Diamond Sutra - Commentary Part VII

CONTENTS

  1. Commentary on Chapter 16   "Karmic Obstructions can be Purified"
  2. Commentary on Chapter 17   "Ultimately There is No Self"
  3. Commentary on Chapter 18   "One Substance Regarded as Identical"
  4. Commentary on Chapter 19   "The Dharma Realm Penetrated and Transformed"


Commentary on Chapter 16   "Karmic Obstructions can be Purified"

"Moreover, Subhuti, if a good man, or good woman, receives, holds, reads, and recites this Sutra and if people ridicule him, that man has karmic offenses from previous lives which destine him for the evil paths. But because in his present life he is ridiculed by others, his previous karmic offenses are destroyed and he will attain Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.

"Subhuti, I recall that in the past for limitless Asamkhyeya Kalpas prior to Burning Lamp Buddha, I encountered eighty-four thousands of millions of billions of Nayutas of Buddhas, and made offerings to them all, and served them all without exception, but if there is a person in the final period who can receive, hold, read, and recite this Sutra, the merit and virtue he obtains is a hundred times more, a thousand times more, a million, billion times more, to the point of being so great it exceeds all calculation and comparison, than the merit and virtue I gained from making offerings to all those Buddhas.

"Subhuti, if I were to express thoroughly the merit and virtue of a good man, or good woman, who in the final period receives, holds, reads, and recites the Sutra, those who heard might go insane, and disbelieve. Subhuti, you should know that this Sutra's meaning is inconceivable, and that its resulting retribution also is inconceivable."

This chapter speaks of those people who receive mitigated retribution with serious offenses.

As they do not understand the real mark, they may wonder why someone is still ridiculed by others when he recites the Diamond Sutra. Shakyamuni explained that those people would have committed incalculable karmic offenses in the past - perhaps even the Five Great Offenses:

  1. Killing one’s father
  2. Killing one’s mother
  3. Killing an Arhat
  4. Breaking up the harmonious Sangha
  5. Shedding the Buddha’s blood

As a result of such deeds, he has to fall into the Three Evil Paths (i.e. Hell, Hungry Ghosts and Animals). However, since he has received the subtle, wonderful, profound Real Mark, Prajna, the retribution is mitigated. The retribution takes in form of being ridiculed by others when he recites the Sutra. Actually, the ridicule itself contributes to the development of the virtuous conduct of that person, who should also take it as the practice the Paramita of Patience. Moreover the ridicule can dissolve the Karmic offenses. Thinking in this way, one will not get angry. Being patient naturally under insult is having realized the Paramita of Patience.

The Buddha further pointed out that ,if there is someone in the Dharma Ending Age who can receive the Sutra and hold it with his body, and who can read and recite it, his merits and virtues is greater than that of buddha for having made offerings for the Three Great Asamkheya Kalpas to all eighty-four thousands of millions of Nayutas of Buddhas, by several hundred, thousand, million, billion times. Neither calculation, nor analogy, nor comparison can adequately express it.

Why is the meaning of the Sutra inconceivable and that its resulting retribution also inconceivable? It is because the meaning of no mark (real mark) can only be personally verified by the Prajna. Those who have not attained the Prajna might conceive the meaning of the Sutra with false mind. The wonderful meaning of Real Mark Prajna is not what the mind can comprehend or words can express. The merits and virtues originated from the Real Mark Prajna are immeasurable and incalculable. However, the merits and virtues of making offering to the Buddhas, though great, are all with forms in material, or with marks in mind, and are thus measurable and calculable.


Commentary on Chapter 17 "Ultimately There is No Self"

Then Subhuti said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if a good man, or good woman, resolves his heart on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, how should he dwell, how should he subdue his heart?"

The Buddha told Subhuti, "A good man, or good woman, who has resolved his heart on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi should think thus: 'I should take all living beings across to extinction. Yet when all living beings have been taken across to extinction, there actually is not a single living being who has been taken across to extinction. And why? Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva has a mark of self, a mark of others, a mark of living beings, or a mark of a life, then he is not a Bodhisattva. For what reason? Subhuti, actually there is no dharma of resolving the heart on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.

"Subhuti, what do you think? While the Tathagata was with Burning Lamp Buddha, was there any dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi attained?"

"No, World Honored One. As I understand what the Buddha has said, while the Buddha was with Burning Lamp Buddha there was no Anuttarasamyaksambodhi attained."

