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 41, 12 December 2021 - Chapter Fourteen—Extinction Upon Abandoning Phenomena (continued)   

Fourteen—Extinction Upon Abandoning Phenomena 

Subhuti understood its profundity upon hearing this sutra and was moved to tears. He said to the Buddha, “World-honored One, it is rare indeed for the Buddha to speak on such a profound sutra. I have never heard of such a sutra ever since I attained my wisdom eyes. 

“World-honored One, if someone generates pure faith upon hearing this sutra, they will give rise to real phenomena. This person will obtain the rarest of merits. 

“World-honored One, the real phenomena are non-phenomena. Therefore, the Tathagata named it real phenomena. 

“World-honored One, it is easy for me to believe, comprehend, accept, and uphold this sutra immediately upon hearing it. However, in the ensuing five hundred years, it would be most rare for sentient beings to hear, believe, understand, accept, and uphold the sutra. Why? Because [it is extremely rare for] a person not to have any view of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan. The phenomena of self is non-phenomena, and so are the phenomena of others, the phenomena of sentient beings, and the phenomena of lifespan; they are all non-phenomena. Why? [Only] those who abandon all phenomena are called buddhas.” 

The Buddha told Subhuti, “Just so, just so, Subhuti! If there is a person who is not shocked, frightened nor fearful upon hearing this sutra, it is extremely rare indeed! Why? Subhuti, the Tathagata said that the first and foremost paramita is not the first and foremost paramita; it is [merely] named the first and foremost paramita. 

Subhuti, the Tathagata said that endurance paramita is not endurance paramita; it is [merely] named endurance paramita. Why? Subhuti, in the past, when King Kalinga dismembered my body, I was [in the state of] non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan. Why? Because if I had the notion of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan during the dismembering of my limbs, I would have felt hatred. 

“Subhuti! Also, think of the sages who have practiced endurance for the past five hundred lifetimes, wherein each lifetime, they have no phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan. 

“Therefore, Subhuti, a bodhisattva should abandon all phenomena, generate the mind of anuttara samyaksambodhi, and give rise to the mind which does not dwell on sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or anything at all. Even if the mind dwells on something, it is regarded as non-dwelling. 

“Therefore, the Buddha said that a bodhisattva should not dwell on form when he performs the acts of giving. Subhuti! A bodhisattva should perform the acts of giving to benefit all sentient beings. The Tathagata said, ‘All phenomena are non-phenomena. Also, all sentient beings are not sentient beings.’ Subhuti, the Tathagata speaks truthfully, realistically, accordingly, credibly, and absolutely. 

“Subhuti, all the dharma [anything] obtained by the Tathagata are neither real nor false. Subhuti, if a bodhisattva dwells on anything while performing acts of giving, it is as if he is in the dark; he will not see anything. If a bodhisattva does not dwell on anything when performing acts of giving, he is not blinded and will be able to see all sorts of forms as if the sun is shining. 

“Subhuti! In future lives, should there be good men and good women who can accept and uphold, read or recite this sutra, they will be known and seen by the Tathagata through his wisdom, and they will attain vast and boundless merits.” 


Alright, let’s talk about the Vajra Sutra. Yesterday, we left off at World-honored One, if someone generates pure faith upon hearing this sutra, they will give rise to real phenomena. This person will obtain the rarest of merits. World-honored One, the real phenomena are non-phenomena. Therefore, the Tathagata named it real phenomena. We have talked about [the Vajra Sutra] up until this point. In fact, Grandmaster [I] had explained it very clearly. It should be understood. Real phenomena is non-phenomena because non-phenomena is real phenomena. Everybody understands this. 

Today, this is all we will cover: World-honored One, it is easy for me to believe, comprehend, accept, and uphold this sutra immediately upon hearing it. This is what Subhuti said. He can believe, comprehend, accept, and uphold. It is not difficult for Subhuti. 

However, in the ensuing five hundred years, it would be most rare for sentient beings to hear, believe, understand, accept, and uphold the sutra. Let’s talk about “most rare to believe, understand, accept, and uphold.” I have spoken about pure faith [yesterday]. Here, “believe” means believing in the Vajra Sutra and believing in the non-phenomena of self, non-phenomena of others, non-phenomena of sentient beings, and non-phenomena of lifespan. “Understand” means that you can comprehend that the current phenomena of self is actually a non-phenomena. You could thus comprehend and explain that you have no self, knowing that your body is just an aggregate of the four elements and it does not have a fixed appearance. This is what “understand” means. 

I have often mentioned how dashing I had been when I was younger. I had many girlfriends! Really! [chuckles] When I lived at Taichung’s Cooperative New Village, I had a girlfriend who loved to stick around whenever she visited my house until late at night. It was bedtime for my parents and myself. To make her leave, I had to walk her home which means I had to walk back to my house alone. Should I mention her name? I am not sure if she is still alive, but let’s just call her Jiang Xia. She could not bear to part with me, my appearance during that young age was very captivating! [laughter] I think I looked quite good, although I did not feel that way at the time.  

