Key Message of Diamond Sutra
Reading of the Diamond Sutra : A General Commentary on the Diamond Sutra
By Paramartha

The 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.
Sakyamuni 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:
The true sign of every phenomenon is signless.
Detachment from signs is actualizing Buddhahood.

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 existence.
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.
The Diamond Sutra defines a Bodhisattva (Wisdom Being or Enlightened Being) thus:
A person, 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.
The 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 consciousness.
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.
This 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
3. 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.