a wooden form and the form was
then press against a sheet of paper. Gutenberg's name does not
appear on any of his work but he is generally accredited with
the world's first book printed with movable type, the 42-line
(the number of lines per page) Bible, also known as the Gutenberg
Bible or the Mainz Bible (for the place where it was produced).
three decades, printing spread across Europe where it became
one of the chief means by which the Renaissance, the humanist
re-birth of interest in learning and the classics, was transmitted
from culture to culture. In time the printed book became a means
of political revolution, the necessary technological corollary
for the rise of the vernacular (ie. non-Latin) as a vehicle
for literary texts, and the larger democratic revolutions of
the eighteenth century.
1814, The Times of London introduced the first steam-press.
Other technological innovations, such as linotype, invented
in 1884 by Ottmar Mergentahler, and the monotype machine, first
used in 1897, helped increase the ease with which a page could
be type-set. Together, these new methods of mass production
helped pave the way to the growth of a mass reading public,
a public which finally wrested literature from the closed circles
of the educated and wealthy. This revolution entailed not simply
a change in the world of literature but, as Marshall McLuhan
wrote, a change in consciousness itself.
The Historical Background of Woodblock Printing in Tibet
historical background of practice of printing within Tibetan
community is closely related with the invention of woodblock
printing in china and its expansion to Asian countries. Paper,
also like printing, had its origin in China. And these two things
are closely connected. Tibetan culture adopted these technique
from their neighbors along with many other disciplines. So for
reaching the historical back ground of these practice we have
to look back at the beginning and development of wood block
printing in China.
earliest printed book ‘Diamond Sutra’ was found
in china. It was printed in 868 AD., by wood block printing
method. But the degree of perfection in printing we see in ‘Diamond
Sutra’ manuscript reveals a long way of effort and experimentation
necessary for reaching that stage (1).
China the confusion scholars started to inscribe texts in stone
since in 206-220 AD. In Han dynasty. The use of seal was common
before that time. The Chinese word ‘Yin’ stands
for seal means for clay to paper. The use of it was mentioned
in 255 BC. These were made of many kind of material and the
impressions were perfect, but the impressions were often inkless,
generally taken on clay. Before 55 AD. Seals were often in white
on red creating the illusion of an intaglio impression or vice
versa - the relief manner. Around 175-83 BC., Confucian and
Taoist classics began to cut in the stone and prints from those
were taken by ink rubbing.
process of taking print was to put a sheet of thin, strong moistened
paper on the stone, and applying pressure by a stiff brush so
that the paper touch the lower surface (inscribed area) of the
stone. After the paper became dried a pad of cloth, usually
silk or cotton soaked well in sized ink was passed over it.
The ink was absorbed in non-engraved areas of the stone. When
the paper was taken away from the stone, it showed the text
in white on the black back ground.
annals of the late Han dynasty (206 BC-2211 AD.) record the
fact that the engraved stone tablets of the six classics, was
kept at the entrance of the Imperial academy. People came there
for copy it by the process of rubbing.
cutting of images and character into woodblocks happened in
Tang dynasty (618AD.-966AD.). Mainly these were religious doctrines
-Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and Christian. In 7th century AD.
experimentation in Buddhist monasteries took place. This included
various types of Buddha stamps, textile prints, stencils etc.
These printing were performed for devotional purpose. Mahayana
Buddhist made their theology with thousand Buddhas. Beside the
human Buddha Sakyamuni Gautama, son of Suddhodhana, the chief
of Sakya tribe, who was born 2500 years ago, who was a historical
character - these thousand Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas are images
of enlightened beings, the saviour of mankind. For visualizing
the innumerable Buddha images, the monk-artists took the chance
of printmaking. Countless images of Buddha were found printed
on paper on scrolls. One such scroll is kept in British museum
display 480 impressions of the same image in 17 ft. long scroll.
the Book by T.F. Center named ‘Invention of printing in
China and its spread west ward,’ we found the earliest
known authentic block print dates from 770 AD. came from Japan.
