The Diamond Sutra
by Red Pine
A busy summer and a problem with my back that has prevented me from sitting for long periods of time at the computer have kept me away from this and other writing projects. My back is still healing and sitting here is still painful, but the time has come that I must return to my notes and get that seminary paper written. I feel like I'll be winging it, as I read these books and went to those classes so long ago, but I should remember, I did this with the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, and I'd attended those classes a few years before.
So, back to my notes, and thoughts. Previous notes:
In the previous two chapters, the Buddha re-examined subjects covered earlier, but with his dharma and buddha eyes. In the last chapter, he examined his sanbhoga-kaya, or reward body, which is the embodiment of realization. In this chapter, he asks Subhuti to consider the connection of such a body with his nirmana-kaya, or apparition body, which is the body in which a buddha appears in this world to teach others, and also with his dharma-kaya, which is the teaching itself. (Red Pine p. 338)
Something that sticks with me, when I first learned about the 3 kayas years ago, was how Jiko Tisdale described the nirmana-kaya as numinous, and she also explained what numinous was, without evoking the supernatural. I believe she also use the word luminous. Then, a day or so later, my cat Jig arched her back, and I saw her full presence, her Great Being that was surely the Buddha shining of her as it is of all beings, and I knew what nirmana-kaya was, and I fell deeper in love with her. Nirmana-kaya....look for it, and you'll find it.
Seng-chao says, "To teach a dharma means to transmit something. And yet we are told there is no dharma taught. It isn't that the Buddha keeps silent and doesn't speak, only that when he speaks nothing remains. Thus, what he teaches spreads throughout the world without transgressing the truth." To this, Hsieh Ling-yu adds, "The fact that nothing remains means that he is not attached to appearances, that his mind dwells nowhere." (Red Pine pp. 339-40)
A Buddha does not teach to the test. If something remained, like say an agenda, or the thought that he knows best, a Buddha could not meet the next moment authentically, nor the next, nor the next. A Buddha is not looking for particular answers, thus is not teaching toward those answers.
Hui-neng says, "When the thought of realization is gone, this is enlightenment." (Red Pine p 349)
All I can say is, beware of that greedy thought of realization that attempts to trick one's self into enlightenment by thinking one is not thinking of realization, thus really is thinking of realization.
Also, beware of any so-called teacher that claims to have the spiritual truth for your benefit. They also tend to expect a bunch of money.
The Sanskrit word used here, kushala (auspicious), is derived from kusha, which is the name of the sacred grass used in ancient India by priests and fortune-tellers to assist them in gaining entrance to the unknown. This grass was also used by the Buddha and others for their meditation cushions. Thus, auspicious dharmas are those that arise from prajna, that are the fruit of wisdom, which is, itself, the fruit of meditation. (Red Pine p 356)
Just sit, and trust in the practice. It will tell you what you need to do. I learned this from practicing meditation on my own. I listened when it told me I needed others, a teacher, a sangha, if I wanted to progress any further.
Hui-neng says, "As for this dharma of enlightenment, from buddhas above to insects below, they all possess a kind of wisdom that does not differ from that of the Buddha. Hence, it is said to be equal and devoid of superior or inferior, for enlightenment is not partial. If you can just get free of the four perceptions [self, being, life, soul] and cultivate all auspicious dharmas, you will realize enlightenment. If you don't get free of the four perceptions, even though you cultivate all auspicious dharmas, your thoughts of a self or a being striving to realize liberation will increase, instead. And this will never end. (Red Pine p 357)
Hey, it's not about me. It's not about you. We are not two. How can we then not be kind, not care, not help each other?
Seng-chao says, "A pile of jewels has its limits; a profound understanding is never exhausted." (Red Pine p 365)
I'm with that guy.
