Key Message of Diamond Sutra
of the Diamond Sutra : A General Commentary on the Diamond Sutra
enterprise of Diamond Sutra (Vajraccdeka-prajñaparamita-sutra) mirrors
the quintessence of Sakyamuni Buddha. Celebrated Buddhist scholar, professor David
J. Kalupahana in his key-note delivered at the 30th Anniversary Celebrations of
the Post-graduate institute of Pali and Buddhist University of Kelaniya University
asserts that Diamond Sutra is the resurrection of original Buddhism. His assertion
reflects that the authentic Word of the Buddha is found in this Mahayana Sutra
which is the popularly recited in Asia but paradoxically, it is not much apprehended
and applied by its adherents. The esoteric dimension of Buddhism is to make return
journey to one's Origin or to perceive intuitively the Buddha-nature. Intuitive
perception of Buddha-nature corresponds to the annihilation of the illusory selfish
self or egoistic self-identity. With the annihilation of the false self-identity
, the mind of a worldling is absolutely appeased. The mission of Sakyamuni Buddha's
45 years of ministry or promulgation of Dharma is to terminate human anguish or
suffering through appeasement of human dispositions or volitions.
Buddha expounded thus to Subhuti, the principal interlocutor in the great Dharma
assembly and other noble audience, thus:
All signs, marks or characteristics
are illusory and unreal. Whoever perceives signlessness, marklessness or characteristiclessness
perceives the Buddha.
It is, therefore, evident that Diamond
Sutra expounds that all phenomena of the empirical world are illusive and therefore
unreal. The apparent signs, marks or characteristics perceived by ordinary worldlings
are thus illusive like dreams, magics, mirages, echoes, and so forth. Concepts
of signs, marks or characteristics of all phenomena are erroneously, mentally
constructed by the false imaginations of the worldlings. The worldlings merely
perceive appearances which are illusive knowledge of conventional truth. They
are called worldlings because they have not perceived the ultimate reality which
is the knowledge of ultimate truth. The knowledge of conventional truth conceals
or veils the ultimate truth. The Diamond Sutra , like any other esoteric teachings
of Theravada Suttas or Mahayana Sutra s, reveals the true nature or suchness of
all phenomena which are signless, markless or characteristicless in the ultimate
sense. Signlessness, marklessness or characteristicless connote that all phenomena
are empty of self-identities or self-natures or intrinsic natures. Whoever have
discerned the signlessness, marklessness or characteristiclessness or emptiness
perceives the emptiness of the five aggregates both internally and externally
. Liberation from suffering or vexation ensues from such a discernment of the
ultimate Truth. Non-grasping upon the five aggregates or letting-go is then realized
as the fruit of the path. The purpose of actualizing non-grasping or letting-go
is not discarding or abandoning the conventional world. It is the application
of signless wisdom to dwell in the world of signs. It is living in the conventional
world in which one is mentally appeased and that one's greed, hatred and delusion
are thus not aroused by erroneous, perverse perception of the conventional reality
due to ignorance or lack of wisdom . The Diamond Sutra expounds the key theme
of original Buddhism thus:
Dwell upon nothing and produce the (pure) mind.
It means that one ought to develop a pure mind of equanimity of non-attachment
and non-aversion. It is not an advocate of discarding or abandoning the conventional
reality but of employing the wisdom of emptiness to dwell in the world of signs,
marks or characteristics (world of concepts) without the notions of any sign,
mark or characteristic. Perception of signs, marks or characteristics is delusion
or ignorance. It defiles the human consciousness. Conversely, perception of signlessness,
marklessness or characteristiclessness constitutes the experience of self-realization
of the ultimate Truth of emptiness . It purifies human consciousness. In other
words, the self-enlightenment experience is the transformation from the utility
of ordinary consciousness to the operation of the wisdom of perfection. This is
the original meaning of self-enlightenment which is self-awakening from ignorance.
Sakyamuni Buddha emerges in this sa?saric world not to teach but to awaken thus:
true sign of every phenomenon is signless.