These were one million charms in Sanskrit and Chinese characters
last 868 AD. Buddhist monastery in tun Huang cave in Chinese
Turkistan ‘Diamond Sutra’ earliest known dated block
book printed . It was dedicated "for universal free distribution
by Wang Chieh to perpetuate the memory of his parents. In 1907
Sir Aurelstein discovered Tun Huang cave which was founded in
366 AD. He found 1500 scrolls, texts and books among with Diamond
sutra in a manuscript chamber sealed during the 10th century
huang scrolls especially the diamond sutra is an example of
transformation of a scroll to book. A little sutra of 8 pages
printed on one side and folded like a modern day folder. Some
western scholars who have put much emphasis on John Guttenberg
as pioneer of printing do not consider Eastern civilization
as cradle of printing According to their viewpoint the invention
of movable type is the beginning of printing, But one thing
we must keep in mind that in East Asia specially china using
movable type was not very economical because the Chinese had
40,000 characters in their writing where the Europeans had merely
a few alphabets. However the Chinese also invented movable type
before European at 1041 AD. Bi Sheng invented this. Around 1200
AD. moveable type was widely used in Korea(4).
Scholar T.F. Carter wrote in his book ‘The invention of
printing and its spread westward’-For printing and the
invention of printing is the invention of that form of printing
which transform the education and culture of nation"(5).
was the beginning, of printing manuscript and it continued.
So as the result of this continuities Tibetan community also
inherited this process for duplicating their sacred texts.
another important factor in printing books or scrolls is the
surface for printing : The paper. Paper also was first made
in China. Before inventing the paper various materials were
used for writing propose. In India Birch bark was used for manuscripts.
But in China birch bark never had been used for writing purpose.
Other materials such as animal bones, tortoise shells, stone,
clay, wood, bamboo, metal, silk had been widely used. At 105
AD Tsai Lun invented the manufacture of paper. It was Han dynasty
(200BC.-200AD.), when the rise of burocracy demanded the need
of writing materials. Tsai Lun made paper from rags and raw
fibers. After invention of paper gradually it became a very
popular writing material and by end of 5th century all Central
Asia started to use paper. This way from China the knowledge
of paper making introduced to Tibet. But after 1200 AD. , technically
we see no sign of development. Still now Tibetan papermakers
follow the same process from the beginning time. The craft of
paper making introduced to Tibet influenced areas like Sikkim,
Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh at 1000 AD.Tamang horse riders who had
been spread over these Himalayan countries, since 700 AD.- were
possibly bearer of this technology(6).
next important thing is the printing ink. This was earlier used
at 100 BC. ( Shung period). The Chinese made black ink of burnt
wood on lacquer mixed with glue and formed into a paste or brick,
which is soluble in water. Cinnabar red was also used and it
was widely used besides black.
wood for making the block was usually pear or jujbe. The wooden
plank was clear cut, the surface of the plank very careful flattened
and sized with rice flour paste.
the use of paper was introduced to Tibet earlier, manuscript
from that time we found is hand written.
1334 the compilation of ‘KANJUR’ (Translation of
the words of Buddha) and TENJUR (Translation of treatise) ended.
Kanjur contains 4500 works. This huge task was performed by
great Tibetan scholar Bu-Ston (1290Ad.-1364AD.). A master copy
of Tenjur was deposited at Zhalu monastery between Shigatse
1410 one edition of Kanjur was printed in Peking. It was the
first printed Tibetan manuscript So we may assume from that
time practice of printing introduced to Tibetan community. Later
we see printing presses in all large monasteries of Tibet and
Himalayan countries. But it is very difficult to find any distinct
historical record of these presses and its activities throughout
reason behind it may be that the total emphasis of the printing
process was on making sacred texts and ritual oriented objects
( such as banner, images, diagram etc). And it had so strong
ritualistic purpose in its formation, that it was never considered
as a separate discipline to study. So the user of it remained
more or less unaware of its historical importance from technical
or artistic view point.
The Translator of the Chinese version of the Diamond Sutra
Master Kumarajiva (343-413)
text of the Diamond Sutra appearing in the last two issues of
the Buddhist Door was based on the famous Chinese version of
the Sutra. This famous Chinese version of the Sutra was translated
into Chinese around 403 from the original Sanskrit by the great
Dharma Master, Kumarajiva. Since then, this Chinese translation
had become one of the most popular Buddhist texts, and together
with the famous Chinese version of the Lotus Sutra, also translated
into Chinese from Sanskrit by Kumarajiva, was considered one
of the most authoritative presentations of the Mahayana Buddhism.
is considered one of the greatest translators of Buddhist scriptures
from Sanskrit into Chinese. He was from Kucina (Kucha) of Central
Asia (today's Kuche of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
of China) and the Indian-Kuchan parentage. His father, Kumarayapa,
born into a Brahman family in India, refused to inherit a high
position in the government and left the family to travel as
a mendicant. When he was in Kucina, a small country in Central
Asia, he was made the National Master by the king there. Kumarayapa
was then forced by the king to marry the king's sister, Jiva.
