Posted in diamond sutra, Uncategorized

Paradox in the Diamond Sutra

No one claims the Diamond Sutra is an easy text to understand.

It’s said to be so full of meaning that it can point us directly to Enlightenment, so of course it’s not an easy text. It would be crazy for someone to pick this text as their first class to teach at their local Buddhist temple. *ahem*

Anyway, it’s tough. That’s what I’m trying to say. A lot of the passages are have to be read multiple times to be understood and it’s so repetitive that that can be overwhelming too.

But I want to talk about what I think is the hardest part to grasp for most people. That’s the use of paradoxical statements. I’m going to present one example, but bear in mind that the Buddha uses this kind of statement several times in the sutra.

“What do you think, Subhuti? Does a bodhisattva create a serene and beautiful Buddha field?”
“No, World-Honored One. Why? To create a serene and beautiful Buddha field is not in fact creating a serene and beautiful Buddha field. That is why it is called creating a serene and beautiful Buddha field.”

What the hell? Right?

So, what’s going on here? How can creating a Buddha field be not creating a Buddha field? And that’s why it’s called a Buddha field?

Subhuti clearly just contradicted himself. And the Buddha does, by the way, tell him that he’s right. In other parts of the sutra the Buddha makes the same kind of statement. What does it mean?

This Sutra is trying to take us beyond our dualistic thinking. Words like “serene” and “beautiful” and even “Buddha field” are labels that we put on the world. We create labels for everything in the world around us and then we pretend those labels are real.

But what if they’re not? What if we change the things we observe by naming them, and if we just let things be as they are we would see the world more clearly?

What if all the lines we draw, all the boundaries we set in the world are self-created too?

I’m not talking about the boundaries separating you and I, but the lines between us and everything around us. What if we’re more connected to each other, and to everything, than we realize.

Every line we draw in our minds to separate or categorize things is self-created.

The truth is there is no separation.

I’m not sure my explanation is any less complicated or hard to understand than the statements in the Diamond Sutra.

But I tried.

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Posted in diamond sutra, Uncategorized

Teachers Who Inspire

My study of the Diamond Sutra has made me think about the importance of having a spiritual teacher. We think sometimes about reasons to have a teacher and I think a teacher’s role in inspiring us is sometimes downplayed.

I’ll quote from the beginning of the sutra here:

“That day, when it was time to make the round for alms, the Buddha put on his sanghati robe and, holding his bowl, went into the city of Sravasti to seek alms food, going from house to house. When the alms round was completed, he returned to the monastery to eat the midday meal. Then he put away his sanghati robe and his bowl, washed his feet, arranged his cushion, and sat down.

At that time, the Venerable Subhuti stood up, bared his right shoulder, put his knee on the ground, and, folding his palms respectfully, said to the Buddha, ‘World-Honored One, it is rare to find someone like
you. You always support and show special confidence in the bodhisattvas. World-Honored One, if sons and daughters of good families want to give rise to the highest, most fulfilled,awakened mind, what should they rely on and what should they do to master their thinking?'”

That was probably an unnecessary long quotation. But, here’s what I have to say about it. At first it might seem like the Buddha didn’t do anything. But, that’s not the case.

What he did was engage his daily routine with complete mindfulness. As he puts on his robe, goes from house to house, eats, etc. he is being completely present in the moment. This kind of awareness is described in the Zen tradition. It’s said that chopping wood and carrying water can be spiritual practices if they’re engaged with total mindful awareness.

Anyway, the Buddha’s student Subhuti can see how serene and aware the Buddha seems to be, even in the midst of routine activities.

I imagine myself in Subhuti’s role, so I imagine him thinking, “The Buddha is Enlightened as hell. I should ask him for a teaching.”

And the whole sutra is about Subhuti asking for teachings.

Now, what does all this mean to me?

I’ve studied with a variety of Buddhist teachers. I have seen that it makes a big difference when I’ve met one that is fully present. It’s so easy to be out of this moment, with our minds wandering.

But when we see someone who is fully present in this moment, I think we can tell. We can be inspired by teachers like that, just as Subhuti was. And we can ask them for teachings, just like Subhuti did.

Teachers can motivate us if it seems like they are more present than we are.