Ch'en Hsiung says, "The Fifth Patriarch once said, 'If people are blind to their own nature, how can merit help?' And the Sixth Patriarch added, 'They spend endless ages at sea searching for pearls unaware of the seven jewels within themselves.' These two buddhas were concerned that instead of cultivating themselves and realizing their own nature, people would take the path of seeking merit through the offering of jewels." (Red Pine pp 365-66)
Hui-neng says, "But while all beings have the buddha nature, if they did not rely on the dharma teachings of buddhas, they would have no means of realizing it themselves. How else can they cultivate and reach the path to buddhahood?" (Red Pine p 371)
One needs to study the self before one can forget the self.
Tao-ch'uan says, "One thought you're a mortal, the next you're a buddha. But what sort of things are mortals and buddhas? My song goes:
You don't have three heads or six armsChapter 26
still you can use chopsticks and a spoon
sometimes you're drunk and obnoxious
then you light incense and bow
you hold a plate made of crystal
and wear a robe of fine silk
you never stop showing off
but the one led off by the nose is you." (Red Pine p 374)
Li Wen-hui says, "If someone has not yet understood the four perceptions of self, being, life, and soul, their mind is subject to birth and death. Birth and death is the meaning of the turning wheel, while the king refers to the mind. Although a person cultivates the thirty-two pure practices, as long as their rising and falling mind keeps turning, they will never understand their perfect original mind. Thus, we cannot use the thirty-two attributes to see the Tathagata." (Red Pine p 382)
Thich Nhat Hanh says, "When we first learn to meditate, we may visualize the Buddha with his 32 special marks. But once our wounds are healed, we should leave those images and see the Buddha in birth, sickness, old age, and death. Nirvana is made of the same substance as attachment, and awakening of the same substance as ignorance." (Red Pine p 385)
In the beginning I saw the buddha in my teachers, and I wanted to connect to that. With the help of my teachers and my community, I was able to heal, and I naturally settled into seeing them all as buddhas and as human beings, with flaws as well as perfections. Whereas before I saw myself as separate, eventually I awakened to finding myself one and the same.
The interpretation I have followed, and which accords with all other Chinese translations and Sanskrit editions, reads this chapter as a warning against attachment to dharmas of any kind, both those that are seen as leading to buddhahood and those that are seen as obstructing the path to buddhahood. Neither is there an end to the path, nor is there a beginning. The Buddha prepares us for the next chapter by denying that there is something we achieve or something we transcend. (Red Pine p 388)
I think this is a trap teachers especially need to be wary of falling into. It is easy to favor certain views when it is rare that students will question them. It is their path to be expounders of the dharma, to be those who have gone before and show those who follow...but they are human, and can be wrong at times.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, "When we look at a table, a flower, or the highest, most fulfilled, awakened mind, if we see that they exist independently of other objects of mind, we are caught in the view of permanence. On the other hand, if we think that everything is non-existent, we are caught in the view of annihilation. The middle way taught by the Buddha is a way free of these two views. Liberation is not to cut ourselves off from life or to try to reach non-being." (Red Pine pp 391-92)
Wow, that is rather a communist way of translating this chapter. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Red Pine translates the last sentences this way: "The venerable Subhuti said, "But surely, Bhagavan, this bodhisattva would obtain a body of merit!" The Buddha replied, "They would Subhuti, but without grasping it. This it is called 'obtaining.'"
In this sutra, the Buddha focuses on three of the six perfections: the first perfection of charity, the third perfection of acceptance or forbearance, and the sixth perfection of wisdom. Here, the Buddha merges all three. For when we give something, we must be able to bear its loss and accept its absence. Thus, charity and acceptance are two aspects of the same practice. It is the perfection of wisdom, however, that transforms this twofold practice. For it is by means of wisdom that we realize that the elements of practice are empty, that there is not gift, no giver, no recipient, and thus no practice. (Red Pine p 395)
Te-ch'ing says, "Subhuti still regards the one whose deportment is perfect whether moving or still as the Tathagata. But this is to hold the view of coming and going. How could the Tathagata come or go? At this point Subhuti's attachments end, and his preferences are forgotten, and movements and stillness are no longer seen as different but truly so and in the realm of the real, which is the final mystery. However, his distinction of oneness and multiplicity has not been forgotten, and the meaning of one body with three forms has not yet been understood. Thus, in the next chapter, atoms and worlds are used to break through this." (Red Pine p 405)
Tao-ch'uan says, "At the temple gate, put your hands together. In the buddha hall, light incense. My song goes,
The billowing of clouds of fall come and goThe form is empty. Emptiness is the form. What better thing to do than to laugh at shuffling feet? They are not going anywhere while going everywhere. Life is good. I'd like to see Han-shan and Shih-te laugh. I bet I have, only they've been called by another name.
