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Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Diamond Sutra - Part 11 Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked, and may contain mistakes and mishearings.

Conze says in the last of the introductory sentences:
'The cryptic sentences which follow are meant to stress the all-pervading greatness of the
Well that is not really very obvious is it? Perhaps he is just trying to make some sort of
sense, establish some kind of connection?
_____ He also says at the end of the second piece, that" the whole passage loses its point in
translation~~as if it was quite clear in the original.
Well it isn't. It is no more obscure in the translation~ there is no play upon words.
'The whole passage loses its point in translation' - even though Conze is himself the translator
I think one can dispute that.
Isn't this a theme that is touched on by other Buddhists writers. I seem to
remember Shantideva talking about a even if you had a I can't remember it very
well if you had ailatma the size of Mount Sumeru you'd still be empty - something like
Ah, no, no, no. You are thinking of Nagarjuna who says even if you have a view of
self, not an actual self, a view of self as high as Mount Sumeru. No, that is different. But as
I said, the idea does seem extraordinary, the concept itself of anyone having a body as big as
Mount Sumeru. One wonders why
that was brought in because it doesn't clarify the thought,, or form
any part of an argument at all. It's like saying, 'Well, the
body's made up, your being is made up of five Skandhas, even if you were as big as a
house, you'd still be made of five Skandas' Well, it enlar~es the point a little but not really
very much. And there's still theys~ov~ of the connection here.
Gut~: Maybe it's making the point that, it's saying that, the Dharmabody can be considered
to be covering the whole ~niverse, but even if you had a body that covered the vniverse it
would still be a non-existence, it still wouldn't compare to the Dharmabody. Maybe it's
saying that?
Well actually it doesn't mention the Dharmabody in the text. That ma~be implied but
there doesn't seem to be any definite connection. Maybe the general principle, general point
is whatsoever you identify yourself with, however big it is, even if you identify yourself with
the whole ~niverse, regarding that as yourself, in the way that some forms of the Vedanta do -
still that personal existence is a no-existence. Do you see what I mean? I mean, there is
some, it may contain some reference to this line of thinking. The Buddhist view is that this
does not belong to me, this is not myself, but the Vedantic view is rather to try to extend or
expand the self as much as possible, which is a quite legitimate procedure up to a point. You
regard all beings as yourself, all bodies as your body. In a way the whole world is your body,
the whole Universe is your body, - you identify yourself with it in this way. Perhaps, this
particular passage is hinting that even if you do that, even if your body is very large indeed,
even if your body is a Cosmic body, even if it's as large as Sumeru, still that personal
existence is a no-existence. Perhaps it is directed against what we may call sort of cosmic
pantheism or something of
that sort. Do you see what I'm getting at? This is the only
way in which apparently one can get some kind of sense or establish some kind of
connection. The meaning of the passage is clear but the connection with the Dharmabody
which seems to be quite obvious to Conze, doesn't seem so obvious judging from the text
itself, not much@o the~point, doesn t seem to be much ~ point, unless one looks at it in the
way in which I've suggested.
S~~~~'.What exactly do you mean by cosmic pantheism?
Well, I referred to the Vedanta. In one form of Vedanta at least the(~~r~ Vendanta
tends to expand consciousness to the extent that, one identifies oneself with everything in the
universe, with the whole of existence,-that becomes as it were, one's self or one's body.
This is a stra;~ of thought in the Upanishands:whatever you see, that is yourself. So
therefore you identify yourself with the universe. 'Within' you identify yourself with, you
identify your atma with the brahman and 'without' you identify the whole of the
Universe with your own body - the whole of the universe becomes your own body. But if
one wants to look at it in that way, well the Buddha's point would be, however great your
personal existence might be, it will still be no-existence. It will still be essentially Sunyata
and that point of course the Vedanta doesn't see, doesn't think.