Detachment from signs is actualizing
Relinquishing Four Signs
The principal theme of the Diamond
Sutra communicated to us is to awaken us to relinquish four categories of signs
which represent the illusory appearances of the multiplicity of the Dharma is
non-dharma but is till dharma in empirical world.
One should not perceive
the sign of Self, sign of , human being signs of sentient beings , sign of tri-temporal
The diverge signs, marks or characteristics of the conditioned
phenomena or contingent beings of the multiplicity of the world do not mirror
the ultimate truth. Why should one be attached to or averse towards the illusory
multiplicity ? But the Diamond Sutra warns us not to proceed to the extreme attitude
of abandoning or discarding these signs, marks or characteristics. The Sutra admonishes
us to detach from them but not to abandon them to preserve the wisdom of middle
path. Therefore, It is reiterated emphatically the Diamond Sutra thus: 'Dharma
is non-dharma'. Non-dharma connotes that a phenomena in the ultimate sense is
signless or empty of a permanent substance like self, soul or intrinsic nature
or self-nature. When all signs, marks or characteristics are perceived to be empty,
detachment from all signs, marks or characteristics consequently occur. It is
important to highlight that detachment ought to occur without abandoning or discarding
the conventional diverge utilities of the concepts of signs, marks or characteristics.
While emptiness of signs, marks or characteristics are admitted or acknowledged,
the pragmatic value of the concepts of diverge signs, marks or characteristics,
though illusive and unreal they may be, is to be recognized or acknowledged. In
other words, in the ultimate sense, signs do not exist but in the conventional
sense, the signs exist illusively like dreams, magics and so on. Otherwise, one
will erroneously uphold the extreme view of nihilism or nothingness. If this false
view of nihilism is upheld, it is then comparable to the metaphor of a snake expert:
A snake expert held a poisonous snake by the wrong way and instead he was striken
by the snake. Such false view of nihilism is equally incorrigible.
Sutra defines a Bodhisattva (Wisdom Being or Enlightened Being) thus:
who reifies the sign of self, the sign of human being, signs of sentient beings
and sign of tri-temporal existence, is not a true Bodhisattva.
The Sutra expounds
that a true Bodhisattva (Enlightened Being) is one who is capable of appeasing
his or her mind or dispositions thus:
A Bodhisattva ought to liberate all
sentient beings without cherishing any notion of a sentient being who has been
liberated. A Bodhisattva who conceives the sign of self, sign of human being,
signs of sentient beings and sign of tri-temporal existence is not a true Bodhisattva.
Sutra further expounds that a Bodhisattva ought to purify his or her mind thus:
Do not grasp upon sight, sound , smell, taste, touch and thought and produce
(pure) consciousness. One
ought not to grasp upon anything to produce the
It is important not to misinterpret the exposition of non-grasping
upon the six objects of consciousness, namely, sight, sound, smell. taste, touch
and thought. Non-grasping upon pleasant or unpleasant sight is seeing everything
without grasping. Without grasping upon sights, , one can still see forms vividly
without defilement. Without grasping upon sound, one can still listen to both
pleasant or unpleasant sounds without defilement. Without grasping upon smell,
one can still smell pleasant or unpleasant smells without defilement. Without
grasping upon taste, one can still taste the pleasant or unpleasant tastes without
defilement. Without grasping upon touch, one can still touch the pleasant or unpleasant
touches without any defilement. Without grasping upon thought, one can still think
of thoughts without defilement. In other words, a Bodhisattva still utilizes all
his or her six-sense faculty to live normally like an ordinary person but with
a very significant distinction. The distinction is that a Bodhisattva utilizes
his or her six-sense faculty in all places at all times without being conditioned
by the external stimuli and without being defiled because his selfish or egoistic
self is extinct. When a delicious food is consumed, a Bodhisattva still enjoys
the delicious foods with delicious tastes but without the notion of an agent or
instrument of eating. The eating activity is not conceived as 'I'm eating' but
is wisely conceived as merely an 'Eating process' without any notion of an 'Eater'.
