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 35, 21 November 2021 - Chapter Thirteen—Upholding According to the Dharma
Thirteen—Upholding According to the Dharma
At this time, Subhuti asked the Buddha, “World-honored One, how should we name this sutra? How shall we uphold it?”
The Buddha told Subhuti, “This sutra shall be called Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita. You shall uphold this name. Why? Subhuti, the prajnaparamita as spoken by the Buddha is not prajnaparamita; it is [merely] called prajnaparamita.
“Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata speak on the dharma?”
Subhuti replied, “World-honored One, the Tathagata has not spoken.”
“Subhuti, what do you think? Is there an infinite amount of dust particles in the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds?”
Subhuti replied, “Countless, World-honored One.”
“Subhuti, the Tathagata said that dust is not dust; it is [merely] named dust. The Tathagata also said that the world is not [a] world; it is [merely] called a world.
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can one see the Tathagata through the thirty-two marks of perfection of a buddha?”
“No, World-honored One! One cannot see the Tathagata through the thirty-two marks of perfection. Why? Because the Tathagata said that the thirty-two marks of perfection [phenomena] are non-phenomena; they are [merely] called the thirty-two marks of perfection [phenomena].”
“Subhuti, in comparison to good men and good women who devote their lives as an act of giving amounting to the grains of sand in the Ganges River, a person who accepts and upholds this sutra, even if only the four-line verse, will still have greater blessings.”
Today, we will talk about the Vajra Sutra’s Chapter Thirteen—Upholding According to the Dharma, which teaches you how to truly cultivate.
What is Upholding According to the Dharma? “According to the Dharma” also means in compliance with the dharma. We accept and practice according to the dharma or in compliance with the dharma. Upholding means accepting and practicing. This is Chapter Thirteen—upholding: accepting and practicing in compliance with the dharma.
At this time, Subhuti asked the Buddha, “World-honored One, how should we name this sutra? How shall we uphold it?”
The Buddha told Subhuti, “This sutra shall be called Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita. You shall uphold this name. Why? Subhuti, the prajnaparamita as spoken by the Buddha is not prajnaparamita; it is [merely] called prajnaparamita.”
Let’s talk about this excerpt first. This kind of riddle-like statement frequently appears in the Vajra Sutra. This sutra shall be called Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita. I have spoken about vajra before—it is indestructible, very strong, and can destroy everything. Prajna, as we often talk about, means wisdom. In Tibetan, prajna is called biezha or banzha. In Chinese, it is boyeh. What does prajna mean? It is the wisdom of the Tathagata, the wisdom of the Buddha. The wisdom of tathagatas is also symbolized as the vajra. What does paramita mean? It is commonly translated as “from this shore to the other shore.” The name of this sutra is Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita, and you should uphold the sutra by this name.
The Buddha continued, “Why? Subhuti, the prajnaparamita as spoken by the Buddha is not prajnaparamita; it is called prajnaparamita.” What does this mean? The Buddha says that the so-called prajnaparamita is not prajnaparamita; therefore it is called prajnaparamita. We are often confused by this kind of phrase in the Vajra Sutra.
I like to use the Moon as an analogy. Does any buddhadharma exist on the Moon? Does any buddhadharma exist on Saturn? On Mars? Let’s just talk about the Moon and not go any further. The Moon is nearer because it is Earth’s satellite. Through telescopes, we can see that the Moon is bright, but no sign of living beings can be seen there. One side is bright, and the other side is dark. We have not discovered any human beings on the Moon, so buddhadharma is useless there. There is no buddhadharma on the Moon. Why do I use this analogy? It’s very simple. Is there a moon inside mooncakes? No, because there is no moon in it, we call it mooncakes. Is there a sun inside suncakes? No, as there is no sun, we call it suncakes. Is there a sweetheart inside the sweetheart cakes? No, because there is no sweetheart, it’s called sweetheart cakes [also referred to as the wife-cakes]. All these metaphors connote the same thing.
Vajra Prajnaparamita is the vajra—referring to the buddha’s wisdom—that destroys everything to reach the realm of emptiness; this is the realm of the wisdom of emptiness. Because it is emptiness, Vajra Prajnaparamita does not exist. [How can anything exist in complete emptiness?] And because it is non-existent, it is called Vajra Prajnaparamita. Now, do you understand?
Emptiness and existence are just terms. This is the highest wisdom, the wisdom of emptiness or empty-nature. Empty-nature is buddhanature, which is unspeakable! It really is unspeakable! You can let go of everything when you genuinely have this wisdom. Really!
Let’s say Grandmaster and Shimu are very close spouses. Shimu has helped the True Buddha School a great deal, and to be honest, I am very grateful to her. However, if I were to leave the world first—and I hope to leave the world before Shimu—the good thing is that putting down and letting go of everything is very easy for me. Shimu belongs to Shimu, and I belong to me. My spiritual cultivation is my own, and her spiritual cultivation is her very own. She has her merit, and I have my merit.