The Buddha said, "So it is, so it is, Subhuti. There actually was no dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi which the Tathagata attained. Subhuti, if there had been a dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi which the Tathagata attained, then Burning Lamp Buddha would not have given me the prediction, 'you will in the future attain Buddhahood and be named Shakyamuni.' Since there actually was no dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi attained, Burning Lamp Buddha gave me the prediction saying these words, 'You will in the future attain Buddhahood and be named Shakyamuni.'"

"And why? 'Tathagata' means thusness of all dharmas. If someone were to say the Tathagata attains Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, Subhuti, actually there is no dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi which the Buddha attain. Subhuti, the Anuttarasamyaksambodhi which the Tathagata attains, in that, there is neither true nor false. For that reason the Tathagata speaks of all dharmas as Buddhadharmas. Subhuti, all dharmas are spoken of as no dharmas. Therefore they are called dharmas."

"Subhuti, it is like a person's big body."

Subhuti said, "World Honored One, the person's big body is spoken of by the Tathagata as no big body, therefore it is called a big body."

"Subhuti, a Bodhisattva is also thus. If he were to say, 'I should take measureless living beings across to extinction, then he would not be called a Bodhisattva. And why? Subhuti, there actually is no dharma called a Bodhisattva. For that reason the Buddha spoke of all dharmas as devoid of self, devoid of others, devoid of living beings, and devoid of a life."

"Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva were to say, 'I shall adorn Buddhalands,' He would not be called a Bodhisattva. And why? The adornment of Buddhalands is spoken of by the Tathagata as no adornment. Therefore it is called adornment. Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva comprehends that all dharmas are devoid of self, the Tathagata calls him a true Bodhisattva."

In Chapter 2, Subhuti had asked the Buddha the same question. At that time, Subhuti was actually asking how he himself could resolve his heart on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. It was for his self-benefit. Now, he asked how all living beings could do the same. The Buddha answered that people who have resolved their hearts on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi should take all living beings across to extinction. But, the Buddha pointed out that, having taken the living beings all across to extinction, people should not recognise any living beings as having been taken across. They should not have any attachment on the mark of a self to take across, the mark of others being taken across, the mark of living beings in the act of taking across and the mark of a life who has been taken across and who has not. If there is attachment to the Four Marks, then one has not attained the emptiness of Dharmas, one has not even attained the emptiness of self! He is not a Bodhisattva. He has not resolved his heart on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. In the state of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi everything is equal, pure and unconditioned. Resolving the heart on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is just an expression, nothing more. Originally, there is not one Dharma which can be obtained.

However, if there is no Dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, why does one need to be resolved? With his own experience with Burning Lamp Buddha, the Buddha reiterated that there was absolutely no Dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi which he attained. If there was the Dharma, the Burning Lamp Buddha would not give Shakyamuni the prediction.

The Sanskrit name Shakyamuni is translated as "One who is capable of humaneness" and "The Still and Silent One". The former means that he accords with conditions, and represents movement. The latter means that he is unmoving, and represents stillness. Although he accords with conditions, he is unmoving. Although he is unmoving, he accords with conditions. It is the Real Mark of Middle Way.

The Sanskrit word Tathagata is also translated as "Thus come One". It means that all Dhamas are "Thus", i.e. in a state of unmoving suchness. Therefore, the so-called Dharma of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi that Tathagata "attains" is neither true nor false. It is also the Middle Way; it is Real Mark prajna.

Although there is no Dharma which can be attained, all Dharmas are Buddhadharma, the totality of all Dharmas. There is nothing beyond Buddhadharma. However, since the Buddhadharma is ultimately not attainable at all, how could a single Dharma be attained?

When spoken from the point of view of common truth, Dharmas exist. If spoken from the point of actual truth, no Dharmas exist. Therefore they are called Dharmas. It is the real mark prajna again.

Why did the Buddha say that all Dharmas are no Dharmas, but just called Dharmas? The big body was an example. The big body spoken of by the Buddha is no big body. Since the Dharma body has no marks, one cannot call it a big body. If one uses a false name to describe, one can say that it is a big body and that is all.

The Buddha expounded the concept with further examples on the Bodhisattva who takes across living beings to extinction and the adornment of Buddhaland.

Bodhisattvas should adorn Buddhalands without the thought of adnorment. That is not to say that they should not adorn Buddhalands. It means that they should adorn them as if they had done nothing. So it is said:

Within the doors of Buddha-work Not one Dharma is rejected. In the nature of true suchness, there is not one note of dust.

Within the doors of Buddhahood, there is no Dharma which is not Buddhadharma. Every Dharma one can take up is Buddhadharma. And yet in the nature of true suchness, it is so pure that the finest dust mote does not exist.


Commentary on Chapter 18 "One Substance Regarded as Identical"

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata have the flesh eye?"