how many times to Nanyueh or Tientai
Han-shan and Shih-te laugh when they meet
and what do they laugh about
they laugh about walking without lifting their feet." (Red Pine p 406)
Te-ch'ing says, "When atoms are piled together to make a universe, there is a unity and yet no unity. And when a universe is separated into atoms of dust, there is a multitude and yet no multitude. From this point of view, the appearance of unity or multitude is impossible to explain." (Red Pine p 411)
I love it when multiplicity and unity are piled together.
Hui-neng says, "The mind is the root of good and evil. It can be foolish or wise. Its movement and stillness cannot be fathomed. It is vast and without borders. Thus it is called a universe." (Red Pine p 413) Chi-fo says, "The world is like the dharma body, and atoms of dust are like the apparition body. Just as the world is broken into atoms of dust, the dharma body is divided into apparition bodies. The pile of atoms is a world. The apparition bodies are not different. The apparition bodies are also the substance of the dharma body. The dharma body is not one. But the dharma body can give birth to the activity of apparition bodies. The atoms of dust are not the world, and yet the atoms of dust are the substance of the world. The world is not atoms of dust, and yet the world is formed by atoms of dust. If the world were real, it could not be broken into atoms of dust. Likewise, if the dharma body were real, it could not give birth to apparition bodies." (Red Pine pp 416-17)
At the beginning of this sutra, Subhuti asked the Buddha how bodhisattvas should stand, how they should walk, and how they should control their thoughts. The Buddha now concludes that bodhisattvas should stand on what they know, which is the selflessness and birthlessness of all dharmas, they should walk on what they see, which is the dharma body of reality, and they should control their thoughts by believing this teaching of the perfection of wisdom. Except for "believe," the Buddha uses the same language here that he uses in Ch. 14 and elsewhere. Just as buddhas jnata (know) those who practice this teaching by means of their buddha-knowledge, those who practice it jnata (know) all dharmas. Just as buddhas drista (see) those who practice this teaching by means of their buddha-vision, those who practice it drista (see) all dharmas. Thus, buddhas buddha (are aware) of those who adhimokta (believe) this teaching. But those who believe this teaching do so without attachment to any dharma. (Red Pine p 424)
No persuasion is needed, no argument, no rationale, is needed. You see, you believe. No separation, you believe. I guess that's what he's saying.
Red Pine says the gatha in Chapter 26 sums up this sutra:
Who looks for me in formHe suggests the gatha concluding this chapter may not even belong here, that it is the same ending as the end of the Perfection of Wisdom in Five Hundred Lines.
who seeks me in a voice
indulges in wasted effort
such people see me not.
As a lamp, a cataract, a star in spaceDogen focuses on this gatha a lot. Without it, possibly without it here especially, Zen would not be Zen as we know it. I think they are saying the same thing, anyway.
an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble
a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning
view all created things like this.
Hui-neng says, "Speaking dharmas with skillful and expedient means, considering people's faculties and capacities and using whatever works--this is what is called explaining to others. ...One must not discriminate but simply maintain an utterly empty mind that accords with the truth. ...Dreams are our false bodies. Illusions are our false thoughts. Bubbles are our afflictions. Shadows are our karmic obstructions. The karma of dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows are created dharmas. Uncreated dharmas are those that are real and free of name or appearance." (Red Pine p 434)