Posted in sutra

Comparing Sutras

Since I’m teaching a class on the Diamond Sutra for the next six weeks, I expect it will be on my mind a lot. You can expect me to write about it for a while and I hope that’s ok.

What’s significant about the Diamond Sutra is that it’s down to earth and it presents the Buddha as a normal person, like us. It might not seem like a down to earth text the first time you read it. There’s a lot of talk about space and counting grains of sand and things like that.

Here is an example, comparing the first chapter of the Diamond Sutra with the beginning of another Sutra that was written around the same time, so we can compare thest two and see how down to earth the Diamond Sutra really is.

Diamond Sutra Opening:

This is what I heard one time when the Buddha was staying in the monastery in Anathapindika’s park in the Jeta Grove near Shravasti with a community of 1,250 bhikshus, fully ordained monks.

That day, when it was time to make the round for alms, the Buddha put on his sanghati robe and, holding his bowl, went into the city of Shravasti to seek alms food, going from house to house. When the almsround was completed, he returned to the monastery to eat the midday meal. Then he put away his sanghati robe and his bowl, washed his feet, arranged his cushion, and sat down.

Avatamsaka Sutra:

As soon as the Buddha entered this concentration, the magnificent pavilion became boundlessly vast, the surface of the earth appeared to be made of indestructible diamond, the surface of the ground covered with a net of all the finest jewels strewn around with flowers of many jewels with enormous gems strewn all over; it was adorned with sapphire pillars, with well-proportioned decorations of world-illuminating pearls of the finest water, with all kinds of gems combined in pairs, adorned with heaps of gold and jewels, with a dazzling array of turrets, arches, chambers, windows, and balconies.

————————

So, you can see clearly that the Diamond Sutra is just about seemingly ordinary things happening. The Avatamsaka Sutra, on the other hand, makes the Buddha sound like a wizard or something.

So, when I say the Diamond Sutra is down to earth, this is what I’m talking about.

Posted in rime center

Teaching the Diamond Sutra

In one week I’m going to start teaching the Diamond Sutra. It’s a six week class that will occur Wednesdays nights at the Rime Center from 7:45pm until 9:00pm. It starts on April 13th. You should come if you can. (a link to register for this class is posted at the bottom)

I’m so nervous and excited.

It all started a few months ago. Lama Matt told me he wanted me to start teaching classes at the Rime Center. What a wonderful opportunity. But, of course I wondered if I could handle it. (being the center of attention is really not my thing). Of course I said yes but it was big surprise.

He gave me a title, “Gegan” which means teacher. And he told me that I could teach anything I wanted.

I told him I would like to teach the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is probably my favorite Buddhist text. But it’s also a really hard text to teach. It’s a heavy text with a lot of wisdom for us to explore. If I had spent time thinking about it, I might have chosen something a little easier for my first class. But, It will be fine, I think. It does mean something that it’s a text that I love.

I spent time looking at different translations and Lama Matt did too. We agreed that the Thich Nhat Hanh translation was probably the most accessible.

So, I went to work. I took notes on every chapter and got myself prepared.

In preparing to teach this sutra I’ve learned more about it than I ever knew. And I’ve learned about myself. Maybe the best teachers are always students too. I love this sutra now more than ever and I hope that my students gain something approaching the same appreciation that I have for it.

The Diamond Sutra has changed my life. It can change yours too.

The Buddha doesn’t transform us. He invites us to transform ourselves. This sutra doesn’t give us anything, it cuts things away. The diamond cuts through our delusion and leaves only what’s real. When we put down all that we’re carrying, we discover emptiness, our true nature.

The Diamond Sutra describes the very foundation of the awakened life.

http://www.rimecenter.org/?p=628

Posted in diamond sutra, zen

Thus Should One Regard One’s Self

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bodhisattvaroad/2016/03/thus-should-one-regard-ones-self/

Ikkyu said,

“Like a vanishing dew, a passing apparition or sudden flash of lightning – already gone- thus should one regard one’s self.”

He was echoing the Diamond Sutra, which is a foundational Zen text. In the Diamond Sutra the Buddha says,

“All composed things are like a dream, a phantom, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning. That is how to meditate on them, this is how to observe them.”

