Sunday, May 03, 2009

Diamond Sutra: Chapters 1-11

The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom The Diamond Sutra
by Red Pine

I am slowly trying to catch up with the class on this. The funny thing is, the shortest reading in the Conze edition is the longest in Red Pine. That's because Conze considered Chapters 14 through 29 as repetitious, stray versions or sayings of the sutra. Perhaps. Red Pine sees it more as a deepening of the story of Subhuti. An explanation in class pointed to this as a reflection of Conze's concentration on Indian commentaries, while Red Pine includes Chinese commentaries. The Chinese were more concerned with narrative, the Indians with analytical. Red Pine gives a convincing argument that while this is considered a later Wisdom Sutra, he thinks it is an earlier because of the form it takes, that Subhuti is learning. (I found a free translation online, linking to that, but it has none of the commentary.)

Chapter 1
Notes from Class: This is what a Buddha does. The division into 32 chapters comes from Emperor Wu. Buddhas are a manifestation of merit.
Bodhisattvas, mahasattvas -> Conze: bodhisattvas, great beings; Red Pine: fearless bodhisattvas; spiritual warriors or great spiritual beings

Chapter 2
"how should they stand, how should they walk,
and how should they control their thoughts (Red Pine p 64)

Subhuti is trying to get the Buddha to tell him how to be like him. If he's looking for a list of instructions, it doesn't work that way.

Chapter 3
Ting Fu-pao says, "The perception of a self refers to the mistaken apprehension of something that focuses within and controls the five skandhas of form, sensation, perception, volition, and cognition. The perception of a being refers to the mistaken apprehension that the combination of the skandhas creates a separate entity. The perception of a life refers to the mistaken belief that the self possesses a lifespan of a definite length. Finally, the perception of a soul refers to the mistaken apprehension of something that is reborn, either as a human or as one of the other forms of existence." (Red Pine p. 82)

If everything we can apprehend or perceive is mistaken, what can we know? Allow for no-self and there is no perception and no mistake. Perfection has no solid form.

Chapter 4
...when bodhisattvas give a gift...they should not be attached to anything at all. (Red Pine)

Bodhidharma says, "Since what is real includes nothing worth begrudging, we give our bodies, our lives, and our property in charity, without regret, without the vanity of giver, gift, or recipient, and without bias or attachment. (Red Pine p. 87)

When dana paramita (charity) comes from no attached self, all is freely given. No attachments, nothing to give, no one to receive. All flows. No duty, no celebration. Isn't it easier that way? What is there to hold back?

In his Song of Enlightenment, Yung-chia says, "Practicing charity while attached to something may result in heavenly blessings. But it's like an arrow show into the sky. Eventually, it falls to the ground."

Rules of gift-giving: the merit of giving a gift wears off. If a gift is given without thought of merit, there's nothing to gain or lose.

Skandha = heap, aggregate, pile. Red Pine: The primary meaning is a "body minus its appendages." The word is derived from 'skand,' meaning "to ejaculate (semen)," and it originally referred to such things as a tree trunk or a human torso. ...They are more like the overlays in a biology textbook, overlays to which we give coherence by our own set of perceptions, delusions though they may be.

Thus the term 'punya-skandha' means "body of merit" and not "heap of merit" or "store of merit." p. 95

OK I see what he's saying about 'body of merit' but I really get it when I think of skandhas as 'heaps.' Of course that root of the term helps give oomph to the force behind this drive to be a self, to have identity. That is what the heap of skandhas is all about.

Hui-neng says, "When ordinary people practice charity, they only think about how they look and their own happiness. But when their reward ends, they descend into the lower realms of existence. Through his great kindness, the Bhagavan teaches us to practice charity free of appearances and not to think about how we look or our own happiness but to break through our miserly hearts within and to benefit all beings without." (Red Pine p. 98)

Chapter 5
Seng-chao says, "This section explains how to approach enlightenment. The bodily attributes of the Tathagata make up the body that comes with enlightenment. To recognize this dharma body is to realize enlightenment. But to think that its nature is real is to miss the mark. Thus, he points to the dharma body to explain the emptiness of enlightenment." (Red Pine p. 102)

It takes one to know one. nirmana-kaya = physical body of the Buddha; sanbhoga-kaya = spiritual body; dharma-kaya = true body

Hui-neng says, "The dharma body has no form or appearance. ...Only the eye of wisdom can see it. Ordinary people only see the physical body of the Tathagata. They do not see the Tathagata's dharma body. The dharma body is like the sky." (Red Pine p. 105)

Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Before continuing, please read the first five sections of the sutra again. All of the essentials have been presented, and if you reread these sections, you will come to understand the meaning. Once you understand, you may find the Diamond Sutra like a piece of beautiful music. Without straining at all, the meaning will just enter you." (Red Pine p. 110)

That is why I think I like Red Pine more. Conze and the Indian commentators are more analytical. The Chinese commentators are more intuitive, closer to Zen. The way the teachings have worked for me is to find a little thread of understanding. aHA. I get that, I'll say. And follow that thread, and the rest will open up, unravel, or reveal itself, however that works. Certain of these Chinese speak to me, such as Hui-Neng, or Sheng-ni, T'ai-neng. It is so Zen to concentrate on just this. This short passage, read through, repeat. Allow it to unfold. Allow it to enter you. Straining usually creates a barrier.

