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Diamond Sutra - Part 2 Unchecked

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

... nothing about that
samadhi,that trance, as Conze calls it.This Sutra says that the Buddha simply fixes his
attention in front of him.He sat;this is a quite common sort of idiom,he just sat there,just
mindfully,just watching the ~reath~but not distractedly- sat in a concentrated way,without
distraction,looking straight in front.
A Voice:
Is that what 'fixing his attention in front of him' means?
B: It would seem so,yes.He'd be sitting up straight and looking in front of- him,
mindfully,not in a s1e~-.~py sort of fashion.not looking from side to side.Not distracted by
wandering thoughts. Just sitting there.
A Voice: Yes,because Conze says the Buddha fixes his attention on the breath which is in
front of him,and I1'Je seen this glossed
in that sort of way before.
S: Yes ,it may be,because,it's true to some extent.Because if you do just sit quietly and your
mind is not wanderin0g~,~ou~e not thinking of anything,you do become aware of
your~breathing. So you can(in that sense)be said to,you know,be,to be fixing your attention
on the breath.Not that you ao it deliberately, ~would say One doesn't need to do it
deli'6erately,but as he sits
ds. I. ~s.
there quietly and mindfully he quite naturally becomes aware of the breathing
process.Perhaps his mind does sort of go on~o that, perhaps therefore his concentration does
deepen,but the actual text says nothing of all that, in certain points.First Conze points out,in
the larger Pra1~aparamita Sutras,larger meaning the longer versions in the hundred thousand
shlokas,the eight thousand shlokas,and the twenty-five thousand shlokas,the eighteen
It 'I shlokas and so on,he enters into a trance~or samadhi which
described as the'king of all ~amadhis'and which miraculousl
persists throu ghout the preaching of the Sutr~.Sut that's a feature which is absent from this
version.It's almost as though quite deliberately the compiler of this Sutra,who must have been
-aware ofkhese other~sutras,deliberately stresses the ordinariness of the s~,£~ ord krine~: of
the occasion ,,the ordinariness even of th'eVUBuddha,perhaps for~reasons that 4nentioned
earlier on.
~-~-. DS '2 -~
It's as though the~natural
itself W~ SU~£J~~\U~c&.~6'
It doesn't need any addittons to them (Pause). Any further points arising out of this section?
Subhuti: Yes, one. It's very noticeable tho~~erthere are only monks present - there are no
nuns, very often amon~st the /sutras you have (S.: Yes, that's right)...the full assembly.
and the Upask~s- -
S~.: Yes. (Unclear) You have the Upasakas,/ You have also the various classes of
cC~estial bein~ all sorts of strange creatures present. It's almost suggesting that--no doubt the
monks would be assumed practically to be Arahants, apart from Ananda perhaps, in any case,
highly developed beings -So it's a very select audience. You've got monks,~and you've got
Bodhisattvas and you don't have anybody else.
Jinavamsa: It seems~that they
ore present~~~~he monks and nuns,Wt
~o44--~~~n~ ~~~~ and~odhisattvas and the whole World~'~~." ~~.%~~. ~.~~ '~ Stc~
C ~~c\~t~~!~
S.: Well, it doesn't
the~beginning. Og't ~co-t&~~ ~ 'S
- say~%what
~v' the
W~~ addition~by a £ater scribe.
The whole world (Laughter). I was wondering about the compos
ition of the Sutra.. it's late in the Prajnaparamita corpus, is it?
S.: Yes. According to general-scholarly opinion, certainly according to Conze.,~e believes,
and this seems to be quite reasonable~,~that first of
all there
comes~ the most likely, the 'Ratnagunasamcayagatha',- the verses on the
'Accumulation of Precious Qualities' - the. chapters of which rough- ly parallel the chapers of
the prose 'perfection of Wisdom' in 860-0 1ine~ or 8000 sk~ok~s. Certainly these twb are
very old, \tJhi6h is the-older perhaps can be disputed; but the we)ght of scholarly opinion
seems to be that the 'Ratnagunasamcayagatha' is the older of the two, at 1-east the greater part
of it. The first two chapters ~i-~~e\t~e~~ - be t?ie oldest of all. So one has first of all these
two works: the Ratnagunasamcaya- gatha and the perfection of Wisdom in 8000 lines. Then
of course in the next stage one has the expansion of the older shorter text in varying
degrees~culminating in the 'Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 S roughly speaking, and there
are other versions in, I think, 25, and I thi nk i0~o6~~~no 18; ~S'~~&\~'&ou~~&.lines~ but
the difference in length is said to be ~?~m~~;L~~;te~ oth~e, e \e ~ to w re~etition and lists
