Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra
Vajra Sutra (Diamond Sutra)
Detailed Exposition by Living Buddha Lian-Sheng, Grandmaster Sheng-yen Lu
Translated into English by True Buddha School Vajra Sutra Translation Team
At that time, the senior monk Subhuti was present at the assembly. He rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, knelt on his right knee, and with palms joined, respectfully bowed and addressed the Buddha saying, “World-honored One, the Tathagata’s sublime mindfulness and entrustment to the bodhisattvas is indeed extraordinary.
“World-honored One, when good men and good women give rise to the mind of anuttara samyaksambodhi and strive for perfect enlightenment, how should they dwell in their minds and how should they master their minds?”
The Buddha said, “Excellent, Subhuti. As you said, the Tathagata is mindful of the bodhisattvas and entrusts the bodhisattvas. Now listen carefully while I tell you how the mind of good men and women should abide when they strive for the perfect enlightenment of anuttara samyaksambodhi and how they should master their minds.”
“Wonderful indeed is your teaching, World-honored One. I will pay heed to what you say.”
I will now expound the Vajra Sutra.
Actually, we haven’t even started on Chapter Two—Subhuti’s Request. We’re still talking about Subhuti himself, and this may take quite some time. Someone noted on a copy of the sutra text, that I am to start on Chapter Three—The Right and Ultimate Meaning of the Great Vehicle on August 21, 2021. They meant that I should already be finished with the earlier chapters. But no! I haven’t finished what I want to say about Subhuti yet!
The Buddha put his whole heart into teaching Subhuti, observing Subhuti’s past lifetimes. I have mentioned that in his past lives, Subhuti was an extremely angry person. Therefore, the Buddha’s first lesson to Subhuti was the endurance paramita. I have previously discussed the perfection of endurance. To what extent must one cultivate and perfect endurance? To the point where “there is no more endurance.”
What do I mean by saying that there is endurance and yet there is no endurance? Endurance is practiced until finally, there is no longer a need to endure. Endurance is still there, but it has become so natural it’s as if there is no enduring.
In the beginning we have to endure, and this is unbearable. It’s not easy to remain unaffected when someone insults you. Typically, what was it in Taiwanese? Like a pile of ashes: with a puff of breeze, the ashes are pitter-pattering everywhere. At first one is calm; then someone makes a thoughtless comment or casual remark, and one is suddenly a pile of ashes flying all over the place! What was it in Taiwanese? Any Taiwanese here? There’s a saying which describes a hot-tempered person. [nobody says anything.] Jeez, it‘s got to be me, this old chief who thought of it. You Taiwanese didn’t even say anything. This type of person is described as “ashes scattering in the wind.” With the slightest breeze, one scatters all over the place.
Subhuti was like this: when the Buddha taught him the paramita of endurance, he endured and kept on enduring until finally, endurance became natural. Slander, accusations, whatever it was, he just let it come and go naturally. He didn’t feel anything at all. When one reaches this point, it’s no longer “endurance” because one does not feel that one is enduring anything. It has become so natural that there is no more “enduring.” This is what you want to achieve.
After attaining this state, one can progress to Unborn Endurance. This is a step up. Subhuti attained the state of unborn endurance. In this state, accusations are not accusations; slander is not slander; insults are not insults. Since these are never born, what insult and slander even exist? This state is called “unborn.” When one reaches this state, one attains the fruition of unborn endurance.
No defamation. No accusations. Nothing exists. Can you do it? The Buddha told Subhuti that to realize unborn endurance he has to reach this state.
At this point, you might still not understand, but as I continue my exposition, you will begin to understand. This is what the Vajra Sutra is about! It is one of the essences of the Vajra Sutra, one of its meanings.
Slandering never really exists, so there is nothing to endure. The so-called defamation never exists either, so nothing to endure. Nothing really ever exists! Since nothing exists, what is there to endure?
It’s because there is no “endurance” that it is called “endurance.”
Subhuti cultivated to such a state, which in buddhism is called the samadhi of non-contention. No contention means there are neither conflicts nor disputes. Subhuti reached this level of attainment. Ultimately, he achieved the samadhi of emptiness. From “unborn,” one can attain the samadhi of emptiness. This is the entering into a meditative state through emptiness.
Subhuti entered the samadhi of emptiness, and within this meditation of emptiness, two phenomena appeared.
First, he was living in a cave at Vulture Peak where he meditated and cultivated. In his samadhi of emptiness, countless celestial goddesses appeared, showering him with flowers. As these celestial flowers descended, they covered half his body. He was sitting in a shower of swirling flowers that formed an orb around him, covering him up.
He awakened, looked up, and exclaimed, “So many swirling flowers coming down everywhere! Who are you? Why are you showering me with flowers from the sky?” Sakra-devanam Indra replied, “I’m the Lord of the Trayastrimsa Heaven, and I’m leading all the celestial beings to see you. In your samadhi of emptiness, your entire body radiates light throughout the whole cosmos. We saw this inconceivable light, so we came down to see what was going on. We discovered it was coming from you, Subhuti in the samadhi of emptiness. To give praises we showered you with flowers.”
Subhuti asked, “Why did you shower me with flowers?” Lord Indra answered, “Because you entered into the samadhi of emptiness. What is the meditative concentration of emptiness? No afflictions, no self-grasping and no attachment to phenomena. Because you are in the samadhi of emptiness, we praised you by showering you with flowers.”
