Diamond Sutra - Commentary Part V


  1. Commentary on Chapter 12   "Revering the Orthodox Teaching"
  2. Commentary on Chapter 13   "Receiving and Holding 'Thus' Dharma"

Commentary on Chapter 12   "Revering the Orthodox Teaching"

"Moreover, Subhuti, you should know that all the Gods, men, and Asuras of the world should make offerings to any place at which even so few as four lines of verse from this Sutra are spoken and so forth, just as they would to a Buddha's shrine or temple; how much the more so to any place where people can completely receive, hold, read and recite the Sutra. Subhuti, you should know that such people accomplish the foremost and most rare of dharmas. In any place the Sutra text is found, there is the Buddha or a reverent disciple.

It is the continuation of the previous chapter.

Only gods, men and Asuras are specifically mentioned in this chapter, because they are beings in Three Good Paths. The other three of the Six Paths of Rebirth i.e. animals, hungry ghosts and beings in the hell (Three Evil Paths) are not easy to make offerings to the Triple Jewels.

The Buddha, Prajna Sutra and Disciples as mentioned in this chapter are the Three Jewels in Buddhism. They are three in one and it is one to three. In any place the sutra text is found, there is the Buddha or a reverent disciple. Thus, all people who see the Sutra should respect it.

It is important to explain why the blessings and virtues of speaking the sutra, or even four lines, to others is greater than that of giving Seven Precious Gems in Three Thousand Great Thousand World Systems:

  1. Regardless of his wisdom, any person who has money or property, no matter how little the quantity is, is qualified to give. However, the giving of no-mark Prajna must be performed by a wise person.

  2. Similarly, those who receive and appreciate the money giving may be good or evil, wise or ignorant. However, those who accept and benefit from the Dharma giving must be the wise people.

  3. If money or property is given to the evil people, the result may be harmful to others. On the other hand, people who receive Dharma giving must be beneficial to themselves and to others.

  4. Money giving is limited in terms of quantity and temporary in terms of time, while Dharma giving is not.

  5. Money giving is beneficial to our physical body only, while Dharma giving is to our Dharma body and wisdom life.

  6. Prajna is the mother of all Buddhas in Three Periods of Time. Therefore Dharma giving can lead to Buddhahood, and money giving cannot.

Commentary on Chapter 13 "Receiving and Holding 'Thus' Dharma"

Then Subhuti said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, what should the Sutra be named? How should we respect and hold it?"

The Buddha told Subhuti, "The name of the Sutra is Vajra Prajna Paramita. You should respect and hold it by that name. And why? Subhuti, Prajna Paramita is spoken of by the Buddha as no Prajna Paramita, therefore it is called Prajna Paramita.

"Subhuti, what do you think? Is there any dharma spoken by the Tathagata?"

Subhuti said to the Buddha. "World Honored One, nothing has been spoken by the Tathagata."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Are all the motes of dust in three thousand great thousand world systems many?"

Subhuti said, "Very many, World Honored One."

"Subhuti, all motes of dust are spoken of by the Tathagata as no motes of dust, therefore they are called motes of dust. The world systems are spoken of by the Tathagata as no world systems, therefore they are called world systems."

"Subhuti, what do you think, can the Tathagata be seen by means of the thirty-two marks?"

"No, World Honored One, one cannot see the Tathagata by means of the thirty-two marks. And why? The thirty-two marks are spoken of by the Tathagata as no thirty-two marks, therefore they are called thirty two marks."

"Subhuti, a good man, or good woman, might give up his life as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River; but if a person were to receive and hold even so few as four lines of verse of the Sutra and explain them for others, his blessing would be greater."

At this point the Sutra in its first form probably finished.

As the merit and virtue of respecting and holding this sutra is limitless, there must be a name for the sutra in order to facilitate circulation in the worlds. Thus Subhuti asked, "What should the Sutra named? How should one respect and hold it?"

Shakyamuni said, "The name of the Sutra is Vajra Prajna Paramita. You should respect and hold it by that name."

It should note that this Sutra reveals the ultimate truth. It is as non-destructive as Vajra (i.e. diamond). The Prajna i.e. real mark Prajna is as sharp as Vajra cutting off the Four Marks of both self and Dharma. The perfection of Six Paramita is only achieved through cultivation with the real mark Prajna (i.e. no mark Prajna) and pure heart (i.e. heart dwelling nowhere).

As the name of the Sutra covers the entire meaning of the Sutra, Shakyamuni indicated that one can respect and hold the Sutra by just reading and reciting the name of the Sutra.

As all Dharmas are ultimately empty, is it controversial to give a name to the Sutra? Can a false name interpret a real truth? Certainly, in order to comply with the needs of beings, the Buddha spoke of the existence of Prajna Paramita. But those who saw no further than common truth developed an attachment for Prajna Paramita, which was basically false. The real truth is beyond spoken language and written words, thus the name does not exist. If it is spoken from the point of view of the Middle Way, it is a false name call Prajna Paramita, and nothing more.

So, do not be attached. Do not be attached to emptiness nor existence. Do not become attached to self nor Dharmas. If one says there certainly is Prajna Paramita, that is an attachment; so the Buddha explicitly added that is no Prajna Paramita, which is the actual truth.

Clearly the Buddha spoke Dharma, and yet he asked if he had spoken Dharma. Subhuti replied that he had not spoken Dharma. Buddha Dharma is always described to be inconceivable and not spoken of. There are several meanings:

  • As the Buddha Dharma is the reality of nomenum, thus it cannot be further spoken. For example, those who have experience in taste or smell of banana, know but cannot tell others what it is. The nature of reality of all Dharmas can only be understood by those who experience and certify personally, but they cannot be spoken of.

  • The Buddha certifies the nature of reality with the Prajna. However, both the nature and Prajna have no mark that is spoken of. Any mark, like a word to describe has already deviated from the real truth of the nature and the Prajna.

  • Buddha Dharmas exist everywhere at any time, which is in fact the Prajna of the Buddhas. No matter how the Buddha speak of, the Buddha is unable to speak all Dharmas.

  • There are so many languages in the worlds. One cannot be exactly the same as the other. If the Buddha Dharma is spoken with one language, it may mean nothing for others.

  • Buddha Dharma is fundamentally the same as spoken by all Buddhas. Nothing has to say further.

    Shakyamuni illustrated the doctrine with the example of the physical world, which is formed by all motes of dust. "Motes of dust" and "the world" are just false names, and they have no real substance themselves. Their existence is due to our attachment to self and Dharma. Particulars of dust verging on emptiness make up the world. A mote of dust is the smallest form of dependent retribution. The world is the largest dependent retribution formed by a collection of all motes of dust. If motes of dust were separated, the world would disappear. Dependent retribution forming the world is empty.

    Again, the thirty-two marks are the marks of the Response Body of the Buddha. They are formed by the proper retribution attached by the sentient beings. They are empty too, as they are conditioned. The Buddha Body is the Dharma Body, which has no mark.

    In Chapter 5, the Sutra states that

    In Chapter 20, the Sutra states that

    When Shakyamuni Buddha was on the causal ground, he gave up a thousand bodies and lives to rescue and take living beings across. However the Buddha indicated that the blessings and virtues of receiving and holding this Sutra are greater than those of giving up the body and life, and also those of giving any amount of money. Now, knowing the supreme excellence of the Sutra, it is imperative for us to believe, understand, receive and hold the Sutra without hesitation.