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

Discourse 13, 5 September 2021 - Chapter Four—Non-dwelling in Marvelous Conduct

Today, we will talk about the Vajra Sutra.

Chapter Four—Non-dwelling in Marvelous Conduct

“Subhuti, a bodhisattva should not dwell on anything. When performing acts of giving, he should not dwell on the form of giving, nor should he dwell on sound, smell, taste, touch or anything at all.

“Subhuti, bodhisattvas should perform acts of giving in this way, without dwelling on form. Why? Because when a bodhisattva does not dwell on anything, his merit becomes immeasurable.

“Subhuti, what does this mean? Can space in the east be measured?”

“No, World-honored One.”

“Subhuti, can space in the west, north, south, above, below in all dimensions be measured?”

“No, World-honored One.”

“So Subhuti, when a bodhisattva performs acts of giving without dwelling on form, his merit and virtue is likewise immeasurable. Subhuti, the bodhisattvas should abide this way.”

The above is Chapter Four—Non-dwelling in Marvelous Conduct, and the marvelous conduct mentioned here refers to the acts of giving. If one wants to ascend the ground to be a bodhisattva, the first thing one needs to do is to be generous and perform acts of giving. In the Vajra Sutra, it is called marvelous conduct, which means excellent behavior. 

Non-dwelling and this excerpt are often mentioned by Jesus, my guru. There are several references to it in the Holy Bible. I’ve often mentioned it too. Any good deed performed by the right hand should not be made known to the left hand. The good deeds performed by the left hand should not be known by the right hand. What Jesus stated is non-dwelling in marvelous conduct. This is what Jesus taught us: good deeds performed by the right hand should not be let known to the left hand. Good deeds performed by the left hand should not be let known to the right hand. This is non-dwelling.

If you dwell on the acts of giving, what is the situation? You are being deliberate, thinking, “I want to do good deeds.” Prior to doing good deeds, you proclaim it. If you are performing charity with motives, then the merit is limited to the things you give—a small charity. If you forget about giving, this is called the… [Threefold Wheel of Intrinsic Emptiness].

In Texas, United States, we have a True Buddha School temple called Three-Wheel Lei Tsang Temple (Kalachakra Buddha Association). Why did I name it Three-Wheel Lei Tsang Temple? When I wrote the name Three-Wheel, people saw it and said, “oh, a tricycle?” How can there be a rickshaw nowadays? [chuckle]

[children rhyme] “A rickshaw is running fast, with an old lady riding on it. The driver asked for fifty cents, yet she gave a dollar. Isn’t it strange or is it not?” Why did she give one dollar? Because the rickshaw driver was the old lady’s past lover. She needed to get home and got on a three-wheeler taxi. It turned out that the rickshaw driver was her past lover. After reaching her destination, he asked for fifty cents but she gave a dollar out of sympathy. 

Anyways, I was talking about the Trichakra Lei Tsang Temple, and not about rickshaws. [laughter] The point is on the Threefold Wheel of Intrinsic Emptiness. In the acts of giving, there is no giver, no receiver and no gifts in the giving. The act of giving is done without dwelling on any phenomena. This is called Non-dwelling in Marvelous Conduct, and it is also referred as the Threefold Wheel of Intrinsic Emptiness. This realm is very high. 

In performing real good deeds, one does not think about it; one does not think that one is doing good deeds. And one can do good deeds at any time. 

Someone asked, without money, how can I give? Surely you can. Just give a smile. Can’t you even do that? A smile? [Grandmaster is mimicking a surly face and audience is laughing.] Don’t be so unfriendly, as if I owe you money. [Grandmaster now mimicks a grumpy face and audience is laughing even more] That’s not good deeds!

For example, if someone visits your house, you are like, “What are you doing?! What are you doing here?!” [mimicking a grouchy person and joking in Taiwanese] What have they done? C’mon, give people a smile and say, “Welcome.” Smile nicely, “Please have a seat.” 

Don’t be like our temple receptionists or gate keepers, who are either rude or faking their smiles when visitors come [jokingly mimicking a fake smile]. Welcome the guest naturally. “Welcome everyone. May I help you? Are you here to pray? Are you here to draw a divination lot? Are you here to buy something from our temple gift shop?” Show the guest around and be hospitable. Now, this is an offering [acts of giving]!

Don’t be like this when someone visits [Grandmaster is closing his eyes and gesturing with his hand to ask people to leave him alone.]. You can’t be like that! In the gift shop, a visitor asked, “May I ask how much this is?” “Don’t ask how much. If you want to buy, just buy it!” No, you can’t be like this! Is this an act of giving? Instead, kindly say, “If you like it and have no money, just take it with you. If you really want it and don’t have enough money with you, just take it first and pay later.”  This is good, you are performing an act of giving.