Subhuti then explained the principle of entering the samadhi of emptiness to the celestial beings. As Grandmaster mentioned, these principles are no-self, no phenomena and no afflictions. By these principles, one enters the samadhi of emptiness. Hence, the heavenly beings praised Subhuti by showering him with flowers. This is the first phenomena experienced by Subhuti when he entered the meditation of emptiness. It’s recorded in the sutras that when Subhuti entered the samadhi of emptiness, Lord Indra and the celestial goddesses showered him with flowers.
The second phenomenon appeared when Subhuti got sick one day. You might ask, if Subhuti had attained the samadhi of emptiness, why he could still get sick. After all, he had attained the samadhi of emptiness. He no longer had a “self.” Nonetheless, he still had a physical body which had to follow the Buddha around. When he was hungry, Subhuti still had to beg for alms. He still had to eat. Since we humans eat grain, how can we remain free from sickness? Nobody can. No exceptions.
Everybody here, please raise your hand if you’ve never been sick or had a cold. Everyone has had a cold one time or another. If you don’t feel any ailments in your body right now, please raise your hand. [Someone raised their hand] You have no ailments whatsoever? [“No”] Backache or any other pain in your body? [“No”] Are you nearsighted? [“No”] Your eyesight is good, and you are not nearsighted? [“I got Lasik so it’s fixed now”]. You have had Lasik treatment? If you had Lasik, that means you were once nearsighted. [laughter] Grandmaster has never had Lasik treatment. I’ve never worn glasses. I perform an eye exercise every morning as soon as I get up. I have taught this practice before.
Every morning upon waking up, stand by the window, close your eyes and rotate your eyeballs clockwise fourteen times. They must be big rotations. Then open your eyes and look into the distance as far as you can. I look at the furthest double trees. I’ve trained my eyes this way for so many years. As a result, I don’t need to wear glasses. I can see very clearly, every letter, even the smallest print. One must put in the effort consistently to get results. This is also a kind [of perseverance].
Then, tap your teeth together 36 times. As time went on, I still lost a tooth. A dentist disciple, Dr. Kuei-Ching Hung, glued it back on. So, I can’t say my teeth didn’t have any problems. I did have some issues with my teeth and an infection in my gums as well. An infected tooth is also considered an illness.
I also perform a practice called ear drumming. Cover both ears with your palms and tap the back of your head with your fingers like you’re drumming. I tap 70 times. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Ten sets of seven. Sometimes I do it as: “one, two, three, four, five, six, Amitofo”, “two, two, three, four, five, six, Amitofo.” Altogether, 70 times. My hearing is still excellent, and my eyesight is also excellent. My tooth couldn’t be helped. [joking] Human life starts at 70. What starts at 70? One start losing teeth at the age of 70. Joint pain, lower back pain, all pain starts at 70. [laughter] That’s the way it is. Other things are still okay.
When Subhuti was ill, Lord Indra descended again. Subhuti asked Indra, “I’m sick. Why did you come?” He replied, “We have come to sing to you.” Lord Indra immediately started singing to Subhuti, and all the celestial beings were in the sky singing to comfort him. After listening to them, Subhuti’s heart blossomed. All the flowers in his heart blossomed. [This is a title of a Chinese song. Grandmaster sings and chuckles.] As soon as the flowers in his heart blossomed, Subhuti got better right away.
What did they sing? They sang praise that Subhuti’s virtues and conduct are higher than the sky and his effort is as incessant as the flowing water. That his virtues are as high as a mountain. That his cultivation and merits is as lasting as the flowing water. The celestial beings sang for him! Music is healing and therapeutic. Subhuti immediately recovered from his illness.
Do you remember that Grandmaster once had cellulitis? The Venerable Elder Xuyun was passing by in the sky and saw that I was sick. His hand extended through the clouds from up above, all the way through the roof of my house. I was lying on my bed, and he touched my head and blessed me. Do you remember Venerable Elder Xuyun? I have a statue of Venerable Elder Xuyun that was offered to me by Master Changren from the Dzogchen Center Ltd. in Hong Kong. This statue is now at the True Buddha Tantric Quarter [in Redmond, WA]. I have an affinity with Venerable Elder Xuyun. Because of this affinity, he saw that I was sick as he was passing by, then gave me a blessing on my head and comforted me.
Do you remember? When I was in retreat, I suffered from head splitting syndrome. It felt like my skull was splitting open. I visited Korea to pay homage and circumambulate temples and pagodas. There was a huge outdoor statue of Medicine Buddha. I paid homage and made prostrations to the statue. I was dizzy and almost fainted. On the way back home, I had a vision of Medicine Buddha [Bhaisajyaguru], Medicine King Bodhisattva [Bhaisajyaraja], Supreme Medicine Bodhisattva [Bhaisajyasamudgata], Sunlight Radiance Bodhisattva [Suryaprabha], Moonlight Radiance Bodhisattva [Chandraprabha] and the Twelve Great Medicine Generals. They all appeared before me. I knew then that I would recover from my illness. They were comforting me.
It was like how Indra descended to comfort Subhuti when he was sick. Indra and the celestial beings descended and sang for Subhuti. Why did Subhuti deserve to receive praise, a showering of flowers and singing from heavenly beings? Because he could truly enter the samadhi of emptiness.
The samadhi of emptiness is the main topic of the Vajra Sutra. The Vajra Sutra is a discussion on the samadhi of emptiness. Destroying everything means emptiness. [One arrives at emptiness through the annihilation and extinction of everything.]
In Zen, the Vajra Sutra is used to determine whether one has gained enlightenment. Are you enlightened? Or not? The Vajra Sutra is the yard stick to decide.
That’s all for today. Om mani padme hum.
Updated version 2021.09.11
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