And now? My appearance is no longer the same. All appearances from the past, present, [and future] will never stay the same. From when I was born… I had a baby photo taken unclothed. My appearance changed from the time I was a baby to when I was in elementary school, junior high, senior high, then college, when entering the workforce, building a family, entering prime age and subsequently at old age. Now, I am seventy-seven and this is how I look. An appearance never lasts. After all, it is a mere aggregate of the four elements and is everchanging. Everything else is too. So, which one is you? Which one is the “self”? This alone demonstrates that there are no phenomena of self [appearance is phenomena].

Eventually all that is left will only be ashes placed at the Twin Lotus Columbarium. Where is one’s true “self” then?  Who is your true “self”? Which one is the true “self”? The “self” is everchanging. Even one’s name, like Sheng-Yen Lu, is merely superficial—it is not real. The reality is, “self” is a non-phenomena, as I have repeated frequently. You must recognize and comprehend that the so-called “self” has no self in it. First you believe, then you understand. Then you come to “accept” the non-phenomena of self. By accepting the non-phenomena of self, you can infer and apply the “non-self” to everybody else and therefore accept the non-phenomena of others. Then naturally, there will be the non-phenomena of sentient beings, which refers to the spatial dimension. 

Do you ever own anything? Let me share with you the idiom, “although I was given life when I was born, I will not be able to take that life with me when I die.” Let me ask you, “Is there anything you can bring with you when you die?” [Nothing!] This is the non-phenomena of sentient beings! You say you own real estate properties, but does the house belong to you? No. Is the land yours? No. This is how I see those rich and powerful people… there are many of them in America! The co-founder of Tesla is a very wealthy man. He recently sold all his mansions and properties, and instead lives in a modular home. But did you know that even his modular home does not belong to him? So, properties and land are not yours. This is what is called the non-phenomena of sentient beings. [Sentient beings refer to the spatial dimension, which includes all things.] 

I see powerful people in high places, like Biden, or the presidents of Mainland China or Taiwan. How long will they be in power? Only for a limited number of years, not long. This is the non-phenomena of lifespan—in other words, time. How long will you live? “Tenzin, how old are you?” Nineteen. One hundred years later, where will you be? Perhaps you will live to be 119 years old! [laughter] But that is highly improbable, right? A hundred years later, you will not be here anymore. All of us here will also be gone. Perhaps only the infants may still be alive. One hundred nineteen years later, none of us will be here. [Time also does not last] and this refers to the non-phenomena of lifespan.  

The deep understanding of these four non-phenomena—no self, no others, no time, and no space—is the “understanding” [as stated in the sutra]. After believing, you would understand, then accept. You would “accept” what you understand, because there really are no other options. You must accept the fact that although a person was given life when he was born, he does not have life when he dies. 

…believe, understand, accept, and uphold… After you accept reality, you must uphold it and put it into practice. How do you put it into practice? [Ask yourself] is your heart still not at peace? Do you still feel jealous? Whom are you jealous of? Are you envious of the wealthy? Out of nowhere, Bill Gates had a cake thrown to his face. Why? The person who threw the cake said, “I hate rich people!” Hating the wealthy is caused by jealousy and envy. You should know that people with money, as well as people with power are just the same as us. They are not much better than us; in fact, we are all the same! [Knowing this,] your mind will be at peace, just like still water. You can then meditate once you have this wisdom. This is what believe, understand, accept, and uphold means. 

If you are envious of the rich, or the beautiful… like the beautiful Auspicious Goddess Sridevi or Lakshmi. Grandmaster has painted the Twelve Auspicious Goddesses, the Five Longevity Goddesses, Sarasvati, Golden Mother’s daughters and her three thousand attendants. I have painted them all. Every one of them is so beautiful. They are goddesses from the celestial realm after all! But let’s not mind them; let us talk about the ones in the saha world instead. Talking about “looks,” remember the phrase “as you age, your beauty fades.” It all changes! This is impermanence. Everything is everchanging. 

Money—if you can take it lightly, then you won’t be greedy for it! Looks—if you also take it lightly, then you won’t be desirous for it. Fame—if you also take it lightly, then you won’t seek it. Acceptance is when you can see through greed, anger, delusion, doubt, pride, and all negativities. With acceptance, your mind is completely at peace. No more worries. What is there to worry about? Happiness is only for a moment in time. Suffering is also fleeting. It is true that life is suffering; birth, aging, sickness, and death are all sufferings. There are just too many sufferings and too little happiness in human life. Thus, Sakyamuni Buddha always started his dharma teachings with the statement, “human life is suffering.” It was due to suffering that he renunciated and became a monk after he saw the suffering of the four gates [birth, aging, sickness, and death]. He got married when he was nineteen, and at twenty-five, he became a monk. This is acceptance. 

