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A Look Into The Diamond Sutra

Last month we looked into the Lotus Sutra. This month we look into the Diamond Sutra. These looks are brief and fearless with eyes wide-open. Each reader can look into the sutras and ask me to join them in conversation. In our fall sesshin we will have more time to explore these two sutras.

The Diamond Sutra is a part of the prajnaparamita sutras. These talks explore reality and wisdom. Reality is perceived but should not be grasped, not taken as so, but more as thus. In this context we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, but must come to catch/(touch) and release the experience.

The Sutra depicts a conversation with an elder of Shakyamuni’s Sangha, Subhuti who asked how a man or woman of noble intent should follow the teachings of he Buddha. The Buddha speaks of the unformed obtained through clarity of illusionary.

“Who looks for me in form who seeks me in a voice indulges in wasted effort– such people see me not.”

“As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space, an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble, a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning– view all created things like this.”

Pine, Red. The Diamond Sutra (p. 24). Catapult. Kindle Edition.

In many ways this is the notion of Dogen Zenji… “dropping away body and mind.” This letting-go opens a deeper sense of Dharma…obtaining the marrow… but I would not call it deeper or marrow, so I will refer to it as such.

Below are commentaries from other translators regarding the teaching of the Daimond Sutra:

Red Pine:

The Diamond Sutra may look like a book, but it’s really the body of the Buddha. It’s also your body, my body, all possible bodies. But it’s a body with nothing inside and nothing outside.

It doesn’t exist in space or time. Nor is it a construct of the mind. It’s no mind. And yet because it’s no mind, it has room for compassion. This book is the offering of no mind, born of compassion for all suffering beings.

Of all the sutras that teach this teaching, this is the diamond. It cuts through all delusions, illuminates what is real, and cannot be destroyed.

It is the path on which all buddhas stand and walk. And to read it is to stand and walk with buddhas. Pine, Red. The Diamond Sutra (p. 28). Catapult. Kindle Edition.

In his commentary on the Diamond Sūtra, Hsing Yun describes the four main points from the sūtra as:

  • giving without attachment to self,

  • liberating beings without notions of self and other,

  • living without attachment,

  • and cultivating without attainment.

According to Shigenori Nagamoto, the major goal of the Diamond Sūtra is:

"an existential project aiming at achieving and embodying a non-discriminatory basis for knowledge" or "the emancipation from the fundamental ignorance of not knowing how to experience reality as it is".

According to David Kalupahana the goal of the Diamond Sūtra is

"one colossal attempt to avoid the extremist use of language, that is, to eliminate any ontological commitment to concepts while at the same time retaining their pragmatic value, so as not to render them totally empty of meaning".

Kalupahana explains the negation of the Diamond Sūtra by seeing an initial statement as an erroneous affirmation of substance or selfhood, which is then critiqued ("'all dharmas' are dharmaless"), and then finally reconstructed ("that is why they are called 'all dharmas'") as being conventional and dependently originated.

Kalupahana explains this final reconstruction as meaning: "that each concept, instead of either representing a unique entity or being an empty term, is a substitute for a human experience which is conditioned by a variety of factors. As such, it has pragmatic meaning and communicative power without being absolute in any way."

According to Paul Harrison, the Diamond Sūtra's central argument here is that

"all dharmas lack a self or essence, or to put it in other words, they have no core ontologically, they only appear to exist separately and independently by the power of conventional language, even though they are in fact dependently originated.”

I look forward to our conversation about The Diamond Sutra, Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 7:00PM/EDT…

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