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
Seven—Nothing Gained, Nothing Spoken“Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata attain anuttara samyaksambodhi? Does the Tathagata speak on the dharma?”
Subhuti replied, “In my understanding of the meaning of the Buddha’s teaching, there is no fixed dharma called anuttara samyaksambodhi, and there is no fixed dharma spoken by the Tathagata. Why? Because all teachings of the Tathagata cannot be held and cannot be spoken. They are not dharma, and they are not non-dharma. Therefore, all sages are distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma.”
Now, we will expound Vajra Sutra. Seven—Nothing Gained, Nothing Spoken. Let me read the excerpt of the sutra.
“Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata attain anuttara samyaksambodhi? Does the Tathagata speak on the dharma?” Subhuti replied, “In my understanding of the meaning of the Buddha’s teaching, there is no fixed dharma called anuttara samyaksambodhi, and there is no fixed dharma spoken by the Tathagata. Why? Because all teachings of the Tathagata cannot be held and cannot be spoken. They are not dharma, and they are not non-dharma. Therefore, all sages are distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma.”
…all sages are distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma.
This statement is extremely important. Chapter Seven—Nothing Gained, Nothing Spoken. The last time we spoke about Nothing Gained, we talked about it the whole night. Now, we will talk about Nothing Spoken. What Subhuti meant was that the dharma spoken by the Tathagata or by Sakyamuni Buddha cannot be held and cannot be spoken. They are not dharma but they are also not non-dharma. Why?
Let me ask everybody. What is not dharma and what is not non-dharma? Why did he say as such, not dharma and also not non-dharma? The other time, we talked about what non-dharma are. Fortune telling, face reading, divination, astrology, predictions, how much blessings you have, Ten Feet of Blue [Yi Zhang Qing], Purple Star Astrology [Zi Wei Dou Shu], Royal Polar Study of Destiny [Huang Ji Ming Shu], Chinese Bone Weight Astrology [Ping Liang] of Yuan Tiangang, Fengshui and Geomancy of Li Chunfeng; they all belong to non-dharma.
What is not non-dharma? Anyone can explain this? [Someone had answered but was inaudible] My ears were clogged with earwax this morning. It doesn’t matter what you said because I have not heard it. I know that you were talking but I didn’t hear anything. [Grandmaster is laughing] Let me tell you what “not non-dharma" is. There seems to be dharma, yet there also seems to be no dharma. Remember, it seems like there is dharma spoken yet it also seems like there is no dharma spoken.
Do you know why we say tathagata? [Tathagata is translated as rulai in Chinese, ru means seemingly, and lai means come.] Why do we translate tathagata as rulai, and what does it mean? [Someone answers, “no coming and no going.”] That’s not it! I have explained last time. Tathagata or rulai means “seemingly come.” What is ruqu? [qu means go] Actually, ruqu, similarly means “seemingly go.” Ru means “seemingly” or “it seems.” Seemingly come is rulai or tathagata; and seemingly go is ruqu.
What is not non-dharma? It means that there seems to be dharma yet there also seems to be no dharma. Is there any dharma spoken? Nothing spoken. When one reaches the highest realm, there is nothing spoken. That’s why when Bodhidharma was invited to speak on dharma at the Shaolin Temple—where he faced a wall to practice in seclusion at Mount Songshan, behind the temple—when he got out, everybody knew that he had become a high-adept and invited him to speak on the dharma. Once he got on the dharma seat, …haven’t I talked about this before?... he took a clipboard and slapped it. He said, “That’s the end of the dharma teaching,” then he got off the seat. Now, I have also finished speaking the dharma; that’s it. No dharma to be spoken, nothing spoken, there was basically nothing said. Bodhidharma basically did not say anything, he did not speak on the dharma. He just got on, slapped and got off. That was his dharma teaching. And this is the highest realm!
How come? Let me explain. We all know there are many countries on earth, right? Are there many countries? Yes, many. In each country, there are many people, right? Many people, many houses, many cars running around. Now, America and China are both considered big countries. I don’t know what the two countries are doing, and I personally don’t get involved in politics; I never do. I just find them fighting with each other, I don’t know what for. Their fighting is unrelated to me; I live my life and they fight theirs.
Think about it. What is the highest kind of realm? This is a very profound knowledge. In my eyes, there is no earth, no countries, no sentient beings, no people. Really, what are you vying for? In my eyes, there are no countries, no people, no leader of the leagues. Now they are fighting to be the chief of the league, like how they fight to be the lord of the martial arts league in the novels written by Jinyong.
In your eyes, are there any ants? Are there? Yes, we often see ants crawling around. Do the red ants fight with the black ants? Do the black ants fight with each other? Do the small ants fight with the big ants? Will the mountain ants fight with the ants in the flatland? Ants, big or small, of different colors, will they fight each other? I am asking you. I often saw ants fight when I was young, when I lived in Kaohsiung Electric Power Company’s dorm. I saw ants crawling from opposite sides in groups to bite each other; their remnants all over. The ants were all dead. Do they fight each other? Yes! They even bite each other and a huge number of them die.
In your mind, there seem to be ants yet there seem to be no ants. Human beings are just like ants. In your eyes, are there ants? Have you thought about ant countries? There are countries of ants. If you study the animal kingdom, you will know that ants live in colonies. They have countries or colonies. For their own benefits, they fight with each other. Do you give dharma teachings to ants? Deducing from this, do human beings give dharma teachings? Do ants give dharma teachings? This is what the “not non-dharma” is all about. This analogy I gave is perhaps different from what you think to be the Vajra Sutra.