Tao-yuan says, "The meaning of the entire Diamond Sutra has now been presented: the vow, the practice, and now the realization. The next chapter adds belief." (p. 110)

Chapter 6
Faith, you say? Yes, not a faith in a God, but faith in dharma-kaya for all. And how's that? Through no creation of the perception of a self. Through no clinging to a dharma, or no clinging to no dharma.
Because surely, Subhuti, fearless bodhisattvas do not cling to a dharma, much less to no dharma. (Red Pine p. 126)

Chapter 7
Hai-chueh says, "The same piece of metal can be used to make ten thousand different utensils. It all depends on the knowledge of the craftsman." (Red Pine p. 138)

Chapter 8
Number seven -> predates Buddhism in Hindu cosmology. So what he is saying is, no matter what merit you gain in those illusory worlds it cannot compare to understanding this sutra and helping others to understand it.

Hui-neng says, "Making offerings results in external merit. Reciting sutras results in internal merit. External merit includes food and clothing, while internal merit includes wisdom. ...Money and wealth are treasures of the world. Prajna is the jewel of the mind. Only if people practice both internal and external cultivation will their merit be complete." (Red Pine p. 144)

Without the physical realm, the internal realm has nothing to pass through. If Siddhartha died before he was Awakened, how soon before someone could happen upon that prajna and show it to us?

The gatha was developed in India long before the rise of Buddhism, but it was Buddhism that introduced this poetic form to China, where it encouraged the development of the four-line chueh-chu, which formed the basis of the Japanese haiku. The composition of these four-line poems in China, Korea, and Japan became a favorite method among Zen masters to test their disciples, and "graduation" gathas were used to define each generation's particular style."

So stop treating haiku like a trite joke, people! When you do so, you are displaying cultural insensitivity and ignorance, and demeaning not only a fine art form, but a spiritual art form as well.

Chapter 9

shravakas: "held back by the selfishness of their detachment from the self." (Red Pine p. 157)
While Subhuti is asking how can I do this, he is clinging to the possibility of his own transcendence.

For they, too, are free of attachments to a self, a being, a life, and a soul. But they neither produce nor obtain the infinite body of merit that comes from liberating others. For unless detachment is based on compassion, it may lead to nirvana, but it does not lead to buddhahood. (Red Pine p. 157)

1st Stage: srota-appana=River-finder -> realizes all things are impermanent, all things have no inherent nature of their own; still under the sway of karma
2nd Stage: sakrid-agamin=once-returners -> almost all the way deluded views but may have subtle deluded thoughts

T'ai-neng says, "Delusion is the root of enlightenment. If someone uses this for their practice, it can become the means for transcending the world. The lotus doesn't grow in high places. It only blooms in muddy water. Delusion doesn't injure the enlightened mind. So, too, smoke and clouds obscure the sun and moon without injuring them. If a jewel is dropped into the mud, neither is the jewel injured. Don't concern yourself with the clouds of delusion. Concentrate on the enlightened mind." (Red Pine p. 163)

Nowhere to get. Just here is just right. It is through the mud that spiritual practice can produce a jewel.

Chapter 10
Ch'en Hsiung says, "Mount Sumeru is the king of mountains. To say someone's body is as great as this is beyond the realm of reason. However, the Buddha's true nature is pure and free from form, free from attachments, free from obstructions, and includes the sky and contains the world. Even Sumeru is not as big. ...Bhagavan answered, 'What is no body. That is a great body. It includes all pure teachings of morality, meditation, and wisdom. Thus is it called a great body.' This true body also refers to the true mind. And the true mind can swallow Mount Sumeru." (Red Pine p. 185)

Chapter 11
In China, the gatha was the seal of understanding every Zen student composed upon breaking through the bonds of delusion. Thus, a gatha is much more precious than all the jewels in all the worlds one can possibly imagine. Despite their value to human beings, jewels possess the three characteristics of all other created dharmas: origination, limited duration, and dissolution, while the teachings of this sutra transcends such limitations and is the source of buddhahood." (Red Pine p. 192)

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