they're copied out to vari~ereethen copied out. ~ if1~
4J~~A ygL4O~~OO~O,,i0O you
get versions
of 18 or 25,00~0 S\'\3-~~%. - . After that there was a period of contractio n - a third period -
the- main ~utras of which are the 'Diamond Sutra' and
DS 2 and the 'Heart Sutra'. Then comes fourthly, the 'Perfection of Wisdom' Sutras which
incorporate Tantric features - in which the Perfection of Wisdom appears as a Goddess who is
to be worshipped in various ways.
Vessantara: What texts would fall under that heading?
I forget the titles of them but they're all quite short and they're collected together in
Conze's "Shorter Buddhist Texts". (Pause)
Presumably, the compilers of these texts didn't sit down and say,'I've never
composed a sutra'; what do they consider themselves to be
doing? Are they drawing on, an accumulating tradition? Do you see what I mean? How
would they have regarded what they were doing?
S.: Well, this is something that c~an be considered in general terms because we find in may
literatures, especially in many ~'\~~ou~ literatures, these, what we call 'pseudonymous' works,
that is works atributed to certain famous people that could not have possibly been written by
them. There's a who?~2~d1~ne~ma~uu~e in, well, I was going to say the Old Testament
Apocrypha and the New Testament Apocrypha,but actually many works in the present New
Testament Canon itself are really pseudonymous. I mean the Gospels of Matth~w, Mark.
Luke and John were not written by the apostles of those names. They may have been written
by the disciples of those apostles who passed down, who recorded the traditions that they'd
re- ceived froitheir masters and therefore, in good faith~ they attributed their works to them,
but it would seem that in earlier times there wan t this same sort of feeling or sense of literary
property. Teachings, tradit - ions~were sort of common property and believed to have
originated with certain famous men or certain wise men, certain sages, and when you wrote it
down you were not writing a book of your own w~h you signed by your name. You were
writing down the teaching deriving frointhat particular person~ and it was his teaching and
you signed it with his name. Do you see what I mean? (Subhuti: Yes) So in modern times
we would tend to think of that as forgery~and no doubt if we were to do it today, with our
modern sophisticatedco~sc'ou~~L~it would be sort of forgery; I mean supposing that we were
to write down a book, and we were to say, 'Well, this is a ~utra. This was taught by the
Buddha' . Well, it would be really a sort of fiction, because we don't really believe that, we
don't have that sort of background. We don't believe that we're~imply the amanuensis of you
know, teachings that we"Ie heard, that the true author is the Buddha. We don't feel that.
There's an example when Nietszche wrote "Thus Spake Zarathustra"
2 Q~. That's a literary fiction because he knew quite well that the Zarathustra
of his book was not the Zarathustra of ancient Iranian tradition. But many ancient writers,
when they wrote down teachings that they had heard seem to hav~genuinely blieved they
were not the authors of those teachings - the authors of those texts. They were the mere
amanuenses, the mere scribes. So they didn't put their own names. Of course, sometimes it
may have been that there was a bit 6f wishful thinking and~anted to attribute Certain
teachings to an honoured name1 and in this way the teachings became ascribed to certain
personalities that were even at variance with their own views, their own opinions.
So one can imagine someone who would be perhaps, if there was an original
compiler, who was the original compiler of the 'Diamond Sutra',
as be~~~ eort of deeply imbued with the 'Perfection of Wisdom' teachings, and
believ~'i~ that they went back to the Buddha but feeling at the same time that the existing
versions were much too bulky, feeling that they needed to be condenseA 1even feeling that
'hewas guided to do that by the inspiration of the Buddha or by the direction of his teacher. I
mean perhaps his teacher suggested once upon a time 'We 11, you know, the things have been
recorded in such and such sutras, in a rather deta iled manner. It would perhaps be helpful for
some people if they could be recor~ed in a less detailed manner with the main points
stressed.' So the disciple might have set to work and regarded . he'd
been~oFos~~the author as a sort of alternative hisfrersion~which Sutra,because he~as
only putting into another form the teaching of the Sutras. He ...

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