On the other hand, it would be more troublesome for me if she leaves first. Why? Because I am an idiot in this mundane world. I don’t know how to go to the bank to withdraw money; I don’t know how to write cheques; I don’t even know how to file tax returns... Grandmaster is an idiot living in this world. Do you believe that? You’d better believe it because I don’t even know how to use cell phones. I have never been to a bank, and I have never withdrawn any cash. I never file my tax return myself. It’s Shimu who does it all! So, if she passes away first, it would be a sad case, for I am an idiot and don’t know anything in this world.
All I know is buddhadharma. I know nothing else. How can I live on? I would cry my heart out. It’s only right if I leave first because I am an idiot living by myself. Shimu is extremely smart, and she’d have no problem taking care of herself in this mundane world. I have to live by the norms, so I'd still have to file a tax return. Otherwise, I would get into trouble. Right?
Nevertheless, you must let go of everything. To let go of everything, you must first comprehend the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita because Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita is teaching you to let go of everything.
Hence, I have let go of everything! I, of course, have no more entanglements with my children, Fo-Ching and Fo-Chi, as well as with my grandson and granddaughter. I also have no entanglements with Shimu. Especially if I were to leave first, there would be no entanglements whatsoever. However, if I were to be left alone in this world, it would be quite problematic. Practically speaking, I need their help, but conceptually, I am a person who can let go of everything. If Shimu leaves first, I won’t know how to file tax returns, and I would be arrested by the US government. [chuckles] You’ll be done for if you evade tax and fail to file tax returns!
If you comprehend the wisdom of the tathagata, you can let go of everything. That is the wisdom of emptiness—everything is empty. In fact, life is like this: one day, everything will be scrapped and destroyed. It is very troublesome to live in this world. You must file tax returns regardless of which country you live in. There are matters one must do in every country. You need to go to the bank, yet I have never been to the bank. You need something to be notarized, yet I have never done so. I don’t know how to do anything. What trouble! So, how should we say? I have attained the first and foremost, unexcelled, and rare dharma, and I have no entanglement in anything, yet I can also be the most woeful.
The other day, I saw my granddaughter on her mother’s birthday; she eventually came to the South Mountain Retreat. I had not seen her in a long time, and I was so surprised at how beautiful my granddaughter, Gin, has become. Her eyes are eyes, nose is nose, mouth is mouth, ears are ears, chin is chin. I uttered praises and admiration to her. She’s truly beautiful, like a goddess. None of the goddesses I painted is as beautiful as her! Gin has become so beautiful that it nearly stopped my heart. I rarely take pictures with my granddaughter since they rarely brought her to my home. We hadn’t seen each other for so long, and this time when I saw her, we took a picture together. I said, “Come over quickly to take a picture. Wow, so beautiful! Let’s have a photo taken!” You can ask Shimu how fabulous Gin is! I have never seen such a lovely maiden. This was the first time I saw the beauty of my granddaughter.
But is there any entanglement? No, I have nothing to do with her. Do I have anything to do with my grandson? No. My grandson, Jaden, is the most honest person in the United States! He is a reincarnation of the elder of Foshan. He’s so honest! In other words, he’s too naïve. He is truthful and sincere like me, but I am not sure if I am that honest. [chuckles] Gin is a bodhisattva of the seventh ground—the Ground of Far Travel. The eighth ground is the Immovable Ground, which is even more amazing. Yet, they are they and they have nothing to do with me. They will have their own destiny. I am not attached to my son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter. I don’t have entanglements in my heart. The first time I saw my granddaughter [after a long time], I thought of how she’s become so beautiful! On the side, Shimu was muttering, worried that someone would take her. I told her that it was her business, and it had nothing to do with us.
Our hearts are like clear mirrors; likewise, Grandmaster’s heart is like a clear mirror. Vajra Prajnaparamita is not Vajra Prajnaparamita, [yet] it is Vajra Prajnaparamita. Everyone knows that Grandmaster’s heart is like a mirror. I don’t know anything of the mundane world. All mundane affairs are taken care of by Shimu. All I know is to write books and to practice the dharma. As for the rest, my heart is as clear as a mirror, with no entanglements whatsoever. [The audience applauds] That is what I meant. Vajra Prajnaparamita is utterly pure and has no entanglement in anything. Without entanglement, nothing exists, so it is emptiness. Vajra Prajnaparamita is not Vajra Prajnaparamita, [yet] it is Vajra Prajnaparamita.
Om mani padme hum.
 The so-called mooncakes have no moon in it, they are just called mooncakes. Should there be moon inside the cakes, then those are not mooncakes as we know it.
 Vajra Paramita a direct translation of the Chinese name, it is the same as Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita
Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 34, 20 November 2021 - Chapter Twelve—Revering the Right Teaching (continued)
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Full webcast of 2021.11.21 Golden Mother Homa Ceremony (Rainbow Temple, North Bend, USA) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/zOqz4KPkNtM