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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 32, 13 November 2021 - Chapter Eleven—Supreme Merits Without Condition


Eleven—Supreme Merits Without Condition

 

“Subhuti! What do you think? Should there be as many Ganges Rivers as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, would the number of the grains of sand in those rivers be numerous?” 

Subhuti replied, “Very numerous, World-honored One. The number of those rivers would be countless, and even more so, the grains of sand in them.” 

“Subhuti! I shall tell you truthfully, if there is a good man or good woman who fills as many billion-fold universes[1]as those grains of sand with seven kinds of precious jewels as an act of giving, would their blessings be tremendous?”

Subhuti replied, “Tremendous indeed, World-honored One!”

The Buddha told Subhuti, “On the other hand, if there is a good man or good woman who upholds this sutra, and expounds it to others, even if it is only the four-line verse, his blessings and merits will exceed the former.”


 

Ok, now we will expound the Vajra Sutra’s Chapter Eleven—Supreme Merits Without Condition. What is “without condition”? When one acts or does anything without condition, it is like a mind that arises without dwelling on anything. Without dwelling is without condition, it is unconditional.[2]

 

In chapter eleven, we compare the merits and blessings between two conducts. Sakyamuni Buddha often used analogies such as in the following sentence, which some people may not understand. Pay attention! This sentence is not easy to explain.

 

“Subhuti! What do you think? Should there be as many Ganges Rivers as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, would the number of the grains of sand in those rivers be numerous?” Subhuti replied, “Very numerous, World-honored One. The number of those rivers would be countless, and even more so the grains of sand in them.”

 

Sakyamuni Buddha continued, “Subhuti! I shall tell you truthfully, if there is a good man or good woman who fills as many billion-fold universes as those grains of sand with seven kinds of precious jewels as an act of giving, would their blessings be tremendous?” Subhuti replied, “Tremendous indeed, World-honored One!”

The Buddha told Subhuti, “On the other hand, if there is a good man or good woman who upholds this sutra, and expounds it to others, even if it is only the four-line verse, his blessings and merits will exceed the former.”

 

This is a comparison of blessings and merits. Sakyamuni Buddha really liked using metaphors! There were two he especially liked: Mount Meru to symbolize the large and tall, and the sand of the Ganges River to symbolize the infinite. Anyone who has been to India would know the Ganges! Grandmaster once visited India and went to Varanasi, a five-thousand-year-old ancient city. India is one of the four ancient civilizations, the others being China, Babylon, and Egypt. Babylon has since disappeared, leaving only Egypt, India, and China. These are countries with over five thousand years of civilization. Varanasi has existed for five thousand years and lies on the banks of the Ganges. The Indian people regard the Ganges as a sacred river, much like the Chinese with the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers—their most important rivers. Once, we rode a boat on the Ganges [during our tour]. 

 

Again, Sakyamuni Buddha liked using the sand of the Ganges as an analogy. The first sentence stated that the sand of the Ganges—which runs across India—is undeniably countless. As such, it represents the innumerable. Whenever Sakyamuni Buddha mentions the sand of the Ganges, it connotes the uncountable and infinite.

 

Yet here, there was more mentioned by the Buddha that some people may have missed. Should there be as many Ganges Rivers as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River”?What is meant by this? The Buddha said, “It is as if every grain of sand is another Ganges River.” Very few people understand this statement. It is taking each grain of sand to represent one Ganges River! The number of grains in one river is already countless; if each grain represents one river, how much more sand would there be? It’s impossible to count! This [analogy] denotes the innumerable.

 

Many people reading this statement thought that the Buddha talked only about the sand in [a single] Ganges River. No, that is not the case. If you do not carefully read the sutra, you would not understand the figurative speech that Sakyamuni Buddha was using. There are finer details in it. If you just chant [without contemplating], you may think that sand is numerous in the Ganges River, that Subhuti said that the grains of the Ganges River is countless. However, you miss what the Buddha was really asking. [You’d think that] it was simply the number of grains of sand is innumerable.

 

But Subhuti knew! From his reply, you can tell that he listened attentively to the Buddha, the number of those rivers…” What? “Those” rivers?! [Grandmaster laughs at his own homophone joke.] There is only one Ganges River, but why did Subhuti say“all the Ganges Rivers”? That is because each grain of sand becomes its own Ganges River. Subhuti paid attention to what Sakyamuni Buddha said.

 

Grandmaster’sexplanation of the sutra is also very detailed and clear. The number of those rivers are already countless. Even more so are the grains of sand in them. People chanting the sutra typically miss this part and think that SakyamuniBuddha is only talking about the sand of the Ganges River. Mount Meru is very tall and the sand in the Ganges River is numerous are the kind of metaphorsSakyamuni Buddha likes to use.