It is true that the Vajra Sutra destroys everything. Do you gain anything? The other day I asked Tenzin Gyatso, “What would you gain a hundred years from now?” “Nothing gained,” [Tenzin replied]. Then I would ask, “Then why do you study? Why do you want to study?” Let me tell you, please be seated. This is how you should answer: “Because I want to study to enrich my knowledge so I can understand what Grandmaster is talking about; to comprehend nothing gained and nothing spoken.” [Audience is clapping] This is the correct answer. You want to gain the understanding of why there is nothing to gain and why there is nothing to speak. You want to comprehend this. That’s why today, I’m still expounding the title Nothing Gained, Nothing Spoken. Sakyamuni Buddha seemed to have given dharma teachings, but also did not seem to have given dharma teachings. That’s how it is.
Why is this? Subhuti said, “Therefore, all sages are distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma.” What is the effortless motiveless dharma? Doing anything for no reason at all is called effortless and motiveless. I don’t do it because of anything. No whys. [Unlike] say, today, I did good and helped a lot of people, so tomorrow I’ll check whether my good deed was reported in the newspaper or on television. I would feel good when I see myself doing good deeds. If I had done great charity yet it wasn’t published on the media, then I will not do it again. Those are dharma with effort and motive.
What is effortless motiveless dharma? It is what Jesus said. “Do not let the left hand knows the good deeds done by the right hand.” He’s a very wise guru. Jesus stated the intrinsic emptiness of the threefold wheels. No reason, no purpose, no motive; that’d be the effortless motiveless dharma. If you do things for even some small intent, then that would be dharma with effort and motive. Therefore, sages are different. All sages are distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma.
How pure is your effortless motiveless dharma? Is there anything that can be held? Of course, effortless motiveless dharma means there is nothing to be held. Is it done for any reason? No, it’s not done for any reason. You just naturally do good; never do evil, always do good. Once you’ve done it, it’s the same as if you have not done so. Even after you have spoken, it’s as if you have not spoken. The Vajra Sutra is very deep and profound. Don’t underestimate it. Do you think it’s easy to explain it? No, it’s not easy to explain!
There are different levels of effortless motiveless dharma. What is your purity level? In Tantric Buddhism, there is the so-called purity levels. What is it? When you are completely pure, that would be the true effortless motiveless dharma.
To differentiate, if your purity is on level two, you will ascend to the second ground of bodhisattvahood. If your purity is on level four, then you’re a bodhisattva of the fourth ground. If your purity is on level eight, that is a bodhisattva of the eighth ground. If your purity is on level ten, then you are a bodhisattva of the tenth ground. If your purity is on level twelve and a half based on Tantrayana teaching, then you are the bodhisattva of the twelfth and a half ground. Once you reach the purity of the thirteenth level, that’s the ground of Five Dhyani Buddhas. If the purity is on level sixteen, that’s Adharma Buddha, the Primordial Buddha.
Inside our body, we have five chakras. These five chakras represent ten grounds. One chakra represents two grounds. When you open the secret chakras, you reach the second ground. If you open the navel chakra, you reach the fourth ground. If you open the heart chakra, you reach the sixth ground. If you open the throat chakra, you reach the eighth ground. If you open the brow chakra, you are a bodhisattva of the tenth ground. If you open the crown chakra, then you reach the twelfth ground. If you open the topknot ushnisha, you reach the twelfth and a half ground. This is how you reach, all the way to buddhahood. Those are differentiating. This is what I meant by distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma.
What is the proportion of your purity, i.e. purity level? You don’t want to be a mundane being who has done charity today, but want to see the newspaper, hold a press conference, expect photojournalists and reporters to come [to capture the moment]. For instance, tomorrow you want to check the newspaper and expect it to report the good deeds that you have done, to show that you are a good person. If that’s so, you are not qualified to become a bodhisattva or a buddha; you can only go to the heavens. What is a bodhisattva? A bodhisattva is there always for others, never for oneself; essentially thinking for others but not thinking for oneself. Only when such qualities are fulfilled could one be called a bodhisattva. If you always think of yourself, you have a “self” or “I”; as such, you’re not a bodhisattva. The most you can reach are the human and heavenly realms. A bodhisattva is always thinking for others, never thinking of “I,” never for oneself. Only then are they called bodhisattva. However, there are also differences. [The audience is clapping.]
What is all sages are distinguished by effortless motiveless dharma? What is not dharma and not non-dharma? All teachings of the Tathagata cannot be held and cannot be spoken. There is no fixed dharma spoken by the Tathagata.
All dharma is not fixed dharma. Do you know? Tantric Buddhist Dharma was transmitted by lineage gurus. Can you invent it yourself? You can, it’s possible for the tantric lineage gurus to invent a new dharma. There is nothing wrong; it’s allowed. There are many new dharmas, and these dharmas are variable. That’s why it’s called there is no fixed dharma. Do ponder on this, there is no fixed dharma spoken by the Tathagata. Sakyamuni Buddha often said, “unspeakable”; because there is no fixed dharma, that’s why it cannot be spoken.
Om mani padme hum.
Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 21, 3 October 2021 - Chapter Seven—Nothing Gained, Nothing Spoken (continued)
Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 19, 26 September 2021 - Chapter Seven—Nothing Gained, Nothing Spoken
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