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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 37, 28 November 2021 - Chapter ThirteenUpholding According to the Dharma (continued) 


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 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 the 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, should there be good men and good women as many as the grains of sand of the Ganges River who forsake their bodies and lives as an act of giving, [compared to] a person who accepts and upholds this sutra, even if it is only the four-line verse, the latter will have greater blessings.”


Now, let’s talk about the Vajra Sutra. Yesterday, I explained the following passage, “Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata speak on the dharma?” Subhuti replied, “World-honored One, the Tathagata has not spoken.” And for today, “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.” 

Frankly speaking, Sakyamuni Buddha truly had remarkable transcendent power. There weren’t any astronomical observatories during his time, so how could he know about the solar system? And not just our solar system but countless other solar systems. Still, Sakyamuni Buddha could say, “Subhuti, what do you think? Is there an infinite amount of dust particles in the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds?”

This statement alone shows how great Sakyamuni Buddha’s transcendent power is. He knew about the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds. You could look it up; what are the small-thousand worlds? What are the medium-thousand worlds? What are the great-thousand worlds? They are indescribable, as they refer to the whole universe! The three-thousand-great-thousand worlds consist of the whole universe beyond imagination. How did Sakyamuni Buddha know this? In modern science, we know that the universe is beyond measure; we still don’t know where its edge lies today. Yet, Sakyamuni Buddha could talk about an infinite amount of dust particles in the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds. 

Christianity, Catholicism, and Islam talk about one heaven, one world, and one hell. Only Sakyamuni Buddha talks about the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds—the infinite cosmos. The Buddha has the buddha’s eyes, the dharma eyes, the heavenly eyes, and the wisdom eyes. These are not physical eyes. Buddha Sakyamuni sees the world not only through his physical eyes; that’s why he can see the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds. From this, we can tell how extraordinary the Buddha is! Most other religions talk about one heaven, one human world, and one hell. Yet, the Buddha talks about the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds. 

… dust particles… What is a dust particle? That is similar to a PM 2.5 dust that cannot be seen [with bare eyes]. You cannot see these dust particles. I have told this following joke before, right? The Tang dynasty monk Xuanzang brought the Monkey King to obtain sutras from the west. On the way, they reached a place where all they saw were hazy mountains, hazy birds, and hazy water. The Monkey King said, “This misty place must be very close to the Western Paradise. This looks like a fairyland.” He then asked the monk, “Are we in the Western Paradise?” The monk replied, “No! This is Taichung City, Taiwan.” [laughter] 

Why is it Taichung? Because Taiwan’s largest coal power plant is in Taichung. It emits smog-generating smoke that covers buildings in a haze. If you stand on Taichung’s tallest buildings and look down, say from a place I own called the Bodhisattva’s Peak, you can see smog enveloping all the buildings like an ocean. It looks like mist, but it is not; it is PM 2.5 dust particles! It also covers all of Nantou County too. Try taking a look from Taiwan Lei TsangTemple, and you can see Caotun City at the foot of the mountain covered with smog. What a pity! 

The Monkey King thought that it was the Western Paradise. The monk told the Monkey King, “Wukong, you can stay here in Taichung if you like it. I will continue to the West.” The Monkey King said, “No, no, no! I want to follow my master to go to the West to obtain the sutras! I will not stay here!” The monk Xuanzang said, “If you stay here, you may get to the Western Paradise a lot sooner. Because sooner or later, you will get lung cancer.” [laughter] 

When we were in Taiwan, we used air purifiers to remove PM 2.5 particulates so we could breathe fresher air. We were not sure if those air purifiers were effective or not. We also wore a purifier that we hung on our chest like a necklace made in Japan. Although you can't see it inside, smog also went into the house. But if you are at a higher elevation, on a mountain, or on a tall building, you can see the haze everywhere. It covers [Taiwan’s] central region, including Nantou, Taichung, and Changhua. 

Are there many dust particles in the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds? Although one cannot see them with bare eyes, they are countless. Subhuti replied, “Countless, World-honored One.” 

The Buddha said, “Subhuti, the Tathagata says that dust is not dust; it is [merely] named dust.” It’s the same kind of phrase again. You cannot see the [dust]. Dust is just a name, right? We now know that PM 2.5 is very fine dust, but in ancient times there were no microscopes to see these fine dust particles. Are there many dust particles in the three-thousand-great-thousand worlds? Subhuti replied, “Countless, World-honored One.” “Subhuti, the Tathagata says that dust is not dust; it is [merely] named dust.” In simple words, fine dust particles, like PM 2.5, still exist even when they cannot be seen with one’s bare eyes. Dust is just a name given to it. We cannot see these dust particulates; we merely call them dust particulates.

The Tathagata also says that the world is not a world; it is [merely] called a world. It is a similar phrase. The world is not a world. Can you see the world? No, you can’t. With our bare eyes, all we can see [now] is the city called North Bend, right? We can see the Rainbow Villa—the Rainbow Lei Tsang Temple. When we go to Redmond, we can see Seattle Lei Tsang Temple. These are what we can see with our bare eyes. 

Can you see the world? When you see the Earth, you think you’re seeing the whole world. But no, that’s not the world because the world is very big! It includes the Moon. When you see the Moon, would you think that’s the world? No! Because Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto, and Neptune also exist, right? There are many more planets that you cannot see. In addition to this solar system, there are also other solar systems. I heard there are hundreds of suns, but we cannot see them because their lights do not reach our solar systems. 

Therefore Subhuti, the world is not a world; it is [merely] called a world. This explanation is clear. When we talk about the world, we just call it the“world,” even when we cannot see it. Let alone the non-world, which is not visible at all. But if you can see it, that is because of the coexistence of causes and conditions. 