Kumarayapa and Jiva had two children, Kumarajiva and his brother.
word 'kumarajiva' in Sanskrit means 'mature youth'. It was said
that Kumarajiva possessed the virtuous conduct of the elder
even when he was very young. Kumarajiva was most famed for his
encyclopaedic knowledge of the Indian and Vedantic learning
and the photographic memory of the Buddhist scriptures. The
legend said that he was able to recite the complete Lotus Sutra
in two days, and one thousand mantras with total of 36,000 words
in one day.
on, Jiva decided to leave the family, and when Kumarajiva was
seven years old, she became a bhiksuni (nun) while her son followed
her as a young monk. They travelled to different countries and
studied from various famous monks. At the age of twelve, he
returned to Kucina together with his mother. During those years,
he made thorough studies of various Buddhist scriptures and
at such young age, started preaching and became well-known in
the Buddhist world. He was most famed for his understanding
of Nagarjuna's Buddhist school of the Madhyamika ("Middle
Way"). At the age of twenty, he was officially made a bhiksu
in the Kucha palace. Shortly afterwards, his mother left for
India and she instructed him to go to China and preach Buddhism
there. Kumarajiva stayed in Kucina for twenty years and made
some very thorough studies in Buddhism.
the year 379, a few Chinese monks returned to Changan (Xian)
from Kucina and told the story about the young bhiksu Kumarajiva.
The great Dharma Master Daoan, who was very enthusiastic in
translating Buddhist scriptures, recommended to Fujian, the
Emperor of Fu-Qin Dynasty to get Kumarajiva to China to carry
out the Buddhism sutras translation activities. In the year
382, Fujian sent Luguang to conquer some Central Asian countries,
and instructed Luguang to capture Kumarajiva once Kucina could
be occupied and to send Kumarajiva to China as soon as possible.
the year 384, Kucina was occupied. But Luguang, being not a
Buddhist himself, found out that Kumarajiva was so young, and
had difficulty to recognize the abilities of Kumarajiva. Next
year, Fujian was murdered and Luguang made himself Emperor of
Liangzhou. Due to all these events, Kumarajiva ended up staying
in Liangzhou for seventeen years.
the year 401, the new Emperor of Fu-Qin, Yaoxing, recaptured
Liangzhou and eventually brought Kumarajiva to China. Kumarajiva
was 58 years old when he came to Changan. Starting from 402,
Kumarajiva began to take on one of the most important Buddhist
scriptures translation tasks in history.
first attempt was in the Amitabha Buddha Sutra and a few other
Buddhist scriptures. Then he translated the Maharatnakuta Sutra-Upadesha
and the Shatika-Shastra. In the following year, he re-translated
the complete Mahaprajnaparamita-Sutra, which includes, among
many other scriptures, the Diamond Sutra. The whole translation
task actually involved more than 500 monks as his assistants
in the verification and editing work. Kumarajiva double-checked
all texts in the Mahaprajnaparamita-Sutra. During the following
year (404) he translated the majority of the Sarvastivadin-Vinaya
and reworked on the Shatika-Shastra.
from 406, Kumarajiva settled in the Grand Temple in Changan
and translated the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism
- the Lotus Sutra and the Vimalakirti-Nivdesa-Sutra. He also
finished translation on Dvadashamukha-Shastra. His last translation
was the Satyasiddhi-Shastra. He was also involved in preaching
during the intensive routines of the translation jobs.
was a genius in language and literature. For instance, he also
wrote the commentary of the Vimalakirti-Nivdesa-Sutra, which
has a tremendous impact in the Chinese literature. Among all
the translators working in China, he was probably the best in
the Chinese language.
April 413, he died at the age of 71 in the Grand Temple in Changan.
