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.

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.