Whether you have a body six feet tall, or whether you have a body as large as Mount Sumeru
or whether you have a cosmic body or whether the whole Universe is your body, it doesn't
make any essential difference. It's all essentially, I mean that personal
existence, however small or however large, is still a no- existence, according to the
You don't solve the problem of self merely by expanding yourself. Pause.
Su~: Have you not suggested that the Brahmaviharas are almost
identical with this?
You suggested that the Brahmaviharas are a sort of path. Is it
something along these lines?
In a way, yes. Because there is th4question of expansion, not just expansion of feeling as
wi~~ ~\~L '£,r~~w~a~t~haras but the expansion of being, expansion of the area, so to
speak, with which you identify yourself or which you regard as yourself.
It doesn't mean that Conze' 5 comments
"this is myself. It is that which is regarded as belongin~ to a self, the existence round a self,
the sum total of all that seems to be built round a self.'
However extensive that which buil& around ~self, it is still built around~tself - whether it,
5 as large as Mount Sumeru or as extensive as the universe itself. There's still a limitation if
one doesn't regard this personal existence as no-
existence i.e. as not tAltimate. Because there is the ;~vtr~c& co~~t 'logic'~of the passage
that even~huge existenceL huge because
it was a no-existence,and that was a separate point that runs all through the text, not just
through this particular passage. Pause.
Voice.. It seems that quite often a word is repeated twice. Is that a
literary convention or a definite
S: Ah 'Personal existence, personal existence' this is a sort of -idiom. We find it in Pall
too. ~hi£~s~s' the way people habitually speak. ~~ is also for emphasis. For instance
when -the Buddha describes his original Enlightment experience, according to the Pall
scriptures, he says, 'coming to be, coming to be, when I saw that everything comes into
existence,' and 'passing away, passing away.' It is repeated here, apparently -for the sake of
emphasis. Perhaps it connects up with what -we were saying yesterday about there being no
capital letters in -the . you don't have printing conve~tions, well how are you
going to emphasise, you have to emphasise by the words themselves, by repetition. You can
t underline 'otc~~u you don't have that device, especially if you have an oral tradition anyway.
When Conze connects this particular passage with the Dharmabody he may of course be
the Indian co~~~~ffi- Even so -the connection does seem somewhat arbitrary. Alright,
let's pass on to 3e.
The merit derived from Perfect Wisdom -
The four major sections of the Sutra
conclude each with a few remarks on the merit which forms the basis of the spiritual
achievements discussed, and which is traced back to the teachings of this Sutra. Chapters ii
and 12 in this way corre- spond to chapter 8.
The Lord asked: What do you think, Subhuti, if there were as many Ganges rivers as
there are grains of sand in the large river Ganges, would the grains of sand in them be many
?-Subhuti replied: Those Ganges rivers would indeed be many, much more so the grains of
sand in them.-The Lord said: This is what I announce to you, Subhuti, this is what I make
known to you,-if some woman or man had filled with the seven precious things as many
world systems as there are grains of sand in those Ganges rivers, and would give them as a
gift to the Tathagatas, Arhats, fully Enlightened Ones-what do you think, Subhuti, would that
woman or man on the strength of that beget a great heap of merit?-Subhuti replied: Great, 9Lord, great 0 Well-Gone, would that heap of merit be, immeasurable and
inca1culable.-The~~ iA~rd said: But if a son or daughter of good family had taken from this
discourse on dharma but one stanza of four lines, and were to demonstrate and illuminate it to
the~n~~~~the~Y w6i~i~d~o~~~~th~~sfr~n~gth of that~beget a still -
~~ ~t. greater heap of merit; Immeasurable and incalculable.
~ C ~ 12. Moreover,
Subhuti, that spot of earth where one has
taken from this discourse on dharma but one stanza of four lines, taught or illumined it, that
spot of earth will be a veritable shrine for the whole world with its gods, men and Asuras.
What then should we say of those who will bear in mind this discourse on dharma in its
entirety, who will recite, study, and illuminate it in full detail for others! Most wonderfully
blest, Subhuti, they ...

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