Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Diamond Sutra - Part 3 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

... ghost-like,
which clearly isn't the case~ &xcept perhaps with actual ghosts or, pretas. It's sometimes
translated as spontaneous birth. Again it's not spontaneous in the sense of causeless. It really
means that the being, as such, appears at a more advanced stage of developament than is
normal in the case of .those who are egg born or born from a womb, especially those who are
Do you have any idea what the original word was translated as "' i,;r~u~cu~ I
I was tryin~ to think. - (v~apartika), which means 'just appearing', though
spontaneous is nearer actually. But not spontaneous in the sense of bein~ without previous
cause. I mean as Conze says'those who are miraculously born and appear all at once, without
conception or embryonic growth, with all their limbs fully grown from the very start'. You
can say that if you compare those who are egg-born with those who are womb-born, well
clearly those who are womb-born start off their present existence at a more advanced stage
than those who are egg-born, ~o clearly those
who are apparitionally born start off their existence at a more advanced stage still. They ~0n't
go through an interuterine period, they don't go through a period of conception, gestation and
an infancy and childhood, they just appear fully born. So the word miraculous is quite
misleading here. It's not that they're called into existence by some miracle of God. Maybe
even not exempt from possibilites of this sort of misunder- standing, is the best translation
here. So:-
with or without form: with percepti;on, without perception and with neither perception or
non-perception,- as far as any conceivable form of beings is concejeved: all theseTmust lead
to Nirvana, into that realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind. And yet, although
innumerable beings have thus been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana.'
And why? If in a Bodhisattva the notion - of a 'being' should take place, he could not be
called a 'Bodhi- being'.
Being is in both cases 'Sattva'
' And Why? He is not ~o be called a Bodhi-being, in whom the notion of a self or of a being
should take place, or the notion of a living soul or of a person.'
SoU~he phrase 'should produce a thoug~ sounds rather clumsy in 'I
English. The traditional classification of living beings is a
three-fold one. This is not peculiar to Buddhism, it's a general Indian classification (6)
According to w~her they are material or --immaterial.(')Material1with form' are all living
beings, ex-oept those who are immaterial without form ~~The hi hest classes of Gods, who
correspond to the four formless trances, that is to say the four formless dhyanas.(~According
to whether they can or cannot perceive (l)'With perceptiorf~~ all organisms with
sense-organs. (2) Without perceptior?, a class of gods, or angels, living in one of the heavens
which correspond to the fourth dhyana. (3) With neither perception nor non-perception, the
very highest immaterial gods, corresponding to the fourth formless dhyana.
The Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind', literally: 'flirvana without remainder, or
(~nu Palisasa)
Buddhist tradition distinguishes two kinds of Nirvana: (~) The Nirvana with substratum,
which is attained when all defilements, such as greed, ignorance etc. are given up. The
Buddha: reached that at the time of his enlightenement under the Bodhi-tree. But since he
still had a physical body and mental processes, there remained to him the 'substratum' of the
five sk a T t at his death to (2) the Nirvana without substratum. Even the five
skiadhas disappeared, and Nirvana alone remained. Candrakirti
the criminal qanas in it have been exeauted has now itse~f ~O. been razed to the ground.
A comparison which can perhaps be outwardly misunderstanding. Anyway, any query on that
section. In a sense it seems quite straightforward.
When Conze talks about spontaneously born beings as beings in the
intermediary realm is that, is that untra bardo?
S: That's the untra b ardo, there beings are supposed to appear spontaneously, equi~ped
with their fully developed physical bodies, sense organs and so on. Well of course it is a
subtle physical body and the organs are subtle sense organs. But they don't go through any
period of growth or development, they appear fully formed.
Just reading the translation the whole lot seems a bit clumsy, it doesn't seem
very poetic. Is it that in the original Sanskrit, the Diamond Sutra is quite poetical?
No. It's just quite...
S: If by poetical you mean that there are figures of speech and all that which have been left
out of the translation, no that's certainly not the case.
(Long Pause)
__________ : What about the beings without perception? ' class of gods or angels living in
one of the heavens which correspond
to the fourth dhyana' £~what doe~~s that~.~.~
-~ - - -- I -
'Without perception~a class of gods or angels living in the heavens which corresponds
to the fourth dhyana.' These are mentioned in the Pali scriptures. I don't remember much
about them. They are translated sometimes as the unconscious gods.
__ Yes
What 'ould that mean, unconscious? SI.
What could that mean unconscious god?
Well it would mean presumably a god who was~occupying a particular realm but
who's attention was not directed towards the realm itself as an objectively existing thing. Just
as in this world one might have a being who has a physical body and so on but who is
absorbed in meditation and not conscious of the world in which at the same time, in a sense,
he lives.
One assumes it is something of that sort. I can't remember reading any ac~u~ ~~~v'~~o~I~
o~ what an unconscious god is. Whether it's even, the term is asanya, which is ' not
perceiving' so one assumes thatkis the same as unc~c,ious but one is not completely certain of
it. It's not perceiving perhaps rather thank" conscious. (pause) Maybe its gods who don't take
much notice of things. (chuckles) I mean these classifications are sort of traditional, not
exclusively Buddhist. They are simply meant to exhaust the
term' beings'. content of the Simply to
or em hasise the fact that the Bodhisattva
is concernedkwith all beings of all kinds howsoever one may in fact classify them, the details
don't matter.
~rr{ Ccr~:
Are Buddhas considered to be living beings, do they come under these
Well living beings includes human beings
Corr Ah.
Th~~~fov~terms, cWthe end of the chapter'. ~~ the notion of a self or of a being
should take place, or the notion of a living soul or of a person. "
So self is 'atma', being is 'sattva', living soul is '1iva' , person is 'pudgala?' so a human, human
beings could be included under all of these.
(Long pause)
What does 'notion1 translate?
I think it's (sanya). Yes we come to this in the next chapter. Notion is (sanya)'altered
So notion of a being. What exactly is m~~~t by notion?
S: Well to form a concept of a being.
Subhuti: Concept?
As a result of one's experience, as a resultjof ones encounter with so-called beings one
forms the notion of an objectively existing, unchanging, identifiable, separate, self or being or
living soul, or person. The notion is a wrong notion in as much as it doesn't correspond to the
facts of the situation, Wkiether in terms of 'dharmas' according to the Hinayana,or in terms of
'sunyata according to the Mahayana. The notion of a being is simply your wrong
interpretation of the facts of your own experience. You construe them in a particular wrong
If a Bodhisattva didn't have a notion of how would he actually go about leading them
to Nirvana?
Well he doesn't. Because, er, one might say that that is what he appears to do, from
the point of view of other people, but he himself doesn't do it in that way. One might for
instance give an illustration on a much more ordinary level. Somebody might see another
person helping others, and just being genera+~y useful, thoughtful~ cioing things for other
people, and they might think, "well they've got a definite, clear cut notion in their 'I
minds of being helpful and doing things for other people. But as
far as the actual person who's doing all these things is concerned they don't have any such
notion at all. They just do things, it's just their nature to do so and they just do them spontan-
eously, do you see what I mean? So with the Boddhisattva an another level entirely, even in a
qui~ different way~he sort of acts freely and Sp0n~~t~~e~~l~~4~0~t~ that he has a definite
notion of other people of helping them. it's just his nature to act in that particular way. Do
you see what I'm getting at? This is only just a sort of feeble reflection of the thing itself,
though perhaps it can give one some intimation of it. The Bodhisattva is free from self
consciousness in the
less positivejsense of the term.
So the vow, as it were sinks to the very depths ...

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