The Sheng-Yen Lu you see now will wane, as it inherently never exists. It is just an aggregate of the four elements of earth, water, fire, and wind. In your body, the bones and flesh are the earth, the blood is water, the temperature is fire, and the breath is wind. Once the four elements disintegrate, the aggregate is gone. Do you understand? You can see the current Sheng-Yen Lu, but was there a Sheng-Yen Lu 77 years ago? No! In a few years, you won’t be able to see me anymore as Sheng-Yen Lu will be gone. Sheng-Yen Lu is just a temporary name. Such is the world. So, the world is not a world; it is [merely] called a world. This is my explanation for it. 

“Subhuti, what do you think? Can one perceive the Tathagata through the thirty-two marks of perfection?” 

“No, World-honored One! One cannot perceive the Tathagata through the thirty-two marks of perfection. Why? Because the Tathagata says that the thirty-two marks of perfection [phenomena] are non-phenomena; they are [merely] called the thirty-two marks of perfection [phenomena].”

Here we talk about the thirty-two marks of perfection, which are a kind of phenomena. The key essence of the Vajra Sutra is to not grasp at any phenomena/appearance/form. Any phenomena will break down and disappear—that is to say that anything tangible will break down.

The chair that I used to sit on was fine, but after I repeatedly dropped myself on it after lifting myself by holding its arms, the chair broke. Chairs, tables, and houses will break down. Everything will break down. Newly built houses will become old in a few years. Afterward, it will be abandoned and demolished. Although made of metals, cars will also break down after a few years and become scrap metal. Everything will break down! 

All [will become] non-phenomena. Is there anything that never deteriorates? Everything will break and be gone eventually. You say that real estate properties [“immovable asset” in Chinese] are immovable and cannot break down? No! Everything is movable; they move when there is an earthquake. How is it immovable?! Even the Earth’scrust can break, the Earth too will deteriorate. Everything will go through the stages of creation, existence, deterioration, and emptiness. The Buddha says, “Impermanence!” Is there anything that does not break down?! This is my explanation on this statement. 

“Subhuti, what do you think? Can one perceive the Tathagata through the thirty-two marks of perfection?”

“No, World-honored One! One cannot perceive the Tathagata through the thirty-two marks of perfection. Why? Because the Tathagata says that the thirty-two marks of perfection [phenomena] are non-phenomena; they are [merely] called the thirty-two marks of perfection [phenomena].”

The thirty-two marks of perfection refer to the appearance of the Tathagata, things like long earlobes that touch the shoulders. See, my ears touch my shoulders! [Laughter while Grandmaster raises his shoulders to touch his ears.] One unbelievably spectacular mark is a tongue so long and wide that it can cover the whole face when it sticks out. Sticking out such a tongue will scare people off, especially if it is long and wide enough to cover the whole face. Interestingly, the Buddha has a long and wide tongue. The appearance of a tathagata is very magnificent. But can these thirty-two marks of perfection signify that one is a tathagata? Of course not; they are false appearances. They are [only] there for us to respect because they represent a buddha. 

Sakyamuni Buddha asked if the Tathagata can be recognized as the thirty-two marks of perfection? And the answer is no!

Non-phenomena! [The notion of] non-phenomena is all the Vajra Sutra talks about! Just remember the two words, non-phenomena! During the second turning of the dharma wheel, the Buddha taught non-phenomena—the highest wisdom. Sakyamuni Buddha says that all phenomena are non-phenomena. 

Non-phenomena applies to beautiful looks too. You see her beauty now because she’s twenty years old. Look again when she’s eighty, and you’d regret how she has changed. This is impermanence! Eventually, she will disappear. All that is left is an urn at the Twin Lotus Columbarium. No matter how beautiful or ugly you are, you’ll end up the same: in an urn. What happens to previous appearances, including the thirty-two marks of perfection? All gone! You’ll just leave an urn. 

Pay attention! The Buddha says non-phenomena! Everything will deteriorate! This is a very wise statement spoken by Sakyamuni Buddha. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you are; what use is it? Worldly beings are shortsighted; they can’t think beyond the present. They just want to earn money, buy properties, land, and houses, and enjoy life. And then what? In the end, all will be gone! 

The Buddha sees ahead and clearly says that those are just non-phenomena. The Tathagata says that the thirty-two phenomena are non-phenomena; they are [merely] called the thirty-two phenomena. This statement is easy to explain. The thirty-two phenomena you see now are not eternal; they will deteriorate and become non-phenomena. But do the thirty-two phenomena or marks of perfection of a buddha exist? Yes, they certainly do. However, they will change and eventually become non-phenomena! 

Everyone should be able to understand the following statement: 

“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.” 

We have talked about this before. Even if you give so much for charity, it is incomparable to the merit of the four-line verse—no phenomena of self, no phenomena of others, no phenomena of sentient beings, and no phenomena of lifespan. In the future, when the entire Earth is destroyed, all non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan will appear. When the Earth is destroyed, there will be no more humans, no more self, no more others, no more sentient beings, and no more longevities. Lifespan refers to time, while sentient beings refer to space. Now, do you understand? 

Om mani padme hum.   




Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 38, 4 December 2021 - Chapter Fourteen—Extinction Upon Abandoning Phenomena


Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: 
 Discourse 36, 27 November 2021 - Chapter Thirteen—Upholding According to the Dharma (continued)


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


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Full webcast of 2021.11.28 Yamantaka Homa Ceremony (Rainbow Temple, North Bend, USA) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/fs3miSH4L6c 

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