Subhuti asked the Buddha, “In the future, if a person hears this teaching, even if it is a only a phrase or sentence, is it possible for that person to have Enlightenment awaken in their mind?”
“Without a doubt, Subhuti. Even 500 years after the Enlightenment of this Buddha there will be some who are virtuous and wise, and while practicing kindness and generosity, will believe in the words of this Sutra and will awaken their minds. After they come to hear these teachings, they will be inspired. This is because when some people hear these words, they will have understood intuitively that these words are the truth.”
“But you must also remember, Subhuti, that such persons have long ago planted the seeds of Awakening that lead to this realization. They have planted the seeds of virtue and generosity. So when a person who hears the words of this Sutra is ready for it to happen, clarity can awaken within their minds.”
“Subhuti, any person who awakens upon hearing the words or phrases of this Sutra will accumulate a lot of merit.”
“How do I know this? Because this person must have discarded all dualistic illusions of a personal self or of a universal self. Otherwise their minds would still grasp after such things. Furthermore, these people must have already discarded all dualistic illusions of a personal self or a universal self. Otherwise, their minds would still be grasping at such notions. Therefore anyone who seeks total Enlightenment should discard not only all conceptions of their own selfhood or of a universal self, but they should also discard all notions of the non-existence of such concepts.”
“When the Buddha explains these things using such concepts and ideas, people should remember the unreality of all such concepts and ideas. They should recall that in teaching spiritual truths the Buddha always uses these concepts and ideas in the way that a raft is used to cross a river. Once the river has been crossed over, the raft is of no more use, and should be discarded. These arbitrary concepts and ideas about spiritual things need to be explained to us as we seek to attain Enlightenment. However, ultimately these arbitrary conceptions can be discarded. Think Subhuti, isn’t it even more obvious that we should also give up our conceptions?”
There is a deep meaning to this section. The Buddha starts by telling Subhuti that this teaching he is giving is so great that just hearing it can bring us to Enlightenment. This was a favorite Sutra of the 6th Ch’an Patriarch, Huineng. According to his autobiography that is exactly what awakened the seed of Enlightenment within him. So, it’s right there in the Sutra, telling us to pay close attention to it and study it closely.
And the Buddha tells us again to lay down our dualistic thinking. The concepts and ideas that we cling to, the labels that we put on reality, are the things that are keeping us from Realization.
He goes on to tell us that even the spiritual journey can become an attachment. Remember that the Dharma is just a tool we are using to come to Awakening. It is not an end in itself.