His last words were that he remembered he had translated about
300 texts in Buddhism and believed that other than the Sarvastivadin-Vinaya
which had not passed review and editing, he could guarantee
that all his translations should be correct and could be used
for spreading Buddhism. In order to prove such a statement,
he claimed that when his body was incinerated after his death,
the tongue would remain intact. It turned out that his claim
was true. According to Tang-San-Zang, the complete works of
Kumarajiva include 35 Sutras/Vinayas/Shastras, covering 294
achievement in Buddhist scriptures translation is tremendous.
He was the first one who systematically translated from Sanskrit
into Chinese, the Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, with emphasis
on Nagarjuna's Madhyamika. His translation style is also among
the best accepted by the Chinese. He is most famed for those
translations which have important literary values (such as Vimalakirti-Nivdesa-Sutra,
the Lotus Sutra and the Maharatnakuta Sutra-Upadesha). In fact,
his translation is recognized as having a significant position
in the Chinese literature.
translation organization headed by Kumarajiva in Changan is
one of the biggest in Chinese history. It was fully sponsored
by the government and the court and marks the beginning of the
tradition in establishing a national translation centre. Numerous
famous monks and scholars came over to Changan from various
parts of China to participate in the translation tasks. In addition,
some foreign monks from the Central Asian countries also joined
the teams there, working under Kumarajiva. It was said that
there were as many as 3000 followers, including assistants and
students, of Kumarajiva. All the translation jobs were carried
out with the utmost carefulness and seriousness and whenever
necessary, with the consultations of specialists from the relevant
fields of expertise. No wonder the results of the translations
were of such a high standard, which can be well demonstrated
by the achievement in the Diamond Sutra and the Lotus Sutra.
The Diamond Cutter/The Diamond Sutra
became interested in The Diamond Sutra after reading a short
post on soc.religion.eastern. The post described a paradox so
confusing, i was drawn to investigate further. This version
is taken mostly word-for-word from a book published by Concord
Grove Press (Copyright 1983), however, my notes are in brackets
and all the flowery language is cut out. If you want to read
about, "The Venerable Wonderous Lord Buddha," read
a different translation. That which is called Buddha, is called
Buddha. -- Josh Pritikin
once dwelt in Anathapindika's Park, in the Jeta Grove at Sravasti,
with 1,250 monks and many Bodhisattvas (external link). Near
dawn, Buddha clothed himself, took up his bowl and entered the
great city of Sravasti to collect food offered as alms. Having
returned and eaten, Buddha put away his bowl and cloak, bathed
his feet, and sat with legs crossed and body upright upon the
seat arranged for him, mindfully fixing attention in front of
himself. Many monks approached Buddha, showing great reverence,
and seated themselves about him.
monk called Subhuti arose from his seat in the midst of the
monks and, showing great respect for Buddha, said: "It
is wonderful how much Buddha has helped the Bodhisattvas. How
should men and women who set out on the Bodhisattva Path progress,
and how should they control their thoughts?"
all beings to nirvana
replied: "Listen carefully. All Bodhisattvas should hold
this thought: Every kind of create which can be called a 'being',
egg-born, formed in a womb, born from moisture or produced by
metamorphosis, or with form or without, all these I guide towards
Nirvana even though no being at all has been led to Nirvana.
If in a Bodhisattva the conception of 'being', 'egotistic entity',
'personality' or 'separate existence' should take place, this
Bodhisattva would not be an authentic being of wisdom and compassion.
Bodhisattva should practice virtue without regard to appearances,
unsupported by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations
or mental attachments. A Bodhisattva should practice virtue
without attachment to externals. Why? This is the way to being
then asked Subhuti, "But what do you think? Can the Tathagata
be recognized by any phenomenal attribute?"
Buddha. Why? Because the Tathagata has taught that the possession
of phenomenal attributes is in fact non-possession of any phenomenal
elaborated: "Where there is possession of phenomenal attributes,
there is delusion; where there is non-possession of any phenomenal
attributes, there is no delusion. The Tathagata is therefore
recognized by the attribute of having no phenomenal attributes."
then asked Buddha: "In the future, in the last five centuries
when the way is obscured, will any beings understand the truth
of these teachings?"
answered: "Do not say this, Subhuti! Even then, in the
remote future, there will be beings who will understand the
truth when these words are taught. There will even then be Bodhisattvas
meritorious in conduct, practised in virtue and full of wisdom
who will understand the truth when they hear these teachings.