You know, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche is the dharma king of the Sakya sect in the Sakya Monastery here in Seattle. There are only two dharma kings of the Sakya sect, His Holiness Sakya Trizin in India and His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche in Seattle. H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and Grandmaster performed a fire offering ceremony together at the Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple. We have a photo of it. 

One year during a dragon festival [in the International District in Seattle], we had a stall setup. H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche visited our stall and saw a hand-held prayer wheel, played with it, and inquired about the price. The monk who was overseeing the stall snatched it back and yelled, “Not for Sale!” [Grandmaster is mimicking how the monk grabbing the item back rudely.] Hey, he was one of the two dharma kings of the Sakya sect. His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche and His Holiness Sakya Trizin are their only two dharma kings! 

You are not even willing to give a dharma king a hand-held prayer wheel?! You should have taken the opportunity to create good affinity with him. A dharma king is extremely rare! Pilgrims come to see him from faraway places. When they come, they make prostrations all the way to the temple gates, bow and kneel in front of him to ask for his blessings. Yet, our monk said, “Not for Sale! No! Go away!” [Grandmaster is showing a hand gesture mimicking pushing people away.] Our monk is quite mighty. [cynically laughs] 

You must know how to be generous! You cannot offend anybody. When visitors come, you must greet them and guide them onto the path. We do not want to miss any opportunity. When someone has the affinity to come by, we should cherish it, even if there is only one person. Visitors are hard to come by, if you offend them, we will not have any visitors anymore. Nobody will come.

Jennifer’s husband was born in India, and he has many Indian friends. Through him, we have many Indian people visiting our temple to pray. But due to our reverends’ lack of hospitality, they don’t come anymore. Amitabha! [sighing] We must change. That’s not an act of giving. 

You need to guide sentient beings onto the path, and not block them! This is very important. Even if it is only one being, we still must deliver him! No matter what, be hospitable, say nice things, greet with a smile, speak politely, offer [water], a cup of tea, etc., so they have good impression of the temple. Doing this enhances the radiance of buddhas and bodhisattvas. 

This is generosity. You should make a habit out of it. These are also acts of giving: gentle words, kind words, a smiling face, a warm welcome and so on. Whenever there is a visitor, you want to be welcoming. Even the ladies in department stores can do it, how come you can’t? Never say, “Why did you come?! What are you doing here?!” [Grandmaster is mimicking the voice of a rude person.] By all means, never be like this! Instead, help and deliver sentient beings! [It is your duty.]

Chapter Four –– Non-dwelling on Marvelous Conduct

“Subhuti, a bodhisattva should not dwell on anything.”

[It means] not keeping anything in mind; not using our hearts.[1] How should we use our hearts instead? We should naturally put our hearts into touching the hearts of sentient beings, so they know to take refuge in a true buddha. Just be natural in your guidance. This is an act of giving, an act of giving dharma. What the sutra means is not to make it up. [Grandmaster is mimicking a forced-smile look.] People will know when you are vain. I am not asking you to be superficial, just be sincere and natural. 

“A bodhisattva should not dwell in anything.”


Don’t be pretentious, it must come from the heart.

“When performing acts of giving, he should not dwell on the form of giving, nor should he dwell on sound, smell, taste, touch or anything at all.”

This is a very high level of giving, the highest kind. Non-dwelling acts of giving happens naturally and arises spontaneously from the heart.

“Why? Because when a bodhisattva does not dwell on anything, his merit becomes immeasurable.”

If you often think about your generosity, what good deeds you have done, then the merit is very limited. When you give, forget about it afterwards, then its merit naturally becomes immeasurable. Only this way are the blessings and virtues  immeasurable. This excerpt primarily discusses this.

“Subhuti.” Every time the Buddha speaks, he would start with his name.

“What does this mean? Can space in the east be measured?”

Can the space in the east be imagined? How far is the east? It’s immeasurable. 

“Subhuti, can space in the west, north, south, above, below in all dimensions be measured?”

Of course not, the space in the north, east, south, and west cannot be measured nor imagined. 

“So Subhuti, when a bodhisattva performs acts of giving without dwelling on form, his merit and virtue is likewise immeasurable.”

If a bodhisattva is non-dwelling in his acts of giving—what is non-dwelling in giving? For example, if you give something to someone, and you are concerned about its price and you remember how much you have spent on it, then the merit you generate is only worth as much as the value of your gift. But if you don’t keep in mind that you are performing acts of giving, and you simply give, you perform acts of giving without dwelling on form. You give something today then you forget about it, and you don’t keep in mind what you have given to others. If you have given it, then you have given it! If you give without dwelling on it, then your blessings and merits are immeasurable.

“Subhuti, the bodhisattvas should abide this way.”