Ikkyu was taking that concept from the Diamond Sutra, that all things are like a flash of lightning, and reminding us that this applies to the self as well as all other things. It’s important to remember that we are impermanent and conditioned, just as much as everything else is.

I think we have an easy time learning, on the path, that all things are compounded and impermanent. But sometimes we make the mistake of not extending that all the way.

It’s easy to see that my car is a collection of parts. It has an engine and a battery and tires and a gas tank and many many other parts that combine to make a car. And over time parts will be replaced.

It’s easy to see that my car is a compounded thing, that it’s a collection of parts rather than being one thing. A lot of things had to come together to create my car. It’s also easy to see that my car is impermanent. Everyone knows that over time more and more parts wear out and sooner or later the car just isn’t worth fixing anymore. Eventually repairing the car becomes more expensive and difficult than buying a new car. This is because the car is impermanent.

Everything is compounded and impermanent.

And if we just pay attention, we can see this.

But what about us. What about you and I? That’s where we struggle.

We are compounded and impermanent too. Many different things came together to create YOU. Not only your parents, but also the environment you grew up in shaped both your personality and, in ways we may not fully understand, your physical body as well.

Even if we just focus on your mind, a lot goes in to who you are. You have your natural intelligence, your knowledge, your experiences that color the way you see things, your attention to detail, your emotional well-being, and many many other factors. All of these things come together to make you.

And everything about you changes over time.

There are probably plenty of things we hope will change about ourselves. And some things that we hope won’t. But the point is that all things are changing.

If we are just a collection of things, like parts of a car, then our self is less significant than we think it is.

So, what are the implications of this?

Well, feelings of greed and jealousy become insignificant if we aren’t so focused on ourselves. We have this tendency to think in terms of “I, Me, Mine” most of the time and that often doesn’t serve us well. I think everyone agrees that the world would be a better place with less selfishness. Recognizing ourselves as part of a context rather than thinking we are some separate independent being can go a long way toward fixing many of the problems in the world.

Because of selfishness we are greedy. Because of selfishness we are jealous of others and we tend to get upset if we don’t have everything that we think we deserve. Because of selfishness we take others for granted, which can greatly damage our relationships. Selfishness is at the root of many of our human problems.

A lot of our anger is motivated by selfishness as well. When we get mad or upset that things aren’t the way we want them to be, or that others aren’t behaving in the way we think they should.

 If we recognize others as ourselves then we are certainly less likely to harm them.

It can make us want to help them instead—and ultimately, helping others is really important in Buddhism.

When we recognize that we are everything, it can be easy to forgive everything—or at least accept everything.

Posted in sutra, tattooed buddha

Why I Love the Diamond Sutra

I’m going to tell you about the Diamond Sutra.

The full title is: Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra

A lot of Sutras are about teaching us a lesson or telling us a story, but the Diamond Sutra is different. It’s the story of the Buddha answering the questions of one of his students. And it is important to look at it that way.

But it functions on another level. This Sutra can be your teacher. If you’re open to it this Sutra will help you penetrate delusions, smash through ignorance and dwell in non-dual awareness.

This Sutra isn’t a text about Buddhism or the Buddha, but about Enlightenment. Enlightenment is the core of the Buddha’s teaching, the way and the goal.

This is not a story about the Buddha and it’s not an explanation of some Buddhist concept, but rather a roadmap to Awakening.

This Sutra is called The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion.

Why a diamond? Because diamonds are strong, hard, rare,and indestructible. If we study this Sutra diligently, it will change our lives.

The first line I heard from the Diamond Sutra was, “Arouse the mind without resting it on anything.”
At the time I had no idea what that meant, but it spoke to me. It seemed like a deep and profound truth. Now, of course, I know what it means. It’s a one sentence meditation instruction.

I’ve taken a lot of meditation classes and I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, but that line has kept me on the cushion more than anything else.

If you read this Sutra, there will probably be parts of it where you’ll think “Why am I reading this? He’s talking about grains of sand or how awesome this Sutra is again.” It’s normal to feel that way. I felt that way. Like many Sutras, some parts of it are really repetitive.

But if you persevere, if you take this journey, you won’t regret it.

Do you want to journey to Enlightenment with me?

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/why-i-love-the-diamond-sutra/