He transcends the duality between the eater and what is eaten. Both the eater
and what is eaten is perceived as one and the same and are dependently co-arisen.
Therefore, a Bodhisattva's feelings of pleasantness or unpleasantness of life
experiences are not destroyed even he or she has become a Bodhisattva. The great
beauty of being a Bodhisattva is perfectly mindful, perfectly aware, perfectly
heedful, perfectly concentrated, perfectly tranquil, mostly perfectly wise, and
hence perfectly virtuous as all his or her sensual activities are cankerless.
A Bodhisattva, in short, is a perfectly unselfish person. The personality of a
Bodhisattva, according to Sakyamuni Buddha himself is comparable to the metaphor
of a lotus: A lotus penetrates through the sullied mud and the sullied water,
and springs forth and above the surface of the sullied water without being sullied.
A true Bodhisattva or
a wisdom being who is an Enlightened One, does not reify or objectify a Self,
a human being, sentient beings and tri-temporal existence of sentient beings.
In other words, a Bodhisattva perceives the Emptiness of all objects of six sense
perceptions. Emptiness of objects connotes that all objects are actually signless,
characteristicless or markless. The signs, marks or characteristics are designated
or named by the worldly conventions are actually the products of erroneous mental
constructs. Erroneous mental concepts result from false imaginations of the worldlings.
As the worldlings, who designate or name the objects, have not themselves discerned
all phenomena of the multiplicity of the empirical world, all concepts and corresponding
designations formed or constructed by ordinary worldlings do not mirror the ultimate
truth. The designated objects are characterized by three qualities, namely, pleasant,
unpleasant and neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The pleasant objects are designated
as objects of likes and the unpleasant objects are designated as objects of dislikes.
Owing to this dualistic discrimination of objects into objects of likes and dislikes,
the mind of the perceiver is thus mentally perturbed and obsessed by the discrimination
resulting in further false mental constructs or fabrications. Consequently, there
arise normally two kinds of worldly reactions: there arises attachment to the
objects of likes and aversion towards objects of dislikes.
It may be argued
that it is the nature of man to like what is pleasant or agreeable; it is the
nature of man to dislike what is unpleasant or disagreeable. Buddhist doctrine
of detachment does not recommend us to destroy our natural emotions. The Buddhist
training of detachment is to help the worldlings to perceive pleasant objects
without being conditioned or defiled by the objects. The most important pragmatic
value of detachment from pleasant objects, such as the wealth of others, is not
to take what are not given or the non-transgression of the second item of the
Five Precepts. The most practical value of detachment from unpleasant objects,
such as the abusing words of an enemy is that one is morally restrained not to
retaliate. Without retaliation , the revenge of an eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth is avoided. Thus, one is able to refrain from retaliating by means
of violence, killing, harsh speech, back stabbing or hatred. Thus, the practice
of Chan constructs social harmony. Succinctly put, the Diamond Sutra like any
other Buddhist scriptures instructs and trains a practitioner to eventually become
an unselfish, benevolent and undeluded cultivated person of ethical excellence.
Learning and practising profound Dharma does not necessitate that one should go
forth from home to homelessness to become recluse. The Sixth Chinese Chan patriarch
expounds in the Platform Sutra thus:
Self-cultivation can be developed at home
as a householder and it is not merely confined to a temple or monastery.
is the beauty of Chan practice. It is this very reason that it has become popular
in the west today.
1. Edward Conze. The Large Sutra of
Perfect Wisdom: Motilal Banarsidass Private Ltd. , Dehli, 1990
2. Donald S.
Lopez. Elaboration on Emptiness, Munshiram Manoharlal Publisher PVt. Ltd. , 1998
Edward Conze. English Version of Vajraccedika-prajnaparamita-Sutra , Motilal Banarsidass
Private Ltd. Dehli 1990.
4. Prof. Asanga Oral Lecture on Early Mahayana: Vajraccedika-prajñaparamita-sutra:
Post-graduate institute of Pali and Buddhist University of Kelaniya, 11. 05. 2005.