How to uphold or put it into practice? Applying your [understanding and acceptance of the] non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan, your mind becomes undisturbed, and you can then meditate. You can open the five chakras using tantric Buddhist practices, through which you will reach the tenth ground of bodhisattvahood. By opening the crown chakra, brow chakra, throat chakra, heart chakra, navel chakra, and secret chakra, you will reach the twelfth ground. When you open the topknot/head-bump,[1] you will reach the twelfth-and-a-half ground. The thirteenth ground is buddhahood. This step-by-step purification method is mentioned in Lamdre. This is what it means to uphold and put into practice. 

Just now I have stated a very unusual statement, “Destroy all purities!” During the merit dedication [of the homa ceremony] I said, “Destroy all purities!” You might think that Grandmaster made a mistake. No, I did not say it wrong, “Destroy all purities.” I am destroying even the term “purity.” Because in reality, there is no such thing as purity. What is going on? Did you not tell us to practice purification? Why are you destroying purity? [Because] purity is merely a name. In the non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan, there is no purity. There is only emptiness, nothing else. This is the highest realm of attainment! 

The sixth patriarch Huineng stated, “It’s the moment when there is no notion of good and bad.” Before, I was doubtful of what Huineng said about having no notion of good and bad. Especially on “having no notion of good.” Is he advocating us not to do good? I thought Huineng was wrong when he said it. Having no notion of bad made sense. One should not think of nor commit evil. But one must do good [I thought]. Why not do good? And not even thinking about it? After I read the Vajra Sutra, I understood! Let me ask you: What is good? What is bad? On the moon, what is good? What is bad? Neither good nor bad exists there. Good and bad only exist where there are people. 

Today, we do good deeds, like through the Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation and Lotus Light Charitable Society. We perform good deeds. However, we don’t think about doing such good deeds. This is what is called having “no notion of good.” When I do good deeds or charitable acts, I would never think that I am doing a good deed. I would just do it! Once I do, I would let it go. I would never keep it in mind. This is a simple way of saying, “Generating a non-dwelling mind.” Non-dwelling—I do not dwell on anything. Unconditioned dharma—I do things for no particular reason. If you can apply unconditioned dharma, you would do good deeds without thinking about it. Only for good deeds of course, since you should not do nor think about evil! Once you do it, you let it go. There is no reason behind it, no whys. This is called “no notion of good and bad.” 

Therefore today, when I said, “destroy all purities,” I meant to treat all your good deeds as nothing. Perhaps you have done many good deeds, but they all have been destroyed. This is destroying all purities. What I said was not wrong. Everyone in the audience may think, “Why would Grandmaster want to destroy all kinds of purity?” But that is right. Because once you can apply the non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan, then you have completely attained the empty nature of the Tathagata. What is this? This is to uphold. However, it is extremely difficult to uphold, even after you accept it. Of believe, understand, accept, and uphold, “uphold” is indeed the most difficult. Once you can uphold, you will not have any afflictions. It would be fine whether you gain or lose. It is okay the way it is today, and it is okay whatever tomorrow may bring. Every day is a good day. Like the phrase I wrote, “Everything is the best arrangement.” 

Everything is the best arrangement! Imagine you got a stroke today and was hospitalized—that is also the best arrangement. A tumor grows in your body, or you have cancer—that is also the best arrangement. It lets you experience the sufferings of human life and understand better that your body does not belong to you. You never wanted any tumors or cancer in your body but it came by itself! Is the body yours? If the body were yours, it would be under your control and command. But you cannot control your own body. Cancer appears beyond your control. You just find out from the physical exam that you’d need surgery or chemotherapy. [All you can do is] sigh… What a pain! 

So, you must think that the body is just a place for you to reside temporarily. It is a temporary shell. Do not assume you are beautiful now; if you have cancer and must undergo chemotherapy, you will immediately look fifty years older. As soon you undergo chemotherapy, you will be miserable! I frequently shed tears of grief for the beings in this world. Last night I also cried for all sentient beings, for those who got cancer, for those who must go through chemotherapy, and for those whose tumors have already spread all over. Last night I cried again. Human life is truly full of suffering! 

Therefore, know that all the phenomena in this world is impermanent! That is why you must believe, understand, accept, and uphold. Do not sweat about the small stuff! It is meaningless to bicker and stab each other over such small matters… back and forth, back and forth. It is utterly meaningless! Meaningless, I say! Do not keep any afflictions in your heart. When suffering comes, accept it. When pain comes, accept it. Whatever situation you are in, you should accept it as is, since you understand the non-phenomena of self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan. Having this understanding, you will not envy the rich, the powerful, the beautiful, or the handsome—you will not envy any of it. Your heart will be at peace and when you sit in meditation you can immediately enter deep meditation. When you sleep, you will be able to fall asleep right away. Whatever suffering that occurs to you will disappear. Everything that happens is the best arrangement possible! 

Om mani padme hum. 

[1]  The Usnisha, the thirty-second major mark of a buddha consisting of an oval bump on top of the head 



Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 42, 18 December 2021 - Chapter Fourteen—Extinction Upon Abandoning Phenomena (continued)

Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 40, 11 December 2021 - Chapter Fourteen—Extinction Upon Abandoning Phenomena (continued)  

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