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Diamond Sutra, chapter 22

The Buddha continued, “Subhuti, explaining this Sutra to others out of kindness and generosity generates enormous amounts of merit.”

Teaching the Diamond Sutra to others is, in itself, very helpful on the path to Enlightenment.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 21

“Subhuti, when someone is selflessly generous, they should also practice being ethical by remembering that there is no distinction between one’s self others. Thus one practices generosity by giving not only gifts, but also through kindness and sympathy. Practice kindness and charity without attachment and you can become fully enlightened.”

Practice kindness but don’t be attached to results. When we understand that the boundaries between self and other are illusory, being generous, kind, and compassionate comes very naturally to us.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 20

Subhuti asked, “When you attained complete Enlightenment, did you feel in your mind that you had gained nothing?”

The Buddha replied:

“That is it exactly, Subhuti. When I attained total Enlightenment, I did not feel, as the mind feels, any form of spiritual truth. Even the words ‘total Enlightenment’ are just words, they are used as a figure of speech.”

The Truth is beyond words. We describe it as attaining Enlightenment, but thinking of it as something we ‘gain’ can be a problem. We sometimes tend to think of it as finding spiritual truth, but it can more accurately be describe as getting rid of untruth. We aren’t creating our true nature, it’s our true nature. How could we? We are digging through the layers of delusion that keep us from seeing our true nature.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 19

“Subhuti, I do not have this thought: ‘I have spoken spiritual truths.’

If someone says I have spoken spiritual truths they are mistaken.”

The Buddha is telling us not to be attached to words and letters, which is an important teaching that the Ch’an Patriarch Bodhidharma would later give. It might be a little hard to understand but the point is that we should actualize the teaching in our lives, rather than just studying it and learning it. The teaching is something we study, but it’s also something that we do.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 18

“Should one look for a teacher with a perfect physical body?”

“No, we should not be attached to appearances. Like everything else, appearances are temporary and illusionary.”

We shouldn’t be attached to things like appearance. It’s said that the Buddha had a very striking appearance. He is making sure Subhuti is not attached to him because of this.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 17

The Buddha continued:

“If a follower were to give away many treasures, would a great blessing and merit be generated?”

Subhuti replied, “Yes they would acquire considerable blessings and merit.”

The Buddha said:

“Subhuti, if such a blessing had any substantiality, if it were anything other than a figure of speech, I would not have used the words ‘blessings and merit’.”

The Buddha is challenging public ideas about karma. Karma is a complicated matter in Buddhism. Many people then, and now, thought of it as ‘if you do good things, then good things will happen to you’. The point is we should practice virtue because we want to practice virtue, not because we believe it will generate good karma for us.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 16

The Buddha then asked Subhuti, “Do I have human eyes?”

“Subhuti replied, “Yes, you have human eyes.”

“Does I have the eyes of Enlightenment?”


“Do I have the eyes of transcendent intelligence?”


“Do I have the eyes of spiritual intuition?”


“Do I have the eyes of love and compassion for all sentient beings?”

Subhuti said, “Yes, you love all sentient life.”

Here the Buddha is trying to understand Subhuti’s level of devotion. He wants to make sure Subhuti is worthy of this teaching, although I”m sure he already knows the truth. Subhuti makes clear with his answers that he has fully and completely accepted the Buddha as his Guru.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 15

Subhuti then asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, may I ask you a question again? If virtuous individuals wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom, what should they do to help quiet their minds and master their thoughts?”

The Buddha replied:

“Subhuti, a virtuous individual who wants to give rise to the highest awakened mind must create this resolved attitude: ‘I must help to lead all beings to awakening, but, after these beings have become liberated, in truth I know that not even a single being has been liberated.’ Why is this the case? If a disciple is attached to the idea of a separate self or a universal self, then that person is not awakened. Why? Because in fact there is no independently existing object of mind called the highest awakened mind.”

“In ancient times, when I was living with Dipankara Buddha, did I attain anything called the highest awakened mind?”

“No. There is no attaining of anything called the highest awakened mind.”

The Buddha said:

“You are correct.

“A true disciple knows that there is no such thing as a separate self or a universal self. A true disciple knows that all things are one with all other things, not separate.”

This is a serious and profound teaching. We perceive ourselves to be individual beings that are separate from our environment. This is a delusion. We don’t come into the world. We come out of it. We are connected to other beings and to the world around us in countless ways. Everything contains everything else and everything is connected to everything else. If I buy a carrot at the grocery store, it didn’t really come from the grocery store. A person put labor into it to pull it out of the ground and it was transported there. But, before that it was a seed. That seed was planted in the ground. Rain and sunlight caused it to grow. And, of course, before that it came from a previous carrot. So, when I eat a carrot, it could be said that I am eating the sky. This is what we mean when we say that everything is connected.

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Diamond Sutra, chapter 14

“Subhuti, in a previous life I met Dipankara Buddha, I had made many offerings and been very virtuous. If someone is able to receive, study, and practice this Sutra in a later, more distant age, then the happiness and merit brought about by this virtuous act would be much greater than that which I brought about by my previous virtue. In fact, such happiness and merit is incomparable. I know this might be hard to believe. Subhuti, you should know that the meaning of this Sutra is beyond understanding.”

It’s said that Siddhartha Gautama, the one we call the Buddha, wasn’t the first Buddha. They say that he studied with previous Buddhas from other ages in prior lives. That’s what this section is referencing. There are many stories about the Buddha doing good things in previous lives, sometimes as a human and sometimes as an animal. These are called Jataka tales and bear some similarity to fables in the western world. They are stories designed to teach children lessons about things like kindness, paying attention, etc. The Buddha in this section is saying that the merit of studying the Diamond Sutra is greater than merit that he generated in his previous lives.

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Diamond sutra, chapter 13

“Subhuti, if on the one hand, a virtuous individual gives up his or her life many times as an act of generosity and continues doing so for countless ages; and if, on the other hand, another person listens to this Sutra with complete confidence and without contention, that person’s happiness will be far greater. But the happiness of one who writes this Sutra down and explains it to others cannot even be compared it is so great.”

“Subhuti, we can summarize by saying that the merit and virtue of this Sutra is boundless. The Buddha has declared this teaching for the benefit of initiates on the path to Enlightenment; he has declared it for the benefit of initiates on the path to Awakening. If there is someone capable of receiving, practicing, and sharing this Sutra with others, he or she will receive boundless merit and virtue. Such a person is known to be carrying the Supreme Enlightenment attained by the Buddha.”

We might be overwhelmed by repetition at this point. This is important to remember: many of these teachings spread by word of mouth first, rather than as written texts. So, it was important to make the same points over and over to ensure that the students remember them. The Buddha is reminding Subhuti that this Sutra is really important. Because we are studying it together, we are carrying the Supreme Enlightenment attained by the Buddha.