Such Bodhisattvas, Subhuti, will not have honoured one Buddha
alone, nor will they have rooted their merit under just one
Buddha. Rather, these Bodhisattvas, who will find serene faith
awakened upon hearing the words of this teaching, will have
honoured and rooted themselves in merit under countless Buddhas.
They are known to the Tathagata through his Buddha-thought;
they are seen by the Tathagata with his Buddha-eye. Hence they
are fully known to the Tathagata, and they will all acquire
and produce inestimable merit.
why? Because, Subhuti, these Bodhisattvas will have no perception
of an egotistic self, neither of a separate entity nor of a
soul, no perception of a personality. Nor will they even have
a perception of dharma (external link) or adharma (external
link) , for in them there will be neither perception nor non-perception.
can this be? If these Bodhisattvas, Subhuti, should perceive
either dharma or adharma, they would think of an ego, a separate
entity, a soul or a personality. Therefore the Tathagata has
taught this saying with a hidden meaning: 'Those who know that
the teachings about dharma are like a raft, should renounce
dharma and, even more, renounce adharma.'"
asked: "Do you think, Subhuti, that the Tathagata knows
any dharma as the ultimate and perfect enlightenment? Has the
Tathagata ever set forth such a teaching?"
reponded: "Not according to my understanding of the teachings
of the Tathagata. Why? The dharma which the Tathagata fully
knows and has set forth can neither be thought nor formulated
in words, for it is neither dharma nor adharma."
do you think, Subhuti," Buddha asked, "if a man or
woman filled a thousand million worlds with the seven treasures
and made a gift of them to the Tathagata, would they accumulate
answered: "The merit accrued would be beyond reckoning.
Why? Because the Tathagata has taught that such merit is non-merit."
who has entered the stream
do you think, Subhuti," Buddha asked, "does a one
who has entered the stream which flows to enlightenment, say
'I have entered the stream'?"
Buddha", Subhuti replied. "For he has won no dharma
and therefore he is called one who has entered the stream. No
objects of sight or hearing have been won, no smells or tastes,
no objects of touch nor even objects of mind. Thus he is called
one who has entered the stream. If the thought 'the fruit of
entering the stream has been attained by me' occurred to such
a one, then he would be seizing upon a self, or personality,
a soul or a concept of being."
who must return once
asked: "Subhuti, do you think that one who has to return
but once again, even entertains the thought 'the fruit of a
once-returner is mine'?"
Buddha," Subhuti replied. "For nothing ultimately
real has won the status of a once-returner: that is why he is
who will not return
you think", Buddha asked, "that the one who will not
return at all, ever thinks 'the fruit of the never-returner
Buddha," Subhuti answered. "For nothing which can
be considered ultimately real has won the status of never-returner'."
who is fully enlightened
Buddha asked, "does the fully enlightened one, ever think,
'full enlightenment is mine'?"
not," Subhuti answered, "for nothing ultimately real
is called fully enlightened, and that is why one who is fully
enlightened is called fully enlightened. If one who is fully
enlightened ever thought 'the fruit of being fully enlightened
is mine', he would grasp a self, a personality, a soul or a
concept of being."
you think, Subhuti," Buddha then asked, "there is
any dharma or attainment which the Tathagata acquired from the
fully enlightened one?"
not one," Subhuti replied.
said: "If a Bodhisattva declared 'I perfect serene Buddha-fields
(external link)', his words would be false. Why? Because the
Tathagata has taught that the perfection of serene Buddha-fields
is non-perfection. Thus the Tathagata speaks of serene Buddha-fields.
Bodhisattva should develop a thought which is in no way dependent
upon sights, sounds, smells tastes, tactile sensations or mental
Subhuti, a man had an enormous body, like Sumeru, the king of
mountains. Would the sense of personal existence he had also
indeed, Buddha," Subhuti answered. "His sense of personal
existence would be enormous. But the Tathagata has taught that
personal existence is no-existence, for it is in fact neither
existence nor non-existence. So it is called 'personal existence'."
the teaching on dharma
asked Buddha: "What is this teaching on dharma and how
shall it be remembered?"
answered: "This teaching, Subhuti, is known as Prajnaparamita,
the perfection of wisdom, and you should remember it as such.
Yet the very discourse the Tathagata has taught as 'the perfection
of wisdom' is exactly the teaching which is not the perfection
of wisdom. Thus it is only called Prajnaparamita.
you think, Subhuti, that the Tathagata has taught any special
Buddha," Subhuti answered, "not at all!"
hearing this discourse on dharma, understood it and was moved
to tears. He spoke:
The teaching of the Tathagata regarding dharma is most precious.