 

There is a Buddhist sutra called the Parable Sutra. [Grandmaster laughs at his own pronunciation, which sounds like either Comparative Sutra or Parable Sutra.] Parable or comparative are about the same. [chuckles] Alright, so it is the Parable Sutra. Some people call the Vajra Sutra the Diamond Sutra. Some people translate the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra as the Diamond Sutra in English, using diamond as a metaphor for vajra. The Vajra is very hard and so are diamonds. The Vajra is again, indestructible and it can destroy everything. So is the Vajra Sutra! I have expounded the meaning of the [name] Vajra Sutra. The Vajra Sutra is the sutra that destroys everything. Everything!

 

Continuing on, “Subhuti! I shall tell you truthfully, if there is a good man or good woman who fills as many billion-fold universes as those grains of sand with seven kinds of precious jewels as an act of giving, would their blessings be tremendous?” Subhuti replied, “Tremendous indeed, World-honored One!” The Buddha told Subhuti, “On the other hand, if there is a good man or good woman who upholds this sutra, and expounds it to others, even if it is only the four-line verse, his blessings and merits will exceed the former.” 

 

The seven precious jewels are written frequently in the sutra. What are the seven kinds of precious jewels? They are gold, coral, agate as well as other precious jewels from the human world. 

 

fills as many billion-fold universes [the three-thousand-great-thousand-worlds or thetrichiliocosm] as those grains of sand with seven kinds of precious jewels…

 

The [term] three-thousand-great-thousand-worlds also means numerous. This term is often used in the Buddhist sutras; Sakyamuni Buddha often uses this metaphor as well. 

 

Think about it. Why does Grandmaster only have five million disciples? [Five million in Chinese is pronounced as “five hundred” times “ten thousand”]. Five hundred as such means many. Sakyamuni Buddha often said five hundred this, five hundred that. For instance, he said five hundred merchants crossing the river. Does it mean that exactly five hundred merchants crossed the river? No, it means many! There were many merchants, camels, and caravans crossing the Ganges River. When the Buddha said five hundred arhats, does it mean only five hundred of them? No! There were many arhats. Five hundred is just a figure of speech to represent a large number.

 

I borrowed this term from the Buddha when I said five-hundred ten-thousand disciples [thenumber itself literally means five million in English, but the correct translation of its meaning is: a great number or a multitude of disciples]. How come it never increases to six million or decreases to four million? When I say five million, it just means many disciples! Now, do you understand? I use the same metaphor as the Buddha—five hundred merchants, five hundred bandits... Always five hundred. Grandmaster uses the same figure of speech. Many disciples asked me, “Why is it always five million disciples after so long? We have many more disciples!” Well, five-hundred ten-thousand means a great number. So it’ll always be “five hundred.” Do you now understand?

 

Now, numerous precious jewels filling as many billion-fold universes as those grains of sand as an act of giving. On that, will their blessings and merits be tremendous? Of course, it will be incredibly tremendous! The merits of this act of giving(giving is the first of the six paramitas) will be tremendous!

 

Subhuti replied, “Tremendous indeed, World-honored One!” The Buddha told Subhuti, “On the other hand, if there is a good man or good woman who upholds this sutra, and expounds it to others, even if it is only the four-line verse, his blessings and merits will exceed the former.” 

 

This is a comparison. If there is a good man or good woman who upholds and expounds to others the four-line verse from the Vajra Sutra—no phenomena of self, no phenomena of others, no phenomena of sentient beings, no phenomena of lifespan—the blessings and merits will far exceed the blessings and merits of the acts of giving likened to filling as many billion-fold universes as those grains of sand with as many seven precious jewels. 

 

On Chapter Eleven—SupremeMerits Without Condition, let me tell you: If a human being can reach the state of no “I” or no phenomena of self, then he’s already a sage. Having no phenomena of self far exceeds an infinite amount of seven precious jewels filling the multitudes of worlds. It would be even more so when one holds no phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan. 

 

If you uphold these four [non-phenomena], then you are a sage! You are a bodhisattva! What afflictions will you have if you have no phenomena of self? Afflictions exist only because “you” exist, when you hold this notion of “you.” If there is no self, where will affliction come from? Is your affliction due to some illness? If there is no “you,” what illnesses can there be?

 

What is [themeaning of this common saying] “others, self, right and wrong”?[3] Because I exist and other people exist, that there are rights and wrongs. I remember a Taiwanese minister once said, “Where there are people, there are rights and wrongs.” If “self” doesn’t exist for you, you have no phenomena of self and no phenomena of other people. Where would “others, self, right and wrong” be? They won’t exist. Therefore, when there is no “I,” there will be no afflictions. Wouldn’t that be extraordinary?! So you should learn to view yourself as non-existent first! When the “self” does not exist anymore and [this state] can be maintained as such, the other three non-phenomena [of others, sentient beings, and lifespan] will naturally follow.