This is called non-dwelling on acts of giving. You should know this. It seems simple, but it’s very difficult to do. Really! Do not judge a person by his appearance. We must always be non-dwelling in our giving to anyone who comes to the Seattle Temple or Rainbow Temple. No need to show off your good deeds or keep track of them. Only if you don’t, your merit becomes immeasurable. On the other hand, don’t try so hard, because if you are unnatural, that means you are still dwelling on your mind.

No need to keep them in mind! But as a recipient, you should always be grateful, and you should repay their generosities. That’s why Grandmaster once said, what is left in my life now is only gratitude and gratefulness, to every single being. [audience clapping] When someone gives you a penny, you want to be grateful and repay their generosities. Yeah, I have been thinking, all that I have now is only gratitude.

As I said before, my father never acknowledged me as his son, ever since I was born to the day he died. Should I be grateful? Of course, I should still be grateful to him. Why? Why do I want to be grateful to him even when he treated me like that? Because he raised me. He was the breadwinner of the family. My mother did not earn a lot of money, she earned some money as a tailor and by raising chicken and pigs. My father took care of the whole family. Even though he mistreated me, I grew up eating his food, so I can only be grateful. I still owe to his generosity. He did not acknowledge me, but I still acknowledge him, and I am grateful to him. It does not matter how bad a person is, you must still be grateful to him.

During my youth, I was beaten by my teacher because my grades were very poor, and I had to stay in the same class twice. This is my honor. [jokingly] Did any of you repeat the same class twice? [Grandmaster is asking the audience, and a few people raised their hands.] How come you are as stupid as I am and stay in the same class twice! Really? That was freshmen year in junior high school. Then they sent me to Kaohsiung City’s Third High School because I couldn’t continue at the Kaohsiung City Second High School for staying in the same class for two years in a row. So I was sent to a vocational school where everybody had been behind in their class. In this class, I got the best grades, which inspired me to start studying. Kaohsiung City’s Third High School is now called Shijia Junior High School. I don’t know if it is still there, it was located beside the Love River. Whoever had to repeat the class in junior high school was sent to the vocational school. 

In any case, I am grateful to my teachers. I was often beaten when I was young. Then I got smarter. I would stand next to the son of the president of the parent-teacher association (PTA). The teacher noticed him and was reluctant to beat the son of the PTA president, so he said that he’s done enough beating for the day and spared us. That’s how I missed some beatings. [laughter]

Or I would put rags inside my pants. When the teacher spank-paddled me, it would be met with a thud. He noticed, then took those rags out of my pants. [laughter] Today I am grateful for their education and discipline, pushing me to work harder. From staying in the same class in junior high school, I became the best in senior high school. [The audience is applauding.] I even received a scholarship from the Kaohsiung Jiaxin Cement Company for being first in class every year, and all my tuition and supplies were paid for with scholarship for lower income families. I still remember the company, whether it is still here or not. I am very grateful that they gave me a scholarship so that I could study for free.

Now, you need to know how to be grateful, and you need to know how to perform acts of giving, especially to give without dwelling. I give and forget about it. When I give blessings, I forget about it. Whatever I do, I just forget about it. I let “you” remember them. As a recipient, you should remember. This kind of merit would then be immeasurable. 

This is about the excerpt in Chapter Four—Non-dwelling in Marvelous Conduct. The three wheels are intrinsically empty. Jesus has mentioned it as well in the Holy Bible; all the good deeds done by the right hand, should not be let known to the left hand. Now does everyone understand what I have said? [The audience is applauding.]

In the acts of giving, don’t keep in mind that you are doing good deeds. Just let it happen naturally. Then it can be called marvelous conduct, the true non-dwelling, the acts of giving without dwelling on phenomena. And the receiver of the good deeds should remember, be grateful, and learn to have the same spirit of generosity. All the same, you should perform the acts of giving without dwelling on forms. This is most important.

Om mani padme hum.

Version 2021.09.25

[1] Initially, we want to use our hearts in what we do. But in the case of “non-dwelling”, we don’t!

From mundane mindlessness at the lowest end of spiritual cultivation, we train to practice mindfulness (wholeheartedness), then we progress to singlemindedness, then at a higher level, we reach “mindlessness” again, the latter of which is the realm of no-mind.

Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 14, 11 September 2021 - Chapter Four—Non-dwelling in Marvelous Conduct (continued) 

Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 12, 4 September 2021 - Chapter Three—The Right and Ultimate Meaning of the Great Vehicle (continued) 

Index of links to all discourse on the Vajra Sutra: https://en.tbsn.org/guidem/detail/2265/ 

Back to the main index page of all dharma discourse: https://en.tbsn.org/guidem/index  

Full webcast of 2021.09.05 Fall Bardo-Deliverance Amitabha Homa Ceremony (Rainbow Temple, North Bend, USA) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/BcAPgso3J4g 

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