Through it, Buddha-cognition has arisen in me. Never have I
witnessed such a teaching! Blessed are those who when this discourse
is taught, have true perception. Yet true perception is in fact
no perception, though the Tathagata teaches true perception.
this discourse on dharma is being taught, it is easy for me
to accept and believe it. But in future days, when the teaching
wanes, beings will listen to this teaching, retain it, ponder
it, and illuminate it for others, and they will be blessed indeed.
For in them no sense of self, no conception of an entity, no
perception of personality, will exist. A sense of self is no
sense, in truth, a conception of being is no conception, and
a perception of personality is no perception. The Buddhas have
transcended all perceptions!"
said: "It is as you say, Subhuti. Blessed indeed are those
beings who do not tremble with fear or awe when they hear this
teaching. The Tathagata has taught parama paramita, the supreme
perfection. And this teaching of the Tathagata is also the teaching
of countless Buddhas.
Subhuti, the perfection of patience taught by the Tathagata
is in reality no perfection. Why? When the Raja of Kalinga mutilated
my body, I had at that time no sense of self, no conception
of a being, no perception of personality. If such a conception
or perception had arisen at that time, anger and hatred would
have arisen in me. But for five hundred lives I have been a
sage suffused with patience, having no sense of self, no conception
of being, no perception of personality.
Bodhisattva, once he has relinquished all perceptions, raises
his thought to the enlightenment. He releases a thought free
of form, sound, smell, taste, touch or mental activity, free
even from dharma and adharma, for all such supporting conditions
are in reality no support at all. Hence the Tathagata teaches:
virtue should be practised by a Bodhisattva who relies on no
Bodhisattva should practise virtue in this way for the welfare
of all beings. And yet, the perception of a being, Subhuti,
is no perception. All those beings just spoken of are in fact
no beings. The Tathagata does not speak falsely, but rather
speaks the truth, in accord with reality. Yet the dharma which
the Tathagata has attained and now illuminates for others is
neither real nor unreal.
Bodhisattva who is attached to conceptions and perceptions,
and who renounces virtue, is like a man groping in the dark.
A Bodhisattva who is free from conceptions and perceptions,
and who renounces virtue, is like a man whose eyes see all things
clearly in the bright morning sun."
said: "Those good men and women who will take up this teaching
on dharma, who will think on it, recite it, study it, and who
will illuminate the whole of it for others, they are known to
the Tathagata. He recognizes them by his Buddha-cognition and
perceives them with his Buddha-eye. These good beings will each
bring to fruitation immeasurable and incalculable merit.
recollect through my Buddha-cognition, Subhuti, that in the
remote past, aeons before the supremely enlightened one, I faultlessly
served millions of Buddhas throughout incalculable ages. Nevertheless,
the merit gained by those who take up, remember, study, recite
and explain to others this discourse in the future, when the
way is obscured, will surpass the merit gained in the service
I rendered to all Buddhas millions of times over. Their merit
has no number; it is incalculable and incomparable.
I were to teach just how vast this merit which will be gained
in the future is, Subhuti, good men and women who hear me would
become confused, mentally disturbed and even frantic. But since
the Tathagata has taught that this discourse on dharma is inconceivable,
an incommensurable karmic fruit should be expected from it."
all beings to nirvana 2
asked: "How, Buddha, does one who seeks the Bodhisattva
Path tread it?"
answered: "One who sets out on the Bodhisattva Path should
continuously think, 'I must lead all brings to absolute Nirvana;
nevertheless, even when all beings have been led to Nirvana,
no being in reality has been led to Nirvana.' For if the idea
of a being, entity or personality should arise in him, he is
not a Bodhisattva. He who has set out on the Bodhisattva Path
is not one of the dharmas.
you think, Subhuti, that when the Tathagata was with the enlightened
one there was any dharma by which he came to know supreme enlightenment?"
was not," Subhuti answered, "any dharma by which the
Tathagata has known supreme enlightenment."
this reason," Buddha said, "'Tathagata signifies attributelessness,
and if someone were to say, 'The Tathagata has fully known supreme
enlightenment. The dharma of the Tathagata is neither real nor
unreal. Hence the Tathagata teaches that all dharmas are the
Buddha's own special dharmas. Why? The Tathagata has taught
that all dharmas together are no dharma named 'Bodhisattva'?"