"So it is, World Honored One. The Tathagata has the flesh eye."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata have the heavenly eye?"

"So it is, World Honored One. The Tathagata has the heavenly eye."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata have the wisdom eye?"

"So it is, World Honored One. The Tathagata has the wisdom eye."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata have the dharma eye?"

"So it is, World Honored One. The Tathagata has the "the dharma eye

"Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata have the Buddha eye?"

"So it is, World Honored One. The Tathagata has the Buddha eye."

"Subhuti, what do you think? Has the Tathagata spoken of the sand grains in the Ganges River?"

"So it is, World Honored One. The Tathagata has spoken of that sand."

"Subhuti, what do you think? If all the grains of sand in one Ganges River became an equal number of Ganges Rivers, and all the grains of sand in all those Ganges Rivers became that many Buddhalands. Would they be many?"

"Very many, World Honored One."

The Buddha told Subhuti, "All the various thoughts which occur to all the living beings in all those Buddhalands are completely known by the Tathagata. And why? All thoughts are spoken of by the Tathagata as no thoughts, therefore they are called thoughts. For what reason? Subhuti, past thought cannot be got at, present thought cannot be got at, and future thought cannot be got at."

This chapter starts another round to cut off the doubts of the disciples regarding the fruition and the cultivation in Buddhism. Subhuti doubted and thought that as the fruition of his cultivation, the Buddha possesses the Five Eyes, namely the flesh eye, heavenly eye, wisdom eye, Dharma eye and Buddha eye, therefore there should be things which he can see.

  1. Flesh eye - to see people and even ghosts and spirits, objects within several miles without physical obstruction, etc.
  2. Heavenly eye - to see everything in the heavens.
  3. Wisdom eye - to see things whether it is right or wrong, true or false in all Dharma Realms. As an Arhat, he has the wisdom of “no-self? As a Bodhisattva, he has both the wisdom of “no-self?and “no-Dharma?
  4. Dharma eye - to see the reality of all phenomena and Dharma, the subtle relationship between true emptiness and wonderful existence.
  5. Buddha eye - possessed by Buddha only, to see all things and Dharma perfectly and completely, without any obstruction.

However, the Buddha said that his Five Eyes are not really eyes, and that he sees by using the minds of living beings. Furthermore, there are uncountable living beings in the uncountable worlds, and the Tathagata knows them all, and sees all their different minds, because these beings are in the Tathagata's own mind. Therefore, when a thought arises and the mind of a being moves, it is Tathagata's own mind which moves.

Subhuti doubted again and thought that since a thought in the mind of a being arises and extinguishes, does the Tathagata experience the same? The Buddha replied that the thoughts in the past, present and future could not be got at. By eliminating the concept of time, the Buddha indicated that the mind of a being is fundamentally absolute and has neither birth nor death, which is the same as the Tathagata's mind. This shows that the mind of Buddha and living beings do not differ from one another.

All thoughts refers to what is going on in the minds of all living beings. No thoughts means that they are not the true heart. Therefore they are called thoughts means they are just the ordinary thoughts in people's minds, nothing more.

With respect to the concept of time, what we call the past is already gone, thus the past does not remain. Similarly, what we refer to as the future has not yet arrived, and so it also cannot be got at. For the present, as soon as we speak of the present, it has already passed, so it too does not remain. Those three kinds of thoughts in the minds of living beings are ultimately unobtainable. The Tathagata completely knows the thoughts in the minds of all living beings.


Commentary on Chapter 19 "The Dharma Realm Penetrated and Transformed"

"Subhuti, what do you think? If someone filled the three thousand great thousand worlds with the seven precious gems and gave them as a gift, would that person for that reason obtain many blessings?"

"So it is, World Honored One. That person would for that reason obtain very many blessings."

"Subhuti, if blessings and virtue were real, the Tathagata would not have spoken of obtaining many blessings. It is because blessings and virtue do not exist that the Tathagata has spoken of obtaining many blessings."

In the previous chapter, the Buddha said that the past, present and future thoughts could not be got at; and also said that there were no Buddhalands to adorn and no beings to liberate, etc. Subhuti might turn his thought to another extreme that, since giving did not reap any blessings, it would be no point to practise it.

The Buddha pointed out that if blessings had an actual substance, if there were something tangible in mark, then the Tathagata would not have spoken of the person's obtaining many blessings. Since there is no actual substance nor anything to which one can attach, the Tathagata says that the person obtains many blessings. The merit is great because of the non-existence of merit.

The Buddha cut off the doubt by declaring that the merit of no-merit is the greatest merit, In the same way, the capacity of the mind is the graetest when it is freed from delusion.