 

Thus, Grandmasterlets himself drowse on the dharma throne because I view myself as non-existent. I hold no phenomena of self. I have even suggested to turn the dharma throne into a bed and to give me a pillow and a blanket, so I can sleep. “Grandmaster Lu, you should give dharma teachings! Why are you sleeping here?” [Grandmasterreplies in joking tone,] “While you are chanting down there, I can take a nap.” “How come you can be like that? You shouldn’t do that, you won’t look dignified!” I have no more “me” [self], why would I care if I appear dignified or not? Right? I will just sleep! When it’s time, I’d wake up and give the dharma teaching. So it’s okay, it is no big deal. Grandmaster has no worries, no concerns at all! Who cares? You know why? [Your concern] is your business and not mine. It’s completely none of my business. Let them be. I maintain this mindset and gradually enter into the state of no phenomena of self.

 

People say that most seniors have difficulty falling asleep. The older one gets, the harder it is to fall asleep. As for me, I sleep even better as I grow older! I do not get enough sleep. I sleep so well that I cannot get up in the morning [Grandmasterlaughs]. At night, I put Shimu to bed. After she falls asleep, I tiptoe back to my room. Every morning, she wakes me up and she’d say, “Today is Saturday,” or“Today is Sunday. You have to go to Rainbow Temple!” I’d tell her, “I am taking a day off.” Yet, I still get myself up. I must be diligent; I must give dharma teachings. I always say that I’ll take a break but every time I still get up and get going. Human life is like this.

 

Non-dwelling is wonderful, doing things naturally without condition, without motives, without exertion, and without any reasons. There is no why, instead there is only doing what I am supposed to do. 

 

In the future, I will continue to expound the Vajra Sutra, which is truly about the absence of phenomena—no view of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan. I will talk more about it in the next few chapters. 

 

Grandmaster is currently giving a dharma teaching right now. But am I? Giving dharma teachings is equivalent to not giving dharma teachings. Because I don’t give dharma teachings, I am giving dharma teachings! Does the dharma exist? If you go to the moon, is there buddhadharma there? The moon has no phenomena of human beings since there are no human beings there. How can there be buddhadharma there? How can there be “I”? Are there any sentient beings there? No. Are there any human beings there? No. Is there anyone with a long life there? No. On the moon, what use is time for you? Is there any use? Lifespan is time, the phenomena of sentient beings is space. 

 

Over there, Grandmaster shall joke, “All the land on the moon is mine. Do you want to buy some? I’ll sell them to you.” Grandmaster will make a lot of money! I’ll sell the land on the moon, and I’ll write that Sheng-Yen Lu sold a number of acres to you. Then you become a landlord there! With this piece of paper, you can have proof! One day, you’ll get on a spaceship to the moon. Once you reach it, you can say, “This is Grandmaster Lu’s [paper] and Grandmaster Lu sold me this piece of land.” When you go to the moon, you have this certificate to prove that you are a landlord on the moon! But that is useless, isn’t it?!

 

Over there, there is no phenomena of self, human beings, sentient beings and lifespan. Once I sell out the Moon, I will sell Saturn, Mars, Pluto, Neptune, Venus, etc. I don't deal with any land on Earth. I’ll sell outer space! I will also sell certificates for rebirth in the pureland! [chuckles] I want to sell my dharma boat tickets! If you want a seat on my dharma boat to go to the WesternPureland of Ultimate Bliss, you have to buy my boat ticket! [chuckles] Let me tell you, once you reach Sukhavati, all those papers are useless! What am I selling those tickets to you for?

 

Today, I used a lot of analogies [to explain] what the non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan is. As for the ship ticket from the Saha World to Sukhavati? Once you are purified, your purity will be your ship ticket! That’s all for today.

 

Om mani padme hum. 

 

[1] Trichiliocosm or in Sanskrit, Tri-sahasra-maha-sahasra-lokadhatu, literally it means the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds, or billion-fold universes.

[2] 無為 wu wei is translated as without condition (unconditional) here. It has been translated as non-action or inactivity by other translators. We translate it as “unconditional.” And 無為而為 wu wei er wei is translated as acting unconditionally. Grandmaster explains that it is just doing, without any reasons, motives, exertion; just doing it naturally.

[3] 人我是非 people have differing opinions on right or wrong, true or false; basically, it is a disagreement among people.  

Version 2 March 2022



Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 33, 14 November 2021 - Chapter Twelve—Revering the Right Teaching


Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: 
 Discourse 31, 7 November 2021 - Chapter Ten—Magnificent Pureland (continued)


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