Buddha," Subhuti answered.
Buddha continued, "the Tathagata teaches that all dharmas
are selfless and are not beings, entities or personalities.
Even if a Bodhisattva wished to create tranquil Buddha-fields,
he should not be called a Bodhisattva, for the Tathagata has
taught that tranquil Buddha-fields are not really tranquil Buddha-fields.
the Bodhisattva who continually swells on the selflessness of
all dharmas, however, is known by the Tathagata, the supremely
enlightened one, as a Bodhisattva of Great Courage."
does the tathagata see?
asked Subhuti: "What do you think? Does the Tathagata possess
the physical eye?"
Buddha," Subhuti replied.
the Tathagata possess the divine eye of enlightenment?"
Buddha, the Tathagata possesses it."
the Tathagata possess the eye of transcendental wisdom, Subhuti?"
he does, Buddha."
the Tathagata possess the dharma eye?"
Subhuti, does the Tathagata possess the Buddha-eye of universal
doubt, Buddha, the Tathagata possesses all these eyes."
on the mind
I know the mind of every sentient being in all the host of universes,
regardless of any modes of thought, conceptions or tendencies.
For all modes, conceptions and tendencies of thought are not
mind. And yet they are called 'mind'. Why? It is impossible
to retain past thought, to seize future thought and even to
hold present thought."
the Tathagata to be seen," Buddha asked, "in the manifestation
of his form?"
not," Subhuti replied, "for the Tathagata has taught
that the manifestation of his form is no manifestation, even
though it is called 'the manifestation of his form'."
Buddha said: "Does the Tathagata think, 'I have demonstrated
dharma'? If anyone says, 'The Tathagata has demonstrated dharma',
he speaks falsely, for he misunderstands the Tathagata by grabbing
at what is not there. There is no dharma which could be taught
as a demonstration of dharma."
asked: "in the distant future when the way is obscured,
will there be beings who, upon hearing these dharmas, will believe
Buddha replied, "they would be neither beings not non-beings,
for the Tathagata has taught that beings are not in truth beings,
even though he has called them 'beings'.
you think, Subhuti," Buddha asked, "there is any dharma
by which the Tathagata has known supreme enlightenment?"
is no such dharma, Buddha."
Subhuti, no atom of dharma is to be found. Therefore, enlightenment
is called supreme. This dharma is identical only with itself,
and is undifferentiated. Therefore it is called 'supreme enlightenment'.
Being unique and undifferentiated because of the absence of
a self, entity or personality, this supreme enlightenment is
known as the collectivity of all good dharmas. But Subhuti,
the Tathagata has taught that dharmas are not in truth dharmas,
even though they are called 'dharmas'.
a Tathagata ever think, 'I have liberated beings'? Never imagine
this, Subhuti, for there is no being to be liberated by the
Tathagata. If the Tathagata thought to liberate any being, a
concept of self, entity or personality would have arisen in
him. The Tathagata has taught that the concept of self is no
concept. Nevertheless, common people cling to the concept of
self. The Tathagata has taught that the common people are not
common people, even though they are called 'common people'."
sees me by form, Who sees me in sound, Perverted are his footsteps
upon the way; For he cannot perceive the Tathagata. The Buddhas
are seen through dharma, From dharma-bodies their guidance comes;
But the nature of dharma is never discerned, It cannot be grasped
by the mind alone.
Buddha said: "No one should say, 'Those who set out upon
the Bodhisattva Path presume the annihilation of a dharma',
for it is not so, Subhuti. Those who tread the Bodhisattva Path
do not presume the annihilation of any dharma.
Subhuti, that a man or woman filled with the seven treasures
as many galaxies as there are grains of sand in the great Ganges,
and then offered them all to the Tathagatas; and suppose a Bodhisattva
patiently forbore all dharmas, which in themselves have no essence.
This Bodhisattva would gain an immeasurably greater merit. And
yet a Bodhisattva should gain no merit."
would not, Buddha," Subhuti asked, "a Bodhisattva
gain much merit?"
would gain it, Subhuti, but he should not grasp it."
continued: "If anyone says that the Tathagata comes or
goes, sits or reclines, he fails to understand my teaching.
