The Diamond Cutter
I 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 May 6 1993
Buddha once dwelt in Anathapindika's
Park, in the Jeta Grove at Sravasti, with 1,250 monks and many
Bodhisattvas. 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
A 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?"
Lead all beings to nirvana
Buddha replied: "Listen carefully. All
Bodhisattvas should hold this thought: Every kind of creation
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.
"Why? 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.
"A 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 Buddha."
Tathagata's phenomenal attributes
Buddha then asked Subhuti, "But what do
you think? Can the Tathagata be recognized by any phenomenal
"No, Buddha. Why? Because the Tathagata has
taught that the possession of phenomenal attributes is in fact
non-possession of any phenomenal attributes."
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."
Ask about future
Subhuti 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?"
Buddha 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
"And 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 or adharma, for in them
there will be neither perception nor non-perception.
"How 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.'"
Buddha 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?"
Subhuti 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."
Merit is non-merit
"What 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 inestimable merit?"
Subhuti answered: "The merit accrued would be beyond
reckoning. Why? Because the Tathagata has taught that such
merit is non-merit."
One who has entered the stream
"What 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."
One who must return once
Buddha 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 called once-returner."
One who will not return
"Do you think", Buddha asked, "that the
one who will not return at all, ever thinks 'the fruit of the
never-returner is mine'?"
"No, Buddha," Subhuti answered.
"For nothing which can be considered ultimately real has won
the status of never-returner'."
One who is fully enlightened
"Then," Buddha asked, "does the fully
enlightened one, ever think, 'full enlightenment is mine'?"
"Indeed 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."
Dharma is non-dharma
"Do you think, Subhuti," Buddha then
asked, "there is any dharma or attainment which the Tathagata
acquired from the fully enlightened one?"
"No, not one,"
Perfection is non-perfection
Buddha said: "If a Bodhisattva declared
'I perfect serene Buddha-fields', 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.
"The Bodhisattva should
develop a thought which is in no way dependent upon sights,
sounds, smells tastes, tactile sensations or mental objects.
Existence is non-existence
"Suppose, Subhuti, a man had an
enormous body, like Sumeru, the king of mountains. Would the
sense of personal existence he had also be enormous?"
"Yes, 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
Summarize the teaching on dharma
Subhuti 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.
"Do you think, Subhuti, that the Tathagata has taught any
"No, Buddha," Subhuti answered, "not at all!"
Subhuti, hearing this discourse on
dharma, understood it and was moved to tears. He spoke:
"Buddha! 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.
"When 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!"
Buddha 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
"Further, 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.
"A 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 supporting
"A 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.
"A 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."
Buddha 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.
"I 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
"If 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."
Lead all beings to nirvana 2
Subhuti asked: "How, Buddha, does one
who seeks the Bodhisattva Path tread it?"
"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.
"Do you think, Subhuti, that
when the Tathagata was with the enlightened one there was any
dharma by which he came to know supreme enlightenment?"
"There was not," Subhuti answered, "any dharma by which
the Tathagata has known supreme enlightenment."
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
"No, Buddha," Subhuti answered.
"Thus," 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.
"Subhuti, 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."
What does the Tathagata see?
Buddha asked Subhuti: "What do you
think? Does the Tathagata possess the physical eye?"
Buddha," Subhuti replied.
"Does the Tathagata possess the
divine eye of enlightenment?"
"Surely, Buddha, the
Tathagata possesses it."
"Does the Tathagata possess the
eye of transcendental wisdom, Subhuti?"
"Indeed he does,
"Does the Tathagata possess the dharma eye?"
"And, Subhuti, does the Tathagata
possess the Buddha-eye of universal compassion?"
doubt, Buddha, the Tathagata possesses all these eyes."
Comments on the mind
"Subhuti, 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."
Form is no-form
"Is the Tathagata to be seen," Buddha
asked, "in the manifestation of his form?"
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'."
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."
Being is non-being
Subhuti asked: "in the distant future
when the way is obscured, will there be beings who, upon
hearing these dharmas, will believe them?"
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'.
Summary of dharma
"Do you think, Subhuti," Buddha asked,
"there is any dharma by which the Tathagata has known supreme
"There is no such dharma, Buddha."
"Thus, 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'.
"Does 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.
Examples of misinterpretation
The 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.
"Suppose, 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."
"But would not,
Buddha," Subhuti asked, "a Bodhisattva gain much merit?"
"He would gain it, Subhuti, but he should not grasp it."
Buddha 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?"
"Indeed, 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
"Further, 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
Subhuti answered: "Not at all, Buddha. That which
the Tathagata has called 'a conception of self' is no
"Therefore, 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'.
"If 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
Like 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.
Thus spoke Buddha.