Why? The Tathagata has neither whence nor whither, and therefore
he is called the supremely enlightened one'.
a man or woman took a galaxy for every particle of dust in this
vast galaxy and thoroughly ground each one until it was reduced
to atoms, would the heap of atoms be great?"
Buddha," Subhuti answered, "the heap of atoms would
be immense. And yet this enormous heap of atoms is not really
a heap of atoms, even though it is called 'a heap of atoms'.
although the Tathagata has said 'galaxy', he teaches that it
is not in truth a galaxy. For, Buddha, if there were in truth
a galaxy, it would be a material object to be seized upon, and
the Tathagata has taught that there is no seizing at all."
Subhuti," Buddha said, "this 'seizing upon a material
object' is a convention of language, an expression devoid of
real content. It is neither dharma nor adharma, even though
ordinary people have seized upon it foolishly.
Subhuti, that someone said that the Tathagata has taught a conception
of a self, an entity or a personality. Would he be right?"
answered: "Not at all, Buddha. That which the Tathagata
has called 'a conception of self' is no conception."
Subhuti," Buddha said, "one who has set out on the
Bodhisattva Path should know all dharma and view them intently.
Yet he should know them and view them in a way which does not
give rise to a perception of any dharma. Why? The Tathagata
has taught that perception of a dharma is no perception, even
though it is called 'perception of a dharma'.
even a Bodhisattva of Great Courage filled innumerable galaxies
with the seven precious treasures, and offered them as a gift
to the supremely enlightened ones, his merit would not compare
with the immeasurable merit of a good man or woman who took
just one stanza from this Prajnaparamita discourse on dharma
and remembered, recited, studied and illuminated it for others.
How is this done? In a way which is free from appearances. Thus
one illuminates it for others."
a meteor, like darkness, as a flickering lamp, An illusion,
like hoar-frost or a bubble, Like clouds, a flash of lightning,
or a dream: So is all conditioned existence to be seen.
The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom - by Red Pine
- Reviewer: Washington, D.C. --- The Diamond Sutra is a
spiritual treasure and a key text of Mahayana Buddhism. Estimates
for its date of composition range from the second century B.C.
to the third century A.D. The original texts are in Chinese
and Sanskrit. There are two related explanations for the title
"Diamond Sutra": 1. the teaching of the sutra cuts
through diamonds or 2. the sutra itself is the diamond that
in its radiance and strength cuts through and illuminates everything.
The text consists of 32 chapters (the chapter divisions are
not in the original sources) and about 30 pages. The Diamond
Sutra is one of the few texts of whatever type that will repay
endless study and which can transform the life of the receptive
Pine has produced a translation and commentary on the Diamond
Sutra which help greatly in exploring it. The organization of
the book bears discussing. The book opens with a translation
of the sutra, unadorned by commentary, which consists of about
30 pages. The translation is followed by a Preface in which
Red Pine gives some background on the text and on Buddhism,
sketches out his interpretation of the text, and explains to
the reader how he came to the Diamond Sutra over the years.
longest section of the book consists of a commentary of about
400 pages arranged in 32 sections, one for each chapter of the
Diamond Sutra. Each section begins with the text of the Chapter
followed by Red Pine's commentary on the chapter as a whole.
He then reproduces again a smaller portion of each chapter --
a paragraph, sentences, or sometimes only a phrase --and offers
commentary on it. The commentaries are sometimes Pine's own.
He also draws down a selection of the enormous commentary the
Diamond Sutra has generated over the centuries. Some of this
commentary dates from early Chinese sources and other portions
of it are contemporary in origin. I found the various commentaries
fascinating in themselves and useful in starting to approach
the Diamond Sutra.
also gives the reader familiar with the original sources an
analysis of textual variations. More importantly, he offers
the general reader a glossary of the many names, places and
sources to which his commentary refers, which are likely to
be unfamiliar to those approaching the Diamond Sutra for the
is a great deal in the commentary, and in the Diamond Sutra
itself, comparing the teaching of the Sutra, with its emphasis
on the Bodisattva, who works with compassion for the salvation
of all sentient beings, with the earlier, Theravada, school
of Buddhism, with its emphasis on the Arahant and on individual
enlightenment. There is deep discussion in the Sutra on no-self,
and on non-attachment. It is a text that will reward repeated
meditation and readings.
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